Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Studying the Jewishness of Jesus

Over the past several years I’ve seen an increased interest in studying the “Jewishness” of Jesus. I commend and encourage the interest but it has far too many on the popular level who do a sloppy job. I was happy to see the post by Joel Willitts from Euangelion who notes a source which seems to come up often: Ray Vanderlaan (though he is made even more popular by others such as Rob Bell). The common complaint is that too often the points made by these populizers is based on sources from much later than the New Testament. Here’s part of what Willitts wrote:

“Rabbinic literature is very difficult to work with for a number of reasons not least one needs a sophisiticated (sic) methodology for dating the traditions. When I was doing my doctorate I remember working tirelessly for a couple of months in the Rabbinic literature. I came to realized (sic) how foreign a world it was. One must be proficient in the first with biblical, mishnaic and modern Hebrew. Most of the secondary sources and study tools are in modern Hebrew. And those working in the field are almost exclusively Israelis. One notable exception is my friend David Instone Brewer at Tyndale House, Cambridge who is working on a multi-volume project whose acronym is TRENT (Traditions of the Rabbis from the Era of the New Testament). The second volume is to be released next month. This is an essential resource for those interested in using the Rabbis as background for the NT.”
It would be nice to have a popular treatment similar to D. A. Carson's Exegetical Fallacies that focused on these kind of fallacies.

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