Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Strange Thoughts

I was struck while listening to a Church History course podcast the parallels between the Reformation and the transformation of Judaism that occurred under Ezra. In both cases the Religion became more "book centered". In both cases there was a dislocation in the structure of the religion. In Judaism the Temple cultus was interrupted and the people of Judah found themselves in exile. In the case of the Reformation the authority of the church had been disrupted by the "Babylonian captivity" of the pope and the Great Schism.

In both cases the people has to form a new identity.

The followers of Adonai/YHWH found themselves cut off from the Temple rites and the land, the two centers of pre-exile belief. So they had to find a new way to define who they were. What did it mean to be Jewish in this strange new world. Of course eventually this new understanding (and the diaspora) would lead to many different subgroups within Judaism with very different views of the world.

The Christians of the 14th century found themselves in a similarly alien circumstance, with various popes of varying degrees of legitimacy all claiming to be the leader of the church. The pope was not yet the infallible vicar of Christ he would become in Catholic theology later on but still there was a tremendous dislocation where the people had to find a new way of thinking about what made one a real Christian. Out of this Wycliffe, Hus, and the other prereformers began to turn the Scriptures as the way to define Christianity, a change that would eventually revolutionize (and splinter) the Western church.

I don't know the moral/theological significance of the rough parallel, but I thought it was striking.

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