A Negative Implication Concerning the Resurrection
In the past my reflections on the resurrection have been decidedly positive. In fact, I do not think I posted one blog entry that indicated anything negative about the resurrection or its implications. But I want to consider here something that at least I believe is a negative implication that the resurrection or, perhaps better, the disciples' belief in Jesus' resurrection birthed.
For this to make sense you must understand that for the past year I have been probing into the origins of anti-semitism/anti-judaism, especially in its relation to the event of the Holocaust (or Shoah as most Jews refer to it as). That thousands of years of Jewish hatred perpetuated by Christianity made the soil fertile for the rational, racial anti-semitism that led to the slaughter of nearly all of European Jewry (1/3 of the global Jewish population at the time) is not a difficult conclusion to arrive at. However, pinpointing the origins of Jew hatred is another matter altogether.
Some try to locate the origins of Jew hatred in the pre-Christian era, especially in Alexandrian Egypt. Ostensibly cited in support of pre-Christian anti-semitism/judaism are a handful of Greco-Roman writers who often speak derisively about the Jews, especially concerning their customs which tended to isolate them from the rest of society (this is why the charge of misanthrope was often leveled against them). But more often than not it seems to me that those who push for this option do so for apologetically motivated reasons such as the desire to exculpate any role that nascent Christianity, especially the writings of the NT, may have played in the fomenting of anti-semitic/anti-Judaic strains of thought. On the other hand there are others (cf. Rosemary Ruether's Faith and Fratricide for a good example of this) who wish to lay full blame on nascent Christianity and who further perceive the NT to be crawling with anti-Jewish rhetoric. The truth is, I believe, somewhere in between but I do not wish to deal with that in this post.
Nevertheless, without a doubt one of the greatest sources for the development of the immense Jew hatred which characterized Europe for roughly two thousand years was the supersessionistic attitude of the Church toward Judaism in its first few centuries. But from where did the notion of supersessionism arise? This belief followed quite naturally from the notion that Christianity constituted the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel of old. But then we must ask what gave rise to the conviction that God's promises had been fulfilled? I believe the principle motivation for this belief which colors the NT was the disciples' fervent belief that God had raised Jesus from the dead.
The resurrection of the dead in Second-Temple Judaic thought was understood as involving a general resurrection of the dead at the end of the present age. There is no evidence that Jews believed in isolated resurrections from the dead but rather viewed the resurrection as an a pan encompassing act which would take place in the new aeon. Thus when the disciples came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead and when this belief was combined with their experience of the apocalyptic tenor of Jesus' message, it is pretty clear that they would have come to believe that the promises were being fulfilled, especially since they would have thought that the resurrection of everybody else was just around the corner. (I have explicated this point elsewhere more fully: beginning with this post)
Thus, it was ultimately the resurrection (plus Jesus' apocalyptic message) or, rather, the disciples belief in the resurrection of Jesus which was the catalyst for the notion that the promises of old had been or were being fulfilled. However, much time eventually passed and the general resurrection of the dead was not forthcoming nor was the new age for that matter. Israel was not restored and evil still reigned throughout the world. But Christianity could not bring itself to give up the notion that it was the fulfillment of Israel of old. This then led to supersessionistic modes of thinking which contributed in a significant way to the overall Adversus Judeaus tradition of the Church which made the route towards Jew hatred and Jew demonization much smoother.
In conclusion then there is a real sense in which the resurrection of Jesus has contributed to anti-semitic and anti-Judaic modes of thought. For someone like myself who has prized the place of the resurrection in Christian thought this is certainly a disturbing thought but true nonetheless.