This year, the first night of the Jewish Passover is Friday. The dates of both Easter and Passover are set by the phases of the moon; usually they coincide, but not always.
And this charged week is the season when careless Christian supersessionism hits its apex. According to the Theopedia, supersessionism is
This smug attitude of superiority underlies Christian anti-Semitism; a European culture bathed in this enabled the Holocaust. And this gets its license from the way the story of Jesus is told in the Gospels, the Christian scriptures. Simply put, the Christian scripture make it far too easy for readers long removed from the events depicted to take in that Jesus lived and died a Jew.
James Carroll's Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age is an anguished, passionate, and persuasive call to Christians to rethink the circumstances in which our foundational texts were written. In the light of the Holocaust, aided by numerous archeological and textual discoveries of the last 70 years, Jewish and Christian scholars have framed what is certainly a more sophisticated understanding of the milieu in which Jesus taught and died. And they argue that we've forgotten, or never knew, that the period which called forth these writings was for the Jewish people (including the early Christian sub-sect) a First Holocaust.
In the war's first phase, the Temple in Jerusalem which was the touchstone of Jewish identity, was destroyed, an unthinkable catastrophe. The first telling of the Jesus story, the Gospel of Mark, was written in 70 C.E., the year of the destruction of the Temple.
The survivors had seen what they had believed to be the solid foundations of existence torn up by imperial power. It's not surprising that they took several hundred years to gradually reconstitute their understandings of God's presence in their world -- and that fissures developed.
This was the milieu out of which the accounts of Jesus' death on the cross were written. These stories don't look the same when their context is remembered.
Because of the way the Christian scriptures are organized, with the four accounts of Jesus' life coming first and various letters and other material following, it is natural to assume the letters of Paul of Tarsus postdate the other material. But all scholars agree that this is wrong. Paul's genuine letters are the earliest material in the canon and the only part of it written before the Roman's destroyed the Jerusalem Temple. And so, we easily misread Paul.
In the last phase of the Jewish War, the entire city of Jerusalem was razed to the ground and Jews were under attack from the authorities throughout the empire. This had the practical effect of deepening the divide between the Jesus people, especially their Gentile converts, and other Jews.
Carroll makes a convincing case for his reading of the history. There's much more in this dense book. It should not be hard for us to imagine that total imperial war might unmoor the survivors' hold on what had happened and what was metaphorical. We live in the shadow of the Holocaust and the Bomb, facing climate catastrophe. We ought to be able to empathize and even learn.