Mike Aquilina

The Fathers and the Jews

Tuesday February 19th 2008, 11:38 am

The Tablet published an op-ed that more than hints the Fathers were anti-Jewish. Globetrotting gurublogger Gashwin Gomes gives good graces back to the ancients, linking here once, twice, or thrice along the way.

I think it’s bad form to judge the Fathers anti-Jewish — or, for that matter, the rabbis of the Talmud anti-Christian. Neither the Fathers nor the rabbis were playing by our 21st-century rules. There are no third-century examples of bureaus of interreligious affairs, staffed by career clerical diplomats. Our ancestors, Christians and Jews, did religious controversy the rough-and-tumble way. I don’t want us to return to their modes of argument, but they might eschew ours, and for good reasons.

I’m glad Gashwin quoted Jacob Neusner, who wishes that both Jews and Christians would respect each other’s desire to live by their respective rules. Christians have a mission to all peoples. It’s not anti-Jewish to include Jews in that number and even to pray for their conversion when we pray for everyone else’s. By Christian principles, it would be anti-Jewish not to. I don’t expect my Jewish friends to think I’m right in the matter of Christian mission. If they did, after all, they would be Christian. If they pray for my conversion, even publicly, I’m happy that they wish me the greatest blessing they know.

It’s not anti-Jewish to pray, in St. Paul’s words, that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26), any more than it’s anti-Christian for Jews to wish we wouldn’t.