September 21st, 2005

I See You!

Theological Notebook: More Jewish Roots Material

Mickey tossed this out to our students last week as a useful additional bit of reading for their introductory reading assignments. It's a book review done in the evangelical Christianity Today which is a popular-style magazine, but which shows--it seems to me--the ascendancy of this newer vein of scholarship. The emphasis on the Jewish roots of Christian thinking has always been to my mind the best way to read the New Testament: the Letter to the Hebrews has always been more powerful, to my mind than the Letter to the Romans. So I put this here for anyone interested.

As far as the students here go, it's turning into a fun group for me, too: I'm getting fairly steady work as the TA, which is not always the case. But these are all Honors students and a few Theology majors, so everyone is pretty gung-ho. It's been interesting to see how without any formation in the material at all, they're anticipating very well: having had the very-condensed basics of Nicaea explained to them, as soon as they saw the trinitarian formulations, they immediately began to ask the questions that would be the key Christological problems of the Council of Chalcedon in the following century.

Anyway, on to the review:
Editor's Bookshelf: The Church's Hidden Jewishness
Hebrew thinking in a Greek world.


In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity by Oskar Skarsaune, InterVarsity Press, 455 pages, $30
reviewed by David Neff | posted 09/15/2003

The year was A.D. 70. Jerusalem was surrounded by Roman troops, and an important Jewish leader made a daring escape. He had his friends carry him inside a coffin past guards at Jerusalem's gates. (Josephus reports that in the two and a half months before Jerusalem's final destruction, 115,000 corpses were carried out of the city. No wonder Yochanan employed this ruse.)

Once outside the walls, Rabbi Yochanan made his way to the Roman camp and asked to see General Vespasian. They struck a deal, and Rabbi Yohanan went on to Yavneh where he took the lead in reorganizing Jewish belief and life, thus laying the foundations for the Rabbinic Judaism we know today.

But Rabbi Yohanan wasn't the only one to escape. According to Eusebius, the community of Jewish believers in Jesus fled Jerusalem as well and took refuge in the Gentile town of Pella in the Decapolis.

Those who remained in Jerusalem died. The Temple, the ritual center of Jewish religion, was destroyed. And much of Judaism died with it. The various religious and political parties whose names we know from the New Testament and Josephus were wiped out: No more Sadducees, Shammaite Pharisees, Essenes, or Zealots.

But the followers of Yohanan and the followers of Jesus survived, each group developing its own unique way to worship the God of Abraham without the sacrificial system of Moses. Though the two groups went their separate ways, they continued to influence each other, much the way Republicans and Democrats do: by the way they frame issues and by the way they try to distinguish themselves from each other. In In the Shadow of the Temple, Oskar Skarsaune, professor of church history at Norwegian Lutheran Theological Seminary, tells how that competition helped keep Christianity Jewish.

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Clanmacnois Tower

Random: Wednesday is Quote Day

Wednesday is Quote Day, so says bassmike
"They are not free who do what they want but not what they should, nor those who do what they should but not what they want. Freedom is to do what we want by doing what we should."
–Archbishop Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, at the August 2005 annual "Meeting" of the Catholic "Comunione e Liberazione" movement in Rimini, Italy, a seaside resort on the Adriatic coast.
The talk was an extension of the theme of the 2005 "Meeting," which is a line from Don Quixote: "Freedom is the greatest good that the Heavens have given to humanity."