Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rabbi Lawrence Schiffman on the gospels

Check out Rabbi Lawrence Schiffman talking about the gospels in From Jesus to Christ: Panel Discussion at PBS's

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The story of Jews, chopsticks, and Christmas

Around Christmastime, we're reminded of the long history that the Jewish people have had with...the Chinese people.  That's right: the widespread Jewish tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas Day has grown from insider joke to cultural meme.  JUF News tells just a little bit of the story of Jews, chopsticks, and Christmas--"a history that goes beyond the plate."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Scot McKnight on Mark Nanos: Where Christians Got it Wrong with Paul

Back in August, Christian author, professor, and blogger Scot McKnight did a series on Michael Bird's recent book Four Views on the Apostle Paul, which includes among its four authors Jewish New Testament scholar Mark Nanos.  A couple quotes:
It is big, then, for Nanos to say a major cutting edge between Paul and other forms of Judaism was that Paul permitted Gentile “conversion” without becoming “proselytes” to Judaism. You could convert to Judaism but did not have to become a Jew by undergoing circumcision. Paul opposes proselyte circumcision for Gentile “converts” to Judaism, because circumcision entails Torah observance, and Gentiles don’t have to obey the whole Torah.


The issue, for Nanos then, between Paul’s Judaism and others is “chronometrical”: What is appropriate now that the crucifixion and resurrection have occurred? Are we in a new era or not? Paul says Yes, others say No. In other words, it is eschatological. Or, perhaps even more nuanced, hermeneutical. How do we explain where we are in God’s plan? And it revolves around whether or not Jesus is the Messiah.
Read the whole summary at Where Christians Got it Wrong with Paul.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Light In Every Window

This children's book seems like a good one to add to the Chanukah library for kids.  From JUF News : Children’s book lights up holidays:
A Light in Every Window (Miniver Press) [is] a new children's book taken from a true event in Billings, Montana ...  the holiday season in 1993 when  hate-filled vandals in the town threw a brick through the window of a Jewish family that displayed the Chanukah menorah. In response, the other citizens ran out to buy all the menorahs they could find, and when those ran out, the Billings Gazette printed the photo of a menorah on its front page. Then everyone in the town displayed those menorahs in their windows too.
In this season of "publicizing the miracle," it's also worth collecting (and publicizing) stories like this, of hope and light in the ongoing relationship between Jews and Christians.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tablet journalist reading Daf Yomi discovers the origins of the Chanukah blessing

Tablet Magazine's Adam Kirsch is reading along with the Daf Yomi (the well-known Talmud reading cycle).  Currently he is studying through tractate Shabbat.  In Leading Lights: Week 10 of Our Literary Critic’s Daf Yomi Talmud Study, he comes across the Talmud's justification for employing the phrase "who commanded us" in the (clearly post-Biblical) observance of Hanukkah
[The rabbis note that the events of Chanukah] occurred in the 160s BCE, and the books that recount them are not part of the Hebrew Bible. This means that the holiday of Hanukkah is not a biblical but a rabbinic institution; and as we have seen before, rabbinic decrees are of lesser authority than biblical ones. 

This leads the Talmud to note an anomaly in the Hanukkah blessings. We praise God “who commanded us to light Hanukkah lights”: “But where,” the Gemara demands, “did He command us?” In fact, it was not God but the rabbis who commanded us to do this. Still, the Talmud attempts to reconcile this fact with the words of the blessing. Rav Arya cites a verse from Deuteronomy: “You shall not deviate from the word that they will tell you.” In context, “they” are the priests and judges of ancient Israel; but the rabbis see themselves as the priests’ inheritors, and they read the line as commanding obedience to all rabbinical decrees. 
This explanation is not commonly known in Messianic Jewish circles, where the rabbis are often accused of usurping divine or Biblical authority.  But such accusations rarely acknowledge the Deuteronomy passage referenced above, where authority to interpret the difficult questions raised by the Torah's teaching is actually delegated to the judges of Israel.

Is this authority then unlimited?  Interestingly, the Talmudic passage recognizes this very same question, continuing beyond the above logic to a more reserved conclusion.  Kirsch writes:

By this logic, however, everything the rabbis ordain should be considered just as sacred as what the Bible decrees—as the Gemara goes on to point out. The argument is finally settled by the common-sense opinion of Abaye: The blessing on Hanukkah is not absolutely required, but it is instituted “so that people do not treat [the holiday] with disrespect.” It follows that biblical holidays still take precedence over rabbinic ones: If a poor man has to choose between buying Shabbat candles and Hanukkah candles, the Talmud says he should pick the former.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Article on r̶o̶c̶k̶e̶r̶ crooner Glen Campbell mentions Messianic Jews

From Glen Campbell has rock, religion on his mind | Reuters:
Grammys in a cabinet? Check.

Movie theater? Check.

Jewish artifacts? Check.

Back up. The Baptist-raised country star, who says he once confused "menorah" with "manure," displays a Jewish candelabrum on the mantel, and a Hebrew book sits on the coffee table.

Adding to the cross-cultural confusion, the Rhinestone Cowboy soon breaks into a plaintive cry,

"Jeee-esus ... Help me find my special place." His German Shepherd joins in on the last bit.

It's not a hymn or a prayer. It's a line from an old song by the 1960s rock band the Velvet Underground. "Jesus" appears on the semi-retired singer's first album in 15 years for Capitol Records, the wryly titled "Meet Glen Campbell" (August 19), in which the 72-year-old singer covers tunes by the likes of U2, Green Day, John Lennon and the Foo Fighters.

Amid the jarring juxtapositions, Campbell reveals that he and his wife, Kim, attend the local synagogue every Saturday and celebrate Jewish holidays such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah, as well as Christmas. Kim cooks a mean brisket but is still working on her matzo balls. And grape juice subs for Manischewitz in the alcohol-free household.


For two decades, the Campbells have been adherents of Messianic Judaism, a religious movement whose members regard themselves as committed Jews but are rejected by mainstream Jewish denominations as following an essentially evangelical Christian theology.

"It's Jews who believe that Christ is the risen savior," Campbell said. "I think it will all come around to that."
(HT Todd D.)