The Christian reclamation of Judaism.
JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY ARE INEXORABLY LINKED WITH one another. We share a common scripture, we believe in the same God, we have similar moral values, Jesus was Jewish, and, for better or for worse, we have lived together for almost 2000 years. During these years, the way that Christians have viewed Judaism has varied greatly.
Christianity's relationship to Judaism falls into three broad categories. At the very beginning, during the life and ministry of Jesus According to the Canonical Gospels, the Ministry of Jesus began when Jesus was around 30 years old, and lasted a period of 1-3 years. In the Biblical narrative, Jesus' method of teaching involved parables, metaphor, allegory, sayings, proverbs, and a small number of direct sermons. and for some time thereafter, what came to be known as Christianity saw itself as part of, or at least closely related to, Judaism. For a period, the boundary between Judaism and Christianity was either non-existent or very poorly defined. As time went on, Christianity first sought to differentiate itself from Judaism and then came to see itself as quite distinct from Judaism. At its extremes, it considered Judaism to be, for all intents and purposes Adv. 1. for all intents and purposes - in every practical sense; "to all intents and purposes the case is closed"; "the rest are for all practical purposes useless"
for all practical purposes, to all intents and purposes , the antithesis of Christianity. Some Christians and some forms of Christianity went so far as to reject any connection with Judaism and even denied that Jesus himself was Jewish. More recently, however, in many parts of the Christian world there has been a rediscovery and new appreciation by Christians both of their Jewish roots and of the Jewishness of Jesus that is instructive as a historical phenomenon and has significant implications, both positive and negative, for Jewish-Christian relations.
Jesus and almost all of both his admirers and detractors as portrayed in the Gospels are Jewish and fit quite comfortably into what we know about the Jewish religious world of first-century Palestine. We learn from the Gospels that Jesus is an observant individual: he attends the synagogue, where he reads and interprets scripture. He participates in the worship of the God of Israel administered by the priesthood in the Temple in Jerusalem The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple (Hebrew: בית המקדש, transliterated Bet HaMikdash and meaning literally "The Holy House") was located on the Temple Mount (Har HaBayit) in the old city of Jerusalem. . His concern with concepts like the kingdom of God or sin and repentance was the concern of many of the Jewish groups of his day. It is probably fair to say that among Jesus' primary concerns were his fellow Jews and the fate of the people of Israel. The Gospel accounts present Jesus arguing with other Jews over how, not whether, to be Jewish. He argues with the Pharisees not over the validity of the law, but rather the interpretation of the law. He has very little contact with those outside the Jewish community until his activities bring him to the attention of the Roman authorities, who see him as a threat to civil order.
It is only after the death of Jesus, when the followers of Jesus begin to spread their new beliefs in the Greco-Roman world The Greco-Roman or Graeco-Roman World, as understood by medieval and modern scholars, geographers and miscellaneous writers, refers to those geographical regions and countries who were directly, protractedly and intimately influenced by the language, culture, government and , that Christianity starts to emerge as something separate and different from Judaism. This process of separation was not easy and took a long time--indeed, scholars now suggest that the process took much longer than had previously been thought, stretching in some places into the fourth century or later. Evidence of the beginning of the separation is found in the New Testament itself. The so-called Jerusalem church, centered around the figures of James, the "brother" of Jesus, and Peter, was committed to maintaining adherence to Jewish law and practice. It continued to participate in the worship at the Temple and specifically required circumcision circumcision (sûr'kəmsĭzh`ən), operation to remove the foreskin covering the glans of the penis. It dates back to prehistoric times and was widespread throughout the Middle East as a religious rite before it was introduced among the for proselytes. Paul, who never denied his Jewish origins, saw the emerging church as eternally connected to Israel--in his words, a wild olive wild olive
Noun 1. wild olive - erect shrub or climber of India and China with red olivelike fruit
Elaeagnus latifolia shoot grafted onto the tree that is Israel--even while he questioned the necessity and utility of the law, at least for Gentiles.
As time went on, several factors led Judaism and Christianity to become distinct religions. The early followers of Jesus believed that he had promised that he was going to return and establish the reign of the Son of God. As time went on and that prediction was not fulfilled, they had to come to grips with that fact and explain the delay in its emerging theology.
It is at about that time (70 C.E.) that the Temple in Jerusalem is destroyed by Rome as part of its effort to quell the Jewish rebellion that began in Judea in 66 C.E. In the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple, the nascent rabbinic rab·bin·i·cal also rab·bin·ic
Of, relating to, or characteristic of rabbis.
[From obsolete rabbin, rabbi, from French, from Old French rabain, probably from Aramaic movement had to respond to the tragic consequences of the loss of the Temple. Not only did the rabbis have to answer the question of how God could have allowed his house to be destroyed, they also had to answer the question of how Jews were to uphold the ancient covenant when the proper worship of God, the atonement of sin, and many other central aspects of Jewish life required a Temple. The rabbis began a process of recreating and redefining a Judaism that could exist without a Temple and its sacrificial rites. Before the Temple was destroyed, sectarianism was the rule. Groups like the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and others could co-exist, as long as the Temple served as their unifying focus. The rabbis, on the other hand, were much more committed to a unified view of Judaism. As it defined itself and its boundaries, there was certainly no room for Gentile Christians, who were neither ethnically nor religiously Jewish, and, eventually, there was no room for Jewish followers of Jesus, whose proclamation of Jesus as the promised Messiah and redeemer of Israel was unfathomable to a people whose world seemed anything but redeemed.
At the same time that Judaism was distancing itself from Christianity, Christians increasingly did not want to be identified with Judaism. In the first place, the Jewish revolt that led to the destruction of the Temple did not make the Jews very popular with the Roman authorities. The Roman empire tended to take a dim view of "new religions," so Christianity had enough problems with the government that being identified with, or confused with, those rebellious Jews, was not in its best interest. Furthermore, at least in the first couple of centuries, during its period of initial growth, Christianity was "competing" with Judaism for Gentile converts. If you will pardon the marketing analogy, Christianity had to establish its "brand" so that it would not be confused with Judaism. Observing the Sabbath on Sunday rather than Saturday, opting for the Greek rather than the Hebrew scriptures Hebrew Scriptures
The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings, forming the covenant between God and the Jewish people that is the foundation and Bible of Judaism while constituting for Christians the Old Testament. , and using a codex codex
Manuscript book, especially of Scripture, early literature, or ancient mythological or historical annals. The earliest type of manuscript in the form of a modern book (i.e. format, that is, a book, rather than a scroll, for the public reading of scripture all served to differentiate Christianity from Judaism, even if there were other practical or theological reasons for these choices.
One of the most challenging questions that the early Church had to answer was just how much of the Jewish roots of Christianity was it going to preserve? A fateful turning point was reached in the middle of the second century with a church leader named Marcion. Marcion believed that the God who had sent Jesus was different from the God who had given the law through Moses. Jesus was sent by the God of goodness, whereas the law came from the God of justice. Salvation came through faith in God of goodness, not through obeying the law of the God of justice. Marcion believed that Christianity had to sever itself from all things Jewish. For our purposes, the most important thing about Marcion was his notion of sacred scripture. Marcion's entire canon consisted of the following: one gospel (a shortened version of Luke), ten letters of Paul (not including the Pastorals and Hebrews), and his only original work, called the "Antitheses," in which he pointed out all the contradictions between the teaching of Jesus and that of the Hebrew Bible, known to Christianity as the Old Testament. He omitted the entire Old Testament, as well as those Gospel accounts that most closely connect Jesus to Judaism. Marcion's form of Christianity was very popular in the second century, with some scholars suggesting that for a short while there may have been almost as many Marcionite as non-Marcionite Christians. However, Marcion's view did not prevail; it eventually came to be considered a heresy, and his followers slowly disappeared.
Partly in response to Marcion, the Church that emerged as the dominant form of Christianity included the Old Testament in its canon of sacred scripture. It also included four gospel accounts that preserve a portrait of a fully Jewish Jesus. This Church also maintained the unity and continuity of the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament--they were one and the same. Had Marcionism prevailed, Christianity would have largely been cut off from its Jewish roots, and therefore would have had little interest in Jews and Judaism. By preserving these connections to Judaism, the Church put itself in the position of continually having to contend with both Jews and Judaism.
In the early centuries, some Christians found Jewish practice attractive, prompting church fathers like Ignatius (early second century) to write: "Be not deceived with strange doctrines, 'nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies,' and things in which the Jews make their boast. 'Old things are passed away: behold, all things have become new.' For if we still live according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the Jewish law, and the circumcision of the flesh, we deny that we have received grace" (Letter to the Magnesians 8:1). He continues: "It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ Jesus Christ: see Jesus.
40 days after Resurrection, ascended into heaven. [N.T.: Acts 1:1–11]
See : Ascension
kind to the poor, forgiving to the sinful. [N.T. with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism that has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism" (Magnesians 10:3). Aspects of Jewish practice remained attractive enough to some Christians for the council of Laodicea The Council of Laodicea was a regional synod of approximately thirty clerics from Asia Minor, that assembled about 363-364 A.D. in Laodicea, Phrygia Pacatiana. Historical context in 363 to proclaim: "Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ" (Canon 29).
Even where Jewish practice itself was not a temptation to Christians, the Church still had to respond to Jews and Judaism, whose very existence challenged the teachings of Christianity. The Church claimed that Jesus was the messiah promised in the Old Testament, yet the Jews, on whose scripture Christianity was based, rejected Christian interpretation in general and the claims about Jesus in particular. The response to this challenge is seen in the writings of many early Church fathers, including Justin, Tertullian, and Chrysostom. According to John Pawlikowski, Justin's Dialogue with Trypho the Jew "became a model for discussions about Judaism in the ancient church. Justin's writings were the first real expression of the idea that Jewish social misfortunes are the consequence of divine punishment for the death of Jesus. As a result, Jews will never be able to escape suffering in human society. Having made references to the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem, their desolate lands and burned out cities, Justin assures his rabbinic dialogue partner that these sufferings were justly imposed by God in light of Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus. Here we have the seeds of an attitude that would come to dominate the thinking of the church by the fourth century and greatly contribute to the spread of anti-Semitism." (1)
As this tradition developed within the church, it led to an increasingly negative view of Jews and Judaism that the twentieth-century French scholar Jules Isaac called "the teaching of contempt." But this teaching contained its own problem: how could Jesus come from this despised people and its dead tradition? The answer was to oppose Judaism and Jesus. At the time of Jesus, the church taught, Judaism was a petrified pet·ri·fy
v. pet·ri·fied, pet·ri·fy·ing, pet·ri·fies
1. To convert (wood or other organic matter) into a stony replica by petrifaction.
2. , lifeless religion controlled by a corrupt priesthood and obsessed with the minutiae mi·nu·ti·a
n. pl. mi·nu·ti·ae
A small or trivial detail: "the minutiae of experimental and mathematical procedure" Frederick Turner. of a legal system that was an obstacle rather than an aide to salvation. Jesus, on the other hand, represented the antithesis of this Judaism. Jesus stood for God and good, while Judaism represented evil, eventually becoming associated with the Devil and the anti-Christ. Because they had rejected and killed Jesus, God had in turn rejected the Jews. The Church replaced the Jews as God's chosen people, as the new Israel New Israel is a religion that separated itself from a religions sect Old Israel which is type of Christianity in the beginning of the 20th century. It differs from mainstream Christianity in a number of ways. , a belief that came to be known as replacement theology or supersessionism.
It is this view--of the Jew as other--that characterized the Christian attitude to Judaism for centuries. The social consequences of this ranged from segregation, persecution, and death to a comparatively high degree of tolerance and integration for Jews in different places and at different times. But at its core, the Christian world saw the Jews and Judaism as other, as foreign. When some of the harshest aspects of this tendency were combined with the pseudo-scientific racial science of late nineteenth century, it resulted in the Nazi Final Solution.
A very different direction, however, emerged from the intellectual and social changes in Europe of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the intellectual arena first Christians, and eventually Jews, began to apply the methodology of critical scholarship to the study of the Bible and the history of both Judaism and Christianity. Instead of interpretations based on traditional assumptions about the sanctity of the text and the truth of received tradition, critical scholars applied scientific methods that were defining the disciplines of philology phi·lol·o·gy
1. Literary study or classical scholarship.
2. See historical linguistics.
[Middle English philologie, from Latin philologia, love of learning , archaeology, and comparative literature to the study of religion. As early as the middle of the eighteenth century, Christian scholars attempted to separate the Jesus of history from the Jesus of tradition. This quest for Verb 1. quest for - go in search of or hunt for; "pursue a hobby"
quest after, go after, pursue
look for, search, seek - try to locate or discover, or try to establish the existence of; "The police are searching for clues"; "They are searching for the the historical Jesus This article is about Jesus the man, using historical methods to reconstruct a biography of his life and times. For disputes about the existence of Jesus and reliability of ancient texts relating to him, see Historicity of Jesus. , as it came to be known, demanded a re-examination of the history and literature of Judaism at the time of Jesus and began a process of reintegrating Jesus in the context of the Judaism of his time. Scholarship began to rediscover not only the Jewishness of Jesus, but also Jewish influence on the development of Christianity that had been overlooked or denied because of Christian antipathy to Judaism.
In the social arena, the American and French revolutions established democracy and individual rights as the cornerstones of the modern nation-state. Jews particularly benefited from these changes, as the ghetto gates were opened and discriminatory legislation rescinded. Humanistic concepts such as freedom of conscience started to reshape Christian attitudes toward Jews in some sectors of European society. Greater social openness and acceptance and an increasingly sophisticated understanding of history set the stage for what has emerged most dramatically in the last 60 years: a Christian world that, after centuries of turning away and denying its Jewish roots, is now acknowledging and indeed embracing the Jewishness of Jesus and celebrating its Jewish roots.
This trend began in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and progressed slowly through the early twentieth century. The great catalyst, however, in propelling this movement forward, was the Shoah, the Holocaust. The reality of the Holocaust provoked a crisis for some Christian historians and theologians. They were forced to face the fact that the Holocaust occurred in the heart of Christian Europe, and that Christianity had, at the very least, helped create the environment in which this could take place. The historical challenge was to learn how this had happened. The theological challenge was to develop an authentic expression of Christianity that preserved the fundamentals of Christian faith and belief while eliminating supersessionism and the teaching of contempt. This kind of theological innovation has come to be known as Post-Holocaust Christian theology Noun 1. Christian theology - the teachings of Christian churches
free grace, grace of God, grace - (Christian theology) the free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God; "God's grace is manifested in the salvation of sinners"; "there but for the grace of God go . At the very same time, there has been a veritable explosion of biblical scholarship, for which the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls were an important catalyst.
The combination of these theological and historical trends have produced within Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches This is a list of Protestant churches by denomination. Anglican/Episcopal Church
Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
Anglican Diocese of Auckland
= Archdeaconry of Waimate=
= Parish of Kaitaiaa revolution of both understanding and attitude that can be seen in official church statements like the Vatican's Nostra Aetate Nostra Aetate is the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council. Passed by a vote of 2,221 to 88 of the assembled bishops, this declaration was promulgated on October 28, 1965, by Pope Paul VI. , whose fortieth anniversary was observed this October, and the many Protestant statements, such as, to give but one example from among many, the Evangelical Lutheran Church Evangelical Lutheran Church can refer to many different Lutheran churches in the world. Among them are the following:
Another expression of this comes from George Lindbeck, one of the foremost theologians involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue. He explored the relationship of Christianity to Judaism in an essay that appeared in Christianity in Jewish Terms, a volume I helped edit. Lindbeck discusses Christian attitudes toward Judaism in terms of appropriation and expropriation The taking of private property for public use or in the public interest. The taking of U.S. industry situated in a foreign country, by a foreign government.
Expropriation is the act of a government taking private property; Eminent Domain is the legal term describing the . Expropriation is based on supersessionism, the belief that Christianity has replaced Judaism as God's covenantal partner. In this view, Christianity has expropriated Israel's identity as God's chosen partner, and is "the sole heir to the entirety of Israel's heritage." Appropriation, on the other hand, begins with the affirmation that the Jews continue to be in covenant with God and that Christianity somehow shares "Israelhood" with the Jewish people. From this perspective, there is a great deal that Christianity can learn from Judaism, while at the same time being respectful of Jewish sensitivities. Lindbeck puts this in these terms: "... what Christians can gain from understanding the church as Israel in non-supersessionist terms is that it frees them to hear God speak not only through Old Testament Israelites, but also through post-Biblical Jews; this freedom follows from the belief that the covenant with Israel has not been revoked. The Jews remain God's chosen people and thus are a primary source for Christian understandings of God's intentions." A similar sense is found in the recent Vatican document, "The Jewish People and their Sacred Scripture in the Christian Bible," which states that the Jewish reading of the Bible is a possible one, in continuity with the Jewish Scriptures of the Second Temple period, a reading analogous to the Christian reading, which developed in parallel fashion" (no. 22). It adds that Christians can learn a great deal from a Jewish exegesis exegesis
Scholarly interpretation of religious texts, using linguistic, historical, and other methods. In Judaism and Christianity, it has been used extensively in the study of the Bible. Textual criticism tries to establish the accuracy of biblical texts. practised for more than 2000 years.
This reclaiming of the Jewish roots of Christianity on the part of theologians and biblical scholars has had its effect on the life of day-to-day Christians as well. Here are just a few examples of how this new relationship to Judaism is found in the contemporary American Christian scene.
Have you seen the bumper sticker bumper sticker
A sticker bearing a printed message for display on a vehicle's bumper.
bumper sticker n → Aufkleber m that says: my boss is a Jewish carpenter? This contemporary expression of piety is really quite amazing. It not only assumes that others will understand the reference, but actually accepts and celebrates the Jewishness of Jesus. The Christian who puts this on his/her car may not be well-informed about Jewish-Christian relations, but takes the Jewishness of Jesus for granted and is not at all embarrassed about identifying at least on some level with that Jewishness.
Another example is the ease with which many Christians (and for that matter Jews) accept the notion that Jesus was a rabbi. I have heard numerous Christians, both clergy and lay people, refer to Jesus as a rabbi. It is, in fact, anachronistic a·nach·ro·nism
1. The representation of someone as existing or something as happening in other than chronological, proper, or historical order.
2. to refer to Jesus as rabbi--he may have been called "rabbi" as a term of respect whose meaning is "my teacher" or "my master," but he was not an ordained rabbi, since the ordination of rabbis postdates the time of Jesus. Nonetheless, the fact that this is so widespread again demonstrates that the suggestion itself is not outrageous as it once would have been.
I was once invited to participate in an interfaith event at the Newman House, the Catholic student center, at a university near Baltimore. There was lunch before the meeting, and as we gathered around the table, the priest in charge A priest in charge is a priest in charge of a parish who does not receive the temporalities of the parish. That is, he or she is not legally responsible for the churches and glebe, simply holds a licence rather than freehold and is not appointed by advowson. got everyone's attention for a grace before eating and then, in perfect Hebrew, intoned the motzi, the blessing Jews recite before eating a formal meal.
On another occasion, I participated in a retreat for Episcopalian clergy. The theme for the retreat was Jewish-Christian relations. At the conclusion of the morning worship, the priest who was officiating announced that the closing hymn would be shalom chaverim, and then announced the page in the Episcopal hymnal on which that song, in transliterated Hebrew appears. I have noticed other uses of the Hebrew language Hebrew language, member of the Canaanite group of the West Semitic subdivision of the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic family of languages (see Afroasiatic languages). in Christian churches, especially the use of the Hebrew word Shalom, on banners and the like. Some Christians are also using the phrase tikkun olam Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם) is a Hebrew phrase that means "repairing the world" or "perfecting the world." Tikkun olam is an important concept in Judaism. , which describes the Jewish obligation to better our world. And most significantly, some Christians use the Hebrew word tshuvah, meaning repentance specifically in referring to their sense that Christians need to repent for centuries during which they oppressed Jews.
I know Christian ministers who own yarmulkes or kippot (traditional Jewish head-covering) for when they attend a synagogue. Any synagogue that requires men to wear a yarmulke has them available; I believe that these Christians own yarmulkes because it is meaningful for them to own this Jewish ritual item and because they want to appear to be prepared and "in the know" when they visit a synagogue. I also know Christians who own Jewish prayer shawls, tallitot, or who have affixed a mezuzah to the doorpost door·post
Noun 1. doorpost - a jamb for a door
doorcase, doorframe - the frame that supports a door of their house. All of these suggest a new openness to Jews and to Judaism that would have been impossible a generation or two earlier.
Perhaps the most interesting and prevalent example of this is the phenomenon of the contemporary Christian seder. I am not talking about an interfaith or a model seder, but rather about a Christian seder. The difference is important. An interfaith seder or model seder is designed to teach those who are not Jewish about the Jewish festival of Passover and, ideally, is led by a knowledgeable representative of the Jewish community. A Christian seder may include elements of teaching about Judaism, but it is, first and foremost, a form of Christian worship In Christianity, worship has been considered by most Christians to be the central act of Christian identity throughout history. Many Christian theologians have defined humanity as homo adorans . We see this, for example, in an article entitled "Introduction to Christian Seder: Recovering Passover for Christians" by Dennis Bratcher. After explaining that the Last Supper Last Supper, in the New Testament, meal taken by Jesus and his disciples on the eve of the passion. Jesus broke bread and passed a cup of wine among the disciples, identifying himself with the bread and the wine and linking the meal to his impending death on the was a Passover Seder The Passover Seder (Hebrew: סֵדֶר, seðɛɾ, "order", "arrangement") is a Jewish ritual feast held on the first night of the Jewish holiday of Passover (the 15th day of Hebrew month of Nisan). (about which I will have more to say in a moment), Bratcher writes: "Our goal here in presenting a Christian adaptation of Passover is to retain the theological, confessional, and educational dimensions of the service. That is, it is presented as a way for people of Christian Faith to express that faith in the context of a gathered community by participating symbolically in the story of salvation. It is presented very deliberately and purposefully as a Christian service, with no apologies." He then goes on, "Yet, there has also been a deliberate attempt to preserve the spirit of the Jewish traditions and experience in the service, and to respect the faith journey of Israelites and Jews across the centuries. For that reason, apart from the fact that it will likely be Christians who are participating in the service, the thoroughly Christian dimension will come at the end of the service. After all, that is really how God chose to work in history: to the Jew first, and then also to the rest of us!" (2)
The Seder ritual that this author is describing reserves the "thoroughly Christian dimension" until the end. Other Christian Seders interpret every aspect of the ritual in Christian terms, as we find the following in an article called "How the Passover reveals Jesus Christ" and in many "Christian" Hagaddot:</p> <pre> Christian symbolism Christian symbolism is the use of actions or objects to represent the central concepts of the Christian faith, either as a reminder of those concepts or as a way of spiritually connecting with the underlying concept or act. in the Passover occurs early in the Seder (the Passover dinner). Three matzahs are put together (representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The middle matzah is broken, wrapped in a white cloth, and hidden, representing the death and burial of Jesus. The matzah itself is designed to represent Jesus, since it is striped and pierced, which was prophesized by Isaiah, David, and Zechariah. Following the Seder meal, the "buried" matzah is "resurrected," which was foretold fore·told
Past tense and past participle of foretell. in the prophecies of David. (3) </pre> <p>There is much that is problematic about this passage and about Christian Seders in general. One problem is the assumption that the Last Supper was a Seder. In the first place, there are a number of historical problems in ascertaining the actual date of the Last Supper. One of them is that there is conflicting evidence from the Gospels. A larger problem, however, is that there is no evidence of a Seder ritual during the time of Jesus. The entire Seder ritual was developed after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. in order to provide a way of celebrating Passover without the Temple. Furthermore, it is likely that some key aspects of the Seder are specific responses to some of the claims of early Christianity.
The folks who promote Christian Seders either are unaware or ignore these historical considerations. What drives them, I believe, is a mistaken sense that by conducting a Seder they are somehow doing something that Jesus did and therefore are connecting themselves to the life of Jesus. This would not be possible, however, without awareness of the Jewishness of Jesus and a general attitude toward Judaism and things Jewish that is respectful, and honors, as Mr. Bratcher says, "the faith journey of Israelites and Jews across the centuries." At their worst, however, I believe that Christian seders smack of what Lindbeck labels expropriation: that Christianity is the sole heir to the entirety of Israel's heritage. In this view, the seder ritual, like the rest of Jewish heritage, belongs to Christianity to do with what it likes; Jewish sensitivities need not be taken into consideration,
Most Jews, and many Christians, for that matter, do not find Christian seders respectful. On a gut level, we Jews feel like something of ours that is sacred has been taken and changed for a purpose that was never intended. This is particularly disturbing when a Christian seder is used as a missionary tactic, as is sometimes the case with Jews for Jesus Jews for Jesus is a Christian evangelistic organization that focuses specifically on the conversion of Jews to Christianity. Viewing its followers — either Jewish as defined by Jewish law, or Jews according to Jews for Jesus — as "living out their and similar groups. Here the words of a United Church of Christ United Church of Christ, American Protestant denomination formed in 1957 by a merger of the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches (see Congregationalism) and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. document are instructive: "At times, people celebrate Maundy Thursday as a 'Christian' Seder. A Seder is the Jewish liturgical observance of the Passover and the recital of the Haggada (or Haggadah) rite. A 'Christian' Seder is a misappropriation misappropriation n. the intentional, illegal use of the property or funds of another person for one's own use or other unauthorized purpose, particularly by a public official, a trustee of a trust, an executor or administrator of a dead person's estate, or by any of a theologically particular, ongoing Holy Feast of Jewish life and faith. For that reason a 'Christian' Seder seems as incongruent in·con·gru·ent
1. Not congruent.
in·congru·ence n. as a 'Jewish' Eucharist and is inappropriate in a time of deep sensitivity between Christians and Jews." (4)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America states the following in its Guidelines for Lutheran Jewish relations:</p> <pre> Attendance by Lutherans at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Seders (Passover meals) in Jewish homes or synagogues, and Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) observances can be of great educational and spiritual value. Likewise, Lutherans should welcome Jews at our occasions and ceremonies.... Although attendance at Seders in Jewish homes or synagogues is to be preferred, "demonstration Seders" have been held rather widely in Christian churches and can serve a useful educational purpose, in which both common roots and significant differences can be learned. This should be approached with caution, however, and with the awareness that this might be considered "trampling on the other's holy ground. "If such demonstrations are done, they should be done carefully, preferably in consultation with, or hosted by, a local rabbi. (5) </pre> <p>These comments bring us to the difficult challenge of the new era in which we find ourselves. With both a new appreciation for the Jewish roots of Christianity and for Jews and Judaism, what is the appropriate way for this to influence Christian thought and practice? How can Christianity recover and celebrate its Jewish roots and its connection to Judaism without being disrespectful dis·re·spect·ful
Having or exhibiting a lack of respect; rude and discourteous.
disre·spect , without expropriating? Here I tread into dangerous territory because, as a Jew, it is not my place to tell Christians how to practice their faith, a faith that I respect but do not share. And yet, as a Jew, I find that I am at one and the same time heartened by Christian interest in my traditions and disturbed (and probably on some level threatened) by what I consider to be inappropriate or insensitive use or abuse of my tradition.
It seems to me that the best way for Christians to explore their Jewish roots is to do so in conversation with Jews. (Similarly, the best way for Jews to learn about Christianity is in dialogue with Christians.) Even with the purest of intentions, we cannot presume to understand how others will react to our perception or framing of their traditions. The humanity of the other must always be before us. My colleague Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt Divinity School Vanderbilt Divinity School is a university-based interdenominational theological school based at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. It is one of only four such schools in the U.S., and is the only such school located in the Southern U.S. used to take her young son to her classes and stand him in from of her students, who were studying for the ministry. She would tell them not to preach anything in their sermons that might bring harm to this child. She readily admits that this was an extreme move [and, now that the boy is a teenager and no longer as cute or sympathetic, it has lost some of its effectiveness] but it illustrates what I think is the essential point. The relationship between Christianity and Judaism cannot be separated from the real lives of Christians and Jews; it is only through learning with the other, and in dialogue with the other, that we can test the validity of endeavors and turn the hard lessons of the past into tshuvah and tikkun olam, repentance and repair of our world.
The past two centuries, and, especially, the last sixty years, have reshaped the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. From mutual objectification and demonization de·mon·ize
tr.v. de·mon·ized, de·mon·iz·ing, de·mon·iz·es
1. To turn into or as if into a demon.
2. To possess by or as if by a demon.
3. , many Jews and Christians have moved to a place where commonalities and differences can be explored together and even celebrated. Rather than finding the encounter threatening, I believe that we can each learn from it to be better Jews and Christians. A significant part of this new relationship involves the reclamation, on the part of Christianity, of its Jewish roots as a result of the twin influences of biblical scholarship and post-Holocaust theology. While occasionally the consequences of this reclamation make Jews uncomfortable, and should force us as Jews to examine that discomfort with a self-critical eye, for the most part, it has opened us up to each other and shown us that what dominated Jewish-Christian relations for centuries is neither inevitable nor the only way for Jews and Christians to be in the world. Contemporary Jews and Christians share so much--a common scripture, significant origins in Second Temple Judaism, and a long history--that we are inextricably in·ex·tri·ca·ble
a. So intricate or entangled as to make escape impossible: an inextricable maze; an inextricable web of deceit.
b. bound together. It seems that we are finding a new way of being together, one in which we are a blessing to one another. As we say in the Jewish tradition, ken yehi ratzon, may this be God's will.
1. John T. Pawlikowski, "Christian Anti-Semitism: Past History, Present Challenges," Journal of Religion and Society, Vol. 6, 2004. http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2004/2004-10.html
DAVID FOX SANDMEL is Rabbi of K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Congregation in Chicago and Crown-Ryan Professor of Jewish Studies at Catholic Theological Union The Catholic Theological Union of Chicago is one of the largest schools of theology in the world and trains men and women for lay and clerical ministry within the Roman Catholic Church. . His article, "Jews, Christians, and Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ," appeared in the Winter/Spring 2004 issue. This paper was originally given as the 2005 Knipor Lecture in Tulsa, Oklahoma, February 6, 2005. A revised version was presented in Rome at a conference, Nostra Aetate Today: Reflections 40 Years after its Call for a New Era of Interreligious Relations, September 27, 2005.