Marlowe's Shade

Monday, May 16, 2005

Spengler on Pope Benedict and the Jews

My Google Alert for Spengler never seems to work, and now I'm months behind on his columns. But happily this one made it's way to me, and it's really good.

For a Catholic theologian, dependence on biblical exegesis rather than church tradition amounts to a revolutionary innovation. Benedict XVI broke with hoary church tradition when he argued (for example) that in the Epistles of Paul "the covenant with the Patriarchs is regarded as eternally in force" [6]. Scripture is not quite enough, however. American evangelicals of the past generation look not only to the promises of scripture, but also to the fact of Jewish continuity over more than three millennia. As the Reverend Pat Robertson observes, this makes credible God's promise to Abraham in the Hebrew scriptures. If God kept his promise to Abraham's seed, the argument continues, so well he may to Christians who enter into God's covenant through the crucifixion. If the Jewish people were to disappear, the Christian promise of salvation would die with it.


A crucial difference of opinion between Benedict XVI and the American evangelicals lies in the question of when Jews shall recognize Jesus as their Messiah. Although Benedict believes that Christians should not "force their faith" upon Jews and should live with them in mutual respect, he would prefer that they do so immediately. Although the evangelicals proselytize Jews to the endless annoyance of Jewish religious authorities, they believe that Jews will recognize Jesus only at the end of time. Liberal Jews object that the evangelicals wish for a new Battle of Armageddon in the Middle East, which is a silly complaint; on the contrary, the evangelicals mean that they would prefer that Jews remain Jews until Jesus extends an invitation in person.

American Protestantism, to be sure, was tinged with a Judaizing heresy from the outset (What makes the US a Christian nation, November 28, 2004). Founded by Protestant separatists who wished to bring a new chosen people to a new promised land, America may be the only country in the world in which Christians openly might adopt Rosenzweig's perspective.

For Benedict XVI to identify the scriptural promise to Abraham with Abraham's descendents, for example, the present state of Israel, would present formidable problems. Today's Europeans, in their desire to appease the burgeoning Muslim population within their borders, consider Israel a greater danger to world peace than the states that Washington deems terrorist. Slightly over half of Germans, according to a recent poll, believe that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is no better than the Nazis' treatment of the Jews, a response suggesting the projection of Germany's own war guilt. The great majority of the Italian Curia favors the Palestinian rather than the Israeli side, and the Vatican still objects to the Israeli claim of Jerusalem as it capital, demanding instead that Jerusalem become an international city.

In a Europe that hates the Jews that no longer are there, Benedict XVI will find exegesis of the Hebrew Bible less challenging than dealing with a people that actually speaks biblical Hebrew. His effort to re-evangelize Europe with Abraham's scriptural promise will crash against Europe's hatred for Abraham's actual descendants.

His follow up column is even more fascinating but I'm reluctant to comment on it due to deficiencies in my musical knowledge. But I've requested help on this and if it arrives in time, I'll revisit this subject.
papijoe 11:14 AM