A Scripture-based effort seeks to fuse the textual analysis techniques of Judaism with Christianity.
The key organizing concept of this short book from Jinnett (The Seven Days of Creation, 2015) is the great Second Temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in C.E. 70. That act ended the long period of Temple-based Judaism characterized by such features as chief priests and ritual animal sacrifices. The obliteration of the Temple signaled a shift in Jewish religious culture that coincided with the rise of apostolic Christianity, underscoring the “olive branch” metaphor favored by Jinnett (and St. Paul). The author envisions Christianity as a wild olive branch grafted onto the older olive tree of Judaism. This underlying unity of two faiths that merge to tell “a combined story of God’s will for the world which is understandable and believable” runs throughout the volume. Exploring various connections, Jinnett explains that the study of Torah commentary can “provide insight into the deeper symbolic or allegorical explanation” of a biblical text “and the sometimes hidden, mystical interpretation of a passage.” The author states his hope at the outset that his readers “will be inspired to read the Holy Scriptures so that new souls will be awakened to God’s Glory.”
Jinnett furthers this view by deftly reading key elements of the New Testament through the interpretive lens of Second Temple Rabbinic Judaism. “I firmly believe,” he writes, “that Christians can gain a better understanding of the Bible as Jesus knew it by understanding how devout Jews may have interpreted the Bible in the first century C.E.” For example, the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper can be better comprehended “in the mold of the Priests of the Temple,” who each week ate 12 loaves (Challah) of Shewbread consecrated in the Sanctuary of the Temple. Or take the story of the old man Simeon, who watched in the Temple for the coming of the Messiah—a tale wonderfully fleshed out here with copious references to modern Talmudic studies. Jinnett’s work, illustrated throughout by Bowden, is typified by this kind of invigorating and challenging interfaith exploration. Christian and Jewish readers alike should find plenty of interest and provocation in these pages, as well as a good deal of instruction. The author has done a prodigious amount of research while preparing for this volume. (Some of that investigation could be stricter in future editions—New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan’s name, for instance, is often misspelled “Crosson.”) Jinnett writes that he accepts that the Gospels “evolved from earlier oral traditions and source material”—a remarkable concession from an author who elsewhere tells his readers about the magnificence of God’s word—and this balanced intellectual approach extends to the extensive endnotes, in which a terrific, detailed textual discussion continues.
A brief, impressionistic, and richly erudite look at the commonalities of Judaic and Christian scholarship and tradition, illustrating the ways the two branches connect.