Two Takes on Christianity: Furthering the Dialogue

By Jacobs, Steven Leonard | Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Two Takes on Christianity: Furthering the Dialogue


Jacobs, Steven Leonard, Journal of Ecumenical Studies


Introduction

On two occasions (Berlin, 1994; and Nashville, 2000), I have addressed the question of Christology in relation to the Holocaust/Shoah, both of which have since been published. (1) Though alluded to in both, neither presentations nor published versions addressed the one remaining question that remains at the heart of the Jewish-Christian dialogue, namely, "Who is this Christ in relation to the Jews?" Much research and writing continues to be done in both "Jesus studies" and "Paul studies," often by Jewish scholars. Other than the occasional presentation to the larger Jewish community where such scholars reside, their work remains primarily within the academy, such as the work of Amy-Jill Levine at Vanderbilt, Julie Galambush at the College of William and Mary, Pamela Eisenbaum at Iliff School of Theology, and Adele Reinhartz at the University of Ottawa, (2) not to mention the pioneering conference hosted by Peter Haas and convened by Zev Garber at Case-Western Reserve University in May, 2009--"Jesus in the Context of Judaism and the Challenge to the Church." (3)

I. Jesus, the Christ for All? A Judaic Perspective on Christology

I have been a resident of the State of Alabama (except for 1976-77), since being ordained a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1974. During my residency in Alabama, I have lived-perhaps I should say survived!--under the governorships of George Wallace (1971-79, 1983-87), who inaugurated the first Yom Ha-Shoah (Holocaust Memorial Observance) at the Governor's Mansion in Montgomery and who, interestingly enough, was a concentration-camp liberator during his World War II service in the United States Army, a fact that most people still do not know; Jere Beasley (1972); "Fob" James (1979-83, 1995-99), whose wife Roberta became staunchly pro-Israel with a decidedly evangelical orientation after the death of one of their children and who used to host anniversary celebrations of the State of Israel at the Governor's Mansion; Guy Hunt (1987-93), an ordained preacher who saw no conflict in using the Alabama state plane to fly to preaching engagements on Sundays but who was ultimately forced to step down as governor for this ethical violation of privilege; Jim Folsom (1993-95); Don Siegelman (1999-2003), who is now in prison; Bob Riley (2003-11), who has been touted as a possible Republican candidate for this nation's highest elected office; and, as of January, 2011, Robert J. Bentley, M.D., a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa, where my university is located

   I have cited the governors of Alabama because of an incident widely
   reported, both nationally and internationally, which relates
   directly to this topic. Later the same afternoon as his
   inauguration, January 17,2011, Bentley spoke at the famous Dexter
   Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, where the late
   Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68), had been pastor. In the
   course of his remarks, he said the following:

   There may be some people here today who do not have living within
   them the Holy Spirit. But if you have been adopted into God's
   family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if
   you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the
   Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes us? It
   makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and
   sister.

   Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're
   not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not
   accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not
   my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother.
   (4)

The brouhaha engendered by his remarks was truly something to behold, both critically negative and highly supportive. To his credit, he has also met with representative members of the Jewish communities of Alabama and apologized for the insensitivity of his remarks, apparently not realizing the fuller implications of his comments. …

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