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"Judaism" as a corruption of the Law of Moses

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I recently found an article on the Orthodox website Pravoslavie.ru ( http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/ ) at the following address - http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/barker.htm

The article is by Margaret Barker, who has written a most interesting book, The Great Angel, A Study of Israel's Second God. The basic ideas put forward in that book are reflected in this article, which primarily deals with the issue of the corruption of the Hebrew Old Testament.

While Ms.Barker is certainly not an Orthodox Christian (and in many cases her views are contrary to Orthodox Christianity), she raises some really important issues pertaining to the history of the Old Testament texts, and just what "Israelitic Orthodoxy" in fact was.

In short, she views what we now know as "rabbinic Judaism" to have little in common with the ancient Israelitic religion, in particular the royal-Davidic cult of the First Temple period. Indeed, Rabbinic Judaism (in her view) was an innovation and opponent of this older Israelitic cult, which she believes survived only in remnant form by the time of Christ's advent (one well known example being the Qumran communities.) It is her conclusion that the first Christians viewed themselves as being the inheritors of this legitimate Israelitic legacy, and that a great deal of what they wrote is only understandable when keeping this in mind.

Many of her more "ground breaking" conclusions will not be too much of a shock to Orthodox ears. The following, which appear in the article I linked to, immediately come to mind...

- that the older Israelitic view, reflected in the Septuagint and very conspicuously in the Qumran texts, is that YHWH is a second, if united person, not to be confounded with El Elyon (God Most High; He Who Orthodox Christians call "God the Father"). Thus the first Christians understood YHWH to have incarnated as Jesus of Nazareth, and that the theophanies of the Old Testament Prophets were in fact visions of the pre-Incarnate Christ. This is not a surprising thing really, as it's made clear in the first epistle to the Corinthians and other places - but this is something not made quite as clear in the latter western tradition, particularly when it started to insist upon created grace and had un-Orthodox views about just what it was the Prophets were seeing when they had their visions.

- The assumption that the Masoretic text is to be deemed superior in it's renderings and accuracy than the Septuagint and other older Old Testament versions is entirely unwarranted, and in fact, is dead wrong. The Orthdox Church has always insisted upon the Septuagint, and ignored higher critics who preferred the Masoretic texts. Unfortunately in the west, beginning with St.Jerome, a preference developed for the Masoretic and proto-Masoretic texts of the Jews (something which St.Augustine in fact objected to, and became the source of arguments in the heated letters these two western Fathers exchanged.)

- It doesn't take much of a stretch to see the continuity between the actualy ancient Israelitic religion and early Christianity. While the modern west has been quite apologetic in it's scriptural interpretation, feeling rather comprimised and almost embarassed by claims that the Church is a direct continuation of the Israel of old, the Orthodox Church has been down right "antiquarian" and "unenlightened" it's simplicity on this subject; as far as the Fathers and our liturgy has always been concerned, it was Christ and even the Blessed Virgin which the Old Testament Prophets beheld in their experiences of revelation, as well as other mysteries on made explicit later on with the coming of Christ.

One interesting point dealt with in the article, regards the Holy Eucharist and it's connection with pre-second Temple Yom Kippur ("Day of Atonement") ritual. There is evidence (cited in the article) that while blood drinking was normally prohibited in the Jewish cult, that the consumption of blood by the High Priest was a part of the ancient ceremonies of Yom Kippur; thus the claim by modern Judaist apologists (and sadly some Christians, typically fundamentalst Protestants) that the sacrament of the Eucharist (where Christ's body and blood are really and truly received by the communicant) is a totally "non, even anti-Jewish" thing, totally beyond the pale of the Old Testament faith, is nonsense.

Of course there are some conclusions in the article which no Orthodox believer should accept - and not simply on the basis of faith (which is sufficient), but because the conclusions are not (imho) warranted. For example, the claim appears in the article that the origins of Christian Gnosticism are found in a strain of this Old Testament religion surviving; however everything we actually know about early gnosticism, in principle, runs contrary to some of the more startling conclusions Ms.Barker makes about the ancient Hebrew cult (for example, the role of ressurection, heaven and hell, and in particular sacrifice and atonement, play no role in Christian gnosticism, and are contrary to it's most basic principles.) I also believe her conclusions about Holy Wisdom are not correct; they are I believe, the unfortunate result of this author (while be astute and well learned) being outside of the Orthodox tradition, and not yet familiar enough with the Church's teachings on this subject (and the pre-Christian theophanies in which the Theotokos played a part in; for example, note traditiona ikons of the "burning bush" and Moses.)

That said, the article is certainly a good read, and what it has to say is quite important (the same can be said of Ms.Barker's book, which I recommend.) However neither should be read with uncritical eyes.

Seraphim
 

Aklie Semaet

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This is very interesting. It is good that Christians embrace their Jewish roots (we never had a problem with it:))

Seraphim,

as far as the Fathers and our liturgy has always been concerned, it was Christ and even the Blessed Virgin which the Old Testament Prophets beheld in their experiences of revelation, as well as other mysteries on made explicit later on with the coming of Christ.

Now isn’t the Trinity one of these mysteries that was implicit in the Old Testament (‘Holy, Holy, Holy. Is the Lord of hosts,’ three old men visiting Abraham, and ‘Let us create,' etc.) and fully explicit in the New? So if El Elyon was God the father and YHWH was the Son, then was there a different name for Holy Spirit?

One interesting point dealt with in the article, regards the Holy Eucharist and it's connection with pre-second Temple Yom Kippur ("Day of Atonement") ritual.

Has anyone else done research on this particular question of Yom Kippur? This is of great importance. I know some folks in the Classics departments try to connect taking the Qurban (Eucharist) with some latter Greek pagan innovations.



 
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sinjinsmythe,

Seraphim, what do you make of the so-called 'Jewish roots' movement of Christianity of today and the Messianic Jews?
At the very least it is guilty of "Judaizing". Anything the synagogue still has that is worthwhile and legit, the Church has; whatever is nothing more than shadow and outward form (and sometimes, even punishment), the Church has superceeded. And obviously, there is a great deal the Church has, which the synagogue has long forgotten or abandoned (including an entire manner of reflecting on the Scriptures which was systematically supressed by the rabbis after the 1st century A.D. - for example, suddenly Judaism insisted the "suffering servant" of the book of Isaiah was not the Messiah, but the Jewish people as a whole, something shown to be false when one examines older Judaic sources, even some rabbinical sources.) Indeed, there are any number of good books (including some good ones by traditional RC liturgists dealing with the history of the Roman Mass) which show that alot of the Church's liturgy was the direct continuation of practices that took place in the old Temple in Jerusalem.

I understand why this neo-Judaizing is occuring; it's the result of some groups (mainly conservative/evangelical Protestants) wanting to reconnect in some way with the "authentic, ancient Christian tradition", but really not knowing where to look. Thus, having the common (mistaken) assumption that rabbinical Jewish "orthodoxy" = "religion of Moses, confirmed at Sinai", they go to this, with the thinking "hey, the Apostles were Jews, weren't they?" Whether because of ignorance, or prejudice, they do not look to the Orthodox Church for the "injection of tradition" they really want.

As an aside, something just occured to me regarding Judaism. I've had the experience, speaking with Orthodox Jews who defended their religion against Christian apologists, that too often these people's word is taken for granted. For example, most will tell you point blank "it's impossible for a Jew to believe God took on a human form." Even once you get past the typical misconceptions (since often their view fails to understand the incarnation), you get stone walled.

However, modern events clearly show this is not such an "impossibility" since there are a fair number of Lubivitcher Chasidim who believe their late Rebbe (the spiritual father of their tradition of hasidic Judaism) was not simply the Moschiach, but that he will return from the dead, and that he is in fact the embodiment of Ha'Shem ("the Name", a pious Jewish way of refering to God.) Of course, a lot of Jews have a problem with this, but it shows that even for these well schooled, pious, Orthodox Jews, such a view is not "impossible." It certainly would have been "less impossible", to be sure, prior to the anti-Christian polemic of the synagogue some 1900+ years ago, and the growing preventative measures the synagogue has taken since then, to insure Jews do not come to true faith in the Lord Who saved their people from Egypt, and now desires to save them from sin and death (the Egypt not of Pharoah, but of satan.)

Seraphim
 
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