Category: New Testament

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.


Paul’s activity, reduced to simplest terms, was to bring to people, Jew or Greek, the good tidings that through identification with Christ a man could escape the destruction to come. His message is based on views of man, of life, and of the shortness of time left to this world – views which are poles apart from the views of rabbinic Judaism. The rabbis conceived of man, essentially noble and free, serenely doing God’s will in a world destined permanently to endure. Paul, on the other hand, exhibits not serenity, but charged emotion; the world is about to be destroyed, and helpless, sinful man needs to escape the destruction. God has made eligible for that escape those who believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, transformed them from evil, bodily persons into good, spiritual beings.

Rabbi Samuel Sandmel, A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament, 3rd ed. (Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2005), 75.