In an earlier post, I described my next book, about the rift between Judaism and Christianity. I never write my books alone. Except for the publisher, there’s always a team of people who help me with advice: sometimes pointing me to the latest scholarly debates, sometimes asking questions that I have failed to recognize as important, sometimes improving my Dutch. It really helps, although it is not a perfect method to prevent mistakes (at least eight people who have finished high school failed to see that in my last book, I gave the wrong value of the gravitational constant). This time, my team consists of a variety of people, ranging from professional scholars to evangelical Christians.
I was discussing this project with a rabbi and his wife, when a friend of theirs arrived, Marcel Poorthuis, who told me about a book of which he was coeditor, called Interaction Between Judaism and Christianity in History, Religion, Art, and Literature (2008). And in spite of the fact that it was a publication by Brill, and therefore way too expensive (€195), I am glad that I bought it. It is the right book at the right moment.
There are too many essays in this book (626 + xiv pages) to write a review, so I single out three chapters that I read today:
- “A Remarkable Case of Religious Interaction: Water Baptisms in Judaism and Christianity” by Gerard Rouwhorst, who argues that early Christianity influenced Jewish conversion rituals; of course, it is usually believed that it was the other way round.
- Eric Ottenheijm compares in an essay called “Learning and Practising: Uses of an Early Jewish Discourse in Matthew (7:24-27) and Rabbinic Literature” the authors of the Gospel of Matthew and the tractate Avoth, and stresses that they share the same rhetoric and have related aims.
- In “On Trees, Waves, and Cytokinesis: Shifting Paradigms in Early (and Modern) Jewish-Christian Relations”, Daniel Stökl evaluates several models to describe how Judaism and Christianity grew apart.
I will probably use the first part of this book (“Jews and Christians in the Roman-Byzantine Period”) and will focus less on the parts on “Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages”, “The Problems of Modernity”, “Ritual and Theology in the Modern, Post-Modern, and New Ages”, “Art”, and “Literature”. But what I’ve seen of it, backs up the claim of the editors in their introduction: “Jewish-Christian dialogue has become in the last half-century an institution of Western civilization”.