Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Crucified Rabbi

The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity
© 2009 Taylor Marshall
236 pages

Take for granted Christianity’s inseparable connection to Judaism, but what does it mean, beyond knowing that Jesus was Jewish and died during Passover?  The Crucified Rabbi is the first volume of a Catholic history trilogy, and examines the close links between the early Christian church and those of Judaism.  That they abound shouldn't be surprising, given that the early Christians were Jewish. I had no idea, however, how much Jewish heritage had been passed through the Catholic tradition.

Taylor Marshall opens with the obvious, Christianity’s central claim that Jesus was the Jewish messiah.  His arguments probably won’t turn any practicing Jews into Messianics but after that things get more interesting. Subsequent chapters address shared elements of the two religions. Some ties are easier to see than others, like related holidays, prayer hours, and vestments. Others will be a harder  sell for the author, though his arguments are certainly interesting. Take for instance the idea that Jews were predisposed to Marian worship because of traditional devotion to the Queen Mother; this strikes me as problematic given that 1st century Jews were long removed from their monarchy.  In the same vein is the teaching that the Ark of the Covenant was a antecedent to Marian worship, because Mary like the Ark hosted the spirit of God. 

In addition to examining their shared religious history, Marshall reviews the political relationship between the Catholic church and the Jewish people;  things were not always so cozy. Though Catholic scholars have a long history of appreciating the Torah, the Church and its people have branded themselves with the mark of Cain many times, especially during the Crusades.  I did not realize how aggressively John Paul II pushed for reconciliation with Jews, I suspect the book is written in the same spirit. Though heavily footnoted with biblical and Vatican references, the book is on the light side, but an easy introduction to how much of early Christianity was simply Judaism in an altered context. 


  • The Misunderstood Jew: the Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus, Amy-Jill Levine
  • Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, Laura Winner;  a work on how Jewish spiriutality can inform others, especially Christian. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting! Because of some very clever spambots, I've had to start moderating comments more strictly, but they're approved throughout the day.