Sunday 15 April 2012

Bible Book:

"When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples has met were locked for fear of the Jews" (v. 19)

John 20:19-31 Sunday 15 April 2012


A rabbi, when first encountering this passage, remarked,'Interesting - as it has tended to be Jews who have been lockedbehind closed doors throughout history for fear of Christians!' Thepoint was well made, as the truth of Jewish-Christian relationsthroughout history has often been a story of Christian violenceagainst Jews.

Of course in John's Gospel those very disciples are themselvesJews, as was Jesus. John's Gospel - unlike the Synoptics (Matthew,Mark and Luke), which largely tend to see Jesus in conflict withcertain groups within Judaism - has numerous references to Jesus orthe disciples in conflict with "the Jews". This has led some toread John's Gospel as anti-Jewish. However, the Gospel itself waswritten by a Jew and some argue that this is an intra-Jewishargument that cannot therefore be interpreted as anti-Jewish.

The whole debate depends upon how one translates the Greek wordIoudaioi (the NRSV translates it as "the Jews"): however, in John'sGospel when the word is used it refers to different groups atdifferent times. Some have argued that the more meaningfultranslation in this passage would be 'the religious authorities',ie those leaders who collaborated with the Romans.

This argument about John's Gospel is part of a wider explorationabout the birth of Christianity and its relationship both to theJudaism in which Jesus was raised and Judaism today.

As Christians we are often encouraged to read the New Testamentwith the understanding that Judaism was a dying tradition that hasbeen replaced by Christianity. However, the truth is morecomplex.

After the destruction of the second temple by the Romans and thefailed Jewish revolt that ended in AD136, two movementsChristianity and rabbinical Judaism survived and each developedtheir own traditions rooted in what is often referred to by thewriters of the New Testament as 'the Scriptures'.

To Ponder

What does it mean to you that Jesus wasJewish?

What is your favourite passage from John's Gospel- what does it say, if anything, of 'the Jews'?

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