Dissing the Jews? Chrysostom

The whole Servetus line came up at Orthodox Bridge.  So I responded fallacy for fallacy.   Horner’s book Future Israel is really eye-opening on this point.   Here’s the problem with terms like anti-semite:   it means whatever political agenda you want it to mean.   Was Chryostom an anti-semite?  Probably, as were most Europeans throughout history.   People will defend him saying, “Yeah, but he was attacking Christians who were adopting Jewish practices.”  Technically, he was.  Here’s the problem:  his specific comments are more often against the race of Jews themselves.   And what about attacking Jewish practices?   It’s a dangerous line to walk:  on one hand, we affirm the sufficiency of Christ’s work (though many anchoretic traditions have problems affirming the sufficiency of Christ’s priestly death and intercession for us!) and so we can’t go back to shadows.  But if we follow the example of Paul, we have to affirm that we are indeed grafted onto the branch (and as a footnote, Paul explicitly says, contra Roman and Eastern claims, that a church can be cut off!).   We must further be cautious in condemning specific Jewish practices that were mandated by God.  Paul says in Romans 9 that to the Jews belong (present tense, interestingly enough) the covenants and the oracles and the fathers.

Horner, quoting Parkes, notes

In a series of eight Homilies Against the Jews, his tirade knows no limits. James Parkes writes: There is no sneer too mean, no gibe to bitter for him to fling at the Jewish people. No text is too remote to be able to be twisted to their confusion, no argument is too casuistical, no blasphemy too startling for him to employ. .. . On the strength of Psalm 106:37, he states that they ‘sacrificed their sons and daughters to devils: they outraged nature; and overthrew from their foundations the laws of relationship. They are become worse than the wild beasts, and for no reason at all, with their own hands they murder their own offspring, to worship the avenging devils who are the foes of our life. . . .The synagogues of the Jews are the homes of idolatry and devils, even though they have no images in them. They are worse even than heathen circuses. . . . I hate the Jews for they have the law and they insult it.

Parkes, Conflict of the Church and Synagogue, pp. 163-164, 166.

The distinction between Jew and Judaizer in Chrysostom doesn’t appear to hold water.   While we can appreciate that he wants his remarks to transcend mere racial epithets (though his words really don’t help), it appears that he is attacking Jewish practices.    Here the historical data is not as helpful.   Were the Jews engaging in cannibalistic, Talmudic practices?  Many hard-core traditionalists want to say yes, but there really isn’t any definitive evidence either way.  Charity would require us to say “no.”  The defender of Chrysostom faces a difficulty at this point:   the only way Chrysostom’s charges of devilry hold water is if one accepts the belief common in the middle ages that Jews sacrificed virgin goyim girls, or if one adopts the Protocols of Zion line.    Few moderns are willing to do that.  Failing that, how can one justify Chrysostom’s rhetoric?

So what precisely is Chrysostom angry about?  If all he is saying is that New Covenant Christians should not place themselves under an Old Covenant yoke, then his language is fairly unremarkable.   His commentary on Psalm 106, however, suggests that is not the case.  What happens in Jewish synagogues?   A few chants, reading of the Law and prophets?  In fact, many anchorites boast that they follow from the Jewish liturgy.  If that is so, do they own up to Chrysostom’s charge of idolatry and devilry?   How can they avoid it?

Or is his antipathy towards the Jewish flavor of the synagogue?  I suspect that might be it.  And this is a problem with many branches (!) of Christendom.  There is a tendency to spiritualize the promises made to the people of God in the Old Testament to mute the “carnal” elements of God’s kingdom on earth.

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