Addressing Anti-Judaism in Holy Week Scripture Texts

February 19, 2016

From The Rev. Devon Anderson, Trinity, Excelsior:

It’s that time of year when many of us are designing our liturgical offerings for Holy Week. And it’s about this time every year when I reengage the Johannine Passion narrative on Good Friday and, in parts, cringe. While the scripture designated by our lectionary for that day is set in a particular historical context, to the modern ear, casting “the Jews” and “the rabbis” as the evil villains of the story cuts deep and, left uncommented-upon, has the power to perpetuate “Jews killed Christ” hate speak. What are self-respecting faith communities to do? 

One of the best resources is an article by Philip Cunningham, Translating and Excerpting the Johannine Passion Narrative for Liturgical Proclamation, which does offer alternative options for the reading. While Minnesota is blessed with a Bishop that trusts local faith communities to make their own liturgical decisions, it still needs to be said that technically using any of the alternatives proposed in the article would require the Bishop's permission.

Additional recommended resources include:

Other than an alternative translation, or options offered in the above resources, another idea is to address issues of Anti-Judaism by a note in the bulletin, or in preaching, or through an adult education offering. If you’re going with the preaching option, Marilyn Salmon’s Preaching without Contempt: Overcoming Unintended Anti-Judaism is a clear and helpful guide.