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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Read more at Ancient Jew Review

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

 

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror