Levine-parallel tracks

Amy-Jill Levine on page 210 of The Misunderstood Jew quotes Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger from a 2000 (before he was Pope) official Vatican document.  He said,

“The faith witnessed to by the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament for Christians) is not merely another religion to us, but the foundation of our own faith.  Therefore, Christians–and today increasingly in collaboration with their Jewish sisters and brothers–read and attentively study these books of  Sacred  Scripture, as part of their common heritage.”

This foreshadowed a new worldwide change of attitude toward Judaism on the part of Christians. The Christian attitude changed in two ways.

First, Christians rejected supercessionism with its claim that the church replaced Israel as the new or true people of God.

Second, Christians acknowledged that the Hebrew Scriptures do not directly prophesy Jesus as the Christ.  Rather, those interpretations in the New Testament and Christian theology are retrospective. Hence, Christians do not blame Jews for missing those prophesies, since they are not really there except as Christians contemplate the Bible from a New Testament perspective.  The Hebrew Scriptures have valuable things to say on their own, apart from a christological interpretation.

Of course, many Christians have not yet gotten the memo.  But the Vatican’s change of attitude did coincide with a change of attitude in other communions as well.

This leads to the question of how Jews can reciprocate, how Judaism can develop a new attitude toward Christianity.  She points out that while the Hebrew Scriptures are part of the heritage of Christians, the New Testament is not part of the heritage of Jews.  So even when the church recognizes the validity of the old covenant, the synagogue is not about to recognize the validity of the new.

She develops an analogy that allows Jews to see the church and synagogue as railroad cars on parallel tracks.  They look similar from a distance.  Both cars have dining areas: eucharist and seder.  Both cars have wheels marked by the names of some common biblical books.  But on closer inspection the synagogue car has wheels marked Talmud and midrash.  And the church car has wheels marked Gospels and Letters.

“If we follow those parallel tracks back toward one horizon, we see that they meet.  Skeptics call this an optical illusion; theologians call it God’s-eye view.  In that far past, there was only one track, that of Jesus and Hillel, James and Akiva, for all the passengers were Jews.  They might have sat in separate rows, but they were all on the same track.  There was no distinction between ‘Christian’ and ‘Jew’; there were only Jews.  If we look then to the other horizon, we see that the tracks meet once more.  As different as they are, church and synagogue has the same goals, the same destination, whether called olam-ha-bah, the kingdom of heaven, or the messianic age.  The two cars pull into the same station, and they have the same station master to welcome them” (p. 213).


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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