Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity

By Jacob Neusner | Go to book overview

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The ancient rabbis look out upon a world destroyed and still smoking in the aftermath of calamity, but they speak of rebirth and renewal. The holy Temple lay in ruins, but they ask about sanctification. The old history was over, but they look forward to future history. Theirs, as we sec, is a message that what is true and real is the opposite of what people perceive. God stands for paradox. Strength comes through weakness, salvation through acceptance and obedience, sanctification through the ordinary and profane, which can be made holy. Now to informed Christians, the mode of thought must prove remarkably familiar. For the cross that stands for weakness yields salvation, and the crucified criminal is king and savior. That is the foolishness to which the apostle Paul makes reference. Yet the greater the “nonsense”—life out of the grave, eternity from death—the deeper the truth, the richer the paradox! So here we have these old Jews, one group speaking of sanctification of Israel, the people, the other of salvation of Israel and the world. Separately, they are thinking along the same lines, coming to conclusions remarkably congruent to one another, affirming the paradox of God in the world, of humanity in God's image, in the rabbinical framework; of God in the flesh, in the Christian. Is it not time for the joint heirs of ancient Israel's Scripture and hope to meet once more, in humility, before the living God? Along with all humanity, facing backward toward Auschwitz and total destruction, and forward toward complete annihilation of the world as we know it—is it not time?

-101-

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