Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In the Twinkling of an Eye

The early 20th century had a precursor to the Left Behind phenomenon. Sydney Watson wrote two conversionist apocalyptic novels, the first published in 1918 as In the Twinkling of an Eye. The title comes from a New Testament passage that promises that Christ will come again "in the twinkling of an eye" (to use the King James version of this particular verse). The theology comes from dispensationalism, a 19th century movement that has gained a strong foothold in thousands of conservative churches throughout the world (but especially in the United States).

Abraham Cohen is a Jewish character in this last days novel. He is very religious and pious: "How long, O Lord, shall Thy people be cast off and trodden down, and their land, Thy land, be held by the accursed races?" (p. 39). The fictional Cohen is a craftsman living in England who is busy making ritual objects for the new Temple. His sister in law is Zillah, and his wife is Leah.

Abraham says excitedly to Zillah: "I do think Messiah is coming soon .... Who knows? Perhaps when the Passover comes again, and we set His chair, and open the door for Him to enter, that He will suddenly come." (p. 42). Abraham goes on to recount for his sister in law the reasons why he thinks the Messiah will soon come. One of his reasons is based on the numeric equivalent of a biblical passage (which of course is a Jewish custom called "Gematria").

Tom Hammond, the Gentile protagonist of the book, states that Jews "have obtained and maintained the highest positions, the greatest influence..... It is not simply that they practically hold the wealth of the world in their hands, that they are the world's bankers, but they are dominating our press, our politics.... Then you cannot kill the Jew, you cannot wipe him out. Persecution has had the effect of stunting his growth, so that the average Britisher is several inches taller than the average Jew. But the life of the Hebrew is indestructible." (pp. 52-53). [Wandering Jude notes that these words are of course meant to be compliments, not insults].

Abraham Cohen has a conversation with Tom Hammond, who says to him: "But do you not know ... that ... all Christendom has believed, for all the ages since, that the Messiah came nearly two thousand years ago?" "The Nazarene?" There was as much or more of pity than scorn in the voice of the Jew as he uttered the word. "How could He be the Messiah, sir? ... "Could any good thing come out of Nazareth? Besides, our Messiah is to redeem Israel, to deliver them from the hand of the oppressor, and to gather again into one nation all our scattered race. No, no! a thousand times No! The Nazarene could not be our Messiah!" (p. 104).

On pages 147-150 the custom of "Chalitza" is described (when a man is released from the responsibility of levirate marrriage -- where a man must marry his sister in law if his brother dies).

Tom Hammond says to his Jewish friend, Zillah Robart: "Are you, Miss Robart, ... wholly wedded to the Jewish faith? Do you believe, for instance, that Jesus, the Nazarene, was an imposter?" ... "I can trust you, Mr. Hammond, I know. You will keep my confidence, if I give it to you?" ... "I have not dared to breathe a word of it to anyone, not even to my good brother in law Abraham, but I am learning to love the Christ.... I see how the prophecies of our forefathers -- Isaiah especially -- were all literally fulfilled in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. I see, too, that when next He comes, it will not be as our race supposes, as the Messiah to the Jews, but He will come in the air ...." (pp. 151-152).

When Zillah tells Abraham that she wants to marry Tom Hammond, he replies, with fervor: "He is of the Gentile race, Zillah!" (p. 177).

Later, she tells him: "Abraham! I have found the Messiah! He whom the Gentiles call the Christ; The man-God, Jesus, is the Messiah!" ... "May I tell you why I think, why I know He is the Messiah, Abraham?" she asked.

[She] "began to pour out her soul in the words of the Old Testament scriptures, connecting them with their fulfillment in the New Testament."

"Now I know, dear Abraham," she presently cried, "How it is that Jehovah is allowing our Rabbis ... to be led to dates that prove that Messiah is coming soon? Now I know why God has allowed our nation to be stirred up, -- the Zionist movement, the colonization of Jerusalem and its neighborhood, and all else of this like -- yes, it is because the Christ is coming. Only, dear brother, it is not as the Messiah of the Jews that He comes soon -- He came thus more than 1900 years ago -- this time, when He comes, He will come for his church, His redeemed ones -- Jew and Gentile alike who are washed in His blood that was shed on Calvary for all the human race. For He was surely God's Lamb, and was slain at the Great, the last real Passover, dear Abraham if only we all -- our race -- could see this. What the blood of that first Passover lamb, in Egypt, was in type, to our people in their bondage and Blood-deliverance, so Jesus was in reality." (pp. 178-179)

Zillah continues with her theological lesson: [After the rapture] "our own race will return to Jerusalem ... still believing in the coming of the Messiah." (p. 180)

[At the second coming, at the end of the tribulation period] "Our poor deluded, suffering people will see Him, as our own prophets have said: -- "I will pour out upon the House of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son...." ... "Abraham, why are you thus quiet? Why have you not cursed me for a Meshumed, dear? Can it be that you, too, know aught of these glorious truths?" There was sadness and kindness in his eyes as he returned her pleading glance. But there was no trace of anger. "I wonder why, little sister," he began, "I am not angry, as the men of Israel usually are with a Meshumed, even though the defaulter should be as beautiful as Zillah Robart?" (p. 181)

Abraham tells Zillah about how he recently went to hear a speaker at the Jewish mission, but that he is not fully convinced yet of the truth of the Messiahship of Jesus. Then he blessed Zillah with the Aaronic benediction (which the narrator calls the Nazarite blessing). "She had feared anger, indignation from her brother in law, she received blessing instead." (p. 183). Abraham Cohen took "a New Testament from his pocket, began to study anew the Passion of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels." (p. 184).

It is now Passover. Abraham asks Zillah: "With your newly-espoused faith in the Nazarene, shall you partake of the lamb with us?" "Certainly, I will," she replied, "only I shall take the meal more in the spirit of the Lord's supper, of the Christian Church.... All the time I shall be praying that you may meet the Christ of God, Jesus of Nazareth; and while you seek to remember our people's deliverance from the land of Bondage, I shall be praying that you, dear Abram, may be delivered from the bondage of the legalism of our race." (p. 200).

The Passover seder is described in detail (pp. 201-208).

After the seder, Zillah suddenly breaks into song, singing a Christian hymn about the Lamb of God. Abraham's children join her, for it turns out that they are secretly believers in Jesus, having attended the missionary meetings for children. Finally, near the end of the hymn, Abraham joins them. Lifting his hands up, he cries out: "Thou loving Christ! Thou Precious Jesus! I am Thine -- Thine -- Thine!"

Then he remembers his wife. "Rachael, dear heart," he cried, as he moved to her side. "Rachael, wife of my heart. Jesus is the Messiah!"

"Bah!" she cried. With a thrust of her hand and foot, she kept him from her. Then in tones of withering scorn and disgust, she cried: "Meshumed!" (p. 206).

It is only then that she realizes that her husband, sister, and children have all been raptured!

And thus the book ends. Rachael has been left behind!

Some points to ponder:

(1) Wandering Jude wonders if Sydney Watson's two-part series made him as rich as Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Probably not. But these novels did become popular, and Watson was undoubtedly a sought after speaker in the premillenial circuit.

(2) If you've been reading Wandering Jude for a while, you might remember a similar scene to the one just described (that ends the book). Christian hymns are sung at Passover in The Jewish Twins.

(3) Perhaps this novel should be categorized in the horror genre. Wandering Jude can think of nothing more shocking for a Jewish mother than to have her children, her husband, and her sister suddenly announce their conversion to Christianity during the Passover seder. Yes, sometimes fiction is stranger than truth.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Zonya, daughter of Abraham : the story of her quest for light

Agnes Scott Kent's final novel in her trilogy of conversionist books was Zonya, Daughter of Abraham: The Story of Her Quest for Light, published in Toronto by Evangelical Publishers in 1938.

As usual, the author telegraphs her intentions:

"The purpose of Zonya as regards any Jewish readers into whose hands the story may be led of God is, very frankly, that they may be given a more intelligent appreciation of our Lord Jesus Christ than they perhaps have had.... it is our fervent hope that they may look beyond every false representative and representation of Him, beyond much that has absolutely no claim whatever to Christ and Christianity -- and see Him -- the Lord Jesus Christ Himself -- the altogether Lovely One -- as the only Hope for a sin-cursed, inter-racially convulsed, and sick and weary and war-torn world." (p. 11, from the Author's Foreward).

Our heroine, Zonya Novalensky, is a Russian Jewish girl from the early 20th century. Early in the novel we learn that Zonya doesn't like her rabbi, because during the synagogue service

"he kept reading and reading in Hebrew, which she couldn't understand, from the great Scroll of the Law, until she thought he would never stop.... Another thing she thought was awful. The Kaddish -- the long prayer for everybody's dead relations. All around her the women kept rocking themselves backwards and forwards, and moaning and crying -- while the Rabbi kept saying the prayer in a loud, wailing voice. Zonya hated it. It made her squirm." (p. 19).

Zonya is intuitively suspicious of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is one of the villians (along with Judaism) in this novel. We discover that she is

"afraid of the big hold Cross on the top of the biggest dome [of a Russian Orthodox Church], ... because Grandfather had often told her that the Cross was the sign of Christians, and Christians were the worst people in the whole world! They were cruel and wicked, and always wanted to kill Jews. The Christians ... were the people who broke God's holy Law. The Law said they should have no other gods before Him. But instead of worshipping Him alone, the One and Only True God, the Christians worshipped a Man. And He was the most wicked man that ever lived. He was a Blasphemer, because He treid to make people believe that He was God. His name was Jesus -- Jesus Christ." (p. 19).

Zonya survives a horrible pogrom, but her father, grandfather, and brothers are all killed. She and her grandmother escape, but they cannot seek refuge in just any home because "their features were unmistakably Semitic." (p. 34).

Chapter Five is entitled "The Little Wandering Jewess in Exile."

Zonya emigrates to America and makes a friend, Rose Gitlin. "But alas! within the friendship there lay concealed, all unsuspected, a grave danger to Zonya Novalensky's soul. For Rose Gitlin, Jewess, was a Christian Scientist. And it was not long before she had Zonya deeply ensnared within this insidious cult." (p. 109).

Zonya was already somewhat disillusioned by Judaism, but it gets worse in the United States. Although she had been a regular in her synagogue attendance, gradually it

"dwindled off to an occasional Sabbath and the high Holy Days. The traditional observances, too, became very irksome to her -- very meaningless. She had a strong flair for reality and truth, and much that she saw in Judaism appeared to her as hypocritical. When, for instance, Olga paid tithe of strickly kosher cooking regulations, and at the same time neglected the weightier matters of lovingkindness and sweet temper in the home, it jarred Zonya's sense of consistency. When Levi or Boris scrupled at carrying a hod of coal on the Sabbath, but allowed Matushka or Olga or herself to carry several hods up the five flights of stairs from the coal bin in the basement, on Sunday or Monday morning, Zonya's heart was filled with scorn for Judaism -- and for them. Not only in their own unlovely dwelling, but among their neighbours as well, the letter of the law of Judaism and the spirit of the great Lawgiver, were widely at variance. Quarreling -- as likely as not over some picayune dietary regulation -- loud-voiced wrangling, selfish grasping: all these, to Zonya's view, were far removed from true religion, however pious and frequent the observances within the Synagogue or at home might be. And for true religion Zonya had a deep, heart craving." (p. 111).

"But it was all so terribly confusing. How could she know which was the true religion -- the real path to God? How could one decide which sect to follow?... Her heart cried out for something. She wanted Reality. She wanted to find God. Judaism, she at last decided, was mere husks and sawdust." (p. 112).

"Zonya Novalensky openly declared her allegiance to the Christian Science faith -- into which false faith thousands and tens of thousands of Jews, adrift from Judaism and the Synagogue, are being trapped today by Satan. In New York City alone one hundred thousand Hebrews have entered Christian Science." (p. 113).

But eventually she leaves Christian Science after witnessing a family allow their young son to die because they do not believe in sickness.

Zonya states to a friend:

"I do believe in the Bible -- the Old Testament, fo course; I do not recognize the New Testament. But I believe that the Old Testament -- our Hebrew Taanach -- is an inspired Book given to man, through the prophets, by God." (p. 125).

"Her faith in Judaism -- in Talmudical Orthodoxy -- was dead. ... But she believed in God. And in the Bible as God's Book -- the revelation of Himself to man. And she would hold fast to that belief, she was resolved. In all the awful havoc of her life, the only thing that she had left was God." (p. 133).

Zonya takes a class in Marxism and becomes a Communist and an atheist. But after a time, she starts to search for God again. But then she gets caught up in Spiritism and necromancy and finds it difficult to escape from it. What a long, strange trip this has been for Zonya!

Alex, Zonya's girlhood friend from Russia who is now a rabbi, thought that Zonya was dead because her stepfather had considered her dead after she had renounced Judaism. (p. 178).

Alex thinks to himself:

"Could he conquer sin in her unless he were absolutely sinless himself? No, presumably he could not. And was he sinless? Ah, no! He was obliged to confess with shame, there was not a day of his life that three score at least, of the six hundred and thirteen commandments within the Talmud were not broken. ... But before the stern demands of the Law he knew he was a sinner too, as well as she. In the eyes of a righteous Jehovah both of them stood condemned." (p. 195).

Yom Kippur is described at "the aristocratic Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue [where Alex Ivanov is the new assistant rabbi]. It was a delicate question, therefore, whether the majority of the unprecendented throng that flocked into the pretentious sacred edifice were there more by reason of concern for their sins, or because of curiosity to see and hear the popular new minister." (p. 204).

"On the stroke of ten the great golden organ burst forth." (p. 205).
[Wandering Jude thinks that this organ music seems unlikely for an orthodox synagogue].

"Nowhere in all New York was there such a choir as Shaar Hashomayim's, and never was it in finer form than now on this day of Atonement. In clarion purity of tone the multitude of voices blended in one harmonious ensemble." (p. 206).

The Torah service is described.

"But all the while that he had been performing this most sacred ceremony of the Scroll -- thus magnifying before the congregation of the children of Israel the LAW -- the heart of Alexander Ivanov had been overwhelmed. A sense of utter helplessness and hopelessness convulsed him. For well he knew, as a son of Moses, that whosoever might keep the whole Law, and yet offend in one point, he was guilty of all. And who among all the sons of Israel ever yet had perfectly fulfilled the Law? And though there was this annual Atonement, how futile it all was! The people were standing before him even now, he reflected, believing themselves forgiven and reconciled anew to God. But scarcely would their feet be over the threshold of the Synagogue before they would turn again, he well knew, into the same old paths of sin for yet another year." (p. 210).

"Many from among the throng of penitential worshippers poured out feeling, jovially, quite free from further burden of sin. But the majority remained within the Synagogue, still to pray and weep and fast, thinking thereby to make yet more secure, forgiveness of all their iniquities, and atonement for another year." (p. 212).

After the morning service the rabbi goes to his study, greatly depressed by his own sin and the sins of his people. But he is acosted by a Russian gentile woman who claims to have been of Russian nobility before the Revolution. She says that God sent her to give the rabbi a message, that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. She tells the rabbi that she grieves over the sorrows of the Jewish people, but that the ultimate cause of these sorrows is the Jewish rejection of Jesus.

[Jewish suffering] "is but the fulfillment of their self-pronounced curse: 'His blood be on us, and on our children!' And not until Israel repents of this most awful sin, not until she turns to Him, the Lord Christ Jesus as the Son of God and as her own true Messiah, will her sufferings be ended.... So that is the explanation, Rabbi Ivanov, of my sorrow in your Synagogue this morning throughout your otherwise most beautiful Atonement service; and the reason for my continual sorrow: Israel's lamentable blindness still -- her perpetual futile searching for atonement while still rejecting Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, in Whom alone full and complete Atonement, once for all, has been forever made." (p. 218).

The woman also gives the rabbi a New Testament, which he later reads voraciously until key passages related to sin and atonement are firmly impressed on his mind and heart.

Rabbi Ivanov comes to "love Jesus Christ," but he cannot bring himself to believe in the divinity of Jesus. He dialogues with a Christian minister about this and other doctrinal matters. The rabbi visits the minister at his home in Canada, where he attends church with him, goes fishing with him, and continues the theological discussion.

Finally, in a dramatic conclusion, Rabbi Ivanov comes to faith in Christ through the prayers of Christians and through a savage storm that shakes the foundation of his soul.

"And in that instant the veil upon the heart of Alexander Ivanov was done away in Christ. With open face he beheld as in a glass the glory of the Lord. ... "My Saviour -- my Messiah -- my Lord Jesus Christ -- my glorious Redeemer -- I come, I come to thee." The heart of the newborn babe in Christ ... was fully ... calm.... He experienced within his deepest being, with unutterable joy, the peace that passeth all understanding. The peace of sins forgiven. The peace with God through Jesus Christ his Lord. He was accepted in the Beloved." (p. 290).

The rabbi's good friend, Mark Rosenbaum, a secret service agent, tells him about Catherine Korolenko, the woman who had spoken to the rabbi on the Day of Atonement: "Miss Korolenko is a Christian with a very ardent interest in our Jewish people -- particularly in respect to our Messiah, Who, she has always claimed is Jesus." ... "I may say, parenthetically, she has been successful in convincing me . I'm not ashamed to own it, Ivanov, -- through her testimony I too believe in Jesus Christ. Even though I know it is going to cost me nearly everything on earth I hold dear, I have accepted Him as my personal Messiah and Redeemer." (pp. 296-297).

The rabbi is delighted to hear this, since he himself was recently converted. "How have we been blind to Him so long?" [says the rabbi]. "I do not know, Ivanov. I marvel at my own blindness and hardness of heart. And I deplore the blindness of our Nation in its rejection of our glorious King! From now on, it is my solemn purpose to be used of Him in any way I can be, to make Him known among Israel." (p. 297).

Finally, at the end of the book, Zonya declares to Alex (her soon to be husband) that she is now a believer in Jesus too.

"Oh, I do, I do! I do let the Saviour in. Yes, I take Thee, dear Lord Jesus, as my own Messiah! Forgive me! O forgive me all my sin! (p. 304). ... "The transformation was instantaneous, complete... She stood before him triumphant, radiant -- a new creation in Christ Jesus. "O Alex! O Alex!" she exulted. "I see Him! I see my Lord, my Saviour Jesus Christ! And I am free -- Oh, gloriously free! My sins are all forgiven! I am free in Him, Beloved free!"" (p. 305).

The rabbi is compelled to leave his synagogue-owned apartment.

"For that luxurious abode was designated particularly for Rabbi Ivanov of Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue. And Alex was no longer Rabbi Ivanov. For he was a chosen vessel unto Jesus Christ.... [and] as a new man in Christ Jesus he must be forever free from Judaism." (p. 305).

"Loud was the lamentation throughout the Synagogue when it became knwon that he -- their idol almost -- was a "Meshumed." The Hebrew mothers and daughters wept; the Hebrew fathers employed, some of them, strong argument; others -- malediction.... But Dr. Abrahamson, more than any one else, expressed a grief that knew no bounds -- that one of such brilliant promise should have been thus easily seduced into "the heretical faith of Christianity." But he loved Alexander as his own son. Therefore there was no word of reproach -- only tears of bitter, bitter sorrow." (p. 306).

Dr. Arnold (the Canadian minister) says to the others: "For in these days of Jewish extremity and anguish, by reason of the rising tide of anti-Semitism throughout the world, as the Day of Jacob's Trouble rapidly approaches -- no ministry ... will be of greater value to the Kingdom, or will bear more fruit until salvation and unto His eternal praise, than the loving, sympathetic, wide open hospitality of Christian homes and Christian churches -- to the Jews." (p. 308).

Zonya and Alex are married by Dr. Arnold in an Anglican ceremony. "As the bride and bridegroom then knelt before Him, the Rector raised his hands above them in fatherly blessing. They remained kneeling. The organ played softly. And then, with swelling harmony, the vested choir sang their wedding anthem: an arrangement of carefully selected verse from Myers' beautiful St. Paul." (p. 309).

Some Final Thoughts:

Wandering Jude points out that the story of Zonya, like the other novels by Agnes Kent, is a Bildungsroman, a novel of moral development where a young person faces challenges and hardships but overcomes them all to emerge a stronger person. WJ isn't saying that this makes it a good book, but he is simply pointing out the genre.

As the perceptive reader will have already noticed (but Wandering Jude will point it out anyway), Zonya is a novel filled with florid prose and a blatantly religious agenda. It stereotypes Jews and other religious minorities, and it is highly problematic in its theological conclusions. But other than that, it's an OK read (if one has nothing else to do).

The author's reference to "growing anti-Semitism" in the world was a clear reference (in 1938) to Germany and the war against the Jews. One of her characters predicts that the world will soon be in the midst of "the time of Jacob's trouble," which is an evangelical term for the Great Tribulation, the last days when Jews will suffer immensely and the antichrist will reign supreme for 7 years. The Rapture didn't occur back then, of course, but nonetheless the Holocaust can surely be termed (in retrospect) as the time of Jacob's trouble, without all the theologial baggage that Dispensationalists have given it.

It is troubling and offensive to know that many evangelical Christians of the 1930s and 1940s believed that the suffering of the Jews stemmed from their rejection of Jesus. Does that same theology hold sway today among conservative Christians? Wandering Jude believes so, although to a much lesser degree. Part of this change has to do with a much greater level of religious pluralism in the United States; it's more difficult to demonize those of a different religious persuasion if you live next door to them, participate in civic activities with them, work with them, etc. But another part of it stems from a more "muscular" form of Judaism that is lived and practiced today. The most obvious example of this is the state of Israel, but other examples include the Anti-Defamation League and (oy vey) the Jewish Defense League. Jews may still suffer persecution today, but to a much greater degree than before the Holocaust there are attempts to fight back and to rescue the persecuted. Evangelical Christians still bemoan the Jewish rejection of Jesus, but it is no longer commonly thought to be at the root of Jewish suffering, because anti-Semitism is no longer the problem that it once was, at least in the Western world. Jews in the state of Israel are besieged by Muslim anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, but Israel can (and does) defend itself. Still, a minority of Christians today see a connection between anti-Semitism and Jewish "unbelief" in Christianity. It's the old "blame the victim" mentality.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Our current literary missionary, Agnes Scott Kent, wrote another conversionist novel in the 1930s, this one with a female protagonist. Published in Canada like her first book, Rachel (like Kent's earlier novel David) follows the travails of a young Jew who is brought into the fold of Christianity by an earnest missionary.

In her preface, the author gives us a glimpse into the models used for her work of fiction: "[Rachel Mendelssohn Kalinsky] is a fictitious composite of three actual Jewish girls, personally known and beloved by the author.... Max Kalinsky has his prototype in a young Jewish husband who lives not far from us. He represents the Hebrew secret-believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom doubtless there are thousands.... Deborah Kalinskys are numbered by the score; while the gentle Esthers, the sweet old Grandmother Kalinskys, the caustic Sarahs and Jacobs, and the captivating Little Abies are legion among the Jewish people."

A Jewish wedding is described in chapter one. The six bridesmaids are presented as "rich-skinned and dark-eyed" (p. 12). Max's mother, Deborah Kalinsky, is described as overbearing and domineering. At the wedding supper, the rabbi (Rabbi Mordecai Moses) warns the newlyweds:

"to adhere strictly to all the tenets and observances of orthodox Judaism; they were to worship always and only the one true God. And, above everything, they were to be vigilant against all Christians -- especially against those pernicious Christian missionaries who would seek to lead them astray into paths of idolatry and blasphemy -- enjoining upon them the worship of three gods instead of one" (p. 19).

At the wedding supper, Deborah Kalinsky "was the focus of attention. Conspicuously and deliberately she made herself the center of magnetic attraction on this proud occasion of the marriage of her youngest son. The son himself and his beautiful bride were mere adjuncts to her glory. Above the purple velvet her swarthy, heavy-featured face beamed with complete self-satisfaction. The contrast between her stolid pridefulness and the gentle grace and sweetness of her new daughter-in-law was striking in the extreme" (p. 20).

[Wandering Jude notes that it is unlikely that organ music or Lohengrin's wedding march would be played at an Orthodox wedding in New York in the 1920s, as is described in this chapter.]

Mrs. Kalinsky's accent is written as follows: "Vot! No more tea! Vot iss the matter mit all of yous? Sure you vill haf tea.... Und see, here it iss a leetle vedding cake yet. Eat it! It vill gif you luck!" (p. 23). Along with her Yiddish accent, Mrs. Kalinsky is described several times as "shrewd."

Our protagonist Rachel is described at the market as "haggling over the bargain as all Jewish housewives do" (p. 38).

Rachel meets a Gentile Christian missionary (Violet Hamilton) and an elderly Jewish couple, the Saramoffs. Violet says to Rachel:

"Mrs. Kalinksy... would you not like to join us in our reading [of the New Testament]? We were just enjoying together such a wonderful story about a Jewish young man and his two sisters in the little town of Bethany" ... Rachel was overwhelmed with confusion. She could not show discourtesy to so charming a young woman nor to her host and hostess in their home. But on the other hand her rigid orthodox Jewish convictions had been rudely assailed. She faltered lamely, "But Miss Hamilton, that is the New Testament, is it not? The Christian Bible? I am a Jewess!" ... "A Jewess!" she exclaimed. "Oh how wonderful, Mrs. Kalinsky, it must be to be a Jewess! A daughter of Abraham! One of God's own Chosen People -- a jewel for His diadem! Dear Mrs. Kalinsky, if you only knew how I envy you that honor!" Rachel gasped in amazement. Never before in her life had she heard a Gentile say such a thing as that. She had always believed firmly that the Gentile attitude toward the Jew was one of condescension if not of actual aversion.... "Since you are a Jewess then, Mrs. Kalinsky," she urged, "the New Testament is the very Book that you would most appreciate." "Why?" interposed Rachel in frank astonishment. "Because," Miss Hamilton continued, "this is the Book that tells the story of the most wonderful Jew that ever lived" (p. 68-69).

After hearing the New Testament accounts of Jesus' life, Rachel exclaims:

"Oh, Miss Hamilton, how marvelous a story! Jesus was, yes, He surely was, a wonderful, wonderful man!" Miss Hamilton seized the opportunity with challenge. "A man, dear! Did you say a man? Oh, Mrs. Kalinsky, can you not see, on the evidence of that miracle alone -- that He is infinitely more than man? What man could raise the dead to life? No, dear Mrs. Kalinsky, Jesus Christ is God -- the Son from Heaven -- the true Messiah!" [Mrs. Saramoff said]: "Yes, dear, Jesus is the Son of God." "And our Messiah!" joyfully added Mr. Saramoff -- "the Messiah of our people Israel!" Rachel attempted weakly one last defensive. "But you are Hebrews!" she exclaimed. "He is the Messiah of the Christians!" "He is the Messiah of us all -- of all who will accept Him," Mrs. Saramoff replied. "And we ... are Christians -- Hebrew-Christians!" (p. 70-71).

Rachel begins to study the New Testament. "Hour after hour she would study it with deepening absorption, comparing the New Testament Scriptures with the Old with gradual growing and irresistible conviction" (p. 74). Wandering Jude thinks he knows what's coming. Careful study in conversionary novels only leads to one result: conversion. But we get ahead of the story, because first there is great drama to unfold.

One day Rachel is studying the Bible with Miss Hamilton, and her mother in law comes in and hears them talking. And that's when the dreck hits the fan!

"How did you dare to? Vot iss it you vus doing? You cannot fool me nothings. I know it vot it iss -- that Book which you vus reading yet. It iss a Noy Testament! Beliefe me I am telling you, I know it is a Noy Testament ven I see vun! Vot for you dare to haf it in mein sohn's house? A book which it vus a Christian's book -- a Jesus book? Und you a Jewvish wife! You vill answer me -- vot youd are to mean by all such things?" In a fury she seized the Testament from Rachel's hands and flung it into the stove. Then she turned in violent rage upon Miss Hamilton. ... "Vot you trying to do mit her -- to change her from Jewvish into English?.... I know you vot you vus -- ein mees-ion-aire! -- ein vicked mees-ion-aire! I am telling you, you shall nefer learn mein dear daughter about Jesus He iss so vicked a mans which it couldn't be so vicked -- You go avay!" (p. 77).

But our gentle mother in law, who would have been a match for Kaye Ballard in her heyday, is not through yet:

"Vot for you bring a Noy Testament into a Jewvish house? Don't you know ve Jews nefer touch mit our leetle fingers such a book? It iss poison! Ve should spit at it! .... Vot you say? Jesus! Jesus He is the Mescheach? How dare you go for to talk such vickedness? Jesus He iss not Mescheach! Mescheach He iss not came yet.... Haf God got a sohn? How could God haf a sohn ... Beliefe me, I am telling you, you are talking vicked, vicked foolishness! ... Jesus He iss Himself God? Vot! God iss Father, Sohn und Holy Speerit? Three Gods iss vun God? Are you crazy? Iss three vun und vun iss three?" (p. 78).

But then an interesting event occurs that brings a bittersweet death into the plot. Grandmother Kalinsky, the sweet little old Yiddishe bubbie, "received the good tidings [of Jesus as the Messiah] with great joy" (p. 96). And when she died, "she would behold her own Messiah face to face" (p. 97).

"In the orthodox Jewish home there followed the traditional eight days of mourning. They were terrible days for Rachel. All the shades were closely drawn and the house was hushed and weird. No member of the family went out of doors. Friends and neighbors all came in to mourn with them, sitting around the dreary parlors on boxes, or on the floor as they wailingly intoned the Kaddish -- the Jewish prayer for the dead -- while the long wax candles burned heavily. Amid all the perfunctory and professional evidences of sorrow, one heart there was that grieved sincerely -- Rachel's" (p. 97).

Rachel is now at a crossroads in her life. Will she stay or will she go?

"Was Jesus Christ truly the Son of God and Israel's Messiah, or was He not? Were His claims authentic or were they blasphemous and false? ... It was not many days ... before she had arrived at a definite intellectual conviction that the claims of Jesus Christ were true.... Her intellectual assent to Christ's Messiahship was now qualified and clear" (p. 99).

"For in that moment, ... as she opened wide the door to Jesus Christ, receiving Him by faith as her Messiah -- her Saviour and her Lord and King -- in that moment the darkness of Judaism fled before the Dawn -- the Light streamed in -- and Rachel Kalinsky passed from death to Life" (p. 101).

The Kalinsky family celebrates the Passover seder together. During this time Sarah (Rachel's sister in law) finds Rachel's Bible (including the New Testament). Again the sparks fly (literally).

"Mrs. Kalinsky snatched the sacred Book from Rabbi Moses' hands and flung it violently into the fire burning on the hearth. [Just as she had done, Wandering Jude points out, with the New Testament that Rachel had been given by Violet Hamilton]. Rachel uttered a sharp, quick cry of grief and protest. Instantly a buzz of shrill, angry voices burst upon her as all the witnesses of the strange scene crowded menacingly around her chair. She grew dizzy before them. She tried to speak. She must confess her Lord. This was the time, yes, right now, she was sure. "O Christ, give strength, give strength," she breathed in fervent prayer. But the words of confession choked in her throat" (p. 117).

Rachel thinks she is dying, and she finally gains the strength to stand up for her beliefs. "Before I die I want to tell you all ... I am a Christian! I believe in Jesus Christ! I confess Him now before you all as Israel's Messiah and my own Saviour. I love and worship Him with all my heart. I am going to Him now my Lord my King" (p. 120).

Rachel speaks to her newborn son: "And soon, Little Abie, you will be a big, big laddie and ... go to Church and Sunday School and learn the most wonderful things of all -- all the lovely stories about the dear Lord Jesus.... He died upon the Cross for you and me and for our dear, dear Daddy. And that is why we must all love Him so -- because He is our Saviour, our own Messiah, and our King. Yes, Little Abie, the Lord Jesus Christ is the true Messiah of the Jews. Only the awful thing, Baby, is that so many of our dear, dear people do not believe in Him. It was the Jews, darling, who crucified Him. ... But some day, Little Abie, they will believe because you are going to tell them.... You are going to tell our own dear Hebrew people about their true Messiah, the Lord Christ Jesus. Yes, my Son, you are going to be a Missionary -- a Hebrew-Christian Missionary to the Hebrews" (p. 126).

Now Rachel starts working on her husband:

"You know, Max ... that I am a Christian, and I want my child ... to have a Christian training -- never, Max, a Jewish one." [Max replies sharply]: "You are not a Christian. And my son shall never be a Christian -- never on your life!" ... [Rachel responds]: I am a Christian. I love the Lord Christ Jesus with all my heart, for I know, dear Max, that He is our true Messiah." ... [Max responds]: "Of course He's the Messiah! I know it, Ray, as well as you. No one can help knowing it if he reads the New Testament at all intelligently, as I have done, out of curiosity, a dozen times. Jews everywhere are reading it today.... Certainly He is the Messiah. Without a doubt He is. Thousands of Jews believe it. Jewish rabbis believe it, lots of them. Why, I'd be willing to wager this very moment anything I've got that Rabbi Moses himself is a secret believer in Jesus Christ. But does he confess Him? Not on your life he doesn't! It would mean his bread and butter. You can't hold down a job as Chief Rabbi of a synagogue and say that you believe in Jesus Christ" (p. 130).

And soon Rachel experiences the requisite persecution that is always found in conversionist novels:

"Jacob was choking with rage. His ugly face was purple. The veins stood out upon his neck and forehead.... With a savage growl he suddenly rushed forward and struck the children brutally, ordering them off upstairs instantly. They fled from the room screaming. Then Jacob seized Rachel viciously by the shoulders and shook her until her teeth chattered. "You Meshumed," he hissed. "You dare to! You dare to talk to my children ever again about that blasphemous Jesus Christ and I'll wring your head from your neck like a hen's"" (p. 136).

And speaking of wringing a chicken's neck....

"It was on Yom Kippur -- the great Day of Atonement -- the day of humiliation and abasement. Throughout the Ghetto of New York, and throughout the world, Jews everywhere were gathered in their respective synagogues, from early morning until sunset, with weeping and fasting and penitential prayer -- as they confessed their sins" (p. 136).

Rachel refuses to go to synagogue on Yom Kippur. She sees a conflict between her newfound Christian faith and the traditions of Judaism.

"Dear Max," urged Rachel, "we have received full atonement forever through our Lord Christ Jesus. We need no yearly sacrifice. He offered up sacrifice for all when He offered up Himself. ... Our sins and iniquities He remembers no more forever against us."" ... "It would be compromise... I am a Christian. I am free from all the Jewish law: free from the ceremonial and the Talmud and the synagogue. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.... Never again, Max, shall I be entangled in the yoke of Jewish bondage. I am free in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made me free."

Max groaned aloud. "But Rachel," he argued, "if you persist in being a Christian, at least you need not be a narrow one. I know Hebrew-Christians who keep up their Judaism just the same. Look at Otto Goldberg. He's been a Christian thirty years -- but Otto will be at the synagogue all right tomorrow."

Rachel responds:

"Yes, I know he will. But I won't be. For all Otto claims to be a Christian -- and I believe he is sincere -- he is nevertheless entangled in the bondage of tradition. I have come farther out of Judaism in six months than he has in his entire thirty years."

Max provides his rejoinder:

"No, it's not that at all. Otto Goldberg has consideration for the feelings of his family. He knows the grief it would cause them if he were to separate himself from their orthodox observances. It is the offense of that, more than anything else, Rachel, that breaks up Jewish families when a Jew becomes a Christian."

And Rachel (Ray) gives her surrejoinder:

"Ah no, dear Max! That is not the offense. The offense is the Cross of Jesus Christ! And I have taken up that Cross.. If in consequence I, too, must meet offense -- amen, dear Lord, so be it!" Deeply moved she bowed her head in reverent prayer" (p. 138-139).

On the Day of Atonement, Rachel decides to not go to synagogue. On the principle of the matter she also decides to eat breakfast.

"Purposely she left the dishes and the food on the table that the family ... might see and understand. Then she spent the morning alone with her God and with her child. ... [When Mrs. Kalinsky returned, she was furious]. "Food on Yom Kippur! And breaking kosher too! Eating meat and milk together! And using the same knife to cut both meat and butter! Horrible! Horrible! And daring not to go to synagogue! Refusing to confess her sins before her God! Well, He would surely damn her now! She was no longer a Kalinsky! Forever she would be Meshumed!" (p. 141).

In a scene worthy of the stage or screen, Rabbi Moses says to Rachel:

"You have forsaken your God. You have gone over to the blasphemous apostates. You have confessed the name of Jesus Christ within this house. You have transgressed our most holy Law. You have broken fast on Yom Kippur. You have broken kosher. You have defied the worship and commandments of the synagogue. You have embraced an alien faith. You have proven traitor to all the holy traditions of your people. You have proven false to your husband, to his family, to your friends. You have renounced the one true God. In His Holy Name I pronounce you now Meshumed -- accursed of God and man." ... "What shall this righteous Israelite do with this apostate woman?" The Rabbi appealed the question to the court. A chorus of frenzied cries responded instantly: "Dee-worce her! Dee-worce her! She is Meshumed! Dee-worce her, Max, dee-worce her!" ... To Rachel's anguished heart the scene recalled another court -- another angry crowd -- another infuriated cry: "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" She experienced a thrill of holy joy above the anguish. She was being crucified with Him. She was one with Him in the mysterious fellowship of suffering." ... "Rachel Mendelssohn, you are accursed! Your child is accursed! You are divorced forever from this family. You are cut off from Israel. You are cut off from God. Go - both of you -- to your damnation!" Fiercely Rabbi Moses pointed to the open door" (p. 144-145).

Rachel tries to find food and shelter, but all of the Jews of the neighborhood will have nothing to do with her. Likewise, because of anti-Semitism, most of the Christians will also not help her, even at a Church (a "modernist" church). Finally she finds help and solace in the Christian Mission to the Jews. She enrolls in the local Bible college and lives in the dormitory.

But the Jewish community is not yet finished with Rachel. First she is offered $5000 to renounce her new Christian faith. When she refuses, she is tied up by the rabbi and her 3 brothers in law and her child is kidnapped. One of them says to her as he leaves with the little boy, "All right, my girl, stay a Meshumed. Stay an accursed Christian if you want to be one. But your child is a Kalinsky and a Jew" (p. 185). [Wait. Wandering Jew remembers that the rabbi had said that the child was cursed and cut off from Israel. Now they want him back?]

Later, when the police investigate, the family has moved to California and the rabbi denies involvement.

The Kalinsky family tries a ruse to get Rachel to California. But Dr. Nathan (the head of the mission) sees through this ruse. "But well he understood the duplicity of the unregenerate Jacobs of his race" (p. 194). Still, Rachel falls for it. Later the narrator talks about "the tragedy of Satan's fury against a Jew who had become a Christian." (p. 198).

Rachel is held captive "in a small basement room, securely imprisoned behind barred windows and a bolted door. Here she would remain, she was angrily informed, on bread and water fare and all alone, until she recanted her belief in the despised and hated Jesus..... Morning and evening her tormentors came to her with their sinister question: "Rachel Mendelssohn, do you renounce your faith in that blasphemer, Jesus Christ?" ... Day after day they grieved her gentle heart with cruel mockings." "Her enemies, infuriated by her strength of purpose, at last had resorted to the Inquisition. And their torture was excruciating to the last degree. For the rack they chose to use was Little Abie." (p. 198-199).

Eventually the Kalinskys have Rachel sent to a mental hospital (although after one night there Violet Hamilton rescues her).

Rachel had become "an easy prey to Satan's wiles, always directed with malignant fury against any Jew who dares to become a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ" (p. 203).

"Each day at the noon hour she would gather around her a group of Jewish girls -- girls whom first she had won to herself by little acts of kindness -- and these she would tactfully and lovingly instruct out of the New Testament Scriptures, in those things concerning their Messiah.... Seldom was there a Sunday when one Jew at least did not find, through Rachel's radiant testimony, his true Messiah." (p. 207).

But not every Jewish child was Rachel's friend. Some children would throw stones at her "with jeers and curses. More than once a Jewish boy -- instigated by his parents -- spat in her face and hissed "Meshumed" (p. 210).

Mrs. Kalinsky (Rachel's evil mother in law) dies in a horrible car crash. Rachel wonders if the death was "swift and fearful retribution" for Mrs. Kalinsky's crimes against her (p. 214). But then she realizes that Deborah Kalinsky was not all bad, and that she may even have had a conversion experience in the hospital before she died.

At Rosh Hashanah, after Tashlich, the narrator says that the Jews of New York "wended their way westward and homeward, complacently self-satisfied that they now were wholly righteous" (p. 217).

Max returns and repents, "sobbing in heartbroken shame and sorrow, with utter self-abasement he made confession of his sins -- of all his contemptible cowardice and selfishness and greed; of his awful cruelty to Rachel and their little son; and of his base disloyalty to Christ -- in Whom as a child he had believed, but Whom he had never manfully acknowledged as his own Messiah.... and back of them all had been his lust for gold. For filthy lucre he had almost lost his soul" (p. 222).

Some final thoughts:

Mrs. Kalinsky appears to not only fulfill the stereotypical image of the overbearing Jewish mother, but she's a serial book burner as well. It's no surprise that she never converts to the Christian faith. Unappealing characters seldom do in conversionist literature.

Early in the book the narrator contrasts the difference between "the darkness of Judaism and the Light of Life" (p. 72). Sadly, this metaphor continues to be used among the conversionists of today.

The kidnapping of Rachel reminds us of Muppim's predicament in The Jewish Twins, as well as the real life claims of Ken Levitt in Kidnapped for My Faith.

Max's claim that there are thousands of secret Jewish believers in Jesus strains credulity. (It's also an ironic twist on slightly more reliable legends of the Converso who outwardly practiced Roman Catholicism but secretly remained a Jew). But the idea of closet "Hebrew-Christians" is a popular rumor that continues into modern times, both in fiction and in "real life." While it is possible that a 1920s era Jew might be economically damaged by conversion to Christianity, it is inconceivable that the same threat holds in the 21st century (except, possibly, in insular communities like the Hasidim). Still, the idea of thousands of secret converts, including rabbis, would mean (if it were true) that these individuals lived a life of extreme cognitive dissonance. In any event, here is one story of a secret believer (a rabbi, no less) that very well may be true. But one true story does not make thousands of true stories. Wandering Jude thinks that the "closet believer" motif is the exception, not the rule. But as always, Wandering Jude may be wrong.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

David: A Jewish Lad's Conversion to Christianity

Agnes Scott Kent wrote a series of novels in the 1920s and 1930s dealing with Jews becoming Christians. The first, David: A Jewish Lad's Conversion to Christianity, was published in Toronto in 1926. (And it was one of the first conversionist novels to be set in Canada).

Kent explains her literary motives: "It is with the purpose of presenting to Christians all that is involved when a Jew becomes a Christian; and of giving them a more intelligent appreciation of the vast difficulties in Jewish missionary enterprise, that this little story is published."

Early in the novel we learn that the titular character, 12 year old David Rabinovitz, is bullied at school because he is Jewish, and thus "hated all Christians!" (p. 8)

"It was Sabbath evening -- Friday. The shades were drawn and the candles were burning, shedding their soft light upon the fine Jewish faces gathered around the table. At the head stood the father, a Jewish Rabbi, a man of grave and distinguished bearing. Seated before him were the sweet-faced mother and her two beautiful daughters, all dark-eyed and very lovely, and David, the twelve-year-old only son, the joy and idol of the family and the handsomest of them all, with his tall, lithe grace, his finely chiseled Jewish features and his soulful black eyes" (p. 8).

"Father, did the Jews kill Jesus?" The Rabbi's handsome face became instantly stern. "What means this, my son? You well know that is a name that is unwelcome in this house." ... "It is well that we are in Canada [and no longer in Russia]. Here at least they cannot kill us nor confiscate our property. Insult, yes, my son, that we must receive wherever we go. It is the lot of the Jew always to suffer" (p. 9).

"As for this man Jesus," again the father's voice grew stern, "no, my son, the Jews did not crucify him. It was the Romans. And quite rightfully so, David, because he was guilty of the fearful blasphemy of declaring himself the Son of God. I will grant that his was an outstanding life, distinguished for holiness and wise teaching and great and noble deed. I believe even that he was a prophet, for that he performed wonderful miracles, even to the raising of the dead, few deny. But for the sin of claiming that he was sent from God, that he was the Messiah of Israel, it was necessary and right that he should die. The proof of his great iniquity is found in the deeds of his followers who, in his name, have perpetrated every outrage upon our people. Now dismiss this man from your thoughts, my son, and never let me hear again his name upon your lips" (p. 10).

David meets a woman in the park who is a proselytizer. She tells him that Jesus is the risen Messiah, prophesied by the prophets in the Tanach:

"He lives! He lives! I know it, David, for every day I talk with Him and He with me in wondrous fellowship. I cannot see Him, no; but soon I shall, David, face to face; for the prophets have given other pictures, just as wonderful, just as surely true, of His second advent and His reign in glory. And we who love Him believe His footsteps are drawing very, very near" (p. 13).

Young David responds,

"He is not the Messiah! My father says he was a blasphemer and that he deserved to die. All the sufferings of our race are because of him. I have lived in Russia and I know! Even here in Canada the Christians treat me like a dog just because I am a Jew!"

But the missionary has a ready answer for this objection:

"Ah, David, they are not Christians then, either in Russia or in Canada if they do not love the Jews, for He is the Lord of love, and they are His own brethren" (p. 15).

Later the woman persuades David to read a new Testament. David is now well on his way to life as a Christian:

"I wonder if Jesus possibly could be the Messiah? If he is -- oh, it would be glorious!"

The woman missionary prays for David after he has left. A typical evangelical prayer but [notes Wandering Jude] foreign to the ears of Jews everywhere no matter what language they speak:

"Oh, Lord God, give me this beautiful Jewish lad! I claim him, Father, for Thy Son! Defeat all opposition from the Enemy. Oh, give entrance, Father, to this Testament, Thy Word of Life! Grant that through it, David and every loved one in his home may find their true Messiah, Jesus Christ" (p. 16).

Wandering Jude suspects, as well may the perceptive reader, that the missionary's prayer, despite its patronizing and insulting nature, will be answered before the tale is finished.

David is now 18 years old. David's father informs him of his plan to move the family to Palestine, where David will attend Hebrew University. "By that time, who knows, David? Our temple may be rebuilt, our sacrifice restored. Yes! Even He, our Messiah -- may be come! and you, David, son of Isidor, of the house of Rabinovitz, of the tribe of Levi, may minister before Him in the Temple courts!" (p. 20).

But David has a secret that he must now share with his abba.

"Dearest Father, hear me; I cannot go to Palestine to study for a Jewish rabbinate -- because, my Father, I believe in Jesus Christ! I confess Him now before you as my Saviour and my Lord, the Son of God, and Israel's Messiah!" (p. 22).

"The proud spirit of the Hebrew Rabbi was stricken to the dust. In a paroxysm of rage and horror he choked out the words: "David Rabinovitz, are you mad? How dare you utter that accursed name with in this house! -- the name of that blasphemer and imposter, the one who has inspired the murder of thousands of your people. You, my son! How dare you? ... David, my son, my dearest boy, would you break your father's heart? Would you thus dishonour our exalted name by acknowledging this hated Jesus? ... As you love me, David, say you will give up this madness." He threw his arms about his son and kissed him passionately. David returned his father's caresses, and both wept bitterly" (p. 23).

David's father expresses his anger toward the missionary who proselytized David and visited the family in their home:

"I never dreamed she was trying to indoctrinate my son! Yes, it is true, I did permit you to accept the New Testament from her, for all learned Jews are now studying it freely. But I had too much confidence in your faith, as a righteous Jew, in one God, to dream that you would ever accept its perverted teaching seriously, or that you could possibly be harmed by it. But the deadly poison has worked. And Nathalie Raymond has been the viper who insinuated it! As servant of Jehovah, I pronounce His curse upon her! ... David, I ask you just one question: Will you here and now renounce your faith in Jesus Christ?"


"Weigh carefully, David, all that is involved if you become a Christian. It will mean: for all of us who love you, broken hearts; for our exalted house and name, disgrace and disinheritance -- the loss of family, home and friends, of wealth, of social rank, of opportunity; for me, the loss of the position and respect I hold in this community; for your sisters, all hopes of marriage shattered, for no worthy Jew would ever marry the sister of a Meshumed. But that is not all. ... If you profess this Jesus -- I solemnly warn you -- it will kill your mother... And when she dies, you -- David Rabinovitz -- her only son -- will be her murderer! -- Now make your choice" (p. 28-29).

When David (clearly immune from the effects of his dad's major guilt manipulation efforts) tells his father that his final choice is to follow Jesus, the rabbi's response is over the top:

"Then go! go from my heart, and from my home, which you have laid in ruins. No longer are you David, the beloved -- no longer are you Rabinovitz. Your name is now Meshumed -- Accursed of God and man! Go -- forever -- into outer darkness! Go!" with a force born of Satanic fury, David was hurled through the doorway, headlong down the stone steps to the pavement" (p. 32).

Sometime later David was summoned to his family's home. What follows in the narrative is an unbelievable scene of melodrama and fantasy:

"At the door, in utter silence, he had been rudely seized by two well-known neighboring Jewish Rabbis, and violently shoved into the drawing room, which was heavily draped in black crepe. In the centre of the room had stood a long, black coffin, with candles burning at the head and foot. A silver name plate bore the inscription: David Rabinovitz, Beloved and only son of Isidor and Leah, Died November 17, 19--, Aged 18 years. To his horror, David had realized that the figure laid out in the coffin was himself in effigy, and that he was attending his own funeral! He had been held as in a vise by his two captors through the whole fearful service, compelled to hear the wailing of the mourners for the dead son of the household, and the heartbroken sobs of his father, who had sat directly in front of him" (p. 37).

Summoned to his family's home ten years later, David hears his mother say "I believe in Jesus Christ" (p. 40). A strange and mostly unexplained twist of fate, but by this time the reader is accustomed to such plot devices. Later we will be told of the chicanery that led to this event.

Three weeks later, at Christmas, David and his new wife join Miss Raymond (our old friend the missionary) at the Jewish mission for a Christmas service for little Jewish children in front of a Christmas tree. David tells them the Christmas story, then prays with them and sings a song. Meanwhile, his father had been listening to the service unobserved. The narrator describes the scene of a once proud man now humbled by circumstances and by the convicting power of the Christian Holy Spirit:

"[F]alling upon his knees among the kneeling children, he buried his head in his arms and wept as if his heart would break. The proud spirit was abased, the rebellion of long years was ended. With the soft light of a Christmas tree making a halo about his silvered head, the Jewish rabbi bowed in penitence and adoration before the Son of God! ... prostrate at last at the feet of his Messiah! ... With majestic dignity, and in tones that thrilled everyone listening intently in the room, he cried aloud: "O God, forgive my sin of unbelief! I come, at last, at last, I come! My Lord and my Messiah, I yield my heart to Thee." Then, silently weeping, he sat down upon a bench among the children" (p. 44-45).

(We should note that David's two sisters also become Christians at this point in the book).

After reading the New Testament, the old Rabbi

"was compelled to yield his intellectual assent that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews and the Saviour of the world. But still his proud heart refused to yield to the One despised and rejected by his people Israel. And more, he could not pay the price. Well did he know what confession of the hated Jesus would cost him: his prestige and his authority among the Jews, his established social leadership, his hosts of friends. [But finally] his proud spirit broke" (p. 47-48).

It turns out that a "devoted Hebrew-Christian [nurse], who, purposely unrecognized as such, had through much prevailing prayer, and through the influence of her loving ministry in the sick room, been enabled to talk to Mrs. Rabinovitz and Miriam about her Lord, and gradually to give them secret instruction in the Bible, carefully comparing the New Testament with the Old" (p. 48).

The old (former) rabbi, now a devout Christian, expresses his gratefulness to the spinster missionary:

"Miss Raymond, we have been thanking our God, in Jesus' name, for you. And now tomorrow, dear friend, you must spend with us: our first real Christmas day.... we shall all leave for Palestine. yes, Palestine! The Land of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! There I would end my days, near my beloved son, sharing in his labours to make the Messiah known among our people Israel" (p. 51).


What can Wandering Jude say except that they don't write 'em like this anymore, do they? (And thank God for that!)

Conversation with a Pharisee -- and a Christian

The current issue of Christianity Today has an article that perfectly illustrates the state of dialog between evangelicals and Jews. Two clerics from the U.K. (a minister and a rabbi) talk about what unites them and what separates them. Mostly what separates them. Rabbi David Rosen and Rev. R.T. Kendall have written a book together (The Christian and the Pharisee), and the article appears to be the two talking about themes from the book: Interpretation of the Bible, sin, evangelism, Jewish-Christian relations, etc.

The following interchange between the two is telling:

Kendall: "I pray for you every day. If I'm right, you will go to hell when you die, and I don't want that...."

Rosen: "I just don't understand what you're talking about...."

Kendall: "There's a double blindness upon a Jew.... God has given them a spirit of stupor -- eyes so they cannot see."

Rosen: "If there is something that I'm not seeing that is of essential importance, then I pray that the Almighty will reveal it to me."

Although the author of the article wants you as the reader to see Kendall and Rosen as having a "warm friendship," I was struck by Kendall's preoccupation with Rosen's salvation (to the point of being somewhat obnoxious about it) and Rosen's mystifed reaction.

Read the entire article at http://www.christianitytoday.com/