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May 27, 1966 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1966-05-27

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Fr. Raymond Brown's Commentary on John
Denies Evangelist's Gospel is Anti-Semitic

The New Testament Gospels,
Matthew and John, have been call-
ed the most anti Jewish. The film-
ing of the former already was
referred to in The Jewish News
Commentary (April 29) and its pre-
judice-inciting contents were
indicated.
In "The Gospel According to
John I-XII," published as Volume
29 of Anchor Bible series by Dou-
bleday, Raymond E. Brown, S. S.,
professor of New Testament at St.
Mary's Seminary in Baltimore,
makes the specific statement:
"John is not anti-Semitic; the
evangelist is condemning not race
or people but opposition to Jesus."
This statement appears in the in-
troduction to this Anchor Bible
which contains Fr. Brown's trans-
lation of John and his voluminous
notes and commentaries.
This volume contains John,
chapters ilxii. Chapters xiii-xxi will
be dealt with in Anchor Bible Vol-
ume 30, also to be edited and
translated by Fr. Brown.
This immense work is replete
with references to other Gos-
pels, to biblical and talmudic
source s, and to midrashic
themes. The Catholic author of
this highly scholarly work re-
sorts to many Hebraisms. In
nearly 700 pages (including the
introduction) he makes serious
efforts to prove that the fre-
quent references to "the Jews"
are not intended as slurs. It is
a highly scholarly work. Yet it
hardly negates the impressions
that are left that there are anti-
Jewish undertones as well as
direct declarations that are an-
tagonistic to Jews.
Much is said here about the
Pharisees, and in his introduction
Fr. Brown states: "The Judaism of
the time in which the Gospel was
written was Pharisaic Judaism."
Regarding the Gospel's dating, Fr.
Brown points out that "John was
dated very little, even to the sec-
ond half of the second century,"
But his own view is: "The Gospel
was written . . . after A.D. 70 when
many of the religious distinctions
and groupings of Jesus' time no
longer had meaning; the destruc-
tion of the Temple had simplified
Judaism." He adds: "Thus, only
the chief priests and the Pharis-
ees remain in John — the chief
priests because their role in the
Sanhedrin and the trials of Jesus
was too essential a part of the
story to be forgotten, the Pharis-
ees because they are precisely
that Jewish sect which survived
the calamity of 70."
The emphasis on the Phari-
sees, the one-sidedness of ref-
erences to the trial and the mis-
representation of the role of
the Sanhedrin — Prof. Solomon
Zeitlin's "Who Crucified Jesus?"
amply explained the misrepre-
sentations — and the numerous
statements about the Jews de-
siring to kill Jesus, point
emphatically to a prejudice-
inciting document, in spite of
Fr. Brown's sincere desire to
refute it.
In one of his commentaries to
chapter viii, Brown writes: "Jesus
has said that the Jews are not the
true children of Abraham, nor the
true children of God; in the third
and final sub-division of this sec-
tion they answer by challenging
his claims about who he is.
Jesus has told the Jews that they
are of the devil; now they say that
he is the one who has the demon,
Jesus says that he has nothing to
do with a demon . . . He answers
by saying that he is casting out
demons (and thus doing the work
of God) and this is not the work of
Satan. In the charges against
Jesus of being illegitimate, of be-
ing a Samaritan and of being de-
mented, we have forerunners of
the personal attacks on Jesus that
became part of Jewish apologetics
against Christianity." And in par-
entheses the editor-translator adds:
"Needless to say, there was a cor-
responding vilification of the Jew
by Christian apologists." While
this qualifying statement presents

-

both sides of an issue, it does not
remove the prejudicial tones in
the text under consideration.
Fr. Brown's is a literally and
critically enormous work that will
be treasured by Bible students. He
goes to many sources for evalua-
tive material. He makes great ef-
fort to prove that only the oppon-
ents of Jesus among Jews are the
ones meant by the repetitive "the
Jews." Yet, the average reader of
the Bible, the unlettered teacher
who will read the text literally,
won't remove the anti-Semitic tex-
ture when he reads "the Jews
looking for a chance to kill him"
. . . (vii:27); then the Jews got
rocks to stone him. . . (x:31).
Indeed, Fr. Brown frequently
tones down the antagonistic fac-
tors. For instance, he points out
that "when the Sanhedrin au-
thorities scoff at Jesus' Galilean
origins and are invited to hear
Jesus speak for himself, they
turn a deaf ear . ." It is inter-
esting to note that, while the
New Testament authors are hos-
tile to the Sanhedrin, from time
to time they do point out the
presence of calm and honest
men in this assembly, for ex-
ample, Nicodemus (chapter vii)
and Gamaliel in Acts v 34." Is
this sufficinet for the average
reader for whom the texts them-
selves are the guides to judging
the Gospels?
The frequent references to the
Pharisees, the numerous comments
on the Samaritans and the many
parables are of great value in
reading the Catholic scholar's in-
terpretations of the Gospel of
John. Passover themes and expla-
nations of the Seder and the ask-
ing of the questions by children
may sound puzzling to _Jewish
readers. To offset the puzzling ele-
ments, Fr. Brown, comparing John
vi and John iv in their references
to the Passover ritual, states: "As
far as we can see, the question and
answer format of vss. 25-34 (ch.
vi) is part of the technique of
Johannine misunderstanding. It
has a perfect parallel in ch. iv,
where there is no question of the
influence of the Passover ritual."
There are numerous references in
the Gospel and in the commen-
taries to other Jewish festivals.
• "John has fewer direct Old Test-
ament citations than have the
other Gospels," Fr. Brown states,
but in John, Jesus is referred to
more frequently as Rabbi. One
of the instances of such references
is when he is addressed by this
title by Nicodemus (iii:2)• Fr.
Brown notes that this title "re-
flects a general attitude toward
Jesus as a teacher." Later he no-
ted that "they are coming to Jesus
more as to a prophet than to a
rabbi or expert on the law."
Fr. Brown's comments include
that he was the Messiah, or
the Prophet Elijah, the Baptist
having disclaimed "any of the
traditional eschatological roles
for himself," but later on some
of his followers may have pro-
claimed him the Messiah, "es-
pecially in view of the evidence
in Luke iii 15 that people
thought that John the Baptist
might be the Messiah."
In his several explanations of
the references in John to "the
Jews;" Fr. Brown states that "the
Fourth Gospel uses the Jews as
almost a technical title for the re-
ligious authorities, particularly
those in Jerusalem, who are hostile
to Jesus." This is part of the ex-
planation in this work on John
that "the term 'the Jews' has
nothing to do with ethnic, geo-
graphical or religious differenti-
ation." Indeed, this Christological
viewpoint is supplemented by
statements that "John the Baptist
came that Jesus might be revealed
to Israel" and that "in Johannine
thought, if the Jews had truly be-
lieved in Moses, they would be-
lieve in Jesus."
Fr. Brown's comments on the
Samaritans, his review of their
enmity towards the Jews and their
leanings toward Jesus, are inter-

esting. Jesus and the Sabbath and
the controversy that arose over
healing on the Sabbath also is of
interest as a conflicting view on
Judaism and as a reference that
undoubtedly tends to arouse anti-
Jewishness.
This Anchor Bible makes a good
Christological case. It hardly re-
moves the established view that
John is a work antagonistic to
Jews, serving to add to an ancient
prejudice. It will be additionally
interesting to judge Fr. Brown's
subsequent. work — his comments
on chapters xiii-xxi, the remain-
ing Epistles of John.
Fr. Brown's is the commentative
work of a liberal theologian but it
cannot explain away the basic
prejudicial anti-Jewish elements in
John.
Attention should be given to
the concluding paragraph of the
preface to this volume which re-
fers to the general editor of the
Anchor Bible series and states:
"By chance this volume has a
publication date which falls very
close to the 75th birthday of Prof.
William F. Albright, born May 24,
1891. The writer remembers that
his first article on John was the
product of one of the Professor's
seminars at Johns Hopkins Uni-
versity. And so he would like to
take this occasion to acknowledge

Daniel, Cyrus and Babylon Themes
Utilized in Edmonds"Joer Fiction

Joel was the second of the Minor
Prophets. His warnings against in-
equities, his predictions of impend-
ing destruction are contained in
the four-chapter Book of the Holy
Scriptures.
A well written story about a lad
in Babylon where Jews lived in
exile, entitled "Joel of the Hanging
Gardens," by I. G. Edmonds, pub-
lished by Lippincott, links the lad
who is the hero of this story to
Babylon in the time of Daniel—and
of Cyrus who facilitated the return
of the exiles to their homeland.
But Daniel was not of the time
of Cyrus — they were 300 years
apart in history.
Nevertheless, the story as re-
lated by Edmond s, an able
public relations man, is of con-
siderable interest and his narra-
tive for young people has its
enchantment. His bit of fiction
about ancient times and the
craving of Jews to return from
enslavement to the Holy Land
depicts how, in Babylon, under

Belshazzar, Jews were under the
ruler's submission. Daniel began
to organize the masses. The lad
Joel helped him. Having labored
in the Hanging Gardens area
near Belshazzar's palace, he
was able to take the rebels
through secret passages to vie.
tory for Cryus' forces for the
destruction of the Babylonian
empire.
Thus we have a combination of
prophecy by Daniel, who predicted
Belshazzar's fall -and Cyrus' vic-
tory; the rise of Cyrus and his role
in aiding the return of Jews to
their homeland; the aid of the
young like Joel.
There is nothing in Edmonds'
story to indicate that Joel was the
future prophet, but the boy is
depicted as a dedicated lad who
worked tirelessly for his people's
freedom. A brave young girl,
Nin-Bel, plays an interesting role
as an assistant to her liberty-
intoxicated fellow-Jews.
Reference to assimilationism
among Jews who submitted to
Babylonian enslavement, descrip-
tion of the passionate desire for
the Return and the sacrifices made
for that ideal are high marks in
the Edmonds story.

frankly his debt to the scholarship,
example and generosity of the
great biblical scholar. Ad multos
annos."
From all quarters, from all
faiths, comes the echoing greeting
for a happy birthday to Prof. Al- THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
bright. —P. S. 40—Friday, May 27, 1966

Dr. Baer's History Reviews Era of Inquisition;
Disproves Accusations of Jews by Spaniards

In the second volume of "A His-
tory of the Jews in Christian
Spain," published by the Jewish
Publication Society, Dr. Yitzhak
Baer continues his account of one
of the most important eras in Jew-
ish h i s t or y. Commencing this
volume with the era of decline in
Aragon, he describes the destruc-
tion of the Jewish communities and
the conversions and the disputa-
tions at Tortosa-1391-1414—and
goes into detail in outlining the
converso problem, the Inquisition
and the expulsions of the Jews
from Spain.
The tragedy of the converted
Jews—conversi—and of those who
returned to the Jewish fold, the
disputations in which many schol-
ars were involved, the effort at re-
taining a status quo during the
years when "even the best men of
the age" sought only to safeguard
the existing conditions, the emer-
gence of the inquisitorial practices
and the expulsion provide valuable
data, making this an outstanding
historical record.
The role of clergy and of mon-
archs, sometimes at odds, later
collaborating, is indicated here.
The conflicts in the Aljamas-
the Jewish communities—simi-
larly provide valuable historical
data necessary for an under-
standing of the problems that
faced Spanish Jewry and were
part of the struggle of that
period.
In the course of the developing
situations which led to the destruc-
tion of the Spanish Jewish com-
munities which had played such
vital roles in history, the criminal
jurisdictions granted the Aljamas
were revoked and soon Ferdinand
and Isabella began a policy of
solving the converso problem
"along the lines proposed by the
most extreme Christian fanatics,
namely, to extirpate heresy and to
take harsh measures against the
Jews so as to render them incap-
able of influencing the Christian
population."
These policies were developed
step by step, and the revocation of
the Aljamas' rights was effected in
1476.
Torquemada's activities, the roles
of the inquisitors, scores of inci-
dents involving "forced repen-
tance" and actual cases are re-
ported in this work. There were
numerous trials under auspices of
the Inquisition and they were con-
cerned mainly "with the uncover-
ing of judaizing tendencies among
the conversi and with the influ-
ence wielded on the latter by the

Jewish community itself." It is a remained from its beginnings, and
"crude and typically Medieval anti- thus also in its further develop-
Semitism" that is portrayed as part ment, an independent institution
of these trials.
operating according to internal
"The expulsion of the Jews logical laws. Both the general
from Spain was a political phe- papal Inquisition of the 13th
nomenon without counterpart in Century and the Castilian Inquisi-
the Middle Ages," Prof. Baer tion of Torquemada were basically
writes. "When, as also happened —except of course for the many
about that time, the Jews were irregular acts perpetrated by them
banished from Germany, or from both—courts organized according
France in the preceding cen- to comprehensive rules and reguIa-
turies, the expulsions were tions, which were drawn up and
either partial or were not carried put into practice in the first half
out in a single operation, so that of the 13th Century. This fact
the Jewish population of both has nothing to do with an ethical
countries was accustomed to a and historical appraisal of the in-
migratory existence. The only stitution as such. It merely proves
parallel to the Spanish Expulsion how absurd it is to attempt to put
is the expulsion of the Jews from the responsibility for its legal
England in 1290, which also in- forms upon the Jews.
volved an entire territory. The
"In the lines of development of
English Jews were not, however, the ecclesiastical inquisition, on
the equals of the Spanish Jews the one hand, and that of Jewish
either numerically or in over-all criminal jurisdiction on the other,
quality . . . " there may perhaps be seen some
The sufferings that ensued, the analogous features: but principally,
inability of many Jews to pay for both developments are limited by
passage to shipowners in their their own inherent laws.
flight from Spain, caused many
"The inquisitional court was a
again to become Christians, only to tribunal for matters of faith auth-
be exposed again to the terrors of orized by the pope and independ-
the Inquisition.
ent of the local and provincial in-
This account was written by Dr. stitutions. It wandered, according
Baer in 1936 and therefore is not to the task it had to perform, fror
applicable to the German situation. place to place. In the Jewish cot.
Of special interest in Dr. Baer's munities, treatment of religious
book is an appendix in which the questions was part • of the internal
author deals with an attempt re- discipline and remained essentially
cently by two Spanish scholars, the concern of the local community.
Americo Castro and Claudio San- Theoretical religious matters Ben-
ches, "to prove that the ecclesiasti- erally were not an object of ju-
cal Spanish Inquisition of the Tor- dicial or political procedure, as far
quemada type was actually 'the as it was not a matter of denying
diabolical invention' of Spanish rabbinic tradition in principle. This
Jewry." Dr. Baer disputes such problem ceased to exist in western
charges and quotes cases to show Europe after the 12th Century,
the fallacy of such arguments.
with the disappearance of the
Dr. Baer shows how Castro Karaites. The public discussion of
and Sanches confused and mis- abstract questions of faith arose
construed the Hebrew term again in the Jewish communities
"malsin" — informer — and he during the 13th C e n t u r y, and
states: "The informer against this obviously in connection with
whom court action is taken in events in the Christian world. But
the cases cited from the Jewish never have there been in Jewish
court is an individual who, by communities special tribunals for
going to the Gentiles and relat- matters of faith."
ing vicious falsehoods concern-
An important historic purpose
ing Jewish law and religion, en- in clarifying many facts, in fully
dangers the very existence of evaluating the Inquisition and the
Jewish communities in the Dias- tortures, the expulsion from Spain
pora. It does not properly refer and its attendant occurrences, is
to the slandering of individuals; served by Dr. Baer's work.
and it is almost superfluous to
"A History of - the Jews in Chris-
mention that the testimony of tian Spain" was translated from
`malsinim' was, on principle, not the Hebrew edition and several
accepted in Jewish courts."
scholars participated in editing the
To disprove the attempt to translation. Included among them
equate the Inquisition with Jewish are Miss Lotte Levensohn, Hillel
practices, Dr. Baer writes:
Halkin, Dr. Shulamith Nardi and
"The inquisition of the Church Mrs. Hertzel Fishman.

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