Thursday, February 11, 2010

Should Jews Thank the Church?

As I finish up Paula Fredricksen's "Augustine and the Jews," there is a question that lingers in my mind. Perhaps those of you with strong opinions one way or another about Christianity and/or the church can weigh in here. I'm talking about Augustine's "witness doctrine," derived from Psalm 59 that says, "Slay them not, lest my people forget." I know this was big doings for the church in the medieval period, but I don't know how much it played into other strands of Christianity throughout time and through the present.

Augustine's philosophy, although really, incredibly backhanded, was that Jews survive and should survive throughout all time until the End of Days in order that they serve as evidence to Christianity's truth. By Jewish survival, Jewish books survive, and, according to Augustine, it is Jews and their books that provide a walking, talking, breathing witness to the truth of Christianity -- that the church fathers didn't just "make it up." Jews and Judaism were not a challenge to Christianity, insisted Augustine, but a witness to it!

So my question is this: Does the world's Jewish community underestimate the power of this doctrine's importance throughout the past 1600+ years? Is it Augustine's (REALLY BACKHANDED) doctrine that has allowed the world to not completely destroy Jews and Judaism? Hitler wasn't too interested in church philosophy, and I honestly don't know his thoughts on Augustine or the "slay them not" doctrine. Anyone know?

Either way, I'm intrigued. We joke so often about how every great nation, political entity, or world power that has tried to destroy us has failed and disappeared into time. But is this G-d, or is it the church?

Talk amongst ya'selves.