A Seder table-setting

Please pause a moment if you are embarking on a “Christian” Seder, a “Christian” Passover meal.

Whenever one group is in the majority (especially when in the vast majority), great caution needs to be exercised in relation to the minority in our midst. Mocking and scapegoating are integral to many majority reactions to differences with the minority.

When it comes to Judaism, Christians need to be particularly careful. Especially in Holy Week.

I am an advocate of the reading of St John’s Passion on Good Friday, but at the very least there should be a notice clear for all that

The term “the Jews” in St. John’s Gospel whilst generally at that time a title for Judeans, applies in this context to particular individuals rather than the whole Jewish people. Insofar as we ourselves turn against Christ, we are responsible for his death.

Ἰουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi), translated as “Jews” (NRSV, for example), has three meanings: (i) members of the tribe of Judah; (ii) Judeans (contrasting, for example, with Galileans or Samaritans); (iii) Jews (contrasting with followers of other religions). Both Tree of Life Bible: The New Covenant and Complete Jewish Bible use the word “Judean” (or “The Judean leaders”) to possibly better translate Ἰουδαῖοι in John’s Passion narrative.

We should all be aware of the Christian reactions, historically, of persecution of Jews after hearing John’s Passion narrative. And none of us can forget the Shoah, the Holocaust, where this all ultimately led.

Christians attempting to celebrate Passover regularly end up celebrating something Jesus would not recognise. Judaism has evolved. Imitating a contemporary Jewish Passover meal is celebrating something different to what Jesus did 2,000 years ago. And “Christianising” a hagadah is even more fraught.

There is obviously value in studying the Passover, as it was in the Hebrew Bible period, as Jesus probably experienced it, and as it is celebrated now. Incorporating insights and foods into a meal sensitively is also worthwhile. Being invited by a Jewish family to join them in their celebration – a context where the Christians are humbly the minority – is a privilege.

Christians have a well-developed Holy Week set of rituals. We should also ask ourselves what would make us abandon our own tradition and try to create other ones. Is the idolatry of novelty at work?

For further reading:
Why Christians Should Not Host Their Own Passover Seders (link takes you off this site)
No “Christian Seders,” Please! (link takes you off this site)

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