Are There Good Reasons for Studying Early Christian
Literature at Ben-Gurion University?
Let me add some personal remarks to what Dr. Deichmann has already said. He invited me in the Summer of 2002 to join his vision for establishing a study program at Ben-Gurion University. The original aim was to teach and to research the close relations between the Tanakh and the New Testament. In the beginning, I confess, I was reluctant to accept this idea. I was not sure if there was a hidden agenda behind this scholarly project and if its real aim was an attempt to do some kind of missionary work under the flag of scholarship. I agreed to get involved in this undertaking only after this point was cleared up.
I am convinced that it is very promising as a scholarly project — and after one semester here at Ben-Gurion University, I am totally sure about it. I am, as some of you may know, by profession a New Testament scholar. For my generation the study of Jewish literature of the Second-Temple period and also of rabbinic literature is in a way a common procedure. Many of my colleagues have studied at least sometimes at a department of Jewish studies, either in Germany or somewhere else in Europe, North America, or Israel. The aim of these Jewish studies done by Christian scholars is no longer motivated or biased by the aim, open or hidden, to prove or to show the superiority of Christianity over against Judaism or something like this. The motivation is instead the insight that Christianity in its origins and developments is not understandable without its early Jewish “matrix.” To study the literature and heritage of Judaism means for New Testament scholars first of all an enrichment of our understanding of the beginnings of Christianity as a Jewish messianic movement.
Teaching New Testament and early Christian literature at an Israeli