Jews, Judaism, and the Gospel of John

April 13 2018

Having written two scholarly works about the New Testament’s fourth Gospel, and with a third book forthcoming, Adele Reinharz looks back on her career-long interest in this biblical book and explains how her ideas have shifted, particularly in reference to John’s attitude toward the Jews:

I am now convinced that John’s well-documented anti-Judaism is not peripheral but central to the Gospel’s theology and rhetorical program. While I do not for a moment believe that John’s author (or authors) would have foreseen or applauded the history of Christian anti-Judaism, there is no doubt that he intended to foster suspicion of, distancing from, and even hatred of the [people he refers to as] ioudaioi. To be sure, John’s ioudaioi are not an ethnic or religious category but a rhetorical one. Jesus and the first disciples were ethnically ioudaioi, but not theologically so—this label is never used [in John] for the disciples and only once for Jesus (John 4:9). Yet the fact that there existed, and continued to exist, real people who fit that label—whether we call them Jews or Judeans or some other name—and who, by and large, did not go along with the Gospel’s views about God, Jesus, and humankind, means that John’s Gospel could be, and was, used to build a wall between Christ-confessors and ioudaioi that had real consequences for real Jews. . . .

Furthermore, I had to let go of the idea that the [fourth Gospel’s] primary intended audience was Jewish; it now seemed to me just as likely that the audience was Gentile. Finally, whereas I had agreed with the majority of scholars that the Gospel was both profoundly Jewish and at the same time included many anti-Jewish statements, I now believed that even the Jewish elements of the Gospel are mobilized rhetorically for anti-Jewish purposes.

In effect, the Gospel constructs a rhetorical “parting of the ways” between Christ-confessors and the ioudaioi—Jews who, in John’s view, should have believed [in Jesus’ message] but did not. The relationship between this rhetorical “parting” and the historical processes by which Christ-confessors became “Christians” who saw themselves as separate from and opposed to Jews remains murky. But it strikes me as significant that a late-1st-century Gospel already promoted the view that Christ-confessors and ioudaioi were mutually exclusive categories.

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More about: ancient Judaism, Anti-Semitism, Christianity, Gospels, History & Ideas, Jewish-Christian relations

 

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy