Back in Issue 5 of Grace & Knowledge, we reprinted a 1997 First Things article entitled "The Jews as the Christians Saw Them," written by eminent Church historian Robert Louis Wilken. In this article, Professor Wilken points out that there is a tremendous amount of common ground between Judaism and Christianity. Most notably, both Jews and Christians worship the one God of Israel, and both hold the Hebrew Scriptures to be divinely inspired.


Jews and Christians also have some fundamental disagreements, centering especially around the identity and authority of Jesus of Nazareth. These disagreements too often have resulted in antagonism and strife. As Wilken reports, many Christians came to believe that God had rejected the Jewish people, viewing the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple as evidence of divine punishment. (Those Christians had forgotten Romans 11:29, which describes God's covenant relationship with Israel as "irrevocable.") Sadly, such attitudes eventually led to severe Christian persecution of Jews.


One of our readers, after seeing the Wilken article, wrote to me that it would be very interesting to learn more about "The Christians as the Jews Saw Them." Keeping that reader's comment in mind, I have kept my eyes open for information on Jewish views of Christians and Christianity. The current issue of Grace & Knowledge includes two articles on this topic.


Historically, it has not always been safe for Jews to criticize Christianity openly, especially in places where Jews were a minority living under Christian rule. However, the rabbis who compiled the Babylonian Talmud enjoyed a great deal of freedom, and the Talmud contains a number of comments about Jesus, his teachings, and his disciples. (For more information on these comments, see Peter Schäfer's Jesus in the Talmud, Princeton University Press, 2007.) In this issue, we present a detailed discussion of one example, a clever joke made at the expense of any Christian who believes that God's commandments and covenant with Israel are obsolete.


Since the time of the Holocaust, there has been widespread repentance among Christians of past anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. (This Christian change of heart is another focus of the Wilken article.) In today's more positive and open climate, an increasing amount of productive dialogue takes place between Jews and Christians. In this issue I report on a challenging lecture given by Dr. Michael J. Cook, a Jewish scholar of the New Testament, on the subject of how Jews view Jesus and the Gospels. As a Christian, I did not find this lecture easy to hear, and my report includes my Christian responses to the Jewish perspectives presented in the lecture. I hope that you find this report, along with the rest of Issue 26, to be stimulating and helpful.


--Doug Ward


Issue 26


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On 26 Dec 2010, 13:40.