The Importance of Jewish-Christian Dialogue for Spiritual Nourishment: A Christian Perspective

Many scholars, due to the similarities to Judaism and historical emergence of Christianity out of Judaism, have sought a dialogue which sets aside triumphalism and honestly discusses their relationship. One important purpose and benefit of this dialogue is the hope and expectation of spiritual nourishment. As people of the Hebrew Bible, Christians and Jews offer a plethora of traditional interpretations of the revelatory  texts, interpretations with the potential of allowing both to re-invigorate each other from their traditions. As one who tends to lean towards Jewish scholarship and interpretative methodologies, and as a Christian, I have personally experienced this re-invigoration in my understanding of Scripture by scholars like Jon Levenson, Tikva Frymer-Kensky, and Daniel Boyarin.

Without people in my life who encouraged me to listen to the Jewish traditions, my search for spiritual nourishment would not be nearly as well-fed. Admittance of the validity of Jewish interpretations and methodology, though not necessarily a complete and whole submission to Jewish methods and understanding, will nourish Christian communities in ways never expected. A perfect example takes place in Numbers 22:28. While I don’t claim that Judaism is a donkey, the same idea works. If God can speak through the mouth of an ass, what’s to say he can’t speak through the traditions of a religion which parallels Christianity in so many aspects?

I don’t intend to or attempt to demean Judaism in any way by wording it like this. In fact, from a Jewish persepctive, the same claim can be made: If God can speak through the mouth of an ass, what’s to say he can’t speak through the traditions of a religion which parallels Judaism in so many aspects? Rather, I hope to demonstrate that Judaism has traditions which can embellish and enrich Christian traditions. Unfortunately, though, the lack of Jewish-Christian dialogue and tensions between the two groups over the last 2000 years has created an atmosphere in which Judaism is a sick version of Christianity, unknowing, ignorant, and hard hearted. Perhaps it would do well for Christians to begin to hear their long lost cousins within Judaism and allow their deep and beautiful traditions to inspire and re-invigorate the 21st century Church.

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