Tuesday, 17 July 2007

The Pope on Rabbi Neusner

I'm still on Chapter 4 of the Holy Father's book (hope he's busy writing the next book while he's away hehehe).
He talks about Rabbi Neusner's book "A Rabbi Talks with Jesus". The Rabbi spends a lot of time with the Gospels and puts himself in the position of being there and listening to what Jesus has to say. Neusner understands Scripture very well (better than some Christians sadly). He recognises that in the Sermon on the Mount the addition to the Law is Christ Himself and Neusner understands very well what this means. But in the end the Rabbi chooses to walk away.
Pope Benedict writes:
"This dialogue is conducted with great honesty. It highlights the differences in
all their sharpness, but it also takes place in great love.
The rabbi accepts the otherness of Jesus' message, and takes his leave
free of any rancour; this parting, accomplished in the rigor of truth, is ever
mindful of the reconciling power of love."
Earlier the Holy Father has explained that Rabbi Neusner has decided not to follow Jesus, rather to remain with the "eternal Israel."
I find this a struggle. The rabbi has, it seems, almost met Jesus-perhaps he HAS met Him for he has certainly dialogued with Him through the Scriptures and yet despite his apparent search for truth the rabbi chooses to walk away from Jesus, preferring to leave things unfulfilled. My initial reaction was that the rabbi's book was just an intellectual exercise and he hadn't understood who he was talking to.But the Holy Father has read the book and says otherwise. He says it is done in the "rigor of truth". I am perplexed therefore at why the rabbi has chosen to reject Jesus-because that is surely what he has done.
I know that after the huge miracle of the feeding of the 5000 Jesus said 'Eat my body and drink my blood' and many walked away. They had seen and yet still did not trust enough to listen and hope.
Obviously Rabbi Neusner has not seen Jesus in the way those with him that day saw Him-but he has understood Him.
I am concerned-how is Rabbi Neusner to be saved?

1 comment:

MMajor Fan said...

how is Rabbi Neusner to be saved?

This whole answer to that question could be a great complete book idea in and of itself! Here are some thoughts. The person who met Jesus and then rejected him who would be in the most trouble would be a person who rejects the right of God to challenge him and make demands upon him at all. Jesus being an inconvenient demand to such a person would denote someone who is not living by the first and second commandment in their life already. The hardest person to save is the one who puts his or her self over God. The second hardest person to save would be someone who rejects Jesus but thinks Jesus is a "good guy" or a social reformer or a philosopher, but not divinely inspired. Again, that indicates putting one's own pseudo intelligence over Jesus and ultimately over God. This is one reason why Islam is so hard on "the people of the Book" because Muslims recognized Jesus as a revered Prophet and the Jewish Messiah, directly informed by Allah and conceived of the Spirit. Muslims only disagree that Jesus is of the same substance as Allah, that Allah would allow him to die as his prophet (so they believe he was directly resurrected) and also they believe that Jesus foretold the Prophet as a future disciple. So a person who does not recognize Jesus as at least a Prophet would be hard to save and would be way, way behind the devout Muslim who believes Jesus was a prophet sent by Allah. Many more Jews used to believe that Jesus was a prophet than do now. Secularism has eroded the Jewish faith in that respect along with the usual disintegration of faith under liberality, secularism, and relativism. So if Rabbi Neusner is of the more modern thinking that does not even acknowledge Jesus as a prophet, that would not be a very good thing for his salvation. If, however, he wholeheartedly is conservative in his "eternal Israel" faith and has genuine belief that the Jewish faith is the true "roadmap," then there is some validity in his reluctance to change. What is disturbing in his case is the accusation that he makes that Jesus is trying to "change" three fundamental commandments as his justification for rejecting Jesus, rather than a side by side comparison of the Jewish Law he follows, and the Christian liturgy and sacraments, and then deciding in his own mind that the Jewish Law is the accurate roadmap. If he did such a side by side comparison and then reaffirmed his total Jewish belief, that leaves some wriggle room for justification of rejecting Jesus, if his heart is pure that he believes start to finish that orthodox Judaism remains the right way. However, what is disturbing that like the "stiff necked" people of not only Moses' time, but also of the time of Jesus, he takes a legalistic and word smithing approach toward a prophet from God. Instead of striving to understand even when the message is "hard," he is legalistic in his approach because he is being defensive of a social order that even his time, was already severely challenged. There becomes a point where the Jewish story becomes blurry between the faith and the law, and the cultural/societal/Zionist imperatives. If the Rabbi rejects Jesus because the Rabbi sticks with the orthodox Jewish faith and the law, that implies flexibility in salvation. If the Rabbi rejects Jesus because he does not even acknowledge him as a prophet and further, has his faith informed by political agenda, despite the long history of what happened when the people of Israel did so, that is much more of a challenge for personal salvation. Benedict says that the Rabbi is a believing Jew and an attentive listener. But what worries me much, much more is that the Rabbi asks Jesus if Jesus is "trying to tempt him." As you know that is a very loaded accusation, with a very unpleasant implication implicit in it. No Jew would have ever asked Elias if he was trying to tempt him. Who tempts and who is tempted? The Rabbi is putting himself in a non humble placement in this dialogue. So to answer your question, the biggest barrier to the Rabbi's personal salvation is his pride in his dialogue with someone he should have recognized as at the very least a prophet.