Thursday, March 16, 2006

So What Is Judaism Anyway (Again)

Over at Earliest Christian History, Dr J. Crossley has a very interesting post on "Christian Origins and the Law" (link). In the comments section, Dr. M. Bird makes the following statement: "Jesus opposed the halakhah of the Pharisees and not Torah per se, but sometimes text and interpretation were not always so nearly separated." It is the distinction Dr. Bird posits between "the halakhah of the Pharisees" and the "Torah" that I was pathetically trying to elicit in my previous post.

As I have read various works that attempt to address the issue of anti-Judaism in the Gospel of John, it seems to me MOST scholars who have addressed this issue fail to make this distinction. As Dr. West noted in the previous post, there were many varieties of "Judaism" in the ancient world. Those who attempt to define "Judaism" narrowly, in my view, miss the point of the FG. In many ways, I see the "Jews" in the FG as something of a collective representative character; a character that is intended to represent adherents of those religious groups (other than "Christianity") that derive their core beliefs from interpretations/supplementations of the Torah. In my view, the Evangelist lumps these diverse groups under the rubric of the noun "Jew" and attempts to portray a Jesus who is the fulfillment of their messianic hopes.

How does this approach to the noun "Jews" impact the question of anti-Judaism in the FG? At the very least, I think it allows for something of a more positive expression of the Evangelist's anti-Judaic stance. This reading of the FG allows for the development of a historical Jesus who does NOT proclaim the inherent inferiority of Judaism. Instead, Jesus becomes something of a reformer/prophet who calls adherents of Judaism to return to the roots of their religious heritage (much like the OT prophets) and recognize the realization of the promises in the Torah in him.

4 comments:

Celucien joseph said...
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Celucien joseph said...

Let me comment on your last paragraph. I totally agree with the last statement you wrote about Jesus's aim within Judaism. For the most part, Jesus was a Jew from Galilee, the founder of a ‘renewal movement’ within Judaism whose mission was to bring Israel back to the authenticity it once had. In other words, in the words of D. Flusser, "it implies that Jesus was “the founder of a ‘renewal movement within Judaism’, whose intensification of Torah and eschatology corresponds to ‘radical theocratic’ movements which took another form”.

J. B. Hood said...

Mark,

As a First Gospel guy myself, I get confused by FG--maybe 4G would be better? Or JnG or 4thG?

Another interesting question raised by at least some scholars is whether "Ioudaios" means Judean, not Jew more generally in at least some 1C contexts.

Mowens said...

Celucien,
Thanks for the quote. I may look that reference up. Blessings.

Jason,
Good point. I might try to use 4G in the near future. As to the meaning "Judeans," it certainly cannot be the meaning for the noun Ioudaios through the 4G and has been thoroughly refuted by Ashton. One scholar (S. Schoon) would probably describe the attempt to solve the problem of anti-Judaism by appealing to this meaning as a "dead end"! Blessings.

MO