From the Revd Paul A. Newman
Sir, - Thank you for a timely contribution by Jane Clements
about liturgy and anti-Semitism (Comment, 27
It coincided with a reported statement by Mark Rylance that,
when artistic director at the Globe Theatre, he cut parts of
Shakespeare's plays because they are "anti-Semitic". He explained
that, if a character says it, it doesn't mean that the author meant
it; "but that since the Holocaust . . . such statements have a lot
more resonance . . . than they did at the time."
While for instance, the Gospel According to John reaches the
zenith of sublimity in the Passion and Resurrection narratives, who
can doubt that, historically, Christianity's "accidental shadow"
was simultaneously enshrined in what became, in Phyliss Trible's
memorable phrase, "texts of terror" to European Jewry.
The consequence of repeated hearings of texts in Matthew (e.g.
27.25) and John (21.9), and the archetypal demonising of Judas
Iscariot seeded a popular anti-Judaic consciousness, and infused a
latent, even "respectable", anti-Judaism into the Christian
The historical and contem- porary geo-political consequences in
the Middle East, in the necessity of the State of Israel, appear
irredeemable, even with a fair and honest reckoning in our
generation. It prompts the question as to how the implications of a
Mark Rylance sensitivity might inform our approach to continued
liturgical and homiletic use of such sacred texts.
PAUL A. NEWMAN
5, Cranworth House
Winchester SO22 6EJ
From the Revd Andrew Pearson
Sir, - I can speak only for myself, but to answer Dr Jane
Clements's musing in her thought-provoking article, it had never
occurred to me to understand the words "scorned by the ones he came
to save" in the hymn "In Christ alone" as referring to anybody
other than representatives of the entire human race.
Apart from general context, to understand them as referring only
to Jews would suggest that Jesus did not come to save Gentiles. I
very much agree with Dr Clements's plea to reject unthinking
acceptance of anti-Semitic content in our liturgy, preaching, and
hymnology. Perhaps her concern over these words illustrates above
all the need for the most sensitive antennae on the part of
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