Academic journal article Shofar

Jesus in the Context of Judaism: Quest, Con-Quest, or Conquest?

Academic journal article Shofar

Jesus in the Context of Judaism: Quest, Con-Quest, or Conquest?

Article excerpt

Editor's Introduction

Though many articles, reviews, and books are not of one opinion on the life and time of Jesus, there is a general understanding in the dogma of the Church and in the Quests of the Academy that the incarnate Christ of Christian belief lived and died a faithful Jew,' and what this says to contemporary Jews and Christians is the focus of this special issue of Shofar.

In the context of our time, Pope John Paul II challenged members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission to help the Christian understand that the Hebrew Scriptures are essential to their faith (1997). That is to say, Catholic mysteries, including annunciation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and redemption, are derived from the Hebtew biblical Weltanschauung. To speak of Jesus in the context of Judaism is affirmed by the Church's acceptance of the Jewish Hebrew Bible as the Christian Old Testament, and this presents distinctive challenges to the visions of the other. When Jewish and Christian savants interweave the narrative and teaching of Jesus into the cultural and social life of first-centuty Judaism in the Land of Israel under the rule of Caesar, they pinpoint the evolving christology of the Jesus believers, which conflicts with the viewpoints of the Rabbis and jurisdiction of Rome. Second, Christians and Jews committed to reading scripture together are deeply motivated by an academic and reverential disposition toward rabbinic Judaism and the desire to correcr the malign image of Jews and Judaism that emerges from erroneous readings of the Gospel sources. Arguably contra Iudaeos biases happen when historicity (Pharasaic kinship of Jesus, Peter, and Paul) is conflated with apologetic ("Give unto Caesar") and polemic depictions (Jews are a deicidal and misanthropic people), and theological innovation (Christ replaces Torah).

The desideratum is neither extreme skepticism nor full faith acceptance but rather a centralist position, somewhat contrary to an ecclesiastical tradition which teaches that truth is bounded and restricted to New Testament and early Christian kerygma (preaching) and didache (apologetics). Exploring the place of Jesus within Second Temple Judaism means to apply drash (insightful interpretation) to peshat (plain meaning of the text). Why so? Because Jesus the historical being, that is to say, the Jesus before the oral and written traditions, is transformed and transfigured into a nattative character that appears in the canonized New Testament. The Jesus in narratology is a fluid figure of creative, idyllic, and dogmatic imagination, whose realness cannot be fixed in any given episode, teaching, or telling.

Thus, on reading the Gospel of John's account of Jesus before the Sanhédrin, the trial before Pilate, and the sentence of death, one may project that the Evangelist's Jewish opponents are the reason for the virtual negativity of the Ioudaioi towards Jesus in his teaching and trial. Also, the cry of the mob, "His blood be upon us and on our children" (Matt 27:25) is neither an acceptance of guilt nor perpetual pedigree of damnation for the death of Jesus but can be seen as an expression of innocence that says if we are not innocent of this man's blood then may the curse be fulfilled (see Acts 18:6 and b.Sanh. 37a).

Jewish-Christian Encounter

The ground rule for Christian-Jewish scriptural reading and discussion is simple but complex. Let the Christian proclaim core Christian dogma (Easter faith) and dicta (e.g., Jesus "the living bread that came down from heaven" [John 6:51] is the savior of Israel) without a hint or utterance of anti-Judaism. Likewise, the Jewish observant needs be aware and sensitive of claims of Christian identity. The objective in the quest for the rediscovery, and possibly reclamation by Jews, of the Jewish Jesus is to penetrate the wall of separation and suspicion of "law and grace" and enable the believer in the Second Testament to appreciate the saga and salvation of Israel experientially in terms of Judaism, that is to say, in accordance with the teaching of Moses and the exegesis of the Sages of Israel. …

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