“Beloved For The Fathers’ Sakes”
In every nation and even in each community, there are certain people who are honored for their past contributions to society. After these pioneers pass on, people often honor their descendants out of respect for the heroes of the past. For those who value the Judeo- Christian heritage of our Western World and revere the great treasures found in the Bible, the people who spring to mind in this context are the Jews, “The people of the Book.” In order to avoid the pitfall of seeing the Jews through “tunnel vision” in a stereotyped way, the Jewish contribution to humanity must be considered under a number of headings to appreciate the wide scope of benefits which have come through this people.
One of the remarkable things about which both critics and admirers of the Jews agree is their great influence. Although there are only about fourteen million Jews in the world (which is not much more than the population of one of today’s major cities), those who criticize the Jews say they control almost everything and everybody, to the detriment of the world’s population. If this were true, it would be a remarkable testimony to the ability of the Jews, and also to the impotence of the anti-Semitic Communist and Third World nations which dominate the United Nations and the major part of the world’s population. The facts show, however, that Jews do not hold the key posts in the world, which are usually won through intrigue and power struggles. Rather, their influence has been in fields where merit, achievement and even genius are valued and racial prejudice is set aside, so that Jews could make their unique contributions. The few examples of political influence exercised by Jews are, however, very remarkable.
In America, a Jewish man who played a major role in helping the republic to survive at its birth was Haym Salomon, who was honored in the 1976 bicentennial celebrations. He was of remarkable character, the opposite of the stereotype portrayed by the anti-Semites because he was an idealistic financier, a man who combined wealth with an unselfish loyalty to his principles. It was this man who was largely responsible for the financial survival of the young nation. His lavish grants for the payment of Washington’s soldiers, and his underwriting of the country’s financial commitments, enabled America to weather the storm of those early days. No gain came to Salomon or his descendants though. So complete was his commitment to the young republic that he was left a ruined man. The recent acknowledgment of his contribution should cause those who were glad to come to America in the succeeding years to hesitate before they repeat the anti-Semitic stories their ancestors learned in Europe.
Even in Europe, which has been the center of gravity of Judophobia over the centuries, a Jew was able to rise to the highest elected position in Britain at a time when her influence was at its greatest. This man, Benjamin Disraeli, is still remembered with great affection in England as one who led the nation in a time of prosperity and prestige unequalled before or since. But Disraeli was the son of a Jewish immigrant from Venice, and was born into a society which thought very little of people of his background.
A modern parallel to his career is that of Dr. Henry Kissinger, whose efforts for peace won him the Nobel Prize. Dr. Kissinger was also the son of immigrants, and was himself an immigrant, yet he rose to become an influential man in the most powerful nation in the world.
The lives of these men also reflect, in some measure, the lives of Daniel and Joseph whose stories are told in the Bible. These men were both Jewish refugees who became great statesmen and were an influence for good in their adopted homelands. Joseph, particularly, was a benefactor to the Egyptians because he saved them from starvation with his food management policies during the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine.
Although these instances prove that Jewish people are capable of great achievements in the realm of statesmanship, the fact that there are few Jews in this field is a telling testimony to the prejudice which has tended to keep the doors of power locked against them.
In other fields, however, Jewish genius has helped in situations so vital and urgent that even racial prejudice has been partially suppressed and Jewish merit and achievement allowed to shine. One particular field which illustrates this is medicine. Healing the sick has not been the road to power and influence, or even riches, until recent times, but it is a wonderful way in which to serve one’s fellow man. When we examine the Jewish contribution to this helping science, we find it has been vastly greater than their numbers would lead us to expect.
In the 12th century, Moses Maimonides, the famous Jewish philosopher, was also an outstanding doctor. His Maimonidian oath is used even today as an alternative to the Hippocratic oath which doctors take as they pledge themselves to the service of suffering humanity.
For many centuries it was difficult, if not impossible, for Jews to enter the schools of higher learning, and the professions were generally closed to them. But in the 18th and 19th centuries these restrictions were gradually lifted, and one of the professions to which Jews began to make outstanding contributions was medicine. Of the sixty Nobel Prizes won by Jews in the first half century of the award, twenty-five went to Jews working in the healing and helping sciences. Since 1908, twenty-five per cent of all Nobel Prize winners in medicine have been Jews. This would be a major achievement for any great nation with hundreds of millions of citizens, but the Jewish population of the entire world amounts to only about fourteen million.
One great contribution was that of Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed a polio vaccine which has lifted the shadow of this terrible disease from children all over the world. The work of Dr. Boris Chain in making penicillin available for a multitude of ailments has revolutionized medicine. One of the most important and common medical procedures in use today is the blood transfusion, and this was made possible by the discovery of the four blood groups by Dr. Karl Landsteiner. In India, where cholera claimed so many lives, the situation was transformed by the inoculation developed by Dr. Waldemar Haffkine, another Jew whose name is high on the medical roll of honor.
Much of this pioneer work on behalf of the sick and suffering was done in conditions of great danger and privation, with very little immediate reward. This is certainly not a sphere where greed and lust for power would sustain a person. Only the inspired and selfless would begin and continue this lonely and often thankless work, and yet it is in this area of medical discovery that Jews have excelled. Any unbiased observer would have to give these facts due weight against the fancies of those who caricature the Jews as schemers, plotting the subjugation of the world for their own purposes.
It is true that one Jewish pioneer in microbiology, Dr. Selman Waksman of Rutgers University in New Jersey, has seen his discovery, Streptomycin, earn over two million dollars. But, Dr. Waksman has turned over all of his royalty rights to the Rutgers Research and Endowment Foundation. Rather than enjoy the legitimate reward for his work, he preferred to plow this fortune back into medical research saying, “Rutgers won’t let me starve.”
As we turn to other fields of human achievement, the name Albert Einstein looms large in the scientific history of this century, and indeed of all time. Because he was a Jew, he was driven from his native Germany where Hitler was trying to rid his country of all Jewish influence. Germany’s loss was America’s gain, and this Jewish genius was given a warm welcome in a country where his great scientific achievements were appreciated.
In fine arts, music and literature we find such names as Chagall, Heifetz, Menuhin, Mendelssohn, Bellow and many others at the top of their professions.
But, one of the most common and beneficial Jewish contributions to society is the very one so often looked upon with disfavor – that of the Jewish contribution to labor-intensive industry. Suppose every economics graduate in North America put aside his analyses and diagnoses and, following a common Jewish example, started a business with one hundred employees, or opened a store selling clothes, food or furniture at ten per cent below the regular price. What would this do to the great unemployment and cost-of-living problems? Why do anti-Semites work in Jewish enterprises? Why do anti-Semites buy in Jewish stores? Could it be that they know they are getting a better deal?
When examining the primary meaning of the title, “Beloved for the Fathers’ Sakes”, however, it is evident that in his letter to the Christians at Rome, Paul had the religious contribution of the Jews in mind as he penned those words.
The Prophets Of Israel
The great contribution of Moses to the foundations of Western society is often overlooked, because the great truths of the Bible have become a part of our thinking. It is only as people turn away from them and lose their benefit, that their value is at last understood. None of modern science would be possible if the Genesis account of creation had not taught us that God created the world to run according to His rules, and not according to the irrational actions of pagan deities, or mere chance. The benefits of modern progress could not be so widely enjoyed if the moral absolutes of the Ten Commandments had not been written into Western law. As this Mosaic basis is abandoned, it becomes more and more difficult to enjoy the fruits of modern technology, especially in urban centers.
At the center of the world’s most powerful city, in the headquarters of the organization which thinks of itself as the parliament of the world, are found the words of another great prophet. It was Isaiah who wrote the words which are inscribed on the UNO building in New York, “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation” (Isaiah 2:4). This great vision of a future for mankind in which there is righteousness, justice and peace is one which has inspired generations through the centuries.
The Jewish prophets, such as Isaiah and Amos, did not merely cry out for justice and lament its absence. They confidently affirmed that God himself would intervene and justice would be established on the earth in God’s good time. The Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, where people were idol worshippers, obsessed by death and gripped by all kinds of perverse and degraded practices. They eventually came into a land which had been inhabited for centuries by nations even more depraved than the Egyptians. It was the great task of the prophets to safeguard the sacred heritage handed down by Moses, and to call the people to a national ideal which made the love of God and neighbor its guiding principles. Time after time, the prophets denounced the human weaknesses of the Israelites as they drifted into conformity with the pagan practices of their neighbors.
But it was the Jews themselves who preserved the prophetic writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, David and the others, including the criticisms and denunciations of Israel which they contained. They did this because they believed these writings were God’s Word to His people, Israel. Because this Word came from the God of all the earth, it secured for all mankind a treasure which has helped generations of Gentiles, as well as Jews, to know the only true God. Although the message of the prophets was not received by enough of the people to save the nations from condemnation and destruction, they were able to add a note of hope to their message of judgment and doom. This hope is brought into focus in the person of the Messiah, whose coming is foreshadowed from the earliest times but whose portrait is clearly seen in the latter prophets.
Micah 5:2 tells of His birth in Bethlehem; Isaiah 7:14 reveals that He will be born of a virgin, and that He will reign as Mighty God and Prince of Peace (9:26); and Jeremiah foretells the New Covenant which He will inaugurate (31:31). Daniel states that He will be cut off (9:26); but Isaiah explains that the effect of this sacrifice will reach out across the lands and centuries because “. . . the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
These prophetic writers were Jews, and the generations of Jewish people who followed them were given the responsibility and privilege of passing on this prophetic heritage. The result was that when the Messiah did come, those who were alert and “. . . waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25) were ready for Him. The point which Paul stresses is that the whole Jewish people is associated with the Old Testament Scriptures. In his letter to the Romans he lists as their chief advantage that “. . . unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2), and it is from these Jewish people that we have received them.
The Apostles Of Israel
The Messiah, when He came, naturally came to the Jewish people. The New Testament, written by Jews, records the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem as foretold by Micah (5:2), of the family of David as foretold by Isaiah (11:1, 2 and 10). Because Jesus came to the Jews, it was Jews who responded to His call and became His first followers. After His sacrificial death, it was these Jewish believers who went out into the world to proclaim the message of the crucified, risen and ascended Messiah.
One Jew in particular, Paul, after beginning as the arch persecutor of the Christians was, following his conversion, chiefly responsible for the spread of Christianity to the Gentile world. After Peter had introduced the gospel to them, Paul became “. . . the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13) and, guided by the Lord, he was able to show how they were to participate in the New Covenant instituted by Jesus.
It was Paul who rescued the Gentiles from the zeal of the converted Pharisees, who wanted to make conversion to Judaism the door through which Gentiles must come to Christ. The shattering consequences for both Israel and the Church, had this policy been followed, are now plain to see. It is obvious that a flood of Gentile converts would have submerged the original stock of Israel and caused historic Jewry to disappear. Paul also showed that the national and cultural barriers of the Jews, which were so repulsive to the Gentiles, were irrelevant to their search for peace with God. Without in any way undermining Jewish cultural identity, Paul pointed out that the message of Christ was universal in scope, and he called men to identify with a God who was also the God “. . . of the Gentiles” (Romans 3:29). It should be noted that this principle was not taught by a convert from paganism, fighting for the rights of his fellow Gentiles. Rather, it was proclaimed by a Jew fully identified with his people, Israel, but concerned about the spiritual needs of his Gentile converts.
In this teaching, he received the backing of James, the brother of Jesus, who led the great company of Jewish Christians fanning the nucleus of the first century Church in Jerusalem. Thousands of Jews were won for Christ in the early days of the Church, including “. . . a great company of the priests” who “were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). James supported Paul to ensure that the yoke of the Jewish law would not be put on the Gentile converts (Acts 14:13 and 21). They were to be free to come to the Lord Jesus just as they were, providing they kept the basic rules of decent behavior which Jewish thought associated with God’s covenant with Noah and his sons (Genesis 9:1-11).
As Paul and his companions penetrated into Asia and then Europe, they took with them a message which revolutionized the civilized world of their day and eventually led to the overthrow of paganism in the vast Roman Empire. As Paul’s critics put it, he and his helpers had “. . . turned the world upside down . . .” (Acts 17:6).
In the 19th century Disraeli, himself a Hebrew Christian, reminded his fellow Victorians that the great spiritual and moral truths which meant so much to them were based on “certain Asian principles”. This was his quaint way of reminding them that the New Testament message had originally come from his people in the Middle East. The evidence of this is found in the fact that a vast number of churches all over the world are named after Jews such as Peter, Paul, James and Mary. Also, millions of people the world over bear the Jewish names Joseph, David, Samuel and so on, because of their culture.
Jesus, The Lion Of Judah
Mankind’s greatest gift, given by God through Israel, was Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Jesus was born Jewish, because it is written, “. . . it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah” (Hebrews 7:14). He lived Jewish, because John 4:22 states, “We know . . . salvation is of the Jews.” He died Jewish, because over His cross were the words, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). And after His ascension He was still Jewish, because in heaven He is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5 :5).
Anti-Semites have been embarrassed by the Jewishness of Jesus, and many attempts have been made to separate Jesus from His people. Some blasphemers have tried to allege that He had a human father, a Roman soldier named Stada or Pantera. Others have suggested that being born Jewish was a deliberate self-humiliation. The Scriptures make it quite clear, however, that being born human was the real humiliation, whereas being born Jewish was a specific part of the divine plan to solve the human predicament.
Jesus was the apex of a long messianic line stretching from Adam, through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David. Jewish prophecies, recorded in Jewish Scriptures, charted the course that the messianic events would follow. Paul made no attempt to minimize this fact to his Gentile audiences. As a Jew, he presented a Jewish Savior to his Gentile hearers as their only hope of salvation.
The Jewishness of Jesus is something which has been largely forgotten over the centuries. Nobody has ever forgotten that Judas Iscariot was Jewish, nor that the High Priest at the trial of Jesus and all the Sanhedrin were Jewish. Artists have had no difficulty conveying this fact in their paintings, yet their portraits of Jesus have habitually slipped into an “Aryan” mold. This has been excused as a “natural” presentation of the Lord in terms most familiar to them.
Today, however, it is difficult to ignore the vital connection between Jesus and the Jews, because a Jewish state has been established in the very homeland of Jesus, and every pilgrim who visits that land is a guest of the revived state of Israel. Also, as the coming of the Lord draws near, those who read their Bibles cannot escape the fact that “. . . his feet shall stand . . . upon the Mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:4). Jesus will come to Jerusalem, the restored capital of the Jewish people. The Bible student knows that the Jewish response to the return of the Lord to His own city will be that “. . . they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him” (Zechariah 12:10). Thus, the link between Jesus and Israel will be forged again. The world will see Jesus welcomed as Messiah and King of Israel by His long-estranged people.
As this time draws near, the Jewishness of Jesus, so long obscured, comes more and more into focus. For this cause, it is necessary to look again at Paul’s words and ponder them in our hearts. This people, so long despised and forsaken by the world, when viewed in the light of God’s Word, are clearly discerned as those who are “. . . beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Romans 11:28).