John Howard Yoder’s The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited is helpful on many levels, but one of the most imporant points he makes therein is the way in which Christianity brought about what we know today as Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism as we know it today was not around in the time of Paul and Jesus. Rather it is precisely the relationship between the church and the Jewish people in the centuries after Jesus that have brought about what we know as Judaism.
Unlike how we have come to think of Judaism, the Judaism that was present in the time of the early church did not automatically consider belief in the messiah a reason to be excluded from the synagogue, nor was it closed off to gentiles. Rather Judaism in the first century was a decidedly missional religion (cf. Matt 23:15; Acts 2:9-11). Only after the church became decidedly identified as a gentile movement did the hardening of the lines between Judaism and Christianity truly take hold and culminate in the sort of ethnic definition of Judaism we know today. Yoder describes the phenomenon in this way:
It may be that ‘Christians’ progressively differentiated themselves from from Jews in order not to suffer persecution, and thereby diverted the anger of Gentiles toward the non-messianic Jews. Yet this in itself would not explain Jews’ abandonment of their missionary openness. In fact it could well have had the opposite effect. Jews no less than ‘Christians’ could argue that they had no secrets, that thier God was for everyone, that their law was reasonable, open to others, as their thinkers were doing at that time anyway.
In any case the outcome is that Judaism will be an ethnic enclave, less missionary than before, at some points in fact practically discouraging the accession of Gentiles to membership in the synagogue. This abandonment of missionary perspective on the part of Judaism is an adjustment not to the Gentile world but to Christianity. Non-missionary Judaism is a part of, a product of Christian history. For Jews to renounce mission means that they have been contextually ‘Christianized.’ They have accepted their limited slot within a context where telling the Gentiles about the God of Abraham is a function left to others and the Jews are willing to leave it that way. (p. 153-54)
The Christianization of Judaism ends in reducing Judaism to the non-missionary religion of an ethnic group. It turns the formerly universal message of the God of Abraham who created all nations and peoples, to the provincial religion of a sectarian enclave. However, this is only the begining. Yoder describes the culmination of the event of the Christianization of Judaism:
If the abandonment of openness to the Gentiles was the first stage of Judaism’s being influenced by Chistianity, one of the latest is the acceptance of the Jews of their assimilation into western pluralism. Protestants, Catholics and Jews are seen as the three equally legitimate forms of moral theism called ‘the Judaeo-Christian heritage.’ In some cases this has lead to a degree of theological assimilation, but the same tirpartite division of labour within pluralism can also be appealed to by Jews (or Protestants) who are much more orthodox. (p. 154)
The abandonment of missionalit culminates in the assimilation of Judaism into the tapestry of western pluralism, and specifically into the ideological construct known as the ‘Judaeo-Christian heritage.’ Where does this finally leave us?
The culmination of the Christianization of Judaism is the development of Zionism. Zionism creates a secular democratic nation state after the model of the nation states of the West. It defines Jews, for the purpose of building the state, in such a way that it makes no difference if most of them are unbelieving and unobservant. In America the Jews are ‘like a church’ with a belief structure, lifestyle commitments, and community meetings; in Israel Judaism is a nation and the belief dimension no longer matters. To be born in the State of Israel makes one less a Jew, in the deep historical sense of the term, than to be born in a ghetto. This is of course exacerbated by the fact that the Zionist state has taken on the challenge of governing subject populations who are not even ethnically Jewish. Committed Judaism, i.e. people who visibly order their lives around the Torah, is a minority sect in Israel just as are the Christians. (p. 154)
The upshot of all this is that the form of life embodied in and fostered by the secular state of Israel is the polar opposite of what the deep historical definition of Judaism entails. In fact, it is a betrayal of it. As such, support for the state of Israel cannot be construed as support for the Jewish people, let alone Judaism as a faith. Indeed supporting Israel should be seen as fundamentally anti-Jewish in nature. The state of Israel is, in fact the antithesis of the Judaism from the time of Jeremiah through the second century. To support the state of Israel is to continue the Christian mistake that began with the Jewish-Christian schism. Indeed, supporting the state of Israel is the most anti-Jewish act Christians can take, as it constitutes a hyperextension of the Christian (indeed, Constantinian) disciplining of Judaism. To the extent that the church supports Israel (as much of it rabidly does) the church commits itself to a most despicable form of anti-Judaism that should be repudiated by all.