Has God Only One Blessing? Judaism as a Source of Christian Self-Understanding

Article excerpt

Has God Only One Blessing? Judaism as a Source of Christian Self Understanding. By Mary C. Boys. Studies in Judaism and Christianity: Exploration of Issues in the Contemporary Dialogue Between Christians and Jews. New York: Paulist Press, 2000. 393 pp. $29.95 (paper).

This passionately argued challenge to Christian supersessionism is based on a claim that, while not new, remains an important starting point for effective Jewish-Christian dialogue. Boys reminds us that careful consideration of the complicated historical contexts of Christian polemics against Judaism and Jews is essential if Christians are to understand and repudiate the anti-Semitism that has so pervasively characterized the Church's response to Judaism. Responsible reeducation of the Church must, then, be grounded in a dialectical "relationship between the Bible and tradition" in the believing community, this relationship reconstituting the locus of Gospel revelation and supplanting simplistic appeals to problematic New Testament texts (p. 193). Boys's goal is to break the hegemony of the conventional antiSemitic Christian storyline through promotion of an alternative story of Christian origins that honors the rich heritage of Jewish belief and practice. En route, her historical review touches gracefully, if sometimes impressionistically, on salient matters of Biblical interpretation, development of doctrine (particularly of the Trinity), ecclesiology and liturgical praxis from ancient times to the present.

Even sophisticated historical reconstruction, of course, can go only so far. Does it suffice to build dialogue on the by-now-familiar insights that the Hebrew prophets intended to reform rather than abolish the cult and that Judaism and nascent Christianity originally were closely connected fraternal rivals rather than intractable opponents? The fact that early Christian apologists followed established rhetorical conventions for invective in order to differentiate themselves from the more powerful traditional Judaism still cannot "justify... abusive rhetoric," as Boys concedes (p. 185).

Boys rightly challenges Christians to move beyond an evolutionist view of "salvation history" and a narrowly triumphalist typology of the Hebrew Bible toward discernment of multiple meanings of Scripture texts and possibilities for their reinterpretation and recontextualization. …