Friday, October 01, 2010

Jewish scholars eye New Testament to bridge the "interfaith divide" (or to self-servingly manipulate Christians into embracing Judeo-Christianity?)

More Jewish scholars studying New Testament as history, but not as believers

( -- by Lisa Gardiner

-- SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (RNS)-- A Jew studying the New Testament?

When he was an undergraduate, Rabbi Harry Manhoff scoffed at the idea. That's when he first read the Christian Scriptures for a religion course. The experience filled him with rage.

"I grew up in a small suburban community in New Jersey, where anti-Semitism was rampant," he said.

But these days, this Reform rabbi and leader of Temple Beth Sholom in San Leandro, Calif., quotes the Gospels with ease. He's apt to describe Jesus as a miracle worker, charismatic leader or sage in a lecture at a synagogue or church. He is completing a doctoral dissertation on the New Testament for the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Make no mistake, however. Manhoff hasn't become a Christian. Neither has he had a mid-life turn toward messianic Judaism, in the manner of Jews for Jesus. Instead, he is among a growing number of Jewish leaders and scholars who are studying the New Testament not as Christian Scripture but as Jewish history.

Along the way, Manhoff and others are discovering new opportunities for interfaith discussion.

"Jews and Christians have so much in common," Manhoff said. "If we could just speak the same language for a little while, there'd be a tremendous amount of possibility."

Jewish New Testament scholarship is breathing new life into the interfaith movement, according to John Pawlikowski, director of the Catholic-Jewish studies program at the Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Center at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Although Jesus was Jewish, the New Testament isn't read in the mainline Jewish tradition. Because Jews don't consider Jesus the son of God--as Christians do--his teachings aren't considered relevant.

While Christians widely acknowledge that Jesus was born a Jew, many believe he rejected the faith of his time to establish a new religion called Christianity.

Concerns about assimilation within the Jewish community and centuries of anti-Semitic New Testament scholarship add to the interfaith divide...MORE...LINK

No comments: