Many people assume that because Judaism is the super ancient religion and Christianity relatively modern, although ancient by any standards, that if someone wants to dig up some meaningful bit of Jewish history or Jewish tradition, even as it relates to Christianity, then the best source would be a Jewish scholar.

In one way at least, I know that Christians have preserved Jewish traditions in a way that the Jews were incapable of doing, because of the diaspora and the splits in their culture and heritage. Public sacrifice is an instance where the Jews have essentially lost a central part of their religion with the desecration of the temple. I understand some have traditions that supplant the sacrifices mentioned in the Torah, but it's Christianity which preserved sacrifice as the central aspect of her liturgy.

But would modern Jewish Scholars really have any reason for knowing how to pronounce (or translate) their own language any better than modern Christian Scholars and are Rabbinical interpretations of scripture more ancient or authoritative than Christian interpretations?

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    I'm assuming the letters LXX are on your mind. Sep 1 '11 at 17:07
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    Could you provide some examples to support your comment about Christians that have preserved Jewish traditions in ways Jews could not?
    – Beofett
    Sep 1 '11 at 17:07
  • @AmbroseH, nope, although they are now. I was talking more about the Mass and another commenters suggestion that translating God's name could best be done on the Mi Yodeya (whereas, that's precisely the place where it will never be done).
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 1 '11 at 17:17
  • Is there q word missing in the title? Does one what the other?
    – Marc Gravell
    Sep 1 '11 at 17:31
  • @marc, Whoops I couldn't think of the word so I guess I left it out. It'll be up to future scholars and pundits to figure out which word I meant to put in there.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 1 '11 at 17:37

Judaism predates Christianity in one overwhelmingly important way: Jesus was a Jew, and is considered (by Christians at any rate) to be the realization of at least a couple of thousand years of Jewish prophetic promises.

In another dimension, Judaism has a long-standing ethic of accurate copying of scripture that Christianity sorely lacks. See Bart Ehrman's book Misquoting Jesus for some solid scholarship about the variation between ancient sources of the New Testament. On the other hand, a scroll of Isaiah from around the time of Jesus that turned up among the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls is very close to the Masoretic orthographic one you'll find in your neighborhood synagogue today. This is not so with the typical ancient Christian copy.

The chain of teaching of the language and the scriptural traditions is also continuous, in a very similar way that we Christian clergy types claim a commission from Peter.

Why would one ask a Jewish scholar about the meaning of a Hebrew Bible text rather than a Christian scholar? Well, they learn Hebrew when young. They're most likely steeped in the Hebrew traditions of studying scripture. They know the ancient and Talmudic traditions well.

Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity both had the destruction of the second temple as a very early event in their development. They share the idea that the Holy One may be addressed from anywhere.

Is Holy Communion a sacrifice? Well, yes, it can be interpreted that way, but it's a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. It is nothing at all like the temple sacrifices.

Sometime we'll get into Rene Girard's theological anthropology which makes a good case that the Resurrection was God's definitive statement "NO!" to sacrifice. But that's a long story.

Direct blunt answer to your question: Yes!

  • Catholics and Orthodox consider their highest liturgy and penultimate prayer to be a 'Sacrifice'. The mass is meant to take us back to Calvary. I don't know that there's a good word for Catholic/Orthodox so I just used Christians. I wish I could find it on the internet, but I heard that for the first time on Relevant Radio - that Christianity preserved Judaism in a way the Jews could not, primarily through the liturgy. It kind of blew my mind, but it made sense too.
    – Peter Turner
    Sep 1 '11 at 17:55

There's a strong argument that Jewish tradition has been preserved with far less external influence than modern Christianity. Much of the liturgy was formalised after the destruction of the temple and has very likely remained unchanged since. As user116 alludes to, the religious Jewish practice of diligently preserving texts throughout history is unmatched.

Western Christianity, however, has been through a syncretistic period of adopting pagan practices (cf. Christmas and Easter) and was constrained to a relatively unrelated language (latin) for about a millennium before being rocked by the reformation.

While Christian scholars may be capable of expounding exegetical commentaries with understanding of the historical Jewish perspective, it is only by studying Jewish sources that they will be able to do so!

  • Your answer could be greatly improved by including citations in order to show this is not merely your personal opinion. Sep 20 '14 at 8:20

On Hebrew, Jews have been studying their texts for this whole time, in Hebrew with scholars handing down information on how to make sense of the texts. Within the information is often clues to subtle meanings, that don't exist when simply reading a Christian text by yourself or with Christian scholarly books.

There are also spots that over the years Chrisitianity changed, that aren't changed in Judaism because it's the same Hebrew it was back then. They often are changes to support Christian theology which can't be found in the original Hebrew.

  • Hi and welcome! Your answer could be greatly improved by including citations in order to show this is not merely your personal opinion. Please refer to our help centre for further info on our site guidelines. Sep 20 '14 at 8:16

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