Sunday, November 24, 2013

Two nations in your womb

The LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.’
Genesis 25:23


It is a common error to think that Judaism of our contemporaries is the Judaism of the days of Jesus.

The brilliant Israeli scholar, Prof. Israel Jacob Yuval of Hebrew University in his book,
Two Nations in Your Womb, proved that Judaism we know of (Rabbinic Judaism) came to existence in the end of the first century after Christ. It came out of ruins of the old Temple-centered Biblical Judaism, practically at the same time as Christianity. It is a full answer to the notion of ‘superseding faith’. Christianity actually superseded Biblical Judaism and became the faith of millions. Still, a small band of men challenged its advent, and offered an alternative, Rabbinic Judaism. In the eyes of its followers, Rabbinic Judaism superseded Biblical Judaism.

Rabbinic Judaism has very little in common with Biblical Judaism. It produced its own holy books, the Mishna and Talmud, as Christianity produced the New Testament. Prof. Yuval wrote: The Biblical Judaism died, and two religions claimed to be the legitimate heir, Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.

Thus, Judaism we know of is a jealous sister, not a mother faith to Christianity. Its adepts are not the people who remained faithful to the ‘old religion’, as the Biblical Judaism with its sacrifices, Jerusalem Temple, ritual purity, tithes and priests disappeared two thousand years ago.


I have quoted the above, except for the scripture verse at the beginning, from the blog A Living Text, where it also was quoted, I believe, from yet another source (Israel Shamir). That Rabbinical Judaism is different from biblical Judaism, I was aware. What was impressed on my mind in a new way is the relationship between modern Judaism in nearly all its forms, and contemporary Christianity. Somewhere in my mind was unquestioningly entrenched the notion that Judaism was the elder brother and Christianity the younger. The truth is actually quite different. The two faiths are more like brothers, twins of the same mother (the biblical faith, nameless unless called Judaism because only Jews or Hebrews held to it).

Understand that, and suddenly the long, painful history of the relationship between the two faith communities reveals itself to be a sibling rivalry run wild. Each thinks of itself as Jacob, and the other as Esau, though they may not say it to themselves aloud. For me, this explains so much.

Now, being a lover of Israel, of the Hebrew scriptures, and respecting and even drawing light from the wisdom of their fathers after the Temple's destruction, one has to be respectful but still cautious, not pretending to untruths. We are dealing with those whom holy apostle Paul says, ‘One section of Israel has become blind, but this will last only until the whole pagan world has entered, and then after this the rest of Israel will be saved as well’ (Romans 11:25-26). The holy apostle writes conclusively for us as much as the Lord wants us to know about His people Israel, and the mystery of their testimony to the world, in chapters 9 through 11 of his letter to the Church at Rome. Thank God, we know at least this much. If only we had read and understood what is written there, over the centuries could the history shared between us have been any different?

Something that Blaise Pascal wrote, which can be found in his Pensées, as fragment 592, has always intrigued me.

If the Jews had all been converted by Christ we should only have suspect witnesses left. And if they had been wiped out we should have had none at all.

Pascal's book is also a treasure trove of Christian understanding of the Jews, and not very well known. That is one of the reasons I love Pascal so much: he was not afraid to look the Truth in the face, even when it might seem to go against current thinking inside the Church, or out of it.

If all Israel had been converted, why would they have been suspect witnesses? Could it be because they only supported Christ because He is their Messiah? That would mean they were confirmed in the unique truth of their faith, that their eternal King had come among them, and by accepting Him, they were now, indeed, lords of the earth. Where would that leave the nations? At worst, as enemies to be vanquished and exterminated, at best, as mere servants and slaves of the Chosen People.

But by rejecting Christ for who He was, their witness is not suspect. They rejected their own flesh and blood, making themselves martyrs for twenty centuries of the unique truth of their faith, which the eternal King had come to fulfill, but not only for them, but for the whole world. Otherwise the prophecies of the conversion of the nations would never have come to pass. Conversion, not conquest. Conversion, not subjugation. Conversion, not annihilation. ‘For God so loved the world…’

What Pascal writes is drawn from his intimate knowledge of holy and divine scripture, secreted to him by the Holy Spirit, taught him by the Master he followed so closely. Yes, confirming—though it needs no confirmation if you just see what is before you—what the holy apostle himself writes, ‘Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their admission will mean? Nothing less than a resurrection from the dead!’ (Romans 11:15)

Pray, brethren, for our brothers, the people of Israel.
Pray, people of Israel, for your brethren, ‘those who fear the Lord.’

1 comment:

Howard Bass said...

Shalom,

I am now reading Two Nations in Your Womb, and find it very enlightening just as you have.

God's testimony is ALWAYS the standard from which all else must be judged, and from which the deceiver and liar must pervert and distort. It is definitely the wisdom of God, as Pascal understood.

The true gospel of the true God and Savior/Messiah is the only clear message that Yeshua/Jesus gave His apostles and disciples. Nothing else can change the heart and mind; nothing else has the power of God to save sinners: the truth sets us free, and enables us to rightly judge our own iniquity before God and others, that we might then be able to help the other see his.

Praise the Lord!
P.S. If you respond, please let me know at songfish@netvision.net.il . Thank-you.