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The Gospel of John Set Free: Preaching without anti-Judaism – G. Smiga

April 5, 2016

TGOJSFAt 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:

Esther Rabbah 2—4 says that ‘the surprise for all the guests is that the last day of the feast is like the first: excellent in all its food and drink, contrary to custom. For the rabbis, the idea that the last day was as good as the first was a sign of the messianic banquet, whose abundance would know no end.’

Susannah was unjustly accused of adultery. The Septuagint word for condemnation is the same that Jesus uses here: The story shows the rabbi as ‘teacher and judge whose torah is put to the test in the practical order. Jesus’ refusal to assume the role of judge as offered to him would appear to be intended as a further development of his own .unique torah on the mercy of God toward sinners.’

Jesus’ pronouncement here on the connection between sight and belief is echoed in other places in Midrash literature. In Shemoth Rabba we read: When the holy blessed God said to Moses, Go, down, for the people have corrupted themselves; he took the tables and would not believe that Israel had sinned saying, If I do not see, I will not believe.” And again in Midrash, Tillin, we read: You, Racha, would you not have believed if you had not seen?” Could Jesus here be evoking such scenes with the great unbelievers? It might seem so, though it is important to note how he puts himself forward as the object of the believer’s faith—an act unique to Jesus, but presumptive to observant Jews who would reserve such only to God.

The Samaritan woman approaches the well. For similar scenes of this type, see Genesis 24:11; 29:2 and Exodus 2:15. Jesus is without his followers and asks her, simply: ‘Give me a drink.” By so simple a request, he avoids any real conversation or exchange in accordance with Mishnah Aboth 1.5 and Talmud (b) Berakoth 43b, which prohibit such between a rabbi and a woman. An additional problem plays in the background for Jesus: Jews considered Samaritan women unclean all the time (cf. Lev 15:l9ff as understood in Mishnah, Niddah 4.1). Hence, if she were ritually impure, then the bucket she used at the well would also be impure and likewise with the water cup and the water she would offer to Jesus. Surprisingly, Jesus ignores this, even though so many of his teachings and other acts seem allied to many of the Pharisaic schools of thought that would have readily shunned this woman.
The story shows the rabbi as ‘teacher and judge whose torah is put to the test in the practical order. Jesus’ refusal to assume the role of judge as offered to him would appear to be intended as a further development of his own .unique torah on the mercy of God toward sinners.’

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