Dr. Jen Rosner reveals that she wrote Finding Messiah in part to tell her own story as a Jewish follower of Jesus and all the tensions that entails.
Her academic, vocational, and personal experiences have given her a rich perspective from which to analyze the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Her book doesn’t answer all the questions someone might have upon encountering the Jewish Jesus, but it is a helpful starting point.
We pointed out that many of Yeshua’s teachings are also found elsewhere in Judaism and asked her what she thinks is truly unique about Yeshua’s perspective and teaching. She relates a conversation she had with a rabbi in Israel in which she said that Yeshua’s commandment to love one’s enemies is not found in the teachings of the sages. This tension was especially apparent to her in Israel due to the antipathy her peers had for the Arab population there. Judaism also marred its own portrait of Jewish messianic expectations as a reaction to Christian claims of Yeshua’s messianic identity during and after the “parting of the ways” between the two faith traditions. The early Yeshua movement also redefined the relationship between Jew and Gentile, resolving the hostility between them.
Dr. Rosner also shares her experience with Yachad B’Yeshua, a community of Jewish believers in Yeshua from various faith backgrounds, including Messianic Jews, Jewish Lutherans, Jewish Catholic priests, and Jewish Orthodox Christian priests. She has found that they all have much in common and has learned to appreciate the importance of these various identity markers to those who have embraced their respective traditions.
Asked about the difficulty of Christian claims of Yeshua’s divinity for a person who embraces a traditional Jewish perspective, she notes that the perspectives of scholars, both Jewish and Christian, such as R. Kendall Soulen and Michael Wyschogrod, have done much to lay a foundation for understanding the incarnation of Yeshua in Jewish terms. She notes that it is an issue she still contemplates often and will probably wrestle with for the rest of her life.
Dr. Rosner acknowledges that Finding Messiah doesn’t attempt to outline precisely how a Christian’s practice of their faith might change upon discovering Yeshua’s Jewishness. She hopes to write on this topic in the future. The Sabbath, for example, is a marker of a specific covenant relationship between God and the Jewish people. While Sunday does not replace the Sabbath, she advocates Sunday worship for Christians as a celebration of the resurrection of Yeshua. However, she also invites Christians to “enter the Jewish reality” by joining the Jewish people at the Sabbath table.
Asked about the prevalence of women in the Paul within Judaism camp compared to their limited presence among scholars that advocate a more traditional “Lutheran” Paul, she responds that the academy is changing, and more varied perspectives are flourishing in academic discourse as faculties become more diverse.
We asked her what an evangelical Christian might find most difficult to accept about Jesus’ Jewishness. She responded that there is a dearth of understanding on the part of most Christians concerning the Levitical purity system. Yeshua works within its bounds and shows deference to it, but also seems to have the ability to transfer ritual purity in the same way that an average person transfers ritual impurity.
In Finding Messiah, Dr. Rosner contrasts two definitions of freedom. Protestants tend to define freedom as “liberty,” or freedom from constraint. A more Jewish perspective defines freedom as “liberation”—freedom from the consequences of a self-directed life, a life without Torah. She notes that Judaism’s notion of freedom is difficult for American Christians to integrate due to the traditional American political values of liberty and individualism. She hopes to help Christians set aside these types of cultural lenses to more clearly understand the New Testament.
You can keep in touch with Dr. Rosner on Twitter and at jenrosner.com.
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