Jewish and Christian Biblical Theology

In my Hebrew Scripture Theology seminar we had a seminar on Jewish Biblical Theology. A Jewish Biblical Theology has unique challenges: history of the discipline, conceptual coherence.  But one thing I found interesting is its shared challenge with Christianity in what role will each religion’s other authoritative texts. Because both Judaism and Christianity have other authoritative texts when interpreting the Hebrew Bible, can there be fruitful dialogue over its theology?

I think this may be the most significant question for the outcome of a Jewish Biblical Theology in general and for Jewish-Christian theological-dialogue. If a Jewish theologian wishes to approach the theological task normatively, then he or she will not approach only the Hebrew Bible but must address Judaism’s other authoritative texts such as Midrash, Talmud, Targums, mystical literature, medieval and modern works of liturgy, Halakhah, commentary, philosophy, Kabbalah, and Hasidism. The inclusion of these texts and the dialogue each of them have with the Hebrew Bible changes the message of the Hebrew Bible on its own.

Likewise, a Christian perspective must address what role the New Testament will play. From a normative position, I’m not sure how a Christian would not include the New Testament. The New Testament serves as the telos of the Hebrew Bible that leads to a Christian reading. I think it would be beneficial that both Judaism and Christianity be in dialogue over the theology of the Hebrew Bible, but the way forward in dialogue will not be over the normative message but will be descriptive by nature.

If anyone else has been reading in this area, what are your thoughts?

Further Reading

James Barr, The Concept of Biblical Theology, pp. 286-311

A.G. Auld, “Can a  Biblical Theology also be Academic or Ecumenical?” in Text as Pretext, ed. R.P. Carroll pp. 13-27

J.D. Levenson, “Why Jews are not interested in Biblical Theology”, in The Hebrew Bible, The Old Testament, and Historical Criticism, pp. 33-61

M. Sweeney, “Jewish Biblical Theology and Christian Old Testament Theology”, Theologische Literaturzeitung, 134/4 (April 2009): 397-410

3 thoughts on “Jewish and Christian Biblical Theology

    • Hi Brad,

      I am also not as familiar with modern Judaism. According to Levenson and Sweeney, both Jewish, anything beyond a descriptive analysis of the Hebrew Bible must take into consideration Judaism’s other texts. My understanding is depending on what sect of Judaism will determine what texts beyond Mishnah and Talmud would be consulted.

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