Monday, April 05, 2010

Julia O'Brien

Julia O'Brien has an excellent blog about the Hebrew Bible. She provides insightful thoughts on why Christians might not want to celebrate a Seder meal at Easter. Many Christians I know do this, but I shrink from practicing the traditions of others. She has recently written articles on Violence and the Bible and Who cares about the Prophets.


EricW said...

One reason is historical. The Passover seder had not reached its current form at the time of Jesus. It was substantially shaped in later centuries under the direction of rabbinic thought. Jesus may have eaten a meal at Passover, but it didn't look or sound just like today's seder. Using modern haggadahs (the texts for Passover) as a window into an ancient practice isn't "authentic."

This is correct. About 25 years ago I wrote a 1st-century Passover Haggadah that recreates the feast as celebrated during Jesus' time, as best as can be determined.

Another, more important, dimension of this issue is interfaith sensitivity. Many Jews find Christian use of the seder during Holy Week offensive--yet one more case of taking a distinctively Jewish observance and superimposing a Christian meaning on it. If Christians are truly interested in Jewish practices, they should separate the seder from their own liturgical practices. Pay attention to Passover sometime other than Holy Week. Ask what it means to Jews. Learn when and why the haggadah was formulated.

I disagree with this argument. Christians have as much right to incorporate a replication of the Last Supper during their Holy Week services as Jews do to have an annual Passover Seder. It should no more offend Jews that Christians do this than it should offend Christians that Jews continue to reject the Messiahship of Jesus. Besides, one could argue that a Christian Last Supper is more authentic in spirit to the Bible than a Jewish Seder, since so many of the original elements have been removed and changed - e.g., a lamb is no longer slaughtered or eaten. One could also argue that Christianity is more authentically Biblical and Mosaic than much of modern-day Judaism. So, why should Christians be unable to have a Passover meal because it might reflect insensitivity about the plight of Palestinians in the State of Israel?

To quote the robot in Lost In Space: "Does not compute."

Donald Johnson said...

I went to a Sedar this year that was led by a Messianic Jew and have done so other years with other Messianic Jews. Obviously, they invited gentiles like me to participate.

One question this post raises is what is the relationship between Jews and Christians. I see them as sisters both being birthed at the time of 2nd temple Judaism when ended with the destruction of the temple.

Muff Potter said...

What O'brien and other academics and intellectuals (UK, Canada, & U.S.) fail to acknowledge is not so much Israel's right to exist, but its slim margin for gambling error on account of its less than ideal geography.

Israel does not enjoy two-ocean protection from potential threats nor can it bank on the non-belligerance of its land neighbors like the U.S. and Canada can.

Israel cannot afford to gamble on its intel that nearby rockets and other munitions caches might not be located in Mosques and children's hospitals, it must act in order to preserve the safety of its own populace.

Hamas' stated goal and raison d'etat is the extermination of Jewry in the Levant.

It is more than happy to exploit the Anglo Saxon sense of decency and fair play in the West to accomplish that end.

If Hamas can paint Israel as the bad-guy miscreant, so much the better. It then gives O'brien's statement that Christians should refrain from observing Passover Seders more currency than it deserves.

For me, O'brien's article rings as hollow as the Wehrmacht officer in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" who said: "...I am uncomfortable with the thought of this Jewish ritual..."

EricW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EricW said...

Sadly, the long-term and continued security of the Jews in the State of Israel was doomed from the beginning. While the basis of the original U.N. partition logically gave the Jews those parts that were settled and dwelt in by Jews, and the Arabs those parts that were settled and dwelt in by Arabs, the design of the partition, IMO, made the future creation and growth of a country that could be largely Jewish in a largely contiguous area impossible; rather, it was and remains a country that could and can defend itself against hostile neighbors only by extraordinary measures and with extraordinary vigilance, as well as with the vital and continued support of other nations (among whom the U.S. may soon no longer be counted). Imbalanced efforts to blame Israel for the Palestinians' woes when the country is surrounded by unbelievably wealthy Arab nations, any one of which could financially and physically magnanimously rescue their "fellow Arabs" without missing a beat (but they get too much benefit from "The Palestinian Problem"), are an extraordinary case of tunnel vision, if not (also IMO) outright anti-Semitism. Or read Alan Dershowitz The Case for Israel.

But while I thus think Christians need to cut Israel some slack when it comes to judging and blaming them for the Palestinians' grievances, that doesn't mean they should bend over backwards so as not to "offend" them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by having the "bad taste" to celebrate a Christ-focused Passover Seder during Holy Week. After all, you can get arrested in Israel for proselytizing. Maybe Christians should agree to stop having "offensive" Christian Seders if Jews in Israel agree to stop persecuting Messianic believers and arresting and deporting missionaries. :)