Modern Judaism is a vibrant community with much to offer us in faith, ethics, and piety. Christians err if we dismiss Judaism as a misguided relic of the past.
I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you ...and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
- Genesis 12:2,3
No one who reads the New Testament can escape the fact that Jesus was a Jew, as were all of his original followers. The early Christians viewed their faith as continuous with and a fulfillment of the Jewish heritage in which they had been reared. The Jewish faith, however, found another continuation in rabbinic Judaism, taught and led by those known–as Jesus once was–as rabbis.
Christianity soon became predominantly Gentile, and the Roman Empire eventually became officially Christian. The majority of Jews, though experiencing great tribulations, continued in faithfulness to their ancient covenant ("I shall be your God, and you shall be my people"), shaped by observance of the biblical and rabbinic commandments.
A complete and self-governing Jewish culture grew around strong families and communities, study of the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud,(1) a distinctive way of life, and the hope of ultimate redemption, including the vision of an eventual return to Jerusalem. The Hebrew language was nurtured in worship, and great literary traditions developed in ethnic languages such as Yiddish. The Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides was a major influence on the Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas, and great rabbinic scholars such as Shlomo ben Isaac of Troyes ("Rashi") were cited frequently in Luther’s biblical commentaries. Jewish thinkers, writers, artists, and activists have also been prominent in many modern intellectual and cultural movements.
The living Jewish community of today–in North America, in Israel, and around the world–continues the heritage of biblical Israel and rabbinic Judaism in new and vibrant ways. While diversity has led to denominational differences among Jews, there remains a core communal identity and loyalty to the ancient faith. Often giving leadership in philanthropy and social justice causes, the Jewish community is a powerful partner with the church in living out God’s call to be stewards of healing for the world.
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption,the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises...
- Romans 9:4
(1) The Talmud is a compilation of legal, moral, and religious traditions codified by the rabbis between the 2nd and 6th centuries that remains a central source of Judaism to this day.
Questions for Discussion
"Talking Points" is a set of eight leaflets issued by the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations to set forth propositions for discussion and debate on topics in Christian-Jewish relations. These Talking Points are not intended as position papers, but as discussion starters, with the hope of eliciting a broad range of responses to the point as stated in the box above. See below for information on how to offer feedback.
Prepared by the Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations of the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.
Your ideas about these topics are very welcome and will be considered by the Panel in its further work. To submit personal reflections or the results of a group discussion, please use the accompanying Response and Evaluation form or simply send a letter to the Department for Ecumenical Affairs at the address below, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
See also the comprehensive set of resources on the ecumenical Web site www.jcrelations.net
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