Monday, April 9, 2007

Disturbing Story: The Messiah and Anti-Semitism

It is a tradition at Trinity Cathedral to end the Easter service with a rousing presentation of the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus from Handel's Messiah. There is a very disturbing report in yesterday's New York Times that that chorus is not about the resurrection of our Lord, but rather the destruction of the Tempe in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.:


In New York and elsewhere a “Messiah Sing-In” — a performance of Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” with the audience joining in the choruses — is a musical highlight of the Christmas season. Christians, Jews and others come together to delight in one of the consummate masterpieces of Western music.

The high point, inevitably, is the “Hallelujah” chorus, all too familiar from its use in strange surroundings, from Mel Brooks’s “History of the World, Part 1,” where it signified the origins of music among cavemen, to television advertising for behemoth all-terrain vehicles.


So “Messiah” lovers may be surprised to learn that the work was meant not for Christmas but for Lent, and that the “Hallelujah” chorus was designed not to honor the birth or resurrection of Jesus but to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in A.D. 70. For most Christians in Handel’s day, this horrible event was construed as divine retribution on Judaism for its failure to accept Jesus as God’s promised Messiah.

Read it all. I am no music expert, but I could find no other scholar making such a similar claim. Read the article and let me know what your think.

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