Starting this week I am teaching an undergrad class on the “Jewish Christian Literature.” Essentially, this is on Hebrews through Revelation. Sometimes this section of the New Testament is called the “catholic epistles” or the “general epistles” since they are perceived as being universal in appeal. James, 1 Peter and 1 John written as circular letters, but 2 and 3 John and Jude seem to be directed at specific congregations. While Hebrews more like a sermon than a letter, Revelation includes seven letters to churches struggling with real issues faced by those local congregations near the end of the first century.
But as I point out the first day of class, we could probably call these letters the “other letters” or the “Not Paul” collection. This is what is difficult about reading books like Hebrews and James. Christian Theology is almost always focused on Paul (and for good reasons). Yet this literature indicates there were other early church thinkers who attempted to explain Jesus to Jewish people rather than Gentiles. The results are compatible with Pauline theology, but also quite distinct. It is that distinctiveness I am interested.
I personally prefer to call these books the Jewish Christian Literature because most of the books are addressed to Jewish Christians in the Diaspora. I will work on the details later, for now I am only stating my conviction that (with the exception of 2 Peter) all the letters are “more Jewish” than the average Pauline letters. They appear to me to represent a stream of early Christianity which was ethnically Jewish and continued to practice some (all?) elements of their ancestral faith while believing Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of prophecy from the Hebrew Bible.
But what does “Jewish Christian” mean? Paul was Jewish and Christian. It is not as though Paul writes “Gentile Christian” letters. In fact, it might be the case there are no true “Gentile Christian” letters in the New Testament since even Luke-Acts has a Pauline influence. By giving these letters the title “Jewish Christian” I want to highlight the fact they are all addressed to “more Jewish than not churches” and Christians who looked to James, Peter, and John as their authorities rather than Paul. In contrast, churches in Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, and Ephesus were “more Gentile than not” and looked to Paul as the authority (for the most part, anyway).
Is this a fair way to read Hebrews through Revelation? Is it possible to set Pauline Theology to one the side and read Hebrews (for example) without thinking in Pauline categories? Is that a healthy way to read these books?
37 thoughts on “Introducing Jewish Christian Literature”
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Thanks, Phillip. This approach and perspective should be interesting. As to your ending q’s, “yes” on all.
One of the things I think more important than almost any Evangelical/traditionalist owns to is some of what is NOT present in either Paul or the Jewish Christian Lit.: Use of Jesus’ BODILY resurrection, followed by a witnessed ascension as either a “fact” or as a reason for faith.
(We often forget to notice the importance of what is missing that might be expected in a given interpretation or “paradigm”, and to then think through the implications.)
In stark contrast is that much of the Protestant world particularly, in the last many decades at least, HAS made this a core evidence for “faith”. Even an undefined resurrection or “raising up” of Jesus (which could be non-bodily, and I think IS implied) is very minimal in the General epistles. It certainly is not a key reason or support for belief, nor for seeing Jesus as one “person” of the Trinity.
Now, resurrection was an established if not highly emphasized Jewish concept well before the 1st century, as in Heb. Scripture and Jesus’ context. Thus, some kind of resurrection of Jesus fits and is not radical nor revolutionary. But did these early Jewish believers (or Paul, for that matter) conceive of it as bodily resuscitation, with 40 days of mingling with disciples and then an ascension?
That hardly seems possible, on much further evidence than I’ve cited in my “null curriculum” observation above. Only the Gospels/Acts give us stories of “eye witness” accounts of Jesus in a “resurrection body”. And, to my recollection, only Acts (later than the Synoptics and perhaps than John) mentions an ascension. Let me add that if one reads I Cor. 15 (Paul) closely, it clearly supports visionary “appearances” to “more than 500 brethren” but not claims similar to stories in the Gospels/Acts. Rather, these were akin to Paul’s own experience/vision. And it definitely was not pre-ascension, if an “ascension” occurred.
Bottom line: As far as I can see, we have no pre-70 A.D. “bodily resurrection” stated concept. And only the Gospels/Acts relating it, narrative form, from 70 to the presumed end of composition of the canonical NT books (by around 90-95 in conservative dating, and no later than 130-140 or so in more “higher critical” views.) We shouldn’t, for either Paul or these books, read back in our presumptions about the nature of early concepts (or “reality”) of the Resurrection. This is significant for reading the Jewish Christian Literature.
This sounds like a class I’d delve into . I’m a Catholic who was raised Protestant in community which has a sizable Jewish contingent. I have studied Judaism. I have read TANaKh with Rabbis and Jewish friends. I get frustrated when Christians claim Christianity supersedes Judaism and that Jesus came in part to replace Judaism.
This is annoying to me as well, since it seems like a remnant of medieval anti-Antisemitism. Have you read anything by Gerald McDermott? I reviewed his short book, Israel Matters (link below), and he edited a volume of essays called The New Christian Zionism. Both books make the point the older teaching that the church replaced Israel is not biblical.Check them out…
My father in law introduced me to Arnold Fruchtanbaum who is a Messianic Jew. He teaches the Bible from a Jewish perspective since even Paul was a Jew. He’s worth looking into.
I know Arnold Fruchtanbaum and his Ariel Ministries. I read in his Israelology quite a few years ago. Thanks for the reminder!
So, can I take your class? Haha. As a current Christian Ministry major, I found this brief bit of information fascinating and not something I’ve heard. I think it makes perfect sense to look at the books this way as long as you are not throwing away one or the other. Thanks for the post!
You are free to read along, but if you want to be graded I am going to have to charge you…!
Haha, I think I’ll stick to reading along!
I never truly understood the possibility of being a Jewish Christian or what that type of religious lifestyle could and would look like. I am excited to learn more about this throughout the semester. I cannot even begin to imagine the view the people in Paul’s time had of him through reading his writings about these “new concepts” of “Gentile Christians” and “Jewish Christians”. I am sure that it was difficult for Paul to be teaching this type of material to those who had been taught for generations about how to live the way God desired for them to live and then Paul saying that those ways of life were no longer necessarily (i.e. food laws and circumcision).
I am interested to read the letters of Paul from the perspective of those who were living in the present times of the letters being written. What were their initial thoughts? It makes more sense, now, why Paul was in prison so often due to his teachings because they were so interesting, and Paul appeared to be a heretic. At what point did the people start to take Paul seriously and believe in his teachings? Why did they even listen to Paul when he seemed to be crazy? On the other hand, Paul’s common audience were the Gentiles/Gentile Christians who had no previous affiliation with Jewish culture. Maybe that is why Gentiles/Gentile Christians were his target audience, at least for the majority of his letters, the Jews did not want to listen to what he had to say.
P. Long’s introductory blog post for Jewish Christian literature reveals a hole in, at least, my own personal reading of scripture and theology. P. Long directly addresses the extremely strong theme of our theological focus being on Pauline literature and a lack of study on the general epistles is evident. As I begin to dive into the general epistles, I realize there is no excuse for such a lack of study on this literature P. Long names Jewish Christian. Take Hebrews as an example, Hebrews perhaps contains much on Christology that is important and applicable to the Christian lifestyle. Jobes states that Hebrews demonstrates the importance of Christ’s identity in terms of redemptive history which offers peace of mind for us today (Pg. 44). However, I have never fully read through the book of Hebrews merely because I have spent much more time focusing on the Gospels and Pauline Literature. P. Long’s blog post suggests the importance of all scripture and proposes correct viewpoints in how to read Hebrews through Revelation. This echoes what Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16, that all scripture is God-breathed and helpful in the Christian lifestyle. However, my last sentenced addresses the very issue P. Long brings to attention, that often times we are set in our ways of thinking through the lenses of Paul, his writings, and the theology within those writings. The challenge of putting off the glasses of Pauline theology and putting on the glasses of how Jewish Christian Literature, and it’s theology, is an exciting aspect of this class. To read Hebrews through Revelation as separate, unique, and or separate from Paul is quite correct. To read Hebrews through Revelation in this way, is hopefully, the way we all read scripture, recognizing the contextual and cultural aspects of what we are reading. To recognize that Hebrews through Revelation have strongly more Jewish oriented audiences in original author’s mind is merely to recognize a contextual clue, and rightly so.
Often, when discussing the catholic epistles, Christians make them almost subordinate to the Pauline epistles. This is, like you said, “for good reasons.” One reason that I feel has an underlying weight in the causation of this subordination is the difficulty in concrete authorship. The frequency of pseudonymity in the early church letters was high and is why we have a pseudepigrapha. Writings known to be pseudonymous (Jobes, 7). These include writings like Enoch and the Gospel of Peter. Some of the catholic epistles have concrete authorship but others do not. One specific book of the Bible that does not have concrete authorship is Hebrews. The book is canonical and was even quoted by Clement around AD 95, so even though the specific authorship and audience are unknown there is importance in this book (Jobes, 32). Like Hebrews, there is clearly importance to all the catholic epistles. I would like to argue that these catholic epistles are not as subordinate to the Pauline epistles for the Protestant Christian walk as implied above.
Coming from the view of Narrative Theology, these catholic epistles are clearly just as important to the Protestant faith as the Pauline epistles are. When looking at the Biblical narrative we should know how our faith came about. Karl Barth teaches in his Dogmatics in Outline that knowledge of God is a form of worship to God. When we as Protestant Christians have a greater understanding of the narrative we are living on we can worship God in a greater perspective. These catholic epistles, for the most part, seem to be written to a Jewish audience. These catholic epistles also help us as Protestant Christians connect the narrative of our faith from Genesis to Revelation. They give us the bridge of understanding between Jesus’ coming and our saving faith, between the law and grace, and a greater understanding of who Jesus is and how Christianity has been shaped due to its Jewish history. The catholic epistles grow our understanding of the biblical narrative, give us a greater concept of God which in turn helps us have greater worship, and they bridge the gap between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.
I just took Professor Long’s course, Pauline Literature and Theology, in the fall semester. I am excited to study the Jewish Christian Literature in the New Testament. It caught my attention that you claimed that these letters could be called the “Not Paul” collection. As you stated above, Paul has countless ties throughout the Bible and more specifically, the New Testament. It seems as if almost everything in the New Testament can be traced to Paul in some form or fashion. That being said, I am intrigued to study this literature that is not from Paul over the course of this semester.
During last semester when studying Pauline letters, there were countless letters to specific church communities that were struggling with specific problems at that point in time. Though Hebrews and some of the other Jewish Christian Literature can be viewed as sermons, your point that Revelation consists of letters to struggling churches connects with the messages of some of the Pauline letters. It will be interesting to weave and learn through this Jewish Christian Literature after having established a background of study of the Apostle Paul’s work. To answer your question at the bottom of the post, I feel as if it is definitely healthy to study this Jewish Christian Literature without thinking in Pauline categories. I think this is healthy because Hebrews and other Jewish Christian Literature comes from different writers and a different background. Therefore, it is important to study and embrace this newness with a new perspective and interpretation style.
However, I feel as if there is a twist to this approach to studying Hebrews and Jewish Christian Literature from outside of Pauline categories. According to Sweeney (2016), “In the New Testament, it (Hebrews) commonly stands between the Pauline and General (Catholic) Epistles” (p. n.d.). This quote explains the idea that Hebrews is the bridge between the Pauline Letters and the General Epistles. Moreover, Sweeney (2016) claims that the letter, or sermon, of Hebrews is anonymous, but some people link it to Paul. Though I am not sure if this is correct or not, if it is possible that Paul impacted the sermon of Hebrews, then students of the Bible should study it within Pauline categories. This is where it gets a bit tricky.
From a Bible student’s perspective, I feel as if the Jewish Christian Literature is not always studied as often or to the same degree as some of the more popular Pauline letters. For example, at church services, I feel as if I hear much more sermons that are centered around the message of Romans, Acts, Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians, etc. than I head sermons centered around 2 John, 3 John, Hebrews, Revelation, Jude, etc. Because I am not as familiar with all of the intricacies and ins and outs of the Jewish Christian Literature, I am excited to dive in and learn. I am a firm believer that all of the Bible is relevant and important to study, and I am excited to take a much deeper look into these texts.
Sweeney, James. (2016). “Hebrews.” Ed. John D. Barry et al. The Lexham Bible Dictionary.
The Jewish Christian Literature of the New Testament is largely regarding as almost the “lesser” of the New Testament with a higher importance placed on Paul’s letters than on the writings of the Apostles. Although this action some believers have unconsciously taken upon themselves is wrong, it is nonetheless a very common presumption of the Western church today.
The modern Western church, which is largely Gentile in its ethnicity and cultural background, identifies more with Pauline teaching than with the largely Jewish backgrounds of the Apostles writings. This is not a new occurrence, as even in the third generation of the church there was a struggle for the Gentile leaders to accept the writings of James, Peter, and John as canonical (Jobes 9, 17). Over time, however, the leaders of the Gentiles churches accepted the Apostles’ writings as true. The greatest struggle occurred over the book of Hebrews. This was largely because the book is anonymous and therefore cannot be attributed to a specific person with authority. Jobes explains why the Roman church was hesitant to accept the canonicity of Hebrews, even though many scholars now believe that it was written to the Jewish Christians living in Rome (31).
Jewish Christian Literature contains as much importance in our foundational theology as does the teachings of Paul. In fact, Hebrews teaches us more about Christ being our intercessor than any other book of the New Testament (Jobes, 44). This is largely done through the examination of Christ as our perfect High Priest throughout the book of Hebrews (Jobes, 44).
Unfortunately, not everyone has seen the importance of Jewish Christian Literature in the church. In fact, Martin Luther went so far as to say that the theology of James 2:14-26 conflicts with Romans 3:21-26 and in turn, he held little confidence in James (Jobes, 177).
By default, my reading of the New Testament are influenced by Pauline theology or history simply because I spend more time interacting with his letters than any of the other sections. When I first read through Hebrews, it became obvious to me that there were some differences between this letter and others that may have been circulating through the churches. Jobes suggests that Hebrews was a sermon written specifically about the new relationship the Jews were entering into with Christ as High Priest and the implications it has on the daily life of the religious community (44). It is interesting to reflect on the anonymous authorship status of this book because it adds an interesting element of faith into modern Christian thinking. We are used to having faith in the actions of God when they are seen and can be used as examples in our Christian walk. It is entirely different, or at least for me it i, to have to trust in the uncertainty of something as human as an author being who they say they are. It means having to chose to set aside the uncertainty and constant wondering about that the human author and recognize that it may not matter as much as trusting the text itself and the importance it has for my personal theology and Christology. Jobes reflected on the tradition of accepting Pauline association with Pauline authorship as seen by some church fathers in an attempt to attach a human name to this piece of holy literature (57). Yet it is entirely possible that one of the other disciples including Apollos or Barnabas was the one to do the actual action of writing the letter to the Hebrews (61). I think there is value in reading Hebrews with the Pauline epistles in mind because it gives some context to the text, as well as looking at it as part of a separate narrative that has unique audiences and authorships which gives unique perspective to the greater Church that was forming during the early years.
As for me putting aside Pauline theology in reading the book of Hebrew seem an unhealthy way to read it. Since the author of Hebrew is anonymous, yet there were a large scale of speculation concerning the original author of Hebrew. However, there were assumptions stating the author background as a Hellenistic Jews based on the critic of his literary works and his sophisticate knowledge on the Hebrew Bible .It also infer that he was somehow influences by Pauline theology and have some sort of association with apostle Paul since he was the seconds generation Christian confirmed by those who heard it. Therefore, I believe the author did not set aside the Pauline theology when he wrote the book of Hebrew. It seem to me that Paul theology, messages, and literary works played a significant role for the author to articulate sophistically and theologically. Yes, there were various deferences in terms of their usage of terminology and writing styles, but it’s quite transparent that as seconds generation Christian, he must used Pauline theology (as a reference, since he was influence bu Paul) to compose this profound and extreme difficult book. Therefore, nothing’s wrong to set aside Pauline theology in reading Hebrew. But, if one seeks to gain a solids understanding of the book must read it with Paul theology in-mind. Most of us were highly influences and our understanding of grace, salvation, redemption, forgiveness, justification and the atonement of Christ were clearly expounded to us by apostle Paul. In order for us to fully grasp the meaning behind Hebrews to revelation, looking at from the viewpoint of Hebrew is not enough; cross-examining with Paul theology would not make any kinds of contradiction, but will fortify and deepen our understanding of the messages behind the texts of Hebrew through Revelation.
I am very excited to learn more about the Jewish Christian books as opposed to the Pauline letters. Reading this post made me realize just how much we focus on Pauline theology instead of the other theologies represented in the New Testament. But it also makes me wonder, is one wrong if they follow Jewish Christian theology as opposed to Pauline? You stated in this post that they are compatible, so I am very interested in learning more about these differences and how they play a role in ones faith. I am also interested in learning about the similarites that appear in these books compared to the Pauline epistles.
You ask the question if it’s possible to set aside Pauline theology and read these books without his theology. I think that it is important to read each book in it’s own context, and so if they were written primarily to more Jewish audiences then one should look at them through the lense of Jewish religion/culture.
Jewish Christian Literature is the part of the New Testament ranging from Hebrews to Revelation. They are referred to as Jewish Christian Literature because the authors are Jewish followers of Jesus Christ. Christian theology is almost always focused on Paul, however this literature attempts to explain Jesus to Jewish audiences. All of the Jewish Christian Literature is addressed to Jews more than a congregation.
As far as the difference between Jewish Christian Literature and the remainder of the New Testament would be, Jews had a deeper foundational faith in the sense they had to make sacrifices to atone for their sins, so they are able to comprehend the gravitude of their sins, for their needs to be death to atone for sin. This is something that the Jewish Literature addresses, as this literature has a focus on the previous requirements of Jews. At that time, being Jewish was more of a cultural thing than a faith-based commitment. This literature encourages the Jews who were believers in Jesus to spread the good news about Jesus. By going outside the boundaries of the already established community during the diaspora, the Jews were forced to spread their faith to the surrounding nations. Jewish literature is a fundamental piece of the New Testament. There are many foreshadows in the Old Testament that point to Jesus Christ, this is illuminated within the Jewish Christian Literature.
I am looking forward to this class and the deeper study into these Jewish Literature books of the New Testament. I am hesitant to admit this on a public forum, but there have been times when I wondered just why almost all the sermons and studies I hear appear to be only focused on Paul’s teaching? This may be a bit of an over exaggeration, but it does seem it is a large majority. Of course, Pauline theology is key to our faith, but clearly these Jewish Literature books have been included in our Bible for an important reason. You mention in your writing that these books are addressed to churches that are “more Jewish than not” (Long), and I think that is a very important aspect that we need to consider when reading them. Yes, it is possible to read them in their own context, aside from Pauline literature, but it is equally important to take into consideration the original recipients. These were written to Jewish Christians and as such, the context would naturally be much more Jewish, just as Paul’s letters and teachings would be more Gentile in nature. If these epistles were written in a way that discounted, or ignored, the Jewish traditions and culture, their message would likely not have the same impact and encouragement to the church. I also found it interesting that you specifically mention these individuals as being Christian and ethnically Jewish, who kept many of the Jewish traditions. I think it can be so easy to assume anyone who becomes a believer would suddenly do away with any traditions and customs of their Jewish heritage and become more what we today might consider “Gentile”. Maybe this is based on our Western perception of Christianity? However, this shows that it was (and is?) possible to hold on to some culture and traditions while believing in Jesus as well.
Jewish Christian literature is honesty, never a term that I had heard before. I had definitely come across the idea of the “general” epistles throughout readings and basic Bible overview, and had heard of the “catholic” epistles in passing but failed to realize that they were the same passages. I had assumed that the “catholic” epistles were books admitted from 66 book canon of the protestant Bible, similar to let’s say the Maccabees. It was helpful to understand the term ‘catholic’ is in reference to the universal church, the word used in the same context in the apostles’ creed (Jobes, 2011). It was interesting for me to learn that they were indeed the same scriptures, and I have grown to appreciate the wording of Jewish Christian literature as a clearer alternative.
In reflecting on my own familiarity of these epistles I found that with perhaps the exception of Hebrews I know very little about the ideas, context, and authors of this New Testament literature. In contrast most of my studies have been focused on Pauline Literature and the letters reaching out to the gentile converts. While I do not think this is intentional, I do wonder if I gravitate towards Pauline Lit. more, due to the fact that I come from a ‘gentile’ background even in today’s culture. I am not nearly as familiar with Jewish tradition as I would like and I am curious as to how that has shaped my perception of these books, with particular regard to their backgrounds. I appreciate the distinction of Jewish Literature from Pauline Theology and am excited to dive into it deeper, looking at it with a fresh perspective.
I believe it is fair and important to separate Hebrews through Revelation from the other Pauline writings. I think when reading and interpreting any books of the Bible the reader should first understand the section that they are reading and then try to fit it into the rest of the bible. In doing this the reader would have to first understand who the author is and what the historical and literary context is, so it would require them to completely separate these books in order to interpret them anyway. I believe that when researching the historical context the reader would discover that these books were more likely written to the Jewish population which would then have a different meaning and direction than what Paul would have been writing to a predominantly Gentile audience. Once the reader understands these books separately they could appreciate them both for the information and guidance they hold, and could better apply this information in a way that is useful to them.
The books Hebrews through Revelation are called the “catholic epistles” or the “general epistles” due to them because seen and accepted or appealing to many people. The books included in this section all have a different approach to them, for example the books of James, 1 Peter and 1 John are considered circular letters, whereas 2-3 John and Jude are more directed toward a specific congregation. Hebrews is a book that is written more like a sermon, whereas Revelation is written as a book of letters put together. These general epistles are considered to be the “other letters” or the non-Pauline letters. Due to most of these books being addressed to Jewish Christians in the Diaspora, addressing these books as Jewish Christian Literature is appropriate.
I think that this is a fair way to read the books of Hebrews through Revelation, but I also believe that setting aside what Paul has taught and influenced in the sooner books of the Bible such as Luke-Acts, is a dangerous approach to reading the Jewish Christian Literature. I am not trying the say that it is something that we should not do, but I think removing the knowledge that Paul has taught us would not be healthy. On page 6 of Letters to the Church, it reads how the Jewish Literature books come from a historical setting that needs to be understood, and they also come from a culture of its own—not the one we are in today—and therefore, in order to understand the books, it is important to understand the authors’ ideas behind each book. Because of this, I think it is important to disregard the mind of Paul.
I am looking forward to learn more about the Jewish Christian Literature, although I am having a little trouble understanding “Jewish Chrisitan”. When I saw the image of the cross and the menorah, I wondered what does this mean? Then, I want to know how this is a Jewish Christian Literature? Another question: what is the difference between a Jewish and Christian? I guess I will find out what P. Long is going to teach us and our reading material. I noticed that P. Long mentioned about the letters well the “other letters” or the “Not Paul” collection that this will be difficult for us when we read Hebrew and James. At first, I thought it would not be difficult, but I am starting to understand it probably will be because it sounds like we are shifting into a new topic or different story line. I would like to know how these letters are Pauline, Jewish, etc. or where they are coming from. I took Pauline Literature last semester. I do understand what Paul was doing in his time, especially with the churches. What I am understanding is that we are going to learn more about the Jewish and not the churches and seeing how the Christians looked into the other books as their authorities instead of Paul. I do not know if it is fair to read Hebrews through Revelation. I do not know a lot about the books, I only know about the seven churches in Revelation. This is going to be an interesting topic.
It seems that approaching the general epistles, which include Hebrews through Revelation, as Jewish Chrisitan Literature would be appropriate considering how the general epistles seem to be geared toward a more Jewish Christian church. The Jewish Christians were different from the Gentiles in “that [they were] ethnically Jewish and continued to practice…elements of their ancestral faith” (Long, 2018). As with anything, when reading scripture, it is important that we understand the context in which it was written. Like the great majority of literature when the Bible was written, “The biblical authors assumed that their original readers shared a vast amount of knowledge about the people, places, customs, religions, society, politics, and philosophies of that moment” (Jobes, 2011). If the general epistles were written for a “more Jewish” Chrisitan, then the reader needs to recognize that when reading the general epistles (Long, 2018). The context of who the epistles were originally written for matters because it changes the circumstances and possibly even the theology that will be discussed.
Since the general epistles were most likely not written by Paul, it makes sense contextually for the reader to set aside the Pauline influences on theology while reading these letters to help them get a more complete understanding of what the writer intended to communicate to their original audience. It seems that this would only expand a reader’s theology and understanding of Jesus rather than hindering it. Because Paul’s writing are compliments to other letters, the messages from both balance one another (Jobes, 2011). These differences add a certain strength to the Scriptures that may not be there without the different perspectives.
Jobes, K. H. (2011). Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Zondervan.
Long, P. J. (2018, January 18). Introducing Jewish Christian literature. Reading Acts. Retrieved January 23, 2022, from https://readingacts.com/2018/01/18/introducing-jewish-christian-literature/
I think this is going to be a very interesting sequel to the class I had last semester with you, Pauline literature. As pointed out in the blog, generally Christian theology is always focused on Paul, and his letters are the more popular of the New Testament Letters. Yet, there are distinctions between his writings and the other letters of the New Testament. I especially appreciated your definition of calling these letters Jewish Christian literature as it helps me understand more what exactly I am getting into with this class. Even reading just Pauline literature, it is evident that there are more Jewish than not churches. If there were not, Paul would not have seen the need to address things like gentile circumcision, or following the food laws. Reading Hebrews through Revelation in light of the Jewish churches they were written to will certainly help our understanding of what the original author intended to say. This is not only a fair but also a necessary reading of these books. In order to interpret them, we must first understand the original context they were written to. That being said, I do believe that there is still value in comparing them with Paul’s letters and his theology. One of the best methods of interpreting scripture is with other scripture, in addition, since the Bible is ultimately one story, there is much to be gained in seeing the Bible together, just as there is much to be gained by reading books in their own context. Both methods are necessary.
In this blog post we read what P Long is trying to teach us through this class and the semester. The books that we may look at in this class which are Hebrews to Revelation. There can be a few things that these series of books may be called which are the other letter, and the “not Paul” letters. What does Jewish Christian actually mean? These are Christian Churches that would rather look at the beliefs of James, Peter, and John instead of those teachings of Paul that we learned last semester. While those churches that were more Gentile than not, they were to look towards the teachings of Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, Ephesus churches looked at Paul for their beliefs. Although we may see that the Jewish Christian views are similar to what Paul was teaching in Corinth with a little more Jewish views than those of the Gentiles. Some people believe that the Pauline letters can be set to the side and look at the Hebrews-Revelation letters with a different view than we would use to read the letters from Paul. I think this theory is true due to the religions that each is trying to talk to and teach about the Church and where each author is coming from.
The overall concept of “Jewish Christian Literature” is very intriguing. I think modern Christianity tends to overlook the connotations and outcomes that relate to the cultural and historical contexts of Jewish Christian Literature. As Professor Long emphasizes, the general epistles are very distinct from Pauline letters, and as such there is a need to look at them in a certain context and way (Long, 2018). While it is important to take into consideration the Pauline influence on Hebrews and other books within Jewish Christian Literature, it seems to be just as important to consider the author’s ideas for their writings independently. Karen Jobes, in her book Letters to the Church mentions that, “To understand the books of the Bible as theological writings, we must understand the author’s ideas within each book’s original historical setting.” (Jobes, 2011). So when trying to answer the question of whether we can or should read Hebrews through Revelation without thinking in Pauline categories, I would think that to some extent we should be taking note of the Pauline influence, but also there is a need to take note of the original author’s intent for the book apart from that of Pauline influence. Only paying attention to one context of a book could greatly diminish the true meaning behind the author’s intent for writing. Also, since the writings of Hebrews through Revelations have the intended audience of “more Jewish than not churches” then the way to study and read the general epistles is also different to Paul’s letters (Long, 2018). Overall, there are a lot of aspects to understanding the general epistles, so being aware of these aspects and then making the effort to understand the books in full appears to be a healthy practice when reading Hebrews or any of the other books within Jewish Christian Literature.
Jobes, K. H. (2011). Letters To The Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Zondervan.
I took two of Professor Long’s courses last school year, having found that he teaches this one as well I was interested. Typically in all of my study of the New Testament of the Bible so far has been focused on Jesus or Paul. There was little mention of the difference between the letters Paul wrote and the “Jewish Christian Literature.” I am interested to learn more about the differences throughout this course. I believe understanding these differences will allow us a better understanding of the Bible and therefore help us live out our faith filled with more knowledge.
One additional difference between the two that I found interesting was when Jobes (2011) shares, “The books Hebrews, James, and 1 and 2 Peter, John’s letters, and Jude are not explicitly addressed to a specific location, although they were no doubt written with a particular audience in mind” (p. 1). I will be interested to find out who the audiences are throughout the rest of our readings. The audience they are written too could help answer the questions about what to label these books, is Jewish Christian Literature and accurate label? Having this view in mind can help shape our thinking as we read and answer some of the big questions about these books.
Jewish Christian Literature is a very broad. There can be many questions that can arise when trying to comprehend each of the books from Hebrews to Revelations. Interesting to note that nobody to this date really knows when or who wrote the book of Hebrews. The author is labeled as anonymous. Even though there are scholars who have made assumptions based on the wording of the text. I believe that we need to set aside Pauline Theology to be able to properly comprehend the book of Hebrews. One of them being that the beginning of Hebrew did not start with an introduction like the rest of Paul’s Epistles. Jobe (2011) stated “This passage [Heb. 2:3] indicates that this epistle was not written by Paul” (p.37). It is important for us to know the history behind the books being written. Researching the context of the text beforehand will provide us with insight and better understanding of the text. Jobe (2011) states “the books of the New Testament not only have historical setting and references that must be correctly understood; they are themselves literary texts produced in a culture that is not our own” (P.6). In researching we can narrow our focus on the Jewish people to know more about what was going on in their time. There is much more to discover and answers we might not find.
I am sure that Paul had a hard time teaching about a new idea of Jewish Christians to the people of his time. It must have been difficult for them to hear that there was a new “way” of living for God. A big idea was the food laws. Paul makes statements that the food laws were no longer needed after the people had been practicing them for so long. I think that it will be interesting to study Hebrews while setting Pauline categories to the side. In Letters to the Church, Jobes states that “Hebrews is the only book of the New Testament to present Jesus both as our Great High Priest and as the perfect and final sacrifice for sin”. (Jobes, 44) I think that it is a healthy way to read these books. It gives us a different perspective and it also allows us to learn from the people of Paul’s time as well. I feel like it will not only give us a new perspective but a chance to dive a little deeper into it. I feel like it is important to see the Jewish Christian literature in the church.
I think setting a Pauline mindset to the side while reading Hebrews and the “other epistles” is totally okay and healthy to do. In fact, I think it is probably necessary; because while Paul’s writings are so foundational to living out our Christian faith, he was just one person, and it is important to hear the words from other writers. Because these letters are essentially reading someone else’s mail and not knowing what the responding letters say, we have to do the work to understand the context of which these letters were written; who was the original intended audience, why was this being written, and who was the author. I think understanding who the author is and what their background is will give us more context and understanding to the letters themselves. For the Pauline letters, we have a pretty good grasp on who Paul is, and was, and we are familiar with his writing style. Whereas James and Jude, for example, are lesser known and studied, we are not as use to their writing style.
I like the illustration of Hebrews being a bridge between the Pauline letters and the general epistles, which, by the way, I never knew were once referred to as the catholic epistles. I am looking forward to the class and digging deeper into Jewish Christian literature!
I think that the whole Bible should be read and taken as God’s Word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The Pauline letters are not more authoritative than the general epistles, they are all a part of God’s inspired Word. It is also important to note the differences between the general epistles and Paul’s letters. Passages in the Bible should be read and understood in the context of the whole Bible, the culture at the time, and the genre it’s written in. Jobes says, “The books of the New Testament not only have historical settings and references that must be correctly understood; they are themselves literary texts produced in a culture that is not our own” (Jobes, 6). One difference between Paul’s letters and the general epistles is that Paul’s letters were written to a specific audience where the general epistles were written to a more general audience (Jobes, 2). Another difference that some would argue plays a role in the authenticity of the epistles is that Paul’s letters have a known author while the general epistles are highly debated as to who the different authors of the different letters are. Part of what makes determining the authors difficult is the ancient practice of pseudonymity which involved an author using a different, well known author’s name. I would personally agree with the group of Christians that Jobes describes as seeing the “New Testament as inspired by the Holy Spirit and infer from that belief that even if a letter wasn’t written by the specified author, it is nonetheless a canonical text inspired by the Spirit” (Jobes, 8).
I personally think this is a fair way to read Hebrews through Revelation; that setting aside Pauline Theology in a sense is almost needed when understanding these books. Now Pauline Theology is a great outlook on how we should do ministry and the outworking of it with inserts of church building and other essential things. But that’s Paul’s main focus is to build up the Body of Christ and the Church as you said it’s not dealing so much with the salvation message of the Jews rather it’s focused on the Gentile Church group. When starting to read Hebrews-Revelation we are intentionally supposed to wipe our minds of the Pauline outlook and focus on these books concerning the major people group in Scripture. In doing so this allows us to create a new perspective of how the dynamics worked outside of just the “Gentile” view of things. These books also open the door to understanding what we know today as the Messianic Jews; in these books we will discover what it should look like to be present under the “New Covenant”. I do think this is a healthy way to read these books in order to understand them to their full extent.
I came from totally different culture than here in the United State. I know and understood that the accent culture and our modern culture are totally different too. I never know that what was look like Jewish Christian literature and how many languages they have. But it is very clear that their culture and languages will be very different in our own time. But the Bible is timeless truth and apply in our life. And I personally think that the Bible was written in a time and culture very different from our town. Although it was written for us, it was not written directly to us. Therefore we need to become as familiar as possible with culture of the Bible so that we can understand the Bible as the original hearers would have understood it. An understanding of Jewish culture is absolutely necessary to properly understand and apply Scripture on its own terms. I do think that it will be helpful to read and study these books in order to understand and grasp the true meaning of the Bible in their culture.
In a way of introducing us the Jewish Christian Literature, P. Long tells us that Jewish Christian Literature is talking about Hebrews through Revelation. Often this portion of the New Testament is referred to as the “catholic epistles” or also the “general epistles”. These books are called the “general epistles” because they were made to appeal to the whole church. We are told by P. Long that the books James, 1 Peter and 1 John were written as circular letters, however, 2 and 3 John and Jude appear to be directed at specific congregations. On another note, the book of Hebrews is more like a sermon instead of a letter, and Revelation has seven letters to churches that are struggling with real issues faced by the local congregations towards the end of the first century. P. Long tells us that he like to refer to these books at Jewish Christian Literature because many of them are addressed to Jewish Christians in the Diaspora. This thought comes through with the fact that except for 2 Peter, all the letters are seen as “more Jewish” than the average Pauline letters. Towards the end of this blog post, we are told what “Jewish Christian” means. This is what we are told, “Paul was Jewish and Christian. It is not as though Paul writes “Gentile Christian” letters…By giving these letters the title “Jewish Christian” I want to highlight the fact they are all addressed to “more Jewish than not churches” and Christians who looked to James, Peter, and John as their authorities rather than Paul” (P. Long). This is making it clear that Paul was a Jewish and Christian and the churches that he was targeting with his letter were more Jewish than they were not Jewish.
I really think that the Jewish Christian literature course is a very interesting subject because it is considered “not Pauline literature”. I find this very intriguing because Paul’s letters can be foreseen in almost all of the New Testament epistles and books. Whether it be living one’s life according to the faith of God or loving your neighbor as you love yourself, these are principles that Paul often spoke on throughout his ministry. Thus, I can lean on both ends of the spectrum in regard to the question at the end of the blog post. I think it can be unhealthy to read Jewish Christian literature without considering Paul as a main influence, on the other hand I can see it beneficial to leave Paul out of it because almost all of Paul’s epistles and letters were written in order to address the church. This is quite opposite when we look at Jewish Christian literature because most of the books Hebrews through Revelations is addressed to Jewish groups throughout the Diaspora. “In the New Testament, Hebrews commonly stands between the Pauline and General Epistles” (Jobes). I like to think of this quote as evidence that we should look at this book without the influence of Paul. Hebrews is the gap that separates the Pauline letters and the Catholic letters and there are many different ways that Hebrews differentiates the two; from anonymous authors to a changing in the covenant and other jangor such as the way and the reason for sacrificial offerings from the old to the new covenant. Hebrews 5:12 states that we need to be teachers and need to be taught the oracles of God. I know that Paul in no shape or form was wrong in his teachings and epistles, but times have now changed during the Catholic epistles and there is a new belief that needs to be adequately studied.