Wednesday, March 15, 2006

So What Is "Judaism" Anyway?

Dr. Michael Bird (link) recently posed a question on this blog regarding the Gospel of John and the "parting of the ways" (the break between Judaism and Christianity). Frankly, I am humbled by such questions because they always remind me of how little I know. I do have some OPINIONS about this issue and may even post on them. That said, I would like to gain a better sense of what those in the discipline of NT studies mean by the noun "Judaism."

So here are two (revised) related questions:
1)With regard to the sphere of Christian origins, how should the noun "Judaism" be used when referring to such groups as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Qumranites?
2)Should historical Jesus studies make a firmer distinction between the Hebrew Bible and Judaism (understood in a very broad sense) as religions that are derivative from and interpretations of the Hebrew Bible?


Jim said...

Strictly speaking it's not proper to speak of "Judaism" since in the first century CE there was no monolithic judaism. More properly, we should speak of "Judaisms". Note the "s"- it's very important. So, in order to answer your question we have to have a bit more information. Which segment of Judaism do you have in mind? The Pharisees? the Qumranites? The Sadducees? The common folk? Etc...

As to your # 2- What do you mean? In the time of Jesus who besides Jews or proselytes would have bothered with the Hebrew Bible? Anything past the time of Jesus has nothing, per se, to do with the Historical Jesus.

Mark Owens said...

Thanks for the comment Jim. I thought the first question was a little too vague, so I've reworded it. I will address the second issue you raise later. Blessings.