Practicing Honesty Regarding Harmful Forms of Christianity (Part 1 of 3)
Welcome readers! Please register via the button on the right.
Our reading for this week is taken from the Gospel of Luke:
Some of his disciples remarked that the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when there will not be stone upon stone; each of them will be overthrown.
“Master, they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place? He has answered: “Be careful not to be mistaken. For many will come in my name, pretender, ‘I am Him,‘ and, ‘The time is near.‘ Don’t follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, don’t be afraid. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.
Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all that, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all of them because of my name. And so you will testify to me. But make up your mind not to worry about how you are going to defend yourself in advance. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries can resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by your parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Hold on, and you will win the life. (Luke 21:5-18)
Reading this weekend’s Gospel lectionary has a very long anti-Semitic history, but we can understand this passage in a way that is faithful to the Jewish ethos that Jesus centered on in his teachings and help us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Remember that the Jesus movement did not start with Christianity. The first followers of Jesus were Jews and the Jesus movement did not seek to create a new religion. Thus, the teaching that later became these verses did not come from a Christianity versus Judaism context, but was one Jewish perspective among many on the negative impact of Roman imperialism on Judaism and on the complicity of the aristocracy of the Temple with Rome. Many fringe Jewish voices at the time of Jesus opposed the Temple State because of its complicity with Roman imperial economic exploitation. Rome determined who would lead the Temple aristocracy, and so those who held political power in the Temple State in Jerusalem cooperated with Rome to survive and retain power in Jewish society. Because of this political calculation, the High Priesthood lost the confidence of the masses who suffered economically.
Josephus tells us of a multitude of rebellious prophets promising liberation from Roman imperialism. Here is an example:
“These people [six thousand people who Rome killed] owe their disappearance to a false prophet. It was someone who announced that day that God had commanded the inhabitants of the city to come up to the temple area, there to receive the signs that they would be delivered. Many prophets in this era were moved by tyrannical rulers to persuade people to look to God for help. . . . When humans suffer, they are easily persuaded; but when the trickster depicts release from potential affliction, those who suffer surrender entirely to hope. (Joseph, Jewish Wars6.285-287)
I understand the beginning of the Jesus movement as one of those types of Jewish liberation movements. Jesus’ preaching of the “kingdom” of God over and against the empire of Rome offered the people a way to return and restore loyalty to the Torah, centered on love of God and love of neighbor.
Our reading this week also relies heavily on Mark 13, perhaps as a way of harmonizing Mark with the tensions between Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus and between Christianity and Judaism that are developed later in the book. acts. Through these stories, anti-Jewishness could grow in those passages and interpretations of those passages that have been deeply destructive to our Jewish neighbors and friends.
That’s where we have to start this week, next.