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On relations with the Jewish people - Canon XI, Sixth Council


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#1 Thomas K.

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 01:35 AM

Mercy and peace to all, be multiplied.

My question is on the following canon (viewable here at CCEL):

Canon XI. Let no one in the priestly order nor any layman eat the unleavened bread of the Jews, nor have any familiar intercourse with them, nor summon them in illness, nor receive medicines from them, nor bathe with them; but if anyone shall take in hand to do so, if he is a cleric, let him be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off.

I have also seen this rendered as follows:

Let no one enrolled in the sacerdotal list, or any layman, eat the unleavened wafers manufactured by the Jews, or in any way become familiar with the Jews or call them in case of sickness, or take any medicines from them, or even bathe with them in public bathing beaches or bathhouses. If anyone should attempt to do this, in case he is a clergyman, let him be deposed from office; or, in case he is a layman, let him be excommunicated.

This may have had its purpose - God only knows what - back in the seventh century, but today we would say that this is repugnant, it is antisemitism, and it has NO place in the Orthodox Faith, nor in any other faith for that matter.

Realizing that this can only be changed by an ecumenical council, is there a provision in the canons to declare that a canon law is "dead" - in other words, a post-conciliar recognition that this specific canon law is morally wrong and a statement that no Orthodox Christian is bound or compelled to obey it?

#2 Owen

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 01:46 AM

There is always economy.

#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 02:01 AM

Um, they are called "bishops". They decide which canons are appropriate for a given situation. We don't have to declare anything "dead". Canon means "guide", and although lots of people use it, I can't help but feel that "canon law" is something of an oxymoron, or at least "law" in this case does not carry a jurisprudence context. There are a couple of threads covering the canons and how they are applied, like this one: Orthodox Canon Law

#4 Thomas K.

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 03:28 AM

"We don't have to declare anything "dead". Canon means "guide", and although lots of people use it..."

I understand that. The reason I used the term "dead" is because I remember reading somewhere that a canon law could be declared "dead," or void if you will. Even if the Bishop decides that the canon law will not be enforced, there is still the potential for offense by just having that language "on the books" so to speak. For example, if I were sharing the gospel with someone - even perhaps a Jew - and that person did the research (which is "easy" with tools like google), and he found this in our canon law, perhaps I would be able to say that yes, this was in the canon law but was subsequently declared "dead," or void.

I would really like to see this canon removed entirely, but I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

#5 Brian Rowlands

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 08:00 AM

Apologies that this is a slight deviation from the main theme opf this thread, but, might not some of the reasonings ('economy'; 'bishops') outlined in some of the previous responses 'justify' the western church's addition of the 'filioque' to the symbol of faith (creed), in contravention of the canons of the Oecumenical Councils?

One man's fish is another man's poison: one man's economy is another man's heresy!

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 11:07 AM

Short answer: No.
Longer answer: NOOOOOOOoooooo.

Please provide a reference that a "canon can be declared dead". The Church does not have to be politically correct. Politically correct is not a theology. Potential for offense? Come on now, St. Paul had to be lowered from the city walls to escape those he had "offended". No, we do not do revisionism and we do not redact the Faith. Down that path lies Episcopalianism. Do we censor St. John Chrysostom? He has been declared an anti-semite of the first order by those who refuse to try to understand his writings. If people want to take offense, they will, there is really no way to stop them.

And there is a difference between not using a particular canon and adding or changing the Faith! I hope you can see the difference.

We do not have to declare the hammer dead when the appropriate tool for a particular situation is a screwdriver. We use the appropriate tool for the appropriate job, we use the appropriate canons (as generally decided by the bishop or synod) for the appropriate situation. If a canon is not deemed appropriate, it is simply not used. That is not the same thing as adding the filioque. Not using is not the same as changing.

Not using a particular tool does not mean you must throw it away, even if you find it "offensive". If we get rid of everything that offends anybody, we won't have anything left.

Herman the sometimes offensive Pooh (sometimes it just can't be helped)

#7 Thomas K.

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Posted 26 July 2010 - 11:43 AM

I guess I'm not really getting through to anyone here, am I? :-)

Let me try this again:

We have a canon in our church law that is patently antisemitic (i.e. promotes hatred of Jews).

No rational argument can be made that such a canon exists or ought to exist in the church law.

The canon is not "offensive" in a politically-correct sense. It is offensive because antisemitism is objectively evil and as we've seen from the history of the 20th century, it can lead to greater evil.

Now, having said this, my question is, is there any way to declare this canon null and void, short of an ecumenical council?

If not, can a Bishop simply refuse to enforce it, or is he bound to enforce it?

Re. John Chrysostom: this is why I'm not focusing on the person as antisemitic, but the canon itself. Obviously, you don't throw out all of St. John C's teachings because a passage here or there is antisemitic. You reject the evil and embrace the good. Part of that pruning process, remember? :-)

Re: "The Church does not have to be politically correct." I'm not asking the church to be politically correct. What I am asking is that we reject antisemitism where we find it in our church law and writings. I hope that you can at least agree that antisemitism is repugnant and has no place in the Church.

#8 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 July 2010 - 12:58 PM

First off, I fail to see where the canon actually promotes "hatred". There was a long time in history where the Jews actively hated and persecuted the Christians (remember that St. Paul was one of them), and there were the Judaizers who tried to turn Christianity back into Judaism, something that had already been settled by the Apostles themselves. Interestingly this canon is probably very Jewish in its origin, since the Jews themselves had very strict ideas about separateness and uncleanness from interacting with the goyim. So what you are really saying, if you think about it: to elimnate "anti-semitism" by being less Jewish about things.

Sorry, but "anti-semitism" is a very loaded word and I would be very careful about where you point that thing. It is the same thing as loose "canons" careening about the deck without restraint (discretion). The collateral damage can be very serious and innocent bystanders end up getting hurt.

But, just for the sake of a balanced discussion, let's go through your points one-by-one:

We have a canon in our church law that is patently antisemitic (i.e. promotes hatred of Jews).


Sorry, but again, you are going to have to show how the canon "promotes hatred" against Jews simply because it calls for something Jewish law itself enforced. There is nothing here that says Jews must be hated, or harmed, or driven off. You really need to look at the history and the cultural context in which this canon was written before condemning it and the Church for it.

No rational argument can be made that such a canon exists or ought to exist in the church law.


I beg to differ. This is a very easy comment to make, it is much more difficult to justify. Perhaps no rational argument can be made that an intransient mindset can accept, but I think some rather rational ideas have already been set forth.

The canon is not "offensive" in a politically-correct sense. It is offensive because antisemitism is objectively evil and as we've seen from the history of the 20th century, it can lead to greater evil.


Please. First off, we have to define anti-semitism. Some people use it to describe anyone who does not support the secular state of modern Israel and all its actions. Hating anyone should be discouraged, and is, by the Church as a whole. The thing is, this canon is not against the Hebrews as a race, because many of the Christians (as well as Christ Himself and most of the first Christians) were of the Hewbrew race, but no longer of the Jewish faith since they had been cast out of the synagogues.

Now, having said this, my question is, is there any way to declare this canon null and void, short of an ecumenical council?


Now having read this, my question is, why is there any need to declare the canon null and void when all you have to do is simply not enforce it, as can be seen that it is obviously not in wide observance today. It is "null and void" when your bishop, in concert with his synod, decides it is no longer efficacious in its use in the current cultural context and is not enforced. When you start eliminating things, declaring them "null and void", it is sometimes hard to know where to stop, and the next thing you know, you're Episcopalian, redefining yourself each and every time you are challenged. No thank you very much.

If not, can a Bishop simply refuse to enforce it, or is he bound to enforce it?


So, do you know of ANY Orthodox bishop who specifically says this canon must be observed? No? Has your priest, the duly appointed representative of your bishop, told you that you must abide by this canon? Is your question answered yet? Do I really have to spell it out again?

Yes this does say that we must trust our bishops to do "the right thing", that they have a special God-appointed responsibility to use discretion and pastoral care in administering the canons with their flocks. That is why it is not a good idea for laypeople to try and practice canon "law" without a blessing, just like non-medically trained people need to be cautious about practicing medicine without a license. Trying to enforce the canons without discretion leads to schisms and spiritual harm, like thinking watching Grey's Anatomy qualifies you to be a doctor. The bishops have the training and have been specifically picked by their brother bishops to be entrusted with maintaining the good order of the Church, of which the canons are a part, but only a part.

The canons, good or "bad" or whatever, had a cultural/historical context. Some of them are still appropriate, others, not so much perhaps. Simply "getting rid of them" because we don't happen to like them really serves no real purpose, and destroys, if nothing else, the historical record. Canon "law" is NOT the same as judicial law, at least within the Orthodox Church. Please read the earlier threads and gain some background and understanding before trying to "reform" the Church. We are here to let Church reform us, not to reform the Church. When you become a bishop, in synod with your brothers, then you can decide which canons to enforce, which ones to not enforce and which ones (if necessary) to scrap. Otherwise, that is why they get to wear the funny hats.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh who likes to wear hats (but not mitres)
Sorry if this post exceeds the FDA recommended maximum dose of irony.

#9 Kosta

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Posted 26 July 2010 - 08:26 PM

Apologies that this is a slight deviation from the main theme opf this thread, but, might not some of the reasonings ('economy'; 'bishops') outlined in some of the previous responses 'justify' the western church's addition of the 'filioque' to the symbol of faith (creed), in contravention of the canons of the Oecumenical Councils?

One man's fish is another man's poison: one man's economy is another man's heresy!


Eikonomia implys leniency on the application of canons. It is the opposite of akrevia which is applying the canons rigidly and to their exactitude. It doesnt refer to dogma.

#10 Kosta

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Posted 26 July 2010 - 09:09 PM

Mercy and peace to all, be multiplied.

My question is on the following canon (viewable here at CCEL):

Canon XI. Let no one in the priestly order nor any layman eat the unleavened bread of the Jews, nor have any familiar intercourse with them, nor summon them in illness, nor receive medicines from them, nor bathe with them; but if anyone shall take in hand to do so, if he is a cleric, let him be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off.

I have also seen this rendered as follows:

Let no one enrolled in the sacerdotal list, or any layman, eat the unleavened wafers manufactured by the Jews, or in any way become familiar with the Jews or call them in case of sickness, or take any medicines from them, or even bathe with them in public bathing beaches or bathhouses. If anyone should attempt to do this, in case he is a clergyman, let him be deposed from office; or, in case he is a layman, let him be excommunicated.

This may have had its purpose - God only knows what - back in the seventh century, but today we would say that this is repugnant, it is antisemitism, and it has NO place in the Orthodox Faith, nor in any other faith for that matter.

Realizing that this can only be changed by an ecumenical council, is there a provision in the canons to declare that a canon law is "dead" - in other words, a post-conciliar recognition that this specific canon law is morally wrong and a statement that no Orthodox Christian is bound or compelled to obey it?



This canon most likely was passed due to the many conflicts the byzantines had with jews during the 7th century. As muslim conquest expanded and christian power was teetering on the fringes, jews saw an oppurtunity for self-rule. The jews had similar practises in the 7th centuries- that they should avoid christians as well.
A common legend was for the jewish merchants to ask christians to throw their money into the fountain where they would retrieve it so as not to have contact with the christian.
In 614 a.d. the Persions captured Jerusalem where the christians were massacred. The jews hailed the persians as liberators and joined the revolt, they also bought enslaved christians from their persian captors and sacrificed them. The magazine biblical archeology review in one of their bback issues also reports this included children. Jews actually had autonomy till about 625 a,d and persecuted the christians under Benjamin Tiberius. In 610 a.d. and again in 646 a.d. the jews revolted in Cyprus, where the jews had attempted many times to establish a jewish state there, massacring the greek natives. In 608 a.d. there was a jewish revolt in Antioch where Patriarch Anastasias was martyred.
There were many other incidences Also the earliest jewish manuscript widely circulated in synagogues mocking Jesus originates from the 7th century.

#11 Dimitris

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Posted 26 July 2010 - 09:13 PM

Eikonomia implys leniency on the application of canons. It is the opposite of akrevia which is applying the canons rigidly and to their exactitude. It doesnt refer to dogma.

Now, this is a common misunderstanding of the terms oikonomia and akriveia. It is often understood that the Church generally has to act kat' akriveian, but in certain (exceptional) situations and emergencies might act contrary to the canons, which would be oikonomia.

But that is not the true meaning and "concept" of akriveia and oikonomia. Every application of canons, every decision of the Church - let it be strictly according to the wording of certain canons, let it be by acting exactly contary to the wording of certain canons - is an act, an event of oikonomia. The wording of canons is just an attempt made by man to manifest a certain aspect of faith or relevation. We have to understand that it is not the canon itself we have to follow, but that which stands behind the canon. Canons are not a law, but an expression of faith, valid for a specific period of time, a specific place, specific people. Thus canons, which are just words, can never claim to be eternally valid. It is that standing behind the specific expression of a canon which is eternally valid.

It is the duty and responsibility of the bishop to "understand" that which lies behind a canon and to apply it to the flock entrusted to him, by means which seem appropriate to this specific flock or even specific persons of that flock. That is what our Church calls oikonomia, even if it is exactly according to the wording of a specific canon.

#12 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 26 July 2010 - 09:22 PM

The canon is not "offensive" in a politically-correct sense. It is offensive because antisemitism is objectively evil and as we've seen from the history of the 20th century, it can lead to greater evil.


Thomas,

As Herman says above, you really do need to define "antisemitism" for us to have a discussion about it. Some people seem to define it as anything that is critical of Jews or opposed to Jewish interests, in which case it could only be "objectively evil" if Jews were themselves God. If Jews are not God, then a righteous man must sometimes be "antisemitic" in this very broad but also very common sense.

Consider also that the Talmud says many much, much worse things about relations with Christians. I recommend Jewish History, Jewish Religion, by the late Israel Shahak. His citations from the Talmud can be checked on line, with some effort.

Dn Patrick

#13 Andrew D. Morrell

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Posted 27 July 2010 - 06:09 AM

You got through to me, Thomas. Here's a casual, not theological, barely intellectual reply:

If it doesn't bother me (born a Jew), why is it bothering you, Thomas? I imagine the Jews made it very difficult for Chrisitan's, often. As is done now.

Example: when I became Christian (well... protestant)... some dear members of my family stopped talking to me for many years. If Nehemiah was my uncle, he'd have tracked me down and ripped my beard out by the roots, first for marrying a shiksa and then for eventually embracing the teachings of Christ. This is not a new mindset, Thomas.

Last week, I had a discussion with a protestant friend who - for many years - has sent hundreds of dollars a month to an organization that pays for Jews to return to Israel. I'm very, very familiar with that particular mindset. I asked him why he's supporting a country that denied me aliyah because I am Christian... a country that doesn't make it easy to be a Christian there. Love 'em, love my family, love my Jewish friends. But they think we're in a cult...

The doors, the doors!

Drop Fr. James Bernstein an email, see what he has to say.

Shalom - Andrew

#14 Kosta

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 02:02 AM

You got through to me, Thomas. Here's a casual, not theological, barely intellectual reply:

If it doesn't bother me (born a Jew), why is it bothering you, Thomas? I imagine the Jews made it very difficult for Chrisitan's, often. As is done now.

Example: when I became Christian (well... protestant)... some dear members of my family stopped talking to me for many years. If Nehemiah was my uncle, he'd have tracked me down and ripped my beard out by the roots, first for marrying a shiksa and then for eventually embracing the teachings of Christ. This is not a new mindset, Thomas.

Last week, I had a discussion with a protestant friend who - for many years - has sent hundreds of dollars a month to an organization that pays for Jews to return to Israel. I'm very, very familiar with that particular mindset. I asked him why he's supporting a country that denied me aliyah because I am Christian... a country that doesn't make it easy to be a Christian there. Love 'em, love my family, love my Jewish friends. But they think we're in a cult...

The doors, the doors!

Drop Fr. James Bernstein an email, see what he has to say.

Shalom - Andrew


Just out of curiousity whats a shiksa and whats an aliyah?

#15 Father David Moser

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 02:53 AM

Just out of curiousity whats a shiksa and whats an aliyah?


Shiksa - a gentile dog of a woman.

Aliyah - homecoming, the Israeli law that extends citizenship to all Jews no matter where they live in the world.

Did I get that right Andrew?

Fr David Moser

#16 Andrew D. Morrell

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 05:13 AM

Indeed you did, Father. Very accurate.

<SMILE> Though I'd have left out the word 'dog'...

Shalom - Andrew

#17 Father David Moser

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 05:27 AM

<SMILE> Though I'd have left out the word 'dog'...


Well, actually I was trying for a bit of the emotional loading in the word - you're right, "dog" doesn't quite express it but I left out a lot of the other words that would "enrich" the meaning since they were particularly inappropriate, so I guess "dog" will have to do. <smile back atcha>

Btw, I finally did meet Fr James B. last year at All Merciful Savior monastery (we have some of our past in common) - unfortunately there was way too much of a crowd and we never really got a chance to talk and compare notes. Maybe next time...

Fr David Moser

#18 Andrew D. Morrell

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Posted 29 July 2010 - 05:43 AM

Father bless,

Nehemiah would have left the more colorful word in and, additionally, pulled my beard out by the roots. Yeouch.

Father James certainly has quite a story. It's in book form. A NY Jew does good. Last month, while attending the recent conference in Tucson, he finally met another dear friend who is also a NY Jew that embraced Orthodoxy, a priest-monk there in AZ. (No pastrami for him.)

I have a very funny story about a Cavalry Chapel pastor friend's reaction on hearing that I became Orthodox. But I don't believe there is a forum here for humorous stories...

In Christ,
Andrew

Edited by Andrew D. Morrell, 29 July 2010 - 05:44 AM.
Striving for perfection.


#19 Sacha

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 01:06 AM

Did Chrysostom really say the following?

""The Jews ... are worse than wild beasts ... lower than the vilest animals. Debauchery and drunkenness had brought them to the level of the lusty goat and the pig. They know only ... to satisfy their stomachs, to get drunk, to kill and beat each other up ... I hate the Jews ... I hate the Synagogue ... it is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews."

#20 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 03:07 PM

Did Chrysostom really say the following?

""The Jews ... are worse than wild beasts ... lower than the vilest animals. Debauchery and drunkenness had brought them to the level of the lusty goat and the pig. They know only ... to satisfy their stomachs, to get drunk, to kill and beat each other up ... I hate the Jews ... I hate the Synagogue ... it is the duty of all Christians to hate the Jews."


It seems that he did. Considering the way in which these words have been used on the web to claim that St John (and the Church) are anti-Semite here is a website perhaps to better understand: http://www.chrysostom.org/jews.html

In Christ- Fr Raphael




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