Christian Insecurity: “Jewish rejection of [Jesus] remains a mortal threat”

“[Jewish] rejection of [Jesus] threatened the Christian idea far more than any pagan rejection… Jewish rejection of that claim remains a mortal threat.” 

I.                    The Jewish Problem: Origins 

Christian Insecurity comes in two forms: personal, as in individual doubt regarding the promise of life after death; and theological, first appearing in Augustine’s use of “forged” referring to Christian reading of Jewish scripture. The modern Search for the Historical Jesus was undertaken by theologians and scholars in the early 18th century, updated by Schweitzer and continues today a serious study by eminent present day scholars. By its very existence it describes a doubt at the heart of the religion. 

This is not a criticism but an observation supporting an underlying source of insecurity which I suggest inspires and provides urgency to that Jewish Problem underlying centuries of persecution, remains a mortal threat to Jewish existence.  

In an earlier chapter, A Christian Introduction to Christendom’s Jewish Problem, I referred to several well-known and respected Christian thinkers who describe the threat of Jewish survival by Christianity as nothing less than “existential,” born of early Christian claims to have replaced Judaism. Augustine’s Witness Doctrine describes “the Jews” eventual voluntary conversion as the final justification for those claims. In the modern world no longer ruled by religious authority Jewish affirmation of Christian “truth” has both lost its relevance regarding Christian claims; and religion no longer even offers protection to Jews previously provided by conversion. Traditional religious anti-Judaism has, through the agency of the “Age of Reason,” transformed that ancient religious fear into today’s secular antisemitism. And as the Jews, a minority dispersed across Europe and the West throughout most of Western history are today a tiny remnant of their past population. As President Roosevelt reminded Henry Morgenthau, his Jewish treasury secretary, “this is a Protestant country, and the…Jews are here under sufferance.” 

Since the Shoah is not an anomaly but a direct outcome of scriptural/theological anti-Jewish animus present in Christianity’s founding documents, I return to our Christian scholars to introduce the Jewish Problem as Christian Insecurity. As these scholars and theologians have described Jewish survival as an existential threat to Christianity, so do they also conclude that which most Jews refuse to even consider: the Holocaust was not “exceptional” but remains a warning to the future: the Final Solution failed its promise of a final and remains a threat going forward.

Describing that continuing threat to Jewish existence will occupy the remainder of this book.

Rosemary Ruether: 

"The Church was at enmity with Judaism… because it [Judaism] refused to be obsolete and threatened, again and again, to become compellingly relevant in a way that could call into question the very foundations of the Christian claim." (p. 63) 

James Carroll: 

"Hatred of the Jews has been no incidental anomaly but a central action of Christian history, reaching to the core of Christian character. Jew hatred’s perversion of the Gospel message launched a history, in other words, that achieved its [semi-] climax in the Holocaust." (p. 21) 

As the scriptures were the groundwork for the Jewish Problem they established anti-Judaism as source and inspiration for centuries of theological expansion. The period from Paul’s epistles to Augustine’s City of God is three hundred years, from Augustine to Luther another thousand years. Judaism “refused to be obsolete;” “the Jews” refused to recognize Paul’s messiah as God’s “Jewish” messiah: these were and remain sources for theological and personal uncertainty regarding fundamental Christian claims. If God sent his son to the Jews, how explain them failing to even recognize His gift? How explain the survival those supposedly punished for rejecting, then murdering His son? 

Uncertainty provides the emotional engine feeding Christianity’s still unsolved Jewish Problem.