The Real Question That Demands a Verdict…

How Jewish is Jesus?

Honestly, this is a valid question concerning current theologies and doctrines in Christ-ianity. Anything but a Jewish Jesus shows up in most Christian conversations these days…he’s more Gentile in look and feel.

The Jesus we see in most Christian convo’s isn’t one overly concerned with Judiasm per se – with Jewish customs or rituals – with the clothing of the time – or even the Torah/synagogue per se. No, this Jesus in Christ-ianity seems rather unconcerned with his Jewishness or Jewish structure – I would almost think he was a version of Paul more than a version of himself.

I raise the question because the claim biblically is Jesus is Jewish and part of that culture. If this is so, then what about this person is actually Jewish from within those texts? From within his teachings? From within his very being and life? Anything?

It is a sensible question that hearkens at the core honesty/realism of Christ-ianity as a faith system – about being real to the core on the writings on Jesus – or from Jesus (although he never wrote – and for a person called the ‘word’ – this is rather strange). Maybe it is just me – but doesn’t Jesus seem Gentile in talk, manner, concern, and theology in most Christian circles? He seems…almost…like someone with no background at all sometimes…ah yes…the great melting pot Jesus.  

I think this is what happens when we look at Jesus through Paul and not the other way around (my concern anyways) – we get this Jesus that seems non Jewish – brushed off the law – and basically anything Jewish in outlook – for some freedom? Oh the questions do abound on this issue.

Is Jesus Jewish? Or maybe he forgot he was? Or maybe he cast that aside? Nonetheless – what is the case for the Jewishness of Jesus?  Does it matter?

PS: I raise these same questions about John and his gospel – and to some extent Paul – since their view of Jewish theology are…well…strange.

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73 thoughts on “The Real Question That Demands a Verdict…

  1. there’s the Gospel… and then there’s the Gospel viewed through the lenses of Paul and John. when one sits and actually reads the Gospels, one finds that the church is actually based mainly on Pauline theology, not Jesus. Paul is more linear and legalistic whereas Jesus is more associative and not so legalistic (more apocalyptic actually, but there are some legalities in there).

    Jesus was Jewish.. Jesus was NOT an inerrantist. Jesus didn’t think they were inerrant as he reinterpreted them. anytime you hear Jesus say “you have heard it said… but i tell you” he’s changing the meaning (bulk of which is found in Matthew 5:21-48).

    for example Matt 5:27-28: 27 “You have heard that it was said,’You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    in Jesus time adultery could only be commited by a woman. Here Jesus switches it from an action to an idea and ramps up the consquences! He also puts it onto males.

    So Jesus was Jewish to a “J” yet those who wrote after him, like Matt and Luke might not have been. Matt isn’t due to the fact that he can’t interpret hebrew poetry correctly… Matthew 21:7 states, “They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them” which is supposed to fullfil the prophecy of “Behold, your King is coming to you…lowly and riding on a donkey [male], a colt, the foal of a donkey [female] in Zechariah 9:9. Hebrew poetry reiterates and clearifies. you’ll see this when reading Pslams where the next line repeats the first (Ps 22,19, which in the Psalm are two parallel ways of saying the same thing).

    That’s the long way around saying that “Jesus was Jewish and the church has largely missed this point.” rawk 😉

  2. Jesus was Jewish. That’s really shouldn’t be our contention. The problem is the gospels themselves. If you look at the history of the cannonization of the New Testament, there is a lot of speculation as to who were the writers of the gospels (as Luke points out before me) and when were they written. Plus the fact that the gospels (which were found) were written in Greek and not Hebrew. The simple change of language would mean different ideas and worldviews being represented.

    The gospels are usually attributed special authority because they were written by apostles, but there really is no proof for that. I think they were attributed that status because the church at that time needed to keep people in line and decided to give the highest authority to the gospel so there could be no contention.

    For example. in more recent history, read “God’s Secretaries: The making of the King James Bible” when the bible was translated into English, the church demanded that certain words be put in bible like “bishopprick, church, king, ” because those words gave the modern church authority , and those hierarchies needed to be reinforced.

    The organized church has a history of bad politics and bad ideas based on keeping their power.

    That is why the bible should be a guideline and not a literal document. I agree that sometime I have been too literal in my reading of it as my brother has pointed out. I quote the more literal meaning because I think the common parishoner does too. I think they need to see that some of the ideas in the bible are too ridiculus to be believed and should read the bible very critically. At the least, take a class in Greek, or chruch history to fully understand their own faith a little better.

  3. I don’t think there’s any question about Jesus’s Jewishness, but I think the more interesting question is whether there were aspects to his Judaism that contained the kernel of what eventually became Christianity. Were there things that he said and did that inspired at least some of his followers, especially after his death, to take the movement in new directions that began to separate from Judaism? I think that some authors, like Barrie Wilson and Amy Jill-Levine, seem to view the Judaism of Jesus’s time as being so theologically uniform that Jesus was just another, undistinguished and blandly Jewish member of a blandly homogeneous Judaism. So they see Christianity as it later developed as being a totally foreign and alien construct that had nothing to do with what he preached or lived. I just think this doesn’t make a lot of sense. It seems to me that there is a middle ground that one can take that says this: Yes, he was Jewish (although what that meant in first century Palestine is an open question), and no, Christianity didn’t just come out of nowhere as an alien construct that co-opted Jesus for its own purposes.

  4. right on mystical seeker.. two books explore this theme of whether Jesus coopted Judiasm or Christianity coopted Jesus:

    The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages by Martin Goodman (Foreword), Simon Price (Foreword), Peter Schafer (Foreword), Adam H. Becker (Editor), Annette Yoshiko Reed (Editor)

    The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament’s Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book by Julie Galambush

    These books explore two takes on the same issue.

  5. Luke,

    I did read “The Reluctant Parting” and wrote about it in my blog a year or so ago. It was an interesting book; the author is a former American Baptist minister who converted to Judaism.

  6. “Jesus was Jewish.. Jesus was NOT an inerrantist. Jesus didn’t think they were inerrant as he reinterpreted them. anytime you hear Jesus say “you have heard it said… but i tell you” he’s changing the meaning” (Luke)

    I am not even sure inerrancy was a doctrine of the day – someone can enlighten me if they know more on this – but I have my doubts.

    I think the key thiing with that Matthew 5 part is it follows right after his portion about the law and it’s being kept – Jesus is actually found upholding the law. Amy Jill Levine does some writing on this issue and she see’s Jesus as being rabbinical in nature – giving interpretations on what those sections of the Law meant. This would make sense – the disciples in this gospel call Jesus rabbi/teacher about 14 times. Unbelievably, John’s gospel keeps the term ‘rabbi’ in tact and uses it a lot also concerning Jesus.

    “That’s the long way around saying that “Jesus was Jewish and the church has largely missed this point” (Luke)

    I agree. After reading Amy Jill Levine’s book she really took the idea he wasn’t Jewish too school/task (more or less). For me the most telling signs are he was called ‘rabbi’, likely wore the teffelin, and attended synagogues – and even read (and his disciples after him). He also breaks down the Torah a lot in his teachings – showing he was well versed in them.

  7. “The simple change of language would mean different ideas and worldviews being represented” (Wolf)

    This is what I think happened – but I think it might be even more easier than that…people brushed aside the gospels for the Pauline doctrines (aimed at Gentiles). The reason they usually give is Jesus had to uphold the law prior to his death and resurrection to be ‘perfect’. After that resurrection the game changes.

    There is some validity to what they are saying – Paul comes in much later and starts a ministry to the Gentile communities – and it can questioned as to whether Gentiles have to follow the Law (not being Jewish and having laws all their own). However, a good read of Matthew does not even hint at this idea.

    It seems the Torah is a good guide for all people of this faith. All of the teachings Jesus gave, and later Paul does the same thing, come from the Law and the Prophets – including the line between morality and immorality and judging yourself. I find Paul kind of odd in that he lets the Gentiles off the hook concerning following the rituals of the Law (ie: circumcision) yet teaches them to follow the law anyways in his writings? He is the one that makes it tough to understand the law and what it means to Christians. Read matthew and it seems straight-forward – Jesus is teaching on the law and it’s guidance.

    “That is why the bible should be a guideline and not a literal document” (Wolf)

    I tend to agree – although some stuff is literal – the teachings are quite open for elaboration (any good student of those teachings will do that).

    Which leads me to the law – do we follow it or do we not? I find the law a ‘good thing’ myself – it gives direction to the community and to the individual. I read Jesus’ teachings and I think ‘wow, this is good stuff if it can be incorporated into one’s life’. Those same teachings all come from the Torah in verbatim detail some of the time (ie: the 2 commandments on love God and love neighbor).

    I guess I see Jesus as encapsualting the meaning of the law in those sentences like ‘treat other how you want to be treated’ – which, apparently, the law and prophets is wrapped around/fulfillment of them. I am not sure Jesus was calling for a doing away with the law – but that the law would be written on our hearts (ie: show up in our lives). Even the 2 great commandments are essential parts of the law to Jewish adherents – and Jesus uses them as a type of encapsulation of this faith (ie: the 2 greatest commandments). I think Jesus saw the value of the law and what it meant.

    That’s where Paul troubles me – he seems theologically strange. Gentiles are not required to follow the law – yet he teaches them to ‘love their neighbor’ and they are doing well (uhm…yeah…that’s from the Torah). Unless Paul means certain aspects of the law like the temple ordination, ceremonies, rituals, and the governance of the law over a society. But Paul never says that – he pretty much does into the non use of the law. Maybe Paul means the spirit of God will teach the Gentiles – and write that upon their heart…I’d have to read Paul again because he sends mixed messages – or at least – church doctrine now a days does.

  8. “Yes, he was Jewish (although what that meant in first century Palestine is an open question), and no, Christianity didn’t just come out of nowhere as an alien construct that co-opted Jesus for its own purposes.” (Mystical)

    But is Christianity co-opting the original message of Jesus? I tend to think in some regards – yes – it has to be if Jesus actually was a Jewish person.

    Christianity has no clue what to think of the law – so they say it is fulfilled and no need to follow it…yet they actually follow it to some degree (and there is question as to whether Jesus fulfilled it in totality – since he is coming back again). Jesus is divine – well – that’s a huge misnomer for someone Jewish to say or think – since God is One and that explicit in the Torah. It’s things like these that get me thinking – is Christianity trying to strip this person of his Jewishness?

    I also think once we take the Jewish aspects of Jesus out of the equation the whole interpretive ballgame changes. We are no longer required to study intensively what any rabbinical commentary has to say or seek out Jewish viewpoints – they are not needed in interpreting the Torah, Prophets, or Jesus’ own teachings.

    It is clear that Jesus was studied in rabbinical literature – some of his teachings actually suggest this (ie: the parable about the sheep and goats and ‘treat others’ teaching – taken from Hillel). Recently a new stone was discovered in Israel from prior to Jesus – and it makes claims about a messianic idea of resurrection in 3 days. This may not be a Christian invention after all – but a thoroughly Jewish one (debate still ongoing about this stone). Hmmm.

    But what this all means is we may getting cheated out of the best interpretations for the passages and teachings of Jesus also. If all we use are Gentile ideas for interpretation then hell means something different – same for eternal life – same for the way, the truth, and the life – same for the messiah idea – same for communion – same for baptism – etc. The whole thing can actually take on a new meaning dependant on one’s viewpoint and background in interpretation (is it a Gentile background or Jewish studiousness?). I tend to think this has made interpretation a tougher task but it also is a more honest one.

    Some might think the views of the early church (gentiles) have nothing to do with interpretations we use now – those same people likely have not studied rabbinical works on the Torah and Prophets to know if this is true or not (form this time and from that time). I read a lot of Jewish ideas on the subject and find that Jesus was thoroughly Jewish in his viewpoints and that can be accredited to his study in the Torah – not in Greco Roman thought of his era. For me, it accredits Judaism with also having the gospel viewpoints to some degrees – and these ideas could be mis-represented by someone outside that sphere of study (ie: early church fathers and current church leaders).

    I think there is a co-opting of Jesus’ actual teachings – and it has been happening for a long time – since at least Constantine – maybe even earlier. I find it odd that the church we have now doesn’t reflect Judaism in the slightest – yet we claim to be an off-shoot of Judaism. I almost think ‘prove it’ – I want to see that Jewish aspect so i can verify this is so. I personally have to believe, from viewing churches and services, the roots of Judaism have been all but forgotten in this faith (intentionally in some cases) for the sake of uniformity.

  9. But what does it really mean to co-opt a dead prophet’s teachings? I think that once you die, you lose any rights to the franchise. Buddhism has evolved constantly and has split into many sects since Buddha died. Quakerism has evolved and developed into radically different sects since its founder, George Fox, died. I think that this just comes with the territory. The reason Buddha or George Fox could both be cited as sources by later generations of followers who differed with one another often to great extents is that great prophetic messages often just have within them enough ambiguity and complexity that successors start emphasizing certain parts of the message, they start doing riffs and expansions and you start to see divergent beliefs and practices. I don’t think this is a bad thing, not necessarily anyway. Religions develop and evolve and form divisions and divergent streams and, well, that’s just part of it as I see it.

  10. “they start doing riffs and expansions and you start to see divergent beliefs and practices. I don’t think this is a bad thing, not necessarily anyway. Religions develop and evolve and form divisions and divergent streams and, well, that’s just part of it as I see it.” (Mystical)

    In a way I agree – changes to the strcuture of faith can be good and usually – at least in my life – change can be helpful. The divergence if it is true to the intent of the faith – can be a great thing in my opinion…but not all changes are quite this.

    For example, when some Christians started shooting abortion doctors – well – it would be easy to say ‘they strayed’…but isn’t their enough ambiguity in the teachings to allow for this?

    That’s the problem with the idea for me. I think change is good and needed – but change to what and for what reason – and based on what set of principles? I think we have to look at the roots of this faith and also dig those out in more depth – and make the needed changes based on what we see fit from being true to best we can see fit of the original intentions. I personally see a Jewish Jesus figure who taught Judaism – which is then co-opted to some Pauline view of pseudo-Judaism for Gentiles. I think both can exist mind you – but it wouldn’t hurt anyone to ‘dig the roots out more’ and ‘flesh out’ what may have once existed for the sanity of this faith.

    I also think it is a matter of honesty – in my opinion. Churches do say they are off-shoots of Judaism (via Messiah) and have been grafted in to some allegorical vine – I can dig that. If this is so, then there has to be proof of this idea somewhere? I think, in all honesty, the church has to start admitting it has turned away from it’s original roots – and may even be growing a whole new variant of that vine altogether. I think there is a need for some of this honesty in the church.

    As for Buddhism it retains a form of it’s roots still – I have yet to see a blond haired, blue eyed Buddha or the use of buddha changed to something foreign – like a skateboarding or hippie buddha. No, buddha always looks the same when I see him. It’s a petty example – but it is an example of ‘roots’. I am not saying Buddhism hasn’t changed – it probably has – but a lot of the ‘roots’ of that faith are not being tampered with by it’s adherents on some mass scale – or at the least – they know the ‘roots’ and are not denying it (just changes ideas here and there).

    That’s what makes me laugh in a way – because that is what is happening to Jesus – he becomes anything to anyone for any reason and can look any way. And that is a small thing – but it is a sign of what has happened to this faith as compared to others.

  11. “I personally have to believe, from viewing churches and services, the roots of Judaism have been all but forgotten in this faith (intentionally in some cases) for the sake of uniformity.” – societyvs

    This is a sad but true fact and it has been happening ever since the writing of the gospels. Read John 8:37-59. Which possibly you all have 🙂

    I think currently modern exegesis is to intepret the new testament according to modern current events. (strife in the middle east is biblical prophecy come true) Then to interpret the Torah and the prophets through the new testament. (jesus fulfills sucha nd such). This type of thinking is wrong and backwards. We should strive to understand Judaism and then read the new testament with that worldview in our minds. And leave current events out of it all together.

  12. I am not saying Buddhism hasn’t changed – it probably has – but a lot of the ‘roots’ of that faith are not being tampered with by it’s adherents on some mass scale

    No one ever denies the roots. That’s the beauty of it.

    For example, consider the example of Quakerism. Original Quakerism, as founded by George Fox, was a Christian (but not fundamentalist) sect that practiced silent, unprogrammed worship and which eschewed paid clergy. Modern Quakerism in the US has many different groups. Among them, one group of people who keep the silent worship but which have a liberal faith that in some cases has moved beyond traditional Christianity; and then there are Quakers who dispense with the silent worship and have Protestant-style services with paid pastors and which sound quite fundamentalist in many ways. How can these two diametrically opposed groups of people both at the same time claim to be Quaker? Both claim George Fox as the roots of the faith. Neither denies that they are in the tradition that Fox started. Both use a lot of the same traditional Quaker language. And yet they are so far apart it makes your head spin.

    Neither group denies the roots, and yet they are diametrically opposed in many ways. And both groups accuse the other of violating the original principles of Quakerism. The way this happened is that both groups focused on specific elements of a faith tradition that was so complex that as these diverse trends were emphasized, the groups moved apart.

    Or consider Buddhism. Meditation is an essential part of Buddhism, right? Wait, not so fast. Pure land Buddhism has little or no interest in the practice of Buddhism, and it is the largest Buddhist group in Japan. How can this be?

    Once a train is set in motion, it takes on its own momentum. Jesus couldn’t stop the train once he died.

  13. Concerning Buddhism/Christianity/Judaism

    I think Buddhist have a more concrete doctrine and path to salvation. Judaism has the ten commandments. The Christian doctirine is something people make up as they go along as they read the gospels or Paul. Not one writer in the New Testament actually lays down a formal path or certain teachings to believe. So that causes all the weird denominations and cults.

    I think there is a lot of Jewish history and mindset which were never put in the bible at the time of it writing because a lot of it just went without saying. When Paul write and says the “law”. THat is a loaded word full of context and meaning. Does he mean the Torah? Talmud? Ten commandments? the legal law? or the whole canonized Old testament (sorry if this term is offensive)?

    I think people may have known what he meant back in the day, but us living in the 21st century are so far removed from Jewish culture and life, that the term has no meaning accept in the legal sense.

    Just my two sense

  14. “Not one writer in the New Testament actually lays down a formal path or certain teachings to believe” (Wolf)

    I disagree – I think there are formal paths laid down. Matthew uses a ‘follow me’ type idea (rabbi and student?) – which is basically follow Jesus’ teachings and how he lived. The idea gets re-ittirated a few ways in Matthew – including the taking up the cross piece. But basically, the sermon on mount has an index/beatitudes and a variety of teachings elaborated upon – ending in a foundation parable (warning)…that’s fairly concrete to me. I would say James lines up with this idea quite well also.

    I would also John trys something similar in a way – from his chapter 1 and the idea ‘the word made flesh’. Now he does use this about a person but it is also an idea in my opinion. It’s taking the words and living them out – making the teachings alive in the real world. From there John does mention following the teachings is to love the teacher…which is to love God. Although John is using a lot of allegory in his book – that much can certainly be gleaned.

    As for Paul, well he seems to be saying the spirit of God will teach the Gentiles all the things they need to know (not having the law or teachings or what have you). Paul does lay down teachings also for these people (from the Tanakh) and morality. It’s tough to comment on Paul – but that seems like his system.

    “Judaism has the ten commandments” (Wolf)

    Actually Judaism is much more than just 10 commandments – they actually have quite a system worked out there – including all the things you mention and the oral law. They seem to be more about a relationship with God as a community and following the teachings God laid down in the Torah. Again, this is a loving God who was gracious enough to provide them with blessed Torah (teachings from God). As for salvation, well they use that term in a different way than we do – they actually provide instances of what salvation is (ie: Exodus). I think they are about living the teachings out of gratitude to God and for the sake of community.

  15. “Jesus couldn’t stop the train once he died.” Mystical

    Almost sounds like a country song. But seriously, I agree. Once a founder of a movement dies, the movement always loses it original purpose and changes direction according to the next leader.

  16. “Unless Paul means certain aspects of the law like the temple ordination, ceremonies, rituals, and the governance of the law over a society. But Paul never says that – he pretty much does into the non use of the law. Maybe Paul means the spirit of God will teach the Gentiles – and write that upon their heart…I’d have to read Paul again because he sends mixed messages – or at least – church doctrine now a days does.” (SVS)

    I’m not entirely convinced that Paul is promoting a non use of the Law, but he is making a distinction for the two groups of people. Jewish people have the law, gentiles have a law, which is the law, except that they follow it by nature rather than by having it be taught to them.

    Romans 2:12 -16 makes an interesting comment regarding these two laws.
    12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

    Regarding debates or discussions of the law, I am sure that both Jesus and Paul were well taught in the ways of Judaism and the Law and that they understood how to debate matters of the law and obedience to it.

    Our problem in this whole debate is that we are too far removed from Judaism, rabbinical teachings, and law discussions to fully appreciate and comprehend the manner in which law is discussed amongst Jewish rabbis and interpreters.

    The closest we can come to legal debates, (without becoming a convert to Judaism), is within our own legal systems. So, if you ever want a crash course in debates regarding the law, just go and sit in on docket court, or even better, a trial. I think you would find it very enlightening and mind boggling just listening to the proceedings. I personallly find it very intriguing to watch and listen to lawyers and the judges haggle over interpretations and discrepancies that exist within our set of laws. Seems to me that it would be very similar to how rabbis would have handled the Jewish law.

  17. Jesus is the Living Word and He lived out the Law, the Word of God. One can’t be more Jewish than being the Living Torah.

  18. One is Jewish if they were born to a Jewish mother or if they went through a halakhic conversion to Judaism. A Jew can live a totally secular life but they will still be a Jew, a non-Jew can observe all of Torah but they will still be a non-Jew.

    I would say that Society’s question is not was Jesus a Jew, since if his mother was a Jew, there is no question he was a Jew as well, but is instead, did Jesus live a religious Jewish life according to the traditions of Judaism. Society can correct me if I’m wrong here.

    Torah is merely our foundational document. What tells us how to live our lives as Jews is the teachings of the sages, which were not written down at the time Jesus is thought to have lived, but which were already at least partly in existence at that time and which were written down in basic form in what is called the Mishnah by 200 C.E.

    Just a few examples: There is no synagogue in Torah; there are no rabbis. There is no physical description of tallisim or tefillin. There is no requirement to pray three times per day in Torah, in fact, there is nothing in Torah that tells us we have to pray at all. All of these were later additions put in place by our sages.

    At the time Jesus is said to have lived there was a power struggle within Judaism between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, but since Jesus was not of the priestly line, he could not have been a Sadducee. His teachings are in the manner of the Pharisees and since they are the ones who passed on Judaism to us Jews today, that is where one must look in determining did Jesus live the life of a religious Jew.

    Did Jesus follow these traditions, or did he not? Was he selective in his observance? If so, what was the basis for his selection? If one says he didn’t have to follow any tradtions because he answered to a ‘higher calling’ then he didn’t live a religious life according to Judaism. Do you see what I’m getting at? It can’t be both ways. If Jesus followed Judaism, then he respected the teachings of Judaism. If he thought changes were needed he worked to make them within the system. As thejust1 points out, ours is a legal system. There was/is a process for making changes, there were/are forums for discussing change. If Jesus claimed a different authority and thus freedom to make changes at will, that isn’t Judaism.

    Then the question might be, was he required to follow Judaism. I would say he should have, being a Jew, but it’s a free world, people can follow what they choose. Perhaps it was time for a new religion that didn’t require so much from people and could thus attract the masses. Either way it doesn’t matter to me, but I wanted to make sure no one misunderstands and thinks I’m saying Jesus had to be something. My point is merely that if one says Jesus followed Judaism, it has to be according to Judaism, not according to what Christians say Judaism was, or is, supposed to be.

    (Some short essays on Jewish history if anyone is interested can be found at My Jewish Learning)

  19. Yael

    Could you help me out here??

    “One is Jewish if they were born to a Jewish mother or if they went through a halakhic conversion to Judaism. A Jew can live a totally secular life but they will still be a Jew”(Yael)

    If I follow this logic, wouldnt that mean if my great, great, great, great, great, great, great Grandmother was Jewish, then I am too, regardless of what I do?

    I dont want to offend you, but Judaism is a Religious practice, not a race of people. That is why you have white jews, black jews, brown jews and so on.

    John T.

  20. John T,

    Judaism is a religion, being Jewish is not. Jews are a people, some of whom follow Judaism, some of whom do not. That is why there are secular Jews, religious Jews, apostate Jews, etc. You keep equating race with people. When I say I am a part of the Jewish people I’m not saying anything about my race, only about my identity.

    If you won’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe someone else? A rabbi perhaps? Here’s one:Ask a Rabbi. It’s a similar question and hey, you can ask him yourself if you want. You don’t want to read? Watch and listen.. This rabbi actually has 400 short videos on a wide variety of topics.. Have at. When a person converts to Judaism they become part of a people and part of a religion. “Conversion to Judaism means accepting the Jewish faith and becoming part of the Jewish people.” That’s actually one of the things Rabbi looks for in potential converts, how well we have become a part of the people. You can’t convert to the people without the religion part, but you also can’t convert to the religion without the people part. It’s totally different from Christianity in that respect.

    No John, you would not be considered Jewish based on an ancestor so far removed. Now for someone like me who was raised Christian but whose mother’s mother was raised Jewish, the story is different. If I were to find proof that my grandmother was indeed Jewish, I could take that proof to a beit din – Jewish court – and three rabbis would decide if I needed to convert or if I would be considered as someone returning. At this point in time I have so such proof, only some Rosh Hashanah plates handed down to me from my mother’s mother’s mother, so even though I had little doubt that I was returning to the tribe, I went through conversion as did my sons.

    An interesting story is Stephen Dubner’s. His parents both converted to Catholicism and he returned to Judaism. I used to have another book about a woman whose mother ‘got saved’ but when she, the daughter, grew up she went back to Judaism. Nothing is automatic, however, a beit din reviews each case and decides.

  21. Well, actually, now that I think about it, John, I misspoke in saying you would not be considered Jewish based on an ancestor so far removed. There are Crypto-Jews who are returning even though their connections might be just as slim. (Crytpo-Jews being forced converts to Christianity, usually from Spain or Portugal.) If such were the case in your, I’m assuming, hypothetical case, it would again depend on a rabbinic decision. Come see me after I’m ordained. 🙂

  22. “I am not even sure inerrancy was a doctrine of the day – someone can enlighten me if they know more on this – but I have my doubts. ” SVS

    you’re right.. it wasn’t. inerrancy was invented in the 1930s and gained heavily in the 1950s. it was more a anti-joshua post and getting some steam out from other conversations on other blogs. my associative thinking went haywire, hope the message got across.

  23. Yael,

    “If Jesus followed Judaism, then he respected the teachings of Judaism.”

    Except that Jacob Neusner points out in his book “Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity” that the “normative Judaism” (his term) that you are familiar with today was in its infant stage at the time Jesus was around. So to say that he must have respected the teachings of Judaism, which at that time were very much up in the air for all Jews, is a bit of an overstatement. The Pharisees didnt gain dominance in Jewish thought until 70 A.D. so it would seem that Jesus was being very Jewish indeed (by your criteria) for where the culture was at their particular point in history.

  24. “Jewish people have the law, gentiles have a law, which is the law, except that they follow it by nature rather than by having it be taught to them.” (Just1)

    So what does that mean then? See, Paul does mention the Gentiles have the law on their hearts (or within them) – but I think he is only speaking of being moral. It is a known fact the Gentiles of that time (or any time) have never kept the holy days, circumcision, the teffelin (phylacteries), kosher, etc – that stuff don’t seem to be written on anyone’s hearts (until learned and observed).

    Paul addresses only the moral aspects of the law – like do not steal, do not murder, do not covet, etc (one could say the same actually seems to shine thorugh in Jesus’ stuff also) – and the fuffillment of that being ‘love your neighbor’. So maybe Paul’s view of the Law – and maybe even Jesus’ – were a little different than current Jewish thought – since rabbinical stuff wasn’t fully written down until after Jesus’ time. Maybe the law, from their perspectives, was more a moral undertaking than anything else? Similar to how our law functions – to outline morality and safety.

    “Regarding debates or discussions of the law, I am sure that both Jesus and Paul were well taught in the ways of Judaism and the Law and that they understood how to debate matters of the law and obedience to it.” (Just1)

    I wonder about this to be certain – are we really that removed or is that we do not search this avenue out? I mean, Yael comments a few times and seems to have a good grasp of the Torah in Jewish circles and the rulings – and how that process works. It seems to me the knowledge is there (thanks for all the links Yael) to be examined and thought upon – if we want to see how the law functions in Jewish society. Granted in 2000 years things change – but I think we can still grasp what the law actually means in Jewish circles (and compare).

    I guess my quest would be the see how Paul and Jesus used the law – they both reference it in their teachings and yet they only touch on the moral aspects of it – and it’s use for the community. I almost think when Jesus talk about judgment in Matt 7 – he is referencing judging according to something as a standard – just what would that standard be? The Torah! I think Jesus is asking us to do something similar as his ‘students’ – to read the teachings of the law and see what they mean to us and how we can use them justly in our society.

    That all being said, we follow aspects of the moral law in Christian circles and do not follow the actual totality of the law Jewish people do…there is a marked difference. However, I think we do borrow from it and use it for our basing of morality in this faith – in that sense – God blessed the Jewish nation to bless all nations – and this is happening…we borrow from their Torah teachings on morality and help fulfill such ideas. I am thinking – that can be a very good thing for this faith to also realize – we got our ethics from a faith with the written history of it. Just a thought.

  25. “There are Crypto-Jews who are returning even though their connections might be just as slim” (Yael)

    On a very weird, but funny, side note – the Mormon faith actually believes First Nations people in America are descendants of Jewish lineages – and we are a lost tribe of some sort (apparently we sailed over here). Maybe we are crypto-Jews also (lol) – of course I am kidding…Mormon theory on this this is beyond weak and has no basis archealogically or lingusitically to be proven a fact.

  26. “So to say that he must have respected the teachings of Judaism, which at that time were very much up in the air for all Jews, is a bit of an overstatement.” (Mike)

    My personal opinion on the subject is Jesus was very Jewish in his teachings and lifestyle – I think he did follow the tenets of Judaism – even elaborated upon them. I think there was a system of being Jewish at the time – and likely always has been in their community (even if not written down) – and I think Jesus followed that – likely in a mix of the strands at the time – ie: Saducees and Pharisee’s. I am not sure he was either but resembles more a Pharisee than a Saducee. He likely would of been a wandering prophet type person – like John the Baptist (kind of on the outside of all the organized faith he saw) or maybe even an Essene.

    I do believe he respected the Torah and Judaic faith – and in Mark and Matthew there is some proof he might of even worn the tassels and practiced teffelin. A lady with hemmorage in Mark (I think) touches Jesus tassels on his garment – tassels being part of the Jewish religious wear. Also Jesus criticizes the Pharisee’s on the phylacteries/teffelin and how they may have been making them ‘too showy’ – which likely means he practiced this also – why critique something you know nothing about? These are possibilities – and top that off – Jesus criticizes the Pharisee’s on some pretty distinct things – like he knew their teachings quite well.

    However, Jesus never does claim to be a Pharisee – but is proclaimed a rabbi more than 50+ times in the gospels (usually the word ‘teacher’ is used). People of hsi time may have seen Jesus as a teacher of some sort – wandering one of course – that visited communities (which rabbi’s still do). To me, and this is my personal opinion, Jesus seems rabbinic in nature. Elaborates on Torah, criticizes the practices of contemporaries for sake of change, has discussions with many people concerning the Law, reads in a synagogue, has some form of authority as given by onlookers, and asks his disciples to ‘follow him’. He fits that category quite well – in my opinion. Again this is hypotheses – but it is lining up the best.

    Of course, we add in the Messianic title and that changes a lot of this – then he becomes more of a John the Baptist type figure – but he would be seen as a rabbinic messiah figure (amongst the people) – unlike the other motifs for messiah (more warrior than rabbinic looking). Jesus never claims to be a prophet – but does call John one…and Jesus never turns down the ‘rabbi’ motif. I just find it an odd mix in the Jewish faith – but maybe this is what Jesus looked like? It makes sense to me anyways – some rabbi’s (like Wolpe) – when I hear them sound very authoritative or prophetic (Heschel)…why cannot one be seen as messianic?

  27. Sidenote- this only a discussion and I am not trying to convert anyone to my opinions – God forbid – but I am only stating some opinions concerning my studies on the gospels and Messiah.

  28. What do we know of Jesus outside of the gospels? Not much. He has a couple of references in other history books, but the majority of our discussion is about the Jesus of the gospels.

    I think in order to say Jesus was Jewish, then you have to believe the gospels. I tend to strongly distrust the gospels. They were books written 30 years after the man had lived, they embellished the truth and had a strong bias toward some political or eschatological purpose.

    Was Jesus Jewish? Yes, probably. Do the gospels record his life faithfully? That is up for question and debate.

  29. Societyvs,

    Careful not to bend the developed understanding of Messiah beyond what people in Jesus’ day regarded the Messiah to be. What you describe is again more of a Pharisaic interpretation after Bar Kohkba’s revolt failed. In Jesus’ day, the people had every expectation that the Messiah was a Davidic King who would sit on David’s throne. Some took this to nationalistic extremes, but nonetheless, the expectation was there.

  30. Hi Mike,
    I’m not really disagreeing with you, if Jesus’ mother was Jewish, he was as Jewish as they come, but I also do not think I made an overstatement.

    When I say respect for the teachings of Judaism, I am speaking more of the legal system than anything else. Yes, the Pharisees were in the middle of a power struggle, but, as I already pointed out, certainly there were synagogues in place, with rules for how services were to be conducted, there is evidence of the wearing of tzitzit and tefillin from this era, with rules for their wearing, so we know that at least some Jewish traditions were already in place, traditions not a part of written Torah. Was Jesus a part of this system, or was Jesus above all of this?

    My point is still, If someone wants to claim Jesus just followed God and thus was exempt from the Jewish legal system in place in his day so that he could change it just because he thought it should be changed, that is their prerogative, but I would say they should not then try to claim Jesus followed Judaism since Judaism encompassed that same Jewish legal system the person is claiming Jesus wasn’t bound to follow.

    Judgments on the Jewishness of a person, judgments on a person’s following Judaism or not cannot be made based on Christian criteria. For a Christian to come along and say Jesus was some living Torah and that this is as Jewish as one can get is ridiculous. We have no such teaching. One is Jewish through birth to a Jewish mother, (read Ezra to see where this is taught, the foreign wives and their children with these wives were sent away) or conversion. Nothing to do with living anything. These are not modern teachings but were instead already in place at the time Jesus is said to have lived, Ezra was around long before Jesus, and Christian texts have Jesus speaking of Jewish converts so they seem to have existed at that time yes?

    I don’t know any Jews who say Jesus wasn’t Jewish (if he existed would be the clause for some however), but there is quite a bit of disagreement over if he followed Judaism or not.

  31. I wrote a commentary in my blog on Amy-Jill Levine and compared her book to that of Julie Galambush a year or so ago. Basically, I had a much more positive impression of Galambush than I did of Levine. I think that Levine had an axe to grind, while Galambush did not, and it made a world of difference as far as I was concerned.

  32. Society,
    Rabbis were Pharisees, this was the world of the synagogue, priests were Sadducees, that was the temple cult. Jesus could not have been a Sadducee since he was not of the priestly line. Also remember, the Sadducees didn’t believe in any resurrection, resurrection being another teaching of the Pharisees, BTW, not found in Torah. The Sadducees were big on literal interpretation of Torah. The Essenes were a fringe group who were very much into ritual purity and withdrawing from society, something also not taught in Torah. Some say Jesus was influenced by this group, that John the Baptist was from this group. Who knows, but it seems a real stretch to call Jesus a rabbi and then say he wasn’t a Pharisee. Who else had rabbis?

  33. What you describe is again more of a Pharisaic interpretation after Bar Kohkba’s revolt failed. In Jesus’ day, the people had every expectation that the Messiah was a Davidic King who would sit on David’s throne. Some took this to nationalistic extremes, but nonetheless, the expectation was there.

    Could you tell me your source for this statement?

  34. “Careful not to bend the developed understanding of Messiah beyond what people in Jesus’ day regarded the Messiah to be” (Mike)

    Agreed…again I am only stating some opinions I currently I am musing about – they are by no means fact…just some thoughts.

    I agree the Messiah idea has been bantered around for some time – and yes it does take a nationalistic ideology – as in kingship. That is rather useless today – we don’t have kings these days either…and if I am not mistaken – wasn’t kingship something God wasn’t all too pleased with in the first place?

    I Samuel 8:7 “The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them”

    Maybe this is what was expected for the Messianic role – a king – but even that kingship line was something that God was not too excited about (according to Samuel) – this was something the people were more excited about. It makes sense the ideology of Messiah would also take this formula – seeing David also wrote the prophecies concerning it (a king himself).

    However, messiah as an idea changes over time also. It makes sense it would continue to change and we would view it from a variety of lenses. Some people think there is a messiah, some think there is not, some think the messiah has finished all, some think the messiah needs to come again to earth, etc. That theology on messiah is quite variant also – and is very open to interpretation.

    I think I offer a fairly valid one concerning what is in the gospels themselves and what messiah is thought to be. I do not include ‘king’ because I do not see how Jesus even remotely relates to that in his life – except for the idea this is at his trial with the Romans (only place it is mentioned). Unless we are including a ‘king(dom) of heaven/God’ – where Messiah is a ruler – that’s all Jesus really ever refers to as his ‘kingdom’ in the gospels. That is not neccesarily the ‘kingdom of Israel’ but a more encompassing kingdom – ruling over all the nations of the earth.

    John 18:36 “Jesus answered, ” My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.””

  35. “Who knows, but it seems a real stretch to call Jesus a rabbi and then say he wasn’t a Pharisee. Who else had rabbis?” (Yael)

    That is true – that’s why trying to fit the character of Jesus somewhere is rather tough to do from the texts (they don’t exactly really tell anyone who are what he was in his era). Only title he ever gets is Christ (greek word for the title Messiah).

    I tend to think he was studying under the Pharisee’s (like Paul later on) and developed into a rabbi of some sort – since when he does call the first 4 disciples in Matthew – they all go without much hesitation. Maybe he looked the part? I also tend to think he may very well have been under the Pharisee line because most, and I would say 95%, of his critiicisms against religious leadership is railed at the Pharisee’s – he must of been very familiar with them – and he is seen in a synagogue reading at one point.

    However, he seemed to have a falling out with them in some regards (all the criticisms may be fact of this) – and maybe by the age of 30 he has decided to go out on his own. He kind of does read this way – he seems like a loner of sorts (him and John the Baptizer – who was likely an essene – due to his wondeful clothing line). Also Jesus is fond of the temple in some regards (mixed reviews on this in the scriptures) – but he does drive out moneychangers from there. He seems to respect many people of the law – he talks with lawyers, students, and Herodians – in bantering conversations that seem like a rabbinical debate (at times).

    So to be perfectly honest, I have no clue what Jesus was in the Jewish system – it is not clearly stated anywhere in the gospels. AlI I can go by is he was Jewish and cared about that aspect of his life…and then the rest remains questions.

    Matt 10:6 “but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
    Matt 15:24 “”I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

  36. “Basically, I had a much more positive impression of Galambush than I did of Levine” (Mystical)

    I really loved Levine – was the best book I have read in years (maybe ever). However, I think I will also check out the ‘Reluctant Parting’ by Julie Galambush – it sounds like a very awesome book to read over. Thanks for the recommendation – if I can find it – I will read it. I say the same about Joshua Heschel and all I can find is a Brad Hirschfield (whom I thoroughly enjoy and am yet to finish).

  37. I really loved Levine – was the best book I have read in years (maybe ever).

    Wow, interesting. I really detested the book.

  38. Society,
    I was wondering if you ever finished Hirschfield since you didn’t mention him again.

    Well, you know I just toss out ideas to be accepted, rejected, ignored, whatever. I’ve given my thoughts for whatever they are worth and will bow out for now before I fritter away all my time again. Jason, you are bad news for me! I start out just taking a little peak at your blog and the next thing you know…..

    I hope you do some reading over at My Jewish Learning sometime, however. They give at least an overview of some ideas and I think give a fairly open-minded view, although I must admit I only did a quick run through. If nothing else it’s a starting point for further exploration if one so desires I suppose.

  39. Yael,

    When did Judaism become Matrilineal? I have asked several friends (all of whom are Jewish) and never really felt like I got a good answer. It couldnt have always been that way, otherwise we would talk about YHWH being the God of Sarah, Rebekkah and Rachel/Leah. Do you know when and why it happened?

  40. I have plans to finish Hirschfield in the next coming weeks – the big move has kind of thrown my schedule off for a few weeks. But I have 3 weeks holidays coming and then I am going to fly through a few books if I can – maybe even see if I can find a few more – Heschel seems to be the one I desire to read.

    “hope you do some reading over at My Jewish Learning sometime” (Yael)

    I will add it as a link – and check it out whenever I get the chance…

  41. I wonder about this to be certain – are we really that removed or is that we do not search this avenue out? (SVS)

    My comment was more about the fact that we are removed from the intricacies regarding debates of the Law, because we have not been raised and submersed in Judaism, as someone born into it. We may lack the jargon, slang, nuances, and word play that a Jewish person would learn. I suppose we can learn, but it may be a long and hard road to walk, metaphorically speaking.

    You are right about the fact that we, followers of Jesus, do not search into Judaism as deeply as we should. Its good that we have commentary from Yael on these issues, it provides us with perspective on Jewish thought.

    BTW – I like the Levine book, it makes some interesting points. Like mysticalseeker points out, Levine seems to have an axe to grind. But controversy, debate, and intrigue is what makes this whole topic so interesting and what makes for great discussion.

  42. Society,
    Email me your address. I have a Heschel book I absolutely want to send you as a housewarming gift. Hey, my house is ‘decorated’ with books from one end to the other so a book must be an appropriate gift, right? This one is the best Heschel book I’ve ever read, let me tell you. I’ve barely started into it’s 800 pages and I feel like I’m in heaven. You’re going to love it, I am positive. And being as how it’s so lengthy, you’ll get to enjoy it for a good long time! What better gift could I give you?

    Here I am again. I have no discipline whatsoever, but what can I say? I always end up on some interesting search every time we exchange ideas. Better luck for me tomorrow perhaps?

  43. When did Judaism become Matrilineal? I have asked several friends (all of whom are Jewish) and never really felt like I got a good answer. It couldnt have always been that way, otherwise we would talk about YHWH being the God of Sarah, Rebekkah and Rachel/Leah. Do you know when and why it happened?

    I don’t think that matrilneal and patriarchal are mutually exclusive. The sexism in ancient Judaism is still perpetuated today in modern Orthodox Judaism, which has resisted allowed women to become rabbis. I think it is clear that a religious tradition can still be matrilineal and yet deny women equal rights in other areas.

    It’s funny to consider the business of female rabbis in light of the fact that the Church of England has just decided to allow women to become bishops. To which I react, “Splendid! The Church of England has just entered the twentieth century!” Too bad we are living in the twenty-first. Oh well.

  44. Mike,
    Well, we liberal Jews do talk about the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah….but of course that is a much later addition to be sure.

    My understanding of the matrilineal descent tradition is that it must have been in place by the time of Ezra 10:3

    “Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of the LORD, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.”

    The foreign wives were sent away along with their children. If Jewishness was transmitted through the father the children would not have been sent away since one would not send Jewish children to live with idolaters. This is the reasoning I’ve always heard. It seems like in Torah Jewishness is through the father but perhaps with the many wars and captivities it was changed to the mother since paternity isn’t always as easy to ascertain? As a woman who labored for 36 hours with one son and 18 with the other, I can say with 100% certainty that the two boys I gave birth to are without a doubt my sons!!

    Perhaps that is the same answer you heard already, but that’s the best I can do, at least for now. I can’t ask the rabbis I work with since they’re all on vacation, but I’ll look around some more on my own, as always. In case the guys are feeling left out, tribal identity does come from the father. You can’t be a cohen unless your father was a cohen, the same with leviim.

  45. Yael,

    That is a much more in-depth answer than I had previously been given. I had heard that because paternity was harder to prove this was the motivation, but that was all, and that didnt seem like enough to me. The connection to Ezra makes sense in a lot of historical ways.

    Interestingly enough, the Jewish lineage I have is from the tribe of Levi. It may seem a little odd, but it means a lot to me considering I feel called to full-time ministry.

  46. MysticalSeeker,

    “I don’t think that matrilneal and patriarchal are mutually exclusive.”

    That is a good call, and honestly I never looked at it from that angle, which surprises myself 🙂 I guess for some reason I assumed they would be mutually exclusive, but you are right, they dont have to be.

    Can I ask you another “perspective question” that has always confused me (but you kinda brought up in your response)?

    “I think it is clear that a religious tradition can still be matrilineal and yet deny women equal rights in other areas.”

    This gets said about denominations within Christianity too, but I dont understand why the differentiation of a particular role equates to a denial of equal rights.

  47. Just to toss out another question, but since we (on my blog) all write papers which analyze the original Hebrew and Greek, I have the interest of trying to enable Greek and Hebrew characters on our blog so that people can see our work in other formats besides PDF files. Does anyone know how to do that (or if it is even possible)? Thanks.

  48. Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀνήχθη εἰς τὴν ἔρημον ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος, πειρασθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου.

    Just another test

  49. For me, knowing the greek does little to nothing to change the actual english interpretation we have/use (like there is some secret thing hiding in the greek somewhere). I have studied greek and can even read and pronounce it – even have all the study helps on my bookshelf….how often do you think they have helped shape my own theology…very little I can tell ya that.

    The english translations would not exist if they were not fairly accurate in the first place – they were translated to be useful – not to have the greek re-checked for every single questionable thing we think is there. I have some faith in the scholars that did the translating – they knew what they were doing and what passages should read like.

    That’s why I don’t put much stock into studying greek – it’s fine and all – but who here is going to scribally write out any of the books or letters from the NT – in Greek? Likely no one. I think people go to the greek to sound a little smarter on a subject – and sometimes it works – but the actual only thing someone would need is to understand is english, some history of the times, Jewish culture and norms, context, and what the words mean (definition). Beyond that, I am not sure how much more knowing greek can add – except to say – you can do it.

  50. Wilfred-

    Thanks, i appreciate it!

    Societyvs-

    One of the main reasons we study the greek is because there are so few documents about Jewish opinion during the 200BC-70AD period. As a result, one of the primary documents conveying the Jewish thought of that time is the LXX, or rather comparing the Jewish Tanakh to the Greek LXX. It is not word for word, and represents actually more of a commentary than a direct translation. So if you really want to understand the Jewish culture in Jesus’ day, it would be worthwhile to understand both the Greek and the Hebrew. On a practical level, I prefer the Hebrew. It is much easier (for me at least).

  51. Mike,
    We don’t give much credance to the LXX. “On the 8th of Tevet the Torah was written in Greek in the days of king Ptolemy, and darkness came upon the world for three days.” We have many traditions from rabbis who lived during the time frame of 200 BCE-70CE. It’s a matter of whose story one accepts I suppose. I think Society is getting a pretty good idea of Jewish culture from studying with Jews. He’s already studied the Christian version, now he’s learning the Jewish version as well. Seems fair enough to me. In the end he will draw his own conclusions I have no doubt.

    So, I’m curious. What is your connection to Levi? As you no doubt know, we still honor Kohanim and Leviim at shul with aliyot and the Kohanim give the priestly blessing sometimes. Most rabbis come from Israel of course, the non-priest Jews (not the land), since there are many more of us. That was one of those shifts of power away from the temple cult to the Pharisees where knowledge became the basis for leadership rather than just birth yet which still left the former ways a place within the new. I’ve always liked that mentality of not having to demolish what came before in order to go a different course.

    Society,
    I never had much interest in Greek either. Hebrew is a different story. The first time I heard Hebrew being chanted at shul I was in love. That’s what I wrote about before where my soul knew this was where I belonged.

    I’ve always hesitated to use much Hebrew in my writings for the same reasons you give for not using Greek. I suppose it depends on one’s intended audience whether the inclusion of another language is a valuable addition or a barrier.

  52. Socieyvs.

    My best friend was Greek when I was a kid, Im not so sure you want me using the Greek he taught me though 😉

  53. I dont understand why the differentiation of a particular role equates to a denial of equal rights.

    It just does. 🙂

    I will point out that non-orthodox Jewish congregations have managed to do just fine with female rabbis. Similarly, Christian congregations that have allowed women to serve as priests, pastors, or bishops have also done just fine. Women are perfectly capable of performing a teaching or pastoral role in a religious congregation. I think that the expansion of human rights within faith communities is just one way that people continue to listen to God’s call of widening the circle of inclusion for God’s full love. The same goes with expanding full rights to gays and lesbians.

  54. Yael,

    “We don’t give much credance to the LXX.”

    Not any more, maybe. But it wouldnt have been translated if it didnt fill a need. At the time, most Jews didnt even speak Hebrew. You had Aramaic and Greek. Aramaic was the more common in Jerusalem, but for just about every other Jew during that time period, the only way they could access the Jewish Tanakh was through the LXX. My point being, even if you dont think it is important to today’s Judaism, it certainly was to them back then. As a result, Christians study the LXX.

    “On the 8th of Tevet the Torah was written in Greek in the days of king Ptolemy, and darkness came upon the world for three days.”

    You quote this but you dont cite it. I looked it up and found an interesting description about it (http://www.ou.org/chagim/roshchodesh/tevet/seventy.htm), which seems to indicate that the reason the Jewish sages didnt like the LXX was not because it was uninspired (in fact the legend speaks to its inspiration) but that it divested religious control from the sages.

    Now the Megilat Ta’anit that you quote has several different versions, additions, and interpretations, so I have no idea when this was actually written. The earliest it could have been was 7 AD, and that was a couple hundred years after the LXX was written. So at this point in history, it very well could have had political motivation behind the quote (ie we hate the Romans, so lets curse the language they use for education and philosophy). But then again, this quotation very well might come from the Hebrew interpretation 7 centuries later. I have no idea.

    Regardless, a case cannot be made that the LXX was not influential in the Judaism of 200BD-70AD. If it truly was irrelevant, then it would never have come into existence and it never would have been used by Jews.

  55. Mystical Seeker,

    “Similarly, Christian congregations that have allowed women to serve as priests, pastors, or bishops have also done just fine.”

    In what sense do you think they are they doing fine? I dont know about the practical application in the Jewish synagogues, but in Christianity we are seeing that the churches and denominations that allow women priests, pastors, and bishops are in the fastest rate of decline. I dont mean to sound argumentative, butI have been reading a lot about it lately, so this is all really fresh stuff in my mind.

  56. **I dont understand why the differentiation of a particular role equates to a denial of equal rights.**

    To me, it comes down to the idea of “seperate but equal.” We can say that we are all equal in God’s eyes, and yet have different roles. The problem comes down to the fact that the roles for one side are seen as more important than the roles for the other. The priests/pastors/leadership positions are those who provide direction, leadership (obviously), spiritual guidance, biblical interpretation, the direction the church goes, and so forth. It goes very much beyond a difference when there’s that much authority assigned to one role, and none to the other.

  57. Mike,
    My point being, even if you dont think it is important to today’s Judaism, it certainly was to them back then. As a result, Christians study the LXX.

    But is the Septuagint you study today the same as the Septuagint that would have been available at the time? How do you know something wasn’t changed 7 centuries later? Your statements are quite dogmatic, yet I don’t see the basis for any dogmatism. You gave a recommendation to Society, I told him a Jewish opinion of your recommendation. Society will take our statements for what they’re worth and make his own choices. Why argue over things we cannot know for certain?

    A wise rabbi taught me:
    Among the special garments worn by the Kohen Gadol was something called the Urim and Thumim, stones that were to be worn underneath his breastplate. They served as an oracle through which the High Priest would consult with God if ever a very difficult question arose.

    According to the Mishna in Sotah, the Urim and Thumim ended with the end of the first prophets. We no longer have the same access with the Divine nor Divine wisdom to guide us. We need to examine each situation carefully and hope that we get it right. What the Mishna is telling us is that we have to live with a certain amount of modesty about the decisions which we do make in life. Often times we will believe we know the right answer – or a particular course of action is the right one–but to live with a certain amount of modesty about such decisions seems to be equally necessary.

    We are often so convinced of our views and positions, that we feel that nobody can know better than us. But the end of the Urim and Thumim saw the end to divine assurance that what we believe must certainly be true. A long time ago , a president of the shul, told me to learn how to say these words, “you might be correct.” He was only repeating what the Mishna in Sotah originally taught.

    It’s wonderful when people are self assured and confident. But it is equally important to recognize that no matter how much we know, we are still finite, and we should be loathe to claim that God is always on our side, that our politics are always correct, that our religious orientation can not learn from others, no matter how much we believe in the correctness of our positions.

    Although Wikipedia can say whatever people choose to have it say, it does express both sides of the issues with the Septuagint in language that is easily understand and to the point, so I’ll post a link and shut up.

  58. When I say that they are doing just fine, I mean that there is no substantive difference in the abilities of a female priest, pastor, or minister to do her role versus those of a male in the same position. Members of the congregation prove to be served just as well by females in pastoral roles, in other words.

    And, for what it’s worth, the Southern Baptist Convention is losing members, and it does not allow female pastors.

  59. Yael,

    “A long time ago , a president of the shul, told me to learn how to say these words, “you might be correct.”

    I appreciate your willingness, in the midst of a discussion in which you have a different view point, to be open to the possibility that you may be wrong. I realize that because the tone of my “voice” doesnt come across in these comments, it can seem as though I am being argumentative. I honestly enjoy these conversations because they refine my understanding of the material.

    For instance, while I think I made a solid case for the usage of the LXX in 200BC-70AD period, I can admit that you may be very correct when you ask:
    “is the Septuagint you study today the same as the Septuagint that would have been available at the time? How do you know something wasn’t changed 7 centuries later?”

    The truth is, I dont know, nor can we (unless further manuscript evidence comes to light). But this is a point that I wouldnt have thought of unless you mentioned it in our dialogue.

    Does that make sense?

  60. Mystical Seeker,

    Gotcha. I appreciate the clarification.

    “And, for what it’s worth, the Southern Baptist Convention is losing members, and it does not allow female pastors.”

    This is very true. Sadly, a number of denominations are in decline, but the research I was looking at studied the rate of decline in churches/denominations and found that those who had women pastors were declining at a much sharper rate than those without. If you are interested, you can find the research in a book called “Why Men Hate Going to Church” or you can go to the website
    http://www.barna.org/
    which is the research organization that did the studies cited in the book.

  61. “…Christianity we are seeing that the churches and denominations that allow women priests, pastors, and bishops are in the fastest rate of decline. I dont mean to sound argumentative, but I have been reading a lot about it lately, so this is all really fresh stuff in my mind.” (Mike)

    Just wondering where the information on the stats could be found. I would like to do some research.

  62. Wow!!!!, your some kind of prophet or something Mike. 🙂 Your comment showed up before I even asked the question

  63. OSS,

    I completely agree! You just connected a lot of dots for me there. I have studied a lot on the effects of Medieval Christianity on Modern Christianity (misogyny, dualism, etc) and one of those negative things is the elevation of vocational ministry over that of “secular” work. In other words, the sacred/secular distinction. As I understand it, this is the result of Platonic thought creeping into the church and taking the church away from its Jewish roots. This is one of the reasons why I champion a Jewish outlook on Christianity, because I still believe it to be a Jewish sect (in spirit if not in practice). Anyway, when you said “The problem comes down to the fact that the roles for one side are seen as more important than the roles for the other” like 50 lightbulbs went off.

    Mystical Seeker, would you agree with OSS’ assessment or do you think there is more to it?

  64. Mike,
    Thanks for your comment. I hold in the back of my mind that I could well be wrong about many things. I guess I don’t worry too much about being wrong. If I’m wrong about something important, in time I’ll probably figure it out. If I leave open the possibility of being wrong, I can keep turning things this way and that. Did I miss something? Is there another way I could view this?

    I’m glad our conversation was useful to you as well. For myself my curiosity was sparked so I’ll be doing some more reading of my own. I pulled another book from the library at shul yesterday afternoon, one that will really push my limits. Should be some interesting reading…..

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