Revelation: The Torah and Bible

By Goldberg, Louis | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 1999 | Go to article overview

Revelation: The Torah and Bible


Goldberg, Louis, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Revelation: The Torah and Bible. By Jacob Neusner and Bruce D. Chilton. Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1995, xv + 175 pp., $17.00 paper.

Neusner and Chilton share "the written part of the Torah" for Jewish people, and the "Old Testament" for Christianity (pp. x-xi). But each faith expression complements this document: For Jewish people, it is the oral Torah, which then with the written Torah comprises one whole Torah that God gave ("revealed") to Moses, while Christianity adds the NT, making it the "Bible, the word of God" (p. xii).

Neusner provides a logical presentation of a traditional Judaism in the introduction ("Torah and Bible"), as it developed through the successive stages of the Mishnah (by 200 CE), the Yerushalmi Talmud (by ca. 400 cE) and finally the Bavli (by 600 CE), which is "the one whole Torah revealed by God to Moses" (pp. 4-8). No closed canon exists in Judaism: "God speaks all the time through sages" (p. 18). By contrast, Neusner would say that Christianity in the canon of OT and NT was closed by the end of the 4th century but a footnote (added by Chilton?) states that "the pattern of Christian truth" continues "in a different form and forum from the canonical Bible" (p. 18, n. 18).

Neusner in part 1, chap. 1 ("How We Know God in the Torah, Written and Oral") demonstrates that through Torah study "the truth, like God, is one-and the unity makes all the difference; . . . God's mind and humanity's mind are one, which is how humanity can, to begin with, know God at all" (p. 49). In chap. 2 ("How We Meet God in the Torah") Neusner emphasizes further that the student of Torah enters into the mind of God, learning how his mind worked when he formed the Torah, written and oral. Finally in chap. 3 ("How We Know God in Heart and Soul") another possibility of knowing God is set forth in Zekhut, or "virtue" or "uncoerced acts of grace." While study of Torah is necessary to know God, another way exists to know him and even put a "lien of heaven," when godly people perform acts of Zekhut: Women, who have not had the opportunity to study Torah, or, common people who have no time for study. This special feature "is the power of the powerless, the riches of the disinherited" and the apex of this feature allows the "woman and the virtue that is natural to her situation" to "sit enthroned" (pp. 102, 193).

Neusner's system is reminiscent of how Aquinas argues in the Summa that most of Biblical doctrine can be gained by human reasoning but for those who have no time for this effort, the Scriptures provide the same information.

In part 2, chap. 4, Chilton discusses the Bible in the Church, where Paul claimed that "baptism made for a new Israel, after the manner of Abraham" (p. …

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