Monday, December 30, 2013

Journey into Judaism - part 1

"We have lost our native son" said Rabbi David Zaslow at a interfaith talk. He was speaking of Jesus, to a room of mostly Jews, but also a few Christians and converts to Judaism. His talk was provacative, humourous, and riviting. I can see why many of the Jews that know him are so keen on interfaith dialogue and study. And so I have embarked on a journey into his new book, Jesus First Century Rabbi, a more digestable version of his previous Roots and Branches.

In both his talk and his written introduction R. Zaslow spoke of the role English translations have played in the tension between the two communities. I'm very curious how Zaslow will handle these translation differences and by by what authority he will appeal. Since translations are merely interpretations of the original documents, can we legitimately have different versions and both be correct? Will the Hebrew definition triumph over more modern ones? Or will translations become windows into various shades of possible meanings?

Down deep I want him to feel the freedom to critque modern Christian translations. To say, "a better translation here might be ..." or "a less offensive way of saying the same thing would be ...." Perhaps interfaith dialogue is too respectful to offer such insights. I hope not.

I have the sense that Zaslow will critque Greek dialectical thinking (either it means this or that, but not both) as a lens to understanding scripture. But I fear that his version of Hebraic thinking will devolve into a license to read any possible Hebrew meaning into scripture. Just because Jewish scripture utilizes Hebraic thought does not mean every word uses its full semantic range in every individual instance.

And if he should assert that the Hebrew may be legitimately interpreted in different but equally valid ways, how then will Rabbinic Judaism discriminate against messianic interpretations of their own texts, especially when done so by early Jews? Sure, I know he wants Christians to appreciate an interpretive side of scripture (and Jesus) we have not been able to see without Jewish eyes and hearts and memories. But I am interested in how and if he will be able to keep the historical Jesus and the theological Jesus separate.

No comments:

Post a Comment