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Preaching without Contempt: Overcoming Unintended Anti-Judaism – M. Salmon

April 5, 2016

PWCI led a discussion group, over three years, discussing anti-Judaism in the Lectionary passages with a mixed group of Jews and Christians so most of the material in this book is familiar to me. However, it should be compulsive reading for preachers, most of whom will not have encountered it during their training.

The author is clearly a gifted preacher, judging by the sample sermons that she includes.

She traces the development of anti-Judaism within Christian history and seeks to get behind it, back to what we now know about the carious strands of Judaism in Jesus’s own day and that of the evangelists.

She covers, in detail: the pharisees, John’s Gospel and the passion narratives.

Whereas her book is thematic, there have been other books that would be of more immediate use to preachers because they set out the issues week by week in Lectionary order, i.e. you can look up ‘Year A 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time.’ One such book is Sharing the Scriptures – P. Cunningham (Stimulus 2003) – published before her book but not mentioned. Stimulus/Paulist Press have since published other books, too late for this book but which should be included in any future edition.

At the time when the various documents of the New Testament were being written, here was increasing animosity between the Jews and those Jews who followed Jesus – it isn’t correct to contrast ‘Christians’ and ‘Jews’ – those terms came later.

The trouble is that those documents were set in aspic, as it were, so when preachers talk abut the passage for the day they tend to cast all Jews in a bad light. Ultimately, this had led to anti-Semitism, whether intended or not.

Despite high-sounding and pious proclamations from the mainstream churches, very few seminaries deal with this issue, so anti-Jewish preaching continues.

This book tries to set the record straight – if only busy preachers would take time to consult it.

It was written at a time when I was doing a series of Bible studies with my local group of The Council of Christians and Jews.  We covered much of the same ground and I had as possible publisher – but this book got in first – whatever – as long as the message gets out and is read and heeded. (Mind you, our work was different because it involved ordinary Jews and Christians reflecting on and reacting to texts together.)

Quotations:

Caricatures of Judaism are so deeply ingrained in Christian tradition it is difficult to recognize them for what they are: a creation of early Christianity apologetics to show the superiority of Christianity….  The purpose of this book is to raise awareness of the negative images of Judaism that commonly occur in preaching, to learn to recognize them, and to adopt strategies to avoid repeating them.”

“The most overt expressions of supersessionism include the following: the Jews rejected Jesus; the Old Testament show the Jews as disobedient and unrepentant; Judaism in the first century was defined by hypocritical legalism and obsession with ritual apart from any spiritual motives, the Pharisees serving as primary example; the Old Testament describes a God of wrath in contrast to the God of love in the New Testament”. Significantly she also notes that “[p]reachers who renounce supersessionism continue to rely on a supersessionist history of Christian origins.”

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