December 7, 2011 - A Jewish Understanding of Christianity

We'll begin our session by wrapping up some loose ends from the previous conversation.  But, for the most part, our time will be devoted to exploring a Jewish Understanding of Christianity. 

The handout for the class can be found here.

Supplemental reading is really critical on this important subject, which we will only be able to touch on in passing.  If you're interested, I encourage you to check out:
As far as other material online, check out this page, and don't forget the other links on the left under "CHRISTIANITY."

Following our class, I would invite you to reflect on the following question, and to post online so that we can extend our conversation together:  To what extent does the academic study of history (and its related disciplines like archaeology and anthropology) impact your personal faith?  Your understanding of God?  Of miracles?  Of the possibility of revelation/divinely revealed Scripture?  This class relies on a historically-informed survey of event surrounding the life of Jesus.  If you identify as Christian, did that make you uncomfortable?  What about Rabbi Brown's frank admission regarding his comfort about applying those same tools to the study of Judaism?  Is this approach to religion within your comfort zone or outside side of it?  All of your thoughts are welcome!


  1. I really related to the discussion about Truth vs. Faith, and how our understanding of “truth” calls into question some of the religious narratives we’ve been told are “truth”. I have personally found it difficult to believe in events like the Exodus when science suggests otherwise. However, because science can’t currently “prove” certain religious events happened, I don’t put all my faith in that, either. As our scientific methods develop, we will undoubtedly discover more “truths” about the world. As for now, I leave open the possibility that some of the religiously significant events my “science mind” wants to doubt may, in fact, be truth.

    Currently, my idea of faith centers around the concept of a God who, I believe, wants us to learn as much about the world and humanity as possible -- and to do so with an open mind. For me, having faith is more about how we use religious stories as life lessons, not about focusing on the stories’ truth or falsity.

    As for the discussion about Christianity, I felt very comfortable applying the same analytical thought-process. The Jewish point of view that the Messiah will either “appear” and make peace happen, or peace will come and then the Messiah will appear, leaves me feeling like I want a third option. The first belief sounds too far-fetched for me (I’m not comfortable putting that much faith into that idea), and the second belief sounds implausible. How would we ever know what “good” is without some bad? I look forward to developing that idea in future classes…

  2. For me, the academic study of history has no impact on my faith. In my mind, I don’t need scientific evidence to know if these events from the Hebrew Bible occurred or did not occur. It doesn’t matter to me. If they did occur, that is great. But if they didn’t, they are still relevant stories that can help us and our children learn to be better people.

    What I do believe is that all of the complexity we see around us in this world didn’t just happen by accident. Was it from God or was it science that we won’t ever fully understand?

    Regarding miracles, what really is a miracle? Is it something as big as the parting of the Red Sea or can miracles also be something much smaller such as human life itself? Things as simple as a beating heart and 20/20 vision, to me, are just as “miraculous” as some of the miracles we talk about from the Bible. So I know that miracles do occur but did the ones made famous in history occur? As usual, I have no idea.