In TIME magazine’s recent 10 Ideas That Are Changing the World, number 10 was Re-Judaizing Jesus.In it, David vam Biema writes:
This [idea] is seismic. For centuries, the discipline of Christian “Hebraics” consisted primarily of Christians cherry-picking Jewish texts to support the traditionally assumed contradiction between the Jews — whose alleged dry legalism contributed to their fumbling their ancient tribal covenant with God — and Jesus, who personally embodied God’s new covenant of love.
He continues: The shift came in stages: first a brute acceptance that Jesus was born a Jew and did Jewish things; then admission that he and his interpreter Paul saw themselves as Jews even while founding what became another faith; and today, recognition of what the Rev. Bruce Chilton, author of Rabbi Jesus, calls Jesus’ passionate dedication “to Jewish ideas of his day” on everything from ritual purity to the ideal of the kingdom of God — ideas he rewove but did not abandon.
There is a lot to be said about this idea, and a lot that has been written (most of it can be found at www.thepaulpage.com), and there is no doubt, as the article argues, that it has been the catalyst for a huge re-think in Christian theological circles.
As you can imagine, the fact that Jesus was Jewish is not the crucial revelation; rather, its the shift in the understanding of Jesus’ relationship with his Judaism. In the theological world, this idea is known as “The New Perspective on Paul,” and it’s appropriate that TIME magazine gave this “idea” such recognition, because it may turn out that it will have greater ramifications than Luther’s 95 Thesis—but I certainly hope not!
Over my next few posts, I’m going to try to lay out the the”old perspective” in light of the “new” in the hopes of, at least, clarifying the areas of disagreement. This disagreement also exposes the faulty view that academic theological debates have no bearing on “everyday people,” as it were. From the para-church to the Pope, anyone who is currently in contact with Christianity–at any level– is interacting with these ideas, and whether they know it or not, has already been affected in some way .
As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “. . . there is nothing new under the Sun (1:9),” and the “New Perspective” can be seen as yet another iteration of a misunderstanding of the Gospel based, in part, on a shallow view of the nature of human existence, and the current manifestation of a theological system with too high a view of human freedom and ability, and too low a view of the Cross.
This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive overview, but in light of some of the theological themes we’ve been discussing on this blog, I thought this may be interesting, and is in the hopes that “we won’t be fooled again.”