Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Can’t Have Christianity Without the Old Testament

In this week’s Scripture readings at Mass, many of the Jewish roots of Christianity are highlighted. Roots which are, for some strange reason, ignored by many modern-day Christians. Today we seem to take the view that Christianity is a religion based on the New Testament of the Bible, while Judaism is a completely different religion based on the Old Testament.

Jesus didn’t think so. For one thing, He was Jewish. Jesus taught that He came to fulfill the Jewish law, not to abolish it.

If you ever get the chance, read Edith Shaeffer’s excellent book, “Christianity Is Jewish.” She does a wonderful job of explaining how the Old and New Testaments are a seamless chronicle of God’s relationship with mankind, not two, totally separate stories. And she does it in a loving and compassionate way.
(I admit this is a delicate subject, and I’m probably too much of a blockhead to write about it without offending people. But I’m not trying to malign Jews or Judaism. I’m convinced “God’s chosen people” have a wonderful role in God’s overall plan regardless of what they believe about Jesus at the present moment. Why? Because God said so, and He doesn’t break His promises. Instead of trying to ram Jesus down the throats of our Jewish neighbors—as some do—we ought simply to apologize for the way Christians have treated Jews during the last 20 centuries and then witness by our actions rather than our words.)

The very first messianic prophesy is found in the first book of the Jewish Torah, Genesis 3:15. God cursed Satan for tempting Eve: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, while you strike at his heel.”

The history of God’s dealings with mankind can be summarized quite succinctly: God created mankind to live in fellowship with Him. But mankind sinned and became separated from God. God set apart a special people, Israel, through whom redemption was to come. Israel produced the Messiah, Jesus, who gave His life as an atoning sacrifice for mankind’s sins (Satan striking at his heel). Then Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death once and for all (the offspring of the woman crushing Satan’s head).

In the Gospel reading this week, we hear about the fascinating events on the road to Emmaus. Two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, down-hearted because Jesus had recently been killed. Jesus Himself drew near and began walking with them, but they did not recognize Him.
After they explained why they were so sad, Jesus replied, “How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

At that point, Jesus gave them a crash course in Old Testament theology. We read, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.”

Wow, that must’ve been quite a lecture, to have the Incarnate Word of God interpret and explain the written Word of God.

You really can’t understand Christianity without understanding Judaism and the history of Israel. Jesus proved He really was who He claimed to be by pointing repeatedly to the Old Testament.

So, why is it that Jews and Christians have been so divided and at each other’s throats over the years? I don’t know. Probably due to the sins of pride and selfishness. (Our sinful nature has yet to be eradicated; it’s just been forgiven.)

We have to take it on faith that St. Paul (another faithful Jew) knew what he was talking about when he wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Paul also wrote, “All Israel will be saved.”
God Almighty has a wonderful plan for the world and those who love Him. This plan especially includes our Jewish brethren.

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