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David P. Gushee

All Things Jewish

The Jews. For Christians, the name of no other people on the face of the earth carries the resonance that this one does. Due to a fateful history together that resonance is charged, in both positive and negative polarities. Toward the Jews, the church has never been neutral.

A spate of recent books as well as a pregnant historical moment give us occasion to rethink all things Jewish. None of the works to be reviewed in this essay offers such a rethinking from a Christian perspective. That is precisely why these books are valuable for Christians to consider. For the entirety of Christian history we have viewed the Jewish people from within a theological perspective that makes it nearly impossible for us to enter into their self-understanding as a people; or for that matter, simply to read their history and understand their politics in a way like unto how we would consider the history and politics of any other people.

For Christians, the Jews are the chosen people of God, born out of the call of God to Abraham, distinct from the nations and unlike any other people on earth. In the mystery of biblical inspiration, they are both the authors and the subjects of the Holy Bible—all of the first two-thirds we Christians call the Old Testament and almost all of the New Testament. Jesus, the One we adore as Son of God and Savior of the world, was Jewish. All of his original apostles were Jewish. The most important of the first-century converts to Christianity, Saul of Tarsus, was a "Hebrew of the Hebrews." Christianity began as a Messianic splinter movement within Judaism, and its convictions are impossible to understand apart from these origins. As well, most Christian eschatologies hold out a significant role for the Jewish people as a way of tying up the most unsettling loose end in the Christian schema of salvation history.

How that loose end, that "Jewish question," has bedeviled Christian thought and besmirched Christian behavior for these 2000 years! God took human ...

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