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"DABRU EMET:"

A JEWISH STATEMENT ABOUT CHRISTIANITY

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Overview:

Dabru Emet is a statement dealing with Jewish-Christian relations. The title was taken from Zechariah 8:16 and means "speak the truth." It was signed by over 150 rabbis and Jewish scholars from the U.S., Canada, UK and Israel. It was published in the New York Times and Baltimore Sun during 2000-SEP. The statement was formally issued just before the start of Rosh Hashanah -- the Jewish New Year and anniversary of the completion of creation -- which began at sunset on 2000-SEP-30 (or the 1st of Tishri, 5761 AM in the Jewish calendar.) 1 

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21 centuries of oppression:

The Jewish people have been oppressed by various governments and religions for thousands of years. During the past two millennia:

bulletThe Roman Empire maintained a harsh occupation of Palestine during their occupation of Palestine which started in the 1st century BCE
bulletOppression continued under Christianity even before it became the official religion of the Empire in the late 4th century CE. 
bulletIt reached a peak during the Shoah - the Nazi Holocaust during World War II, when six million Jews were systematically murdered. 3

Early Christians' contempt for, and oppression of, the Jewish people took the form of anti-Judaism -- a hatred based on religious belief. The more recent conflict is in the form of antisemitism, a racial concept. Past Christians justified both on the basis of two theological beliefs:

bulletThat present-day Jews, and their ancestors as far back as the 1st century CE are all personally responsible for the execution death of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ). Most people today feel that it is profoundly immoral to hold an individual responsible for activities by their ancient ancestors from 80 generations ago. However, this belief was a long-standing teaching of the Christian church. It has now been abandoned, except by some neo-Nazi, Christian Identity  and similar groups which combine a Christian theology with racial hatred.
bulletThe concept of supercession: "that Christianity replaced Judaism and that God no longer has a covenant with the Jewish people." 4 This is sometimes called the "theology of displacement," "replacement theology" and displacement theology. It relegates Judaism to an inferior position relative to Christianity. It "regards the Christian Church as the 'true' or 'spiritual' Israel." This belief was first developed by Justin Martyr (circa 100 to 165 CE) and Irenaeus of Lyon (circa 130 to 200 CE). It was largely accepted within the church by the time of the 4th century. This belief has also been largely abandoned today, with the exception of some very conservative Christian denominations.  One indicator that this belief has gone out of fashion even among conservative Christians was a poll conducted by ChristianWebSite.com, a Fundamentalist - Evangelical Christian Internet site. A significant majority of their visitors who answered their poll, 86.3%, agreed with the concept that Jews are still considered God's chosen people. 23.7% disagreed. 7

Most Christian denominations have made remarkable changes since World War II in their relationships with the Jewish people and their attitudes towards Judaism. The Dabru Emet statement is intended to acknowledge this progress. It also highlights areas where more change is needed in the future.

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The Dabru Emet statement:

Some of the points raised in the statement are:

bulletUntil recently, Christians viewed Judaism as a failed religion. At best, it was only seen as a religion that prepared the way for Christianity.
bulletMany Protestant and Catholic faith groups have issued official apologies for their historical mistreatment of Jews and Judaism. 
bulletJews and Christians:
bulletBoth worship the same God: i.e. Jehovah, as described in the Tanakh (a.k.a. the Jewish Scriptures or, called by many Christians, the Old Testament).
bulletBoth seek authority from the Tanakh.
bulletBoth accept the moral principles of Torah -- e.g. the sanctity and dignity of each person. 
bulletBoth can respect each other's faithfulness to the revelation that they received.
bulletShould not be "pressed into affirming the teaching of the other community."
bulletMust work together to promote justice and peace in the world.
bullet"Christians can respect the [historic] claim of the Jewish people upon the land of Israel."
bulletWithout the centuries of Christian oppression and contempt of Jews, "Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out." However. "Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity... We applaud those Christians who reject this teaching of contempt, and we do not blame them for the sins committed by their ancestors."
bulletAn improved relationship between Jews and Christians will not weaken or threaten Jewish practice. It will not increase assimilation, increase intermarriage, cause more Jews to convert to Christianity, or promote a syncretistic religion which combines Judaism and Christianity.

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Impediments to future Jewish-Protestant progress:

Dabru Emet mentions that many Protestant and Roman Catholic church bodies have "made public statements of their remorse about Christian mistreatment of Jews and Judaism. These statements have declared, furthermore, that Christian teaching and preaching can and must be reformed so that they acknowledge God’s enduring covenant with the Jewish people..." The implication is that this reform process is currently incomplete, and must be pursued to completion.

The concept of supercession teaches "that Christianity replaced Judaism and that God no longer has a covenant with the Jewish people." 4 God is viewed as having unilaterally abrogating a number of covenants that He had originally established with the ancient Israelites. These covenants are described in the Tanakh as contracts which were to exist for all time. Although belief in supercession has now been abandoned by most Christian denominations, it is still taught by many Fundamentalist and some Evangelical Christian denominations, including the largest Protestant organization in the U.S. -- the Southern Baptist Convention. Many religious conservatives believe that God has completely abandoned the Jewish people. For example, Rev. Bailey Smith, a former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, was loudly applauded by his audience when he said in a public meeting that God does not hear the prayer of a Jew. 6 Many believe that anyone following the Jewish faith is doomed to spend eternity in Hell, just as will Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and others who have not trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior. This motivates many conservative Christians to attempt to lead Jews (and others) to a "saving knowledge" of Jesus. They feel that to ignore Jews in their evangelism efforts would be an act of discrimination. "If Jewish people are denied the opportunity to hear about Jesus because of Christian self-censorship, then Christians truly will be guilty of anti-Semitism." 5

The concept of supercession, long abandoned by most Christian denominations, will probably continue to sour Jewish-Christian relations for the foreseeable future.

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Impediments to future Jewish-Catholic progress:

Dabru Emet emphasizes that Christians and Jews each know and serve God through their very different traditions. "That difference will not be settled by one community insisting that it has interpreted Scripture more accurately than the other..." However, it is not uncommon for one faith group to believe that they alone know the full will of God, and that other religious traditions are at least partly defective or deficient.

One example of this belief in superiority is a statement that was published less than two months before Dabru Emet was released. It is "Dominus Iesus" issued by Cardinal Ratzinger on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. It divides all faith groups into four classes:

bulletThe Roman Catholic Church which was established by Jesus Christ: "he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him...."
bulletEastern Orthodox Churches which are "true particular Churches." The Church of Christ is also "present and operative" in these churches.
bulletProtestant and other denominations which are not "churches in the proper sense." Their members are "incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church."
bulletNon-Christian religions, presumably including Judaism: Some of their religious practices may prepare their membership to absorb the Gospel. However, those rituals which "depend on superstitions or other errors... constitute an obstacle to salvation." Members of other religions are "gravely deficient" relative to members of the Church of Christ who already have "the fullness of the means of salvation."

Catholics believe that anyone lacking salvation will likely spend eternity in Hell, a place and state of unceasing punishment.

In the immediate future, it is unlikely that the Roman Catholic church will  accept Jewish beliefs and practices to be as valid as their own. There is little likelihood that they will soon view Judaism and Roman Catholicism simply as two equally legitimate approaches to God, that have a shared origin in the Tanakh.

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References:

  1. "Dabru Emet: A Jewish statement on Christians and Christianity," The Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies, at: http://www.icjs.org/what/njsp/dabruemet.html 
  2. Leslie Scrivener, "Jews see Christians in new light: Statement from rabbis released on eve of New Year," Toronto Star, Toronto ON, 2000-SEP-29, Page A27 
  3. Ian Kershaw, "Holocaust/Shoah: The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference." at: http://www.igc.org/ddickerson/holocaust.html 
  4. "Saving our souls," The Southern Shofar, Birmingham, AL, at: http://www.bham.net/shofar/1996/0796/ss0796.html
  5. R. H. Hamel, "Real anti-Semitism," The Globe and Mail, letter to the editor, 1998-MAY-27 Page A18 
  6. Rev. Bailey Smith, 1980 Religious Roundtable national affairs briefing in Dallas TX. The exact quote was: "God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew." Smith later enlarged on this comment by saying: "I am pro-Jew…I believe they are God's special people, but without Jesus Christ, they are lost.
  7. Christian Web Site has a home page at: http://christianwebsite.com/ Their survey was taken between approximately 2002-AUG-28 and SEP-3. Their question was: "Are Jews still considered God's chosen people?"

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Copyright © 2000 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-SEP-29-
Latest update: 2006-MAR-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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