Has God Only One Blessing? Judaism as a Source of Christian Self-Understanding

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Has God Only One Blessing? Judaism as a Source of Christian Self-Understanding

  1. Review

    It is the author’s premise, implicit in the title, that God has more than one blessing. This premise is contrary to the main current of Christian history from early in the second century of the Common Era until the present, which posited that Christianity has superceded Judaism and therefore God has only one blessing. Moving strongly against that current, the author upholds a new vision that Christianity and Judaism are "both recipients of God’s blessing and both true ways to God."

    Mary C. Boys is Professor of Practical theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York City. She is a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and is a member of the Christian Scholars Group on Jews and Judaism supported by the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore. If God has more than one blessing, it follows that we need to fashion new images of Synagogue and Church, which reflect a new relationship of "partners in witnessing to and working for the reign of God." The foundation of this new relationship is the replacement of the "radically flawed,"conventional account of Christian origins in relationship to Judaism, with a revised narrative based on contemporary scholarship, which provides a "more faithful interpretation of our history and a stimulus for a deeper understanding of Christian life."

    The author begins her venture by examining the history of the relationship and interactions between Jews and Christians from the first to the twentieth century, which illuminates the origins of the conventional understanding that the church has replaced the Jews as the people of God. Then follows the author’s vision, based on contemporary scholarship, for seeing "Christian origins in context" which provides a revised version of the emergence of Christianity from Judaism. In building this version, a chapter is devoted to each of these questions, (1) What was Judaism like in the first century, particularly in Palestine? (2) Where did Jesus fit in this world? (3) How did the "Jewish renewal movement" that Jesus led become "Christianity?" (4) When and why did Judaism and Christianity part ways? (5) By what process did Christianity develop its distinctive theology?

    The author then deals with three crucial issues in the church today which are raised from this new perspective on Christian origins, "how we interpret Scripture, how we worship as a community of faith, and how do we employ our symbols." It is imperative that these issues be confronted and engaged by the local church and denomination, if the new vision of the relationship between Jews and Christians is to become a reality. She offers many practical and helpful suggestions on ways to approach these issues.

    The final two chapters of the book explore the changing relationships between Judaism and Christianity, between Jews and Christians, on the official level and on the level of the everyday life of the church. One chapter is given to an examination of official church documents, reflecting the church in process of changing perspectives on Jewish-Christian relationships. Since these documents reflect a transformation in the church’s theology, the author believes they deserve widespread dissemination and need extensive discussion. The author declares that in the light of the new Jewish-Christian dialogue, which "provides a glimpse of a new truth about God," the Church and Christians needs to be re-educated. And she offers suggestions of areas that need to be addressed and resources to use.

    There is an Appendix, "God’s Mercy Endures Forever" which provides "Guidelines on the presentation of Jews and Judaism in Catholic preaching." It is the purpose of these guidelines to assist the homilist, during the Christian liturgical year, in dealing with historical, biblical and theological areas, which are sensitive to building a new relationship between Synagogue and Church, between Jew and Christian.

    Mary Boys concludes her magisterial and revolutionary book with these words, "In our time, Ecclesia’s dialogue with Synagoga is meant to draw us into the boundlessness of the Divine. It challenges us to move beyond the narrow limits in which we confine the Holy One, and to acknowledge in our heart of hearts that God, Mother and Father of us all, has many children – and more than one blessing."

or, use the form below to post a comment or a review!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>