Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How to sing the havdalah blessings

In case you haven't learned it and would like to (or have friends that would), here is a video of the popular havdalah blessings song by Debbie Friedman.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A new book on Paul and the Torah

No, I'm not talking about Introduction to Messianic Judaism (though if you haven't gotten your copy, you should get one!). I'm talking about James Thompson's Moral Formation according to Paul. Another point to Dr. Scot McKnight (who's gotten a lot of play on this blog recently) for bringing this to our attention at A Question for the Apostle Paul:
 “How should we live?” That’s the question so many today want to ask Paul — and about as many answers as the numbers of those who ask him the question! There are tensions when one asks this question of Paul — he was after a Jew and a Jew would say “Obey the commands.” But many think that’s not what Paul would say. This question has been posed in a remarkably sensitive manner by James Thompson, at Abilene Christian University, in a book called Moral Formation according to Paul.


Thompson knows that many today — Christian theologians in particular — don’t want Paul to be offering a Torah-shaped set of ethics. So there are a number of approaches to Paul’s sources:1. Some see his sources in typical Greek and Roman (and Jewish) moral traditions. That is, folks like Dio Chrysostom or Plutarch or Musonius.
2. Some think Paul’s ethic is absolutely reduced and emerged from the command to love. Bultmann. Or Freedom. Strecker. Even in a situational framework. Robin Scroggs.
3. Yet others think it is all about guidance and discernment of life in the Spirit. Here he appeals to Udo Schnelle and Jimmy Dunn.
4. Some think what Paul wanted was for people to do what he did: imitate Christ.
5. Last he looks at Richard Hays’ proposal of three focal images: cross, community and new creation.
Thompson thinks each falls short and that there is no going forward until one understands the central place the Torah played in Hellenistic Judaism — Paul’s concerns, after all, are with Gentile converts to the gospel in the Diaspora. And in that location the Torah was very, very important, even if it wasn’t halakic and even if it didn’t often sound like the rabbis were to sound.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Scot McKnight says calling people Pharisees gets close to anti-Semitism

From Pharisees: Revisiting an Old Problem:
It is a standard procedure to say “Pharisee” and mean “legalist, bigot, hypocrite, or picayune meddler into other people’s religious business.” Look at any dictionary. But this is in and of itself a caricature and stereotype, for no one (I hope) would think that all Pharisees have always been religious bigots. Such language spells danger down the road in ways that might surprise us. Even more, we have tended to download anger or extreme disagreement with others onto this term “Pharisee.” So, when I call someone a Pharisee I do not mean anything nice or even charitable. Which, in and of itself is dangerous because no group (well, there are exceptions) is always wrong and always bad.

Martin Luther — and this was all charted out in 1977 in EP Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism – tended to equate the Roman Catholic establishment with the Pharisees of the Gospels. Everyone should read this book, regardless of all the scuttlebutt about his ideas ever since. The invective of Luther against the Roman Catholics in the 16th Century then was downloaded onto the Pharisees of the New Testament.

Here’s the problem: the impact of our use of Pharisee is that we have learned to call all Jews and anyone we think is too conservative a “Pharisee.” This can get very close and often actually is anti-Semitism.
Good on you, Dr. McKnight!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New book released, Introduction to Messianic Judaism

I have long been anticipating Zondervan's Introduction to Messianic Judaism, edited by David Rudolph and Joel Willitts. The book was finally released this week. You can order it from here.

I expect to post a fuller review of the book's contents after I have a chance to go through it. For now, here is the summary from as well as a listing of the table of contents:
This book is the go-to source for introductory information on Messianic Judaism. Editors David Rudolph and Joel Willitts have assembled a thorough examination of the ecclesial context and biblical foundations of the diverse Messianic Jewish movement. The work brings together a team of respected Messianic Jewish and Gentile Christian scholars, including Mark Kinzer, Richard Bauckham, Markus Bockmuehl, Craig Keener, Darrell Bock, Scott Hafemann, Daniel Harrington, R. Kendall Soulen, Douglas Harink and others. Opening essays, written by Messianic Jewish scholars and synagogue leaders, provide a window into the on-the-ground reality of the Messianic Jewish community and reveal the challenges, questions and issues with which Messianic Jews grapple. The following predominantly Gentile Christian discussion explores a number of biblical and theological issues that inform our understanding of the Messianic Jewish ecclesial context. Here is a balanced and accessible introduction to the diverse Messianic Jewish movement that all readers will find informative and fascinating.
x.  Introduction
                David Rudolph
1.  Messianic Judaism in Antiquity and in the Modern Era
                David Rudolph
2.  Messianic Jewish Synagogues
                David Rudolph and Elliot Klayman
3.  Messianic Jewish Worship and Prayer
4.  Messianic Jews and Scripture
                Carl Kinbar
5.  Messianic Jews and Jewish Tradition
                Carl Kinbar
6.  Messianic Jewish Ethics
                Russ Resnick
7.  Messianic Jewish Outreach
                Stuart Dauermann
8.  Messianic Judaism and Women
                Rachel Wolf
9.  Messianic Jews in the Land of Israel
                Akiva Cohen
10. Messianic Jewish National Organizations
                Mitch Glaser
11. Messianic Jews and the Jewish World
                Mark S. Kinzer
12. Messianic Jews and the Gentile Christian World
                Daniel C. Juster
13. Messianic Jews and Jewish-Chistian Dialogue
                Jennifer M. Rosner
14. Matthew's Christian-Jewish Community
                Daniel H. Harrington
15. The Restoration of Israel in Luke-Acts
                Darrell Bock
16. James and the Jerusalim Council Decision
                Richard Bauckham
17. Interdependence and Mutual Blessing in the Church
                Craig Keener
18. The Relationship between Israel and the Church
                William S. Campbell
19. The Redemption of Israel for the Sake of the Gentiles
                Scott J. Hafemann
20. Paul's Rule in All the Ekklesiai
                Anders Runesson
21. Equality in the Church
                Justin K. Hardin
22. The Supersession and Superfluity of the Law?: Another Look at Galatians
                Todd A. Wilson
23. The Bride of Messiah and the Israel-ness of the New Heavens and New Earth
                Joel Willitts
24. Mission-Commitment in Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament
                John Dickson
25. The Son of David and the Gospel
                Markus Bockmuehl
26. Jewish Priority, Election, and the Gospel
                Douglas Harink
27. The Standard Canonical Narrative and the Problem of Supersessionism
                R. Kendall Soulen
28. Summary of the Chapters
                Joel Willitts
xx. Conclusion
                Joel Willitts

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

TLC show features Christian Bar Mitzvah

Over at the blog, guest blogger Anna Marx surveys reactions to a recent episode of TLC's "The Sisterhood," where an intermarried family plans a "Christian bar mitzvah." (the father, who is of Jewish descent became a Christian and is a pastor) plans a "Christian bar mitzvah."

Some of what gets mentioned (Torah cake with Jesus in the center?) makes our Messianic bnai mitzvah ceremonies look quite, well, normal!

While some of the respondents from the Jewish world were uncomfortable with the kind of borrowing going on here, others felt that everyone has a right to define their own religious rituals.  InterfaithFamily's blogger registers mostly befuddlement, but plenty of the comments seem outraged.

Monday, February 4, 2013

On "looking Jewish"

A helpful reminder from You're Not Crazy: "Funny, She Doesn't Look Druish":
Repeat after me: There is no such thing as "looking Jewish." At best, you can describe your bespeckled, big-schnozed, friend with frizzy brown hair as "looking Ashkenazi." But even that's just an ethnic description. Your "-stein" or "-witz" could be a born-Catholic. Appearance and name are totally meaningless when it comes to whether that person is Jewish, either halachically or culturally. And you can't duck the question by saying, "Oh yes, that nice black lady is Jewish, but she must be a convert." She may FFB five generations after an ancestor converted or an FFB of Ethiopian descent. That Indian lady may be b'nei Menashe. That Hispanic guy may be from the (quite large) Jewish community of Mexico City. That Nordic beauty may actually be Hungarian. And yes, maybe any of those is a convert, but maybe so was the parent of your frizzy friendwitz.

The question is pointless and, if anything, one guaranteed to be negative. I know that people think "Oh, you don't look Jewish" is usually intended as a compliment (at least toward a "white" person). In other words, "Oh, you're not as ugly as the rest of us Jews! You look like a shiksa!" Even if it is your intent to compliment, it is wrong to put down the Jewish people in such a way, equating the word "Jew" with "ugly." And it's not even remotely true. So just stop already.
I will add that this applies in Messianic Jewish circles too. Don't assume that everyone eats matzoh ball soup on Pesach or has a certain look.

For more on Jewish diversity, see