Jesus and the Canaanite woman

Last Sunday’s gospel is not a popular one, but one could argue that it’s the key to the whole Bible.  That key is

God loves the Jews best.

People tend to respond emotionally to this and think it means that if they are not Jews then God doesn’t love them.  No, it means that if you’re not a Jew, God doesn’t love you as much, but He still does love you, just as a man can love his dog, just not as much as his children.  Remember, in Dante’s telling, even the inhabitants of the humblest level of Heaven are satisfied with their place.

This key to the Bible shouldn’t be so surprising.  Most of the Bible is the Old Testament, which is not exactly shy about our God being the tribal God of the Hebrews.  Thus, chunks of the Old Testament seem boring or meaningless to most Christian readers.  Some Christians probably feel guilty about this and are loathe to admit to themselves that they find the Old Testament much less enjoyable than, say, The Odyssey.  For others, it is a scandal that must be overcome by theologians teasing out deep spiritual truths from every grisly episode of Israelite military history.  The Bible being God’s book, such truths are not infrequently to be had, so these theologians have done worthwhile work.  However, perhaps the guilt and the scandal can be eased if we acknowledge that most of the Bible is not written primarily for us.  Imagine sitting at a friend’s house listening to your friend converse with his family as they share family anecdotes.  Perhaps you would find some of them interesting or charming, but you would not expect to be interested in another family’s stories the way that they are.  With the Old Testament, the case is more analogous to reading love letters written to someone else.

Paul in the second reading is also clear that the salvation of his “race” is part of God’s ultimate plan.  It may even be the most important part (like “life from the dead”!), but Paul seems to think the salvation of the Gentiles is valuable in itself, not only as a way of making the Chosen People jealous.

God’s favoritism toward the Jews is manifest, even apart from the Bible, from their spiritual ascendency over Christians.  Christians accept the condemnation of their civilization, their “legacy of shame”, because they recognize from their inmost hearts the superior authority of Jewish prophetic revolutionary moral critique.  Unlike the case of Catholics, no one has to worry about whether there will still be Jews in a hundred years.

The danger of trading tribal deities for monotheism is that, even if it turns out that the one true God’s plan does center on a special people, that special people is unlikely to happen to be yours.  In fact, the universe being a very big place, perhaps we should feel lucky that God chose to concern Himself particularly with any group of homo sapiens.

17 Responses

  1. I agree that this is pretty much the inevitable conclusion from the historically-usual practice of reading the Bible such that all its ‘Books’ are given ‘equal’ significance and authority – and (pretty much) the same result comes from giving the New Testament priority but with all its parts equally weighted (for example Matthew is solidly Jewish-centred).

    That God loves the Jews best is not – however – what I get from according the Fourth (‘John’) Gospel primary scriptural authority (as being the only eye-witness account by a disciple).

    As so often, the outcomes are buried in the assumptions – and the assumptions (e.g. that All parts of the Bible Are Equal in Authority) are seldom explicitly known, nor are they acknowledged to be assumptions, nor if the fact that assumptions dictate evidence acknowledged.

  2. It seems to be common for parents to love their difficult child more. Maybe the difficult child needs more love.

  3. Too clever by half. Don’t the Jews get a vote on who is on Team Jew and who isn’t? They were and are pretty clear about Jesus Himself. After all, how many precepts of the Law did our Lord actually break, in the process of ‘fulfilling’ it? Not to mention the supreme outrage, an increasingly obvious breaking of the First Commandment — placing Himself as God with God.

    Not to mention that whole New — as in “New” — Covenant thing. And that trinitarian and sacramental thing. That whole Bridegroom and His bride thing. So what ‘God’ are you talking about? Isn’t that guy who the Jews themselves say is not on Team Jew, God?. And isn’t that guy whose One Sacrifice now makes Him inseparable, One Flesh, with His one and only bride, the Catholic Church — isn’t He God?

    In the end, He abandoned Team Jew to cleave to His bride. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife.” [Gen 2:24] That meta-narrative is in the Bible, too. So who is this ‘God’ who clearly loves Team Jew — and not His one and only bride — the best?

  4. Bruce Charlton: In your reading, does the Gospel of John contradict God’s favoritism of the Jews, or does it just not address it? If the latter, then accepting the favoritism for the Jews would be a matter not of granting the other books of the Bible equal authority but of granting them any authority at all.

  5. JohnK,

    No, the Jews don’t have any say in being loved best. The favored son sometimes rebels against his parents. Love is sometimes unrequited. The woman who settles may still secretly pine for the man who broke her heart and forgot her.

  6. I don’t think your conclusions are warranted because of the following reasons:

    1) God’s favoritism for a specific people does not automatically imply that God loves this people more than other people.

    A plot that it is repeated once and again in the Old Testament is God’s choosing a specific individual (a prophet, a king) to play a specific role in the history of the salvation.

    This individual is chosen to do God’s will in a specific situation, which often benefits other people. For example, King David is chosen to establish the nation of Israel so the people of Israel reaps the material and spiritual benefits of King David’s actions. So it’s not that this individual is better or more loved that others: it fits better in God’s salvation plan.

    The same way, the people of Israel is chosen because it fits better in the salvation plan of God. Old Testament prophets prophesized that all peoples would end up worshiping the God of Israel.

    So the people of Israel is a means for all the mankind to have access to salvation, which was the goal all along, since Adam and Eve (as representatives of mankind) sinned.

  7. 2) It’s true that Jesus expresses favoritism for the Jews once and again. The reason is “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15, 24). It is clear that Jesus’ mission was to establish the Kingdom among the Jews.

    HOWEVER, Jesus announces once and again that the Kingdom will soon arrive to the Gentiles and that the Jews are going to be replaced by people from all over the world as a People of God (see John 4, 21-24), the Parable of the Great Banquet (Matthew 22, 1-14 and Luke 14, 15-24.), the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (Matthew 21, 33–46, Mark 12, 1–12 and Luke 20, 9–19) and other places.

    While the mission of Jesus was for the Jews, this mission was only the start of the Kingdom and soon after Jesus “the gospel of the kingdom would be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matthew 24, 14).

  8. 3) And this is a very common mistake. Today’s Jews are not the Jews of the Bible. They have the same name and they are related but they are not the same.

    In times of Jesus, most Jews lived in the diaspora. As Rodney Stark statistically proved, the vast majority of these diaspora Jews converted to Christianity. Some of the Jews of Israel also converted to Christianity.

    The Jews that rejected Jesus kept on with their ancient rituals in the Jerusalem Temple until the Temple was destroyed. Then, during the second century, they created a new religion, based on the Talmud, since the center of the Old Testament religion was the Jerusalem Temple and this Temple was no longer available.

    Today’s Jews are the descendants of the people that converted to this new Talmudic faith. They are not the Jews of the Bible in a genetic or religious way. Not in their customs. For example, the Jews of the Bible were patrilineal while today’s Jew are matrilineal. As Ronz Unz, which is a Jew, says:

    “traditionally religious Jews pay little attention to most of the Old Testament, and even very learned rabbis or students who have devoted many years to intensive study may remain largely ignorant of its contents. Instead, the center of their religious world view is the Talmud, an enormously large, complex, and somewhat contradictory mass of secondary writings and commentary built up over many centuries, which is why their religious doctrine is sometimes called “Talmudic Judaism.”

    The foundational myth of this modern tribe says that they are the same people as the people of the Bible. But this is simply not true. Not from a genetic point of view nor from a religious point of view.

    The ignorance of Christians of this topic is astonishing. Christians go to Mass and they imagine that the people appearing in Sunday’s Mass Readings is the same people as modern Jews. It’s like believing the characters of the Odyssey are the same people as modern Greeks.

  9. Sorry for my messing of the English language. It is not my native tongue. For example, the last paragraph should be read as follows:

    The ignorance of Christians about this topic is astonishing. Christian people go to Mass and they imagine that the characters appearing in Sunday’s Mass Readings belong to the same ethnic group as modern Jews. It’s like believing the characters of the Iliad belong to the same ethnic group as modern Greeks.

  10. As a converso, and a Levite at that, let me just say that it goes: (1) Conversos, (2) all other Catholics, (3) non-Catholic Christians, (4) Jews. Jesus’ best friends were all conversos, of course. We can speculate that Robert Novak is in a nicer part of heaven than Michael Novak.

    “Unlike the case of Catholics, no one has to worry about whether there will still be Jews in a hundred years”

    The blackpilling you engage in on this blog is astounding. Diaspora Jews are dying out through intermarriage. The religion is evolving into a national cult centered on Israel, dominated by the Hasidim–the absolute last group of Jews anyone should be taking religious instruction from. Obviously evangelization is out of the question. We may soon live in a multi-polar world where every regional power has nukes. Israel is densely populated and smaller than New Jersey. Not a great situation!

    The future belongs to Catholics and weird restorationist offshoots of Christianity like Mormonism. China, or maybe even some formerly Muslim areas, might be Christian or at least some weird new form of monotheism based on charismatic Christianity in 200 years.

    The Protestants however are doomed. The liberals die off. The denominational/confessional conservatives (Missouri Synod Lutherans, Orthodox Presbyterians, etc.) are less popular among non-liberals than generic non-denom or baptist evangelicals or charismatics, because most people don’t care about the details of Calvinist or Lutheran theology. I suspect the non-denoms (based on sola scriptura) will loose ground to the charismatics, Mormons, and new similar groups that base their faiths on continuing public revelation.

    This will leave the Catholic Church in the unique position as being the largest religion, with a global, unified organizational structure and beliefs that somewhat resemble historical christianity. To the extent that traditional protestant denominations and evangelical non-denominationals stick around, they will effectively need to recognize the Pope as the natural leader of “historical Christianity” (that looks to the Bible, the early creeds, and views public revelation to have ceased) against these new sects based on new prophets that deny core doctrines.

    The liberal faction of the church, and the changes since VII, are bad, but what’s remarkable is that things haven’t been worse. I think things will stabilize before things go full Church of England, and the while the church will be relativity smaller, it will still be the world’s largest religion and identifiably Catholic. Internal rot is worse for the long term health of the faith then persecution is.

    (I know this discussion isn’t the point of your post, but sometimes you really seem to believe that Catholicism will cease to exist in 50 years).

  11. @imnobdy00:

    I suspect that Unz was raised in a extreme Hasidic cult, or something like it, and that his ancestors were from way out in the sticks in Eastern Europe, and this led to his extreme reaction.

    Its of course true that the modern Jewish religion is NOT Second Temple Judaism of Jesus’ time, which was based on temple sacrifices and lacked the Talmud. Its also true that modern Jews have alot of non-Levantine genetics through 2000 years of interbreeding with gentiles, or gentiles converting. The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges remarked that Jews are “brown haired Slavs” who “speak a germanic language, Yiddish”.

    I’m not convinced that what was true for certain Jewish sects was necessarily true for all other groups. They all had the Talmud, so the basic point that they did not practice the pre-70 AD holds, but not all of them were kabbalistis, or had a panthesitic or gnostic understanding of God. The Hasidim don’t believe that “God is One”, but Maimonidides did. While the Talmud is 1500 years old, what we call “Orthodox Judaism” did not develop until the 1700s.

    As for genetics, while there is a lot of intermixing, the idea that all the original Jews converted or died out and the group was replaced wholesale by the Khazars or whatever doesn’t make sense to me, because modern Jews don’t look like Turks or Mongols. More likely:

    Mizrahi Jews are Levantine Jews + Arabs, Sephardic Jews are Levantine Jews + Spanish/Dutch/Italians, Ashkenazim are Levantine Jews + Germans/Slavs (depending on the group of Ashkenazim in question), etc. Even without looking at the DNA, these descriptions pass the eye test.

  12. The fourth chapter of John is very early in the Gospel. One of the things that stands out about the Jews in the Gospel of John is that the word “Jews” does not denote the same people at the beginning of the book as it does at the end. There is a very clear, if gradual, shift in meaning. At the beginning of the Gospel, it refers to all members of national Israel. This is the sense in which Jesus uses it when He tells the woman that “salvation is of the Jews” and identifies as a Jew Himself. There is hardly anything new in this. It goes back to the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob each, that in their seed all the world would be blessed. It is not long after this, however, that John starts using the word “Jews” to refer to the leaders, especially the religious leaders, of national Israel. Here the term ceases to be one which includes Jesus and a confrontational tone enters in. There had already been hints of this in the second chapter of course, but now it is overt, and by the end of the Gospel “Jews” can be taken as meaning a religious body that explicitly rejects Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, to the point of having demanded His death from the Roman authorities.

    It should be noted that this remarkable semantic shift within John is itself a chapter in a longer process of identity evolution. The term Jew began as a tribal designation within Israel – the Tribe of Judah, obviously – and began to develop into a national identity as a result of the long history that includes the division of the two Kingdoms, the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities, and the establishment of the Second Temple. In John’s Gospel it can been to develop into a religious identity, and in the larger history of the first century this transformation was sealed by the destruction of the Second Temple. National Israel ceased to exist. Now “Jews” were “Jews” because they practiced the religion “Judaism” which itself was a new religion that was a successor to that of national Israel, for the destruction of the Second Temple destroyed the national cult which had been set up by God for Israel in the Old Testament. The new Judaism which would from then on define what it meant to be a “Jew” – at least until the term took on racial and cultural connotations after the “Enlightenment” – was basically a system of beliefs and practices based on the teachings of the rabbis – who had been lay leaders of the Pharisee sect in Second Temple Judaism – as contained in the Talmud.

    That having been said, the Pauline epistles give us the Apostolic and Christian understanding of the promises to the Patriarch’s about the world being blessed though Abraham’s Seed to which Jesus alludes in His conversation with the woman at the well. The Seed is singular – Christ Himself – of Whom all partake, Jew or Gentile, when they are joined to His body the Church.

  13. imnobody00,

    Continuity of a tradition is a subtle thing, but I am surprised by this claim that modern Jews do not descend from ancient Jews. I would have thought “converts to the Talmudic faith” would be a small part of their genetic makeup.

  14. “In your reading, does the Gospel of John contradict God’s favoritism of the Jews, or does it just not address it?”

    Neither – it gives us the nature and purpose of Jesus’s gift to us; and told us what to do to attain his gift (i.e ‘follow’ him to life resurrected and everlasting) – all of which is orthogonal to race.

  15. imnobody: That was an outstanding comment. Thank you.

  16. Further comment on understanding scripture. What I’m doing is accepting the fourth gospel as a framework, the defines the overall nature and scope. This is not the same as regarding it as incomplete. I would regard the assertion that God loves the Jews best as contradictory to the nature of Jesus’s teaching and its implications as established in the fourth gospel.

    But intuitive thinking is and should be ackowledged as the bottom line, and that also refutes the gltjb assertion for me, although each individual would need to make the experiment for himself.I

    At a very deep level, it seems that these times are such that history has been destroyed, because facts and evidences are swallowed by ideology. the idea that the Bible tells us something has become as fluid and uncertain as the structure of authority in the RCC.

    We see history being invented and inverted before our eyes; and as well as history; theology, scripture, church laws, tradition are swallowed up by this. All the groups are corrupted, and we know it, and we always need to (or ought to) make our own evaluation.

    We are compelled to take personal responsibility for the truth, and to ensure that truth, not expediency, is behind our personal evaluations. A humble deference to “legitimate authority” has transformed into the witting choice of joining of the enemy’s side, and helping the enemy in his evil works.

  17. all of this could have been avoided by sticking to the pre-V2 Missal… food for thought.

    at any rate, i agree with George Washington. of course the Jews are the Chosen People, as God loves most their most dissolute, like the merciful Father He is. but, they broke the covenant by spilling the blood of Christ. thus their temple was destroyed, and replaced by the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ, the Church. they can only wash this stain off and accede the New Kingdom, the New Israel, by converting; just like the prodigal son had to first confess his sins against Heaven and his father. then they will have a special place under the Lord – but only then. seeing the historical genetic dissolution of Jews, the few (honest) conversos and the many Talmudists/Rabbinical heresy-followers, i doubt most people calling themselves Jews today will make it. but then again most Gentiles won’t either.

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