Many of you may be familiar with David Klinghoffer’s writings in National Review. Thanks to Steve Beard’s Thunderstruck, I discovered an interview with Klinghoffer (DK) conducted by Roman Catholic, and all-round good gal, Kathryn Jean Lopez (KJL). Here’s a few excerpts — or you can read the whole interview H E R E.
KJL: How can the whole of Western Civilization rest on the rejection of Jesus?
DK: Because the earliest Christian church was initially hobbled by insisting that new converts adhere to Jewish law — keep kosher, be circumcised, etc. For an adult man to be circumcised was a bummer, let me tell you. The decision was made, however — at a church council in Jerusalem in 49 — to jettison Jewish law as a requirement for new Christians. This was done at the apostle Paul’s insistence, and he explains in Acts that since the Jews were rejecting his presentation of Jesus as savior and messiah, the Christian message would now be taken to the gentiles. Dispensing with Jewish practices like circumcision made this possible. Had the Jews not rejected Paul’s preaching about Jesus, the church likely would have held on to those laws. Had it done so, the church would have remained hobbled, and could hardly have become the world-bestriding institution it is today. Jewish Christianity would have remained a sect in Judaism, and probably would have died out along with other such sects in 70 when the Temple was destroyed by Rome and the Jews scattered. In that case, there would be no Christian civilization, and, among other things, no America as we know it — a country whose founding was deeply influenced by Christian faith. There is a possibility that we would all be Muslims. Had more Jews accepted Jesus, Mel Gibson today might be praying toward Mecca.
KJL: You are grateful for Christianity and at the same time reject it — how does that gel? Don’t you ever want to convince your Christian friends they’re wrong and need to reject Jesus?DK: It’s a paradox, but history is full of paradoxes. Far from wanting to convince Christian friends they’re wrong, I want to do my bit to strengthen their faith. That’s one of the beauties of debate: it forces you to look again at your beliefs, at their sources, and refine your thoughts about ultimate questions. My faith has been strengthened and sharpened immeasurably by debating with Christians and others who don’t see things as I do.
KJL: In your book, you complain a lot about St. Paul, but, in the end, isn’t he a scapegoat of sorts for the fact you just don’t buy Jesus’ shtick?
DK: I don’t complain about Paul, though I do show that it’s unlikely that he was what he claimed to be — namely, a disciple of that era’s great rabbinic sage, Gamaliel. It seems doubtful that Paul could even understand Hebrew — his citations from the Bible are always from the problematic Greek translation, the Septuagint. He writes about Jewish spiritual life as an outsider, as someone who never experienced it. As I show, Jesus rejected the foundation of Jewish tradition — the Oral Torah, which explains the cryptic text of the Five Books of Moses, the Torah — but Paul rejected not only that but the structure built on top of that foundation, the Torah itself.
The title of this post reflects what I believe is Mr Klinghoffer’s continuing struggle. It’s a Convert’s tale. Like many Converts, Klinghoffer has an interesting story.
Over the years I’ve found reasons to disagree with Klinghoffer. We once disagreed in print (Letters to the Ed, National Review) over whether God was the Creator of evil. I still maintain the He is not. And I’m sure we’d still disagree. But Klinghoffer’s not afraid of disagreements. In fact, quoting Michael Medved, he says something amusing about disagreement during his interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez:
“[T]he only things all Jews can agree on is that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah.”
Now that’s funny.