THE CHIEF RABBI AND THE ARCHBISHOP

I valued the point which The Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission made in their Report, released in November 2019, called "God's Unfailing Word" about late Second Temple Judaism. The Report stated: "It is abundantly clear that the Scriptures then current within Judaism were of paramount importance for Christian origins, and that the first generation of Christians, who were for the most part Jews or Gentiles already to some extent familiar with Judaism, read those Scriptures through the lens of the Judaism of their day. Historically speaking, Christianity grew out of the rich and varied world of late Second Temple Judaism. In origin it was one of the many forms of Judaism of its time, and it drew profoundly on the Judaism within which it originated for its understanding of God, humanity and redemption."

In the same month (November 2019) both the Chief Rabbi in the UK and the Archbishop of Canterbury commented on issues relating to anti Semitism in the British Labour Party. I consider that both men should reflect further on their statements. The sad truth is that the Jews should never have believed that they were God's chosen people. Then they would not have expected a Messiah nor would the followers of Jesus have claimed that he was the Messiah. If this had happened there would have been no anti-Semitism and no Holocaust.

An awareness of Judaism's history is instructive. Its monotheistic beliefs developed out of an earlier era when polytheism in the Middle East was widespread as illustrated by the story of David and the Philistine giant Goliath. Both fighters believed in the power of their respective gods to give them victory.

Centuries later, Judaism's monotheistic thinkers made a serious mistake. They linked the one Creator God in whom they now believed with their old protector tribal god - the god of David and their other forefathers. They were still a chosen people. Should they not have made it clear that the one Creator God was a God of equality with no favoured or chosen people singled out for special care and assistance?

Their failure to take this step led Jesus of Nazareth and many other Jews of that era to hope for deliverance from their Roman oppressors through the arrival of a divinely appointed liberator or Messiah - a term which means 'the anointed one'.

Can it not be accepted now in 21st Century that belief in the coming of a Messiah was a deluded expectation? If God exists is it not more reasonable to believe in a God of equality than in a god who has singled out the Jews as his chosen people?

The majority of the first followers of Jesus who claimed he was the Messiah were Jewish. They continued to worship in the synagogues and in the Temple. However, after a while they became unwelcome and were turned away. The new Christian movement became more powerful than the Judaism from which it had sprung. Now the Jews became persecuted by the Christians. The anti-Semitism of Christians led to the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism still exists and has always been unspeakably evil.

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