Monday, September 18, 2006

Pope is Catholic theologian scandal

From The Age:
"The pontiff appeared to risk causing fresh controversy during his speech on Sunday when he cited a passage from St Paul that risked being interpreted as hostile - not by Muslims, but by Jews. It described the crucifixion of Jesus as a "scandal for the Jews".

He said he wanted to comment on two recent Roman Catholic festivals relating to the crucifixion. What, the Pope asked, was the point of exalting the cross, a tool of execution?

In reply to his rhetorical question, he quoted a verse from St Paul, the New Testament author most often accused of anti-Semitism. In the Italian translation, used by the Pope, it runs as follows: "We preach the crucified Christ - a scandal for the Jews, a folly for the pagans.""
The Greek word is skandalon and is normally translated in English versions as 'stumbling block' and pagans as 'Greeks' (see I Corinthians 1:23). Paul says this because the notion that the maschiach should enter into History to be executed as a common criminal was indeed scandalous to the orthodox Jewish eschatology of the time.

But was the artist formerly-known as Saul of Tarsus anti-Semitic? At Glasgow University I was privileged to hear Professor Joel Marcus lecture and if I remember rightly, he thought so. I'm hardly competent to form judgment of my own. Some of his remarks certainly seem so - although I can't help feeling that this may be because we view them through a long historical telescope with a lens smeared by centuries of Christian anti-Semitism.

Are Jews incensed by the Pope's remarks? It's difficult to tell - they haven't burned anything yet, neither have they called for the Pope to be cursed by God. And that's what to do if you wish to draw attention to the fact that you're offended by the pronouncements of a rather reactionary and other-wordly Catholic theologian.

I wouldn't bother because like Howard Jacobson, I don't really buy this idea that the thin-skinned have an extra layer of human rights.

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