1. A. "But now thus says the Lord, he who created you is Jacob, and he who formed you is Israel" (Is. 43:1).
B. R. Phineas in the name of R. Reuben said, "[Said] the Holy One, blessed be he, to his world, 'O my world, my world! Shall I tell you who created you, Israel is the one who formed you,' as it is written, 'He who created you is Jacob, and he who formed you is Israel'" (Is. 43:1).
D. R. Joshua b. Nehemiah in the name of R. Haninah bar Isaac: "The heaven and the earth were created only on account of the merit of Jacob.
E. "What is the proof text? 'For he established a testimony on account of Jacob' [Ps. 78:5], and 'testimony' can mean only heaven and earth, as it is written, 'I call heaven and earth to testify against you this day'" (Deut. 4:26).
H. Said R. Benaiah, "The heaven and earth were created only on account of the merit of Moses.
I. "For it is written, 'And he chose a beginning part [namely Moses] for himself" (Deut. 33:21).
J. Said R. Abbahu, "Everything was created only on account of the merit of Jacob."
In the contrast to Aphrahat's statements we find these allegations provocative indeed. And this brings us back, in the setting of the affirmation of Israel, to the allegation of Aphrahat that Israel enjoys no future. Within their theory of Israel as an extended family, sages laid heavy emphasis on the legacy of merit bequeathed by the patriarchs and matriarchs. And that merit is what saves
Israel, as at Lev. R. XXXVI:V.l.B: "if the deeds of Jacob are insufficient, there are the deeds of Isaac, and if the deeds of Isaac are insufficient, there are the deeds of Abraham." Each component of the system plays its role, even the land itself possessing merit:
Aphrahat presents an array of prophetic proof-texts for the same proposition. Then he turns to the peoples and declares that they have taken the place of the people: "Concerning the vocation of the peoples Isaiah said, 'It shall come to be in the last days that the mountain of the House of the Lord will be established at the head of the mountains and high above the heights. Peoples will come together to it, and many peoples will go and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths. For from Zion the law will go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem' (Is. 2:2, 3)." Does Israel not hope for redemption in the future? Indeed so, but they are wrong: "Two times only did God save Israel: Once from Egypt, the second time from Babylonia; from Egypt by Moses, and from Babylonia by Ezra and by the prophecy of Haggai and Zechariah. Haggai said, 'Build this house, and I shall have pleasure in it, and in it I shall be glorified, says the Lord' (Hag. 1:8). . . . All of these things were said in the days of Zerubbabel, Haggai, and Zechariah. They were exhorting concerning the building of the house." The house was built—and then destroyed, and it will not be rebuilt (Aphrahat wrote before Julian's proposed rebuilding of the Temple, so he could not have derived further proof from that disaster).
So much for the challenge of those who held such views as Aphrahat expresses. The case is complete: the people which is no-people, the people which is of the peoples, have taken the place of the people which claims to carry forward the salvific history of ancient Israel. The reason is in two complementary parts. First, Israel has rejected salvation, so lost its reason to exist, and, second, the no-people have accepted salvation, so gained its reason to exist. The threads of the dispute link into a tight fabric: The shift in the character of politics, marked by the epochal triumph of Christianity in the state, bears profound meaning for the messianic mission of the Church, and, further, imparts a final judgment on the salvific claim of the competing nations of God—the Church and Israel. What possible answer can sages have proposed to this indictment? Since at the heart of the matter lies the claim that Israel persists in the salvific heritage that has passed to the Christians, sages reaffirm that Israel persists—-just as Paul had framed matters—after the flesh, an unconditional and permanent status. For one never ceases to be the son of his mother and his father, and the daughter is always the daughter of her father and her mother. So Israel after the flesh constitutes the family, in the most physical form, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And, moreover, as that family, Israel inherits the heritage of salvation handed on by the patriarchs and matriarchs. The spiritualization of "Israel" here finds its opposite and counterpart: the utter and complete "genealogization" of Israel.
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