To heaven with Scribes and Pharisees

Ecce Homo - Tony Mujica

Ecce Homo - Tony Mujica

It was as a Galilean Jew that he befriended the poor and the despised. It was as a Galilean Jew that he thundered against the powerful and the haughty. — Howard Jacobson

Jesus was living like a good Jew, going to the synagaoge, praying and living according to the Law of Moses in his house. — Fr Eugenio Alliato, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum

Yeshua was a Jew and an observant one … He stressed Torah and love – but in this he drew upon the Jewish tradition. — Leonard Swidler, American Roman Catholic scholar

To heaven hell with Scribes and Pharisees: A priest and a rabbi take a fresh look at the Jewish religion and its leaders at the time of Jesus.

Speakers:

– Rev Marcus Braybrooke, author of Meeting Jews
– Rabbi Jackie Tabick, chair World Congress of Faiths

The Revd Marcus Braybrooke, a retired parish priest, was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury in recognition of his more than 40 years contribution to the development of inter-religious co-operation and understanding throughout the world. He is a former Executive Director of the Council of Christians and Jews and is a Co-Founder of the Three Faiths Forum and also President of the World Congress of Faiths, of which Jackie Tabick is the chair.

Jackie Tabick, rabbi at the North West Surrey Synagogue at Weybridge is also on the executive of the Interfaith Network. When Jackie studied medieval history at the University of London, her speciality was church history. She went on to study for the rabbinate at Leo Baeck College.

A Jewish-Christian double act.

Jesus was a Jew! He was a faithful Jew, brought up in a Jewish household, adhered to the Jewish faith.

Pharisees insisted on the letter of the law, legalism.

We need a historical reappraisal of Jesus as a Jew.

From a Christian perspective, Jewishness is seen as compliance with the law.

Was Jesus a Pharisee or an Essene? He was sufficiently conversant with the law to argue with the Pharisees on equal terms.

Jesus’ arguments with the Pharisees, as reported in the Gospels, were no greater than the arguments amongst the Pharisees themselves. There were sharp differences amongst the Rabbis, for example, between Hillel and Shammai, and their respective followers. It needs also to be remembered that the Gospels were written down at least thirty years after the death of Jesus and in part reflect the growing tension between the synagogue and early church, which is clearly illustrated in the Acts of the Apostles.

On the death of Jesus and the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple, there were two main religious groupings, the followers of Jesus a Jewish sect were one. These slowly draw apart until by 134 AD they could be seen as separate and distinct.

It is worth emphasizing that the split between church and synagogue took place over a long period and only in part for theological reasons. There was no sudden break. Rather, Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism are two developments, drawing on similar sources in first century Judaism, which gradually moved further and further apart, rather like a couple becoming estranged, who discover that in more and more ways their lives have drifted apart. By the end of the second Jewish revolt in 134 CE, despite some remaining links, ‘Christian and Jew were clearly distinct and separate.’ Over the centuries bitterness and hostility between the two communities increased and has only begun to be reversed in the twentieth century.

Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus. This is a bit like calling all Germans Nazis.

Pontius Pilate was a cruel Roman governor. He was recalled to Rome because of his cruelty. Judaea was a troublesome province. Any hint of insurrection, a leader of a revolt claiming to be the King of the Jews, would have attracted the death penalty. The Gospels, aiming at a Roman not Jewish audience, attempt to shift the blame onto the Jews.

It was not until 1965 that the Vatican issued a statement that the Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus.

Did Jesus claim to be the Messiah, is that how his followers saw him? Later yes, but during his lifetime no. Son of God did not mean what we think today. It was a title.

The great Jewish New Testament scholar David Flusser was once asked after a talk to a group of clergy, ‘What do you pray for when you pray for Christians?’ He replied, ‘I pray that you will be more like your Master Jesus.’

Torah should be seen as teaching not the law.

Why did Pharisees get a bad press, and this was not only from the followers of Jesus, it was also in the eyes of other Jews?

It was a period of change and turmoil, out of which rose Judaism and Christianity. There were two other great Jewish teachers apart from Jesus, but these are unknown to Christians. The Jewish teachings did not end with the Old Testament, The Torah, to be replaced by the New Testament. Jews were developing their own scriptures in parallel with the New Testament.

What is known as The Torah came out of Babylon.

The High Priests were corrupt. An understanding of Jewishness was needed outside of the Temple which was central to what it was to be a Jew.

Jewishness had to be re-invented outside of the Temple. This became even more important after the Temple was destroyed.

Synagogues existed at the time of the Temple. They were centres of learning not prayer.

It is a Jewish tradition to argue for the sake of heaven. One does so with good heart, not enmity.

Jesus argued, he was following a Jewish tradition, he was a Jew!

Pharisees and Christians become the two main groups. Pharisees could exist outside of the Temple, the High Priests no longer existed. A whole new set of sacred literature was developed.

It is self-evident Jesus was a Jew. To understand his teachings one has to place them in their first century Jewish-Roman-Greek context. Many churches fail to understand this. Jesus behaved like a Jew. He nearly always answered a question with a question. That was the Jewish way. The Gospels were written for different groups, some more Jewish than others. Often the emphasis was on the difference to separate what were two competing religious groups, each claiming their Jewish heritage.

A common heritage, Jews, Christians and Muslims. For Jews the written word is the path to God, for Christians it is through Jesus, for Muslims it is the Koran.

The Bible speaks with many voices, often contradictory voices. What cannot be found in one source can often be found in another.

We hear a lot of Islamic fundamentalists, less of Christian fundamentalists. Those who lack doubt, who do not question, are bigots. We learn by talking to people of other faiths.

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is a devout Catholic, but he recognises there are many paths to God, no one person has a monopoly. As he describes in Aleph, he questioned his faith.

The Koran tells us that God made Man of many faiths and we should respect them.

Guildford Seeking Common Ground Lecture for Interfaith Week at Trinity Centre, Holy Trinity Church, top of Guildford High Street Monday 21 November 2011.

Behold! The Jewish Jesus
Christianity: A History – Episode 1: Jesus the Jew
Oneness of Humanity and the Unity of Religion
Choosing the best road
The Bible A Biography
What a Rabbi Learns from Muhammad
The Gospels
Where does the New Testament come from?
– Jesus Wars
Love Wins

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2 Responses to “To heaven with Scribes and Pharisees”

  1. Canon Andrew White Says:

    I know them both well and have worked very closely with Marcus

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