Monday, October 11, 2010

The Fate of the Jews

Tomorrow is test 2 in my Christian Scriptures class, and it is hard to believe that I have now finished my treatment of the Old Testament.  I know, I know, how can you do justice to the OT in half of a semester, and the answer is, you can't.  Yet, I am a New Testament guy and I feel the same way about doing the NT in a half of a semester. 

One thing that helps with teaching the full Bible in a semester is that I teach it as a story.  That way, I can give the broad outlines of the story, look at some pivotal scenes in this story, and try and capture the overall plot of the story.  Many of the details must be left out, but as far as the story goes, it holds together. 

One thing that I am always amazed about is the tremendous faithfulness of God despite Israel's appalling unfaithfulness.  Time and time again the Israelites cease to follow God.  They run rampant after foreign gods, slander the commandments, oppress the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, and in general gallivant in utter wickedness.  One scene that I find incredibly poignant on this issue is the fact that during Josiah's reign, they find some "book" hidden in the decrepit temple and no one even knows what it is or what was in it. 

Yet, over and over again, God remains faithful to his people, Israel.  He remembers his covenants, his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to Moses, and David.  He even goes so far as to prophesy a New Covenant in which he will fully restore his people.

If the story of the Old Testament sinks in at all, one must say that God's faithfulness outstrips the very worst of the human condition.  God's commitment to Israel is absolute.  That is why readings of the New Testament that see a new religion, Christianity, as so quickly replacing Israel as the people of God merely for a lack of faith on the part of the former, strike me as disingenuous.  If God did not reject his people for being a people and land of "great whoredom" (Hosea 1:2, NRSV), then rejecting his people for missing a Messiah, who by the way did not measure up to most messianic expectations, seems problematic.

So, what is the status of the Jewish people as the people of God? What say you?

1 comment:

  1. Well, as far as God's unrelenting faithfulness to the Jewish people, I think that needs to come into question due to God's ready impulsiveness (according to the Old Testament) to annihilate the Jewish people at Mount Sinai due to their sins, as well as God. We are led to believe that Moses is the only reason that the Jews were spared. Also, God did not fulfill the Davidic Covenant as it is portrayed, that David's descendants will forever remain on the throne in Israel. Yes, the Jewish people did not hold up their end of the bargain, but if the covenant was set to be unconditional, then it could be stated that God's faithfulness in the Jewish people, well, faltered? Stumbled? Either way, something happened on God's end.

    I think the very arrival of Jesus Christ into the world and the establishment of the belief that "all who believe in him shall not perish from this earth, but shall have eternal life" would indeed problematically and automatically make a dichotomy between Jews and Christians being the "chosen" people of God. In theory, if the Jewish people follow the Ten Commandments and love God, they achieve eternal life. But the same goes for the Christians who follow Jesus.

    Honestly I didn't buy the concept of the Hebrews being the "chosen" people of God coming into Religion 1310, and my view on that has not changed. To say that they are still the chosen people of God suggests that other religions would be inferior, and consequently, followers of those faiths are either not loved as much or even more permanently, do not receive the divine grace of heaven. If God is truly universal in his love of his creation, then that means that his love still acts somehow through cultures different than that from the Jewish people whom it would be physically impossible for them to have heard the words of Moses, the gospels, etc. (A good example would be populations in the island chains of Oceania, native populations of the Americas at the time, etc.)

    Personally I don't think the Jewish people ever had the status of being the "chosen" people. I guess I have more of a modern or post-modern view on the issue (if that's a clear way to say it)? I guess it is believable though, that the land area itself and not necessarily the Hebrews, were indeed chosen by God. Anyone who has taken a Geography course in High School knows that the Near East(mainly Jerusalem, Babylon, and Damascus) served as the center hub of global trade from Europe, Africa, and Asia from the beginning of civilization up until the Industrial Revolution. The high rate of traffic through the area, I think is why God chose that area as a place to instill his word to the world, simply because it would transmit faster across the globe than would anywhere else. But then the question would be "Why didn't God choose the local Canannites instead of choosing the Hebrews"? I use the word "choose" here regrettably), because there's really not much of an argument of why God would choose one population over the other, and from there its all skepticism anyways. I think that point right there is my belief of there not being a specific "chosen" status of people.

    Sorry for having a long and varied response. I've been multitasking so I know my thoughts are definitely disorganized.

    -Patrick Lawrence
    Religion 1310-32