Published Date: May 08, 2016
Welcome to the first article in our Ask the Rabbi feature, and thanks to Carol, it’s a doozy!:-)
Here’s the question that Carol posed:
Hello and thank you for taking my question. I’d really like to know, why do you stop at the Old Testament and never move forward into the New Testament? It’s definitely a positive word for God’s chosen people. Thank you and may God continue to richly bless you all. Carol
Thanks for asking, Carol. I am taking this question at face value.
I think this has a lot to do with history and not just which is the better theology.
The end of the Second Temple period is possibly the most fascinating period in both Jewish and Christian history. For Christians, the reason for this is obvious: it is the period during which Jesus walked the earth. For Jews, whose theological history goes back at least thirteen hundred years before that and arguably to the beginning of recorded time, while there surely are other red letter events (the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai comes to mind as a prime example; see Exodus 19), the tectonic shift of Israel’s focus point from the Land of Israel and the Temple specifically to the exilic experience which lasted longer than any other definable period in Jewish History is clearly a fascinating period as well. And when you realize that both of these events happened at the same time, in the same place, with the same cast of characters, it becomes a classic “who would you invite as a dinner guest” event for both religion’s adherents.
Since that tumultuous time, both religions’ histories developed. Each developed, in parallel, a corpus of holy books, of religious heroes, and tenets of faith.
Without turning this post into an endless thread of “my religion is better than yours,” I have brought all the above to show that the simple answer to your question is that the Jews have a rich history and tradition that stands on its own, with no need to consider the New Testament, which is an exclusively Christian document. Truth be told, historically Jews have felt animosity towards Christians because of the tragic history of antisemitism that was a staple of the two religious groups’ relationship, and for this reason and others there was even a Jewish religious ban on reading the New Testament!
That being said, over the past century or so, and certainly over the past few decades and even years, traditional Jews are feeling more confident in their own faith, and are “reaching out across the aisle” to engage in religious dialogue and study. Some of the most respected New Testament scholars of recent generations surprisingly were Jews, some even Orthodox Jews, themselves! Professors David Flusser and Amy Jill Levine come to mind.
But the fact remains that really only a handful of Jews dare to cross this divide today. I believe that patience is the order of the day: we are living in a fascinating era, the first perhaps since King David’s time that the Jewish People can stand tall and proud, and with such confidence more exploration and discussion can be had. I hope that just as Jewish wisdom has a lot to offer Christians (and Root Source is a resource for just that), the time and platforms will arrive when and where Jews too, in more substantial numbers, will be able to study and benefit from the positive impact of the New Testament too.