Christianity / New Testament

“Against the way Christians often remember it, Jesus did not proclaim a New Testament God of love against an Old Testament God of judgment…”

Against the way Christians often remember it, Jesus did not proclaim a New Testament God of love against an Old Testament God of judgment (which girds the anti-Jewish bipolarity of grace versus law; generosity versus greed; mercy versus revenge). Rather, as a Shema-reciting son of Israel, he proclaimed the one God, whose judgment comes as love.

Imagined as a zealot who attacked the Temple, Jesus, on the contrary, surely revered the Temple, along with his fellow Jews. If, as scholars assume, he caused a disturbance there, it was almost certainly in defense of the place, not in opposition to it. The narrative denouement of this conflicted misremembering occurred in the 20th century, when the anti-Semitism of Nazism laid bare the ultimate meaning of the church’s religious anti-Judaism.

The horrified reckoning after the Holocaust was the beginning of the Christian reform that remains the church’s unfinished moral imperative to this day.

Most emphatically, that reform must be centered in a critical rereading of the Gospel texts, so that the misremembered anti-Jewish Jesus can give way to the man as he was, and to the God whom he makes present in the lives of all who cannot stop seeing more than is before their eyes.

James Carroll, “Jesus and the Modern Man”, The New York Times (9 November 2014), SR4.