7

CHRISTIAN REINTERPRETATION OF
THE JEWISH BIBLE

Of the three parts of the Jewish Bible/Hebrew Scriptures, the Five Books of Moses, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, called the "Torah," is considered the "Written Law."  It stipulated Jewish monotheistic beliefs and served as the "Covenant" (agreement) prescribing rules and behavior (e.g., the Ten Commandments) for an abiding protective and worshipful relationship between Jews and their God ("Yahweh").  The other two parts of the Jewish Bible are the "Prophets" (from Joshua to Malachi) and the "Writings" (from Psalms to Chronicles). 

Throughout much of Biblical history, prophets served as Israel's religious and moral conscience, through writings embodying both religion and politics.  That is, not only how to behave in worshipping Yahweh, but the behavior expected from rulers and institutions governing the people who worship Yahweh.  Prophets became Israel's champions of accountability to a higher power (Yahweh), adamant opponents of pagan idolatry, and prime advocates for justice and caring social relationships.    ""I have been Yahweh your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and beside me there is no savior" (Hosea 13.4).  "[The idolater] makes it [wood] into a god, his idol, bows down to it and worships it, he prays to it and says, 'Save me, for you are my god!'" (Isaiah 44.17).  "These things that are made of wood and overlaid with gold and silver are like stones from the mountain, and those who serve them will be put to shame.  Why then must anyone think that they are gods, or call them gods?" (Letter of Jeremiah 3940).

"Is not this the fast that I [Yahweh] choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free. and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself [turn your back] from your own kin?" (Isaiah. 58.6–7).  Scoundrels are found among my people; they take over the goods of others.  Like fowlers they set a trap; they catch human beings. … their houses are full of treachery … they have grown fat and sleek.  They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan … and they do not defend the rights of the needy" (Jeremiah 5.2628).  "What does Yahweh require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6.8).

In time, Scriptural Law and prophetic aspirations gained firm ethical structure so that "basic moral principles were laid down.  God is just, and justice is his prime demand — not justice as a vague abstraction, but as applied in the daily affairs of men, to strangers as well as to the home-born" (Blank (p. 180).  "For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow and who loves strangers, providing them with food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 10.1719).

The Scriptural theme, "Remember you were slaves in the land of Egypt" was continually repeated, exhorting Jews to be moral exemplars; enabling them to abide on Yahweh's "Holy Hill" of ethical behavior.  "Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart, who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear Yahweh; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent" (Psalm 15).

At the height of all Biblical cultic commands is perhaps the ritualistic tie to Yahweh in Genesis 17.10: "This is my covenant, which you [Abraham] shall keep, between me and you, and your offspring after you: every male among you shall be circumcised."  Deuteronomy (30.6, 9–14) broadens the circumcision covenant not only as outwardly visual but emotionally internal: "The Lord [Yahweh], your God, will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants … For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, when you obey the Lord by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law … [T]his commandment … is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?'  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say 'Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us so that we may hear it and observe it?'  No. the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

The circumcision covenant is endless: "Remember [God's] covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant" (1 Chronicles 16.15–16).  ("Covenant" and "circumcision" are both celebrated by Jews using the same Hebrew term, "Bris.")

In more than one hundred verses (Exodus 20–24), the Jewish Scriptures set out a code of law, justice, and ritual that begins with the Ten Commandments and ends with "you shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk."  Overlooked by St. Paul and Christian critics of Jewish "Law" were the communal spirit and sentiments that served as important elements in fulfilling its rituals and commandments.  "[B]urnt offerings, public sacrifices, music and song, thanksgiving sacrifices and the eating joyful meals together — allows people of the Second Temple era to realize what their God intended for them in their Jerusalem temple: praise, thanksgiving, and petition, offered to God in a ritual complex that can help them realize their identity as the people of God" (Endres, p. 187).  Hezekiah's prayer (2 Chronicles 30.19) emphasized spiritual devotion over meticulous observance: "The good Lord pardon all who set their hearts to seek God, the Lord of their ancestors, even though not in accordance with the sanctuary's rule of cleanness."  (See also Japhet, p. 252.)

For Jews, the Torah was not merely instructive but, through historical accounts, formed and strengthened Jewish identity.  "[I]ts legends of cultural perseverance sustained a national culture grounded in religion but far exceeding its domain.  Jewish identity in antiquity was not simply about cultic reverence.  It was about kinship and tradition, about loyalty to a proud and historic people destined to withstand their political subjugation in order to reclaim the past glories documented in their sacred scriptures. … Simply put, there would have been no Jewish religion had there not been a cohesive polity to support it.  One therefore cannot account for one without accounting for the other" (Burns 2016, pp. 8081).  This close tie between Jewish ethnicity, Jewish religion, and Jewish culture prevailed even though Israel/Judea came repeatedly under foreign rule: by Assyrians (722 B.C.E), Babylonians (586 B.C.E.), Persians (538 B.C.E.), Greeks, (322 B.C.E.), and Romans (63 B.C.E.).

Although considered irrevocable, there were obvious needs to modify some religious rituals after the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple and displaced its priestly class (70 C.E.); events not unlike those in the Babylonian exile centuries before.  Adapting Biblical commands to existing conditions was accomplished by lay religious teachers ("Rabbis") in conferences and debates, out of which came relevant codes of conduct, codified in the Jewish Mishnah and the Jewish Talmud.  Despite controversies and varied Scriptural interpretations, they all adhered to identifiable Jewish principles and rituals.  Among these were monotheism and moral social behavior; the observance of circumcision, the Sabbath, and dietary laws; celebration of holidays that commemorated historical events such as the exodus from slavery; and shared Hebraic literature that sanctified these beliefs and practices.  "The Mosaic covenant stood at the center of Israelite tradition.  It was, in effect, the constitution of Israelite society" (Horsley 2012, p. 122).

Unfortunately for Jews, the interpretive allegorical methods Rabbis used to adapt Jewish Scriptures to Jewish needs gave license to St. Paul and his successors to adapt Jewish scriptures to quite opposite Christian needs.  That is, Christian "exegesis" (Scriptural interpretation) turned the main themes of the Jewish Scriptures against the Jews themselves, introducing new "spiritual" criteria that repudiate explicit Scriptural meanings and intent. 

For example, the Scriptural commandment that Jews must "live by the Law" without asking "who will ascend into heaven" and "beyond the sea" (Deuteronomy 30.12–13, see above), St. Paul changed into a spiritual warning to exercise "faith" by not asking who will "bring Christ down" or "bring Christ up" (Romans 10.6–7).  The Deuteronomy sentence, "the word [Law] is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe," was changed by St. Paul into "the word of faith that we proclaim; because if you confess in your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10.8–9). 

Similarly, St. Paul deemed the circumcision covenant in Genesis and other Scriptural books worthless because it was a literal interpretation of the "Law" based on supposed "praise from others," rather than a spiritual interpretation derived "from God" (Romans 2.25–29).  In his letter to the Galatians, God's covenant with Jews was turned into a spiritual "promise" made not to "his offsprings" (plural, the Jews) but to "his offspring" (singular, the Savior): "that is to one person, who is Christ" (3.18), "if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring" (3.29).  "Our competence is from God, who made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter [the Torah] but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3.5–6).

As shown in Note #2, these novel spiritual meanings and interpretations produced a "New Covenant," unshared by Jesus of the Gospels or any of his disciples, that was ascribed by St. Paul to an exclusive personal vision given to him by a phantom Jesus.  In his unique dream, Jesus instructed St. Paul to engage his followers in a new ceremony — a Christian sacrament called the Eucharist, which St. Paul dated to Jesus' Last Supper (that he never attended!) — to eat bread and drink wine to simulate sharing Jesus' body's flesh and blood.  "The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, … and said, 'This is my body that is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.'  In the same way he took the cup also … saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Corinthians 11.23–25; also Note #11.2).  According to Koester (2007 p. 250), St. Paul's "New Covenant" forged the "unity of the many Christian communities" in which "the primary bond was the Eucharist as the ritual of the new Christian nation."  This was then embodied in the "New Testament" for which the Jewish/Hebrew Bible, named as "Old Testament," was merely the presumed forerunner.

Nevertheless, since the Old Testament was the primary source for St. Paul's Gentile Christianity's claim to antiquity, it could not simply be ignored.  History provided no other ancient text in which to construe interpretations that a Jesus Christ existed before the first century C.E.  Searching for Jewish Scriptural sources to support Christianity's antique claims thus became a common theological enterprise, and, by facile interpretation, Jesus Christ was placed in Old Testament history as far back as the Book of Genesis.  In the New Testament, hundreds of passages therefore quote, parallel, or allude to Jewish Scriptural sources in attempts to justify such Christian claims (C. A. Evans, pp. 190–219).

St Paul, for example, uses approximately 130 Biblical quotations (Scheffler 2011b, p. 274) to support his views, many grossly misinterpreted or misquoted as shown above (see also R. N. Longenecker 1999, pp. 96–116).  "Paul changes the wording of more than half of his [Biblical] citations for stylistic and rhetorical reasons.  At times, Paul's treatment of a passage seems cavalier.  For example, in Deut. 30.10–14, cited in Rom. 10.6–8, Paul replaced all references to "doing" with references to Jesus' death and resurrection. … Paul derives meaning foreign to the traditional understanding of this passage and imports his innovative understanding into the text itself" (Norton, p. 137).  In other examples, St. Paul also blatantly shifted Biblical references made to God, from Israel's "Yahweh" to "Jesus" (Lόdemann 2002b, p. 96).

"One can conclude that in his use of the Old Testament (whether by direct quotation, reference or allusion) Paul most of the time reads the old Testament out of context" (Scheffler 2011b, p. 276).  In St. Paul's audiences, according to Stanley (p. 154): "Those with extensive knowledge of Scripture would have found Paul's quotations troubling, to say the least, and some might even have concluded that contextual reading of Paul's quotations offered more support for the views of Paul's opponents than for Paul."  That St. Paul's creations and misquotations escaped his audience's examination shows they "were written for a very different type of audience [mainly, if not entirely, Gentiles], one that was largely illiterate and possessed only a limited acquaintance with the text of Scriptures" (Ibid. p. 145).

Also, despite prolific use of the Jewish Scriptures, St. Paul seems to purposely ignore quotations that would broaden the scope of his readers beyond the "Christ event."  For example, although St. Paul repeatedly condemns Jews for using "deeds" to atone for sins rather than "faith" and "spirit" (e.g., Romans 3.20), he completely overlooks the prophetic theme that true Jewish sacrifice to God is a contrite repentant heart rather than burnt sacrificial offerings (Psalm 51, see also Note #9.1).  As listed by Scheffler (2011b, p. 277), among St. Paul's other purposeful omissions are:

·   the critical wisdom of Job and Qohelet;

·   the positive evaluation of sexuality as expressed in Genesis and Song of Songs;

·   the political struggle of prophets such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and Micah;

·   the positive appreciation of nature in the Psalms (e.g. 8, 9, 104 and 139);

·   the engagement for the socially marginalized in Deuteronomy, the prophets and the Psalms.

St. Paul's Scriptural handpicking and misinterpretation served for centuries as models in which almost any Christian notion could be ascribed to a "divine" message hidden in a Jewish Scriptural passage: interpretations far removed from their intended Jewish meanings.  For example, although the life and trials of Gentile Christianity's "Jesus Christ" is nowhere mentioned in any Jewish Biblical document, St. Paul exclaims, "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15.3–4).  Quotations from Jewish Scriptures could even be invented, as in St. John's Gospel (7:38): "As the Scripture has said 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living waters.'" 

Thus, with most imaginative detail, St. Justin Martyr (ca. 150 C.E., 1 Apology XXXI) declares: "In these books, then, of the prophets we found Jesus our Christ foretold as coming, born of a virgin, growing up to man's estate, and healing every disease and every sickness, and raising the dead, and being hated, and unrecognized, and crucified, and dying and rising again, and ascending into heaven, and being, and being called, the Son of God.  We find it also predicted that certain persons should be sent by Him into every nation to publish these things, and that rather among the Gentiles (than among the Jews) men should believe on Him.  And He was predicted before He appeared, first 5,000 years before, and again 3,000, then 2,000, then 1,000, and yet again 800; for in the succession of generations prophets after prophets arose" (ANF vol. 1, p. 173). 

St. Melito of Sardis (ca. 170) imposes even further fantasies on Biblical narratives: "This is He [Jesus Christ] who was pilot to Noah; He who was guide to Abraham; He who was bound with Isaac; He who was in exile with Jacob; He who was sold with Joseph; He who was captain of the host with Moses" (On Faith, ANF vol. 8, p. 757). 

Moreschini's and Norelli's (p. 138) comment: "What we see here is an important episode in the 'expropriation' of the Scriptures and religious tradition of Judaism that was carried on by Christians, especially in the second century, as they claimed for Christianity the authentic understanding of the Bible and continuity with the 'true Israel.'  In this perspective, polemical violence against the Jews came naturally in the effort to prove that the Jews had no right to appeal to the [Scriptural] revelation that the Christians had inherited from them, but of which the Christians now claim to be the sole possessors.  We see this process in [St.] Justin in the area of biblical interpretation; in [St.] Melito it is applied to the very core of Jewish identity as represented by the celebration of Passover."  (See Note #8.2.) 

In the main, Gentile Christian exegesis exercised no limit, and St. Augustine (ca. 400 C.E.) extends Gentile Christian interpretive dominance from the book of Genesis to all succeeding Jewish Scriptures: "To enumerate all the passages in the Hebrew prophets referring to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, would exceed the limits of a volume … The whole contents of these Scriptures are either directly or indirectly about Christ" (Reply to Faustus XII.7, NPNF Series 1, vol. 4, p. 185).  This echoes a saying St. Luke (24.44) ascribes to Jesus' resurrected image: "Everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled."

Young (1997, pp. 23–24) points out that according to Christian Fathers such as Origen (ca. 240 C.E.): "The words and teachings of Christ are not simply those recorded from his days on earth.  For Moses and the prophets were filled with his spirit. … it was the Spirit's skopos [doctrines] to enlighten the prophets and apostles so they became partakers in all the doctrines of the Spirit's counsel.  These doctrines prove to be those concerning God, his only be-gotten Son, and the cause of his descent to the level of human flesh. …[W]here the earthly [Scriptural] narrative did not fit, bits were woven in to represent the more mystical meaning.  The coherence of scripture, we might say in summary, lies at its heart, in its soul and spirit, not its physical reality."  (See also Note #12.1.

When Jews objected to exotic Christian reinterpretations by pointing to more lucidly clear Scriptural statements, Christian apologists claimed they had been purposely rewritten to thwart Christians.  St. Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew LXXI): "ΌI wish you to observe that they [Jews] have altogether taken away many Scriptures from the translation effected by those seventy elders who were with Ptolemy [the 'Septuagint' Greek translation of the Jewish Bible], and by which this very man who was crucified [Jesus] is proved to have been set forth expressly as God, and man, and as being crucified, and as dying. ΌYou contradict the statement 'Behold, the virgin Shall conceive,' and say it ought to be read, 'Behold, the young woman shall conceive'" (ANF vol. 1, p. 234).  (Note that the Biblical Hebrew word "almah" in Isaiah 7.14 was translated in the Greek Septuagint Bible as "parthenos," and was used by Christians to mean "virgin."  In Hebrew, however, "almah" means no more than "young woman," or even "married young woman," and the Hebrew term for a virgin is not "almah" but "bethulah" (Genesis 24.16, 1 Kings 1.2)) 

Similarly, in attempting to justify Biblical prophecy of Jesus' crucifixion, St. Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew LXXIII) accuses Jews of deleting "from the wood" in Psalm 96.10, which reads "Declare among the nations, 'the Lord is King' [or 'the Lord reigns']," claiming it should read "the Lord reigns from the wood [Jesus' cross]" (ANF vol. 1, pp. 234, 235).  St. Justin Martyr also replaces the Jewish God Yahweh with Jesus Christ in Yahweh's famous call to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3).  "This same One [Jesus Christ] who is called an Angel and is God, appeared and communed with Moses" (ANF vol. 1, p. 227). 

Like St. Paul's Scriptural liberties, forced departures from the Old Testament could only have passed muster when presented to Biblically uninformed Gentile audiences.  "It is clear that Justin's assertions in fact have little to do with serious textual enquiry on his part and that theological polemic over possession of the truth prevents his being an impartial or even informed witness to developments among Greek biblical texts" (Rajak, p. 127).

By the sixth century C.E., flagrantly created Christian prophecies, drawn from imagined renditions of Jewish Scriptures, became legalized in Christian Emperor Justinian's pronouncement that literal interpretations by Jews of their Scriptures are to be prohibited.  "It was right and proper that the Hebrews, when listening to the Holy Books, should not stick to the bare letters but look for the prophecies contained in them, through which they announce the Great God and the Saviour of the human race, Jesus Christ" (Smelik, p. 145). 

Even in modern times, trying to justify Christian non-literal readings of the Jewish Scriptures, remains a significant part of Christian theology (Moyise, pp. 111–117).  According to Lohse (p. 24), the "deeper meaning" of the Jewish Scriptures "can be discerned only when the Old Testament is read from the point of view of its fulfillment in Jesus Christ."  Similarly, despite St. Paul's purposeful Scriptural misreadings and theological inventions, Dunn (2013, p. 36) characterizes St. Paul's mission to establish Gentile churches as "scripturally valid and theologically sound." 

To Christian theologians, meaning of a Jewish Biblical text is not determined by the original writer but by the Christian interpreter ("exegetist") and his Christian audience.  For a Christian reader to think otherwise — that the meaning of a text is based on the author's intention — "leads to determinate readings that are incapable of acknowledging the mystery of God" (Spinks, p. 65).  Emphasizing Scriptural history instead of Christian interpretative theology prompts Christian protest against Jews and disbelievers rejecting "Christian [Fathers'] claims regarding Jesus Christ as the key to all the Scriptures" (Treier, p. 47). 

To religious Christian doctrinaires and theologians, "History" is thus a persistent threat to "Faith," no matter that "Faith" can blatantly distort and subvert history.  In the words of a modern Christian theologian (Seitz, p. 105), "It is important to reiterate that Christian theological reflection on the Old Testament has a life proper to itself" and should not succumb to "historical-critical inquiry."  Similarly, Moberly focuses "on reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture" (p.3), and theological exegesis must "not be restricted to original meaning and be able to move beyond it" (p. 161).  Thus, to Childs (1997, p. 61), original contexts of the Jewish prophets are to be ignored, and interpreting Isaiah as "a witness to Jesus Christ…is not only possible, but actually mandatory for any serious theological reflection."  Lienhard (p.7): "[T]he first problem of the historical method; of itself, it can only discern discrete facts from the past.  As such, it cannot provide the foundation for faith."

New Testament authors and editors were thus arbitrarily endowed with a "divine spirit" that obviated any need for sustaining original orientations and objectives of Jewish Scriptures.  "Thus while their interpretative procedure was flawed, the [Christian] meaning they wrote down was inspired" (Beale, p. 2).  One rationale offered for reinterpreting Jewish Scriptures ("OT") in favor of the New Testament ("NT") is that "history is an interrelated unity, and God has designed the earlier parts [OT] to correspond and point to the latter parts [NT], especially to events that have happened in the age of eschatological fulfillment in Christ … Consequently, the concept of prophetic fulfillment should not be limited to fulfillment of direct verbal prophesies from the OT but broadened to include also an indication of the 'redemptive historical relationship of the new, climactic revelation of God in Christ" (Ibid. p. 98).  Kelsey (p. 149): "It declares the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, an event central to the religious sense of the New Testament, to be beyond the competence of the methods one needs to use the historical sense of the texts."  Since it is doubtful that any one Christian theologian or theological group is more privy than others to God's presumed Scriptural designs (Note #11.3), it is apparent that Christian theologians and "New Testament authors modify the Hebrew Bible quotations to create support for their particular views" (Chilton et al., p. 24).  According to Stendahl (p. 210) this leads to an appropriate question: "What does it profit an exegete to understand the words and miss the intention?

A primary distortion of Biblical history was to argue that "true" Christians include ancient Abraham (circumcised Father of the Jews!) and even Biblical Adam (Notes #2, #14, #18, #19).  As noted earlier, Abraham's circumcision had no sacrosanct meaning to St. Paul since "the promise [covenant] that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law [God's literal Scriptural covenant] but through the righteousness of faith" (Romans 4.13).  The "righteousness of faith" that Abraham presumably possessed before he was circumcised is St. Paul's new covenantal "righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" (Romans 3.22).  Unattainable to Abraham's circumcised descendants who follow the written "law," God's favor is thus now achieved by uncircumcised Gentiles "who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification" (Romans 4.24–25).  "Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is righteousness through faith; but Israel … did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works" (Romans 9.30–32).  [I]f you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3.29).  "If it is the adherents to the law [Jews] who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void: (Romans 13.14).

By shifting Abraham's "promise" from Jews to Gentiles: "Paul's allegory is intended to make the Torah itself indorse this very message — to set the theological message of the Torah against its own commandments" (Levenson p. 218, his emphasis).  For example, in the Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 100 C.E.): "circumcision was not of the flesh, but they [Jews] transgressed because an evil angel [Satan] deluded them" (ANF vol. 1, p. 142).  Such "exegesis" attempted to cloth any fancied theological claim with antique Scriptural authority.  Christian "hermeneutics" thus became a Christian clerical vocation, in which one can pull imagined threads out of any Scriptural passage to create a labyrinthine theological world involving Jesus Christ in events from the birth of Adam to the tribal patriarchy of Abraham to the divine guidance of Moses, and even to the creation of the universe: "He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being with him, and without him not one thing came into being" (St. John's Gospel 1.2–3).

According to Dunn (2012, p. 212), St. Paul's claim for the presumed Christian "promise to Abraham" is "the primary root of continuity between Christianity and Judaism."  This notion is surprisingly offered despite there being no semblance of Christianity— in name, practice, or "continuity" — during the more than millennial history between Abraham's presumed "primary root" and St. Paul's Jesus Christ.  As noted earlier, prior to St. Paul's first century C.E. letters and the imaginations of later Christian theologians, there is no existing or historical sign of a divine worshipful Jesus Christ, Only Son of God, Savior of Mankind; nor any sign of a believer in Christianity's Jesus Christ, Jewish or Gentile.

In sum, although claiming Jewish Scriptural antiquity was designed to make Gentile Christianity acceptable to the Gentile world, it made no sense to Jews.  It seemed quite bizarre that documents written by and for Jews, recounting their beliefs, laws, and history, were presumably written so they could have quite opposite meanings for future Gentile Christians.

Sadly, even modern Christian theologians, although lamenting Christian antisemitism, appear unable to grant Jews Biblical authority to reject Christian claims.  Worthen (p. 5), for example, vindicates this stance with the common Christian Patristic charge that Jews are "disobedient children liable to God's wrath and judgment" for not accepting "Jesus as Lord and Messiah," and that "the covenant made at Sinai with Moses has come to an end with the coming of Christ."

In a similar self-vindicating fashion, a recent book of elaborate Biblical hermeneutics (Lucass) claims that Jesus, sacrificed to atone for human sin, is really no different from the kind of Messiah that Jews would expect if they properly read their own Scriptures: "it is no longer possible to claim that the [Christian] messiahship of Jesus is 'un-Jewish' because he suffered died and was resurrected" (Lucass, p. 198).  Even "the Eucharist, the injunction to eat Jesus' body and drink his blood, an injunction which is considered so alien by the Jewish writers, becomes once again a Judaic concept" (Ibid. p. 201).  Such views reflect the recurrent claim that because of their theological and exegetical blindness and obtuseness, Jews have no warrant to object to Christian conceptions and distortions of Jewish Scriptures.

However, the matter can be seen differently.  It may well be that some or even many Jews may have considered a coming Messiah as a divinely‑sent savior (Note #15), the Jewish majority at the time of Jesus certainly did not believe a Messiah can be killed without achieving some success in the struggle to relieve Jews from indigenous and Roman oppression (Note #11.g).  Similarly, drinking blood and eating human flesh, promulgated (even symbolically) by St. Paul and New Testament writers, was an abomination in Jewish culture and Scriptures (Note #11.f).  A. L. Williams (p. 417): "Their [Christian] weakness lies in estimating the Jewish use of the Scripture wrongly.  They never understood the mind of the Jews.  Christian writers … blamed the obstinate Jews for not accepting the evidence which seemed to them so strong.  But, in reality, this was only because they themselves misconceived the case."  In Foster's words (p. 98): Christian theologians "find scriptural allusions or echoes of the Jewish scriptures behind every key Pauline concept, instead of recognizing that some ideas may be truly innovative, and others may draw upon Gentile thought."

Unfortunately, blaming Jews for rejecting Jesus and contesting Christian Scriptural misinterpretations, was used by Christian Fathers, such as St. John Chrysostom, to condemn Pagans or even fellow Christians who doubted Jesus Christ's equality with God, as suffering from the "Jewish disease" (Nirenberg, p. 113).  Anti-Jewish hostility could be exercised in disputes between Christians even in the absence of Jews (Note #17).