The Words of the Wilson Family

A Unification Position on the Jewish People

Andrew Wilson
March 1984

Excerpt from an article published in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies.

About the Jewish people: If the early Christians had accepted the Jewish people, there would not have been such a miserable history. Now we are in the position, as Unification Church members, to restore that by accepting the Christians. Think, if Father left us now, it would be very difficult. Father has taught us over and over again that Christianity is our brother. If Jesus likewise could have taught his disciples and would have survived, there would be no division in Christianity, no persecution. But this division couldn't be overcome ever by the disciples; they couldn't love their closest neighbor.

The Crucifixion and Jewish Guilt

Christianity has had to contend with and reject the teaching that the Jews crucified Jesus and that collectively they bear the guilt for killing Christ. This charge of "deicide" became a cause for much anti-Semitism throughout history. Unification theology can and must also reject any such assertion.

Unification theology shares with other Christian teachings a reliance upon the New Testament accounts of Jesus' crucifixion. This biblical record shows that the Romans not the Jews actually crucified Jesus. Crucifixion was a Roman punishment; it was not considered a proper way of execution according to Jewish law. Thus, while the Bible records that Stephen, when he was martyred, was stoned to death in accordance with the Mosaic law against blasphemy (Acts 7:58; see Lev. 24:16, Det. 13:10). Crucifixion was not the proper punishment for any of Jesus' supposed crime under Jewish law. It was, however, the standard Roman penalty for political subversives and revolutionaries, often used by Pilate to execute Jews whom he considered dangerous to Roman rule. Jesus was not condemned to death as a religious heretic, but rather as a political subversive who threatened Roman authority, as the title "King of the Jews" placed over his cross indicated.

Christian traditions which place exclusive responsibility on the Jews are based upon a selective reading of New Testament passages, and such traditions have also influenced Unification texts: "It was because, against God's will, they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, that the Israelites crucified him." But Christians and Unificationists can no longer overlook those biblical passages which implicate the Romans.

The Bible records that in the complex of events which led to Jesus' death, one of Jesus' own disciples -- in other words, a Christian -- betrayed him; another disciple denied him three times; certain Jewish leaders secretly tried him; and the Roman authorities crucified him. Although scholars disagree on the details of the relative degree of Roman participation and on the legality of the trial at the hands of the high priest and his collaborators, the only proper theological conclusion which can be drawn is that representatives of all humanity -- Christians, Jews, and Gentiles, jointly participated in the murder of Jesus.

From a Unification perspective, the identity of each individual is bound up with the collectivities of which he or she is a part and extends "vertically" to include his or her ancestors and descendants, Since Christians, Jews, and Romans, representing all humanity, participated in the murder of Christ, each one of us today also participated in that sin.

In particular, Unificationists, as modern-day followers of Christ, may be liable to the same cowardice and faithlessness as Peter when he denied Jesus and as Judas when he betrayed his Lord. Therefore, each Unificationist should feel personally responsible, believing that his or her own actions will determine whether or not God's representatives will be crucified once again. If Unificationists can see God's will as their own responsibility -- and that will includes bearing the burden of humanity's past sins -- then they should personally repent for the sins of the past and never make an error of transferring their own sense of guilt onto another, particularly the Jews.

The Jews' Rejection of Christ: Cause for Divine Punishment?

Beyond the issue of "deicide" and the specific event of the crucifixion looms a more difficult issue for Christians and Unificationists: the claim that the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah. This teaching has in the past incited many Christians against Jews and has led to the accusation, also repeated in some Unification texts, that the Jews are deserving of divine punishment.

On the first page of the "Six Hour Lecture," the statement is made: "The fact that the Jewish people, who so devoutly believed in God, could not recognize Jesus as the savior is the gravest error in the providence of restoration." Unification theology makes this assertion not about the Jews of all time, but specifically concerning those Jews of Jesus' day. The mission which God had called Jesus to fulfill was to erect the earthly reign of God -- that is, a world of peace and justice in the socio-political order -- on the base of support of the people of Israel. The Jews of Jesus' day did not cooperate with Jesus to build it. But the mission of Jesus was frustrated -- not fulfilled as many Christians believe -- by his early death on the cross. Hence, Unification theology considers the rejection of Jesus by most of the Jews of his day to be a very serious mistake indeed.

Based upon this view of the mission of Jesus, it follows as an historical consequence that much of the suffering of the Jewish people, and indeed of all people, would have been avoided had Jesus been able to establish the reign of God in his day. In that case, the entire sweep of human history would have looked very different as the great messianic prophecies of God's "peaceable Kingdom" would have been fulfilled. But, once the work of Jesus was cut short, the world's sinful history continued unchecked. Then the suffering of the Jewish people since the time of Jesus need not be viewed as a special punishment: it is only one tragic facet of the world's continued suffering after the failure to establish the reign of God at the time of Jesus. Much of it can be attributed to Christian prejudice.

In Unification theology, God is conceived less as a stern judge than as a loving parent. God suffers to see any of God's children suffer and would not wish to impose any punishment as severe as the 2000 years of suffering which the Jewish people have endured in the Christian era.

Based upon this principle, Divine Principle explicitly states that God, out of deep mercy for the Jews, forgave Israel's failure to support Jesus and delivered Israel out of satanic hands, even at the moment of the crucifixion itself. Jesus accurately expressed God's heart when he pronounced his forgiveness from the cross (Lk 23:24).

The Continuing Role of the Jews as God's Chosen People

A vexing problem for Christians has been the question of Israel's election since the time of Jesus. Was the Jewish people's covenant abrogated? Did Christianity as the "new Israel" replace the Jews as God's chosen people, while the Jewish people were cast aside? Paul clearly rejected this view: "God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew... for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable" (Rom 11:2.29). Unification theology, facing this same question, should agree with Paul that the Jewish people continue in God's grace as God's people.

Sun Myung Moon has declared that Judaism is the "elder brother" to Christianity and the Unification Church. Id his Washington Monument address he stated:

Judaism, centered upon the Old Testament, was the first work of God and is in an elder brother's position.

Christianity, centered upon the New Testament, is in the position of the second brother. The Unification Church, through which God has given a new revelation, the Completed Testament, is in the position of the youngest brother. These three religions are indeed three brothers in the providence of God.

Just as in any family the eldest child does not lose the parents' love when the younger children are born, so Judaism, as the eldest in the family of God's central religions, did not cease to be God's chosen people when its younger sibling religions came into being. Israel's election as God's chosen people is a status which continues from biblical times to the present and on to the end of history. As the senior religion of God's dispensation, Judaism deserves our respect.

A primary reason why Divine Principle contains remarks that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic about the faithlessness of the Jews toward Jesus and their subsequent suffering is precisely as a warning to Christians not to be complacent and make the same mistake.

The early disciples who wrote the Korean original of Divine Principle, who lived in a land where there were no Jews and where there was no awareness of the Jewish-Christian dialogues occurring in the United States and Europe, aimed this and other passages at those Christians who were persecuting them. They saw an analogy between the persecution of the church and their messianic leader by the established Christian churches and the biblical stories of Jesus' being persecuted by the Pharisees and Jewish leaders.

They declared God's eventual judgment on the Christians should they crucify the new Messiah by reference to the Jews who "have lost their qualification as the chosen people and have been scattered, suffering persecution through the present day," and "these Jewish people, too, completely lost their qualification a the chosen people when they crucified Jesus." We should see the virulence of these words as reflecting not anti-Semitism, but rather a reading back into the analogous New Testament situation some of the bitter controversy of the Unification Church's confrontation with Christians in Korea.

Such passages should not be interpreted theologically as dealing only with the specialized sense of election to receive the Messiah (see above) and not with the general concept of "chosen people." 

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