What Christians can learn

from Jewish Thought & Tradition

Prof. Jae Jerkins

Jewish Identity: Covenant

God's Covenant

• "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One!"

• There is One, indivisible God (cf. The Shema)

     • Jewish Concept of God: no parts or offspring, not a person in history

     • "You shall have no other gods besides Me." (Exodus 20:2)

• The Torah was given to the Jewish People for the sake of all mankind

• The people of Israel have a permenant covenant with God and are His people

Believing vs Belonging

• Christians and Muslims can belong to any tribe

     and are part of their religion so long as they “believe”

• Jews can believe all kinds of things but must “belong” to the Jewish People

• Like American citizenship, you are Jewish either by birth or by legal application

     • Jewish by conversion: one can apply to a Jewish legal court (bet din)

• Belonging to the Jewish people ultimately means holding to Jewish traditions

     • "Your people shall be my people and your God my God." (Ruth 1:16)

The Land of Israel

• Israel has enjoyed self-rule 4 times, and has never been another country

     • capital (Jerusalem) • currency (shekel) • ind. judiciary (sanhedrin)

     • 1208 BCE: earliest evideence of the Land of "Israel"

     • 870 BCE: earliest evidence of the "House of David" in Israel

Jews as Tribe (Judah, the Sons of Jacob)

• 720 BCE: Assyrians destroy Northern Kingdom of Israel (“Ten Lost Tribes”)

• 587 BCE: Babylonian Exile of the Southern Kingdom of Judah

• 538 BCE: the remaining Israelite tribes return from Exile to Judah

     • Benjamin (assimilated), Judah (kingly line), and Levi (priestly line)

     • The remaining Hebrews of Judah are called "Jews"

Jewish History: Persia & Greece

The Persians & the (Second) Temple | 538 - 332 BCE

• Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, defeats the Babylonians

• King Cyrus grants his Jewish subjects the freedom to return to Israel

• King Cyrus and the Persians also pay for the Second Temple to be built

• The many Jewish stories collected in Exile now make up the Torah, the chief scripture of the Jewish people, brought to Jerusalem by the Prophet Ezra

The Greeks & Western Colonialism | 332 - 63 BCE

• After Alexander the Great, Israel faces Hellenism (Greek Culture)

• In Egypt, the Hebrew Bible is trans. into Greek – this is called the Septuagint

Judah Maccabee leads a successful revolt against the 'godless' Greeks

• The 'Rededication' (Hanukkah) of the defiled Jewish Temple is celebrated

Jewish Identity: Land & Religion

Israel under Occupation (note: Jews never left the Land of Israel)

🇮🇱 Jerusalem  • Babylon, 700mi (586 BCE)  • Persian Babylon (538 BCE)

• Greeks, 1550mi (198 BCE)  🇮🇱 Jerusalem  • Rome, 1400mi (37 BCE)

🇮🇱 Jerusalem  • Rome (136)  • Constantinople, 700mi (390)  • Baghdad (636)

• Crusader Rome (1099)  • Cairo, 300mi (1187)  • Mamluk Cairo (1260)

• Istanbul, 700mi (1517)  • WWI London, 2200mi (1920)  🇮🇱 Jerusalem (1948)

Jews as a Nation-State (Zionism)

• 1648: the general order of the world is maintained via laws of "nations"

• 1700s: Jewish culture flourishes in the Four Holy Cities of Ottoman Palestine

• 1800s: Jews repurchase coastal land in Israel from Ottoman land owners

Zionism is the modern claim that the Jewish people share in the human right to national self–determination in their ancestral homeland

Jews as Religion (cf. Christians & Aryans)

• 1769: Moses Mendelssohn is the first to self-identify practicing “Judaism

• Mendelssohn: Judaism is compatible with German Enlightenment values

• "Enlightened" Germans reconcieve of Jews as being a sub-human "race"

     • 1879: Judenhass is replaced with the more sciencey "Antisemitism"

Jewish History: Rome & Christians

Roman Judea | 63 BCE - 66 CE

• Herod the Great renovates the Jewish Temple to rival Rome itself

• Romans tax Israel heavily, occupying the land at the Persian border

• Mindful of their victory against the Greeks, several political movements begin

     Essenes (far-right): Spiritual recluses who reject the Temple and politics

     Sadducees (center-right): Hellenized conservatives control the Temple

     Pharisees (center-left): Hellenized liberal egalitarians; mostly rabbis

     Messianics (leftist): Apocalyptic/Hellenized Jews seeking a Messiah

     Zealots (far-left): ‘Freedom Fighters’ who aim to defeat Rome militarily

Destruction of the Temple in Israel

66: anti–taxation protests against Roman citizens precipitated plunder of Temple

     • Jewish rebel factions unite and take control of Jerusalem

70: Titus commits Roman troops to a seven-month siege of Jerusalem

     • This siege ends in the Destruction of the Temple

     • Only the Western Wall (a retaining wall) of the Temple remains

          • It is the holiest site in the world for Jews

132: The Bar Kokhba Revolt: 580,000 Jews are killed. Land renamed "Philistina"

136: The Temple Mount is covered by a monument to Zeus/Jupiter

Roman-Christian Antisemitism | 313 - 380

306: Jews cannot eat with, make deals with, or intermarry with Christians

313: Edict of Milan - Roman law officially tolerates Christianity

325: the Roman authority requires all Christians to agree on one orthodoxy

     • Easter no longer connected to Passover

380: Edict of Thessalonica - all Roman citizens must profess Nicene Christianity

     • Jews have no legal rights in Europe — now legally hunted as "outlaws"

Jewish Identity: Messiah

Simon bar Kochba: Messiah?

• Simon bar Kochba leads a great revolt against the Roman occupation

• hailed as the Messiah (132 CE)

• Romans crush the Israelites, rename their colony "Philistina" (Palestine)

Why wasn't bar Kochba the Messiah?

• Bar Kochba dies before all obligations are met, his title of Messiah is revoked

• All Jews didn't return to the Land of Israel with their wealth returned

• Romans didn't recognize their antisemitism and turn to Jews for guidance

World Peace didn't break out. There are still military weapons and war

So, was Jesus the Messiah?

• Jews: No. Jesus did not fulfill the prophetic list of the Messianic Age

• Christians: Yes, but Jesus will when he comes back (ie. the Second Coming)

• Jews: There's not a 'Messiah,' 'Son of God,' or 'Second Coming' in the Bible

• Christians: No, but we have those things in the New Testament

Jews & the Messianic Age

• What Jews have sought for centuries is not one person (ie. a "savior") to fix things but instead a Messianic Age for which we are all responsible to create

Jewish History: Christian Antisemitism

Crusades, Passion Plays, & Witches

• 1095: The Crusades - Jews stripped of the right to live in their own land

• 1290: expelled from England, 1394: France, 1421: Austria, etc.

Passion Plays stoke hatred among Christians against Jews for death of Jesus

• 1492: After Christian take over of Islamic Spain, they face Spanish Inquisition

Witch: outcast widow, dark clothes, pointy hat, long nose, strange books

• Christian narrative: A cabal of Witches meet in secret at a synagogue,

     led by the Devil, to manipulate Christians. "Abracadabra!"

The Jewish Question

• As modern "nation-states" (1648) come to prominence, the idea of a national identity takes hold. Jews are again set apart as the "Other" who don't belong.

The Holocaust

• 1938: Hitler’s leadership of Germany results in Kristallnacht

• America and other countries turn Jews away and pass antisemitic laws

     • "Travel Visas" invented in 1930s to keep Jews out of America

     • Before this, there weren't "illegal immigrants" at Ellis Island

• The Final Solution to the “Jewish Question”

     Hitler’s Nazi regime murders 6,000,000 Jews

1945: The Concentration Camps are liberated by the Allied forces

• Most European Jews have nowhere to return

     • Many seek a new life with fellow Jews in the Land of Israel

     Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed in the State of Israel

Jewish Ethics: The Face of the Other

Adam & Creation

• The world is not made out of the violence of Titans but the words of God

• The height of creation is the Sabbath (rest/freedom), the final day of the week

• Adam is made in the Image of God. All of humanity is holy. Life is sacred.

Eve: We are all Ben-Adam

• God makes Eve from Adam — we are all "sons of Adam" (lit. humanity)

• We encounter God when we meet the Face of the Other

• But how do we encounter that Face?

Two Brothers

• Cain kills his brother and denies responsibility for him. God demands justice.

• You are your brother's keeper

• Torah: "You shall not oppress the stranger..." (Exo. 23:9)

• Prophets: "You shall allot inheritance for the stranger..." (Ezek. 47:22-23)

• Writings: "let your toil enrich the house of the other..." (Prov. 5:10)

• Gospels: "I was hungry and you gave me food..." (Matt. 25:35)

• Qur'an: "do good to... orphans, those in need... to strangers..." (al Nisa 4:36)

Jewish Ethics: Israel "Struggles"

The Struggle of the Patriarchs

• Noah merely obeys God by building an Ark while the rest of humanity dies

• Father Abraham binds his descendents to an eternal covenant with God

• God threatens to destroy Sodom, but Abraham argues to save the good ones

• Jacob "wrestles with God" and wins, thereafter God renames him "Israel"

Moses & the Exodus

• Moses is called by God to command Pharaoh: "Let my people go!"

• Moses and Israel recieve the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai

• Moses leads the 12 Tribes from Egypt to the Promised Land of Israel

• On the way, the people fall back to idol worship. God threatens to destroy them, but Moses argues for all their lives — the righteous and the unrighteous

Jewish Ethics: Mitzvot

Ethics from the Talmud | The Caving Walls of the Study Hall

     Dispute between two rabbinic sages breaks out

     R. Eliezer says if he’s right, may the carob tree move 100 cubits (it does)

     R. Eliezer says if he’s right, may the aqueduct flow backwards (it does)

     R. Eliezer says if he’s right, may the walls of the room collapse (begin to)

     R. Joshua argues, “what are your qualifications to intervene?”

          God gave the Law at Mt. Sinai, but left it to Jews to interpret

     The walls stopped, but did not straighten out, in deference to both rabbis

          God responds, “my children have triumphed over me!”

Halakha (The Path or "Jewish Law")

• Jews stay connected (tzava) with God by performing good deeds (613 mitzvot)

     • Mitzvot cover everything from war to what is kosher to eat

• Mitzvot — chiefly Repentance, Prayer, and Charity — repair our world

• Jews are called by God to be righteous and “a light among the nations

• Tikkun Olam: Jews are called to "Repair the World"