A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations

By Cohick, Lynn H. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 2010 | Go to article overview

A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations


Cohick, Lynn H., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations. Edited by Edward Kessler and Neil Wenborn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, xxix + 507 pp., $252.00.

Edward Kessler and Neil Wenborn are to be commended for their superb efforts in producing a useful reference volume delineating the points of contact (and disagreement) between Jews and Christians, and Judaism and Christianity. Kessler, the Founder and Executive Director of the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations, is well positioned to lead the project, and Wenborn's extensive writing and publishing experience serves to make the Dictionary reader-friendly. The editors explain their endeavor as one that takes account of not only the religious nature of the encounters between the two faiths, but also the social, political, and philosophical dimensions of their interactions. The Dictionary is a timely, interdisciplinary work that brings together important strands of modern discussion, past historical events, and theological and philosophical reflections that enable the reader to gain perspective on the sweeping history of relations between Christians and Jews.

Investigating the whole of Christian history as it relates to Judaism, the Dictionary also includes numerous entries related to biblical Israel and the Bible, Second Temple Judaism, Rabbinic Judaism, and various modern expressions of Judaism as these topics relate to Christianity. The project takes as its starting point the twentieth century's rapprochement between Jews and Christians that was prompted by reflections on the Holocaust and Christian anti-Semitism, as well as Vatican II and the creation of the state of Israel. Entries range from Adversus Judaeos literature and Apostolic Fathers to Zealotry and Zionism. Established scholars, including Judith Lieu, Lee I. Levine, Moma D. Hooker, Amy-Jill Levine, Robin M. Jensen, Peter Ochs, Mary C. Boys, and William Horbury, contribute well written articles detailing the range of historical material in a clear and concise manner. The Dictionary's entries are further enhanced through a cross-reference system wherein terms defined elsewhere in the Dictionary are written in bold print.

Dipping into a few articles will highlight the Dictionary's impressive contribution to the emerging field of Jewish-Christian relations. David M. Neuhaus offers a wellorganized and informative entry on the "Suffering Servant" that, in two full columns, covers the differing views of this figure in Isa 52:13-53:12. After explaining both rabbinic and patristic interpretations, Neuhaus notes that modern exegesis has opened the door for both sides to grasp the value of the other's interpretation. Specifically, Christians are more apt to appreciate the factor of collective identity that operates in the biblical text, and Jews to recognize the redemptive atonement theology infusing the passage. Philip Alexander's entry on "Prophecy" (three and one-half columns) likewise offers a historical survey of the material from both the Jewish and Christian perspectives. He notes that traditional Judaism and Christianity understand the OT/Tanakh as prophecy in that God inspired the writers through the Holy Spirit. He adds that a key prophetic figure for Christians is the "Suffering Servant." Alexander's entry on "Targum" (two columns) explains the history of the Aramaic translation as it relates both to Jewish and Christian history, and observes that the Targums understand the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 as a messianic figure, over against rabbinic interpretation. The three examples highlighted above demonstrate how the Dictionary articles "talk" to each other, as the "Prophecy" and "Targum" articles mention the "Suffering Servant" entry. This conversation allows the reader to form a more detailed and coherent picture of Jewish-Christian relations.

Moma Hooker's lengthy entry on the Apostle Paul (five columns) provides a thorough discussion of Paul's thought, including that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a fulfillment of God's promises to Israel, emphasizing continuity with Judaism.

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