Monday, March 24, 2008

Common Ground for Jews and Christians

R. Meir Soloveichik discusses Dr. Jacob Neusner's book on Jesus and where he thinks it misses the boat (link):

[H]ow does Neusner see himself as responding to this man who puts himself in place of the Torah, who accords himself the authority of the Almighty? He politely voices his disagreement, arguing for the eternity of the Torah and insisting that the Torah addresses all Jews together and makes no special differentiation between a Jesus of Nazareth or a Jacob Neusner. At the same time, Benedict writes that Neusner “is constantly moved by the greatness of Jesus; again and again he talks with him.” When Neusner asserts that Jesus is mistaken, it is “only with great respect and reverence.” Again and again, Jesus and Neusner agree to disagree and part amicably. Even as Neusner feels that Jesus’ arguments are profoundly misguided, at the same time he depicts himself telling Jesus that “I honor you and wish you well”...

Click here to read moreBut, for Jews, Neusner approaches Jesus in the wrong way, for Jesus is not someone with whom we can have this sort of “dialogue.” If we deny his divinity, then we can respond with nothing short of shock and dismay when we read the words of a man who puts himself in the place of God. Thus, in his admirable attempt to distinguish between Judaism and Christianity, Neusner elides the most important difference of all...

[E]ven as Jews and Christians profoundly disagree about the truth, they are united in the belief that there is a truth to be sought. Moreover, Orthodox Jews and Christians share a belief in a traditional ethics that is seen today as old-fashioned and outmoded. There is much about the Church today and its leadership that I find troubling. In its attitude toward world affairs, in its statements about Israel and Palestinians, and on the war in Iraq, the Vatican often expresses an overly pacifistic European perspective. But, in an age that Benedict correctly describes as one of “relativism and creeping secularism,” one in which Orthodox Jews are often derided as fundamentalists because of their views regarding religious truth, sexuality, and medical ethics, a Jew who reads Ratzinger’s homily cannot help feeling that he has an ally in Pope Benedict XVI. ‬‪

Does truth as traditionally understood still exist? Traditional Jews, like Catholics, know the answer to the question. In the end, this is what unites Jews and Christians. Because they believe in truth, traditional Jews cannot and will not find a friend in Jesus—but because they do believe in truth, they can find a friend in followers of Jesus such as Benedict. A friendship founded on our mutual resistance to relativism is one that can unite us despite our theological differences. That will have to do until our debate over Jesus is resolved by God himself. ‬

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