A Look at the Creeds and Why they Fall Short!


Almost every Christian and almost every church has recited the Apostles Creed. I am not against this. But let me ask you a question: If you read this creed, how much would you find out about the humanity of Jesus? Furthermore, after reading the creed, would you walk away actually knowing the relationship between Jesus and Israel? While there is a mentioning of his death under Pilate and his burial as well, would you ever read this and realize Jesus was Jewish? You may say, “well of course he was Jewish and everyone knows that!” You would be surprised. Here is the creed:

“I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”

Gerald R. McDermot notes the problem here: 

” It is noteworthy that the two greatest creeds, the Apostles’ and Nicene, jump from creation and fall to redemption through Jesus Christ without explicit (it is implicit in “the prophets”) mention of the history and people of Israel. This is an example of Soulen’s structural supersessionism—the suggestion that Israel is not needed for salvation. Yet Jesus said “salvation is from the Jews” (Jn 4:22), and Mary spoke of her Son’s redemption in terms of salvation for and through Israel. What might historical theology do to understand the reason for this lacuna in the creeds and what impact the creeds had on later supersessionism? The same sort of work could be done by liturgical theologians. Why were Old Testament readings left out of the lectionary readings for Sunday worship for so many centuries? Why do some still omit Old Testament readings? How have these omissions affected Christian attitudes toward Jews, Israel and the land? Why are so few sermons devoted to Old Testament texts? These are some of the questions that scholars of liturgy and homiletics should ask.”–The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land by Gerald R. McDermot

As James Dunn says,

“The more significance we Christians, recognize in Jesus, God’s self revelation in fullest form possible within humanity, the more we need to recall that this incarnation took place  precisely in a Jew- Jesus the Jew”-The Parting of the Ways, Between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity, pg 258.  

And as Craig Evans says,

” If the interpreter has found the proper context, his or her interpretation will be the better informed and more accurate for it. Becoming acquainted with Jesus’ Jewish context is a must for sound exegesis; finding it brings us much closer to the Jesus of history and of faith.”-  Jesus and Judaism, Available at http://www.gci.org/jesus/Judaism

Building on what Dunn and Evans says, it couldn’t be more evident that without the proper context, we end up with a Jesus made into our own image. As Clemens Thoma says:

“Christians have torn Jesus from the soil of Israel. They have de-Judaised, uprooted, alienated, Hellenized, and Europeanized him. The consequences of these manipulations and whitewashings are hopeless confusion about the person of Jesus, the nature and tasks of Christianity, and the meaning of Judaism in religious history.”- A Christian Theology of Judaism, pg. 107.

As Philip Yancey says,

“Is it possible to read the Gospels without blinders on? Jews read with suspicion, preparing to be scandalized. Christians read through the refracted lenses of church history. Both groups, I believe would do well to pause and reflect on Matthew’s first words, “a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.” The son of David speaks of Jesus’ messianic line, which Jews should not ignore; a title without significance for him.” Notes C.H. Dodd,”The son of Abraham speaks of Jesus’ Jewish line, which Christians dare not ignore either.” – P. Yancey,  The Jesus I Never Knew. 55.

Jaroslav Pelikan also makes a significant comment:

“Would there have been such anti-Semitism, would there have been so many pogroms, would there have been as Auschwitz, if every Christian church and every Christian home had focused its devotion and icons of Mary not only as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven but as the Jewish maiden and the new Miriam, and on icons of Christ not only as Pantocrator but as Rabbi Jeshua bar-Joseph, Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth?”- Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture, pg 20.

Even though this was written a ways back,

New Testament scholar Scot McKnight has made a great contribution to the continuity of Jesus’ relationship with Israel. He says:

“Scholarship is now recognizing that Jesus’ mission was directed toward the nation of Israel. This means that his understanding of God himself must be oriented toward an understanding of God that emerges from the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, which guided the history of the nation to the time of Jesus. The God of Jesus, accordingly, is the God of Israel, who is now restoring the nation and renewing its people as he had promised long ago.”- McKnight, S, A New Vision For Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context, pg  19.

Here are a few suggestions to correct this problem:

1. The Church doesn’t read not teach the Bible left to right. In other words, most Christians are discipled  by reading the New Testament first and then they might eventually get the what they call “The Old Testament” which really translates as some outdated, or  inferior book. This is tragic given Jesus and Paul grew up reading  the Tanakh (The Hebrew Bible). Hence, there was no New Testament at that time. So when Christians read the Bible this way, they tend to not see the unity of the Bible. This needs to be corrected.

2. The Church tends to view Israel as something that only matters in their eschatology (the study of end-time events). Christians need to remember that Israel is about a people group, not just a piece of a puzzle in some future eschatological drama. In other words, Jewish people are just like anyone else. They need to hear about their Messiah and place their faith in him.

3. Anti-Semitism: As much as I won’t’ spend time calling any Christian anti-Semitic, the reality is that it is still alive in the Church. Thus, anti- Semitism rears it’s ugly head in theological anti-Semitism, ethnic anti-Semitism, and a blatant anti-Israel as a national entity. Granted, these are heavy topics that take further unpacking.

4. A misunderstanding of  the relationship between Jesus and  the Pharisees. Sure, Jesus was hard on the Pharisees. But do we really understand the issue of polemics in that time period? It seems like the Pharisees are the beating ground for so many Christians.  Not to mention it is the misreading of the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees that  has  laid the groundwork for anti-Semitism in the Church. If you can get access to it, try reading the article called The New Testament’s Anti-Semitic Slander and the Convention of Ancient Polemic by Luke Timothy Johnson. It may change your perspective a bit on this one.