THE CASE FOR (OR AGAINST) JESUS
Kol Ha’Ir, May 23 1997, by M. Sfarad
In late 1948, at Israel’s newly formed Supreme Court, the judges were called to a secret meeting. Before them was the first in a string of appeals asking for a retrial of Jesus of Nazareth.
The appeal, made anonymously by a Dutchman, asks the court to clear Jesus of the charges against him based on “new evidence” which wasn’t available to his 1st century judges. This includes the fact of the establishment of the state of Israel, proof that God’s redemption truly has been accomplished. Some appeals asked that new charges be brought against Jesus, in one case for practicing medicine without a license; still others requested that the original trial be declared a mistrial on various grounds, such the illegality of holding a trial at night.
As revealed in the autobiography of a former Supreme Court Justice the appeals, whether for or against Jesus, were based on the assumption that Israel’s Supreme Court was the successor of the long defunct Sanhedrin. While flattered by this comparison, the Justices unanimously decided to reject all appeals on this subject and to keep their existence hidden. This was done in order to avoid religious or political offense to the members of any nation or faith.
The article includes details of some of the appeals, as well as a long excerpt from the book of Matthew, describing Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin. Thanks to the newspaper, for giving the public an opportunity to read about our Lord!
WAR IN TIBERIAS?
Kol Ha’Emek V’Ha’Galil, May 9; Yom Ha’Shishi, May 16 1997
According to an orthodox “spy” planted in the Messianic community in Tiberias, the members of this community are preparing for a Syrian attack. Here’s his report, with the comments of a local pastor following in brackets.
Following a prophetic dream, the pastor of a Messianic congregation told his flock to prepare for war, going so far as to give them a “shopping list” from God. [The pastor in question says neither the dream nor the “instructions” have any basis in reality.] This preparation for war is supported by the Galtronics factory, which manufactures – you’ve got it! – gas masks and other protective equipment, and can make more money if people are preparing for non-conventional warfare… [In fact, Galtronics manufactures antennas and other communications equipment – not gas masks.] In their panic to stock up on non-perishable food items, believers in Tiberias have left behind empty shelves in local markets – so their neighbors will just have to go without…
In addition, the Galilee Experience [a Christian tourist attraction] is said to be the site of unabashed missionizing, where new immigrant “recruits” are paid 1500 shekels to participate in meetings. And for unwary youth, the cult offers missionary disco evenings and movies. Another claim is that the Messianic community in Tiberias numbers 400 families [leaders wish this was true] and that they use financial and political pressure (mostly through Galtronics, which is a big local employer) to achieve their ends, such as the establishment of a private Messianic school for their children.
The “spy” boasts of the cult-leaders’ delight in catching such a “big fish,” and of his meteoric rise in the ranks of the group. He even convinced them to postpone a picnic from Shabbat to a weekday, so he and his family, supposedly in the process of breaking with orthodoxy,
could attend. And at Yad L’Achim, the joke is that when Syrian President Assad, a fellow anti-missionary, hears the Christians’ claim that only they will survive the coming war, he’ll decide not to attack.
The University, Spring 1997
In a recent Tel-Aviv University conference on Early Christianity, Israeli and visiting researchers studied the relationship between ancient Judaism and the Early Church. The New Testament was presented as a direct continuation of certain developments in the Jewish community in the second Temple period, and as a resource which can shed light on Judaism itself. Subjects addressed included the Jewish background of Christian messianic expectations, Jewish women in early Christianity, and Jewish Halacha in the Early Church.
THE LIMITS OF TOLERANCE
The University, Spring 1997
In another conference hosted by the Tel-Aviv University, speakers addressed anti-semitism and the relationships between religions. Prof. Steven Katz from Boston argued that both Christianity and nazism were infected with anti-semitism, though with a difference. Christian anti-semitism, according to Katz, is theological and limited, while nazism is racist and without limits. “The line from Paul to Auschwitz isn’t direct,” in his words. He went on to state that the New Testament is the source of western anti-semitism, as it presents Jews negatively: as blind, fleshly and unredeemed. Christian persecution of Jews was always supported by theological arguments, but the same time the Church was committed to Jewish survival, since they were seen as necessary for the appearance of Messiah. Thus the idea that in the end, Jews will “see the light” and convert to Christianity. In contrast, Katz presented nazism as an ideological belief in racial purity which lacked a conscience, and saw the murder of Jews as a moral imperative.
Prof. Jacob Neusner of Florida spoke on intolerance in all three monotheistic religions. All religions tend to see outsiders as the “enemy,” which engenders this attitude. Despite the flourishing dialogue between liberal Jews and Christians, especially in the US, the contacts have not penetrated the traditional “heart” of either religion. Only when orthodox believers from the two camps meet, says Neusner, will there be an authentic meeting of the two faiths. The study of comparative religion can give us tools to uncover tolerance and friendship between the members of different faiths, and to refute the supposed theological basis for intolerance.
Prof. David Helholm from Oslo examined the Early Church’s intolerance of women and slaves, as well as Jews. Other speakers addressed “selective“ tolerance, Greco-Roman attitudes to foreign religions, and modern-day religious intolerance.
The London Times, May 15; Jewish Chronicle, May 23; Israel Radio, May 26; The Jerusalem Post, May 28; The Jerusalem Report, May 29; Yated Ne’eman Eng. Ed., May 30 1997
All the above reports contain the wording of the proposed law, details of the responses of the local Messianic and world-wide Christian communities, and the official government attitude of it’s being a private bill that will probably not pass into law. There is no actual news in these articles for those who have been following the story from its beginning, but it is encouraging to see it make it into the mainstream media so that it can no longer be completely hidden from the general public.
Editor’s note: we recently stumbled on a 1985 press release of a bill presented to the Knesset by the late Meir Kahane, compared with which the current anti-missionary proposal is quite mild. In short, it would punish any activity “with the purpose of getting Jews to abandon their faith and accept principles contrary… or unbecoming to Judaism” even if said Jews “came of their own free will and without being solicited” with expulsion of non-Jews or a 5 year prison term for anyone “born Jewish.” Repeat offenders would face harsher sentences, including confiscation of property. Praise God that one didn’t pass!!
The Jerusalem Post, May 1997, by Dan Izenberg
…. Activists deliberately target the weaker elements in society, believing them to be the most impressionable….; The … movement seeks to wean secular children and teenagers away from their homes and the traditions and values of their families…
The rhetoric sounds familiar, but this time it’s being applied to those who usually apply it to Messianic/Christian believers. In this 5 part series, the Teshuva – literally repentance – movement, gets a fairly critical treatment usually reserved for non-Jewish missionaries. The articles tell stories of teens turned against their families, marathon lectures for potential initiates where, according to the author, participants are brainwashed through emotional appeals combined with sleep deprivation, and paid “retreats” for interested families at hotels. Many of these organizations receive government funding, and the orthodox community offers “converts” socio-economic incentives such as cheap child-care and subsidies for studying at Yeshiva.
EDITH STEIN CANONIZED
Ha’Aretz, May 23 1997
Jewish organizations are protesting the canonization of Edith Stein, a Polish-Jewish convert to Catholicism. Stein is credited with the healing of the daughter of an American priest who prayed to her after the girl swallowed a lethal dose of Tylenol. Doctors (including a Jewish pediatrician) say her recovery was a miracle.
The protests center on the fact that Stein died, as a Jew, at Auschwitz. The head of the World Jewish Congress expressed concerns that canonization might obscure her Jewish roots and minimize the fact that over 90% of her fellow victims were Jews.
On the other hand, the father of the girl who was healed hopes that Stein’s life will be an example to Christians: “She lived with the Jewish people, prayed at their side, and suffered and died in their midst. This is the way that all Christians should relate to the Jewish nation.”
NEWSPAPERS USED IN THIS EDITION:
Kol Ha’Ir: Jerusalem leftist weekly. Pro-Palestinian, anti-religious, objective towards believers.
Kol Ha’Emek V’Ha’Galil: Northern weekly, published in Upper Nazareth.
Yom Ha’Shishi: Jerusalem religious weekly. Hostile to believers.
Ha’Aretz: National daily, published in Tel-Aviv, mostly objective towards believers.
The University: Tel-Aviv University periodical.
The Jerusalem Post: National English language daily, published in Jerusalem. Tends to the religious right, but careful and relatively fair towards believers (has a large Christian readership). Friendly towards right-wing political Christianity.
The Jerusalem Report: English language bi-monthly published in Jerusalem, world-wide distribution. Politically centrist or left of center. Sensitive and objective towards believers.
Yated Ne’eman: English language religious/political weekly, published in Jerusalem. Very hostile to believers.