Difference between Christian and Jewish interpretations of the Hebrew Bible





Difference between Christian and Jewish interpretations of the Hebrew Bible

The differences between Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Hebrew Bible are due to four in four major reasons. Firstly, Jews tend to take the words of the texts literally and base their interpretations on the simplest explanation to the text. They are however also very liberal within their methods their use of imagination and creativity. These methods involve scrutiny of text details and basing interpretations on relations to other unusually similar details in other contexts.  A good example is in the phrase “In the beginning God created”, a reference to the Torah. Jews interpret the affix be in “bereshith” (“in the beginning”) to mean “for the sake of” instead of “in.” Since Proverbs, 8:22 cites resith to mean “the beginning of His way,” Jews interpret the first verse of the story of creation to mean God created the World for the Torah’s sake.

Jewish interpretations also rely heavily on the importance of understanding the Bible within the wider historical and cultural contexts that produced it. Imagery dialogues, parables, and legends about biblical characters like Moses, David, Solomon, Abel, and Adam and Eve greatly influence Jewish interpretations (Anderson, Clements, Satran, 25). These stories serve to form the basis for their interpretation and provide precedence for their traditional application. A lot of this lore is very captivating. In the following example, lore is used to explain the creation of Eve. Since God created Adam in His own image, other creatures, including the angels, mistook him for God Himself and were on the verge of worshipping him. God, therefore, brought a heavy sleep over him. This made the angels realize that he was but a mere mortal. God then fashioned a wife for Adam, from his rib, and named her Eve. The deep sleep served to ensure the development and continuity of the human race by giving Adam a mate. It also served to prove to all creatures God’s sovereignty and show them the difference between Him and man.

Thirdly, Jewish interpretations further allow more freedom for allegory, metaphor, exaggeration, hyperbole, synecdoche and other literary devices (Leviant, 38) than their Christian counterparts do. Jews handle texts in a highly artificial manner and use cleverness to bring attention to the laws of Moses effectively exposing “hidden meanings”. This, therefore, increases Jewish interpretations tendency to draw attention to commandments. The legend about the creation of Eve refers to the commandment against the worship of idols. God seeing that the angels and creatures of the world were about to worship Adam, made him sleep and created a mate for him so that all would know that man was also his creation and that He alone is to be worshiped.

Lastly, the reason for reading the book is also a huge contributing factor. We read books for their historical content, grammatical content, thematic content, legal content or theological content. Christianity assumes that faith is a gift from God that comes through His grace. This means that we have no control over grace.  Judaism believes that through actions that are true, the relationship between God and man is made real and is essential for the growth of faith.  Whereas it God’s choice in Noah is clear due to his righteousness and gentle nature, His choice in Abraham leaves a lot of questions.  The Torah offers no information as to why God chose Abraham or as to the history of their unique friendship. Christianity alludes that God chose Abraham, in spite his faults and fits perfectly with the Christian definition of grace. God grants some individuals the privilege of a special friendship with Him. This concept is opposed to Judaism.


Works Cited

Anderson, Gary A, Ruth Clements, and David Satran. New Approaches to the Study of Biblical Interpretation in Judaism of the Second Temple Period and in Early Christianity: Proceedings of the Eleventh International Symposium of the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Associated Literature, Jointly Sponsored by the Hebrew University Center for the Study of Christianity, 9-11 January, 2007. Leiden: Brill, 2013. Internet resource.

Leviant, Curt. Masterpieces of Hebrew Literature: Selections from 2000 Years of Jewish Creativity. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008. Print

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