13 July 2009
Jewish Christians in the Church?
Beth Hatefutsoth is the diaspora museum in Tel Aviv, Israel. The picture's caption reads:
Jews and Jewish-Christians prepare to worship at the Great Synagogue of Antioch, Syria, 4th century. Chrysostom, one of the fathers of the Church, reproves the Christians and demands that they separate from the Jews.
---Diorama, Beth Hatefutsoth, Permanent Exhibition
When I saw this diorama in Israel in 1983, I was amazed. Here was evidence in the 4th century of the reality that so many knock back...Jews for Jesus. Messianic Jews existed then and now, and caused a stir in each.
Rodney Stark makes a big deal, as do many about St John of Antioch, later titled Chrysostom (Golden tongue). According to Wikipedia, During his first two years as a presbyter in Antioch (386-387), Chrysostom denounced Jews and Judaizing Christians in a series of eight sermons delivered to Christians in his congregation who were taking part in Jewish festivals and other Jewish observances.[See Wilken, p.xv, and also "John Chrysostom" in Encyclopedia Judaica] It is disputed whether the main target were specifically Judaizers or Jews in general. His homilies were expressed in the conventional manner, utilizing the uncompromising rhetorical form known as the psogos (Greek: blame).
One of the purposes of these homilies was to prevent Christians from participating in Jewish customs, and thus prevent the perceived erosion of Chrysostom's flock. In his sermons, Chrysostom criticized those "Judaizing Christians", who were participating in Jewish festivals and taking part in other Jewish observances, such as the shabbat, submitted to circumcision and made pilgrimage to Jewish holy places.
Chrysostom claimed that on the shabbats and Jewish festivals synagogues were full of Christians, especially women, who loved the solemnity of the Jewish liturgy, enjoyed listening to the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and applauded famous preachers in accordance with the contemporary custom. A more recent apologetic theory is that he instead tried to persuade Jewish Christians, who for centuries had kept connections with Jews and Judaism, to choose between Judaism and Christianity. ( Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity. How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, (Princeton University Press:1997)p.66-67.)
I'm not writing about church antisemitism against Jewish people today. That is abundant and shamefully abundantly clear throughout the centuries. What I'm referencing is church antisemitism against Jewish believers in Jesus today. And in 350 AD and that's not good by any means.
Chrysostom wanted Jewish believers to separate from the historic Jewish community and there are too many Christian pastors who want us to do the same. Quit eating kosher; quit keeping Shabbat; come over to our side. The title of the diorama was "Bear the Cross"... leave Judaism. Be one of us.
Friends, even the word 'Judaize' is a slur word. Judaize would mean to do Jewish things, or to invite others to do the same. It might even mean to "become Jewish." What exactly is wrong with that? The theme in the book of Galatians warrants another word--"legalize", or to 'seek favour with God by means of works' rather than by faith. But to name this action "judaizing" is a demeaning of the people to whom God gave the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Messiah according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9.4-5)
The Church has been guilty in so many places of demeaning Jewish people, here in Australia, and around the world. God help the church to stop the wrong of St John of Antioch, to stop the wrong of the Spanish Inquisition (which targeted Jewish Christians, along with Islam converts as well), to stop the wrong of these days. Let Jewish believers practice their faith as they desire. Don't make me eat ham; don't discourage my celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Help us focus our practices and life and culture on Messiah Y'shua, the Saviour of the world and King of Kings.