Faith & Fratricide, Rosemary Radford Reuther

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Faith & Fratricide

The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism

By Rosemary Radford Reuther

Excerpts and outline of the text:

Ch.1 The Greek and Jewish Roots of the Negative Myth of the Jews


1.       Pagan Anti-Judaism as a Factor in Christian Anti-Judaism: In this first section Reuther discusses how pagan conversion to Christianity is often touted as the sole cause for anti-Semitism in the Church. However, Reuther differentiates between pagan anti-Semitism and the new anti-Semitism which is cultivated in early Christianity and quite independent from pagan influences.

  • “Since the pagans objected to Judaism primarily because of its exclusiveness and its condemnation of all other religions as idolatry, these objections could not be taken over by a Christianity which shared the same Jewish attitudes of intolerance.” (p.29)
  • “Hatred between groups who have no stake in a common stock of religiously sanctioned identity symbols can scarcely be as virulent as hatred between groups whose relations express a religious form of “sibling rivalry.” (p.30)

2.       Universalizing & Spiritualizing Tensions in Hellenistic Judaism: (p.31-40)

3.       Prophetic & Messianic Tensions in Sectarian Judaism (p.40-48)

4.       The Diabolizing of the Jewish God in Jewish Gnosticism (p.48-52)

5.       The Pharisaic reaction to Hellenistic & Sectarian Judaism after the Fall of the Second Temple

    • “Judaism, after the fall of the temple, did not retreat into ethnocentrism, but continued  to proselytize. It was the laws of the Christian empire, not the dicta of the Pharisees,   that brought to an end the era of Jewish proselytism.” (p.55)
    • “Abraham himself was said to have been the first proselyte and the father of proselytes. The proselyte was fully the equal of the born Jew and indeed especially dear to God’s heart.”
    • “A Jewish Christianity which did not define itself as a new covenant, superseding the historical covenant of Abraham and Moses, but as a renewal standing within the one covenant, adding only the belief that it will be Jesus who will return as the Christ, might have remained as a form of Judaism. Judaism might discipline a Jewish Christian if he tried to make his midrash normative in the ordinary synagogue, but it would not define him as outside the covenant.” (p.56)
    • On page 58 – 59 Reuther discusses how Christianity came to create a myth that connected the fall of the temple to that of the Jews rejection of Jesus as the Christ. Reuther goes on to say that there was never an official Jewish stance during the time of Jesus that would have said he was rejected as the Christ. She details why such a stance did not exist at that time, but how Christians in their later texts made it seem like this was plausible, for their own purposes.
    • “The myth that the early Church confronted an obsolete and sterile Judaism, which had lost its spiritual power, derives from the Christian ideological need to put Judaism behind itself.”(p.62) “The Church was at enmity with this Judaism (of the synagogue, not just of the Old Testament), not because it was obsolete, but because it refused to be obsolete and threatened, again and again, to become compellingly relevant in a way that could call into question the very foundations of the Christian claim. This Judaism was dangerous to the Church because it possessed a viable alternative to the Christian New Testament, and regarded itself as the true and legitimate successor and fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures.” (p.63)

    Ch.2 The Growing Estrangement: The Rejection of the Jews in the New Testament

    1.       The “True People of God” and the Rejection of “the Jews” un the Synoptics and Acts

    • Explains why Christians shifted the blame of Jesus’ death from that of the gentile gov’t/politics to that of the Jewish political authorities/tradition. (p.88-89)
    • It is in the Gospels, Acts and Paul that the word Jews becomes a hostile symbol for all that resists and rejects the gospel. (p.99)

    2.       The Philosophizing of Anti-Judaism in Paul, Hebrews, and the Gospel of John (p.95-116)

    Ch.3 The Negation of the jews in the Church Fathers


    1.       The Character of the Patristic Adversus Judeaos Tradition (p.117-123)

    2.       The Rejection of the Jews and the Election of the Gentiles (p.124-149)

    3.       The Inferiority and Spiritual Fulfillment of Jewish Law, Cult, and Scriptural Interpretation

    4.       Theological Polemics and Judaeo-Christian Relations in Patristic Times

    • “Neither Judaism nor Christianity ever confronted the substance of the other’s arguments…So no real dialogue was possible. The rabbis did not discuss the Christian exegesis of particular texts in any detail, because the assumptions of this exegesis were, for them, impossible. The Christian polemicists did little to familiarize themselves with the authentic mind of rabbinic Judaism.” (p.165)

    Ch.4 The Social Incorporation of the Negative Myth of the Jews in Christendom

    Chapter looks at how the Church bears substantial responsibility for the tragic history of the Jew in Christendom, which was the foundation upon which political anti-Semitism and the Nazi use of it was erected.

    1. The Jews in the Christian Roman Empire from Constantine to Justinian (p.184-195)
    2. The Jews in Byzantium and the West from the Sixth century to the Crusades (p.195-205)
    3. From the Crusades to Emancipation: The Age of the Ghetto (p.205-214)
    4. From the Enlightenment to the Holocaust: The Failure of Emancipation (p.214-225)

    Ch.5 Theological Critique of the Christian Anti-Judaic Myth


    1. The Schism of Judgment and Promise (p.228-232)
    2. The Schism of Particularism and Universalism (p.233-239)
    3. The Schism of Letter and Spirit (p.239-245)
    4. The Key Issue: Christology (p.246-251)
    5. Toward a New Covenantal Theology (p.251-257)
    6. Education for a New Relationship (p.257-261)
    • Christian biblical scholarship must learn and teach the Jewish line of commentary and interpretation of Hebrew Scripture in midrash.
    • New Testament scholarship must import into its teachings the rabbinic context of the thought of Jesus and Paul and correct the stereotypes of the Pharisees and the Torah which occur in the NT.
    • Church historians should teach the history of the legal and social persecution of Jews in Christendom by ecclesiastical and political rulers, inspired by the myth of Jewish reprobation.
    • Christian theology must question the anti-Judaic side of its redemptive language and ask itself how these formulations can be eliminated from its interpretation of the gospel.
    • Christian seminaries should cultivate face-to-face conversation between faculty and students and the living Jewish religious consciousness. Field education courses should establish contact with rabbinic leadership and Jewish community agencies and work out internships where insight into Jewish concerns may be gained first-hand.
    • Courses on preaching and Christian education must work conscientiously to overcome anti-Judaic language in its hermeneutics and in the educational and liturgical materials which teach Christianity to the people.