The Sacred texts in the Christian tradition most prone to sacrilegious use are those that deal with the suffering (passion) and death of Jesus. These texts, the “passion narratives,” give rise to a narrative that is fundamental to Christian identity; collectively, they give rise to a story as elemental to Christianity as the Exodus is to Judaism. Yet, they have been used in ways that I can only call sacrilegious in their disparagement and vilification of Jews and Judaism. The charge, initially leveled in the New Testament, developed with considerable rhetorical effect in early church writings, and a common staple of church teaching for nearly two millenia, constitutes the theological core of anti-Judaism. In short, the passion narratives seem to be a case study in problem texts precisely because they are both deadly and life-giving. All depends on the telling.

Mary C. Boys, “Redeeming Sacred Texts From Their Sacrilegious Uses,” in May Smith Lecture on Post-Holocaust Christian/Jewish Dialogue: March 10, 2008 (Boca Raton, FL: Florida Atlantic University, 2008), 2.

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