Is the Old Testament a Jewish Book?
Many people, both Judeophiles and Judeophobes, believe that the Old Testament is a “Jewish holy book.” Jews as such did not come into existence until the time of the prophet Jeremiah. The ancestry of today’s Jew and Judaism began during the Babylonian captivity. (The Babylonian captivity occurred in two waves, 597 B.C. and 586 B.C., and ended in 538 B.C., when the Jews in Babylon were allowed to return to Jerusalem.)
As most of the books of the Old Testament were written before the Babylonian captivity and even before Jeremiah’s time, they cannot be Jewish — except in the sense that Jews consider them sacred as Christians consider them sacred. Thus, they are just as much Christian as they are Jewish. Indeed, they are even more Christian than Jewish, as Christians recognize and accept Jesus as the Messiah prophesied in them and Jews do not. Moreover, Moses, a Levite, wrote the first five books, the Pentateuch; he was not a Jew.
Originally, a Jew was a citizen or a subject of Judea from about the time of Jeremiah — sometime between 627 and 580 B.C. Later, the term was used specifically to identify those who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon at the end of the captivity (538 B.C.). Eventually, it came to apply to the followers of the tradition of men, the Talmud.
In the time of Jesus, “Jew” primarily meant an inhabitant of Judea. In the religious sense, most Jews were followers of the “tradition of men.” Accepting the tradition was the Pharisees, and rejecting them was the Sadducees. Later, “Jew” came to signify a person who followed the tradition of men as preserved in the Talmud. Today, a Jew is a person whose ancestors were Jews who did not convert to Christianity.
Also, in the days of Jesus, many inhabitants of Judea, Jews, were Edomites, who were not descendants of Judah, but were distant cousins. Today, according to Jewish historians, most Jews are descendants of the people of the now extinct Khazar Empire. Only a few seem to be descendants of Judah.
The tradition of men was the oral precepts attached to the Law. Presumably, they were the oral teachings of Moses, who, by the way, was not a Jew. He was a Levite and never lived in Judea. By the time of Jesus, the tradition was replacing the Old Testament as the supreme authority, which explains why Jesus adamantly and ardently condemned it. Eventually, the tradition became the written Talmud.
Unfortunately, Christians have followed the example of the Jews and have created their own tradition of men. Often, the Christian tradition appears in the creeds adopted by the Catholic Church, most of which the Protestants have also adopted. Furthermore, they appear in the teachings of such renowned church fathers as Augustine. As the Jewish tradition superseded the Scriptures, so the Christian tradition has superseded the Scriptures.
Converts from Judaism to Christianity are often called “Jewish Christians,” especially converts during the first century or two. To call someone a “Jewish Christians” is an error. The term is an oxymoron. A Jew rejects Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. A Christian accepts him as the Messiah, the Son of God. (I do not recall converts from paganism being called “Pagan Christians,” although they brought of a good deal of corrupting baggage into Christianity as taught by Jesus and the Apostles.)
Also, to refer to Jesus as a Jew is erroneous and, perhaps, even egregious. For Jesus to be a Jew religiously, he would have had to denounce himself. Instead of claiming to be the Messiah, he would have to reject himself as such. (As an inhabitant of Judea, he could be considered a Jew politically, but even the use of Jew in the political sense is incorrect because Jesus was a Galilean and not Judean. However, the political sense of Jew is not what those who call Jesus a Jew mean. They mean Jew in the religion sense.) Furthermore, in the Bible, Jesus is referred to the “Son of David,” “Son of Man,” the “Son of God,” and the Messiah (Christ), among other things; but except the sign that Pilate ordered to be placed above Jesus on the cross, he is never called a Jew (or, for that matter, as “God the Son”).
In summary, most of the books of the Old Testament are not Jewish since most were written before Jews as such came into being. Moreover, they are more Christian than Jewish because Christians recognize and accept the Messiah prophesied by the Old Testament. Furthermore, the real holy book of the Jews is the Talmud, which contains the tradition of men.
Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Coley Allen.
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