Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chutzpah of a Nineteenth Century British Missionary

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In the 1840s F.C. Ewald, a Jewish convert to Christianity, served as a British missionary in Jerusalem. En route to Eretz Yisrael he stopped in Lisbon where he had the occasion to meet and engage Maranno Jews in theological discussion.

I gave to this little congregation a short outline of the present condition of the Jews in various parts of the world, to which they listened with greatest interest. After which, I asked Rabbi Abraham [Dabella?] to tell me his opinion of the Messiah. This question astonished him not a little, "Why," exclaimed he, "the Messiah , the Messiah, is yet to come" . . .

This opened the way to an animated conversation about the Messiah and those who believe in Him, and I was then privileged to preach the Gospel of salvation in a Jewish synagogue in the capital of Portugal, where most likely for centuries no Jew had been made acquainted with the truth as it is in Jesus . .

If a mission to this part of the world should once be established, Lisbon might, from time to time be visited, and inquiries made after the secret Jews, who . . . are numerous here.

There are a number of historical gems in the few pages from whence I copied this selection, but I was amazed most by the chutzpah of this missionary. He thought he might have some luck with with Jews who on the one hand were already quite familiar with (papist distorted) Christianity, having lived outwardly as such for as long as 450 years--in some cases even centuries longer--, yet on the other hand for a duration just as long had rejected it and continued to cling at great risk to their Jewish faith!

The quote is from Journal of Missionary Labours in the City of Jerusalem, During the Years 1842-3-4. By the Rev. F. C. Ewald, 2nd ed. (London, 1846), pp. 4ff. (click here).

On Ewald, see A. Bernstein, Some Jewish Witnesses for Christ (London: Operative Jewish Converts' Institution, 1909), pp. 203-215 (click here); W. T. Gidney, The History of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, from 1809 to 1908 (London, 1908), passim (click here).

1 comment:

S. said...

A lot of the missionaries, in their journals, posited all sort of wishful thinking as to why this or that group of Jews might be susceptible to Christianity. The Chassidim believe in the saving grace of Zaddikim, the Maskilim prefer the Bible to the rabbis and, here we see, the Marranos are somewhat Christianized already, it's just a matter of teaching them a better Christianity.

In some individual cases they were correct - maybe. But masses of any of these groups never converted. Why? Among other reasons, Christianity is just not Jewish.