George Foot Moore, “Christian Writers on Judaism”

I reread an article by George Foot Moore, which was in the July 1921 Harvard Theological Review.  It’s entitled “Christian Writers on Judaism”.  Here are some items that stood out to me:

1.  I’ve often wondered why apologists for Christianity against Judaism during the medieval period—such as Pablo Christiani—attempted to substantiate Christianity to Jews through appeal to the Talmud or other Jewish religious literature.  I do not entirely know why they in particular did this, but, in Foot Moore’s article, I gained insight into why Pico della Mirandola in the fifteenth century did so.  For him, Ezra wrote down an esoteric tradition that was preserved orally by Jews for centuries, a tradition that included the Trinity, the incarnation, the Messiah’s divinity, purgatory, atonement through Christ, etc.  That was why the Cabala contained those sorts of concepts, according to Pico della Mirandola, and so Jews could be refuted from their own Cabala, leaving them no corner left in which they could hide.

Christian apologists to non-Christian Jews have used a similar approach—to show that Judaism has concepts that are similar to Christian themes.  But my question is this: So what if they’re similar?  That doesn’t prove Christianity is true.

On a similar note, Foot Moore talks on page 247 about Christian scholars who argued that Judaism had a concept of the pre-existence of the Messiah, as does Christianity.  Foot Moore states that these scholars are misunderstanding the sources: seeing a vision of a Messiah is not the same thing as seeing a Messiah who existed before his coming, and the creation of the Messiah’s name before the world’s creation does not mean that the Messiah himself pre-existed the world.

2.  On page 222, Foot Moore says that Protestant scholars who glossed the New Testament with rabbinic statements were not saying that those rabbinic statements were representative of the Judaism of New Testament times.  Nor did scholars such as Lightfoot and Cartwright say that rabbinic Judaism was responsible for concepts in the New Testament—as those who used their works claimed when they argued that rabbinic Judaism had a concept that the Messiah would be a second Adam, as Paul says in I Corinthians 15:45.  Rather, according to Foot Moore, Lightfoot and Cartwright were using rabbinic Judaism to illustrate the New Testament—the way that some scholars use Greek and Latin authors for this purpose.  An example that comes to my mind is when Christian commentator John Gill appeals to Greek ritual to explain ritual in the Hebrew Bible.  Certainly Gill does not believe that the Greeks influenced Hebrew or Semitic culture in the times of the Old Testament!  But he does think that Greek culture can somehow elucidate customs in the Bible—perhaps because both are from the ancient world, or both the Greeks and the Hebrews gained customs from a common religion that existed prior to Babel, or human beings develop similar worship customs across cultures.  I don’t know.

But Foot Moore’s comments on page 222 surprised me because he has often been characterized as one who quotes various Tannaitic sources and synthesizes them into “the teaching of the rabbis”, without being aware that these sayings are from different times, and different people.  On page 222, however, Foot Moore appears to be well aware that rabbinic Judaism is different from the Judaism of New Testament times.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Bible, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.