Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Great quote

"I believe there is nothing that we Christian Israelites ought more earnestly to seek to maintain than our own distinct nationality. We must show our brethren that in becoming Christians we have not ceased to be Jews. Our national life and expectations are based upon the word and promise of God, and can never be abandoned."

(Ridley Herschell, in 1857 at the 3rd Evangelical Alliance conference in Berlin)

From "All Love: A Biography of Ridley Herschell" by Geoffrey Henderson (HTS Media, 2006), p. 172.

2 comments:

Christopher said...

Hello James,

I came over here via Rory.

After reading this quote, and noticing the period it was written, I have this question that I assume you can help answer.

Are the Christian beliefs of pre-World War Two European Jews discounted and disregarded in various academic or Jewish circles as forced beliefs and not real belief, belief for survival, in a similar way that the Christian beliefs of some Australian Aboriginals are marginalised as a by-product of colonialism?

I have found that some commentators referred to Edmund Husserl's conversion to Christianity as being politically/socially motivated/forced.

I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Chris

I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Christopher

James Mendelsohn said...

Hi Christopher,

Good to hear from you.

Some of the Jewish "converts"* were themselves honest about their motivations for professing faith in Jesus, e.g. Heinrich Heine viewed his baptism as "a gateway to the higher echelons of European society" (or something like that!). And so, yes, some Jewish academics do view these beliefs as forced and not genuine.

On the other hand, Sir Martin Gilbert, a very distinguished British Jewish historian, mentions "baptised Jews" twice and "Jewish Catholics" once in his seminal (and incredibly painful) history of the Holocaust. He makes the point that "Baptism could not protect either those who had converted to Christianity to save their lives, or those whose conversion, often many years before the war, had been an act of faith." There were thriving Hebrew Christian movements across Europe before WW2; these had all but vanished by 1945.

* I don't like using the term "convert" in a Jewish context because it (a) evokes memories of forced conversions in the Middle Ages and (b) may be seen as suggesting that Jewish followers of Jesus have been converted "from" being Jewish "to" something else, whereas they have of course been regrafted back into their own olive tree and have returned to the God of their forefathers! But more of that, perhaps, in future posts.