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    Christians & idolatry – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. How can Rabbi Boteach write a book called “Kosher Jesus” when Christians have idols in their churches?

    A. I have, as you probably know, spent many years of my life in interfaith and inter-community encounter, and I worry about the perception that Christians as a whole “have idols in their churches”.

    Not all Christian groups do have statues, icons and other representations of Jesus. Even those that have them do not worship them as ancient idolaters worshipped their idols.

    These are symbols, not gods, and though we are sure that Christian theology is erroneous (and that belief in Jesus is not “kosher”, to borrow Rabbi Boteach’s term) we cannot automatically dismiss Christians as idolatrous.

    There are at least two major Jewish statements about the status of Christianity in terms of Jewish teaching.

    Maimonides (12th-13th cent.) says that though the Christians are in error, they help to bring the world to the idea of the One God.

    Menachem Meiri (Provencal, 13th-14th cent.) said that the Christians in whose midst the Jews dwelt could not be considered pagan or idolatrous but “people disciplined in the ways of religion” – i.e. neither true believers nor pagans but a different category altogether.

    He could therefore not ban Jewish dealings with Christians and said that classical rules about not trading, etc., with idolaters did not apply to them.

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