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"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jewish-Catholic Relations - Cardinal Lustiger

French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger (1926-2007),  Archbishop of Paris from 1981 to 2005,    whose mother died at Auschwitz never understood or accepted the disastrous  "parting of ways" which took place between Christians and Jews.  Lustiger is the subject of a previous post.   He is famous for saying, "I was born Jewish, and so I will remain."    

Lustiger was born in Paris, named Aaron Lustiger,  the son  of Polish Jewish immigrants.  He converted to Catholicism at age 13 and was baptized.  He was ordained a priest in 1954.  He always said that he remained a Jew after his conversion, as described in this New York Times obituary article.  

Here is what jarred me from the New York Times story on Lustiger:
Cardinal Lustiger appeared to have undergone a spiritual crisis in the late 1970s, when he considered leaving France for Israel. “I had started to learn Hebrew, by myself, with cassettes,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 1981. “Does that seem absurd, making your aliyah?” he said, referring to a Jew’s return to Israel. “I thought then that I had finished what I had to do here, that I was at a crossroads.”
Then, in a surprise appointment, he was made bishop of Orléans, the city where he had been baptized. There, he called attention to the plight of immigrant workers in the region.

The event which stopped Cardinal Lustiger from making aliyah was his appointment as a bishop?  I have heard a talk on Lustiger which was presented by a rabbi, who described this turn of events as a sad story of a man who had betrayed his Jewish faith, and who later regretted that betrayal and was about to redeem himself  and move to Israel.  Lustiger was on the verge of returning to Judaism, is the idea, and the only thing that prevented it was this clerical promotion.  I have to study these facts further, but I don't see the Lustiger story that way. And I don't see Lustiger's move in the direction of Judaism as a move away from Jesus.      Lustiger understood that he was blessed to be born as one of God's chosen people, and during this spiritual crisis when he thought of making aliyah,  he may have been closer to the Lord than at any time of his life.    When I visited Israel I spoke to a Jewish  believer in Jesus who had made aliyah, and who was very happy living in Israel.  She respected her fellow Jews and did not go around trying to make them Christians.

Cardinal Lustiger was a voice against those who in our time continue to see a conflict between Jesus and Judaism.  He saw himself as a Jewish believer in Jesus, like the Jews who were the first disciples. Some in the Jewish community were able to come to terms with Lustiger.  They recognized that Lustiger was a strong supporter of the state of Israel.   See this article from this Haaretz obituary: 
Lustiger worked with the World Jewish Congress, to form  the Yahad In Unum association, which promotes Jewish-Catholic cooperation and social relief programs. 

One of the best examples of Lustiger's support for Jews was his role in the famous dispute over a convent that had been installed near Auschwitz:

He had earlier been involved in the dispute over a convent of Carmelite nuns that had been installed in 1984 near the Auschwitz concentration camp. Many in the Polish church believed that a convent at Auschwitz was justified because Poles had died there. But many Jewish leaders were outraged, saying that 9 of every 10 camp inmates had been Jews.
Roman Catholic prelates, including Cardinal Lustiger, and representatives of Jewish organizations worked out an agreement to move the convent, but the plan was thrown into doubt in 1989 when Cardinal Jozef Glemp of Poland ruled out a move. Cardinal Lustiger pressed John Paul to intervene, and in 1993 the pope ordered the Carmelites to move, resolving the crisis.


The  funeral for Cardinal Lustiger began at Notre Dame Cathedral  with the chanting of Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Jewish Community in Iraq

This is a Bible blog, but sometimes I have to jump ahead to modern times.  Our is a historical religion.  Jews wrote much of our Bible  in Iraq (Babylon).   Here is the story of the Jewish community in Iraq in modern times, from the great Professor Schiffman:   http://lawrenceschiffman.com/iraq-and-the-jewish-people-zionism-under-the-british-mandate/  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Judas and Satan - Frank Sheed

Frank Sheed's book, To Know Christ Jesus, has been the subject of a  previous post,  and here I come back to Sheed on the subject of Judas and Satan.  Sheed writes:

Priests and scribes were talking in the palace of the High Priest Caiaphas, when there came to them a man [Judas] who could solve at least part of their problem - the problem of arresting the troublemaker without causing a riot: for this man knew where Jesus would be spending the night.

Frank J. Sheed, To Know Christ Jesus (San Francisco, 1980  Ignatius Press, original edition 1962 Sheed and Ward, Inc.) at page 334.   

Sheed  discusses  what may have moved Judas to act against Jesus.  He concludes that Judas is "profoundly mysterious," and that  "there is too much about Judas -the man of Kerioth, the only non-Galilean among the Twelve - that we do not know."    To Know Christ Jesus at 334-335.   But part of the answer here is Satan.  St Luke says, "Satan entered into him."  Lk 22:3  (RSV) (quoted in To Know Christ Jesus at 334).    

We can't blame unseen spirits for sins committed and for all of the evils which believers encounter. But it's foolish to deny their presence. The best advice for the spiritual battle is this:  "Resist the devil and he will flee from you."  James 4:7 (RSV). 

How do you resist the devil?  It can't be done, except in the power of the Holy Spirit, but that will have to be the subject of another post.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jesus and the Kingdom - David Flusser Part I

David Flusser (1917-2000)  taught at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  He was Israel's leading scholar on Jesus, and a favorite of Christian students who traveled to Israel to take classes from him, as Ben Witherington describes.   His work is accessible to amateurs, and I regret  that I have only discovered Professor Flusser in recent weeks.   After reading Flusser, as I now go to the Gospels  I see and feel Jesus in his context as never before.

This begins a series of posts on the 2001 edition of Flusser's book, Jesus.   All of the quotes below are from Jesus, by  David Flusser (Jerusalem, Hebrew University Magnus Press, in collaboration with R. Steven Nutley, third edition 2001).   See also,  The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius. By David Flusser and R. Steven Notley. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007. 

Flusser's descriptions of Jesus began for me with chapter 7 of the book, on the subject of the kingdom of heaven:

It was (and is) a common Jewish opinion that the kingship of God is both present and future, and that it has existed from the creation of the world, or at least from Abraham’s time. This was not the position of Jesus. According to him the concept of the kingdom of heaven was not static but dynamic. It was a movement which began with John the Baptist. There are a number of reasons why Jesus differs on this point. One is that Jesus understood the kingdom of heaven as not only God’s kingship but as we have noted, a kind of intermediary epoch between the historical period and the end of history. In his messianic timetable it occupied the same place that is represented in other Jewish tripartite systems as “the Days of the Messiah.” The fact that Jesus spoke about the period of the kingdom of heaven, instead of the Days of the Messiah, hints at his own messianic self-awareness.

Does the kingdom of heaven, this intermediary epoch of the Messiah, have any practical impact on believers in our time?  Yes, Flusser states that for  Jesus the kingdom is present reality, in our midst:

There should be no doubt that both for rabbinic Judaism and for Jesus the kingdom of heaven is a present reality, “The kingdom of heaven is in your midst” (Luke 11:20–21; cf. Ex. 25:8 and see the Aramaic Targumim there).

Flusser states that  Jesus viewed himself as the Messiah, at the center of this new and dynamic  movement of God:

Our study indicates that for Jesus the messianic period no longer lay as a hope in the future. It had already begun with John the Baptist, and Jesus was now the Messiah. It is also possible to understand how Jesus modified the structure of the concept of the kingdom of heaven. In the understanding of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven became more dynamic than in rabbinic thinking. Since according to Jesus the kingdom was identical with the messianic period, it was no longer, as in rabbinic thought, an eternal suprahistorical entity. It became a dynamic force which broke through into the world at an identifiable point in history. The kingdom of heaven began to break through with John, and Jesus—the Messiah—was in the center of the movement. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matt. 12:30).
(Footnote omitted.)

What are the signs of this new movement with Jesus at the center?  To address this question, as an example, Flusser cites  Jesus' healings:

I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20). As already said [above, p. 261] the “finger of God” is taken from Exodus 8:15[19]. By this quotation Jesus hints to the understanding that through himself God’s redemption had already begun. See the eschatological prayer of Sir. 36:1–22, especially verses 6–7: Show signs anew and work further wonders, makes Thy hand and Thy right arm glorious. ...
Through Jesus’ healings God repeats the “signs” and “wonders” of the liberation from bondage in Egypt.
I realize that Flusser himself  had a  Jewish view of the identity of  Jesus.  But my reaction to Flusser's discussion of Jesus and the kingdom of heaven is praise and gratitude. The Lord Jesus is the Messiah, and his kingdom is in our midst.   The believer who sees this  rises above the troubles of each day.

All quotes (highlighted in green text) are from Jesus, by David Flusser (Jerusalem, Hebrew University Magnus Press, in collaboration with R. Steven Nutley, third edition 2001).  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

See the Ways of God in the Dove

Joseph and Mary traveled to Jerusalem for their purification and presented Jesus to the Lord:

And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord  (as it is written in the law of the Lord, 'Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord')  and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, 'a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.'    Luke 2:22-24 (RSV).

The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as a dove:   "[A]nd the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, 'Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.'  Luke 3:22 (RSV).

What does  the dove tell us about God's ways?   Peter Leithart quotes James Jordan on this subject:

The animals used in the purification offering were ranked according to the religious and socio-economic status of the offerer. Priests offered bulls, leaders goats, the poor offered doves. Reflecting on this, James Jordan suggests that this gives us a clue to God’s way of building His kingdom:
“The Spirit comes as a dove. This indicates to me that the Kingdom of God begins among the ‘poor’ of the earth, not usually among the mighty. It grows to embrace goats and bulls, but in the New Testament we do not find many priests (bulls) or the leaders of Israel and Rome (goats) forming the foundation of the kingdom. Perhaps the larger meaning of this is that it is the poor in spirit, the doves and pigeons of God, who have the kingdom of heaven, as the first beatitude says (Mt. 5:3). Only those who see themselves as poor doves will look up to the Lamb. The bulls and goats of this world must assume the posture of poor doves and pigeons in order to recognize Him.”