Before we even get to the “BIG QUESTION,” can we begin with a couple of sub-questions that I personally find fascinating –
(1) What Is a Jewish Society? and (2) Can the Jewish Society Be Clearly Defined Today?
I know you thought I was going to ask the “Who Is a Jew?” question but to me that question was rendered moot from the years 1933-1945 and I refuse to ask it. If you identify as Jewish through birth (mother or father; grandmother or grandfather; great-grandmother or great-grandfather, and I think you get my point) … you are Jewish. If you identify as Jewish because you converted because of marriage … you are Jewish.
However, the sociological questions need to be answered because if we are (and we are!) going to ask you to consider the Jesus question, we both need to know what is truly being asked.
In the late 1800s, the great French-Jewish sociologist Emile Durkheim in his ironically named book, Suicide, identified a Jewish Society by the following definition –
“a small society, compact and cohesive, with a very keen self-consciousness and sense of unity.”
It could be argued that on many levels that this is still somewhat accurate but is there a better and more modern definition for the 21st century? Yes…
Modern American-Jewish sociologist Aaron J. Hahn Tapper of San Francisco University wrote in his 2016 work Judaisms what I would consider a better definition for the Jewish people today –
“Are Jews best described as a religion, culture, ethnicity, nation, race, political orientation, or something else? And are Jews the only community that can be understood as an example of all of these categories at the same time?”
For as I as I was considering all the conceivable just religious labels that a Jewish person might wear today for a paper I presented a while ago, this is the short list I came up for my presentation (and I will add two that I realize now that I left off):
Bridgers between Conservative/Reform
Jewish Renewal Movement
LEFT OFF – Jewish Buddhists
LEFT OFF – Jewish Mystics (often aka Kabbalists)
So, and with all these religious labels possible in Jewish Society, why would Rabbi David Novak have said, “One cannot accept Christian and still be part of the normative Jewish community; one cannot live by Torah and still be part of the Church.” (emphasis added by Explore Messiah…?)
My question then is simply and really two-fold: (1) what really is normative in today’s Judaism and (2) Christianity values the Torah as the Word of God so why would he think that it would be impossible to live by Torah and be apart of the Christian faith? I wonder if he really is defining Torah as Talmud? And if so … shouldn’t he have said so? For who except the most observant of Jewish people really “observe” Talmud? Did even the Conservative Rabbi Novak? What do you think?
But before we move onto the next section … here are some Jewish facts that you should consider:
- Did you know that not only were all the first believers in Jesus Jewish (Peter, James, John, Paul, etc.) but also it was not until about 50 CE that non-Jewish people were even considered as Jesus followers and a Church Council without first requiring circumcision (Acts 15)?
- Did you know that followers of Jesus considered as a predominantly Jewish sect until about the early 2nd century and the Bar Kokhba Rebellion? It was not an either/or proposition until the rabbis made it so.
- Did you know that the latest Pew Research Survey (2013) shows that 38% of Jewish people believe that one can be Jewish and still believe in Jesus?
Incidentally, and for comparison’s sake, we should examine what Maimonides said about the issue versus what Jesus might have said:
|“When a man accepts all of these principles, fully believing in them, he enters into the community of Israel and we are bound to love him, to show mercy to him, and to fulfill with respect all of the duties of God imposed regarding love and brother-hood… But if he rejects one of these principles, he leaves the community and denies [the Torah], and he is called a heretic and apostate, and we are obligated to hate him and destroy him.” Introduction to Pereq Heleq||Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 10:28-30|
Which one appears to be the more preferred Jewish way of living that you would like to follow? Just asking? Let’s talk about it more at the CAFE Kehillah Discussion Board as well. And explore the next question Jewish Values vs. Christian Values as well.