Christianity in Jewish Terms

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky; David Novak et al. | Go to book overview

Israel, Judaism, and Christianity

DAVID FOX SANDMEL

"Hear, O Israel! The YHVH is our God, the YHVH alone."


Who Is Israel?

Traditionally, both Jews and Christians have considered themselves to be the heirs of biblical Israel, God's chosen people. Perhaps more than any other difference between Judaism and Christianity, this claim to be God's covenantal partner has defined the tragic history of relations between Jews and Christians. It is also the single aspect of Christian theology that has changed most radically since the Shoah, as a result of the process of Christian self-examination, of the dialogue between Jews and Christians, and of advances in critical scholarship concerning religion in the Greco-Roman world. After a brief look at the meaning of "Israel" for Jews, I will examine some classical and contemporary Christian understandings of what it means for Christians to be Israel.


Jews as Israel

For us Jews, the word "Israel" has three interrelated meanings. First, it refers to a people descended from the patriarchs and matriarchs. Second, this people Israel has a special covenant with God, first established with Abraham and subsequently renewed at Sinai. Third, according to our tradition, God has given us a specific land, the land of Israel. In English and in most other modern languages, we refer to ourselves as "Jews" (French, Juifs; German, Juden). The word "Jew," however, is not our original name. "Jew" occurs rarely in the Tanach or in the siddur. 1 Our oldest name is Yisrael, Israel; we call ourselves 'am Yisrael, "the people of Israel," and benei Yisrael, "the children of Israel." In non-Orthodox prayer books, one of the first benedictions to be re-

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