THE NIGHT SKY OF THE LORD by Alan Ecclestone


Email this review


Strong, deeply felt thoughts on Jewish-Christian relations by an Anglican priest. New in his seventies, Ecclestone writes with a long lifetime's experience of this often painful question, and though he frames his conclusions in gentle language, they carry a lot of weight. His first and most basic point is that ""anti-Semitism . . . has stained the history of Christendom.' Quietly and unsparingly (but without the guilt-ridden excesses of writers like Roy Eckhardt), Ecclestone surveys the evolution of Christian anti-Semitism--from New Testament polemics, through Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, to the failure of Christianity to condemn and oppose the Holocaust. Auschwitz, he argues, ""is perhaps for the churches in Europe their last chance to pray responsibly for mankind."" But even after the fact, institutional Christianity seems largely deaf to the message of Auschwitz (e.g., in Vatican II's perfunctory treatment of Judaism). Turning from history to doctrine, Ecclestone calls for the replacement of ""anti-Jewish theology . . . by a wholly new pattern of thinking."" This would involve such things as abandonment of missions to the Jews and rejection of triumphalist approaches to the Bible. On a still more theoretical level, Ecclestone urges Christians to recover ""the Hebraic understanding of the creation and of the nature of human life."" (The notion of God's partnership with man, for instance, might awaken the sometimes dormant Christian sense of social responsibility.) And recent efforts by Jewish scholars (Sandmel, Vermes, Lapide) to look at Jesus in a purely Judaic context should help Christians to balance their own view of Christ. While he supports Zionism, Ecclestone may irritate seine Jewish readers by complaining that the state of Israel has elevated ""State power to supremacy over all other aspects of national life."" Still, he is so well informed about Judaism, so honest, sensitive, and non-dogmatic, that this forceful personal statement ought to engage anyone interested in Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Schocken