Teaching the Holocaust: 4-27-09
'Old Testament,' Take 2: 4-29-09

Jesus in a Jewish context: 4-28-09

I hope you had a chance over the weekend to hear Prof. Amy-Jill Levine (pictured here) in Kansas City talk about how to understand Jesus in his Jewish context. For her full Vanderbilt bio, click here. She's a Jewish scholar who teaches New Testament studies to Christian ministerial students.


At 6:30 tonight I'll be leading a follow-up discussion to her appearance here at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kan. Even if you missed Levine's talks here I hope you can join us.

Briefly here today I will summarize a few points that she made, most of which grow out of her new (well, relatively new) book, The Misunderstood Jews: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus.

* Christian seminaries generally do not teach students how to understand Jesus in the context of the various kinds of first century Judaisms in which he lived. The result is that many preachers continue to pass along, often without meaning to, anti-Jewish sentiments because they simply don't know how to understand the New Testament in a Jewish context. "Jesus was a Jew. This should not be news."

* If Christians often don't understand either first century Judaism or Judaism today, it's also true that "for the most part Jews have no clue about the diversity in Christianity."

* Some of the early leaders of the Liberation Theology movement expressed anti-Jewish thoughts that have continued even today among some followers of that approach.

* The World Council of Churches has produced many publications of the last 25 years that contain "shockingly anti-Jewish statements." Although the WCC at first denied and then defended these publications, Levine said, it recently has asked for help in fixing the problem.

* Anti-Jewish sentiments drawn from the New Testament come from many unexpected places, including former President Jimmy Carter's Bible studies, available online. Levine said she has found him, for instance, comparing early Judaism to the Taliban.

* Christian preachers, often without malice, wind up passing along anti-Jewish views because they have not been taught to understand how to read the New Testament in its Jewish context. For instance, they sometimes will say or insinuate that all Jews at the time of Jesus wanted and expected a militant Messiah. Well, Levine said, some did. But most did not. So it's inaccurate and reflects badly on Judaism to suggest that Jesus' peaceful approach was somehow out of character with Jewish tradition. It was not. Similarly, the idea that Jesus introduced a radical new idea by calling God "Father," or, in Aramaic, "Abba," flies in the face of much evidence that Jews before, during and after Jesus' time often called God "Father."

* It's important to understand the wide variety of followers of Judaism and of who considers himself or herself a Jew today: "The definition of a Jew cannot be Holocaust plus no Christmas tree."

* The Lord's Prayer is a perfectly good Jewish prayer. Indeed, at the end of the Friday evening gathering (which attracted Christians, Jews and no doubt others), one of the associate pastors of Village Church led the audience in a recitation of the Lord's Prayer. It was quite lovely.

Well, there was much more -- and will be more tonight as we ponder what she told us over the weekend and what difference it might make to Jewish-Christian relations today.

* * *


I participated in a conference call yesterday for journalists about the next religion study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, and will have a more detailed posting about that in a few days (after I deal with a few other subjects). But to get you thinking about the study on why Americans seem to change their religious affiliations so much, I'm offering here today several stories about the study. For a Washington Post piece, click here. For the Associated Press story, click here. And for the USA Today version, click here. Despite all the churning in religious life in the United States, the people who did the study say it would be incorrect to call Americans mindless religion shoppers. For this new survey, called "Faith in Flux," click here. For previous Pew surveys on the religious landscape in the U.S., click here.



"Anti-Judiasm" is not the same as "Something believed by Christians that Jewish people don't like." Any-Jill Levine's comments about what Christian "preachers" believe about first century Jews is insulting and condescending. She claims not "all" Jews believed in a military-style takeover of the Holy Land. So what? At any given time in history, there's almost nothing that "all" people believe in. She claims that it should not be news to anyone that Jesus was a Jew. No kidding? The vast majority of "preachers" know Jesus was a Jew. Professor Levine sets up a lot of straw men and knocks them over in order to denigrate Christians. That's "anti-Christian" on her part.

Christians believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah. Jews don't. It's a fundamental difference. Christians aren't going to stop saying it just because many Jews don't like it or believe it. That doesn't make these people "anti-Judiasm." It makes them Christians.

Christians believe salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ. This belief is not "anit Judiasm." It's a fundamental Christian belief that can't be recanted or abandoned in order to be politically correct.


If you don't understand God's relationship with the Old Testament Jews, you don't understand much of the New Testament. In the Gospels, Jesus constantly quoted OT scripture. He was the fulfillment of OT prophecies. Christ is the focus of history; the Jews looked forward to their Messiah, we look back to Him. Paul constantly refers to the OT, as does the writer of Hebrews (many think he was Paul.) Many times the quotes are to clarify the meaning, other times to inject new meaning in these scriptures. If you really want to understand Jesus Christ in a Jewish context, read 'Footsteps of the Messiah' by Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Arnold is the real expert in this area. Ariel Ministries is his organization.

Will Graham

Bill, you accuse former President Carter of being anti Jewish because of the Taliban remark...I would like to see verification of that.

But if that is the case, how about pointing out the anti Jewish propaganda of the New Atheists....decrying the NOTORIOUS Jewish Lobby (Dawkins), wishing the Jews had been wiped out at the battles commemorated by Hannukah (Hitchens), or blaming the Jews for their own victimization because of their past refusals to assimilate (Sam Harris). The anti Jewish expressions are RAMPANT in the writings of the New Atheist authors, and I have heard the same expressed at local meetings.

So far as I know, you have NEVER spoken out on this.

Again, I would like to see verification of that Carter remark.

Will Graham

Biddy, if you are still trying to pretend that the Constution is atheistic because it does not contain the word God, or because Adams and Paine were atheists, try again.

Adams was no atheist, and I NEVER SAID he called Paine "a dirty little atheist", although he did denounce him for other things.

I know he would not have called Paine that.


Go back to your wikipedia and edit it some more, after all...it is the source ANYONE can edit, so that way YOU will never be wrong! Bahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!


Will Graham,

Carter has whole books exposing his anti-Semitism.


DW -- I didn't get the impression (from what Bill has said about Levine) that she is anti-Christian. OF COURSE most of us who have grown up in Christian churches, have grown up with a nominal knowledge that Jesus was/is Jewish. I just don't think most of us got much of a sense of what being Jewish means. And I can't speak for you, but I DO recall hearing sermons about how the Jews were counting on a militant Messiah who would lead them to overthrow the Roman government.

I also had no idea The Lord's Prayer was/is a Jewish prayer.

DG, I just went to the website of Ariel Ministies, and it says on their homepage that they exist to evangelize Jewish people (among other things. To say that Fruchtenbaum is the "real" expert seems kind of like an attempt to discredit Levine. But I think Levine has something unique to offer, as a Jew who is still Jewish.

From last night, thank you Harry for sharing about the few species that are either exclusively female -- or else if not exclusively female, the females "can" nevertheless reproduce without males. This leads me to think that if one sex was here before another, it was probably females, as I haven't heard of any species that are exclusively-male, and don't need females to reproduce (though I'm open to being proven wrong about that).

Still, I agree with Red Biddy in that I wouldn't want to go to that asexually-reproducing planet. God definitely was right that it wasn't good for us to be alone.

So, Red Biddy, I presume you mean Orthodox Jewish MALES start the day thanking God for not making them a woman. I'm wondering what the Orthodox Jewish women pray???


And, Will, you really do have a reading-comprehension problem, or you're just skimming and making assumptions. Red Biddy has never said the Constitution is Atheistic -- just that it's secular. And it IS secular.

Dolores Lear

"If you don't understand God's relationship with the Old Testament Jews, you don't understand much of the New Testament."

Faith in Flux is a normal Human Affliction. How many translations of the Scriptures are there?

As soon as a Child can Understand, they start asking questions about the Faith they are born into, and why they go to Church.

When I went to Church as a Child in the 1920s, most of my family and friends went to Church.

If Children are raised in an environment of the Faith of their family, there will not be as many questions, until their environment changes, in school or moving.

What is the Faith most Humans observe? Believe in a God Faith, that has a Life After Death to look forward to?

What does Life After Death mean, now that we have High Tech? Humans can correct many Genetic diseases and Physical defects that were fatal in the Past, and Humans look forward to Overcoming Death, with High Tech.

The High Tech God, in our Human Image, in Genesis, that flies up in the air and out into Space, in fiery chariots, is like our High Tech Pilots and Astronauts today.

God, in our Image, did Colonize Life on Earth in Genesis. High tech is the Religious God's 'Super'natural.

God, in our Image, Reproduced Eve from Adam's Rib. This us High Tech Cloning Knowledge today.

High Tech was 'Supernatural' to Natural Humans, 100 years ago, and is to some natives today.

Humans have Misused our Supernatural High Tech, for Killing and Death, by our Atomic and Nuclear Pollution and Waste, making Bombs to blow up our Home Planet. Why?

For the Love of God or Hate of our Brothers/Sisters of Life?


Dolores Lear


Do we still have Faith, that God will Destroy our Home Planet with a Judgment Day Fire, or are Humans doing this, with the combustible pollution they are putting on land and sea?

Our Faith is in Flux today, with all the High Tech Misuse of our High Tech, and Nuclear Bombs, made by Religious Misbred Killer Humans. Few Humans were Atheists.

With a High Tech Translation, the Peace God in Genesis, is Our High Tech Human Clone Ancestors from Space, that Colonized Earth.

Our Human Ancestors are not GOD, who made the LIFE Elements, visible and invisible. GOD is not a Human.

The Killer God in Scripture and Myth, is not GOD nor our High Tech Ancestors.

The Killer God is the High Tech Human Noah/Atlantis Society, like our Killer Society today. High Tech has been on Earth before today, Recorded in Religion and Myth.

What does Religious Life After Death in Heaven mean today, in our Religious Flux.

Fallen Body Birth Humans have Faith in the Supernatural Gods, Goddesses and Angels, that 'are' Celibate Humans, like Jesus.

Humans on Earth, cannot stop the Dying Cycle in our Physical Lifestyle, of HeteroSexual Body Birth, Death, and Rebirth, until they Return to High Tech Purebred Reproduction, like the Lord God, in our Human Image.

High Tech can Prove Eternal Physical Human Life 'After Birth', is Possible on Planets and in Spaceships, like the Lord God in Genesis, and the Father at the Time of Jesus.

High Tech can Disprove Evolution on Earth, but not Somewhere in Space on another Planet.

Life 'After Death' is the Return of our Living Eternal Elements to GODs Storehouse, to be used again and again.

Dolores Lear

"Still, I agree with Red Biddy in that I wouldn't want to go to that asexually-reproducing planet. God definitely was right that it wasn't good for us to be alone."

In Genesis 1, God made all the Species and then the male and female Humans. No one was alone.

In Genesis 2, another record of God making all the species, from the ground for Adam to name. Then making Eve from the male rib, as a Helpmeet.

This Special Meaning of Oneness, Body Birth males and females do not have, and keep searching for their Other Half.

More than one marriage or sexual partner, but they still have different Genetic and Physical Bodies.

Only in Cloning, can Humans Literally work together, in a Peace High Tech Society on Planets and in Spaceships.

The Perfect Caretaker Clones Reproduced Children, that became Incompatible Mates and Killers.

Fallen Human Males are still Reproducing Defective Genetic and Physical Children, even 'fetus' reproduced in the lab, by Immaculate Conception.

So far, it has not been Proved, that Females are able to Reproduce without the Male Sperm.

In the Christian Bible, Old and New Testament, there were Supernatural Births, when barren women were told, by a Human God or Angel, that they would have a child.

These High Tech Humans, were either our High Tech Ancestors, or the Noah/Atlantis Society.

It will be up to High Tech Translators, as to who were the Peace Gods, and who were the Killer Gods of Religion and Myth.

We Know Who the Killer Gods are today, with supernatural fire from heaven, with our atomic and nuclear bombs on land and sea.

Everything Old is New Again, on Planet Earth today, with a High Tech Translation of Religion and Myth.


From yesterday -- Will, when I asked if you and adamh could see no good resulting from scientific and technological developments, it was a question not a statement. I wasn't assuming you couldn't -- just puzzled that you and adamh seem to feel we're not blaming science enough for the Holocaust.

In my readings about the Holocaust, I do recall hearing about various technological advancements that made it possible, for the first time in history, for people to be killed en masse. While I agree that it's horrible for technology to be used in such a way, I still don't see the technology in itself as evil. What's evil is the prejudice that motivated people to use whatever means avaible to them, to harm and kill others.

Most of us couldn't imagine living without a sharp kitchen knife to cut up vegetables. Sharp knives can do a lot of harm -- but without a mind-set to harm others, that knife has much more potential for GOOD than harm.

This is why I think it's more important to understand things like anti-Semitism in Christian history, and listen to lots of other people, and gain appreciation for diverse ways of thinking and living. So we won't see others as the enemy, and won't WANT to use technology to harm them.

And, adamh, since I'm not a scientist myself (I can't speak for you), I find it a lot more productive to speak with my vote (and also my words), about issues like disarmament. You seem so focused on the scientists just "stopping" and refusing to make any more weapons -- are you really so ignorant of the fact that as long as we are funding this work, even if the current scientists step down, there will always be others who will take the job? It's like blaming an executioner for the death penalty: it's not a job I would personally take, but there will always be someone who sees this as the best option for feeding their family. Working to change policy is more productive than attacking individual workers.

Appreciation for diversity is why I see someone like Levine as a better resource for appreciating Judaism, than I do someone like Fruchtenbaum whose stated goal is to evangelize Jewish people. Cole, the other day you asked us to remind you to share the latest installment of Christins trying to evangelize you. I realize you wouldn't be coming from a Jewish perspective -- but you would be coming from the perspecive of someone who has HIS OWN passionately-held beliefs, but is continuously-dealing with Christians whose sole interest in learning where he is coming from, is to try to persuade him over to their beliefs. No pressure if you feel like ignoring this for the moment!

Will Graham

Susan, I never said that Biddy SAID the Constitution was atheistic; I said he was pretending the Constitution was atheistic...else why does he keep saying the word "God" is not in the Constitution? Why does he keep pretending that none of the Framers were Christians? Why does he claim Paine was an atheist?

YOU don't need to learn to read, Susan, you need to quit LYING about what I said.


Will, It sounds like you're "pretending" to read Red Biddy's mind. And you are LYING when you pretend you can do this.

There are plenty of interesting things that Red Biddy actually SAYS -- it's really boring how you ignore the actual ideas being expressed, and instead make accusations based on what you THINK someone is thinking.

I see this as a form of "running away."


Red Biddy

Thank you Harry, for the biology lesson ! They have a Kimodo dragon in Chester Zoo, England that produced viable offspring asexually also. Apparently they (and some other lizards and snakes) can do it either way. Interesting fact about the Kimodo offspring produced this way is that they are all male. So if the animals happened to be completely isolated, like on an island, the species would untimately be weakened by interbreeding.

Worms are interesting too having both eggs and sperm in the same body so are capable of self fertilization too but seem to "prefer" to "mate" and so mix up the genes.

Susan puts it that "God doesn't want us to be alone" but the scientific view of reproduction favors a more practical approach that it is better to mix our genes up by the process of cross fertilization as it strengthens a species. Something Darwin observed of course.

Just Thinking

The Lord's prayer contains the line "Thy Kingdom come ... on Earth as it is in Heaven" That is the Jewish prayer that the Messiah would establish God's Kingdom here on Earth. It happened! Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom, and he unlocked it on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came to dwell in believers, and to translate believers into the Kingdom. The Kingdom came to Earth.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of being invited to spend High HoliDays with a Jewish family, from the first fast to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. All through this time, I was made aware of the paramount importance of dealing with sins toward others and toward God. It is impossible be 'at one' with God unless the veil caused by sin is lifted by God; careful preparation for atonement must be made by us or there is no hope. We have to want to be right with God and others, and to work toward it. Sins are not removed on Yom Kippur, but moved forward for a day of forgiveness that we hope will come. Atonement must made, but there is no atonement that can remove sin. There is only hope for a day of forgiveness.

In Christ came full forgiveness, with full pardon, and real hope. Christians cheapen forgiveness when they discard the history and tradition that came before, where we could not enter the Holy of Holies into God's presence. Christians cheapen forgiveness when we discard atonement made to God and others who we have wronged. Christians cheapen forgiveness when we presume upon grace without understanding the price that was paid. We've forgotten history. That is why so many Christians spend 40 years making an 11 day journey, and remain ungrateful, demanding, unforgiving and unrepentant throughtout.

Will Graham

Susan, I gave you specific examples of how Biddy is passing the Constitution off as atheistic, and you ignored them all.

And we know you are lying about who you claim to be, so get over yourself.

The rest of us, except for the atheists, have.

Red Biddy

DG said that Jesus was the fulfillment of OT prophecies.

But what were these prophecies and what were the writers of the NT trying to PROVE by them ? That Jesus was the Messiah or/and Son of God ? Will someone explain ?

One comical example of the gospel writers trying to make the OT prophecies work for them is the two different geneologies in the NT. The writers had obviously not co-operated on this "proof" as they gave Jesus two different grandfathers ! Also while trying to trace the Jesus ancestry back to David through the Male line they were shooting themselves in the foot - for if Jesus was supposed to be the Son of God and produced pathenogenetically by Mary they should have been trying to trace his "line" through HER not "HIM" !
As it was they both name Joseph as his father.
Compare Matthew Chapter 1 with Luke 3 it's a fun exercise.

Red Biddy

and...Will-fully Ignorant Graham

Would you please GIVE IT UP and lay off Susan for "ignoring" your so so very important pronouncements. Thank you Susan !
Just because the word God is not in the Constitution (THERE I'VE SAID IT AGAIN!) does not make it atheistic - my saying it is totally IRRELEVANT except apparently to you. You seem to have a problem with the WHO is saying it rather than the statement itself.

I'd like to know what you think of Thomas Paine's famous comment: "My mind is my own church" and tell me if you think that is an atheistic statement.

Why you have to continue to make so much of this - beats me !


Will wrote (to me), "And we know you are lying about who you claim to be, so get over yourself."

As an American, speaking to someone who I think also claims to be American -- where is your documentation for your accusation that I am lying about who I claim to be? Do you not believe that we are all innocent until proven guilty?

Oh, and "documentation" is not just you (or was it adamh?) reiterating that "you know who sent me here." I've already shared that I met Iggy briefly in person at the Darwin Day event, and later visited the kcfreethinkers site and emailed them, and Iggy emailed me back and when I asked about discussion forums, he sent me the link to Bill's blog here, and also to the kansas city freethought forum.

I'm not sure why I'm going into all this again, and I'm sure not trying to feed into your personal brand of craziness -- but to say I'm lying about who I claim to be, without backing it up with any documentation, is highly unethical. But maybe chanting your bwahahahahaaaaaa-mantra makes you feel better about abandoning ethics and honesty. As you can see, I just tried it out and it didn't do anything for me -- but maybe that's because I'm ethical and honest, though like everyone I am always learning I have room to grow, in these and all areas.

Red Biddy, I always heard that Jesus' geneology was traced through Joseph, because females aren't recognized in Jewish geneologies. But I've also heard that both Mary and Joseph came through the line of Judah anyway. I'll have to look further into the differences between Matthew and Luke -- it'll be especially interesting now that I no longer cling to the idea of the Bible being inerrant.


Red Biddy and Susan, A little information about Jesus' genealogy- for what it's worth. A really common mistake most of us make in reading ancient texts is assuming that what we think the text means is what the ancient author intended the text to mean. Jesus' genealogy is a case in point. In the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) genealogies served different purposes and an individual could have two or more genealogies according to the purpose for which they were drawn up. To quote Raymond Brown in "The Birth of the Messiah", "Only rather rarely and to a limited depth do ancient Semitic genealogies afford us a list of strictly biological ancestry—a factor that does not necessarily make them inaccurate since the intention of those who preserved them was not strictly biological. Too often the genealogies of Jesus have been read with the same expectations with which one read the list of grandparents and great-grandparents constituting the frontispiece of the family Bible.” Genealogies were used to prove membership in a tribe but also they were used to undergird status especially for kings and priests. Also in the Bible there is a more collective sense of personality. So if something of an ancestor appears in a descendant, the genealogy may reflect one's character, traits, or personality. Genealogies can serve to help make the connections between an idividual and past history.


To continue: People in the ancient world used genealogies differently than we do and expected a genealogy to do different things that we expect them to do. Their way wasn't better or worse, right or wrong, just different. I think it's helpful for us, in our reading to realize these sorts of differences.
There has been a lot of very interesting work done about the purpose of including women in Jesus' genealogy- that was not a common practice at that time. So the women are included to tell us particular things about who Jesus was and is.
There are some really good resources available, if you are interested in reading more, I'd be happy to suggest some. I hope this is helpful and not more information than you wanted to know.

Red Biddy

Yes, Nancy I'm sure you are right but in the case of Jesus the genealogists were trying to prove that he was "a son of David" in order to qualify him to be the Messiah as prophesied in the OT but at the same time and in the same gospels they gave similar accounts of his supposed VIRGIN birth in order to make him literally the Son of God !
Doesn't add up, particularly when the passage in Isaiah "And Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a child" is well known mistranslation of the Hebrew word meaning young girl. Hebrew has a specific word for "virgin" and it's not what is written there.

Glad you no longer cling to the idea of the Bible being inerrant Susan. A thinking person cannot continue believing that and remain completely sane ! (Sorry - couldn't resist that !)

I was curious as to Bill's comment that Levine found Jimmy Carter's comparison of early Judaism to the Taliban, anti-semitic. There are a lot of similarities between them particularly in their treatment of women. dietary laws amd so on, but if you consider that Islam was born in Arabia and Taliban (in Arabic "religious scholars") grew out of that, then it couldn't be anti-semitic to criticize either group as they are both semitic in origin.

adam harrison

Red Biddy, Paine's statement about his mind being his own church is definitely not an atheistic statement.

He obviously believed HE was God!

Of course, now he know better! LOL!

In all seriousness, though, Paine was a deist, and not an atheist at all.

adam harrison

The translation of the Isaiah passage is no mistranslation...the Hebrew word can have different meanings in context.

In this context, it was to be a sign. For a young woman to give birth would not be a sign, as that happens every day. Obviously, something different was intend.

As to Jimmy Carter comparing first century Jews to the Taliban, I have seen NO PROOF WHATSOEVER THAT HE MADE THE CLAIM...I have seen smears of his books supposedly promoting the same, but NOT ONE QUOTE IN CONTEXT. Zero. Zip. Nada.

adam harrison

Hey, Susan! I don't know about WILL, but all the documentation we need of the claim that you are not who you say you are is on this site and at KCFREETHOUGHT.

You claim to be a Christian, but you incessantly, and repeatedly, attack Christians of all kinds, all the while making up definitions as you go along, and all the while bending over backwards to praise the atheists.

I saw over at the KCFT site where "Godlessheathen" Lynne was making smearing names up of evangelicals and the like, and you gushed with glee, "Oh, you'r so cool!'

Come on Susan, who ya kiddin? If I didn't know better, I would say that you ARE Iggy! LOL!

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