Many contemporary Jews are ambivalent about the Jewish Scriptures, and unwilling to accept them as God’s communication to us. They find large portions of the “Old Testament” irrelevant, full of violence and ways of life that we’ve outgrown—such as animal sacrifice. Yet the Bible remains central to our identity as Jews so many will mine the prophets for their ethics and the Torah for a sense of tradition and history.
And though it’s not often said, many contemporary Jews also have have mixed feelings about the “New Testament.” It’s thought to be the Gentiles’ book, even an anti-Semitic book. Yet those who read for themselves find Jesus’ teachings strangely compelling and very Jewish.
In this section we explore possible reasons to believe that the Bible (both Old and New Testament) really is God’s communication to us. We’ll also zoom in on the questions of how Jewish the New Testament is, and whether it is in fact anti-Semitic.
The New Testament–which simply means New Covenant–needs to be accepted for what it is, a Jewish book written almost entirely by Jewish people. Most of the concepts in the New Testament cannot be understood apart from their background in the Hebrew Bible. It was fashionable a few years ago to claim that the New Testament contained a large proportion of ideas which were not Jewish but Greek. More recently, though, archaeology has vindicated the Jewish origins of practically everything within the New Testament.