A New Testament Understanding Of The Jewish Rejection Of Jesus: Four Theologians On The Salvation Of Israel -- By: John J. Johnson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 43:2 (Jun 2000)
Article: A New Testament Understanding Of The Jewish Rejection Of Jesus: Four Theologians On The Salvation Of Israel
Author: John J. Johnson


A New Testament Understanding Of The Jewish Rejection Of Jesus: Four Theologians On The Salvation Of Israel

John J. Johnsona

Is Christian theology inherently anti-Semitic? Are the fundamental teachings of the NT blatantly anti-Jewish? Is the church’s historical oppression of Judaism responsible (at least in part) for the Holocaust? More importantly, does the Holocaust force Christians to re-think the matter of Jewish salvation? A growing number of scholars, both Jewish and Christian, are answering “Yes” to these questions, and are seeking alternative under-standings of the Christian message which they believe will avoid the anti-Semitic trappings of the past.

The landmark work in this area is Rosemary Ruether’s Faith and Fratricide, which was published in 1974. This book examined how Judaism has been demeaned and vilified by the NT, the Church fathers, and the states of Christian Europe. Ruether called for a radical new openness on the part of Christians toward Judaism in order to make amends for these sins: “Christians must be able to accept the thesis that it is not necessary for Jews to have the story about Jesus in order to have a foundation for faith and a hope for salvation.” 1 The solution to Christian anti-Judaism, Ruether claimed, lies in a “revitalization of Christian absolutism which can accept the independent salvific validity of the Jewish tradition.” 2

Ruether’s book has had a tremendous influence on the contemporary Jewish-Christian dialogue. The extent of this influence can be judged from the fact that Gregory Baum, who wrote a powerful apologetic work in 1968 vigorously defending the NT against the charge of anti-Semitism, penned the introduction to 1974’s Faith and Fratricide. He there admitted that the apology he presented in his earlier work was untenable. 3 Baum stated he had come to believe that, in light of the history of Christian anti-Judaism, especially the Holocaust, Christian theologians must “look for a formulation of the Christian faith that does not negate Jewish existence.” 4

Baum is not alone in his abrupt change of position. For example, Krister Stendahl no longer believes that Paul’s letter to the Romans teaches that Jews must receive Christ as their Savior in order to experience salvation. 5

There is a host of prominent thinkers, many of them Christian, who share Ba...

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