Grounded in the Book | Sojourners

Grounded in the Book

Within my Anabaptist-Mennonite heritage, discipleship—living as a follower of Jesus—is central. Being a disciple requires learning as much as possible about who Jesus was, what he did and taught. I can only be a disciple of a real person who lived, taught, and acted in real history.

My desire to know more about Jesus has inexorably led me to Judaism. If, in attempting to follow the way of Jesus, one finds that Jesus’ life, teaching, and practice were grounded in Judaism, then, if one is honest, one must learn about and from Judaism. For several years, I have been studying Judaism—history, theology, biblical studies. I’ve been using the Jewish Publication Society translation of the Hebrew Bible, reading the prayerbook, studying commentaries on the Torah, and going to services with Jewish friends. It has led me to a deeper relationship with God—the God of Abraham and Sarah—whom both Jews and Christians serve.

In the past 50 years, this same quest by academics and church bodies has been inspired by two developments. The necessary and essential first step has been for the church to confront honestly centuries of Christian anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust, and to repent sincerely for that history.

Dan Cohn-Sherbok’s The Crucified Jew is a good starting point in this quest. Cohn-Sherbok begins by noting that while many studies of anti-Semitism refer to the Christian contribution to the problem, they do not focus on the underlying Christian hostility toward the Jewish faith and people. "Anti-Jewish attitudes in the history of the Church were not accidental—rather they were the direct consequence of Christian teaching about Judaism and the Jewish nation."

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1998
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