Memory in a Memory-less Age location:Cambridge date:7-9 September 2008
In my contribution I examine the checkered history of a particular Pauline passage within Christian-Jewish encounter. The contrast between old and new covenant in 2 Corinthians 3 has regrettably re-engraved itself onto stained glass and sculptures depicting a victorious Ecclesia set against her blindfolded Synagoga counterpart (von der Osten-Sacken 1989). However, ever since the sea-change in Christian-Jewish relations in the latter half of the 20th Century, partners in dialogue have looked to the passages of Romans 9-11 for a more hopeful sign of Paul’s thinking on the ‘mystery of Israel’ and the irrevocable call of God. In addition, biblical scholarship has in the past thirty years set itself to recovering Paul’s Jewishness, such that the stark antitheses of 2 Corinthians 3 are now placed within a ‘new perspective’ of Paul’s relationship to Second Temple Diaspora Judaism. Yet these advances have somehow not checked the re-appearance of the veil motif in recent liturgical texts (cf. the recent controversy in Catholic circles about the reintroduction of the old Latin Good Friday prayer). Employing insights from Social Memory theory on the embedding of memories in monuments and ritual, I seek to explore the persistence of memories rather forgotten (the notion of a blindfolded or veiled Israel), coupled with the unsettling perception that forty years on from Nostra Aetate, a new generation is too quickly forgetting its predecessors’ initiatives and reasons for Christian-Jewish dialogue, thus exemplifying the risks and challenges of memory in a memory-less age.