However, in the last few generations, changes took place among some Christian groups. There are those among them who no longer believe they must humiliate the Jews, and some even believe that Israel remains the Chosen People, whose purpose is to bring the Redemption.
However, they still embrace a form of idolatry, believing that ‘oto ha’ish’ [Jesus] is son of a deity and the messiah who will be resurrected to redeem the world. At the same time, they point out that he is Jewish.
The question arises: Should this position cause a complete rift between us? Every time we meet Christian supporters of Israel, must we denounce their belief in ‘oto ha’ish’?
-Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
“Judaism: The Relation of Jews to non-Jews”
Arutz Sheva News Agency
The Jerusalem Talmud may provide us with a solution. The Jerusalem Talmud’s version of the Four Sons adjusts the text to read “if that man were here, he would not be redeemed.” “oto haish,” literally “that man” is often used in the Talmud to refer to the founder of Christianity.The Wicked Son believes that redemption is to be found in Oso Ha’ish. The Talmud is completely rejecting this tenet of early Christianity, and pulling the rug out from under the Wicked Son telling him he is relying on the future redemption of someone who himself would not have been redeemed.
“Does Oto Haish in the Haggadah (according to Yerushalmi) refer to Jesus?”
While Josh Waxman asks this question at or around Passover in 2009, Rabbi Melamed answers it in the Fall of 2011 by referring to Jesus as “that man”. Doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, does it? This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a Jewish Rabbi refer to Jesus using the circumlocution to avoid having to say or write out his name.
Both Rabbi Melamed and Mr. Waxman (and I apologize to Mr. Waxman if he is a Rabbi or has some other title, but I can’t determine this from the content on his blog) are going through some effort to avoid denigrating the followers of Jesus but they aren’t entirely successful. Waxman continues in his blog post saying:
We don’t really care about Jesus that much. He is tangential to Jewish history, even as he is central to another religion. There is no reason to bring him in here. While it may be true that “”The yerushalmi was redacted in 425 CE and witnessed the Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity and the widespread proselytization to Christianity,” which would make them care more, that does not mean we should read it into every source. And anyway, this particular source in Yerushalmi is Rabbi Chiyya, redactor of braytot, who passed away in 230 CE, much earlier than the Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity.
For his part, Rabbi Melamed states:
Rabbi Kook also wrote a letter of congratulation (Igrot, Part 2, pg.198) to a Torah scholar who compiled a booklet called ‘Israel’s Faith’ in order to explain the Jewish religion in Japanese, however, he pointed out that the author had erred by expressing disrespect for ‘oto ha’ish’ and Mohammed. “It is impossible to offer supreme, religious content to this nation with insulting expressions concerning the founders of [other] religions, whoever they are. We must only speak about the holy and supreme advantage of God’s Torah, and negation will come by itself.”
Of course there is a certain amount of “negation” of the believers in Jesus, even as there is the suggestion that disrespect for the author of Christian faith is unacceptable. It’s important for Christianity to try to put these statements within a certain perspective. For Rabbi Melamed, the perspective is this.
In the past, except for a small minority of righteous Gentiles, the attitude of Christians towards Jews was negative. They based their beliefs on the humiliation of the Jews, which they believed proved that the Christians were intended to replace Israel as the Chosen People.
Pastor Barry Horner wrote his book Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged chronicling how Christian supersessionism has been extremely damaging to the Jewish people over the last 1,900 years of church history and why it continues to be a destructive theology in the world today. Both Mr. Waxman and Rabbi Melamed are living examples of the results of Christian replacement theology and antisemitism, not only historically, but as a matter of “current affairs”. Last Thursday at the G20 summit at Cannes, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had this to say to U.S. President Obama as reported at Haaretz.com:
The French president, unaware last Thursday that a mike in the meeting room at the G20 summit at Cannes was on, was heard calling Netanyahu “a liar” in what he thought was a private exchange with U.S. President Barack Obama. “I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, who was also unaware that the mike had been turned on and was being monitored by reporters via the headsets used for simultaneous translations.
Obama didn’t exactly defend Netanyahu, either.
“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama replied, according to wire service reports.
While Sarkozy’s and Obama’s comments can’t be directly attributed to Christian supersessionism, they are certainly prime examples of how even national European and American leaders view Israel and speak of the Jewish nation (or at least its Prime Minister) when they think no one can hear.
How are we, as Christians, to receive all this? It’s not easy. There’s a tendency to get a little defensive when someone holds the Savior in such disdain that they must refer to him as “that man”, but on the other hand, how many Jews have been persecuted, tortured, and murdered in the name of Jesus? True, modern Christians aren’t directly responsible for those events, but in continuing to support any form of replacement theology, we support an environment that is latently or overtly hostile to Jews and one that supports the French and American presidents speaking poorly of the Israeli Prime Minister, essentially behind his back and behind the backs of their citizens.
If the leaders of the world and the body of Christ fail to amend their behavior and learn to truly support the Jewish nation and her people, what does democracy, liberty, and Christianity mean at this point? How can we show that, for the sake of “that man”, we love Israel if we continue to marginalize the Jewish people?
It does sting hearing Jesus referred to as “oto ha’ish”. As much as I want to be persevering and “noble” about it, I find it difficult to have others disregard my faith, my King, and me personally in absolute terms, as if I as an individual am responsible for the persecution of the Jewish people. It makes me wonder what Jews who know I’m a Christian may think of me or say about me when I’m not listening. I wonder if I’m judged as lesser or unworthy or unrighteous, not because of anything I’ve done, but simply because of who I am. But then again, Christians have been treating Jews in exactly that way for almost 2,000 years. Maybe it’s time we Christians discovered how it feels.