3. Do Christians and Jews mean the same thing when they talk about "the Scriptures"?
Yes and no. "Yes," to the extent that the "books" in the Jewish Scriptures
are identical to
those Christians have traditionally called the "Old Testament," though Jews arrange those
"books" differently from the way Christians arrange them. But "No" in most other respects,
although to many Christians this "No" will come as a surprise.
Through the lenses of an authoritative collection of oral tradition known
in its written form
as "The Talmud," and also by use of commentaries on the Scriptures and even on the Talmud
itself, observant Jews have fashioned their own complex, living traditions of scriptural
interpretation. Those traditions grow and expand as faithful Jews are led by God into deeper
understandings and larger obedience.
We Christians have other ways of thinking about and relating to the Scriptures.
include in our Bible the twenty-seven "books" of the "New Testament" not found in the Jewish
Bible. Beyond that, some Christian groups include additional "books" (called the "Apocrypha"
or "Deutero-canonicals") that other Christian groups reject. Still further, we have our own
complex traditions for interpreting Scripture, ranging from literalism to allegory, to devotional
meditation, to mysticism, to moral instruction, to historical-critical analysis. Like those of our
Jewish brothers and sisters, our traditions of interpretation grow and develop as we find God
leading us in paths of obedience, faithfulness, and understanding.
Many involved in Christian-Jewish dialogue have discovered happily that
together the varied traditions of scriptural interpretation can be deeply and mutually enriching.
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