Programmatic Thoughts Concerning
The Past and Israelis and the Jewish Tradition
A Response to Shalom Hartman Institute's 2001 International Theology Conference
On Sacred Time
By `Ammi ben Hoshea`
As I understand the issues, time and space are inextricably bound up in each other; and space-time is a by-product of the interaction of finite actual (physical) things. In other words, when God created the heavens and the earth, He thereby created space-time.
Accordingly: God has made the world in such a way that if two rocks collide, the primary effects of that collision emanate outward at the speed(s) of light, and the collision's effects influence all events subsequent to the arrival of the collision's effects. The collision becomes a datum for all subsequent deeds and events;1 effects of the collision become a part of subsequent events' pasts. The laboratory sciences, for example, build on those kinds of past events and experiments whose likenesses can be deliberately recapitulated; and which can thus be made to render data that human beings can generalize and quantify and sharpen into the foundations of ever more cogent hypotheses or "rules" or "laws."
Meanwhile, in episodes now repeated billions of times, each human newborn enters tiny and helpless into an uncomprehended confusion of ongoing colors and noises and happenings, events which soon include those of his own doing. Unknown to himself in his beginnings, an infant is already a personally developing version of his own life processes, and soon discovers that he can start or stop the sounds of his own crying. Very quickly, usually in the society of mother and father, friends and relatives, the child orders or manipulates large parts of the milieu of the ongoing events into which he is born, by way of his varying degrees of control, and acquires a growing personal history. In the course of years, emerging in the interplay of his own doings and the impositions of a great world he did not create, the youngster innovates and learns. Amid his social and private interactions, he constructs for example a language (a generative schema of sounds and behaviors), and, in part by way of it, makes requests and demands and statements and builds his life. The child's or the adult's declarative sentences will neither fully constitute nor precisely describe our world with its rich past -- but they can serve well, especially if they grow from realistic and applicable and moral understanding.
. . . . . . .
Before returning to some of the themes of this sketchy metaphysico-epistemological introduction, let me mention my own faith community: that now ancient2 and discontinuously recurring group of Jews who believe that an Israelite is obligated to keep God's law that was given to Moses (and whose legal implementation and elaboration was entrusted to priests and judges and rabbis),3 but Jews who are convinced also that Jesus of Nazareth4 is God's anointed prophet, priest, king, and redeemer. These Jews are currently often called "Messianic Jews," but the term is a misnomer because practically every orthodox Jew is messianic in that he believes in a future liberator of Israel. Many in Israel would label our communities "apostate," or claim that we're not Jewish at all; and many in the churches would call us Judaizers or heretics. Perhaps we might better label ourselves "Jewish Students of the Way,"5 extrapolating from Paul's statement in Acts 24: 14 (& cf. Acts 24: 22 & 9: 2)-- but now as for most of the last two thousand years, we constitute tiny and seemingly powerless communities that are typically repudiated by both Christian and Jewish establishments.
Our numbers are so small, and our impact seems so marginal,2 that it is understandable that we are not given a prominent place in conferences such as those here at the Shalom Hartman Institute. On the other hand, we may have an importance reaching well beyond current population and obvious impact. We may have something important to say, and do, regarding issues of pluralism and the conflicts of imperialistic religions in general, and ecclesiastical Christianity, rabbinic Judaism, and militant Islam in particular.
Is there some reason other than a perverse masochism for clinging to such a way of life? I believe there are many compelling reasons, epistemological, historical, legal, communal, and ethical. I'll mention just one very general reason: We locate ourselves as a mean, an embattled but fruitful mean, between (1) those such as the many secularists who have thrown out too much of Jewish tradition, who have repudiated Sinai's obligations, and who have helped build a society that cannot endure; and (2) those such as many of the Haridim who have added to the Torah such weights that it has become a burden that a healthy society cannot bear. (Cf. Deut. 12: 32 [13: 1 in Hebrew text], with e.g. Deut. 4: 2 & Deut. 30: 9-14.)
Now Dr. David Hartman wrote in his fine little book Israelis and the Jewish Tradition An Ancient People Debating its Future, p. 165, that "Many Israelis are disturbed and angered by the dangerous polarization between a ghetto vision of Judaism that repudiates modernity and a radical secularism that ridicules the tradition." This and other passages and writings indicate how he has likewise been struggling with great energy, passion, and intellect to discover and apply a viable mean. He has nevertheless proposed (thus far, at least) a very different mean.6
I wish to respond to several of Dr. Hartman's points, but first, let me raise issues concerning how "Students of the Way [of God's Anointed]" relate to Halakhah and the Talmud.
If that question ("How do 'Jewish Students of the Way' relate to Halakhah and the Talmud?") is raised sociologically, the answer is clearly: In a wide variety of ways. If the issue is raised normatively, I myself (along with many others) believe the answer is that Jews are obligated to remain a part of their communities, and that they should refrain from starting a different sect. "Students of the Way" often agree with this as a general principle, but the generalization plays out in different ways, depending in part on what authority is given to rabbis (to the men who in my view, for better or for worse, are still "those who sit in Moses' seat" as in Matt. 23: 2). In other words, I believe that a Jew is obligated to keep Halakhah.3 Moreover, I believe that much in the Talmud transmits God's Torah from Sinai, not only by way of its methodologies, and its necessary and God-instructed reliance on human legal reasoning, but also in its specific details. (I might remark that in almost every Talmudic discussion, a view that I myself believe to be correct is at least introduced, even if not advocated. Recall similarly p. 163 of Israelis and the Jewish Tradition, where Dr. Hartman wrote: "I am often fascinated by and would like to retrieve the conjectures and suggestions that surfaced in rabbinic discussions in the Talmud even when they did not directly influence authoritative normative practice [Halakhah].")
-- At the same time, Jewish Students of the Way distinguish sharply between God-given prophecy (between the Bible) and Talmud. (Compare the way that a loyal U.S. citizen distinguishes sharply between his highest obligations to God and his duties to obey, so far as possible, the local, state, and federal laws of the U.S. When Congress passes a bad law, or judges pass down an unjust decision, a good citizen fights that law or decision, but, if possible, obeys it, even while working to get it changed.) Ongoing Talmud and the evolving Halakhah among other things constitute a lengthy legal history of the Jewish people, with all its grandeur and all its blemishes -- and justice and order require that great legal weight be given to precedent.
Now any Jewish "Student of the Way" claims to be obligated by the Written Law, but there are those who claim that large portions of the details of the Oral Law are obsolete (if they were ever practicable); and that current affairs in the state of Israel have made this obvious.7 I may be mistaken, but many others, including myself, vigorously disagree. One reason for this is that much of the Oral Law in fact harmonizes deeply with the Written Law; and (an argument ad hominem) I fear a concomitant tendency of those who reject the Oral Law both to set themselves apart from their fellow Jews, and also to abandon parts of the Written Law.) Moreover, vast expanses of the Gospels and the Epistles and Talmud are mutually opaque each without the other -- certainly in an academic sense, and often in a practical sense.8 Another reason is that careful reading of the Gospels and the Epistles show that Jesus located himself in the Pharasaic tradition, even while criticizing it.
How then do "Students of the Way" such as myself, who consider themselves obligated also by the Oral Law, constitute a mean? One factor is that we view the (Written Statutes and) Oral Law as a (God-sanctioned) social means for order and a (divinely endorsed) personal framework for growth,9 and not as a communal or private end in itself. -- And here lies a danger: Despite our commitment e.g. to Psalm 119, it is all too easy to lose the passion for God's law that seems to sprout so naturally for those who view His law as mediator between man and God, or as the means of salvation; or who perhaps even imagine God-ordained ceremony as magical formulae for enlisting the assistance of cosmic powers. The religious passion of "Students of the Way" is directed first toward God and human beings, and only then toward His statutes (and His creatures and His creation -- although we learn of Him largely by way of His creatures, and His creation, and the past).
. . . . . . .
At this point I wish to indicate two areas where the mean suggested by "Students of the Way" contrasts with the means thus far suggested by Dr. David Hartman.
First of all, Dr. Hartman at times seemed to suggest that Moshe ben Maimon's intellectual vision of God points to a purer or higher monotheism than the material notions of this world's Creator often found in the Law and in the Prophets. On the contrary, I fear that Moshe ben Maimon's allegedly "rational" vision of an unspeakable, unknowable, passionless, and unchanging Unmoved Mover often borders on atheism. Men like Barukh Spinoza and Solomon Maimon (and uncounted others, some of whom indirectly influenced Karl Marx) did not read Moshe ben Maimon so badly. (Moshe ben Maimon indeed seized upon threads in the Talmud; but over and above Aristotle and Galen, he also appropriated much of the polemical spirit of the Qur'an and that of certain post-Qur'anic rationalizers such as ibn Bajja and ibn Rushd.) The Biblical God who made men's minds and throats (and who is neither Plotinus' One nor Yehudah Ha-Levi's relentless ritual fire10 [nor even a Qur'anical polemic figment]) can choose to rest, and He also can speak and show Himself, and on numerous occasions has spoken and has revealed Himself. To be sure, human beings can neither grasp nor describe Him fully -- but then we mortals cannot even thoroughly describe our spouses. To take a route away from the Biblical revelations is to make God into a mere category, into an idol -- into our own usually more comfortable posit. [Incidentally, not even Biblical language can precisely describe God, or even a tree -- hence one reason for the powerful and instructional device of Hebrew parallelism; and hence one of the grave dangers of creeds.]
Secondly, what then must be the basis of dialogue with others within and without our communities?
Dr. Hartman has suggested that moral consensus might serve today as the foundation for contemporary interfaith dialogue. In my opinion (though it might seem to clash with Romans 1), ethical norms are too shaky and too depraved (or better, perhaps, inevitably too narrowly utilitarian) a basis for genuine movement toward peace. People will almost always condemn others' faults, without seeing their own. They will forever advocate pacifism or at least compromise regarding others' conflicts, but underline the importance of right in their own struggles. Whether or not the foundations of axiology are objective or subjective, consensual ethical formulae will not always serve as a steady guide for conflict resolution.
I have moreover suggested a rejection of absolute formulae or inviolable creeds. Language is a fickle handmaid, a slippery instrument; not truth's treasury.
Data that all human beings do share are those that are imposed on us by the deeds and events of time gone by -- and here we revert to the introduction of this paper. If we surrender a perspicacious appeal to the past, we thereby give up any hope for solid conclusions; for peace in its genuine sense of completion or fulfillment. What our forefathers and parents and we ourselves have gone through in order to bring us to here is most sacred (very other), and yet most profane (most ubiquitous).
At the risk of sounding very much like the most currently despised of God's creatures, a triumphalist fundamentalist,11 I wish to insist that neither the Law and the Prophets, nor the Gospels and Epistles command us to remember fictions, things that did not occur. It is the importance of what has indeed happened, as opposed to convenient myth, that distinguishes Bible from the Upanishads (or even the homiletical ramblings of the Qur'an).
The move to linking one's faith to what indeed has happened, to the God who in fact has revealed Himself, demands intellectual and social courage. I dare to claim that were there no revelation at Sinai, avoidance of idol worship would demand that both Christians and Jews surrender their faith and move to something else. Most of us should return the monies of our grants and go home, or rather, into exile (and hordes of modern men have done so). Without Sinai, Jesus becomes a charlatan. At first glance, only an internally self reliant Talmud, or else Islam, could stand; but on closer scrutiny, they too must collapse. And here indeed lie quandries that have dogged thoughtful men from the days of King Ahab to Philo Judaeus, to the days of Moshe ben Maimon, to the days Dr. Hartman:12 Is the Biblical God indeed credible?
At the same time, without building on the problematic and unpopular foundation of the world's past as it is, human beings are led to the opportunistic machinations of power politics and the cruel condemnations of consensus. Mankind would be driven to phenomena that have been all too common in the annals of the majoritarian proclamations of ecclesiastical bulls, of rabbinic polemic, and of Islamic rule. Human beings would be condemned to idolatry, and to the foggy depravity of myth.
How often are both Jews and Gentiles commanded to remember!
Remembrance has two components: (1) the hard, inalterable past; and (2) the subjective appropriation of that past. Without both of these elements, we are driven to forgetting rather than remembering.
God has facilitated remembering (indeed, made it possible) by bestowing not only sheer progression and mindless linear or cumulative time, but, by way of the seven "days" creation, by granting us day and night, lunar months and solar years, cycles and seasons: recurrences featuring likenesses of what has been to what is now. Thus we can make clocks, and separate (sanctify) the Shabbath from the other six days, and so on.
What (cyclical or ceremonial) times then are sacred to "Students of the Way?"
Soon after the disastrous Bar Kokhba' rebellion (quelled about 135 C.E., in those dark days when both Jews and Christians were deliberately seeking to forge disparate identities), Justin "Martyr"13 wrote a dialogue imagined between himself and "Trypho the Jew." In Chapter X of that dialogue, Trypho was made to remark: "I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them. But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or sabbaths, and do not have circumcision; and further, resting your hopes on a man that was crucified, you yet expect to obtain some good thing from God, while you do not obey His commandments. . . ."
Justin did not counter with a list of Christian holy days, or a different calendar14 [this would come later], but instead replied in Chapter XI: "There will be no other God, O Trypho, . . . but He who made and disposed all this universe; . . . . Nor have we trusted in any other (for there is no other), but in Him in whom you also have trusted, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. But we do not trust through Moses or through the law; for then we would do the same as yourselves. But now -- (for I have read that there shall be a final law, and a covenant, the chiefest of all, which it is now incumbent on all men to observe, as many as are seeking after the inheritance of God. For the law promulgated on Horeb is now old, and belongs to yourselves alone; but this is for all universally . . .)"
Already in the second century, only about 110 years after Jesus' crucifixion, Justin here proposed a "replacement theology"15 that would undermine God's revelation on Sinai, and that counters the teachings of Jesus and of Paul. We can see however that Christians still at this time had "no festivals or sabbaths."
Regarding what (cyclical or ceremonial) times are sacred to Jewish "Students of the Way," the answer must be: The times prescribed by God's law given to Moses. Our rabbis [appropriating the Maccabean struggles] have appended Hanukkah (mentioned incidentally also in John 10: 22) onto the Jewish calendar, and Moshe ben Maimon e.g. added the time he was saved from shipwreck onto his own family calendar.16 We similarly might be happy to recall perhaps the Sunday of Hol Ha-Mo`ed Passover (or Passover Day itself, if it falls on Sunday) as a special day for commemorating Jesus' resurrection;17 and we are also glad to note family birthdays and anniversaries (and those of us who are U.S. citizens are also happy to embrace e.g. Thanksgiving Day). Most of us however decline to add (e.g.) December 25, because of its Roman and pagan origins, and because the date is in no way attested in the Gospels or epistles or reliable pre-Constantine tradition. Non-Jews are not specifically obligated to any of these times, but two notes should be added: (1) If they do observe special times (and all of us are prone to do so), it might be well to remember e.g. Zech. 14: 16; and (2) all non-Jewish Students of the Way, in their studies and observance and assimilation of the Scriptures, must be ever aware of God's revelations to Israel (and the world), and His requirements of that special people, as well as His demands for all men (demands addressed largely to Israel in the Torah, Prophets, and Writings, and made explicit to all men in the Gospels and the Epistles). On the other hand, in order to be considered participants in the Way of God's Anointed, we insist on each person's repentance followed by a one-time special ceremony of the miqveh (representing a new birth), and subsequently the regular (but variously practiced) ceremony of together drinking wine and breaking bread.
. . . . . . .
What then do we Jewish "Students of the Way" have to say, and do, regarding issues of pluralism and the conflicts of imperialistic religions in general, and ecclesiastical Christianity, rabbinic Judaism, and militant Islam in particular?
What we have to say, and do, arises from who we are. We are not relativists, but we are pluralists. And in fact, pluralism without relativism is a key to any lasting peace.
How are we pluralists? First of all, for good or for ill, even a superficial look at our local congregations, for example, might suggest a legation from the U.N. instead of a committee of the grand wizard. There are Koreans and Finns and Ethiopians and North Americans and Germans and Japanese; almost half were not born of a Jewish mother. Jews alone are obligated to keep the ceremonial and distinguishing details of Halakhah (similarly, only U.S. citizens are duty bound to pay U.S. income tax); but many non Jews are eager to identify as far as possible with God's law, zealous to absorb all of God's teaching, given by Moses to Israel (and thus by way of example and by way of obligation, to all the world). -- For after all, Biblical prophets such as Isaiah and `Amos have emphasized that God's teaching, His Torah, points to a God-sanctioned faith for all peoples of the world.
[At the same time, mention should be made of the fact that speaking "racially," Israeli Jews in general are a very diverse people. Jews have returned home from all over the world; Judaism has always had a place for proselytes; and converts to Judaism are found coming from practically every culture and people on this earth. In Jerusalem and elsewhere, one discovers Jews of almost every racial and ethnic background.18]
Despite this, every nation, every people, has its own particular role to play in on this our good planet. Each country, each geographical area, is obligated to develop its own laws, customs, and (perhaps, even) speech.19 In order to have a part in the world to come, non-Jews do not need to become Jews -- as Paul warned, they should not become Jews.20 They need not circumcise themselves "in the flesh"; they need not keep kashrut. They do need however to turn to trust in the God of Israel, and of course keep His commandments as elaborated e.g. in Acts 15 or the "Seven Commandments for [all] the descendents of Noah" (as at the end of Sanhedrin 56a [& ff. & Yoma' 28b, etc.]).
But Students of the Way do not advocate merely a cultural pluralism of variegated nations and diverse peoples, we (or at least I) insist on a multi-tiered pluralism within Israel. The "you" in "Justice, justice shalt thou pursue" [Deut. 16: 20]; or in "Judges and officers shalt thou make in all thy gates" [Deut. 16: 18] must be taken seriously. These verses and e.g. the checks and balances of the biblical tribal polities and of Exodus 18: 21-22, must be and are designed to build local authority, responsibility, and participation; to render a God-breathed political order that is "of the people, by the people, and for the people." In Israel's current context I myself imagine that it requires a constitution (or brith on the pattern of II Sam. 5: 3 or II Kings 11: 17) which formalizes divisions of powers featuring tribal (or regional) and local structuring and financing of (nonmilitary) educational institutions, of the arts, of synagogues, of police, and of regional governments. Only the diplomatic and military and supreme legal functions should be left in the hands of the central government. - There must be room for wide diversity in Israel.
Again, as commanded so often in the Torah, Jews must welcome and honor the strangers both who visit and who live in her midst. Israel is obligated not only to Jews, her mission reaches also to the whole world.
We are pluralists also in the sense that becoming a "Student of the Way" requires each adult's free choice. This particular turning to God must not and cannot be compelled by any governmental or legal vigilante force.
-- It must be remembered, however, that no less important than the sense in which we are pluralists, is the sense in which we are not relativists - and this issue reverts back to God's demands for personal love and public justice, and the aforementioned reality of the past.
1 Many might see this claim to be extravagant, or preposterous. Is every minutia of the past a datum for today? Is each detail of what happened years and centuries ago in principle recoverable? Is anything of the temporal process ever lost? Charles Sanders Peirce's reply to the last question must have been: Yes, there is something in each present moment which vanishes and will never again be recaptured. The fleeting immediacy, or "Firstness," of each occurrent instant is always passing away, and it is unrepeatable.
Let us then reformulate the issue: Is there anything significant in the "material" past which is ever lost?
Clearly, for ordinary daily practical purposes, the answer is "Yes." For example, what exactly was the initial utterance of Christopher Columbus' father when he first saw Christopher's mother-to-be? I shall probably never know these words, nor shall I probably ever find a practical way to discover them. Men forget things.
But another question is: Is it theoretically possible to learn these words, or also e.g. the length of the nail of the big toe of Julius Caesar's right foot when the Caesar-to-be crossed the Rubicon on his fateful return to Rome? Is any "Secondness" ever lost?
To my knowledge, Peirce never discussed this question directly. It might seem prima facie possible to claim regarding the cosmic loss of information either "Yes" or "No." It might be said for example: "Yes, past events are real and influence us; but many of their remote details disappear forever."
A few might wish, however, to claim "No." No particularity of the past, the impact of no accomplished event or actuality is lost so as not to be recoverable, at least in theory. [Cf. Sifre on Deuteronomy 32: 1 (referring also to Job 20: 27), Pisqa 306.]
This issue is being introduced partly because it might be helpful to consider some of the 'cosmological machinery' needed in order to sustain this last extravagant response. To wit, in order to undergird such a hypothesis of radical historical conservatism, reflection will show a need to posit some sort of 'real infinity,' or at least, 'genuine near-infinity.'
Rather, or furthermore, the consideration here might extend itself concerning any claim that each finite detail of a past actual occurrence is variously reproduced, for example, in a given cubic centimeter of air, or in a particular acorn (or strand of DNA). Do the world and each of its material parts possess within themselves all their histories? Were a man able to unlock the information imbedded in a specific acorn here in Israel, would he be able to "measure" the length of Caesar's toenail on that allegedly fateful day?
In order to defend this, one should (almost necessarily) have to maintain not only that the microcosm is infinitely complex in its now being influenced by all events in its past. Instead, a proponent should insist that each week, tiny particles hold even more information. This almost compels repudiating any ultimate atomism. (It does require renouncing any conventional Lucretian atomism.) Moreover, it seems to propose a kind of reverse entropy.
To illustrate one way in which it might be alleged (e.g.) that a local cubic centimeter of air might reveal its own past, consider the possibility that Caesar forded the Rubicon in sandals on a cloudless day. Then an observer with a telescope on some planet some 2,000 + light years away might in theory be able to note the crossing and, e.g. measure the length of the toenail. Or there might be a properly situated mirror on a moon 1,000 + light years away; and we on earth with our telescopes trained on that mirror could again record Caesar's defiant traversing of the river (via our appropriate observation of the cubic centimeter in front of the aperture of the telescope). -- But then of course, this observation of Caesar would seem to require a resolution of ordinary light waves massively beyond the quantum mechanical possible limits (though these limits vary widely, according to e.g. the size of the lens or mirror surface -- although Planck's constant is said not to vary).
And so on.
Still another line of criticism might set out from a line of thought expanding e.g. on claims of Michel Foucault, noting the obvious but preferably not-forgotten fact that mankind's histories seem always to depend on human categories and interests. But at this point, concern is not the human appropriation and use and misuse of the past, but rather its reality.
At the same time, important consequences do derive from the fact that each person's perspective in space-time is different from every other person's space-time locus. Thus, in English for example we have the word "father" (a term which appears numerous times in translation in the sacred texts). But each human being has (variously) different (and variously similar) notions of the meaning of that term "father," based largely on that person's own experiences (or lack of experiences) with his own father. Each person's readings (or "translations") of the texts will accordingly vary; and each person's hermeneutic will differ indeed from one reading to another. -- But the Biblical texts nevertheless can communicate a wealth of information and insight, indeed accurate information and penetrating insight, to each and every serious reader.
2 Students of the Way might propose that their faith goes back to Moses, or Abraham, or even to their precursors; but it quite demonstrably and tangibly goes back to the time of the writing of the Gospels and Epistles (which I believe were most all completed by the date of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., and all set down by the end of the first century of the common era). Thus in a legitimate sense this faith precedes the writing of the Mishnah and the redactions of the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds; and it also precedes the elaborations of post-Constantinean ecclesiastical Christianity. (Note for example that the earliest Passover Haggadah that we own is the early Christian work of Melito of Sardis, which was written about 175 C.E., a decade or so after Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho. [Melito's On Pascha, however, abandoned the faith of "Students of the Way" and opened a gate to ecclesiastical Christianity. A ceremony that in earlier years undoubtedly constituted a memorable celebration of freedom, Melito twisted into a script that was largely an ugly diatribe against Jews; and in its wholesale and one-sided condemnation of Israel, Melito's On Pascha deliberately and obsequiously omitted mention of e.g. Roman responsibility for Jesus' crucifixion]. See also the apocryphal "Gospel of Peter" which originated probably in the same era.) -- At the same time, rabbinic Jews typically insist, I believe correctly, that (at least) a great deal of the teachings and materials redacted in the Mishnah, the Talmud, and in other rabbinical writings, precedes the life of Jesus -- some of it reaching all the way back to Sinai. In distancing themselves from Judaism, Christians have often abandoned these rich sources.
Nevertheless, testimony of the existence of Jews who believe in the mission of Jesus can be located in perhaps every era since the destruction of the Second Temple.
Why then have their numbers been so meager? Answers (ranging from rabbinic to ecclesiastical to Islamic, from political to social to economic, from persecution to prosperity, from internal doctrines to communal weaknesses, from divine plan to historical chance to material inevitability) could be submitted. -- But that would be the topic of another paper.
3 See Gal. 5: 3. What then if rabbis e.g. forbid positive proclamation of the role of Jesus, or even e.g. possessing a copy of the Gospels and the Epistles? -- Notice Rashi on Deut. 17: 11, where he commented (concerning "thou shalt not depart from the word which they [the priests, Levites, or judges] shall tell thee, to the right nor to the left") that "even if [the judge] tells you about what be right that it is left, or about what be left that it is right [obey him]; how much the more is this so if he tells you about what is right that it is right and about what is left that it is left."
At the same time (based in part on rabbinic readings of Exodus 23: 2), Jewish law must conform to the majority (or in capital cases, a majority plus one); and it must not counter the decrees of the community.
Again, in the modern world for good or for ill, Jews have a wide choice (and heavy responsibility) concerning the judges or rabbis that they choose.
What then about offering Passover, or Yom Kippur, or the numerous other sacrifices? Jews today obviously cannot bring them. The rabbis require, or imagine themselves to require, only what Jews are able to do.
4 Or in Hebrew Yeshua` ben Yosef (as in John 1: 45, Luke 4: 22, etc.), or sometimes, Yeshua` Ha-Mashiah. In medieval and modern rabbinic literature, Jesus has almost always been called YeShU (if not 'OtO Ha-'iSh, or "that man"). Present-day copies of the Talmud Bavli (e.g. in Sanhedrin 43a) refer to YeShU Ha-NotZRY ("Yeshu the Christian"). In Jewish Sources in Early Christianity (p. 15), David Flusser insisted that the
. . . Hebrew name for Jesus, Yeshu, is evidence for the Galilean pronunciation of the [Second Temple] period, and is in no way abusive. Jesus was a Galilean, and therefore the a at the end of his name was not pronounced. His full name was thus Yeshua. In the Talmudic sources, which are from a later period, there is reference to a Rabbi Yeshu, who is not to be confused with Jesus.
[See incidentally the (lack of) pointing of the `ayn of the name Yeshua` in the Peshitta', and note the Septuagintal 'transliteration' of Yeshua` in the books of `Ezra' (2: 2) and Nehemiah (9: 4). Contrast Shem-Tov ben Yitzhaq ibn Shaprut's late-fourteenth-century use of the name YeShU in `even BoHaN (noting however the use of "Yeshua`" in the birth narrative at 1: 21 & 25, pereq sheni, as in George Howard's "A Primitive Hebrew Gospel of Matthew and the Tol'doth Yeshu" in New Test. Stud. XXXIV, 1988, pp. 60-70) with Moshe ben Maimon's use of YeShUa` Ha-NotZRY in (old versions of) SeFeR ShOFTiM of his MiShNeH TORaH (as published by Mossad Ha-Rav Qooq).] -- Be that as it may, in modern Hebrew, the term or name YeShU is frequently understood to be an acronym for Yimmah Shmo Ve-Zikhro ("may his name and memory be erased").
Regarding the term "NotZRY", by the way, I can imagine at least three possible sources for the term: (1) the tiny first-century village, Nazareth (NatZRaTh or NatZeReTh), (2) shoot or branch or NetZeR (as in Isaiah 11: 1), or (3) watchman or NatZaR or NotZRiYM (as in II Kings 17: 9 or Jeremiah 31: 6). My own opinion is that the term has often been meant to play on all three meanings.
5 In Hebrew, we might call ourselves "Yehudim, Hassidey Yeshua`" (or, perhaps for a more mitnaggedischer flavor, "Yehudim, Talmidey Yeshua`").
6 Other Jews who have proposed important and variously fruitful means include those Jews who founded the religious kibbutz movement; or also e.g. those Jews associated with the movement of Shlomo Riskin; and so on.
Moreover, there is a sense in which the programs of Jewish Students of the Way of God's Anointed do not point to a 'mean' or 'middle way' at all. Instead, the Gospels and Epistles indicate the highest and most extreme demands for those hassidim already within a Torah framework - the uncompromising requirements of making God's kingdom the highest priority in one's life.
7 It is sometimes argued more forcefully that while they may have done so in the Middle Ages, today's orthodox Rabbis no longer "sit in Moses' seat" -- that the majority of Jews no longer follow their rulings. It might be claimed either that world Jewry now finds no one in Moses' seat, or else perhaps that Israel's courts, headed by its Supreme Court, now constitute in Moses' seat. Other Jews cry out for a new Sanhedrin.
8 Clearly also important are Yosef ben Mattityahu (Josephus), Philo Judaeus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, church "fathers," Pliny, Tacitus, Plutarch, and so on.
9 Of course, Jewish Students of the Way nevertheless attempt to keep God's law simply because God commanded it. In other words, although the Bible sometimes provides explicit reasons for certain commandments, and although we incessantly and legitimately try to understand purposes for the rules and decrees, we reject substituting our own rationale (ta`amey mitzvoth) for the laws and statutes themselves. Indeed, even though some of Sinai's laws (such as wearing fringes and not eating pork) seem to be prescribed primarily to differentiate Jews from non-Jews (and not because fringes and a pork-free diet are healthier), we often do discover that God's Torah is ultimately utilitarian and not contrary to health. We agree that Jews are commanded to live by His Torah, not to destroy ourselves with it; and we furthermore concur that courts must give a rationale for their decisions. We notwithstanding [as in the King James translation, or interpretation, of Job 13: 15] do not keep Torah for the sake of pragmatic benefits.
Consequently, a utilitarian might imagine that it is proper to condemn an innocent man for the sake of the "greater good" of a whole community. A Student of the Way (along with others) however is obliged to repudiate this temptation, even at great cost. [See incidentally Igor Primoratz Justifying Legal Punishment.]
10 See e.g. Yehudah Ha-Levi The Kuzari II 26 (pp. 101-102), with II 2 (p. 83).
11 Regarding fundamentalism, two proposals:
A) U.S. fundamentalism is perhaps best understood to have originated as a major distinct movement during the Niagara conferences near the beginnings of the twentieth century. In the United States (the locus of the origin of that term in its contemporary journalistic and denigrating sense), North American fundamentalism has been widely misunderstood, at least since the days of its identification with the political machinations of the Scopes trial, and Henry Louis Mencken's concomitant diatribes. As I understand the issues, U.S. fundamentalists were typically suspicious of centralized governmental action, and U.S. fundamentalism was neither a repressive nor an anti-intellectual movement, but indeed was pluralistic and exploited, endorsed, and built on older classical liberal traditions of separation of church and state. [For a good introduction to U.S. fundamentalism, read Ernest R. Sandeen Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism 1800-1930 (1970) and George M. Marsden Fundamentalism and American Culture (1980) and Nathaniel West Premillennial Essays (1879), as well as e.g. David A. Rausch Zionism within Early American Fundamentalism 1878-1918 (1979) and Elias D. White's unpublished paper, "The United States and her Despised Minority: The Fundamentalists" (1988), relating also e.g. to Gary E. Nash, Julie Roy Jeffrey, et al The American People, pp. 116-124.]
B) In a deep sense, students of the Way might claim to be among the purest of the fundamentalists (understood in a [non-credal] way akin to the sense of late nineteenth-century thought in the U.S.). We perhaps appropriate a greater percentage of the Scriptures in their "plain" sense (that includes their humanitarian as well as their political and legal dimensions) than does any other group.
12 By the way, these difficulties throw light on my readings of the thought and life-work of Dr. David Hartman: He remains a committed Jew who has yearned, who still yearns, for God's historical intervention. At one point, just after the throes of the '67 War, he imagined God's long-awaited redemption had happened, or was happening. He himself has told the story that he went to Rav Dov Soloveichik and asked about changing the Ninth of 'Av from a day of fasting and mourning to a day of feasting and rejoicing. But Rav Soloveitchik answered: "Wait!" Impatient, Dr. Hartman immigrated to Israel (an immigration which was no light thing, not like moving from New Jersey to Boston -- an immigration whose enthusiasms, one might posit, almost cost the life of his oldest son in a deadly clash of armour and artillery, and very much like the enthusiasm, arising in a loved one's earlier steady and sober commitment, which, only hours and miles away, did cost a beautiful life, that of his first son-in-law); but Dr. Hartman has struggled, and still struggles, with R. Soloveitchik's answer. In Israel, he has become painfully convinced that the messianic age is not here, at least not at this moment. What then does he do?
He still waits, still hopes -- but not statically. While waiting and hoping he tries to help build a community that confirms nature's ongoing order and does not require daily miraculous confirmation. At the same time, in often unspoken ways, the community he tries to build is almost secretly designed to enable others and himself to hope, and to live steadily and sanely as Jews.
I of course do not know the hearts of other men, but I pray that God will honor Dr. Hartman's wait, and all of Israel's waiting. (Cf. of course the promise of Romans 11: 26, a later variation of which is repeated at the beginning of the internal chapters of Pirqey 'Avoth , etc.)
[Interestingly enough, the Prophets and the Writings (and the Gospels and the Epistles) many times enjoin waiting and hoping for the LORD. Nevertheless (despite e.g. Abraham's lengthy wait for a seed, or Israel's long treks in the desert), only in Jacob's blessing to Dan in Gen. 49: 18 is the expectation of waiting for the LORD's salvation formulated explicitly in the Pentateuch.]
13 (Not unlike Steven, in Acts 6: 8 - 7: 60, as evidenced e.g. by Acts 7: 16) Justin was born a Samaritan. Somewhere between 162 & 168- C.E., during Marcus Aurelius' reign, however, he and some followers would- be denounced as Christians, scourged and beheaded in Rome, in a time of increasing imperial hostility to Christianity.
Both P. Richardson Israel in the Apostolic Church and O.- Skarsaune The Proof from Prophecy, pp. 352-353, have claimed that- Justin Martyr was the first to claim that the "Church" has- replaced "Israel." [See Justin's Dialogue with Trypho XI, where- Justin remarked that a later covenant (rather than building on)- voids an earlier one; and see also LXXXII 1.] At the same time- (having just said that "the [Mosaic] ordinances, imposed by- reason of the hardness of your people's hearts, contribute- nothing to the performance of righteousness and piety"), Justin- (in his Dialogue with Trypho XLVII 1) portrayed Trypho the Jew as- asking him: "If a man is aware that this is so, after he has- plainly known that [Jesus] . . . is the Christ, and believed and- obeyed him, [and] wishes to keep these [Jewish] precepts -- shall he be saved?" Justin then answered: "In my opinion,- Trypho, . . . such a man would be saved, unless he strenuously- does his utmost to persuade others -- I mean those . . . Gentiles . . . circumcised by Christ from their error -- to keep the [Mosaic] commandments . . . , saying they will not be saved unless they keep them." (Rather than understanding Jewish observance of the Mosaic laws to be a covenantal imperative,- Justin was apparently willing to leave an opening for Jewish [or- even some Gentile] observance of God's Torah as a quaint ethnic- option; or rather, more bitterly, he would write in Chapter XIX- of his Dialogue with Trypho e.g. that [in view of the oppression- that Jews, according to Chapters XVI & XVII, had launched against- Christians] "circumcision [of the flesh] is not essential for all- men, but only for you Jews, to mark you off for the suffering you- now so deservedly endure." [For after all, remarked Justin in- Chapter XXIII of his dialogue, "the fact that females cannot- receive circumcision of the flesh shows that circumcision was- given as a sign, not as an act of justification." Indeed, Justin had proposed in the same chapter that were we to accept the notion that the Mosaic Law should be observed by all men, we- would fall into "the nonsense [of claiming] either that our God is not the same- God who existed in the days of Henoch [or Enoch] and all the- others, who were not circumcised in the flesh, and did not observe the Sabbaths and the other rites (since Moses only- imposed them later); or [else of claiming] that God does not wish each- succeeding generation of mankind always to perform the same acts- of righteousness." Later, in Chapter XLII, Justin remarked also that the "Mosaic precepts . . . are types, symbols, and prophecies of what would happen to Christ and those who were- foreknown as those who would believe in Him;" and indeed, in- Chapter XLIII, he said that "it was expedient that, in accordance- with the will of the Father, these [Mosaic precepts] . . . should- have their end in Him who was born of the Virgin, of the race of- Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, and of the family of David. . ."] -Roman Catholic and "Orthodox" leaders and clerics would soon- adopt notions that Irenaeus would indicate in Against Heresies IV ix [that the "Old Testament" and the "New" are the same in inner substance, but that the "Old" expresses a now-properly-discarded- accidental shell]; and these leaders would embrace what e.g. R.-K. Soulen has labelled "supersessionism," rejecting any such- 'permission' for Jews to keep the Mosaic law.)
Now in Chapter V of Justin's Dialogue with Trypho (Trypho having been- introduced as a Jewish refugee from the suppression of Bar- Kokhba's revolt), an "old man" (introduced in Chapter III,- representing an elderly Christian addressing the young Justin while he- [significantly enough] was still a Platonist, and thus indicating Justin's own post-conversion views) argued that anything, any- soul or cosmos or whatever that
. . . is unbegotten is similar and equal to another unbegotten, nor- can [one] . . . be preferred to the other either in power or in honor. -We must conclude, therefore, that there are not many beings that are- unbegotten, for, if there were some difference between them, you could- not, no matter how you searched, find the cause of such difference; -but, after sending your thought always to infinity, you would finally- become tired and have to stop before the one Unbegotten and declare- that He is the cause of all things.
Then, in Chapter VI (reflecting an un-Pauline dichotomy of soul and- body), he claimed that
. . . The soul assuredly is or has life [He psuche etoi zoe estin, e-zoen echai]. If, then, it is life, it would cause something else, and- not itself, to live (even as motion would move something else than- itself). Now that the soul lives, no one would deny.
But if it lives, it lives not as being life, but as the partaker of- life [alla metalaubanousa tes zoes]; but that which partakes of- anything, is different [eteron] from that of which it does partake- [metechon]. . . Thus, . . . it will not even partake [of life] when- God does not will it to live. For to live is not its attribute, as it- is God's; but as a man does not live always, and the soul is not for-ever conjoined with the body (since, whenever this harmony must be- broken up, the soul leaves the body, and the man exists no longer); -even so, whenever the soul must cease to exist, the spirit of life [to- zotichon pneuma] is removed from it, and there is no more soul- [psuche], but it goes back to the place from whence it was taken.
But in Chapter VII of his Dialogue, Justin reflected the survival- of an ambivalence toward Hellenistic argumentation when he (still in- the words of the "old man") declared:
Long before this time, lived men more ancient than all the so-called philosophers, men righteous and beloved of God, who spoke by the- divine Spirit [theio pneumati lalesantes] and foretold things to come, -[including things] that are even now taking place. These men were- called prophets [prophetas]. They alone both saw the truth and- proclaimed it to men [to alethes chai eidon chai exepon anthropois],-without reverencing or fearing of any man, moved by no desire for- glory, but speaking only those things which they saw and heard, being- filled with the holy Spirit [hagio plerothentes pneumati]. Their- writings are still with us, and whoever will may read them and, if he- believes them, gain much knowledge of the beginning and end of things,- and all else a philosopher ought to know. For they did not employ- logic [or demonstration] to prove their statements [Ou gar meta-apodeixeos pepoientai tote logous], seeing they were witnesses to the- truth [martures tes aletheias]. . . .
They glorified the Creator of all things, as God and Father, and- proclaimed the Anointed sent by Him as His Son. . . . But pray that before all else, the gates of light may be opened to you [Justin]. For not everyone can see or understand these things, but only he to whom God and His Anointed have granted wisdom.
[At the end of Chapter III, the "old man" had asked: "[H]ow . . . can- the philosophers speculate correctly or speak truly of God, when they- have no knowledge of Him, since they have never seen nor heard Him?" ---Justin however had described himself as responding: "But the- Deity . . . cannot be seen by the same eyes as other living beings- are. He is
to be perceived by the mind alone, as Plato affirms."]
Regarding another issue, though Justin's writings still exhibit- "millennial" teaching [cf. e.g. his Dialogue with Trypho LXXX-LXXXI],- one can already envision some of the many pressures against- "millennialism" when, before his martyrdom, Justin wrote in Chapter 11- of his "First Apology" (addressed to the Roman Emperor):
When you hear that we look forward to a kingdom, you rashly assume- that we speak of a human kingdom, whereas we mean a kingdom which is- with God. This becomes evident when, being questioned, we openly- profess to be Christians, although we know well that for such a- profession of faith, the punishment is death. If we expected a human- kingdom, we would deny that we are Christians, that we might not be- put to death, and we would try to hide from you, that we might attain- what we expect. But, because we do not place our hope in the present,- we do not mind when men murder us, since death is inevitable anyhow.
At the same time, as in Chapter 43 of his "First Apology," Justin- sought to argue against any notion that "everything . . . [happens] by- fate," for if that were the case,
no choice would be in our power at all. For if fate decrees that this- man is to be good and this other man evil, neither the former is- praiseworthy, nor the latter blameworthy. Furthermore, if man does- not have the free faculty to shun evil and to choose good, then,- whatever his actions may be, he is not responsible for them.
Indeed, declared Justin in Chapter 44 of his "First Apology,"
the Holy Prophetic Spirit taught us this when He informed us through- Moses that God spoke the following words [even] to the first man: -"Behold, before thy face are good and evil, . . . choose the good" [as- in Deut. 30: 15, 19; and cf. Gen. 2: 15-17 & 4: 7].
Nevertheless, claimed Justin in the same chapter,
. . . if we declare that future events have been predicted, by that we- do not claim that they take place by the necessity of fate. But,- since God has foreknowledge of what all men will do, and has ordained- that each man will be rewarded in accordance with the merit of his- actions, [He] foretells through the Prophetic Spirit that He Himself- will reward them in accordance with the merit of their deeds, even- urging men to reflection and remembrance, proving that He both cares- and provides for them. . .
[See also Chapter VII of Justin's "Second Apology."]
14 Note also e.g. Eusebius Pamphilus' Ecclesiastical History V xxiv (written during the Caesarship of Constantine "the Great") where he cited Polycrates, a leading bishop [episkopos, watcher or overseer] in Asia, who wrote Victor [bishop of Rome 189-198 C.E.] and the church of Rome:
We . . . observe the genuine day, neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom. For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep [died], which shall rise again in the day of the Lord's appearing, in which he will come with glory from heaven, and will raise up all the saints; Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two aged virgin daughters. His other daughter, also, who having lived under the influence of the Holy Ghost, now likewise rests in Ephesus. Moreover, John, who rested upon the bosom of our Lord: who also was a priest, and bore the sacerdotal plate [petalon], both a martyr and a teacher. He is buried in Ephesus; also Polycarp of Smyrna, both bishop and martyr. Thraseas, also, bishop and martyr of Eumenia, who is buried at Smyrna. Why should I mention Sarais, bishop and martyr, who rests at Laodicea. Moreover, the blessed Papirius; and Melito, the eunuch, whose walk and conversation was altogether under the influence of the Holy Spirit, who now rests in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead. All these observed the fourteenth day of Passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. Moreover, I, Polycrates, who am the least of all of you, according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have followed. . . [M]y relatives always observed the day when the people threw away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, am now sixty-five years in the Lord, who having conferred with the brethren throughout the world, and having studied the whole of the sacred Scriptures, am not at alarmed at those things with which I am threatened, to intimidate me. For they who are greater than I, have said, `We ought to obey God rather than men.'
In the same chapter, Eusebius Pamphilus continued:
. . . . Upon this, Victor, the bishop of the church of Rome, forthwith endeavoured to cut of the churches of all Asia, together with the neighbouring churches, as heterodox, from the common unity. . . .
Among [many bishops opposing Victor's attempted excision of the churches of Asia] . . . was Irenaeus, who, in the name of those brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, wrote an epistle, in which he [Irenaeus] maintains the duty of celebrating the mystery of the resurrection of our Lord, only on the day of the Lord. He becomingly also admonishes Victor not to cut off whole churches of God who observed the tradition of an ancient custom. After many other matters urged by him, he [Irenaeus] also adds the following: ". . . . [W]hen the blessed Polycarp [bishop of Smyrna until his martyrdom about 155 C.E.] went to Rome, in the name of Anicetus, and they had a little difference among themselves likewise respecting other matters, they immediately were reconciled, not disputing much with one another on this head. For neither could Anicetus [bishop of Rome] persuade Polycarp not to observe it [the 14th of Nissan], because he had always observed it with John the disciple of our Lord, and the rest of the apostles, with whom he associated; and neither did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe, who said that he was bound to maintain the practice of the presbyters [elders] before him. Which things being so, they communed with each other; and in the church, Anicetus yielded to [the aged] Polycarp (out of respect no doubt) the office of consecrating; and they separated from each other in peace, all the church being at peace; both with those that observed and those that did not observe, maintaining peace." . . .
15 Replacement theology is any theology which claims that the Church has replaced Israel, and that all the promises which were applicable to Jews and to a national Israel before the Messiah's coming are now applicable to the Church only (a Church which includes any Jews who have converted to Christianity). According to such a theology (as in the preceding endnote), Jews might well preserve an "ethnic identity" and continue cute customs like eating lox and bagels, but they have no divine imperative for circumcision or keeping the Sabbath or running a Torah observant state. (Roman Catholic canon law has indeed outlawed the latter practices for believers.) See Richard Soulen The God of Israel and Christian Theology (Minn.: Fortress Press, 1996) for a good introduction to the subject and to many of the issues of Replacement Theology.
16 Apparently in April, 1165, the family of R. Maimon ben Yosef, including his son, Moshe ben Maimon, boarded a vessel in Ceuta, Spain, which was bound for `Akko, ruled at that time by "Crusaders." Eliezer Azikri (Askari) of Safed in Sefer Haridim, p. 61, reproduced a letter of Moshe ben Maimon, where Moshe ben Maimon wrote (describing his family's flight from the oppression of Almohad rule):
On Sabbath evening, the 4th of Iyyar, 4925, I went on board; and the following Sabbath the waves threatened to destroy our lives. . . . On the third of Sivan, I arrived in `Akko, and was thus rescued from apostasy. This day I vowed to keep as a day of rejoicing, festivity, and distribution of charity, for myself and my house throughout all generations.
(See e.g. Solomon Zeitlin Maimonides A Biography with notes 12 & 15 on p. 217; David Yellin and Israel Abrahams Maimonides, p. 52; and Michael Friedlander "The Life of Moses Maimonides" on p. xviii of his translation The Guide for the Perplexed.)
17 Regarding Jesus' resurrection, or also Acts 1: 9, note e.g. the first chapter of Masekhet derekh 'eretz Zuta', which locates the Messiah among the nine directly entering "Gan `Eden."
18 Matthew 22: 30 reports Jesus' declaration that after the resurrection, in the world to come, men and women "neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." Paul wrote in Galatians 3: 26-29:
. . . [I]n Jesus [God's] Anointed you [Gentile Galatians] are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized [after repentance immersed in a miqvah] into [God's] Anointed have put on [His] Anointed. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in [God's] Anointed, Jesus. And if you are the Anointed's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs to the promise.
(See also e.g. Colossians 3: 5-11 & I Corinthians 12: 12 - 13: 13.) These passages (and others, such as those in the Hebrew Bible speaking of women prophets) ground the deep truth that "all men are created equal." All human beings, whether young or old, weak or strong, healthy or sick, Japanese or Jew, black or white, poor or rich, damaged or intelligent, can be "Abraham's offspring, heirs to the promise."
At the same time, Jesus and Paul clearly recognized and clearly taught that in our sublunar world that God created for our time, in this world of conflict and struggle, cooperation and construction, there are males and females, children and parents, and should be Jew and Greek and Scythian. (Viva la difference!) [See Col. 3: 18 - 4: 1 & Ephesians 5: 21 - 6: 9 & I Corinthians 7: 17-24, and so on.)
19 This fact need not contradict the widespread claim that Jews share certain genetic characteristics or markers. For despite the large numbers of proselytes throughout the generations, most Jews abide by the requirements to marry within their faith community, and this may provide for the absorption of the proselytes into a fairly stable genetic pool.
20 See I Corinthians 7: 17-24.