John and “the Jews”

A tree is a fitting image for conveying the special relationship between Christians and Jews. If the Hebrew Scriptures are the trunk of a deeply rooted tree, then starting about 70 C.E. two distinct branches began to grow: one among Jews in large part due to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and the second among Christians because of Jesus. Both events transpired under direct Roman force. Both branches developed almost simultaneously. Both traditions interpret those same Hebrew Scriptures. Each branch is strong and exhibits its own vitality.

The Greco-Roman world enjoyed a rich diversity of religious practices and a wide variety of cultures; borrowing and adaptation among traditions and peoples was commonplace. The community for which Saint John’s Gospel was written emerged in and because of this milieu, and reflected it in a very particular way. For a substantial period of time this community was part of both branches emerging from the tree trunk of Hebrew Scriptures. They went to Synagogue on Sabbath with other Jews, and gathered among themselves on Sundays to remember Jesus.

At some point this Sabbath-going and Sunday-gathering community faced a conflict with Synagogue leaders. We do not know exactly why or how or what. But we do know that the arrangement they had enjoyed for so long came to an end. 

The work commonly called the Gospel according to Saint John, whose passion account J.S. Bach set so masterfully, emerged in the aftermath of this break, and is imbued with its pain. Undoubtably, the phrase “the Jews” is the most painful and most deeply personal: mothers & fathers, sisters & brothers, relatives & friends. Over time interpreters, politicians, religious leaders and even faithful people have ignored, exploited and misused the phrase. Past, present and future demand better of us.


Conflict with and within: Johann Sebastian Bach and the Passion according to Saint John

Wednesdays March 8 - April 5, 2017 at 7:00 PM
90-minute study series

light supper, included

Increasing instances of anti-Semitism and other religious intolerance in our current political and social environments urge us all to responsibility. Delve into Saint John's text, Christian and Jewish traditions, Bach's music and world history with Pastor Jared R. Stahler and Cantor Bálint Karosi. Each week's topic is explored in conversation with others.

March 8       Unique features of John’s Passion: a comparative look (Pastor Amandus Derr)
March 15     Writer, reader and character: sympathetic, ambivalent, injurious (Seminarian Suzanne Campise)
March 22     Misuses of “the Jews” past and present (Professor William G. Rusch)
March 29     Suffering and the Saint John Passion from latino/a perspectives (Pastor Juan Carols Ruiz)
April 5           An irenic reading of the Passion: life-giving cross (Professor Gordon Lathrop)

This study is preceded at 6:00 PMby Vespers/Evening Prayer , a sung liturgy with excerpts from Bach’s Passion.