You Scratch My Back, I’ll Stab Yours

“The attack on the Jew . . . is an attack on Christianity itself and on the Judeo-Christian basis of our Western civilization.”

San Francisco Chronicle (Oct. 9, 1947)

The notion that Western civilization rests on a Judeo-Christian basis is very largely an invention of the 1940s, when Jews felt a sudden and unprecedented desire to join the Western club and lock arms with their Christian “brothers.” Although a palpable oxymoron, the phrase prospered in the years that followed, and is now well established as one of the hardier weeds in the unlovely garden of American political cant.

Obviously, there can be no such thing as Judeo-Christian values when Jews specifically reject the highest Christian value, which is Christ.

We might go so far as to call Judeo-Christian values a canard, and say that this canard serves mainly to de-divinize Christ, and thus dissolve Christianity into a purely ethical system. Curiously, the solvent power of this canard is somehow neutralized when it comes to doctrines that are distinctly Jewish. I would add that the canard also serves to reconcile Christians to the fact that they nowadays receive so much of their moral, political and theological instruction from strongly self-identified Jews.  Curiously, the respect that Jews feel for the teaching authority of strongly self-identified Christians remains as low as ever.

What this suggests is that modern Judeo-Christianity is Christianity made acceptable to Jews.  It does not seem to involve reciprocal modifications to Judaism.  Indeed, the basic Judeo-Christian condominium would seem to be that Christians shall say only nice things about Jews, while Jews shall go on gifting Christians with their withering criticism.

Now that Jews and Christians are brothers, we see that the Christians are brother Esau.

* * * * *

Before 1940, historians used the phrase Judeo-Christian to describe sects of Christianized Jews, such as the Ebionites and Nazarenes, which briefly flourished in the early days of the faith.  In his History of the Origins of Christianity (1888), for instance, Ernest Renan used the adjective to denote Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but who continued to observe the Mosaic Law and held themselves aloof from the gentile Church (in other words, these Judeo-Christians were the people Paul was really talking about in Galatians 3:28).

These Judeo-Christians also dissented from the emerging Trinitarian doctrine of the orthodox Church, denied that Jesus was divine, and seem to have taught that he was a prophet, an angel, or some sort of ghostly apparition.  Renan suggests that they esteemed Jesus in much the same way as he would later be esteemed in Islam, which Renan called “a sort of Arab prolongation of Judeo Christianity.”

The Judeo-Christian sects were persecuted and destroyed by orthodox Jews, who abominated Jesus as the grossest of blasphemers, and who likely harried from their synagogues anyone who said he was anything less than a very wicked man.  Thus, Renan tells us,

“Orthodox Judaism could not curse the minim [Judeo-Christians] with sufficient bitterness.”

Indeed, he argues that such a curse was added to the highest Jewish prayer, the Amidah, at just this time; and that the “heretics” that Jews still ask Yahweh to destroy are none other than these Judeo-Christians of yore.

The New Testament of course confirms that orthodox Jews were violently opposed to Judeo-Christianity, and therefore forced Judeo-Christians to either abjure Christ or leave the synagogue. If there is one thing that orthodox Christians and Jews have agreed upon for two thousand years, it is that Judeo-Christian is a contradiction in terms.

I should add that Renan admired these early Judeo-Christians because he saw them as precursors to his own humanitarian religion.  Like “Jesus People” and Unitarians in every age, Renan believed that the pure Gospel of Jesus had been corrupted by Paul, but that beneath all the subsequent encrustations of myth and metaphysics, one could still discover a merely human and historical Jesus.

* * * * *

As I said a moment ago, modern Judeo-Christianity is a canard invented to ease the assimilation of strongly self-identified Jews into a society that retains some large vestiges of Christianity.  Canard, by the way, is what a Frenchman calls a duck (or more properly a drake), and metaphorical canards therefore spread through society in the same way that quacking spreads through a paddling raft of ducks.  One duck quacks and all the others repeat it.

It doesn’t mean a things.  That is just what canards do!

This is certainly how I began quacking about the Judeo-Christian basis of Western Civilization.  It is what I heard from all the other quacks

But we may deduce from the disappearance of those early Judeo-Christians that this quackery cannot last.  Serious Jews understand this, and therefore see Judeo-Christianity as nothing more than a useful canard.  They will quack it, to be sure, but they do not for a moment believe it.  I earlier likened this canard to a hardy weed, but orthodox Jews seem to look upon it more in the way of very useful vegetable.

* * * * *

In 1894, a Rabbi named Frederick Cohn addressed a large congregation in the Odd Fellows Hall in El Paso, Texas, his topic being the incomparable debt the world owed to Israel. He listed Christianity among the blessings bestowed by Israel, saying of the former that it “was really Judaism at work in the pagan world.”  Thus, “of the Graeco-Roman, the Teutonic German, and the Judeo-Christian ideas, it is the later that has done more for the world than any other agency known to history” (1).

This implies what I call the doctrine of Christianity as Small Beer.  In other words, this is the heretical Jewish doctrine that Christianity is monotheism for morons who can only think in pictures.  It is the doctrine that Judaism is black coffee, while Christianity is mostly sugar and cream.  It is the doctrine that Christianity is baby food.

“Hey Esau, you stupid ox, be a good brother . . .”

* * * * *

This train of thought was set in motion by a couple of announcements that popped up in my email within minutes of each other, just the other day.  The first was a slice of Judeo-Christian quackery from a student organization called Christians United for Israel.

The second was a slab of Judeo-Islamist footsie from a professor in the Philosophy Department.  Put these two announcements together, and you will begin to see what the Judeo-Christian basis of Western Civilization might possibly be.

 

31 thoughts on “You Scratch My Back, I’ll Stab Yours

  1. Those announcements are a hoot. I’m sad to see that the wicked (self-conscious) lefties have a better command of English than the well-intentioned Christians, though they pervert it to extremes in their own po-mod way. For the first: “He will be telling story.” It _should_ be surprising that college students write so. And for the second, opening “a space to elaborate on intersectionality”! The last sentence is rib-cracking! As so many people continually observe, we cannot satirize these folks. I marvel at our times.

    Anyway, you may wish to look into Boyarin’s work as a counterargument (of sorts). He argues that the religious authorities — those responsible for rightly dividing the word of truth — on both the rabbinic and Christian sides overemphasized their differences in response to the laity’s free-shifting between the two communities. Such makes sense and seems to fit the record of the early centuries before the Diocletian period.

    • The intellectual feast is on offer every day at a university. I think what you say has long been true of Judaism, since such shifting as occurred was predominantly out of that community. Through much of history, this was necessary for Judaism to survive in Christian milieu. Conversion was relatively easy, and the benefits were considerable. So, if Judaism was to survive, it would have to make Christianity odious and raise the penalties for apostasy very high. A minority religion cannot survive if it gives its members a flattering picture of the majority religion and does not ostracize apostates. Christians certainly said some unflattering things about Jews, but after the first century or so, they had no need to vilify Judaism because they were losing no converts to Judaism.

  2. Pingback: You Scratch My Back, I’ll Stab Yours | Reaction Times

  3. If Renan is right, Arianism seems the intermediate stage between heterodox Judeo-Christianity and Mohammedanism. Those areas most contaminated by Arianism seem to have rolled over very quickly in the face of the Arab onslaught.

    Those Jewish intersectionists are preparing to ingratiate themselves with what they perceive as the stronger horse.

    I think we must also be careful to remember that Christianity did retain much of her Judaic heritage, most particularly in Her worship. The older Temple sacrifice, significantly abandoned by rabbinical judaism signified the Mass. It is ironic that those in the Church most keen to lick the boots of the Jews are those who most strongly support the elimination of this oldest Jewish element in Christianity, the notion of Mass as Sacrifice. Likewise, with the changing of the vestments and liturgy.

    Roy Schoeman has written an excellent book from the point of view of a Jewish convert. He seems a very devout Christian, but considers he hasn’t had to reject all of his prior Judaism. Christianity hasn’t rejected the Old Testament, Jews are meant to heed the Ten Commandments, both religions share a not dissimilar concept of God, albeit with enormous and irreconcilable differences. At the same time, Jews have been very prominent, throughout the last two millenia, in advancing the cause of movements and philosophies fundamentally opposing Christian civilisation.

    The Jews need to be converted. There are potentially Christians of the highest order among them. They need to be saved from themselves. They need to accept Christ as their Lord and God.

    • I think that is right. It is very easy to get lost in the early heresies as to the nature of Christ, but the main thing to see is that everything other than the Trinitarian formula ultimately leads to humanitarianism (Jesus was a wise man). In Islam the humanitarian doctrine is tied to monotheism, in Secular Humanism it is tied to atheism.

      I certainly wish to respect the historical facts, and do not wish to stir up religious hatred, but my first loyalty is to my own group. This means that I would like us to tell our history in a way that does not place us at a disadvantage. Thus, while we should acknowledge that ancient Jews once carried our tradition, I don’t think we should call it a Jewish tradition. My reading of the story of Moses on Mt. Sinai is that our tradition came from God on the mountain, whereas the natural tradition of the Israelites was down there dancing round the golden calf. We should certainly respect the faithful Jews who carried the God-given tradition forward, but it seems to me that endless mischief follows from giving them credit for the tradition itself. For one thing, it seems to underwrite the disastrous notion that Jews have some sort of proprietary claim on the tradition. Imagine the tradition as a painting that presently hangs on the wall of my house. I might he mildly interested in what its former owner thought of it; but his opinion would count for nothing against the thoughts of the painter.

      • I think we can give credit to the older Jewish tradition. It simply ended with Christ. The Jews who rejected Christ were the ones who actually abandoned the true Jewish tradition, because the core of the latter was the advent of Christ. According to the Talmud itself, in both the Jerusalem and Babylonian versions, the Jewish rite of sacrifice entirely lost its power for forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, as manifested in the failure of the sacred thread to turn from red to white. In AD 70, Jerusalem was destroyed, taking Temple Judaism with it. Temple Judaism was succeeded by Christianity, the New Israel, not the rabbinic Judaism which has existed since. This rabbinic tradition is an imposter.

  4. James Whitcomb Riley: “When I see a bird that walks like a duck
    and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.”

    The trouble with ducks, as Alasdair Gray noted in ‘The Crank that Made the Revolution’ (contained in ‘Unlikely Stories, Mostly) is that they don’t walk very well, swim very well or fly very well. Accordingly, Vague McMenamy (the protagonist of the tale) created a new improved duck – designed to excel at swimming. Sadly, it crashed and the ducks (yes – plural) drowned.
    It is hard (for me, at any rate) to imagine a finer metaphor for Technocratic Man’s attempts to improve on Nature, Religion or whatever…

    • We’ve had a couple of ducks as pets. They are affectionate creatures that, if obtained as a young ducklings, will sit at your feet like a dog. They are also an excellent antidote to garden snails, a pest with which we are sorely afflicted. Gray’s observations on the design of a duck seem to illustrate the proposition that it is impossible to simultaneously optimize more than one variable. So the duck is a waddling compromise. But, as I said, an affectionate creature.

      • If you like ducks, I suggest this video set to Sibelius’ Finlandia:

        ‘Now that Jews and Christians are brothers,
        we see that the Christians are brother Esau’
        That would suggest that Christians are elder brothers to the Jews.
        Given that Rabbinic Judaism postdates Titus’ sack of Jerusalem,
        that would be about right.

      • Thank you for that, Brian. I haven’t heard this piece since I played it in highschool almost 10 years ago. Nearly forgot, but always loved it. Enjoyed the small drama with the ducks!

      • On further reflection on the thesis of your essay,
        some of the elder brothers fancy another mess of pottage…

      • Not only is it impossible to simultaneously optimise more than one variable, any variable optimised is inevitably at the expense of another. This is obvious in the breeding of dairy cows, a species which has undergone more genetic manipulation than most. Any time a cow is bred for more milk production, something else is bound to give-increased propensity to lameness or reduced fertility are typical examples.

      • Glad you enjoyed it Scoot; though,
        while usually ‘the early bird gets the worm’,
        here ‘the last bird gets the fly’.

      • While McMenamy’s new improved duck could swim very fast, it could not fly at all and its ability to walk was greatly reduced to say the least. Similarly, when Christianity is ‘optimised’ (whether in a humanist, Arian or Monophysite manner), it is always Christ that is limited – if not actually excluded.

  5. This is certainly how I began quacking about the Judeo-Christian basis of Western Civilization.  It is what I heard from all the other quacks.

    Ditto. Once again I find occasion to quote William James, who once famously said what others had less famously said before him – that there is nothing so absurd than when you repeat something often enough, people begin to believe it.

    • Of course sometimes the quacking is true. I think the best course is to regard the fact that a proposition is being quacked as epistemologically neutral. It neither adds to, nor subtracts from, the probability that the proposition is true. One of the humbling experiences of age is recalling the stupid fads and manias one has fallen prey to. A young man is convinced that he will never be a fool. An old man knowns that he has been a fool about as often as the next fellow.

      • the stupid fads and manias one has fallen prey to

        No one who lived through the ’80s can deny this.

  6. A very insightful article. A worthy read is Cohen’s “the Myth of the Judeo-Christian tradition”.

    A little anecdote from a Jew: during this year’s Passover meal, the rabbi, of Lubavitcher affiliation, recounted a conversation with the representative of one of the many “Holocaust Associations” spread throughout the Diaspora. In their discussion, the progressive with the persecution complex discussed the virtues of including Holocaust memoria within existing ancient traditions, proposing, for instance, leaving an empty chair at the Seder table to the memory of the children of the Shoah. The rabbi remembered a similar discussion with the Lubavitcher Rebbe Schneerson years earlier, who had agreed to a similar proposal, but added that this chair “should be instead consecrated to those without a Passover table who, for this reason, should be compelled to come in.”

    It is true that contemporary culture, nominally Christian, is also Judaic insofar as it embodies politically a retreat from love to justice and, in this way, pleases the Jews and becomes hospitable to them. However, the above anecdote demonstrates how much (howsoever incomplète) the Jews, through their inexorable Talmudic innovations, have edged closer to the Christian teaching in their own relation to the world. I don’t doubt that those who remain nominally Jewish are either intellectual cowards, unregenerate national chauvinists or ignorant inheritors of an increasingly pedantic and obscurantist law, but the scandal of the Cross will always be a stumbling block for such as they, just as it is for the Gentiles (and the many Jewish converts) who, nominally, became Christian without comprehending the inner meaning of that which is alone Judeo-Christian, the Scriptures, and which essentially teaches what Pope Francis recently emphasized: that the name of God is mercy.

    • I don’t know Cohen’s essay, but have read Jews who reject the notion of Judeo-Christianity. As I say in the post, orthodox (which is to say honest) Christians and Jews agree on this point. It is important to stress that violent enmity does not necessarily follow from this. Profound doctrinal disagreement can only be managed if both sides acknowledge the disagreement. Glossing it over with the flat assertion that the two sides are basically the same simply prevents adaptations to the fact that they are not.

  7. Fundamental issue is very simple: is the Messianic claim true?
    The division is 33AD, and then 70AD. Who has the Temple, the priesthood, the Sacrifice?
    If the claim is true, then Christianity is older than Judaism, and the large and diverse umbrella term “Judaism” is united only by an ethnicity – shared characteristic – of theology, in this case of rejection.

    • Two fundamental issues: what is the nature of the Messiah, and is the Messianic claim true? I am no expert, but from what I understand, the Jewish Messiah was seen by many sects as a more political/temporal figure (a great king/leader, not divine although blessed with God’s favor – basically, King David 2.0). Reading even the New Testament, Jesus’ divinity took a while for even the apostles to grasp, which implies few, if any Jews expected a divine Messiah. I basically see Judaism and Christianity as a long road which comes to a fork (or two) – Is the Messiah God incarnate, and is Jesus the Messiah? If you want to call that pre-fork road “Judeo-Christianity,” I suppose you could, although it would seem redundant.

  8. I had thought it was mainly Protestants who tried to make Judeo-Christian a term (in the sense that it’s been used since the 1940s; not in the nietzchean sense). It started out as a liberal assimilationist term (spearheaded by liberal Protestants, although with some assimilationist Jewish support), but it very quickly (already by the ’50s) became a term associated with Christian conservatives.

    Jews have been more ambivalent toward it. Although these days conservative Jews like Dennis Prager tend to like it.

    But that’s only going from memory on an article or two that I’ve read on it, so maybe I’ve got that backwards.

    It seems to me that the concept to which it points is basically a logical development of the American civil religion, extended (and further watered down) now to include Jews (and Catholics) rather than just the various Protestant churches.

    • American Jews invented the phrase in its modern meaning in the early 1940s to get American Christians riled up about Nazis. Some Nazis really hated Christianity, but their general attitude was not all that different from Modernists in the United States. The phrase became very popular after the war because it allowed a largely secular elite (many of whom were Jews) to cajole the plebeians, who remained largely religious. When an elite said they stood for JC values, they meant secular modernist values, but the rubes just heard them say Christianity. It has never been anything but a political slogan.

      • I would say the Nazi attitude was a good bit worse They tried to resurrect the pagan gods, create alternative “churches” that took a knife to the Bible, and killed a lot of Christians and Christian clerics explicitly because they put Christ ahead of the party.

        Modernists aren’t really…wait, I may have gotten this wrong.

  9. While I fully realize that Judaism is incompatible with salvation and Christianity, this article serves no other purpose than to divide groups who have no need of dividing and takes the focus off the real enemy which is satanic practice of islam!

    It says in Revelations, and I paraphrase here, that Gods Chosen People have a veil Over their eyes, and can not see the Messiah. In the last days, this veil will be lifted or removed and Jews too will be allowed into Heaven. That of course is not word for word, or even close, but it gives the jist of it.

    Division between Christians and Jews now is not only unnecessary but is out right dangerous! We have stupidly allowed mohamedens to infiltrTe the United States and all of Europe, and this is patently their well known practice of invade from within! Wake up Western Society, the Trojan Horse is real and present, and it is NOT JUDAIS!!
    We are in The Gravest Possible Danger and the alarm needs to be sounded !

    • I would like to see all the comity there can possibly be between Christians and Jews, but oppose all pretense of more comity than there can possibly be.

    • Islam is not the real enemy, secular modernism is, and liberalism is its most powerful representative.
      Liberalism is Mordor. Islam is Saruman: a useful tool with which to defeat the Good. But once Mordor defeats the Good, it will no longer have any use for Saruman, and will be unwilling to share her power.

    • “We have stupidly allowed mohamedens to infiltrTe the United States and all of Europe”

      Some day, they might even have the same influence as AIPAC!

      Who exactly do you think is most active in “allowing mohammedens infiltrate the US”? And modern American Judaism is pretty damn “satanic’.

    • Division between Christians and Jews now is not only unnecessary but is out right dangerous!

      I agree 100%! Now, when can we expect the Chosen Ones to stop driving this division?!?

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