Misunderstood…

I am currently in the process of reading a book called ‘The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus‘ by Amy-Jill Levine.

The book is basically about pondering the idea of inter-faith dialogue between the Judaic faith and Christian faith – and the possible link between the two – the Jewishness of Jesus. I have only finished the introduction and I am rather liking the book so far…admitting that I have a lot to learn and maybe this is a good choice in reading. The author is unique in a way – teaching at a Christian divinity college all the while being an Orthodox Jewish lady. Some of the comments for the book:

  • ‘Precisely the book we have long needed’ (Rabbi Harold S. Kushner)
  • ‘Easy to read, easy to understand, hard to ignore’ (Richard Elliott Friedman)
  • ‘A searing challenge from the heart of Judaism to the conscience of Christianity’ (John Dominic Crossan)
  • ‘Irrefutable textual and historical evidence of how misunderstanding has harmed us for centuries’ (Rabbi Wayne D. Dosick)

On a side note, apparently I am not a Christian anymore – at least that’s the latest I have been called – which makes that about 10 fellow compadres denouncing my faith – maybe they are right? That being said I am not Jewish either – thanks to this Christ ideology I still hold to – which makes no sense when you think about it – since I am condemned anyways. I used to wonder how this Jesus I read about felt…

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20 thoughts on “Misunderstood…

  1. Perhaps it was a book I read by one of her students, a non-practicing Jew who went to divinity school and was brought back to Judaism as a result, a fascinating story. Maybe I’ll dig through some of my posts and see if I can find the woman’s name.

    The Mythmaker” by Hyam Maccoby is a pretty good read. I never finished it because I think he goes on too much, but it gives a different view, too.

    You’re in no-man’s land right now and I feel for you. Been there, done that. So, you have to make choices. Either stay there, go back, or drop all the Jesus stuff and pursue Judaism. The last option should be avoided, however, unless it absolutely cannot. Of course it’s the option I chose, but I was never a Jesus fan anyway and I was pulled towards Judaism like you wouldn’t believe. If you decided to convert, I have no doubt you’d make a great Jew, but conversion is a long process that isn’t even an option for someone who believes Jesus to be messiah.

    One of my friends is sort of where you are, but no belief in Jesus anymore. She hangs out with Noachides, not Christians but also not Jewish. She thought about converting at one time, but it’s not for her. Maybe you should look into something like that just to have someone to talk to who won’t be tossing you out the door. It’s not a religion or anything like that. I don’t know what I think about them, but she seems to have found a place there where’s she’s connected to God just fine.

    A site that might interest you is one I used to visit while I was on this journey. Netzarim. He claims to be part of the restored sect of Nazarenes. He believes Jesus was messiah, but not God, and he lives a Jewish life in Israel. I enjoyed studying his writings on Atonement a few years back, but after that I didn’t read any more of his stuff.

    Anyway, just my two cents worth, trying to point out a few places out there where you might find some company. LIfe moves on. Do you really want to keep spinning your wheels on the church blogs or relegate yourself to the usually bitter anti-church blogs? It’s their loss that they toss you out. But, there are other people out there who would be thrilled to have you come join in conversation with them. I just think there are more options in the world than Judaism, Christianity, or Atheism. Hang in there. One thing I do believe, good comes to the good.

  2. I put a comment here last night which I thought was encouraging, but I guess not since it isn’t here anymore. My apologies, Society. You know you’re the top Christian, past or present, in my book. In the long run, good comes to the good. Hang in there.

  3. Thanks Yael, that was quite the interesting site – I will have to check into it more deeply just to get the whole story they are talking about – some of it was a little over my head and hard to read at times.

    I am not too worried about my faith at all – I know that I am going in the right direction actually – Christianity is such a peer pressure religion and in order to ‘fit in’ you have to believe all the ‘right things’ – but you know – God isn’t about peer pressure defiining the truth(s) about Him. I think I got so sick of falling in line for falling in line’s sake and decided to use my God given abilities – namely my brain.

    I admit I am still a Christian in the literal sense of that word (follower of the Christ) – but I have to admit I likely have more in common with the people on the Netzarim site than I do with conservative aspects of this faith.

    I guess I am little concerned about the lack of reality in the Christian faith about it’s Jewish heritage and Jewish writers – who used Jewish interpretations for their viewpoints. I am starting to see how much Christianity really dislikes this idea – the fact they might have proceeded down an interpretative road concerning the Tanakh that is both biased and ‘way off’ – it’s then that they realize a fundamental problem in Christian faith – they are biased against Judaism (some to the point of anti-semitism).

    My faith sux and I am starting to realize that (lol).

  4. Thanks. I was kind of worried when my comment disappeared!

    I always had to read over things a few times on the Netzarim site, but I think it gets easier after awhile. I don’t know what I think about the guy, if he’s really legit or not, but I found him interesting reading at one time. I think, like many things I come across, his site was valuable to me at a certain point in my life. His way wasn’t ultimately for me, but it helped me move along with my learning and for that I will always be appreciative.

    My skepticism about Christianity and its views on Jews and Judaism is what kept me from ever really connecting in church and ultimately is what pulled me out the door for good. I have no regrets. I had to find the right path for me and eventually I did. It took me awhile but when I was ready, there was always the right person there to help me take that next step. It is a case of a lot of small miracles, of that I have no doubt, and I don’t really even believe in such things, except I can think of no other explanation.

    I think you’re doing just fine as well. You’ll find your way and in the end what you have will be truly yours, not what someone is trying to impose on you.

    My friend who is a Noachide said I could pass her email address on to you so that you can get in touch anytime if you choose. Some Noachides go to church, some don’t; it is my understanding they are quite accepting. I know there are a group that get together for online lessons and chatting on Sundays. Anyway, I’ll send her address via email and you can do with it as you like. She’s my age and has a son the same age as my oldest. We’ve been friends for years now and have gone through much together. I think she’s nicer than me though…..

  5. Society,

    You may be interested in this latest Time article.

    http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1720049_1720050_1721663,00.html

    **On a side note, apparently I am not a Christian anymore – at least that’s the latest I have been called – which makes that about 10 fellow compadres denouncing my faith **

    I realize this next comment is about to sound petty and is a generalization, but I often find that the people who are most certain who are and are not Christian/saved are the very people that present me with how not to behave. If being a Christian means behaving that way, then I welcome atheism.

  6. Thanks Yael for the contact – that might be helpful to me! But I already have your friendship and the learning of many Jewish sources I have done – actually starts at your keyboard…and to be honest…has enlightened me a lot! I am reading that book and seeing things I have already thought through oddly enough – plus Amy loves the book of Matthew (same as me) and regualrily references it…must be something about that gospel that stirs these feelings to know more about Judaism.

    I read the article OSS – thanks for that – there was also an article in Maclean’s about Jesus’ identity that got me thinking about buying a book.

    “are the very people that present me with how not to behave.” (OSS)

    I tend to agree with you here also – it’s like believing the right things is more important than one’s actions – I am not sure why this happens exactly – some kind of disconnect between what Jesus actually taught and what Orthodoxy see’s as important is likely the key though.

  7. Wow … SVS, I’m in your boat, brother. I sometimes wonder if Jesus ever intended to start a “new” religion at all, you know? I sometimes wonder if he simply came to “fulfill the laws and the prophets …” just like he said. It’s too bad when “christians” can’t honor their Jewish roots, you know? And so many Christian pastors are simply ignorant of where they’ve come from … I saw it again on Good Friday, when my pastor and his best friend “pretended” to first century Jews discussing the last days of Jesus. Crazy … they said things that just sent me over the edge, because of their lack of knowledge. But they want to “pretend,” and spend their time christianizing things that would be better left just true.

    My favorite is when my pastor’s said things like Abraham was a Christian …

  8. The guy from Netzarim considers Matthew to be the only authentic Gospel. He claims is was originally written in Hebrew. Who knows. It does seem to be the most Jewish in style of the four.

    Some of your learning may have started with my keyboard but I have always tried to point to various rabbis and other sites as well just so that anyone reading can see for themselves what Judaism is about rather than just taking my word for it. There is much to learn, there is no doubt. For all you say you’ve learned as a result of our interaction, I have learned more.

    I read the article, OSS. I think some of the change in people’s views is a result of the internet. It used to be that unless a person lived by a Jewish community, they would know nothing about Jews, and even if they did, likely they knew little about Judaism. But, with the net everything is out there for all to read and learn. As the article points out, once people start down the road of Jewish learning, there’s no turning back.

    Interesting to me that one side sees this renewed interest in Judaism as fulfillment of something in Revelation perhaps? I forget, about a great falling away. But, others of us see it as a fulfillment of a prophecy in Zechariah 8:23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, shall even take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying: We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ There is always more than one way of viewing the same thing I suppose.

  9. “As the article points out, once people start down the road of Jewish learning, there’s no turning back” (Yael)

    I agree – this has been my experience so far. I think because there is so much to learn there that we have never been taught or so much as lead to by anyone else. Also I would say that once you see things in this Judaic light it is very heard to ignore the strength/integrity it speaks with.

    “Interesting to me that one side sees this renewed interest in Judaism as fulfillment of something in Revelation perhaps?” (Yael)

    I personally have chosen to not read the Revelations letter because it is way too confusing in nature – well I actually will read the first 3 chapters but when it gets all looney tunes – then I kind of stop. It’s actually rather funny when you think about it – we have Christian denominations that know absolutely nothing about the Judaic ways trying to interpret a letter (Revelations) that was built around apocalyptic lit – namely based on Jewish theologies. I am guessing interpretation is going to suffer in those hands – so I don’t even bother touching it.

    As for something from Revelations being fuflfilled – I have no clue what that person is referring to (Rob Bell I think it was that made that statement) – then again every other week according to Jack Van Impe and other Revelations peeps something in Revelations is always being fulfilled. When the wind decides to blow in a gusty manner – something is being fulfilled according to them. That letter is un-relable and even if it is true – I dare anyone to give me a play by play of what is being said in that letter – which is practically impossible to do.

  10. OSS said but I often find that the people who are most certain who are and are not Christian/saved are the very people that present me with how not to behave.

    Great quote!

    Jason, your faith doesn’t suck (sux?). You’re asking questions.

    Mathew 22: 46 – No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. They had already closed their minds. You can make up your mind and still keep an open mind. That is what I’d recommend.

    Jesus told us to focus on the Father. It is then that we see the Son, in my opinion, but some do not. In the end times all who believe will make that connection – that is what the New Testament promises.

    Romans 11 teaches that all Christians are Jews inwardly, not that they should wear yarmulkes but that they share in the covenant.

    Regards.

  11. [You is used in the universal sense, not in the ‘Jim’ sense! 🙂 ]

    So, what does it mean to be a Jew ‘inwardly”? Does that mean you get the seat next to God without having to bother with any of the mitzvot?

    Christians who would never dream of forgoing ham, of going without leaven for 8 days every spring, or of fasting on Yom Kippur, are always happy to tell me they’re really Jewish inside…..Why? Why not just say you’re a Christian and leave it at that? Why this need to claim you’re a Jew when you’re not a Jew? You have your own covenant, right? I hear about it all the time, it’s called ‘New’! God’s covenant with the Jews has never ended, nor has it been expanded to include the whole world, no matter what Paul claims. Jews are Jews, Christians are Christians. That’s just the way it is!

  12. Hi Yael
    You wrote**Jews are Jews, Christians are Christians.

    While that is obviously true, do you say these are two unrelated religions or two manifestations of the same religion?

  13. Oh, labels-schmables. The Dalai Lama is a lot more Christian than most Christians if we’re to judge the tree by its fruits.

    It’s not “the Judeo-Christian tradition” for nothing. To be accurate, it should really be called “the Judeo-Christian-Islamic” tradition… Muhammed was well versed in the Bible… the Koran attests to that…

  14. “Interesting to me that one side sees this renewed interest in Judaism as fulfillment of something in Revelation perhaps? I forget, about a great falling away” (Yael)

    The quote is actually from Matthew 24:10. Which is kind of ironic

  15. Society,
    I hear you about the Revelation thing. I never bothered with it either.

    PMM,
    Labels-schmables? How clever of you. Now, please tell me about this ‘Judeo-Christian tradition’. When did it start? What does it entail? Please list the church fathers teachings on this ‘tradition’? Luther’s? Calvin’s? Anyone’s prior to say the end of WWII? BTW, isn’t ‘Judeo-Christian tradition’ just another label that demotes Judaism to some inferior stepping stone into Christianity?

    Christianity teaches all people are the same; that’s not a Jewish teaching at all. Torah is filled with separations, all is not the same. So, you can say there are no labels but that just shows me which label you wear. That is what the post I linked to on my blog was about, Christianity’s denial of Jewish uniqueness. Your comment would be like me going up to Society and telling him that I’ve changed everything about his First Nations traditions so that they match Judaism and now we’re part of the ‘First Natio-Judaism tradition’. He can no longer call himself First Nations, however because that’s not right to use a label, except for the one I’m trying to slap on him of course.

    Jim,
    Our religions are separate, different. That doesn’t mean mine is better than yours or yours better than mine. It just means we have different roles, different purposes, different ways of connecting to God. We are created in God’s image, that is our commonality. We desire to follow our religions to the best of our abilities, that is also a commonality, but what that requires of each of us is quite different.

    I have no doubt Jim wouldn’t make a good Yael, nor Yael a good Jim, but we each do just fine being who we are and I think can each benefit from our interactions. A quote from a book I’m reading right now: ‘Being able to participate in sacred dialog with my friends of many religious persuasions has helped me to better understand and affirm my own beliefs, for which I will always be grateful.’ (Dr. Eugene Borowitz, A Touch of the Sacred: A Theologian’s Informal Guide to Jewish Belief)
    And another quote: “True dialog is dialog that respects difference and is animated by it.” (Christianity in Jewish Terms) That’s why I come around here, not so that we can all become some colorless blob of sameness.

    Thejust1,
    That is indeed truly ironic…..

  16. Paul wrote**Muhammed was well versed in the Bible… the Koran attests to that…

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there are two problems with that statement. 1 – Muhammed could not read or write. 2 – The New Testament was not translated into Arabic until more than a century after Muhammed lived.

    The Qur’an as we know it was compiled by Zaid Ibn Thabit from notes taken from Muhammed and other companions who Muhammed gave his blessing to (this was commissioned 20+ years after the Prophet’s death). The Jesus narrative is taken directly from an Arabic translation of the Diatessaron (a harmony of the gospels that was used for several hundred years by the Syrian church and then dismissed as errant) as well as the ficticious Gnostic gospel of Barnabas (where Jesus has Judas Iscariot put on the cross in His place). Many of the Koranic stories using biblical characters we can recognize came verbatim from extra-biblical stories that were never seen as authentic (the Targum of Esther and the Midrash Rabbah to name two that were plagiarized).

    So, no, the Koran does not attest to Muhammed’s knowledge of the Bible. There may very well be a role for Islam in God’s overall plan, but the Qur’an is a vastly different book than the Jewish or Christian Bibles.

  17. Society,

    ** it’s like believing the right things is more important than one’s actions **

    I often feel that people who think this way also want to have it both ways — on the one hand, no one’s works can help them be saved. On the other hand, the only way we can judge who is truly a Christian is by their good works. The person may have the right faith, but if they behave horribly, then they’re not ‘really’ a Christian.

    Yael,

    **Jews are Jews, Christians are Christians. That’s just the way it is!**

    Didn’t you know that that Christians are perfected Jews?? It must be true because Ann Coulter said so!!! 😛

    When that comment came out, I think I just kind of stared at the newspaper, because it demonstrated a lack of understanding in both religions.

  18. OSS,
    How quickly we forget! Of course it must be true then! Good old Ann Coulter….

    Let’s see. Perfected Jews (equivalent to the ‘inward Jews’ ? the ‘Judeo-Christians’?) = Jews minus all traces of Jewishness and Judaism?

    “The Hebrew biblical tradition was acknowledged, but its nobility and excellence had been taken over by the church, and what was left over to postbiblical, rabbinic Judaism (the Judaism of the Jews) was legalistic, ethnocentric, spiritually defective. From the movement of nineteenth-century thought emerged a species of hypostasis which envisaged the benighted Jew of the Old Testament, struggling along with a half-truth, in bondage to a hopeless legalism.” ( “The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition”, An Arthur A. Cohen Reader: Selected Fiction and Writings on Judaism, Theology, Literature, and Culture, pp. 209-210.

  19. I tend to agree with Yael on this – the Jewish faith is extremely unique in and if itself…I would say Christianity was founded in Jewish roots but it removed itself from the tradition quite some time ago. I think both faiths are ‘good’ and I respect them both for what they can teach – that’s why Yael’s commentaries and posts are extremely unique to me – I haven’t heard anything like them in Christian circles in my 33 years on this planet. So obviously, the Christian faith is not the same as the Judaic faith – however much I would like to see some sharing of their teachings.

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