What Jews Can Learn from the New Testament

A rich source for understanding the history of Judaism and the history of anti-Semitism.

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The Difference between Jews and Christians

Of course, that is not the whole story. Careful Jewish readers of the NT will come to a better understanding of the vast theological differences between Jews and Christians--for example, on the issue of whether God can have a son, and whether God can be incarnated in a human body. Jews will also find interest in reading the virulently anti-Jewish passages of the NT that have resonated in the minds of many Christians over the ages.

It is hard for a Jew not to be taken aback when reading Paul's reaction upon hearing that a group of recent Christian converts were considering becoming circumcised.  Paul castigates them: "If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you" (Galatians 5:2). And, for good measure, Paul expresses the hope that the (presumably Jewish) advocates of circumcision will let the knife slip and mutilate themselves (Galatians 5:11). While modern scholars have tried to contextualize and tone down the shocking words of Jesus to a group of Jews, "You are of your father the devil" (John 8:44), Jews should know about this and similar statements in the NT because throughout most of the last two millennia, many Christians did believe literally that the Jews were associated with the devil, their father.

Jews can read the NT to see both the strong Jewish values and the strong anti-Jewish values there. Virtually every page of the NT addresses Judaism either implicitly or explicitly. Jews who want to read a "Jewish book" will find much of interest there.

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Martin I. Lockshin

Martin I. Lockshin, Ph.D., is a professor at the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University in Toronto. He received rabbinic ordination after studying at the yeshiva founded by Rav Kook in Jerusalem.