Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Re-Judaizing Jesus - A "Seismic" Event That is Changing the World

This week's Time cover story is called "10 Ideas That Are Changing the World." Idea # 10 is: "Re-Judaizing Jesus." Now I am impressed! There is a renaissance happening in New Testament Jesus-studies which is, to me, very exciting. And transforming. And, it gets away from fundamentalist hermeneutics to a more authentic approach to the New Testament documents.

The article mentions Ben Witherington and Rob Bell. "Each regards sources like the Mishnah and Rabbi Akiva as vital to understanding history's best-known Jew: Jesus."

"This," the essay states, "is seismic." Why? Because "for centuries, the discipline of Christian "Hebraics" consisted primarily of Christians cherry-picking Jewish texts to support the traditionally assumed contradiction between the Jews — whose alleged dry legalism contributed to their fumbling their ancient tribal covenant with God — and Jesus, who personally embodied God's new covenant of love. But today seminaries across the Christian spectrum teach, as Vanderbilt University New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine says, that "if you get the [Jewish] context wrong, you will certainly get Jesus wrong.""

Having read Levine's book The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus, and reading Witherington's socio-rhetorical biblical commentaries, I'm excited about this direction in Jesus studies. I resonate with Bell, who says re. this approach, "Once in, you're in deep. You're hooked. 'Cause you can't ever read it [the Gospel stories] the same way again."

( Note: Witherington writes sympathetically and critically about Bell's Jesus re-Judaizing here.)