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Following the Jewish Jesus

Twenty-four years ago this week, I was in Jerusalem to cover Pope John Paul II’s epic pilgrimage to the Holy Land for NBC. After going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to pray at the 11th and 12th stations, I went to dinner with a graduate school classmate, Father Michael McGarry, then the director of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute.

We drove through East Jerusalem to “Philadelphia,” a Palestinian restaurant Father McGarry recommended, where we had a fine meal of local specialties, prepared and served by friendly people who were evidently grateful for our trade (much of East Jerusalem being as dead as a doornail that night). The one discordant note was struck when, on the way out of the restaurant, I noticed a large color poster featuring a photo-shopped picture of John Paul II and PLO leader Yasser Arafat under the headline, “Welcome to the Palestinian Holy Land,” a variant on the “Palestinian Jesus” theme Arafat had been retailing.

Insofar as there was any religious content in this crude, not-altogether-subtle attempt to de-Judaize the one whom Christians recognize as the Messiah—the Messiah promised to the Jewish people and born of a Jewish woman—it hearkened back to the ancient heresy of the Marcionites: a second-century sect that rejected the Old Testament in its entirety. Marcion and his followers claimed that the Creator God of Genesis and the God of the Jewish people’s Exodus was not the “Father” God to whom Jesus prayed; in fact, the Marcionites claimed that Jesus’s mission, as he understood it, was to overthrow and displace this “God of the Law” with the “God of Love.” Marcion rejected three of the four canonical gospels, accepting only an edited version of the gospel of Luke.

And therein lay this heretic’s one positive contribution to Christianity: he forced the Church to clarify its own canon of Scripture, which of course includes the gospels Marcion rejected.

Read more at Catholic World Report 

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