Christians and the Holy Land
Among the world’s great religions, as they were called in pre-multiculturalist days, Christianity occupies a middle ground in its attitude toward the sacramental. On the one hand, it is far removed from the intricately sacralizing activity of Judaism and from the latter’s comprehensive schemas of chosen and not-chosen, holy and profane, clean and unclean, commanded and prohibited; indeed, it was the desire to transcend what they considered the restrictive particularism of rabbinic Judaism that impelled the early Christians to break with it.
And yet on the other hand, if one compares Christianity to a religion like Buddhism, its attachment to particulars seems great enough. For the Buddhist, Buddha’s teachings are all, his life nothing; nothing non-legendary is known about that life, and had it been lived in another age or country—or even not at all—it hardly would matter. For the Christian, by contrast, Jesus’ life is at the center of things; it is the Divine incarnated in a definite time and place in human history, and abstracted from that time and place neither Jesus’ teachings nor Christianity’s interpretation of them can fully make sense.
About the Author
Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.