I’m having trouble with believing that the Bible is literally God’s words, God’s actually intended message to humanity. I’m also having trouble with taking the Bible as my sole authority. I always hear Christians in arguments say, “Do you have a verse for that?” or “Where in the Word-of-Gawd does it say that?” So my question is: Is the Bible really inspired, and should we take it as our sole authority?
Jake, I am teaching a class this semester at St. Cloud State University. It is a new experience for me for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve never taught undergrads before — only grad school students — so that’s been a fun, new challenge. And second, I am teaching “Introduction to the Christian Scripture.” If you know anything about theological education, you know it’s pretty rare for someone with a PhD in theology to teach courses in biblical studies, and vice versa.
This is part of an occasional series in which I pose a question to my rabbi, Joseph Edelheit. I don’t set it up, and I don’t give him a warning. I just turn on the recorder and ask the question.
I asked him this question last night, as we drove home from co-teaching a class at St. Cloud State University on anti-Judaism in the New Testament, particularly in the book of Hebrews.
This has been a question that’s been haunting me about Judaism for a while now. We’ve all got wacky practices in our religions — heck, I drink blood and eat flesh each week. But the severing of the penile foreskin seems to me wackier than most. In fact, I find it shocking that it’s still so prevalent — almost unanimous — among Jews.
Joseph didn’t skirt my question at all. In fact, I found his answer fascinating:
Last week, I had several guests post whilst I was away. I had asked Krista Dalton to send me something, and she did — but it got lost in the emailosphere. So I’m happy to post it this week. Krista has become one of my favorite bloggers of late. She’s currently doing graduate work at Jewish Theological Seminary, and she’ll be starting her PhD studies at Columbia University in the fall.
Everyone is familiar with the Christian origin story. The Ancient Jewish religion births the fledgling Christian child, and the two diverge upon separate paths. Now, depending on your religious bias, this divergence can be perceived a few ways. To a Jewish audience, the Christian child goes rogue, abandoning its cultural traditions and embracing a wholly other religious form. To a Christian audience, the Christian child surpasses its flawed mother and fulfills divine will in the glorious establishment of the Church.
However, Daniel Boyarin, esteemed scholar of Early Jewish and Christian origins, insists this is an artificially constructed myth. At the time of Jesus, “normative” rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity were hundreds of years in the coming. He explains, “In other words, in order to imagine a single mother religion that could give birth to a daughter religion, we have to find some way of reducing the diversity of Jewish religious life in the pre-Christian era to a single object that we can then designate as Judaism.”