Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rival Myths of the Suffering Jew

As defining mythical images, both The Crucifixion and what the Jews call "The Holocaust" bear certain salient similarities. The historical core of both was the arbitrary and cruel killing of an innocent host. So then, does it make any difference whether, in the 22nd Century, the image of one replaces that of the other in the consciousness of mankind?

Most emphatically, yes. The difference is that the suffering Jew, Jesus, died for the redemption of all mankind and for the sake of forgiveness. The suffering Jew of the holocaust accuses and seeks retribution for his own benefit. The Resurrection of Christ beckons man to recognize a new covenant and a new freedom. The resurrection from the ashes of the holocaust demands only the recognition of the State of Israel and the uniqueness of Jewish suffering.

This is not to deny the devastations inflicted on the actual victims of Nazi policies, which Jews are certainly entitled to memorialize for themselves in whatever way and with whatever theological implications they wish. The issue I am focusing on here is what one does with or makes of an historical event.

Years ago, an orthodox Jewish friend told me that a prophet was one who saw the "inner significance" of outward historical events. Accepting that definition (as I have), the question becomes: What is our prophecy?

This was actually the first question to vex the Early Church. St. Peter insisted that Christ's message was for Jews only. St. Paul was equally adamant that Christ's evocation was for all mankind. Peter stayed in Jerusalem; Paul went to the Gentiles. Although we do not know the details, we know that this detente was eventually resolved in Paul's favour inasmuch as Peter was executed in Rome.

Perhaps the better part of prophecy is what we will to see. Christians took a shattering historical event and turned into a giving myth. Jews have taken a horrible historical experience and turned into a grudging one; that, it seems to me, is a tragedy in itself.

©WCG, 2009

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