Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A New Book on Jewish-Christian relations

Interfaith Approach to Forgiving Trespass

And from the book review:-

The premise of “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus” is simple: Jews and Christians need to understand one another. The implicit corollary: Despite years of trying, and to their mutual harm, they do not.

In a book intended for Jews and Christians alike (but mostly addressed to Christians) Ms. Levine offers both critique and corrective on topics as seemingly disparate as the Jewish content of the Lord’s Prayer and Christian responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...

...Ms. Levine’s documentation of the insouciance with which liberal Christians slander Jews and Judaism is perhaps the book’s most important contribution. She cites numerous examples of contemporary scholars, particularly theologians of liberation, who first “invent a bad Judaism” and then “explain how Jesus abrogates this bad system.” In her most outrageous example, Jesus’ crucifixion is said to mark the “triumph of the patriarchal god of Judaism.”

Many of the works Ms. Levine cites were published by the World Council of Churches, a group committed to overcoming anti-Semitism. How can well-meaning Christians perpetuate such theological abomination? Mostly, argues Ms. Levine, through sloppy scholarship and lazy reading.

Christian seminarians are taught little about Judaism, either ancient or modern (Judaism does not count as a “different” tradition in many programs that require study of a non-Christian tradition), and so look to the only “Jews” available — the Israelites of the Old Testament — for a model of what Jews do and believe. First-century Jews are seen either as figures transplanted from the Old Testament or as practitioners of a “late Judaism” that has corrupted Old Testament ideals. Modern Jews, in turn, embody the already-fossilized religion practiced by Jesus’ first-century enemies.

...Ms. Levine’s chilling tales of casual anti-Judaism among scholars who should know better rekindles the urgency of the task. She covers a vast canvas and of necessity does so in broad strokes, some more effective than others. But it is a book whose strengths far outweigh its flaws, and whose flaws count only because its subject matters so deeply.

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