Monday, April 19, 2010

Radio Replies Second Volume: Jewish Rejection of Christ

152. Christianity spread because it contained phases of Judaism which commended themselves to the pagan world.

It would be difficult to indicate those particular phases. However, if there is one thing certain, it is that Christianity had no appeal for the pagan world, which greeted the new religion with centuries of violent hatred and persecution. It was war to the death, and either Christianity or the pagan world had to go under. Christianity wounded the pride of cultured pagans by asking them to worship a crucified Jew. It attacked pagan morals, demanding of men that they should hate what they had previously loved, and love those things against which nature rebelled. The obstacles were immense, and the means at the disposal of Christianity ludicrously inadequate from a human point of view. The only force which can account for this expansion is that correctly given in the Acts of the Apostles. It was the power of the Holy Spirit, promised and sent by Christ. It was the Holy Spirit who strengthened the Apostles, and who enlightened the minds of multiludes who heard them, besides moving their obstinate wills to embrace the lofty doctrines and moral obligations binding upon Christians.

153. You have said that Christianity is the continuation and fulfillment of the Jewish religion.

That is so. The Christian religion really rests on a co-ordinated series of facts from Adam to Pope Pius XII, or to any Pope who may succeed him in the future. This series of facts is spread, therefore, over thousands of years, and embraces events, words, declarations of principles, doctrines, and precepts, whether in Jewish or Christian times. The Jewish religion was really preparatory Christianity, its whole genius being a looking forward to the coining of Christ. Christianity is but Judaism fulfilled.

154. Why, then, is there opposition between the Jewish and the Christian religions?

From the historical point of view there is opposition insofar as Judaism denies that the real Messiah has come, while the Christian religion affirms that he has come in the person of Christ. As a preparatory religion, Judaism was the true religion of God until such time as the Messiah should come. But it was abrogated when all that it foreshadowed was realized. The shadow gave way to the substance. And a religion which still claims to be awaiting the Redeemer of the human race after that Redeemer has come is obviously wrong, and could not retain God's sanction. But apart from the question of time and fulfillment, there is an opposition between the preparatory Jewish religion and Christianity. Literal Judaism was imperfect, and embodied much that was temporal and fleshly, while the religion of Christ is perfect, and elevated to the spiritual and eternal plane. Of course, even under the old regime, the true Jew was not one who merely submitted to external rites, but he who loved God, and was united in spirit with the Savior to come. But many of the Jews had fallen short of this to a very great extent, and were absorbed by worldly and merely human considerations.

155. Was not Jesus Himself a product of Judaism?

By birth He was of the Jews. But Judaism could never have produced His character. The character of Christ, as depicted by the Gospels, not only differs from every type of moral perfection which the Jewish mind could conceive. It expressly opposes those types. We have in the writings of the Jews ample material to construct the model Jewish teacher. We have the sayings and actions of Hillel, Gamaliel, Rabbi Samuel, and others — all possessing the impress of national ideas; and descriptions of them are based on ideas most widely apart from the personality and teachings of Christ. Christ was a complete departure from the national type, and from those features which custom, education, patriotism, religion, and nature alike, had consecrated as being the Jewish ideal. In this sense, Jesus Christ was not the product of Judaism. Christ came, not to receive from the Jews, but to give to them that which He gave to the Gentiles, and to such Jews as did accept Him.

156. Jesus was guided by Jewish principles throughout His life.

It was the conflict between the principles of Christ and the guiding principles of the Jewish teachers at that time which ended in the crucifixion of Christ. The Jews wanted a temporal king, while Christ came as a spiritual Messiah. The High Priests opposed the teaching and conduct of Christ on every possible occasion.

157. Jesus merely put greater emphasis on the individual and the next life.

He rejected the idea of the absorption of the individual in a nation-religion, taking a universal view which included every individual soul. Likewise, He rejected material and temporal ideals in favor of spiritual and eternal values.

158. If Christ proved His claims so clearly, why did the Jews reject Him?

Not all of them did. Great numbers of Jews were converted in the first years of Christianity. Still, the religious leaders of the Jews, and most of the Jews were not. The first reason for this was the general corruption of moral standards amongst them. Josephus tells us of the prevailing spirit of dishonesty and depravity amongst them. The pride of the Pharisee was not much impressed by the doctrine of meekness and humility preached by Jesus. Nor did the prevailing sensuality respond to a teaching requiring mortification and self-denial. A second reason lies in the distorted idea of the Messiah to be expected. The promise of a spiritual Redeemer had been transformed into an expectation of some mighty temporal prince who would liberate the Jews from Caesar. They did not want a ''kingdom not of this world." The chief priests had personal motives also because Jesus denounced their vices and hypocrisy. It is certain that the Jews did not reject Christ for want of evidence.

Evidence alone accounts for those who were converted to Him. Those who rejected Him did so for personal reasons based upon their own evil dispositions.

159. It is strange that His claims were so unacceptable to men of light and learning at the time.

It is not strange when one realizes that acceptance of Christ required supernatural faith. Jesus demanded faith in Himself as God. He said to His disciples, "Whom do men say that I am?" They replied, "Some, John the Baptist: others, Elijah; others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." But when He asked, '"Whom do you say that I am?" Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus replied, "Blessed art thou, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but My Father in heaven." On another occasion Christ said, "No man can come to Me unless the Father draw him." Mt 16:13-17. Faith in Christ and salvation through Him cannot be made to depend upon natural gifts of education and learning. The intelligent and the educated are not going to have a better chance of salvation than those less fortunate. We can't fill heaven with the intellectuals, and hell with the dull-witted. The men of light and learning who refused to accept Christ may have had some degrees of natural light, but they shut their minds against supernatural light. They may have had natural learning, but they had not spiritual wisdom and insight. If you ask why they lacked such supernatural gifts, I must reply that they rejected such graces as were offered to them through lack of good will and through hardened obstinacy. It was their own fault.

160. For example Caiaphas was a man of great learning, and also at least something of a man of God.

We cannot presume that Caiaphas was a man of deep learning. The office of High Priest had been sadly degraded. Josephus complains that some who were chosen were too ignorant to know the dignity of their position; while the Mishna had to include the rubric: "If the High Priest cannot read, let someone read to him." Again, since the High Priests were closely associated with, and at times drawn from the Sadducees, such learning as they did possess was gravely infected by rationalism and materialism. Nor was Caiaphas a man of God save by external profession. The High Priesthood had become subject to Roman political authority. Annas had been deposed by the Roman Governor Valerius Gratus in the year 15 A. D. He was succeeded by Eleazar, and again, after a year's break, by Caiaphas, who was a political time-server, who had a longer run of office than most High Priests, and was determined to keep it. That required, of course, the retaining of Roman patronage.

161. Caiaphas was of the Jews to whom a Messiah had been promised.

That is true. But his religious convictions had been subordinated to political expediency. Richelieu was a Catholic Cardinal who professed that the Catholic Church was the true religion; yet we know how politics dominated him. The case of Caiaphas is no more mysterious.

162. Since the Messiah was then due Jesus did not make such an absurd claim.

The Jews knew that the time of the Messiah was at hand. They had built up quite wrong ideas as to the true character and work of the Messiah, however, and entertained the notion that somehow or other He would be a temporal deliverer of their nation. Even that idea was not welcome to the politically-minded Caiaphas. And when Christ claimed, not only to be the Messiah, but to be God Himself, Caiaphas was overjoyed. He could get rid of one who might disturb his peaceful relations with Rome, and satisfy the religious susceptibilities of the Jews by the charge of blasphemy. The mere claim to Messiahship would not have seemed absurd or blasphemous to the Jews. But they were not prepared to accept a claim to absolute equality with God. Caiaphas knew this, and traded on it. He worked to one end, to get Christ to say that He was God. And seeing Jesus silent under the various accusations, he at last cried, "I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us if thou be the Christ, the Son of God." Mt 26:63. The last words were uppermost in his mind. No one was ignorant of the fact that Jesus had spoken and acted as if He were more than a mere man, and as if He were in a unique sense the Son of God. Caiaphas intended his question in this sense. And Christ replied, "Thou hast said it." Then, with pretended horror, but really in triumph, Caiaphas cried blasphemy, and got the verdict he wanted.

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