Torah-Observant Christians

New at The Bible and Interpretation: Isaac W. Oliver, “Do Christians Have to Keep the Torah? The Cases of Matthew and Luke-Acts.”

For a long time it was not uncommon to posit that Jesus was responsible for the dispensation of such practices [as kosher rules, the Sabbath, etc.]. Jesus was the first “Christian,” who had come to announce the end of the Torah and Judaism. Draining Jesus of his Jewishness reached its unfortunate peak with the rise of Nazism when Jesus was even cast by some as an Aryan! However, ever since the end of World War II, the Jewishness of Jesus has been gradually resurfacing. “Blame” for the Christian distancing from Jewish practice has shifted instead to Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. Traditionally, Paul has been viewed as an “apostate” from Judaism who founded a new religion, Christianity. Yet even Paul’s relationship to his Jewish heritage, including the complex question of his attitude toward the Torah, is being revisited and intensely debated among scholars of early Judaism and Christianity. It is also becoming clearer that many early Christians continued to conceive of their faith in Jewish terms and even identify themselves with the Jewish people and story for longer than previously thought. Social scientific analysis of early Christianity and Judaism further reminds us that the social reality on the ground was always more complicated than the idealist and often polemical depictions found in some of the early Christian literature that has survived history. Many of the early Christian works that have been preserved were written by Christian intellectuals—often opposed to Judaism and the observance of Jewish custom—who tried to assert their theological ideals and norms upon other Christians. The average Christian on the street, however, might have cared little about what some of these church fathers wrote or preached from the pulpit. As late as the fourth century of the Common Era, John Chrysostom, was vociferously (and in some ways helplessly) trying to convince his Christian parishioners in Antioch not to attend services at synagogues and observe Jewish festivals (see his work, Against the Jews). Certainly, the surviving literature does not tell us the whole story about the complex history of Jewish-Christian relations.

This will definitely be on my syllabus the next time I teach New Testament.

Something for My Students

Good luck to Mercerians and others facing final exams next week!

April 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival

Jeff Carter has the honor of providing this month’s carnival. Well done!

Corinth, Women, and Rhetoric

Might some of the confusion over the role of women in 1 Corinthians stem from a failure to identify when Paul is actually quoting someone else’s opinion? My CHR 150 class addressed some of this last week when we discussed Paul’s teachings about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12–14. Scot McKnight goes even deeper as he describes some of Lucy Peppiatt’s conclusions in her new book, Women and Worship at Corinth. Interesting!

Happy Passover!

Here’s your Rube Goldberg retelling of the Exodus:

(H/T: io9.com)

March 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival

Jacob J. Prahlow has the honor of hosting this month’s Biblical Studies Carnival. It is now posted at his blog, Pursuing Veritas.

Hoffman on Leviticus: Why We Study Sacrifices

Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman offers a very helpful reflection on Leviticus and its place in contemporary Judaism:

Moses’ opening instruction provides a broader picture: “When you offer a sacrifice from yourselves to God….” The peculiar placement of mikem (“from yourselves”) implies more than the rote offering of animals. Sacrifice can be anything, as long as you really own it, says Ibn Ezra; better still, it must be something “from within yourself.”

The point is this: we study the sacrifices not because we expect to offer up animals again, but because sacrifice is only tangentially about animals in the first place. On a deeper level, it is about the human passion to give up even what we hold dearest, if our doing so will further life’s larger purposes. It is about self-sacrifice or it is about nothing.

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