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Constantine's Sword, By James Carroll Excerpt Of Constantine's Sword (Edited)
By James Carroll

"What was it like to be a first-century Galilean...In trying to imagine Jesus' experience - and in trying to understand how his became a story told against Judaism instead of within Judaism - there is a key element yet to be considered. It is the most important element, yet it is also one often left aside. To tell the story of Christian origins (or the origins, for that matter, of rabbinic Judaism) without reference to it is equivalent to telling the story of the 1916 Irish Rising without reference to the Great War. And war - war every bit as savage, in relative terms, as World War I - is the missing element... The origins of the Jesus movement, and ultimately of Christianity, cannot be understood apart form the century-long Roman war against the Jews, albeit a war punctuated by repeated acts of Jewish rebellion. That is the social and political context that is all too often missing from the memory: Jesus and his movement were born in the shadow of what would stand as the most grievous violence against the Jewish people until Hitler's attempt at a Final Solution."

Carroll goes on to provide the reader with Jewish population estimates and casualties that can even impact one's perspective of the current Israeli-Arab conflict. For it is rare to find so vivid a description of Palestine (the Roman name for Israel) under the Second Commonwealth (the Second Holy Temple). There are, actually, many parts of this book that can be incorporated into a curriculum for high school Sunday school and after school programs, for focus groups on college campuses as well as for adult study.

"Between half a million and a million Jews lived in Palestine at the time of Jesusí birth. Some scholars put the Jewish population there as high as two and a half million, with a few hundred thousand Gentiles. . Sanders (a well-known authority on the subject)...accepts a figure of 'less than a million, possible only about half that.; Later we will see that Josephus posits Jewish casualty figures in the war with Rome that Sanders finds too high. Whatever the totals, the ratio of Jewish dead in Palestine at the hands of Rome may well approximate the twentieth-century record of one in three."

Here is the description of the book as it appears on the inside jacket - notes prepared by the books publisher, Houghton Mifflin.

" In a bold and moving book that is sure to spark heated debate, the novelist and cultural critic James Carroll maps the profoundly troubling two-thousand-year course of the Church's battle against Judaism and faces the crisis of faith it has provoked in his own life as a Catholic. More than a chronicle of religion, this dark history is the central tragedy of Western civilization, its fault lines reaching deep into our culture.

The Church's failure to protest the Holocaust - the infamous "silence" of Pius Xii - is only part of the story: the death camps, Carroll shows, are a culmination of the long, entrenched tradition of anti-Judaism. From Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus, to Constantine's transformation of the cross into a sword, to the rise of blood libels, scapegoating, and modern anti-Semitism, Carroll reconstructs the dramatic story of the Church's conflict not only with Jews but with itself. Yet in tracing the arc of this history, he affirms that it did not necessarily have to be so. There were roads not taken, heroes forgotten; new roads can be taken yet. Demanding that the Church finally face this past in full, Carroll calls for a fundamental rethinking of the deepest questions of Christian faith. Only then can Christians, Jews and all who carry the burden of this history begin to gorge a new future."

Here is another excerpt that should be read carefully and critically:

"The phrase 'New Covenant', which has come to define Christianity's status as the superseding religion, has its origin, in fact, in Jeremiah, but the Hebrew word that prophet used carried exactly this connotation of renewal, a notion that does not open into the deadly dichotomy between new and old. For Jeremiah, and for Jesus, there was only one covenant. So we are not talking here about Judaism's being brought to fulfillment in the discontinuous message of a different movement. The point, again, is that Jesus offers a Jewish renewal, and it is tied to love. The point, again, is that Jesus offers a Jewish renewal, and it is tied to love. Jesus' message was thus rooted not only, say in the opening chapters of Genesis, but in the piety of Judaism as such. I read it as a Christian, yet the record of the Torah seem clear; before God gave commandments, God gave blessings. Before the Law, there was the rescue from Egypt. Hosea, Isaiah, and other prophets strike the theme repeatedly; If Israel behaves like a faithless wife, sometimes provoking god's rage, God nevertheless takes her back every time. Nothing Israel does can undo this love.

Jewish hope has everything to do with the faith that "the G-d ('s spelling) of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" does not break the covenant with Jews when they die. not even human mortality outweigh the love of G-d. Thus G-d does not need to be appeased like some puny clay idol, nor does G-d's grace need to be earned. Despite a two-millennia-long exploitation of the crassest stereotypes, the Jewish G-d is no garment-district bargainer shuffling dress racks, looking among his creatures for the ones who offer wholesale. No. Again, I say this is a Christian's reading, but the tradition is clear; The Jewish G-d's attitude is one of love. Period.

You would not know that if all you had to go on was the Church - not only in its preaching but in customary readings of its foundational documents, the Gospels and Epistles of Paul."

Such is how much of the book proceeds, with Carroll systematically refuting the underpinnings of the Church of Paul, and then showing how generations upon generations of the church relying upon spin over reality, the Church had to become anti-Semitic to continually justify its perpetuation.
Constantine's Sword, By James Carroll More Information About "Constantine's Sword", By James Carroll...

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