For Jews and Christians, a holiday 'season of rapprochement'
The Hanukkah and Christmas holidays coincide amid a season of Jewish and Christian bridge-building, as evidenced, in part, by a recent surprise bestseller on Amazon.
This year’s Hanukkah and Christmas seasons coincide amid what many scholars and religious figures alike are calling a notable period of reconciliation and bridge-building between Jewish and Christian communities.Skip to next paragraph
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“The Jewish Annotated New Testament,” written by Jewish scholars and warmly received by top religious scholars and general readers alike, was a surprise bestseller earlier this month, selling out on Amazon, and is still hovering among the top recommended reads.
Co-editor Amy-Jill Levine, a Vanderbilt University Bible scholar, says the book, which puts the writing and writers of the New Testament into a Jewish context, has led already to substantial conversations between Jews and Christians, including seminars and high-profile interfaith meetings.
This caps at least a decade of mutual Christian and Jewish outreach, during which The Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore sponsored an event that led to what Professor Levine calls a remarkable statement, entitled “Speak Truth” and signed by nearly 170 rabbis and Jewish professors.
The document, first published in The New York Times, affirms eight major areas of agreement between Christians and Jews, including the assertion that both accept the moral principles of the Torah, both seek authority from the same book and both believe in the same God.
“Speak Truth,” or “Dabru Emet” in Hebrew, “was followed up by ‘A Sacred Obligation: A Christian Statement on Jews and Judaism,’ ” Levine points out.
“This is a season of rapprochement,” says Alan Brill, chair of Jewish-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, in South Orange, New Jersey. This increased dialogue has been fueled in part by information from recent archeological findings, including the Dead Sea scrolls dating back to 1947, finally working its way into mainstream Jewish and Christian scholarship, points out Professor Brill.
There have been pivotal, historic moments, such as the decision of the Second Vatican Council – the three-year gathering (1962-65) to address the Catholic Church’s relationship to the modern world – to officially absolve the Jewish people for any responsibility for the death of Jesus, as well as Christian expressions of support for the state of Israel. These moves have paved the way for greater shared respect for mutual history as well as different traditions. “It is an exciting time,” Brill adds.
Christian scholars share an interest in understanding Jesus in the context of history, says Silviu Bunta, assistant professor of religious studies at the Catholic University of Dayton in Ohio, who says there is a growing convergence of the current Jewish and Christian understanding of Jesus.