With the new church year beginning next Sunday, this book can start us off on the right foot. Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews by Ronald J. Allen and Clark M. Williamson goes through the three-year cycle of Sunday lectionary readings, showing the positive connections between the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels.
In their introduction they say, “Sociological studies suggest that the more Christians believe deprecatory things about Jews in Jesus’ time, the more they tend to project those negative images on Jews today.” It were far better if Church-goers never heard those vilifying passages in the first place, I contend, but until that day comes this book will help preachers direct their parishioners’ attention away from “deprecatory things.”
The introduction explains how the animosities of later generations were written back into the time of Jesus. This gives a false impression, as if Jews were the antagonists of Jesus when in fact all the factions were largely Jewish.
It calls attention to how false polarities were used to put Jesus and his followers in a favorable light, in contrast to those who chose not to follow him. The Pharisees, for instance, supposedly emphasized purity laws, while Jesus emphasized compassion — the one exclusive, the other inclusive. For a truer understanding they quote Jon Levenson, “It is not a question of law or love, but law conceived in love, love expressed in law.”
One trenchant point caught my eye. “Preaching should be liberated from the inherited biases and ideologies of the tradition, including those that found their way into the Scriptures.” Substitute “The lectionary” for “Preaching” and you have my point in a nutshell.