Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 21, No. 10. August 6, 1958
Judaism and Christianity
Judaism and Christianity
—I would ask you to consider allotting me as much space to refute your ill-founded article on the Old Testament prophets, as you saw fit to display Mr. Kelliher's abysmal ignorance of Judaism.
It appears that it never occurred to Mr. Kelliher that the Old Testament is basically and irrevocably a philosophical and historical product of a people who show "no tendency toward philosophical speculation." That it was preserved for Christianity by a people who had learnt from human experience that all societies have their black sheep that must be shown their waywardness, never occurs to him. Nor in his crowded mind does there seem any realisation of the historical context in which the prophets speak. In all cases, as a matter of historical record, if Mr. Kelliher can spare the time to check, he will find that the prophets were crying out against the unholy political alliances that were being made by some of the more corrupt leaders of the people of Israel, and the influx of non-Jewish, i.e., gentile, ideas into a relatively well adjusted society.
To suggest that the Jews were only given up to the "ceremonial cults of religion" is a slur on Mr. Kelliher's own particuar hybrid of religion.
The Jews, sir, were the Semites, who gave their "genius for monotheism" to Mr. Kelliher's friends and relations. It was not the Jews who invented the doctrine of the Trinity.
As to his suggestion that the prophets were "lowly herdsmen"—nonsense! Jeremiah was the son of Hilkiah, one of the priestly family (Jer. 1, v. 1); Isaiah was obviously well known in court circles; Ezekiel was a priest; Zachariah was the grandson of Iddo, a lesser known prophet. This is not to say anything of the royal blood that flowed in the veins of some of the minor prophets. Moreover, to be a herdsman or occupant of any other trade or profession was a necessity 6f life among the children of Israel, unless one was of royal blood.
"The Jews were angered at the prophets' emphasis on morality"—on what, pray, is this statement based? Is it because the prophets were upset that a section of the people would not immediately accept the castigation? Has the Christian Church no sinners? Shades of Mr. Nordmeyer and the 1958 Budget! Remember, sir, it was the Jews who preserved this monument of morality and ethical code as an example for themselves, if not for the rest of the world.
It was the Jews, 3000 years before the British Empire got round to thinking about it, who insisted on the freeing of slaves. It was the Jews who condemned human sacrifice to a world who knew nothing better, or is not the story of the non-sacrifice of Isaac taught in Christian theology? They gave the world the Ten Commandments (contrary to popular opinion it was not a Cecil B. de Mille original). Whether Mr. Kelliher knows it or not, the Jews were preaching "love thy neighbour" a long time before the Greek word "Christ" became a popular expletive.
But what can one expect from somebody who believes that Asian religions are, or were, unethical? The Jews, by the way, have made no claims to Asia nor did the Babylonians. Has he never read the more enlightened words of Budda or Confucius? Perhaps he is unaware of their existence. Certainly his geography is about as accurate as his theology.
What evidence is there of social oppression by Jews? How can he accuse a people of sexual immorality when, had the Hebrews not cried out against it (I can hear the echoes of "spoilsports") Mr. Kelliher would be able to enjoy the orgies of adultery and fornication without a twinge of conscience? Perhaps a people who developed the doctrine of an "eye for an eye" to put a stop to senseless killing for minor crimes, and also set up three cities of refuge to which people could flee to save their lives, was unnecessarily cruel? Mr. Kelliher is looking for twentieth century "humanism" in an age when the nearest thing to an atom bomb was a bolt from the blue.
Mr. Kelliher's near progenitors were still burning humans for heresy whatever that might mean (wasn't Thomas Aquinas of sainted memory almost declared a heretic?)—long after the Jews had unfortunately given up the habit.
In short, the Jews preserved their history, philosophy and experience, which, in the light of what some profess to believe today, may at times seem a little primitive, so that they and the world could build and develop.
Finally, the Jews were enriching their and the world's heritage, while Mr. Kelliher's ancestors were still looking for leprechauns.
Footnote: In case Mr Kelliher did not make it clear the prophets were also Jews.