n the young manhood of our people, when it was imbued with lusty shepherd strength, our fathers, rocking in the humps of their camels across the desert, saw the stars in the sky. The stars became transparent windows, and they saw the Almighty of all the universe, and they fell on their faces before Him, stretched out their hands and cried, “Thou art our God!”
From that time on, my people holds fast to the vision of one living God over all the worlds and over the whole of humanity, Who alone is worthy of being praised, and sanctified, Who alone is capable of giving salvation. The vision of an omnipotent God for all people was steadily before Abraham’s eyes from the beginning. The Jewish faith did not develop from a family to a tribal one, from a tribal to a world faith, but had pretended from its earliest beginnings to be the only and all-encompassing one. That is why the Jewish God is such a jealous God. He does not tolerate and will not admit any other deities besides Himself. He is the One and Only, the Sole-Existing, and everything else is idolatry, impurity, and vice.
A little less than two thousand years ago, there came into our world among the Jewish people and to it a personage who gave substance to the illusion perceived by our fathers in their dream. Just as water fills up the hollowness of the ocean, so did he fill the empty world with the spirit of the one living God. No one before him and no one after him has bound our world with fetters of law, of justice, and of love, and brought it to the feet of the one living Almighty God as effectively as did this personage who came to an Israelite house in Nazareth in Galilee--and this he did, not by the might of the sword, of fire and steel, like the lawgivers of other nations, but by the power of his mighty spirit and of his teachings. He, as no one else before him, raised our world from “the void and nothingness” in which it kept losing its way and bound it with strong ties of faith to the known goal, the predetermined commandment of an almighty throne so as to become a part of the great, complete, everlasting scheme of things.
He, as no other, raised man from his dumb, blind, and senseless existence, gave him a goal and a purpose and made him part of the divine. He, as no other, works in the human consciousness like a second, higher nature and leaves man no rest in his animal state, wakens him, calls him, raises him, and inspires him to the noblest deeds and sacrifices. He, as no other, stands before our eyes as an example and a warning, and demands of us, harries us, prods us to follow his example and carry out his teachings. Through his heroic life, he casts us down like dust before his feet. No one but he sheds about himself such an aura of moral power, which has molded our world and our character; and no one’s strength but his own has reached into our time, being the most potent influence in our everyday lives, inspiring us to goodness and exalted things, being the measure and scale for our deeds at every hour and minute.
Many of us who, for one reason or another, are unable to believe in--or whose religious nature cannot conceive of--the physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth on the third day after his crucifixion, must nevertheless admit, that in a moral and spiritual sense the Nazarene rises from the dead every day, every hour, and every minute in the hearts of millions of his believers.
If Jesus was not actually restored to life three days after his burial, then he was resurrected every day, every hour, and every minute in the first three hundred years after his death. What must remain an eternal mystery to those who are blind and deaf enough not to believe in miracles is the spread of Christianity during the first three hundred years. There was not enough reason for the pagan world to violate its own nature and to stifle its Zeitgeist with what was--for it--so foreign, so unrecognizable, so antagonistic, so Asiatic a faith. If the Nazarene was revolutionary in blazing a new path for the Jewish spirit, then his teachings, his essence, were not only incomprehensible to the Greco-Roman spirit but were the opposite of everything which it considered to be the mission and the purpose of humankind.
If the pagan peoples suffered from the need of a change in religion, they could have found enough material for it within their own spiritual realm. It was possible, within the framework of their own customs, thoughts, and conduct to work out a religious ethic through the teachings of the Neo-Platonists and the Stoics. And surely it is childish and naive to explain the phenomenon by the fact that the apostles of the new faith made its acceptance easier for the pagans through making compromise with the old Jewish law. In the face of the danger in which the pagan placed his very existence, what effect could it have had if he imbibed the new believe with milk, as the apostle expresses it, or with vinegar? What attraction could the compromise with Jewish law have had for him when acceptance of the belief--with or without compromises--made the newly converted Christian a candidate for the distinction of being thrown to the beasts in the arena?
I, as a Jew, whose
every move is bound up with the God of Israel, want to know nothing of any
historical wonder, of any faith, save only the wonder and the faith which
radiate from the God of Israel. The wonder is revealed to me in two ways:
first, the miracle of the preservation of
The preservation of
Whoever works, strives, and desires that this may come to pass is on the side of God. Whoever does otherwise belongs to the other party. This is my spiritual credo. On this foundation I have built my house. For this I have sacrificed everything. With it I stand and with it I fall.
That is why, as a Jew, as an “outsider,” I claim the right to call you my brothers, believers in the Messiah, and, as brothers, to talk with you openly and freely. As children who have the same parents, children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Christians, Jews, believers in the Messiah, give me your attention, because a brother speaks to you in the name of millions of your brothers.