Theology

Jewish Resources for Christians

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There are some books I make a point of rereading on a regular basis, and Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner is one of them — a short but profound book on certain Jewish rituals and practices that Christians can learn from. Her memoir Girl Meets God was also the catalyst that inspired me to write my own.

I started rereading Mudhouse this morning, and thought: why don’t I create a list of all my favorite Jewish resources for Christians — books, concepts, practices, and articles?

Here we go!

Books

Amy-Jill Levine is a must-read, particularly her books The Misunderstood Jew, The Bible With And Without Jesus, and Short Stories by Jesus. Levine sounds like someone whose brain I would love to pick over coffee: she’s a self-described “Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt.” I would love to take one of her classes (if only money grew on trees).

For straight biblical reading, I highly recommend The Jewish Study Bible and The Jewish Annotated New Testament (of which Levine is an editor). Both contain commentary, historical footnotes, and essays by biblical scholars to help better understand Jewish interpretation, and where Jewish and Christian interpretations differ.

What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Jewishness of Jesus by Rabbi Evan Moffic is also a great historical resource. Its title is pretty self-explanatory. In the same vein is A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament by Rabbi Samuel Sandmel — also pretty self-explanatory (and just as interesting!).

Unto Us A Child Is Born: Isaiah, Advent, And Our Jewish Neighbors by Tyler D. Mayfield offers a “bifocal” approach when it comes to Christian interpretations of Jewish texts, particularly the verses in Isaiah that seem to prophecy the coming of Jesus. Highly recommended.

Concepts

Midrash

Here’s a TL;DR version from Wikipedia: Midrash is ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures, attached to the biblical text. For a more in-depth explanation, check out this article from My Jewish Learning.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering how Hagar felt when her mistress Sarah whored her out to have a baby with her husband Abraham, or what Isaac’s relationship with his father looked like after Abraham tried to sacrifice him, this is a concept you might want to check out. Few things have piqued my interest in Scripture and immersed me into the ancient world quite like midrash has.

Tikkun Olam

Brief definition from Wikipedia: Tikkun olam is, literally, “repair of the world”, alternatively, “construction for eternity,” interpreted in Orthodox Judaism as the prospect of overcoming all forms of idolatry, and by other Jewish denominations as an aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially. Basically, a divine commandment to make the world a better place. Christians can interpret this as fruits, or evidence, of a healthy and active faith. Learn more here.

Practices

Sitting Shiva: when a spiritual community establishes a ritual for a bereaved person to mourn their dead. This practice lasts a full year after the death of a loved one, and involves prayer, providing food, lighting of candles, and more. See a more detailed explanation here and here.

Lament: Given their tumultuous history, Jews are very good at practicing lament. Christians, not so much. I’ve been part of Christian circles where any emotion but pure joy was considered sinful, but even Jesus expressed deep lament. Learn more from NT Wright.

If you have any resources you’d like to recommend, please drop some links in the comments!

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