According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Understanding Christianity's Jewishness

 
Christian Judaism
 
by Scot McKnight
Mar 20, 2012
 
E.P. Sanders famously said the problem with Judaism for contemporaries of Paul was that it was not Christian.
 
Sanders was a lightning rod, and at the same time, a lighthouse, for scholars in the late 1970s and 80s, and his legacy — usually called the “new perspective” (language used by Tom Wright and Jimmy Dunn) — has been that while there is a clear difference between “Judaism” and “Christianity,” that relationship in the 1st Century — and perhaps a lot longer — was not so much two kinds of religion but varieties within one religion, namely Judaism.
 
So the debate is often, Do we call “it” Christian Judaism (a Christian form of Judaism) or Jewish Christianity?
 
[My own opinion is to call it "Messianic Christianity," even as our faith is the same, making both one and the same, and placing the onus on us to understand the Jewishness of Christianity; and on the Jewish Christian on understanding its transnational, transcultural, transtemporal implications. - res]
 
And what are the consequences of seeing Christianity — the 1st Century kind — as a kind of Judaism?
 
Daniel Boyarin, in his new and (for the first time for Boyarin) accessible book, The Jewish Gospels, proposes his way of understanding the relationship of Jesus-following Jews in the context of non-Jesus-following (or is that Jesus-non-following?) Jews. His book deserves a wide reading, even if I think there a chunks of chunks of issues not covered and crying out for some explanation. Boyarin is one of my favorite Jewish scholars who interprets earliest Christianity, though I have to admit that his writing is often very difficult to comprehend. His first work, The Radical Jew (about Paul) and then his Border Lines are important contributions to understanding the original relation of the two groups — Jesus followers and those Jews who did not follow Jesus.
 
I make the following observations from his book:
 
First, for Boyarin the key or secret to comprehending earliest Christology — how Jesus became a “part” of God (his word, an odd one to be sure) — is Daniel 7. Over and over he takes the reader back to Daniel 7 to explain how Jesus understood himself and his mission in his Jewish world.
 
Second, Boyarin belongs in a history of religions school that contends ancient Israel combined El with YHWH, and at least one main version was that El was the older god and YHWH the younger one, though eventually YHWH takes over El. This version of how God developed among Israelites finds a similar version in the relation of the Ancient of Days with the “one like a Son of Man” in Daniel 7, and he makes the thoroughly acceptable suggestion that the Son of Man is “part” of God — sometimes he says a “second God” — because the only one who rides on the clouds of heaven in the Old Testament is God. That makes Son of Man divine.
 
So, when Jesus uses Son of Man, he is referring to Daniel 7 (this is a major issue for many NT scholars), and if he is then “Son of Man” is a divine title while “Son of God” is a kingly, more human, Davidic title. So Boyarin is turning simplistic but quite traditional theology on its head.

[e.g., The traditional understanding is that "Son of Man" refers to Jesus' affinity with humanity - His human-ness; whereas "Son of God" referes to Jesus' affinity to divinity - His God-ness. However, this is simply read by our English eyes and ears ("man," "God") whereas by Boyarin's account, we are to read those titles biblically - in their context with Scripture. One that I much prefer, even though I understanding the practical symantic purpose of relating our English preference for Jesus' hypostatic union - that He is fully, and equally, both God and man, in His spirit and flesh. - res]
 
Third, there is good Jewish evidence supporting this kind of Christology at work in Judaism well before Jesus, so when Jesus called himself Son of Man, and with that meant divinity and messianic vocation, there was nothing offensive or non-Jewish about his claim. Boyarin points to 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra, and he’s right here — if it can be proven that these texts are pre-Jesus [and hence, apolcalytic - res].
 
Fourth, Jesus lived an entirely kosher life. Mark 7: 19′s famous statement is not about making all foods clean — so that he was saying you can eat bacon and eggs with milk and still be kosher — but about saying that foods are not sources of purity but instead morals are. Bodily fluids make one unclean; food doesn’t. Food is kosher but this is not the same as purity. Jesus was contesting the addition to the Torah — making foods purity/impurity — by the Pharisees. (Foods are either permitted or not permitted; foods are not clean/unclean or pure/impure.)

[In my church experiences, many times I have found well-meaning Christians making this same mistake; esp. my Christian Torah brethren, who emphasize the importance of observing diets, dress, calendar dates, and other such Jewish decorums for Christian rigor. Under Jesus and Paul, each say this is not necessary. For myself, I have decided my Christianity is Jewish, but that I am not a Jewish Christian, but a Messianic Christian, freed from all laws except God's law to love. - res]
 
Fifth, suffering was an element of the messianic vision in the Jewish world — and here he sketches stuff in Isaiah 53, how Jews read Isaiah 53, how messianic Jews today are keen on this connection (he says this is a bit embarrassing to some orthodox Jews), how Isaiah 43 was messianic for Jews … etc..
 
The result for Boyarin: it was the 4th Century and 5th Century that split Judaism into two religions, Christianity and Judaism. The heresiologists of those days said one had to believe one version of the Jewish vision of Jesus (Trinitarian version) or they were not Christian; and Jewish scholars then pronounced such views heresy. Thus we have two religions.
 
There are problems in his theory, not the least of which is the relationship of Jews and (non-Jewish) Christians already in the 2d Century — Justin Martyr et al — but the big vision is right: Christianity was part of Judaism and everything about Jesus was within the Jewish story.
 
 
 

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