English blog

A bewildered rabbi

21-04-2017 - Posted by Andre Piet

The, in The Netherlands, well-known rabbi Lody van der Kamp was recently invited to attend a funeral of a pastor, who had been active for the organization “Christenen voor Israël” (Christians for Israel). Van der Kamp was unable to attend, but later he read that one of the Scripture readings was 1 Corinthians 16: 22. In that verse Paul writes:

“If anyone is not fond of the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema! Maranatha!” When rabbi Van der Kamp read this, in his own words, he was not surprised, but bewildered.

He wrote the following about it:

If my agenda would have said something else, I would have been present in this service. As a guest, as a good friend of the deceased pastor. But also, in view of all these churchgoers, ‘being anathema’. Indeed, as a Jew within the tradition of Judaism, I am not fond of Jesus. At least I was spared  being present. (…)
The spreading of the message of the ‘anathema of anyone who is not fond of Jesus’ in the year 2017 is for a Jew nothing more than maintaining the old anti-Judaism which just survived the celebration of 500 years of Reformation.
With blood on their hands these Christians should realize that I, ‘being anathema’, don’t want their interference.

I don’t know what has been discussed in the concerning funeral service, and, just as Van der Kamp, I cannot say anything about it. That is not the issue. My concern is the idea of the rabbi that in 1 Corinthians 16 Paul would speak anathema to “the Jew who is not fond of Jesus”. I would like to correct that idea in this blog.


Paul addresses the Corinthians-letter to people who “in every place, are invoking the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1: 2). It is a letter to a specific address. He doesn’t address humanity in general. Also not the synagogue, even though the ecclesia in Corinth partly derived from the synagogue (Acts 18: 8). But Paul’s anathema is not for “the Jew who is not fond of Jesus”, but for Christians, who are invoking the name of the Lord, but don’t show anything of that in their daily lives. He doesn’t mention what he means exactly. From the following sentence “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you” one might conclude tentatively that the grace of the Lord is at stake

Grace at stake

Indeed, Paul’s anathema is about Christians and moreover about the message of grace. This becomes evident when we read Galatians 1. Twice Paul speaks an anathema. First he is astonished how believers in Galatia were transferred from that which called them in the grace of Christ (Galatians 1: 6), to a different evangel which isn’t another. After Paul’s departure preachers had come, claiming that one couldn’t be justified without the law of Moses. By this doctrine gentile believers were Juda-ised. Paul, however, had taught that one is justified by saying Amen to GOD’s unconditional promise. Wasn’t Abraham’s belief, hundreds of years before Sinai, reckoned to him for righteousness (Genesis 15: 6; Galatians 3: 6)? And then Paul writes (Galatians 1: 8, 9):

But if ever we also, or a messenger out of heaven, should be bringing an evangel to you beside that which we bring to you, let him be anathema! As we have declared before and at present I am saying again, if anyone is bringing you an evangel beside that which you accepted, let him be anathema!

Whom Paul states here under anathema? Jews? No, preachers of an evangel that differs from the message of grace that Paul had brought to the Galatians. It were Christian preachers who were anathema. And what is the message of grace? Listen how Paul concisely formulates it:

For all sinned and are wanting of the glory of God. Being justified gratuitously in His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus. – Romans 3:23,24 –

Anathema and church

But what did “the church” make of this message of extreme and universal grace? That who doesn’t believe in Jesus, will be damned… And damned is explained as: definitively referred to hell. A totally unbiblical concept! God’s judgments can often be very intense, but also always for a short term. And never endless or permanent. Indeed, also an anathema is deadly, but it is nót a damnation. Those who attribute damnation to the God of heaven and earth, and preaches it as an evangel, swear (God damns!) in the church. Anyone who preaches such from the pulpit is under the anathema of Paul.

It is the curse of ‘damnation’ which sounded again and again in church history. Often the Jew was stricken first. For that reason I can understand the allergic reaction of rabbi Van der Kamp very well. In the opinion of the institute of “the church” Israel has been dismissed. And the salvation preached in the church is only for “believers” and not for all mankind, as taught by Paul (Romans 5: 18; Titus 2: 11; 1 Timothy 4: 10). Paul says: such deviant preachers, let them be anathema. Because it is not evangel. Paul’s razor-sharp words don’t strike rabbis or imams, but pastors and evangelists! But then, who tells this to rabbi Van der Kamp?