Typical Jewish Misunderstandings of Christianity

Eugene J. Fisher is the retired Associate Director for Catholic-Jewish relations of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This article first appeared in Judaism: A Quarterly Journal (Winter 1973): 21-32. It was revised and published in Shofar 28/3 (Spring 2010): 57-69 and is made available here through the kind permission of the editors. A longer version was published in Zev Garber, ed., The Jewish Jesus: Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2011). For an NPR interview of Prof. Garber on that book and the Jewishness of Jesus, click HERE.


The Jewish Jesus, I have discovered over the years, is not only often misunderstood by Christians, but the Christian Jesus, and Christianity itself, are rather systematically misunderstood by educated Jews. This is not to suggest a parallel in any sense to the polemical anti-Judaic and anti-Jewish diatribes within Christian history that begin with the very Fathers of the Church as early as the second century of the Common Era. Nor were they the product of the medieval apologetics with which Jewish teachers sought to protect their students from over-zealous Christian missionaries.

This article reprises and updates an article that came out of my doctoral studies at New York University in the late 1960s. Sadly, it is still pertinent today.1 The aim of this paper is neither rebuttal nor exhaustive analysis. Rather, it is a position paper, offering examples of these misunderstandings and a possible explanation for their continuing popularity.

The Making of a Myth

The categories which I shall offer as those underlying much of modern Jewish scholarship in its attitude toward Christianity have their roots in nineteenth-century Germany. For it was the German academic community that fused Hegelian Idealism and social Darwinism into a philosophical language tool for the analysis of scripture, religion, and history. It was German-Jewish scholarship that reacted with the Science of Judaism (Wissenschaft des Judentums), utilizing that same tool for its own apologetic. Both groups saw history in terms of the Hegelian Stages of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The former posited Christianity as the ultimate stage in world history. With some, like Hegel himself, it was specifically Christian Germany that was the pinnacle of human evolution.2 Since this approach not so implicitly denigrated Judaism to the level of a vestigial anachronism, the latter reacted by placing prophetic ethics at the pinnacle of human achievement.3 This view, however, logically reduced Christianity and implicitly Western civilization to the level of an aberrant offshoot from normative Judaism.

The symbol of the Christian branch of this polemic has become JuliusWellhausen,4 who saw the Temple priesthood and later Talmudic legislation as corruptive of the original, nobly primitive, prophetic ethical monotheism, in need of purification and renewal, which came in the form of Christianity. The main target of such romantic, pseudo-scientific theorizing, of course, was not Judaism but Roman Catholicism, with its hierarchical priesthood, dogmas, and volumes of canon law. Indeed, the dim view of Scripture studies by the Catholic Church lasted until Pius XII's groundbreaking encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), opened up modern biblical methodologies to Catholic scholars.5

The reaction of the freshly emancipated Jews of Germany was even more dramatic. Eager to prove their mettle, the Jewish intellectuals began a movement that was to become the Wissenschaft des Judentums. It took its name from the Society for the Culture and Science of the Jews, founded in Berlin in 1819 by Eduard Gans, Moses Moser, and Leopold Zunz.6

In the first volume of the journal of this Society, there appeared an essay by Immanuel Wolf setting the tone for all that followed.7 Wolf maintained that the "religious idea" of Judaism is the key to the interpretation of Jewish history. Though pummeled into isolation by the vicissitudes of the Galut, the Jew has survived "for the sake of this idea which must be admitted to be of the essence of humanity itself." The nationalistic implications of this reaction to German nationalism are important for the understanding of the growth of Zionism, whether the political variety of Herzl or the cultural form celebrated in the works of Ahad Haam and Martin Buber. On the opposite pole can be found the "Germans of Mosaic persuasion," the early reluctance of American Judaism to embrace Zionism,8 and (curiously enough) the popularity of Buber's existential mysticism.

Nachman Krochmal (1785-1840) in his Guide for the Perplexed of Our Time, assumed the dialectical cycle of Hegel as the dynamic of history. While each culture seeks a particular idea, he argues, Judaism alone seeks the absolute idea. Hence Judaism alone has been able to break the cycle of birth and decay to which all other cultures are prey.

In 1835 Abraham Geiger launched the Journal of Jewish Theology, using its pages to develop his notion of a Jewish "genius for religion" embodied in the ethics of the prophets. Since the Science of Judaism founded the Jewish identity upon its ethical excellence, it was in that sphere that Judaism had to be established as superior. Successive Israeli governments and its Supreme Court have over the years echoed this notion, using it as a rationale for the rejection of capital punishment save in the sole case of Adolf Eichmann, the Man in the Glass Booth, despite the extreme provocations of terrorism.9

Although European Judaism gradually broke out of the Hegelian mold through the works of such existentialists as Shescov, Buber, and Rosenzweig, the nature of the debate with Christianity had become so firmly established that the shift in attitude became more one of terminology than of basic understanding. It is important to note that the questions raised by the Science of Judaism, their direct contact with Christianity, were limited mainly to the sphere of German Protestantism, (Indeed, Reform Judaism patterned much of its change on the model of the German Lutheran Church.) Unfortunately, then, many of their views were one-sided.10 Either Protestant doctrine was viewed as normative, or Protestant polemics against Catholicism were rather uncritically swallowed whole. What was and is missing in much of the Jewish understanding of Christianity is a sense of the complexity of Christian belief, the variety of practice, and the nuances and historical contexts which alone can give flesh to the bare bones of doctrine.11

A Modern Jewish Myth

The context and cone of the Jewish-Christian dialogue has changed over the centuries. Rabbi Henry Siegman of the then Synagogue Council of America (now the National Council of Synagogues, minus the Orthodox), for example,wrote that "the arguments (against dialogue) rarely reveal the deep-seated fears which underlie the reservations and objections raised by religious traditionalists."12 The major fear, as Rabbi Siegman saw it, is "the fear of conversionary motives imputed to the Church." More recently, at the June 25, 2009 meeting of the United Scares Catholic Conference and the representatives of the Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America, David Berger, head of the Jewish Studies Department at Yeshiva University, New York City, cited "grave" concerns of some in the Jewish community about the "Note on Ambiguities Contained in Covenant and Mission," which was prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's Committees on Doctrine and Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs as an attempted clarification of a statement issued by the Conference's own dialogue with the National Council of Synagogues in 2002. "Orthodox Jews can tolerate any Christian view on the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ as savior of all, but they cannot agree to participate in an interfaith dialogue that is a cover for proselytism," Berger said.13

Rabbi Siegman's reasoning was much the same then as Professor Berger's today. There is nothing intellectually or morally offensive about the desire to convert, and there is nothing in the Jewish character or history which would lead one to believe "that Jews might in face be converted to the Christian faith as a result of these interreligious conversations."14 Noting the seriousness of the charges of Christian implication in the Shoah made by many Christians as well as Jews, Siegman concluded:

And yet, those who nevertheless believe in the possibility—even the necessity—of dialogue, do so because the Church speaks with many voices. There are men within the Church today who are deeply sensitive to the implications of the Holocaust and to whom we should apply the Talmudic directive haba leather messayin oto (pp. 98-99).

My own point is not that history does not confirm the Jewish fears concerning the treachery of the Church towards Jews over the centuries, for it certainly does. Rather, I would argue that what is needed is a deeper awareness of the complex reality of Christian belief and practice such as that manifested by Siegman. Because the history of Christianity is practically coterminous with the history of Western civilization, no single generalization can define the "essence" of Christianity beyond its core, creedal beliefs. lust as pluralism is necessary for the working of a democracy, so a pluralism of insight is necessary for the understanding of the multi-faceted phenomena we call Christianity."

It was precisely this fact that the Science of Judaism, trained in the oversimplifications of the Hegelian dialectic, found most difficult to grasp. And it is just this point that remains the greatest obstacle to the understanding of Christianity by many Jewish thinkers. (Indeed, most Christians, enwrapped in the demands of their own sectarian interests, likewise find it difficult to view this complex reality as complex. We must all learn to perceive reality, each other and ourselves, in shades of gray, not simple black and white.)

Pre-Haskalah Judaism had a different approach in its polemic against Christianity than does modern Judaism. The medieval Jewish apologist Isaac b. Abraham of Trokki (1533-1594) strove, in classical Hebrew style, to demonstrate the superiority of his own faith "with a minimum of diatribe" in his work, Hizzuk Emunah (Faith Strengthened). On the Christian dictum that love, even of one's enemies, is the only way to break the self-escalating circle of violence and hate. Isaac comments that Jews are also prohibited from hating
their enemies:

Matthew 5:43: You have heard that it has been said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' Truly, you also see in this verse that Matthew has made a false statement, for nowhere in the Pentateuch or the Prophets have we found the statement that you shall hate your enemies. On the contrary, it is written in Exodus 23:4-5: 'If you sec your enemy's ox or his ass going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.'15

A more recent Jewish apologist, Dr. Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, of blessed memory, took a much more aggressive approach to the same text. She maintained that the Christian ethic is here both unreasonable and unnatural:

It is true that Jesus demanded, by going beyond the letter of the Jewish law and without taking into consideration human nature, 'love your enemies and pray for your persecutors' (Matt 5:44). However, of what avail is this reaching if its promulgator also caught; "If anyone comes to me without hating his own father and mother... he cannot be a disciple of mine' (Luke 14:26)? Jewish law does not command that one love his adversary for this would be unnatural.'16

The criterion for the validity of a religion is no longer conformance to divine revelation but "naturalness." Note that Dr. Rosmarin subtly equates the active notion of returning love for hate with the passive notion of not resisting evil at all. I know of no Christian denomination which advocates total passivity in the face of evil. Rather, the point among Christian pacifists is that it is impossible to defeat evil and hatred by becoming evil and hate-filled oneself. One can see the difficulties of generalizations such as Dr. Rosmarin's when one considers that pacifism is itself a minority position within the churches.

The approach often taken to the discussion of asceticism among Jewish scholars offers us another striking example of the myth in action. Extremes are set up, with care taken to place Judaism securely in the "reasonable" center. Christianity, then, is relegated to the "Otherworldly" pole.17 Ahad Haam, whose popularity and influence as a writer are well attested, made of this technique an art. He posited a Prophetic and Pharisaic golden mean between the extremes of the Sadducees and the Essenes, i.e.. between"the sovereignty of the flesh and its annihilation."18

Ahad Haam's opening definition of asceticism is of significance:

[T]he psychological tendency to ... turn from the pleasures of the world with hatred and contempt, and to regard every material good thing of life as something evil and degraded, to be avoided by him who cares for his soul's health (p. 139).

Note again the implication of mental illness. What at times occurs in our modern dialogues is, I believe, reflective of such views as Ahad Haam's. The very term "asceticism" tends to conjure up, on the Jewish side, images of flagellation and starving monks. Since the emotional nuances of the term are not the same for Christians, necessarily, the result can be a heated discussion that leads nowhere.

If the Jewish scholar begins by defining asceticism (and hence Christianity) from its extreme, it follows that for him or her it becomes impossible to admit of an ascetic trend within "normative Judaism." (This term itself, of course, represents a vast over-simplification of a complex reality.) For to admit a valid ascetic trend within Judaism would be the same as admitting an extremist, world-hating viewpoint as part of that heritage.

The contrast between the approach of Ahad Haam and that of the medieval philosopher, Bahya ibn Pakuda, is illustrative of the impact of the Haskalah on Jewish thinking. Bahya begins with a morally neutral definition of asceticism and then establishes its extremes. For him there exist good and bad forms of asceticism, higher and lower, general and specific. The level on which an individual is counseled to engage in ascetic practices depends upon his character and potential.

General abstinence is that which is practiced to improve our physical condition and keep our secular affairs in good order.... Specific abstinence is that kind which Torah and Reason indicate for the welfare of our souls in the world to come.19

Because he does not include his value judgment in his definition, Bahya is able to embrace certain modes of ascetic practice, with the proper kavanah (intention), as morally acceptable and authentically Jewish. Ahad Haam, on the contrary, makes explicit the fact that he is defining a theological doctrine, not an ethical practice. The doctrine of course is not a Christian but a Manichean one. Unfortunately, many today erroneously ascribe it to Christianity.

A man may renounce pleasure and yet not deserve the name of ascetic, because he ... only refrains in order to avoid danger to his health ... but true asceticism, as I have said, is that which has its source in hatred and contempt for the flesh.20

Ascetic practices and doctrines have always existed within Judaism, though usually within stricter limits than in the Christian tradition. The "wise scholar" (talmid chakham), according to the Talmud, for example, is one who studies not less than eighteen hours a day, a demand which would leave little time for "pleasures of the world." Fasting, on certain occasions, has been approved and practiced throughout Jewish history. And mortification of the body was even seen (after prayer and intensification of the performance of the mitzvoth) as a substitute for the Temple sacrifice—and, thus, dearly connected with atonement in a salvific sense. R.. Shesher prays (Ber. l7a):

Lord of all beings ... I have observed a fast, and my fat and blood have been reduced. May it be Your will chat my fat and blood which have been reduced be regarded as though they had been offered before You on the altar, and grant me Your favor.

On the other hand, the discussion of the rabbis concerning the Nazirites reveals an opinion that extreme asceticism could actually be a sin against the body for which atonement muse be made.21

There is a controversy today over whether or not Bahya was "ascetic." As we have seen, the resolution should be simple and straightforward. It is the emotional nuance of the term itself and its involvement in the anti-Christian apologetic, which gives heat to the discussion.

The argument from the Jewish side, when stripped of particulars, usually runs like this: Christianity is ascetic because it is other-worldly, and is based on the notion that faith alone, irrespective of one's actual, physical deeds, is necessary for salvation. The latter statement, of course, equates a certain interpretation of the thought of Luther with that of all Christians. The argument goes on to conclude that Christianity maintains that belief in a set of intellectual propositions (dogmas) can save humanity from its sinfulness. These beliefs, it is asserted, go back to Paul, not Jesus (who was really not such a bad guy, but a good Jew whose teachings Paul distorted). Paul of Tarsus was more Greek in his thinking, this argument runs, than he was Jewish (Gamaliel notwithstanding). As Matthew V. Novenson has recently pointed out:

Scholars in Jewish studies, who give due attention to Jesus of Nazareth as a data point on the graph of early messianic phenomena, typically do not adduce Paul in this connection, since it was, after all, the self-styled apostle to the Gentiles who launched a movement that in late antiquity increasingly became something other than, if not opposed to Judaism.22

Novenson cites Harris Lenowitz to this effect:

Often thought the most successful messianic movement in Judaism, Christianity achieved its power and endurance largely by abandoning the goals and society of Jesus and his disciples following his death.23

Michael J. Cook, in his otherwise excellent volume, Modem Jews Engage the New Testament, which I have highly recommended, also suffers from this anti-Pauline syndrome.24

The catch phrases ensuing from such a reduction of Christianity to a stereotype of itself are "the tradition of the Prophets," "uncorrupted by Hellenism," and so on.

There is truth to the argument. Leslie Dewart, for example, in The Future of Belief (New York: Herder and Herder, 1967) has convincingly shown the pervasiveness of Hellenistic philosophy from the Patristic period through Scholasticism. The claim, however, cannot be made of the New Testament or of recent theological developments, in the same proportions. The view of Christianity sketched above remains myth, not reality.

Examples of Common Misconceptions

Prof. Eliezer Berkovits has written that "Christianity is an other-worldly religion. It has no use for this world and no respect for it."25 So convinced was he of the acceptance of this sweeping statement by the readership to whom he wrote that he offered it without evidence of any kind. The statement, however, would come as a great shock to the authors of the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council.

The bishops of the Council would be even more surprised to learn that, according to Christianity, the world is "corrupt" and humanity unredeemed. These statements represent denials of the Incarnation and the validity of the Redemption. Both are fundamental heresies so far as the Church is concerned. Yet Berkovits felt he could make the charges without feeling the slightest need for any documentation. "According to the compromise," he wrote, "salvation applies only to the individual soul, the inner man; the world, history, remains unredeemed.' Berkovits then refers to a view which he ascribes to Kierkegaard. "Faith is absurd because it is and must be outside of history. From the Christian point of view, all history is Fall and all culture Fall into history" (p. 80, italics mine). Here we have it, the myth in a nutshell! The Second Vatican Council, however, gives quite a different picture:

The joys and hopes, the grief and anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the grief and anxieties of the followers of Christ ... That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with humanity and its history by the deepest of bonds (Preface, NCWC translation 1966, p, 513).

Clearly there is a communication gap between us.

Despite the reality, myths such as that presented by Berkovits persist in the Jewish community. Martin Buber wrote of the difference between pistis and emunah, the former implying a sterile faith in a solely intellectual set of propositions, the latter being the involvement of the whole person, in the context of his or her history and community, with G-d. Guess which concept, for Buber, represents the Christian position?

Christianity speaks with many voices. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Buber perfected the theory and art of dialogue, he listened only to a few of them. The ogre is of course St. Paul, whose "Hellenized" dogmatism perverted the essentially Jewish teachings of Jesus:

Paul's doctrine was procured at the expense of the plain, concrete and situational-bound dialogicism of the original man of the Bible, who found eternity not in the super-temporal spirit but in the depth of the actual moment. The Jesus of the genuine tradition still belongs to that, but the Jesus of theology does no longer.26

Though he denounces Hegel, Buber was trained in the German methodology. He does to Scripture here just what Wellhausen did co it; he eisegetes into it the theological presuppositions of his own thought. He plugs a personalist existentialism into the areas that Wellhausen filled with Hegelian Idealism. Buber takes his view of Christianity from the perspective of Northern European Protestantism. The results are similar to what would happen if a Christian were to analyze Judaism from the perspective of the Karaites and
Franz Rosenzweig.27

David Rudavsky followed the pattern set by Buber when he wrote; "Many believe that if Jesus' preaching had not been infused with extraneous elements by Paul, Christianity, like Hasidism, might have remained within the fold of Judaism."28 The element of truth in this statement obscures its oversimplifications.

A further dynamic needs to be mentioned here. There is a tendency in some to infuse Christian doctrine with ideas actually belonging co such pseudo-Messiahs as Shabbetai Zevi. In this view, St. Paul's doctrine is seen as the equivalent of that of Nathan of Gaza, the "theologizer" of Shabbetai's movement. Again, Luther's fortiter pecca (sin bravely) somehow loses its conclusion, "and believe more bravely still" and becomes identities with the Shabbatean notion of the holiness of sin. Nathan's formulation maintains two justifications for Shabbetai Zevi's psychological weaknesses and excesses. First, since the Messianic Age has presumably arrived, all are saved and it is impossible for them to sin no matter what they do. Second, by committing evil one is not really sinning but plunging into the evil in order to wrest from it the divine sparks of the Shekhinah which have been entrapped in the shells of evil since the primal cataclysm of Creation.29 Neither of these rationalities, however, has any analogies within Christianity.

That Luther's rhetorical commandment means something entirely different from the way it is taken in Jewish circles is obvious as soon as one puts it back into a Christian context. Dillenberger and Welch comment:

This is the assertion that God's mercy is continuous and inexhaustible. At the same time, where forgiveness does not issue in new life, it: is doubtful that it is actuall forgiveness. ... It was from such a perspective that Luther asserted 'sin bravely, yet believe more bravely still.' This is not a counsel to sin; it is the recognition that life involves sin, that at no point can humanity completely escape it. It is a counsel against those who are so afraid of sin that they refuse to act or participate freely in the events of life.30

Paul's lengthy condemnations of sins of every sort are famous for their passion and detail. And that his view of the Messianic Age was far different from that of Nathan of Gaza is seen from the fact that he, like Rabbinical Judaism following the demise of the Bar Kochba revolt (in which Rabbi Akiba proclaimed Bar Kochba to be the Messiah), strives earnestly to dissuade his followers from the idea that the Day of the Lord had come or would come in the foreseeable future (e.g., 2 Thess 2:12). Paul's ethic is maximalist, not minimalist. Freed from the bondage of sin through Jesus' resurrection, humanity must now assume the responsibility that goes along with freedom.

A note on Luther's much maligned doctrine of justification by faith alone is in order, since many Jews ascribe it to all of Christianity. Dillenberger and Welch sum up the doctrine by stressing the fact that for Luther good works (not indulgences) are a sine qua non for justification. What Lurher had in mind was to stress the constant mercy of God and to destroy the "merit badge" system in which one strives to pile up more "good deeds" on the scale of judgment than evil ones. Such "quantitative calculations" were repugnant for Luther.

John Calvin seated in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that "they who are justified by true faith prove their justification, not by barren and imaginary resemblance of faith but by obedience and good works" (III, xxvii, 12), Clearly, Christian thought has once again been somewhat manhandled to serve an apologetical purpose. The reality is far more complex than it may appear at first glance.

The various misunderstandings are too numerous to discuss in detail in the present paper. Some are merely amusing, for example the charge that Mary functions as a Mother Goddess within Roman Catholicism, or that Christianity is polytheistic (and hence pagan) because of the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity, I believe, can best be understood by Jews through the lens of Jewish mysticism which, for example, adumbrates ten sephiroth (emanations of God) from the Ein Sof to the Spirit in the world. More serious is the notion that Christians have placed mediators between the direct communication of God and humanity—i.e., Christ, the priesthood, and the Blessed Mother. This posits on to all of Christianity a stereotype of Catholicism once popular among Protestants.

I have attempted here merely to introduce the idea that there is more under the surface of "Christian unity" than would appear from the outside. The differences between us should be clearly seen and delighted in by all persons of faith. They are a sign of the ever-abiding mystery and infinite intricacy of God's creation.


  1. Eugene Fisher, "Typical Jewish Misunderstandings of Christianity," Judaism: A Quarterly Journal, Issue 85, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Winter 1973); 21-32.

  2. Hegel states, for example: "The German Spirit is the Spirit of the New World. Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self-determination of Freedom." See The Philosophy of History, tr. J. Sibree (New York: Willey Books, 1944).

  3. Naomi W. Cohen, What the Rabbis Said: The Public Discourse of Nineteenth-Century American Rabbis (New York and London: New York University Press, 2008), shows that this assertion of the ethical superiority of Judaism to Christianity was a major theme of rabbinical discourse in the late nineteenth and into the twentieth century. This is not surprising since many of the early rabbis were trained in Germany.

  4. Julius Wellhausen, Geschichte Israels (1878), published in 2nd edition (1883) as Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels.

  5. Given the reliance of Nostra Aetate ("In Our Time," or as some Jews prefer, "It's About Time!"), No. 4, on especially the new understandings of St. Paul in Romans 9-11, it can be stated unequivocally that without Pius XII the new understanding of Judaism that came out of the Second Vatican Council would have been impossible.

  6. The reaction of Christian polemic was only one pole of the motivation behind the Science of Judaism. Deeper was the need for new definitions of self-identity in the face of the dangers of assimilation. See H.M. Sacher, The Course of Modern Jewish History (New York: Dell, 1967) and David Rudavsky, Emancipation and Adjustment (New York: Diplomatic Press, 1967). Ahad Haam's essay "Imitations and Assimilation," in Selected Essays of Ahad Haam (New York: Meridian, 1962), illustrates the difficulties of the period.

  7. Immanuel Wolf, "On the Concept of a Science of Judaism" (1822), tr. Lionel Kochan, Yearbook 11 (London: Leo Baeck Institute, 1957). pp. 194-204.

  8. Cohen, What the Rabbis Said, records the leeriness of American Jews, especially Reform Jews, about Zionism, e.g.. the Pittsburgh Platform.

  9. One can find an excellent summary of the reflections on the death penalty in rabbinic Judaism over the centuries and the much more recent rejection of it by the Catholic Church in the 1999 statement of the Consultation between the National Council of Synagogues and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the website of the USCCB (http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/1999/99-288.shtml).

  10. See, for example, such disparate writers as Isidore Epstein, Judaism (Penguin Books, 1959), p. 12 and Julius Gurtrnann, Philosophies of Judaism (New York: Anchor, 1964), pp. 3-19.

  11. E.g., Max I. Dimont, Jews, God and History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962). Dimont's The Indestructible Jews (New York: World, 1971) echoes Geiger in speaking of a Jewish "manifest destiny" which moves in three "acts" coached by a Divine Director, "Whereas each sunken civilization remains submerged, the Jews emerge time and again from seeming doom, riding the crest of a new civilization rolling in where the old one once flowed."

  12. Henry Siegman, "Dialogue with Christians: A Jewish Dilemma," Judaism, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Winter 1971): 93-103.

  13. The Bishops' Clarification can be found on their website, www.usccb.org. The 2002 statement "Reflections on Covenant and Mission" can be found on www.bc.edu/cjlearning. Berger was quite right to raise concerns about the 2009 statement, which raised more questions than it answered and was itself very ambiguous in many ways.

  14. Siegman, "Dialogue 'with Christians," pp. 96-97.

  15. Cited in Jacob R. Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World (New York: Atheneum, 1969), pp. 422-424.

  16. Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, Judaism and Christianity: The Differences (New York: Jonathan David, 1968), p, 142.

  17. S. Giora Shoham, in Valhalla, Calvary & Auschwitz (Cincinnati; Bowman and Cody, Tel Aviv University: Ramot Publ., 1995) ascribes to the "Christianity as Hellenized Judaism" model, though he reserves the "other-worldly" category to Catholicism and adds a notion I had never heard before, that Catholicism views labor as evil, scaring that "we have ample proof that Catholics' other-worldly orientation and their conception of labor as a curse and a corollary of original sin ... make them less achievement-motivated than Protestants" (p, 16). While Genesis does portray labor as more difficult outside of the Garden of Eden (and childbirth more painful), the long line of social encyclicals by the popes starting at the turn of the 20th century clearly extols the dignity of labor and the worth of the laborer. Nor is it accidental that the labor movement in the United States was largely a Catholic-Jewish enterprise.

  18. Ahad Haam, "Flesh and Spirit," Selected Essays of Ahad Haam, tr. Leon Simon (New York; Meridian. 1962), p, 152.

  19. Bahya b. Joseph ibn Pakuda, Duties of the Heart, tr. Moses Hyamson (Jerusalem: Feldheim, 5730/1970),Vol. II, pp.288 ff.

  20. Ahad Haam, "Flesh and Spirit," p. 139.

  21. Nedarim 10a; Sifri, Naso #30 (ed. Friedman, p. 10). See Yerushalmi Kiddushin IV, end.

  22. Matthew V. Novenson, "The Jewish Messiahs, the Pauline Christ, and the Gentile Question," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 128, No.2 (Summer 2009); 357.

  23. Harris Lenowitz, The Jewish Messiahs from the Galilee to Crown Heights (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 7.

  24. Michael J. Cook, Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment (Woodscock. VT; Jewish Lights. 2008).

  25. Eliezer Berkovits, "Death of a God," Judaism, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Winter 1971): 79.

  26. Martin Buber, Two Types of Faith (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961), p. 34. Buber's approach is essentially an existential version of that of Mendelssohn and the Science of Judaism. He states: "The difference between 'it is true' and the othere 'we believe and know' is not that of two expressions of faith, but two kinds of faith. For the first, faith is a position in which one stands, for the second, it is an event which has occurred to one, or an act which one has effected or effects, or rather both at once" (p. 35).

  27. In his preface to Two Types of Faith, Buber mentions four Christian theologians as influencing the development of his theory: Rudolf Bultmann, Albert Schweitzer, Rudolf Orcci, and Leonard Ragazo. Note the German Protestants. Søren Kierkegaard was another strong influence. And Kierkegaard was definitely strongly ascetic, other-worldly, and committed to a blind faith (the "leap") approach. Buber's error was in failing to view these men in the context of Christianity as a whole, rather than equating it with them.

  28. Rudavsky, Emancipation and Adjustment, p. 124.

  29. See Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken, 1961) and his article in Commentary, "The Holiness of Sin," Vol. 51, No. 1 (1971).

  30. J. Dillenberger and C. Welch, Protestant Christianity (New York: Scribner, 1954), p. 41.