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Anti-semitism in Bach’s Vocal Works

Part 2

Continue from Part 1

The Passion and anti-Semitism

John Reese wrote (June 6, 2004):
The recent release of Mel Gibson's version of the Passion in theaters brought about a (to me) puzzling round of protests that the Passion is inherently anti-Semitic in that it shows the Jews as having killed Christ. This despite Gibson's bending over backwards to exclude anything that could be construed as anti-Semitic from the narrative.

I have also read opinion columns exploring the question of whether it was the Jews or the Romans that killed Jesus. (One concluded that it was, in fact, God that killed Jesus, so the question was absurd.)

Looking at Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), written back in the "uncivilized" time before racial tolerance, you would think it would be an anti-Semitic free-for all. Who is blamed for Jesus' death in the SMP (BWV 244) -- the Jews, or the Romans?

Neither. In the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), it is clear that the enemy is -- us. All humanity is to blame. One of my favorite moments in the opening chorus is when the choir sings, "look towards our guilt". In the recitative just prior to the closing chorus, the soprano laments that "my failings" could have brought about the death of the Savior (I'm generously paraphrasing, of course).

So it's good to know that there were Germans in the eighteenth century who were more civilized than many in the early twentieth.

John Pike wrote (June 6, 2004):
[To John Reese] Very well said, John

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 6, 2004):
[To John Reese] Or twenty-first? At any rate, one wonders where the Germans went wrong after that... And whether they are in a position to get back to those civilized roots...

Uri Golomb wrote (June 6, 2004):
John Reese wrote: < Looking at Bach's St. Matthew Passion, written back in the "uncivilized" time before racial tolerance, you would think it would be an anti-Semitic free-for all. Who is blamed for Jesus' death in the SMP (BWV 244) -- the Jews, or the Romans?
Neither. In the St. Matthew Passion
(BWV 244), it is clear that the enemy is -- us. >
As a description of Bach's Passions, that's accurate enough. Not that Bach ignores the portrayal of the Jewish mob in the narrative scenes -- far from it. But in the non-Gosepl sections (chorales, ariosos, arias, choruses), attention is indeed firmly focused on the guilt of all humanity -- and in particular the Christian believers, who are the beneficiaries of Christ's sacrifice -- in the non-Gospel texts.

However, Cara's question -- "one wonders where the Germans went wrong after that" -- is partly answered with: it started before Bach... After all, Martin Luther himself authored some vociferous anti-Jewish comments. And, going back ot the Passions -- several other passion- and Easter-oratorios (both Catholic and Protestant, and written before, alongside and after Bach's) are quite explicit about the Jews' guilt (I'm thinking of works by Alessandro Scarlatti, Händel, Telemann and Graun) So it seems that. Bach was less inclined towards anti-Judaism compared to his own contemporaries.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 6, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: < So it seems that. Bach was less inclined towards anti-Judaism compared to his own contemporaries. >
So he is simply a good and timeless example :-)

John Pike wrote (June 6, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] My wife is German and I have much affection for Germany and for many Germans today. You will meet good and bad people wherever you go.

Alfred Krause wrote (June 6, 2004):
I do not wish to open yet another religious and philosophical can of worms (or its opposite: a bowl of cherries?), but to me the text of the gospels used in the two passions is not discernibly anti-Semitic.

"The Jews" does not simply refer to anyone who follows the Torah. If it did it would include Jesus, the twelve, and all the people who followed Jesus, not to mention the Samaritans. This was a time of regional hostility between north and south, between city and country. The Jerusalem aristocracy of the Second Temple considered "Galileans" country bumpkins in religious matters. The Israelites who studied and prayed at the synagogues of Galilee thought of "the Jews" as corrupt city slickers, and welcomed Jesus after his first purge of concessionaires from the Temple. For what it is worth, within two generations of the death of Jesus, the second Temple aristocracy lost most of its member and almost everything upon which its position in the community was based.

Similarly "the Pharisees" did not mean anyone committed to study and prayer at the synagogue, and living a personal life as completely in according with the Torah as the priests in the Temple. Such people were virtually everywhere. If it were not for the community outreach of the (generalized) Pharisees it would have been impossible to gather large crowds thirsty to hear moral instruction. This was in fact an astounding educational achievement. In the Gospels, however, the word is applied to individuals who exhibit an elitist "not invented here" attitude. toward teachers who had not had their "tickets punched". To call this whole great movement "pharisees" is rather as if the Athenians had come to use "philosophers" to designate the less attractive varieties of sophists.

The first century (AD or Common Era) was the time when both Christianity and modern Judaism came into existence within the varied landscape of second temple proto-Judaism. The clashing concepts of that time underlie many things we may take for granted. "Hellenistic Jew" may generally mean the hundreds of thousands of Greek-speaking Jews, some of them converts, who filled the synagogues and to whom Paul in particular tried to preach. In Acts "the Greeks" is used to describe persons of this background among early members. The phrase may also more narrowly applied to the cadre of assimilationists whom the Maccabees opposed.

With the changes that occurred late in the first century and early in the second, it became possible to forget the earlier context. Anecdotally, Sabina Poppaea, a proselyte, became the consort of Nero during the early persecution of Christians. Praying Jews exasperated by Christian missionaries "crashing the party" adapted the hostile prayer formula of Samuel the Small. Marcus, first Hellenic bishop of Jerusalem, forbade Jewish Christians from practicing the 613 commandments (but not the ten) in the wake of the Bar-Kochba rebellion.

I do not wish to prejudge points of controversy in early Christian church history. The 19th century assumption, however, that the Gospels were written comparatively late in the century, has had the effect of foreclosing serious consideration on an important point: that a record of local or regional hostilities may have come to read as one of broad intercommunal hostilities.

Bach's own humanity and an intuitive understanding rooted in love of God and man and perhaps reinforced by devotional reading of scripture, may have led him to a better understanding of the Gospels in this respect than was exhibited by Luther.

I think there are moments in the SMP (BWV 244) where aspects the suffering of Jesus closely parallel the suffering of greater Israel though history. The heart-felt outcry of "Sind Blitze, sind Donner..." raises the same question as the Holocaust: why did the heavens not darken, and why did the God of the Exodus not strike down the wicked? Where are fire and brimstone when you need them?

Charles Francis wrote (June 6, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote: < Or twenty-first? At any rate, one wonders where the Germans went wrong after that... And whether they are in a position to get back to those civilized roots... >
If one compares Luther's nastier writings to Hitler's Mein Kampf, it is apparent how ancient anti-Semitic ideas were absorbed into Nazism. Today, we are presented with a sanitised Luther: you won't fhis evil tracts on any Lutheran web site, but they are nonetheless well publicised by the neo-Nazis, who revere him second only to Hitler.

"By their fruits ye shall know them..."

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 8, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote: "Or twenty-first? At any rate, one wonders where the Germans went wrong after that... And whether they are in a position to get back to those civilized roots..."
And what is so uncivilised about Germans, for goodness' sake?

John Reese wrote (June 9, 2004):
[To John Pike] Interesting bit of trivia: The largest ethnic population in the United States consists of descendents of German immigrants.

For a long time, German immigrants outnumbered Mexican immigrants here in Texas. This was by design, as Texas took out numerous ads in German newspapers offering free land, so the Europeans could become a majority. My great-grandfather answered such an ad.

So, maybe all their civilized people came over here...?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 9, 2004):
[To John Reese] :-)

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 9, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Probably your average German nowadays bends over backwards to be civilized, but it was not always so. Once upon a time, the average German was prejudiced against Jews, and could have used to learn from the example of J. S. Bach :-)

Pierce Drew wrote (June 9, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote: < Probably your average German nowadays bends over backwards to be civilized, but it was not always so. Once upon a time, the average German was prejudiced against Jews, and could have used to learn from the example of J. S. Bach :-) >
Prejudice is certainly characteristic of many societies, not just Germany. "Once upon a time" the average Euro-American hated the Indian. A catch-phrase of the nineteenth-century (that even appears in the famous children's series, "Little House on Prairie") was: "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." Where did that attitude lead? Ask one of the few Native Americans who survived the US government's policy of Indian dispossession and cultural extermination.

More recently, during World War II, the African-American poet Langston Hughes pointed out that it was hypocritical for Americans to fight a war for the Jews in Europe while blacks in the "Jim Crow" South were treated inhumanely.

My point: We can hardly point the finger at Germany, condemning it as some evil incarnation of racism. The so-called leaders of "the free world" have a less-than-stellar record on race relations.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 9, 2004):
Pierce Drew wrote: < My point: We can hardly point the finger at Germany, condemning it as some evil incarnation of racism. The so-called leaders of "the free world" have a less-than-stellar record on race relations. >
Right, so that means Americans were/are uncivilized too (and I should know - I'm American myself :) )

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 9, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote: "Probably your average German nowadays bends over backwards to be civilized, but it was not always so. Once upon a time, the average German was prejudiced against Jews,"
So was the average Briton, at one time, and many other nations too, sadly. I doubt most Germans have to bend over backwards to be civilised, they simply are.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 9, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I mean that they're extra careful because of all the WWII baggage, if they say one little word with the wrong look on their face in public, God help them. Apparently it's a criminal offense punishable by a year's imprisonment there to claim publicly that the Holocaust never took place.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 9, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote: "Apparently it's a criminal offense punishable by a year's imprisonment there to claim publicly that the Holocaust never took place."
Not only in Germany, but it's also an offence in France.

John Pike wrote (June 9, 2004):
[To Pierce Drew] Absolutely!

I was offended by the attack on Germans. With the exception of a minority neo-Nazi group, they are generally a very cultivated and friendly people and I know many of them.

Please can we stop attacks on them on this list.

John Pike wrote (June 9, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < So was the average Briton, at one time, and many other nations too, sadly. I doubt most Germans have to bend over backwards to be civilised, they simply are. >
Very well said.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 9, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < Not only in Germany, but it's also an offence in France. >
Hey! I like it!

Charles Francis wrote (June 9, 2004):
John Pike wrote: < Absolutely!
I was offended by the attack on Germans. With the exception of a minority neo-Nazi group, they are generally a very cultivated and friendly people and I know many of them. >
One also notes that Germany has not recently bombed, invaded and occupied two sovereign countries, nor has it placed its solders in support of totalitarian regimes; nor does it have political prisoners held indefinitely in concentration camps without access to legal redress. Moreover, I can't recall any recent flouting of the Geneva Convention by the Germans, likewise no torturing of prisoners of war.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 9, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "One also notes that Germany has not recently bombed, invaded and occupied two sovereign countries, nor has it placed its solders in support of totalitarian regimes; nor does it have political prisoners held indefinitely in concentration camps without access to legal redress. Moreover, I can't recall any recent flouting of the Geneva Convention by the Germans, likewise no torturing of prisoners of war."
Indeed.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 9, 2004):
John Reese wrote: < In the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), it is clear that the enemy is -- us. All humanity is to blame. One of my favorite moments in the opening chorus is when the choir sings, "look towards our guilt". In the recitative just prior to the closing chorus, the soprano laments that "my failings" could have brought about the death of the Savior (I'm generously paraphrasing, of course). >
The aim to point to us as the enemy is reflected by the fact that Bach painstakingly avoids any suggestion that a character from the gospel is speaking in the arias. That is especially striking in the case of the aria 'Erbarme dich', which is following the episode of Peter's denial. The text could easily be interpreted as Peter asking for mercy ("Have mercy, Lord, on me, regard my bitter weeping"). But by giving this aria to the alto, whereas the role of Peter is given to a bass, Bach makes clear this interpretation is wrong, and too easy, so to speak. The audience is supposed to identify with the words of the aria, and recognize that they are denying Christ every day.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 9, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: < And, going back to the Passions -- several other passion- and Easter-oratorios (both Catholic and Protestant, and written before, alongside and after Bach's) are quite explicit about the Jews' guilt (I'm thinking of works by Alessandro Scarlatti, Händel, Telemann and Graun) So it seems that. Bach was less inclined towards anti-Judaism compared to his own contemporaries. >
Is that really true? That seems interesting to look further into. Could one perhaps say that Bach was less concentrated on creating a drama than presenting the story in a 'dogmatically correct' way, by pointing time at again at the audience as the real cause of Jesus' suffering and death? Unlike other composers he avoids any strict connection between the arias and the characters in the gospel.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 9, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote: < I mean that they're extra careful because of all the WWII baggage, if they say one little word with the wrong look on their face in public, God help them. >
That is certainly true. There is an amount of sensitivity in regard to anti-Semitism, sometimes in such a way that statements which wouldn't attract special attention in other countries, cause a public uproar in Germany. That may seem exaggerated, and many Germans wonder why they can't talk about things like thin a more 'norma;' way. As much as it is true that anti-Semitism isn't a specific German phenomenon, the Germans did bring Nazism to power which gave way to the Holocaust, and caused WW II. They just have to live with that.

< Apparently it's a criminal offense punishable by a year's imprisonment there to claim publicly that the Holocaust never took place. >
Yes, which is incredibly stupid. Laws are not the appropriate means to prevent people from denying historical facts. And - just from a strictly historically-scientific viewpoint - historical facts can't be established by law, which means they can't be the subject of scientific debate anymore. That is against the character of historical science.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 10, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote: < "Apparently it's a criminal offense punishable by a year's imprisonment there to claim publicly that the Holocaust never took place. >
Yes, which is incredibly stupid. Laws are not the appropriate means to prevent people from denying historical facts."
I agree. And no law will prevent someone from believing that the Holocaust didn't take place, if they are stupid enough to want to believe that, or driven by perverse ideology.

John Reese wrote (June 10, 2004):
John Pike wrote: < Absolutely!
I was offended by the attack on Germans. With the exception of a minority neo-Nazi group, they are generally a very cultivated and friendly people and I know many of them. >
Yes, I can't imagine what it would be like to be one of a population of millions of people, from many different backgrounds and faiths, who are all judged according to the actions of a few leaders...

No, wait. I can imagine it!

Hans-Joachim Reh wrote (June 10, 2004):

[To John Reese] I know what it feels like - it hurts, it really hurts.

I was very close to sign off this list, but now that I found out that most members of this list obviously see the world (i.e. Germans and Germany) with different eyes, I will keep reading these mails and contribute (ever now and then) to this great site.

Dear Mrs. Thornton:
If you ever get a chance to come to Germany you are invited to stay at our house and find out - personally - what we Germans (at least most of us) are like. Maybe then we can discuss face to face, maybe we can even sing/play some BACH together, at my place, in our church with piano/organ or maybe even with my orchestra.

John Reese wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Hans-Joachim Reh] Well said. And we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that decent, ordinary people, thrust into certain situations, can become barbaric (as proven by a psychology experiment in the 60's, when ordinary college students became viciously abusive when asked to pose as prison guards). This applies to the Iraqi prisoner abuse as much as it does to many of the atrocities of WWII.

John Pike wrote (June 10, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "One also notes that Germany has not recently bombed, invaded and occupied two sovereign countries, nor has it placed its solders in support of totalitarian regimes; nor does it have political prisoners held indefinitely in concentration camps without access to legal redress. Moreover, I can't recall any recent flouting of the Geneva Convention by the Germans, likewise no torturing of prisoners of war."
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < Indeed. >
Excellent stuff!

Juozas Rimas wrote (June 10, 2004):
John Reese wrote: < Looking at Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), written back in the "uncivilized" time before racial tolerance, you would think it would be an anti-Semitic free-for all. Who is blamed for Jesus' death in the SMP (BWV 244) -- the Jews, or the Romans? >
I haven't analyzed the text of SMP (BWV 244) (because of my general disinterest to the "theatrical dimension" of Bach's music, as a list member put it), but I did look a bit at the SJP (BWV 245) translation to find out it is literally a ping-pong between Pilate saying he has found no wrong in Jesus and wants to release him, and the Jews wanting to kill, crucify, correct inscriptions on the cross etc.

I've seen mentioned on this list there were protests against the performance of SJP (BWV 245) in Israel and I didn't know the reason back then, but knowing the text of SJP (BWV 245) makes the matter clearer.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 10, 2004):
Juozas Rimas wrote: < I haven't analyzed the text of SMP (BWV 244) (because of my general disinterest to the "theatrical dimension" of Bach's music, as a list member put it), but I did look a bit at the SJP (BWV 245) translation to find out it is literally a ping-pong between Pilate saying he has found no wrong in Jesus and wants to release him, and the Jews wanting to kill, crucify, correct inscriptions on the cross etc. >
Yes, and Bach does intensify these scenes -- and portrays the Jews as an angry mob, albeit a rather learned one (when they say "We have a law", they demonstrate their words by singing a fugue). But that's all in the biblical text -- Luther's translation of the Gospel According to St. John. There is little or no trace of distinctly anti-Jewish sentiment in the arias and chorales (the bits that Bach chose to set, as opposed to the Gospel text, which is more or less a "given") -- and, as I said before, there are such traces in other Baroque passions and passion-oratorios, both within and outside the German Protestant tradition.

It would be interesting to know to what extent the composers were involved in teh choice of text. Bach compiled the text of the SJP (BWV 245) on the basis of Brockes's poem, and other sources; the libretto of the SMP (BWV 244) was written by Picander, a Leipziger, who also collaborated with Bach on other occasions. These libretti were not set by anyone else. On the other hand, there were several libretti that were set by several composers: the Brockes poem, in its entirety, was set to music by Kaiser, Telemann, Handel, Graunper and others (I have recording of the Graunper and Handel settings). I recently reviewed Grauns' Der Tod Jesu, and I know this text has also been set by Telemann. Here, the texts are a given from start to finish (unless the compser cuts them); but the composer can still influence their emotional impact through the musical setting.

< I've seen mentioned on this list there were protests against the performance of SJP (BWV 245) in Israel and I didn't know the reason back then, but knowing the text of SJP (BWV 245) makes the matter clearer. >
Probably -- though some protests were simply directed at the fact that this was a piece of Christian church music. The fact that it was in German didn't help either. Some supporters of the Wagner ban in Israel think Wagner was a member of the Nazi party (a chronological impossibility); such people probably never saw the libretto of the SJP (BWV 245) in their life.

In any case, speaking as an Israeli Jew myself, I don't share these protests -- even though the anti-Jewish portions do make me uncofmrotable (all the more so because they come from a text sacred to all Christianity, not just to one domination or another). There is enough humanity and expressive depth in the rest of it to make up for this unsettling element. I think we should not shrug off or ignore elements in great art which disturb us, which reflect an ideology we do not share (and I think all of us know of some great work of art which is based an such an ideology -- even if they have no problems with Bach and his Passions in particular). But we cannot all great artists, of all periods and places (or even from our own time and place, for that matter), to share our values -- especially as our age is as rife as any other with contadictions and debates.

Pierce Drew wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To JuozaRimas] My impression -- and I have not gone through the libretto with a fine-toothed comb -- is that both the SMP (BWV 244) and the SJP (BWV 245) more or less faithfully follow the tenor of the Gospels from which they are drawn.

Matthew, like the other synoptic gospels (Mark, Luke), places much of the responsibility for Jesus' crucifixion on the Pharisees, the right-wing religious leaders of Jesus' time. They are jealous of Jesus' "authority" (see the response to the Sermon of the Mount) and resent his flagrant dismissal of their traditions (e.g., healing on the Sabbath, etc.). It is they who foment the Jewish crowds to demand Jesus' death.

John, on the other hand, continually refers to "the Jews" as the antagonists in the ministry of Jesus who, in the end, demand his crucifixion.

Based on the emphases of the gospel, "John" appears to be writing primarily to a Hellenistic-Jew and / or Gentile-Christian audience (note his beginning -- using the Greek philosophical notion of "logos").

Indeed, unlike the other three canonical gospels, there are little or no direct quotations of fulfilled Hebrew scriptures. In contrast, Matthew's "Hebrew" gospel, from the opening phrase, sets out to prove that Jesus is the fulfillment of the "Meshiah" passages of the Hebrew scriptures (note that he starts with a genealogy connecting Jesus to Abraham and David).

The John passages containing the teaching of Jesus (clustered especially around the "I am" statements -- e.g., John 6, "I am the bread of life. . .") are also substantially different from the synoptic gospels.

IMO, in the case of SJP (BWV 245) Bach is no more "anti-semetic" than the Gospel the passion is drawn from.

Charles Francis wrote (June 10, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: < In any case, speaking as an Israeli Jew myself, I don't share these protests -- even though the anti-Jewish portions do make me uncofmrotable (all the more so because they come from a text sacred to all Christianity, not just to one domination or another). There is enough humanity and expressive depth in the rest of it to make up for this unsettling element. I think we should not shrug off or ignore elements in great art which disturb us, which reflect an ideology we do not share (and I think all of us know of some great work of art which is based an such an ideology -- even if they have no problems with Bach and his Passions in particular). But we cannot all great artists, of all periods and places (or even from our own time and place, for that matter), to share our values -- especially as our age is as rife as any other with contadictions and debates. >
You know, Bach had no choice but to set the Passion story of John's Gospel according to Luther's translation of the New Testament. But a Leipzig cantor did have the right to select chorales and Bach protested angrily when this traditional right was challenged. Accordingly, note the following strategically placed choral in the St. John Passion:

Wer hat dich so geschlagen,
Mein Heil, und dich mit Plagen
So übel zugericht'?
Du bist ja nicht ein Sünder
Wie wir und unsre Kinder,
Von Missetaten weißt du nicht.

Ich, ich und meine Sünden,
Die sich wie Körnlein finden
Des Sandes an dem Meer,
Die haben dir erreget
Das Elend, das dich schläget,
Und das betrübte Marterheer.

[Who has hit You like that,
my Saviour, and with afflictions
so evilly tormented You?
After all, You are not a sinner,
like us and our children.
Of misdeeds You know nothing.

I, I and my sins
as numberless as the grains
of sand in the sea,
have brought down on You
this misery
and this woeful host of torments.]

Note the finger of blame is not pointed at Romans or Jews, but elsewhere.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 10, 2004):
< My impression -- and I have not gone through the libretto with a fine-toothed comb -- is that both the SMP (BWV 244) and the SJP (BWV 245) more or less faithfully follow the tenor of the Gospels from which they are drawn.
Matthew, like the other synoptic gospels (Mark, Luke), places much of the responsibility for Jesus' crucifixion on the Pharisees, the right-wing religious leaders of Jesus' time. They are jealous of Jesus' "authority" (see the response to the Sermon of the Mount) and resent his flagrant dismissal of their traditions (e.g., healing on the Sabbath, etc.). It is they who foment the Jewish crowds to demand Jesus' death.
John, on the other hand, continually refers to "the Jews" as the antagonists in the ministry of Jesus who, in the end, demand his crucifixion.
(...) IMO, in the case of SJP
(BWV 245) Bach is no more "anti-semetic" than the Gospel the passion is drawn from. >
I agree. But, in reading that gospel to know what "the Jews" means in any language, it's good to recognize at least three distinct periods: first temple (c950-586 BCE), second (c520 BCE - 70 CE), third (c90 CE to present). The "Scholars Version" translation of the gospels makes a distinction among all these three, using different names to keep it clear. Their explanation is the mini-essay on pages 194-5 of this book: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0944344496

As they point out: "The failure to observe crucial transitions in the history of Judaism has contributed to the tragic history of anti-semitism among Christians, which the new terminology will help put to an end. Further, it will set the historical record straight."

Brad Lehman (Gentile)

Juozas Rimas wrote (June 10, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < You know, Bach had no choice but to set the Passion story of John's Gospel according to Luther's translation of the New Testament. But a
Leipzig cantor did have the right to select chorales and Bach protested angrily when this traditional right was challenged. >
What about "And from all the Turk's and all the Pope's most cruel murder and oppression" in BWV18 (Gleichwie der Regen...)?

I wonder whether this cantata has ever been performed in a Catholic church :)

Johan van Veen wrote (June 10, 2004):
John Pike wrote: < Excellent stuff! >
I'd rather call it drivel which may go down well in the pub, but has nothing to do with any serious political analysis.

And it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, or racism in general. And that what was this thread was about.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 10, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote: "I'd rather call it drivel which may go down well in the pub, but has nothing to do with any serious political analysis."
Why is it drivel? What about it isn't true or correct?

"And it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, or racism in general. And that what was this thread was about."
That is true, but the suggestion was made that Germans are uncivilised, and a rebuttal of such a notion seems not only fair but necessary.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 10, 2004):
< What about "And from all the Turk's and all the Pope's most cruel murder and oppression" in BWV18 (Gleichwie der Regen...)?
I wonder whether this cantata has ever been performed in a Catholic church :) >
I've seen more shocking anti-Catholic invective than that, visiting Ian Paisley's church in Belfast and thumbing through their hymnal. It bordered on the obscene.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 10, 2004):
Pierce Drew wrote: < The John passages containing the teaching of Jesus (clustered especially around the "I am" statements -- e.g., John 6, "I am the bread of life. . .") are also substantially different from the synoptic gospels. >
It is interesting that this sort of thing is found in a gospel which starts out with that notion of the Logos which Pierce Drew referred to earlier in the letter I am quoting from. That would indeed set it in at least more of a Greek context than, say, Matthew in particular.

However, it is also very common to view the 'I am...' statements in the same category as Jesus' statement 'before Abraham was born, I am!' (John 8:58) - a verse which is commonly believed by Christians to be an allusioto the Name of God used in the Hebrew Bible (normally referred to as ha-Shem in Hebrew nowadays, and normally translated 'the LORD' into English). The reason people make this connection is that apparently the Name sounds like it could be a form of the verb 'to be' (for example, 'He is') in Hebrew.

And on this list, we have the good fortune to have several native speakers of Hebrew, who I hope will not leave us to our own devices concerning the grammar of their language - which I only just started learning this week :-)

Anyway, the point of all that is to say that the Gospel according to John is not necessarily all THAT Hellenized...

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Of course we can't prevent people from denying history, or believing in 'revisionist' versions thereof. But does that mean they have to go corrupting the general population with their demagogical views? Here at least I see some sense in prohibiting public proclamation of such views – at least as much sense as in prohibiting pornography.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 10, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote: < That is certainly true. There is an amount of sensitivity in regard to anti-Semitism, sometimes in such a way that statements which wouldn't attract special attention in other countries, cause a public uproar in Germany. That may seem exaggerated, and many Germans wonder why they can't talk about things like that in a more 'norma;' way. >
I can think of at least one other country on this planet which, though God knows it is no paragon of virtue, no one (at least no one I know) would even think to ask why one can't talk about things in a more normal way, because the present way IS normal, and has been for decades - you can't make ANY blanket statement about Jewish people in public, positive or negative. At least not if you want to get elected :-) No doubt the Germans will get used to a situation that for them is a relative novelty (i.e. not being able to talk about things 'normally') in due time...

John Pike wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb]
2 points on this:

1. I think I read that Bach often discussed texts with librettists and sometimes asked them to change things. Do I recall correctly?

2. The most wonderful person who ever lived, according to Christians, was himself a Jew...Jesus Christ. The Jews were God's chosen people. Some demanded Christ's execution but many became his supporters, even to martyrdom. The "Jews", as a group, were no more responsible for Christ's death than modern Germans (and indeed most Germans of the time) are/were for the holocaust. Bach was absolutely right to emphasise the global guilt in Christ's death...we are all condemned, since we all disobey/ignore him every day.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 10, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote: "I'd rather call it drivel which may go down well in the pub, but has nothing to do with any serious political analysis."
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < Why is it drivel? What about it isn't true or correct? >
Whether the 'facts' are true or not is not the point. It is like the statements about performance practice on this list. Even if the individual 'facts' may be right, the conclusions can be wrong when the 'facts' are not put in its proper context.

Moral judgements should be based on a careful analysis of all the 'facts' and the context in which they have happened. It should be considered whether there were realistic alternatives to the decisions which have been taken and what the effects of all possible decisions would have been.

This may sound complicated. But that's the way it is. Moral judgements are too serious to be based on simplistic 'analyses' and prejudices.

John Pike wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Juozas Rimas] Interesting one. Of course, the Popes in those day were a pretty dreadful lot, in general!

John Pike wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I absolutely agree with Gabriel's comments. You may not like Charles' posts, Johan, but I think on this occasion Charles made some highly relevant comments that drew attention to injustice, hypocrisy and brutality. That is not the stuff of casual pub talk but of incisive political commentary on a very discredited US administration. This is a highly serious matter.

John Pike wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] There is a lot of sense in this remark and it has inflenced my thinking on this matter.

Alfred Krause wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To John Pike] The sentiments expressed in BWV 18 were not quite the anachronism they may seem today. During Bach's lifetime Bishop Firmian of Salzburg attempted the religious cleasning of his diocese, sending 21,000 "Salzburg Protestants" as refugees throughout Germany.; see:
http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&artid=561

In the year of Bach's birth Louis XIV withdrew the Edict of Nantes, his grandfather's commitment to religious toleration In Bulgaria, Romania and the Balkans the Turks continued to exact taxation in the form of children to be sent to Istanbul and raised as moslem janissaries.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Hans-Joachim Reh] Lieber Herr Reh!

zürst, danke für die freundliche Einladung! Es scheint, als ob einige Leute auf dieser Liste meinten, ich sei der 'Geist' hinter gewissen anti-deutschen Sentimenten, die neulich in diesem Forum erschienen sind, oder dass ich keinen Kontakt mit echten Deutschen gehabt habe. Ich habe keine Ahnung, woher sie diese Idee gekriegt haben - ich habe sehr lang Deutsch im Gymnasium und auf der Uni gelernt; zweimal zwar habe ich Deutschland als Austauschschülerin besucht (Berlin, Freising), und das war für mich eine sehr gutes Erlebnis, wovon ich immer noch heute schöne Erinnerungen habe.

Also würde ich sehr gerne Ihre Familie irgendwann in Deutschland besuchen, und selbstverständlich wäre ich vorbereitet, mit Ihnen freundlich zu diskutieren, und auch etwas zu singen bei Ihnen/in der Kirche/mit Ihrem Orchester (wenn meine Stimme zu ihm passt). Mit der Geige könnten wir etwas bei Ihnen spielen, aber ich weiss nicht, ob ich anderswo spielen würde, denn ich muss zugeben, dass ich in diesem Moment viel öfter singe als spiele...

Noch mal vielen Dank für die Einladung, ich hoffe, dass wir bald die Möglichkeit haben werden, uns persönlich kennenzulernen. Die Einzelheiten können wir schon ausser der Liste erledigen - bitte zeigen Sie eine gute Zeit für solch einen Besuch an! Ich warte auf Ihre Antwort :-)

First of all, thank you for the friendly invitation! It seems as if some people on this list think I am the 'spirit' behind certain anti-German sentiments which have appeared in this forum recently, or that I have had no contact with real Germans. I have no idea where they got this idea from – I learned German for many years in high school and at university, and even visited Germany twice as an exchange student (Berlin, Freising), and this was a very good experience for me, of which I have beautiful memories to
this day.

So I would be very glad to visit your family in Germany sometime, and obviously I would be prepared to engage in friendly discussion with you, as well as to sing some Bach at your home/in church/with your orchestra (if my voice fits). With the violin, we could play something at your home, but I don't know if I would play anywhere else, because I must admit that at the moment I sing much more often than I play...

Again, thank you very much for the invitation; I hope that we will have the opportunity to meet personally soon! We can take care of the details off-list - please indicate a good time for such a visit. I await your reply :-)

John Pike wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] Some would say thay there are realistic alternatives to holding people at Guantanemo Bay without trial or charge, or the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Ant that is just for starters. I wonder what more Michael Moore will be able to tell us about in Fahrenheit 9/11.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 10, 2004):
John Pike wrote: < I absolutely agree with Gabriel's comments. You may notlike Charles' posts, Johan, but I think on this occasion Charles made some highly relevant comments that drew attention to injustice, hypocrisy and brutality. That is not the stuff of casual pub talk but of incisive political commentary on a very discredited US administration. This is a highly serious matter. >
It is a serious matter. That's exactly why I believe every judgement should be founded on a thorough analysis of all relevant factors. And I happen to have a completely different view on this. But since this is not the subject of this list I don't see reasons to elaborate on that. I just don't want to join the party of simple-minded Bush bashers.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 10, 2004):
John Pike wrote: < Some would say thay there are realistic alternatives to holding people at Guantanemo Bay without trial or charge, or the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Ant that is just for starters. I wonder what more Michael Moore will be able to tell us about in Fahrenheit 9/11. >
There have been many reports in the media - including those who are not very Bush-friendly - that Mr Moore is not only not objective and has his own political agenda, but also has a strange view on truth and consistently refuses to be questioned about his use of the 'facts'. He is probably the last person any political analyst or historian should use as a souce.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote: < There have been many reports in the media - including those who are not very Bush-friendly - that Mr Moore is not only not objective and has his own political agenda, but also has a strange view on truth >
Eek! What a euphemism! Not that I know anything about Mr. Moore - I guess I'm out of touch or something...

< and consistently refuses to be questioned about his use of the 'facts'. >
Goodness, that really doesn't sound very promising...

< He is probably the last person any political analyst or historian should use as a souce. >
Hmm... Do I really want to know anything more about this guy?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
Johan van Veen wrote: "It is a serious matter. That's exactly why I believe every judgement should be founded on a thorough analysis of all relevant factors. And I happen to have a completely different view on this. But since this is not the subject of this list I don't see reasons to elaborate on that. I just don't want to join the party of simple-minded Bush bashers."
It is indeed a serious matter. But, agree with them/us or not, those millions (billions?) of people who are appalled by much of what Bush and his sidekick Blair have done are certainly not small-minded.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] Well I doubt he thinks Germans are uncivilised.....

John Reese wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To John Pike] Certainly, everyone has a right to this opinion, or any other. But is it fair to judge all Americans by the current administration's policies?

Remember, we started out talking about Germans, not the German government (for the record, I said in the original post that Bach was more civilized than many Germans in the early twentieth century, which is not a judgement on the entire population in perpetuity). So when the subject turned to my country, that means we're talking about Americans, right? Not the American government?

My nephew recently went to the UK with his university theater group. One of his acquaintences told him about an inn owned by a relative, so he called them long distance to see about reserving a room. He was told, "We don't cater to Americans here."

Imagine a German citizen trying to get a room in Poland, and being told "We don't serve Germans here". Smacks of mean-spirited bigotry, doesn't it?

My nephew hasn't attacked anyone, violated the Geneva convention, or voted for anyone in charge here (not old enough). So how, exactly, is he to blame?

Sorry to rant about non-Bach matters (although you notice I did drop his name in there), but it irks me a little bit.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote:
<< “Hmm... Do I really want to know anything more about this guy?" >>
< Well I doubt he thinks Germans are uncivilised..... >
What has that got to do with the price of tea in China?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] Nothing at all...

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
John Reese wrote: < My nephew recently went to the UK with his university theater group. One of his acquaintences told him about an inn owned by a relative, so he called them long distance to see about reserving a room. He was told, "We don't cater to Americans here."
Imagine a German citizen trying to get a room in Poland, and being told "We don't serve Germans here". Smacks of mean-spirited bigotry, doesn't it? >

Yes, indeed it does. So does pouring French wine down the drain in gallon-loads, or renaming French Fries 'Freedom Fries'...

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
John Reese wrote: < My nephew recently went to the UK with his university theater group. One of his acquaintences told him about an inn owned by a relative, so he called them long distance to see about reserving a room. He was told, "We don't cater to Americans here." >
With due respect to the civilized Britons on this list, I am afraid I am not THE LEAST bit surprised to hear such a story.

< Imagine a German citizen trying to get a room in Poland, and being told "We don't serve Germans here". Smacks of mean-spirited bigotry, doesn't it? >
I can't imagine that happening here. Now, whether that is because Poles are civilized, or because they know that Germans are a good credit risk (or perhaps even that it is possible to get away with charging them more) – only God knows :-)

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: Nothing at all... >
Does that mean I should ignore it then? ;-)))

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] Well we weren't talking about the price of tea in China, but whether Michael Moore was worth listening to.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Precisely. That's why I mentioned the price of tea in China: because I fail to understand what bearing his supposed opinion of Germans has on the matter of Fahrenheit 9/11 - or whatever it was - or even on his view of truth (I mean, opinion is opinion, truth is truth - the trouble starts when we confuse the two). If it's still not clear, just chalk it up to my weird American sense of humor ;-) (Actually, I am just borrowing an OLD friend's standard reply to something she views as a non sequitur - never heard it from anyone else).

Eitan Loew wrote (June 11, 2004):
I have followed with interest the discussion on this issue, which, as usual, dispersed into many sub-issues. Just in an attempt to get back to the subject:

I appreciate the sincere effort that contemporary Christians do to bridge between modern values and texts that were written some thousands years ago; however, I believe that the brainwash that every Christian went through from childhood, over generations, exposed to the statement "His blood come upon us then and on our children" contributed a lot to anti-Semitism (not being the only reason, of course). I guess that Bach was not different.

Another comment to Juozas Rimas who wrote:
"I've seen mentioned on this list there were protests against the performance of SJP (BWV 245) in Israel"
That is history now. Today Christian music is performed in Israel without any limitations: just a week ago I could listen to SMP (BWV 244) in Jerusalem (Aryeh and Ehud were at this concert too). There is still some objection to performing Wagner in public, but this is a different issue.

John Pike wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] You should probably know that he comes from Flint, Michigan. His last two books "Stupid White Men" and "Dude, Where's my country" were #1 best sellers in both the US and UK and much of Europe. He won an oscar for his last film "Bowling for Columbine" as best documentary and he has just won the Palme d'Or at the Cannfilm festival. I have read both books and have seen the first film. I eagerly await the second. It has certainly been alleged in the right wing press that he is economical with the truth but they would say that anyway, wouldn't they and this is not a view I share. His books always seem very well researched to me and allegations properly supported with sources. He is well known as a severe critic of George W Bush but he has also been very scathing of Bill Clinton's administration with good reason. He is left wing with green/democrat sympathies and has a huge influence on the public in both the US and elsewhere.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Eitan Loew] I don't know if mere exposure to such a statement constitutes brainwashing - depends how it is handled. I certainly would not say that every Christian was brainwashed in this matter. Evidently Bach either wasn't, or managed to un-brainwash himself, since he seems to be remarkably free of anti-Semitism for a man of his era.

John Pike wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To John Reese] Let's get this ABSOLUTELY clear. My attack was purely on the current US administration. There was no attack on the American people implied, mentioned or intended in my e mail, so I don't know where you got that idea from.

It so happens that the US and Germany are the two favourite travel destinations of both my wife and me. We visited close friends (one of them German) in Cincinnati last summer and we are returning to the US this summer. I generally like Americans a lot and the country is wonderful, especially some of the larger cities, scenery and National Parks. I take a keen interest in US politics and followed the election debacle in 2000 very carefully...it sucked. My views on George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are unprintable.

The way your nephew was treated in the UK is dreadful. I can only imagine they were rather foolish people trying to make a protest about the Iraq war by behaving in this indiscriminatory way.

BTW, I supported the Iraq war since Saddam Hussein was a tyrant who murdered many of his own people over many years. He had to go and it is very good that he has gone, but just about everything else Bush has done and has presided over is despicable, IMHO.

John Pike wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] I was offended by Cara's original e mail but her response to Mr Reh was most impressive. I hope that that matter can now be put behind us.

Juozas Rimas wrote (June 11, 2004):
Eitan Loew wrote: < I appreciate the sincere effort that contemporary Christians do to
bridge between modern values and texts that were written some thousands years ago; however, I believe that the brainwash that every Christian went through from childhood, over generations, exposed to the statement >
A Jewish joke:

Two Jews go to a church to be baptized. One goes in, another awaits him outside. At last, the first one leaves the church. 'Well, Meir, how did it go?', the second one asks.
'Firstly, not Meir but Peter. Secondly, what did you crucify our Christ for?'

John Reese wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To John Pike] Agreed.

Just one more thing, about Michael Moore... don't take the right wing press' word for it, just watch "Bowling for Columbine". When he's having his final confrontation with Charlton Heston, where he's holding up the picture of the slain little girl, ask yourself how this could have possibly been filmed in real time? When it shows Heston looking back, where is the camera that is supposed to be shooting Moore? It was clearly staged after the fact, which casts a little doubt on Moore's integrity as a documentary filmmaker.

Not that I disagree with the need for gun control. I just don't think deception is ever a justifiable means to an end.

And just so there's something about Bach's SMP (BWV 244) in here, I think the settings of the "mob" text from the Gospel are awesome. Never has such awkward text been more effectively set to music.

John Reese wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] For the record, most Americans found these actions laughable, if not downright stupid. Besides, the brewing cultural animosity between the French and Americans has been around for a long time. (Although a French guy I knew said that it is not the French that hate Americans, but Parisians, who hate everyone else as well. His words, not mine. Since I've never been there, I will take his word for it.)

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Juozas Rimas] Hmm... How to say this? Are you Jewish? It is one thing to make jokes about oneself, and quite another to make jokes about someone else...

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
John Reese wrote: < For the record, most Americans found these actions laughable, if not downright stupid. Besides, the brewing cultural animosity between the French and Americans has been around for a long time. (Although a French guy I knew said that it is not the French that hate Americans, but Parisians, who hate everyone else as well. >
LOL

< His words, not mine. Since I've never been there, I will take his word for it.) >
I spent a little time in Paris, but not enough to determine whether Parisians hate everyone else. My memories of Paris have almost nothing to do with ethnic squabbling, but with the fact that the receptionist at our hotel just couldn't get it through his/her thick skull (don't remember gender anymore) that two male and two female college students might actually REALLY be planning to have the the girls sleep in one room and the boys in the other... They insisted on giving a key to each boy, telling us 'not to be ashamed'... And this was over 20 years ago! I don't even want to think what it must be there like now...

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 11, 2004):
John Reese wrote: "For the record, most Americans found these actions laughable, if not downright stupid."
I'm sure they did. Just as most Britons wouldn't condone refusing to cater to Americans in a hotel.

John Pike wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To John Reese] Here's something I received from another sourse this morning, which is just the latest example of the murky world of the current US administration.

"a story broken
by the Wall Street Journal, of all papers.......
It reports the discovery that lawyers working for the Pentagon have drawn up a 100-page report whose sole purpose is to encourage the use of torture in interrogation, despite the existence of the Geneva convention - and indeed an American law passed in 1992, which specifically prohibits the use of torture by Americans abroad.

To read the memo is to enter a world of slime. "If a defendant has a good faith belief that his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture."

This is the kind of advice that a mafia tax lawyer is paid to give. But even a mafia lawyer would hesitate to argue that the US constitution allows his boss to do anything he wants. "In the light of the president's complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president's ultimate authority in these areas ... (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority."

Juozas Rimas wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] I thought that was a joke about Christians. I am one.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Juozas Rimas] So am I. But I thought it was a joke about Jewish views of Christians :) If it was just plain a joke about Christians, I admit to not being amused.

Eitan Loew wrote (June 11, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote: < I don't know if mere exposure to such a statement constitutes brainwashing - depends how it is handled. I certainly would not say that every Christian was brainwashed in this matter. >
Of course it was. Again, you consider the matter using modern 21st century western culture values. Over thousands of years, racism and treating "the other" as inferior was normative: you bet that most of the people listening to the preacher inthe church, or just listening to the Passion, got it in the simplest manner: the Jews living in the same town next street are to be considered as responsible for the crucifixion.

< Evidently Bach either wasn't, or managed to un-brainwash himself, since he seems to be remarkably free of anti-Semitism for a man of his era. >
What you mean is "relatively' to the values of his era, not necessarily absolutely, right?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
Eitan Loew wrote: < Of course it was. Again, you consider the matter using modern 21st century western culture values. Over thousands of years, racism and treating "the other" as inferior was normative: you bet that most of the people listening to the preacher in the church, or just listening to the Passion, got it in the simplest manner: the Jews living in the same town next street are to be considered as responsible for the crucifixion. >
I don't know if we can draw the line between 'modern 21st century' and 'for thousands of years before that'. The line is indeed one of values, but both sets are independent of time. On the one hand, we have the person who, when told that they are to love their neighbor, they ask, 'OK, who is my neighbor then?' - and have in mind that that Samaritan, Jew, Hutu, Tutsi, German, Pole, African, WASP, etc. whom they are hoping will not fall within the definition of neighbor ;-)

On the other hand, we have the person who says, 'The question is not who is my neighbor, but how can I be a neighbor to whoever I happen to come across - even my enemy?' And this is far from 21st-century thinking. It appears in Luke 10:25-37 (a story often known as 'The Parable of the Good Samaritan') - which was written nearly 2000 years ago! It is a complete mystery to me how a Christian who hears *that* in church could come away with the idea that it's OK to treat 'the other' as inferior.

< What you mean is "relatively' to the values of his era, not necessarily absolutely, right? >
Don't know enough about the man to speak absolutely. However, the fact that he managed to set the Passion texts in such a way as to throw the emphasis of responsibility for Jesus' crucifixion on all of humanity, does tend to bespeak a certain lack of anti-Semitism, in that admittedly it is not that difficult to take certain verses out of context and use them to paint a nasty picture of the Jewish people - which is no doubt why this has been happening so much over the centuries.

Eitan Loew wrote (June 11, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote: < Hmm... How to say this? Are you Jewish? It is one thing to make jokes about oneself, and quite another to make jokes about someone else... >
Never mind, I'm Jewish and I'm not offended by this joke. It is not one of those jokes that humiliate somebody. In fact, I don't know who might be offended by it - Jews or Christians...:-)

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 11, 2004):
[To Eitan Loew] Well, really both, because it perpetuates stereotypes about both: that Jews are (supposedly) anti-Jesus, and that Christians are anti-Jewish. And since I am a Gentile Christian who spent the vast majority of my childhood being raised in the home of a Jewish woman - my stepmother - you can see that I would in some way identify with both 'factions' :-)

Eitan Loew wrote (June 12, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] I really don't like to be dragged into a theological (or historic?) discussion about gaps between Christian principles and Christian practice over the generations - I don't feel qualified to do so. My point was that racism is one of the meanest human features, took humanity in the previous century to the lowest level ever. I appreciate the SMP (BWV 244) as one of the greatest pieces of music, therefore I have these gloomy thoughts about its contribution to anti-Semitism. This was the original issue of the discussion, wasn't it?

About Bach the person - I have no information either. I hope that you are right.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 12, 2004):
Eitan Loew wrote: < I really don't like to be dragged into a theological (or historic?) discussion about gaps between Christian principles and Christian practice over the generations - I don't feel qualified to do so. >
Over the generations? I don't feel qualified to talk about that either. I wasn't there, nor am I a historian ;)) My point was just show that there is more than one way of looking at Christianity - there are some who use it to justify negative views about the Jewish people, and some who even use it to justify blindly positive views about the Jewish people, and some who use it to look most of all at what they themselves are doing with their lives, and don't worry about what others are or aren't doing.

Glenn S. Burke wrote (June 12, 2004):
Eitan Loew wrote: < I appreciate the sincere effort that contemporary Christians do to bridge between modern values and texts that were written some thousands years ago; however, I believe that the brainwash that every Christian went through from childhood, over generations, exposed to the statement "His blood come upon us then and on our children" contributed a lot to anti-Semitism (not being the only reason, of course). I guess that Bach was not different. >
A number of people have countered this already. A non-practicing (since early teens, and little before then either) Christian Protestant, I certainly had no such indoctrination. But it depends on who is doing the teaching.

A year or so ago, while hospitalized, I got into a brief discussion on this with the hospital chaplain and a young man (early-mid twenties perhaps) who had. I think it may have been his first opportunity to question outside his own church his (to paraphrase) being taught to hate Jews for just this reason. Religiously naive myself, this line of reason had never occurred to me, and I - at the time obsessively listening to SMP (BWV 244) over and over - countered with what little New Testament knowledge I had. The relevant text for me, from the Z. P. Ambrose translation, is

(Evangelist)
And lo now, one of that number, who were there with Jesus, did
stretch out his hand then and struck the slave of the chief priest
and cut off his ear. Then
said Jesus to him:

(Jesus)
Put back thy sword into its place; for all who take the sword must by
the sword perish. Or dost thou then think that I could not appeal
unto my Father that to me he send forth more than twelve legions of
angels? How would the scripture, though, be fulfilled? It must be
this way.

(Evangelist)
At this hour said Jesus to the many:

(Jesus)
Ye are now come forward as against a murderer, with swords and with
clubs now to take me; but I have daily been sitting with you and have
been there teaching in the temple, and ye did not ever seize me. But
all this is now come to pass, to bring fulfillment to the scriptures
of the prophets.



Continue on Part 3


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