The New Testament is often seen as a collection of Christian texts. But when does it make sense to begin discussing something called “Christianity” as distinct from Jewishness? Yes, Jesus was Jewish, talking about how to be and do Jewish things. And his framing, as relayed in the gospels, was more inclined to frame Jewishness in terms of the righteous cultivation of social relationships in light of a relationship with the one, true, righteous God of the Jewish people. That latter relationship was increasingly not limited to Jews of heritage but to Jews of custom–those who inclined to a particular understanding of God’s kingdom. To this point, the gospels don’t even describe Christianity and discuss synagogues more than they do church. So as we read the gospels in their sitz im leben, it’s imperative that we don’t presume later Christian tradition on texts that were concerned with the development of a certain kind of Jewishness.
And this is where a lot of people get confused in the study of the New Testament. Jewishness, like any conversation on identity, is not monolithic. There are diverse and even competing forms with shifting alliances and allegiances. And if we are to understand the Jesus movement’s emergence historically, than we need a better understanding of Jewishness.
Define the following terms:
- Dead Sea Scrolls,
- Rabbinic Judaism,
and write, in 250-350 words, what you are learning about the diversity of doing Jewish. Please include questions that you want to discuss in class. And make sure that you are also reviewing prior notes on Judaism so that you are building your understanding.