A Minister-Rabbi Conversation

III. About Anti-Semitism and the Trinity 

“I thought you might invite me to your office in Temple Beth Anshe Chesed,” was the way the Rev. N. K. Russo began his third conversation with the rabbi. “No,” that dignitary replied, “I prefer the advantages of an open-air restaurant with nothing but the Creator’s shade trees and Jehovah’s heaven over my head. Such comfort we should always have! Such delicious espresso to stimulate our discussion on the planned topic of, you should pardon the expression, ‘anti-Semitism’! You don’t believe in it, do you?”

“You mean entertain or practice it in any way? Of course not! Nearly everyone realizes that the Jewish people have suffered a great deal of ‘antisemitic’ persecution throughout their history. However, not only Jews but Reformed Christians too have suffered terribly under the Inquisition. So while there’s a great hue and cry against ‘anti-semitism,’ where is there a voice raised against terroristic ‘anti-Christianity’? The term ‘anti-Semitism’ has become hackneyed and often appears to us Calvinists as a sort of a ‘scare-word’ intended to shut our mouths and to compromise us in the preaching of our Christian gospel. Why do the Jews condemn the New Testament as an ‘anti-Semitic book’? Out of about ten writers of the Book, all were Jewish except one. Was Paul anti-Semitic writing as he did about the Jews in certain sections of his Roman epistle, e.g., Romans 2:17-29 and chapter nine? Don’t forget, he also wrote chapter one, indicting the entire heathen world. But no one thinks to charge him with ‘anti-gentilism.’ Does all this offend you?”

“Not at all, Christian friend. What you say only more broadens the mind of an already broadminded rabbi.” 

“Well, then, are you Jews so sensitive to criticism that you must continually defend yourselves with the worn-out accusation of ‘anti-Semitism,’ or are you people always looking over your shoulders as though half expecting another Hitler to jump out of the woodwork to bite your heads off?” 

Chuckling good-naturedly together at this last sally, the rabbi responded, “Never in my wildest imaginations could I ever envision myself laughing with a Christian relative to ‘anti-Semitism’! But don’t forget what Israel suffered in World War II, and suffers to this day at the hands of PLO terrorists. Now that’s anti-Semitism!!’ 

“There you go again, my rabbi friend, harping on that same string! Answer me this question: The Yisraeli forces recently tried to rid the world of the PLO in Lebanon, didn’t they?” 

“Sure, a favor they were doing the whole world. Thankful every nation should be for that!” 

“Begin’s bagels, Nate! Aren’t the Palestinians and the PLO of Arab descent? and aren’t the Arabs semites? In connection with Israel’s recent siege against Lebanon, wasn’t the whole world fearful Israel would be guilty of genocide? But ever since Isaac and Ishmael, Arabs and Jews have been at one another’s throats. Then oughtn’t the pot (the Jews) be careful about calling the kettle (the Arabs) black? Have the Jews never been guilty of ‘antisemitism’?” 

“Touche, Nathanael! Maybe we should drop that reproachful expression. It could get too embarrassing to the Jewish community.” 

“Not touché, Nate; I’m not trying to score points, nor to appear witty and clever. True Christians are not anti-Semitic. Neither are they anti-Arab, or anti- Negro, anti-Irish, anti-Polish or anti anything—unless it be anti-sin. We are intolerant to sin and to anything not in harmony with the Holy Bible of Old and New Testaments. That is why we are called Protestants. We protest any denial or profanation of God’s covenant. Have you thought any more of what is written in Sepher Tehillim, the Book of Praises, in ha-mizmor le-Davidh, the Psalm of David, where Jehovah speaks of Meshicho, His Anointed, His Messiah?” 

“Not really. Reform rabbis are not very messiah-oriented, unless in a more practical vein we hope for another Bernard Baruch or another Franklin Roosevelt.” 

“Well, anyway, in that Second Psalm David is more relevant. He tells us that Jehovah reigns over the goyim, the gentiles, the nations, by His Messiah Whom He appoints as King in Zion. To Him Jehovah gives the goyim as an inheritance, the whole earth as His possession. To Him, His enthroned King, Jehovah actually says, ‘Thou art My Son!’ Then He commands the kings and magistrates of the earth, ‘Kiss the Son!’ Render Him supreme homage and allegiance. ‘Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they who put their trust in Him!’ Take refuge in the King Who laid down His life for Zion, for our sins (Psalm 22) that we might have a safe refuge from the wrath of El Shaddai, God Almighty!” 

“Still,” the rabbi insisted, “no mention is made there of the son’s name. As for the Isaianic passage alluded to the other day, your Protestant RSV Bible, to my way of thinking, has a much more suitable translation than heretofore. It states, ‘Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign, Behold, a young woman (Du., jonkvrouw) shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’ The rabbi of Temple Sinai in Capitol City expressed warm approval of this translation of the text. He said, ‘I am delighted to know that at last this great error of translation (as appearing in your KJV) has been finally corrected, and that at last some elements of the Christian world no longer officially maintain that Isaiah 7:14 is a prediction that Jesus was to be born of the Virgin Mary.'” 

“Now here is an instance of where the Jews may scream ‘anti-Semitism!’ any time they please, but no Christian dare charge a Jew with being anti- Christian. For that (RSV) mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14 is a deliberate corruption of the original Hebrew, the result of recent Jewish influence on the Revised Standard Bible Committee. One of the members of that committee was connected with a Jewish religious institute. Anyway, the text, instead of saying what it does in the original, becomes an intrusion of Talmudic Judaism, and anyone checking into the Talmud is soon impressed with its strong anti-Christianisms. But anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism—aren’t they both culpable evils?”

There comes a time when both sides should surrender to silence to give space to cool down, to reflect and meditate. At this point such an advantage was grasped. Later, on another occasion, the two friendly opponents resumed their talks on the plurality of God. The Reformed minister was addressing himself to the rabbi’s question that “assuming there is more than one divine personality in the Godhead, why may there not be only two?” “Let me get into the question, Rabbi, with another question. What are the first words written in the Torah?” 

The answer came spontaneously: “Bereshith bara’ Elohim eth ha-shamayim ve-eth ha-aretz” (In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth). 

“Thank you, (That’s beautiful, isn’t it?) Now notice that though the subject, Elohim, is plural (the singular would be Eloah), that the predicate, bara (created), is singular! Interesting; for in Ecclesiastes 12:1, ‘thy Creator’ is in the plural, literally, ‘Remember now thy Creators in the days of thy youth.’ You see that this agrees with the plural of Genesis 1:1. For there are three who create, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Cp. Psalm 33:5-6. But don’t overlook that word ‘heavens’ in Genesis. That’s right; it’s no plural, but a dual. However, there is no dual form of the name of God. If there were but two divine personalities in the Godhead, the dual would have been employed. But in Scripture this is never the case. So the Hebrew plural always implies more than two, at least three, and in reference to God we know from other Scriptures it means exactly three. This fact could hardly be made clearer than it is made in Isaiah 63:7-10, where three divine Persons are mentioned: the Lord, their Savior (the Father), the Angel of His presence (the Son), and the Holy Spirit. 

“Interesting, too, is Genesis 18, where the Lord appeared to Abraham in a theophany (a supernatural appearance of God). This appearance occurred in the form of three men. Abraham saw Them, greeting all three with a divine name he had used before of God—Adonai, a plural name, literally ‘my Lords.’ He addressed Them with singular pronouns: ‘If now I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away . . . from Thyservant.’ Here he addresses one of Them, referring to himself as servant of that One. Then he addresses Them with plural pronouns: ‘Let a little water, I prayYou, be fetched, and wash Your feet, and restYourselves, and comfort Ye Your hearts,’ as ‘Ye are come to Your servant.’ Here he addresses all three of Them, referring to himself as the servant of all three. These three he recognizes to be Adonai. This use of both the singular and plural pronouns, not indicated in the modern versions, reveals something of the unity and trinity of Jehovah (Adonai).

“One more point, Rabbi: John the Baptizer, the last prophet of the Old Testament, and his hearers, were fully acquainted with the names of the three Persons of the Godhead. There was not the least necessity to explain to them that God exists in three Persons. They read their Old Testament understanding this fact. Under the Baptizer’s and our Lord’s teaching the mystery of the trinity was never explained as previously unknown. Cp. Luke 1:35Luke 2:27f; Luke 3:22John 1:32f and John 3:34, 35. It was never questioned nor objected to as Unitarians do. “The Jews of this period were not Unitarians as are those of today.’ What the Jews of Jesus’ day objected to was only that He called Himself God’s Son. They never contended that God is only one Person and not three, nor that God could not have a Son. For the Old Testament revealed the trinity to the Jews under the Old Covenant.”