Sins of Scripture VI: Anti-Semitism
The Christian faith has a long and convoluted history of anti-Semitism. This has always been strange to me, since our faith was born from Judaism. I have, in more recent months, tried to understand the Jewish approach to God (which has started to lead me out of Calvinist theology and into a more Arminian perspective). I think that Judaism has a lot to teach us about the roots of our faith, and we should shed the anti-Semitism that too often accompanies our faith.
As for Bishop John Shelby Spong, in his book The Sins of Scripture, he relates a very similar point of view. The biggest difference between us is that he doubts the historicity of Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus. Spong’s point of contention is that the earliest Christian writings, Paul’s epistles, bear no reference to a betrayal. The gospels, in Spong’s view, came much later (a.d. 75 or later) and therefore are not accurate representations of history.
Paul alludes to the night that Jesus was betrayed in 1 Corinthians 11:23, but Spong says that the Greek is “handed over,” which carries no connotation of betrayal. This isn’t correct according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary. That aside, Spong apparently doesn’t think that people read carefully nowadays. Later, he refers to the story of Joseph and his brothers, and tells us that the exact same phrase is used when describing what Joseph’s brother Judah did to Joseph! That phrase has the connotation of betrayal.
Because of the connection between Judah and Judas, as well as numerous other connections to Old Testament stories, Spong has concluded that the Judas Iscariot story is not real history. The early Christians made it up based on several stories of Scripture. I suppose Spong has never heard of “fulfilled prophecy.”
Although based on the dates he gives for authorship of the New Testament, I would suppose not. Liberal dating of the New Testament is based on the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Romans in a.d. 70. The assumption is that since Jesus accurately predicts things that take place in a.d. 70, the gospels must have been written after a.d. 70. This is nonsense; the gospels date from the a.d. 50s, with Mark perhaps even earlier than that. Conservative scholars, ones that I doubt Spong would consider consulting, put the dates of every NT document as prior to a.d. 70, although that might be stretching it. The gospel of John and Revelation almost certainly came in the a.d. 90s.
Spong and I, while we see eye-to-eye on the issue of anti-Semitism in Christianity, do not meet each other anywhere else in this issue. Anti-Semitism must surely be dealt with, and I believe the way to do that is to realize that the Jewish people did God’s will in putting Jesus to death. His death and subsequent resurrection means victory over death for all who believe in him. That was God’s will all along. Now the Jewish people have only to accept Jesus as their Messiah and they, too, can enjoy eternal life with the Father in heaven.