The Church Fathers on the Jews

[I found this interesting. An example of how a Great Father can be so wrong on one. John’s sermons against the Jews referred to in the following article can be found here on my blog also – RAS]

by Dcn. Andrei Kurayev

As I know something about history I can tell you what attitude Orthodox thought has developed towards Judaism and the Jewish nation. It is in fact twofold.

chrysostom 1If we are talking  about the Orthodox attitude to Judaism, then obviously since the very  birth  of Christianity we have these two religious systems which  have  been opposed to one another  and have lived for two  thousand years in a state of mutual hostility, so even committees  at supreme court level would have difficulties sorting things out.

As regards the Orthodox attitude towards the Jews as a people, then two strains of thought can be found within those texts which the Orthodox Church takes  as  having spiritual  authority.

One of these is  expressed most clearly in St John Chrysostom’s famous Six Words Against the Jews in  which he declares that it is our duty to despise the Jews, the synagogue  and everything else of theirs.

The other argument is put forward quite clearly by St Makari the Great, who said that anyone  who accepts the fullness of God’s love is like an innocent child and shows love equally to  everyone, monks and laity, sinners and righteous, Greeks and Jews.

So sometimes we find a harsh conception of one’s relationship to one’s opponents, but sometimes the question becomes a moral one and in the writings of the Holy Fathers it is the  general principle of love for all mankind that emerges triumphant.

You see, even if we regard the Jews as the enemies of Christianity, the direct commandment of our Lord is still to love our enemies – both those we regard as our enemies and those who consider themselves our enemies. As the remarkable church historian Vasili Bolotov has put it,

If I see that the various Church Fathers have different opinions on a particular church issue, then no one can force me to agree with any judgment by any particular Father which I personally do not consider to be well  enough grounded in,  and corresponding to, the spirit of the Gospel. In  exactly the same way, if an opinion held by a Church Father has not been  officially condemned by a church council, and if it attracts me by the force of argument, by its  beauty and by its spiritual power, then no one can forbid me to hold the same opinion.

A study of the source material relating to the medieval Orthodox heritage thus reveals two  kinds of text.  Which ones we are going to revive and preach today depends on our own moral stance and the choice we make.

These are excerpts from an interview with Andrei Kurayev by the journalist  Nataliya
Babasyan, first published in Khristiansky vestnik, no. 6,  1993, pp. 21-2. [source]

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