Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hebrews and Anti-Judaism

Before I move to what scholars have said about the topic of this paper, I would like to express my thoughts on the subject. First of all, it would be irrational to deny the anti Semitism feelings among Christians throughout history (by anti-Semitism I mean racial prejudice toward Jewish people). Not that these feelings were influenced by the book of Hebrews, but perhaps it emerges from the Gospels, especially on the passage known as “the passion.”

It is totally understandable the anti Judaism feeling (by anti-Judaism I mean Judaism as an obsolete religion), once we as Christians, consider our faith as an upgrade of the old covenant. But, given to the fact that we are meant to follow the teachings of Jesus (a Jew), we should not accept any prejudice among those who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

What makes Hebrew a book difficult to understand fully is the lack of a known authorship and its immediate audience. With these two elements figured out, it would be easier to give a better answer to the question of anti Judaism.

Some of those who advocate that there is anti Judaism in Hebrews quote passages that emphasize the superiority of Jesus. This superiority is reflected in different aspects such as, Jesus superior to angels, to Moses, to the high priest as well as, Jesus sacrifice as perfect and once and for all. Passages like these are tightly held by those who see in Hebrews a criticism toward the Judaic community, and see Christianity as a better religion. On the other hand, there is no comment on Hebrews 11, which gives a list of almost all great Old Testament leaders, praising them for their faith and for their courage. They are now the “cloud of witnesses” that watch the people of God running toward the goal, in the race marked for us.[1]

In order to clarify the concept of the word “anti-Judaism,” Clark Williamson explains what the meaning of “Anti-Judaism” is. Anti-Judaism has two different forms. The first considered that the Jewish covenant was replaced by a better covenant and that Jews should enter in this new covenant and renounce their old one. The second has a double claim: one is that Jews committed several crimes, terminating in the crucifixion of Jesus. The other is that Judaism is an inferior religion.[2] He concludes saying that none of these forms of anti Judaism is present in the book of Hebrews.[3]

According to Tim Perry, there is a tension between Jews and Christians, due to the life of Jesus being a Jew and the type of Judaism He lived. He says, “Jesus was a first-century Jew to be sure, but he also represented a radical departure from what had come before.”[4] For Perry, there was something about Jesus that was unique, and therefore, to reduce him to first-century Judaism is to deny Christian identity.[5]

Many aspects of the Christian faith require the understanding and affirmation of Jesus’ superiority over Old Testament figure and system. Perry states that “Christianity is, and remains, ‘Christian’ only in so far as it sees itself in discontinuity with Judaism.”[6] The discontinuity has to be affirmed (without putting down Jewish religion), even having Jesus as being a Jew.

Clark M. Williamson analyzing Perry’s essay concludes that Perry’s point is that Hebrews is not anti-Jewish but instead, it is an effort to persuade Jewish schools about how to interpret Torah in particular and the Hebrew bible in general.[7]

Freudmann is one of those who holds the position that Hebrews is anti-Judaism. For Freudmann, Jer. 31:30-34 interprets the new covenant, condemning the old one as obsolete.[8] Another advocate of Anti-Judaism in Hebrews is Samuel Sandmel. Sandmel says that Hebrews “is an exposition of the conviction that Christianity is the ideal religion, the realization of the Platonic ‘ideal.’”[9]

My hope is that God himself bring all those to Him through Jesus Christ. In this case, God’s sovereignty will play a major role in showing that the religious systems is not what he wants us to hold on. Jesus is the door for salvation for the Jew and for the Gentile. As Perry says, “just as we share a messianic hope with our Jewish brothers and sisters, Christians hope for the dawning of the Day when the tension will be resolved and Jews and Gentiles both will finally be gathered together as the one People of God.”[10]

[1] My thought on this subject is limited and is summarized up to this point.
[2] Clark M. Williamson, “Anti-Judaism in Hebrews?” Interpretation, 277.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Tim Perry, “The Historical Jesus, Anti-Judaism, and the Christology of Hebrews: A Theological Reflection.” (Spring 1999), 77.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Clark M. Williamson, “Anti-Judaism in Hebrews?” Interpretation, 271.
[8] Williamson citing L.C. Freudmann in “Anti-Judaism in Hebrews?” 267.
[9] Williamson citing Samuel Sandmel in “Anti-Judaism in Hebrews?” 267.
[10] Tim Perry, “The Historical Jesus, Anti-Judaism, and the Christology of Hebrews: A Theological Reflection.” (Spring 1999), 77-78.

Note: Copy of this material is allowed and free, since the source is cited / A reprodução dos textos é permitida e gratuita, desde que citada a fonte.

Rodrigo Serrao


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