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Jewish typology in Christian feasts


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#1 Sean Selig McMahon

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 09:12 PM

Hey everybody, this is my first time posting on monachos.net. I've always found this discussion group to provide a wealth of information and direction as I study the Christian faith.

I am currently unaffiliated with any church. I started following Christ a year ago, and quickly became involved with a Calvinist church because they wanted my musical skill for for worship leadership. Needless to say I felt thrust into a position of authority that I felt totally unworthy to occupy. As I got to know their teachings, I found I couldn't stay any longer -- I felt I would be led away from truth.

I was blessed, however, to make friends with a Greek Orthodox priest, and through him I have been able to learn about the faith. But now I live in a different city, and my search for the True Church continues.

In an effort to understand the Old Testament better (and thus Christ), I have been studying torah with a Chasidic rabbi (I am Jewish by blood, but I did not grow up in an observant household). I do find that, for the most part, what I am learning with him is very edifying to my understanding of Christ, although he obviously does not accept Jesus as Moshiach. But I have learned that there is a long and rich oral tradition in Judaism that stretches back to before Christ, and I find that with the chasids, their observance of sabbath and feast days is very Christ-centric in that they are very mystical, and try to draw near to the mystery of God through a kabbalistic understanding of the commandments and observance. Again, while they do not accept Jesus as Christ, I think that nevertheless, their understanding of torah as "shadow" or "type" of the Age to Come is helping me understand Christ.

Now for my questions:

1) What I want to know is, if and how was this tradition preserved and expanded upon in the Orthodox Church? I have been reading "Surprised by Christ" by Fr. Bernstein, and he narrates the evolution of the "Nazarene" church (believers in divinity and Christhood of Jesus, while still practicing Torah -- to be distinguished from the Ebionites, who believed Jesus was Messiah but not Divine) as it became the Syrian/Antioch church. So far as I know, Orthodox Christians do not observe Torah or jewish feasts as such, but, as a priest described to me, you observe these things in their forms "transfigured in the life of Christ."

This is, then, primarily a question about the nature of the continuity between Jewish and Christian liturgical traditions (as well as sacred history, but that has less to do with feasts).

2) More specifically, could anyone point me to online resources where I could learn about the exact typological correspondence between Orthodox feasts and Jewish feasts? The Festal Menaion was recommended to me because of its prayers and scriptural selections, but I can't get my hands on a copy. I'm interested, for example, of how Feast of Booths corresponds to The Transfiguration on Tabor (this was asserted by the priest), and other such connections.

Apologies for the lengthy post, I just wanted to be clear and provide some background information. I appreciate your responses!
Sean

#2 John S.

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 02:51 PM

Sean,

You ask a lot of heavy questions, and there are probably many people more competent than me here that can answer them.

As an initial matter, however, I would suggest getting a copy of the Orthodox Study Bible as a reference (if you don’t have one already). See below:

http://www.amazon.co...27589297&sr=8-1

You can get a copy online for about $30, and there are TONS of articles and notes in the Old Testament about how the Old Testament and the Hebrew religion were transfigured by Christ in the New Testament.

Hope this helps!
John

#3 Fabio Lins

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 03:51 PM

Sean, here is some material you may find useful.

The best site for studying liturgics in a historical context showing how traditiona Liturgy develops into Catholic forms (Western and Eastern) and from these the Protestant forms for those who have it:
http://www.liturgica.com/html/lit.jsp

And obviously, this site: "Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism"
http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/

#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 03:54 PM

I'm definitely in the minority here, since I believe that the perceived Jewish influence on the early Church is overblown and the result of modern scholarship trying to find continuities in a way that they never existed. Continuity is pointed to in the synoptic Gospels, but already at a very early date in the Gospel of John we can see a radical development in the understanding of Christ which was plainly inconceivable to Judaism. Also we see this in St Paul's epistles, which proclaim a new Law in a way which brought to him attempts on his life, not praise from the synagogue. Consistent with this, I would even say that the synoptics should be read as radically realigning the OT scripture which they refer to- certainly not as if it was some possibly acceptable teaching within the Judaism of its day. The early Church preached to the synagogue then and this teaching was fundamentally rejected, except on the level of several individuals.

This then is why already from the time of the early Church, preaching was being brought to the Gentiles- ie Greeks & Romans. And from here step by step, the teaching and practice of the Church developed into what we find now. Has all trace of the OT disappeared from this? No. But as the Fathers testify, the way in which the Old Law was referred to was fundamentally altered, so that the Church is the illumining of the Old.

Thus I do not agree that there was historical continuity within Orthodoxy from the classical Judaism of Christ's time. I think that what had been before was rapidly and radically overwritten by the Church. Thus I believe, what hearkens to the Old Law (in our services and theology) is not due to historical continuity, but rather to a conscious reapplication by the Church of what was in the Old Law. At first sight these two may seem to be the same thing. The first view however is to maintain the force of the old on the new. Whereas the latter as testified to by the Fathers on a continual basis, is the force of the New upon the Old.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#5 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 04:23 PM

May I recommend Jesus Christ and the Temple by George Barrois?

Herman

#6 Kosta

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 11:05 PM

The feast days of Judaism are seen as fullfilled in the christian feast days. The crucifixion of Christ is the fullfillment of Yom Kippur (see Heb 10.3-4), hence the unblemished lamb of God who assumes the sins of the world.
The Ressurection is the new Passover. The jewish festival of Shavuot is fullfilled in the christian Pentecost. In judaism it is when the firstfruits of the harvest are brought to the temple. These firstfruits were a shadow of the 120 gathered in the upperroom who became the first christians. In judaism its also the day commemorating the giving of the torah on Mt Sinai, likewise on this day we were given the Holy Spirit. As the jews were given the Law to guide them, we were given the Church to guide us.

In the website judaism101 we see a description of this holiday similiarly mirrored as to how the Fathers speak of the reception of the Holy Spirit, Simply substitute the word torah for Holy Spirit:

'It is noteworthy that the holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than the time of the receiving of the Torah. The sages point out that we are constantly in the process of receiving the Torah, that we receive it every day, but it was first given at this time. Thus it is the giving, not the receiving, that makes this holiday significant'.

Circumscision is fulfilled in baptism. We are cleansed fully in the regenerative waters (uncircumscision is seen as uncleanliness) and in the Orthodox tradition we are given our names on the day of baptism. Converts themselves must find a baptismal name to signify their rebirt. That boys names in judaism were given at circumscision (and still are) see Lk 1.59-60, 2.21

#7 Sean Selig McMahon

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 08:13 AM

I'm definitely in the minority here, since I believe that the perceived Jewish influence on the early Church is overblown and the result of modern scholarship trying to find continuities in a way that they never existed. Continuity is pointed to in the synoptic Gospels, but already at a very early date in the Gospel of John we can see a radical development in the understanding of Christ which was plainly inconceivable to Judaism. Also we see this in St Paul's epistles, which proclaim a new Law in a way which brought to him attempts on his life, not praise from the synagogue. Consistent with this, I would even say that the synoptics should be read as radically realigning the OT scripture which they refer to- certainly not as if it was some possibly acceptable teaching within the Judaism of its day. The early Church preached to the synagogue then and this teaching was fundamentally rejected, except on the level of several individuals.


This last point is what interests me -- I'm aware that of those "several individuals," there were believers in Jesus who continued their observance of mosaic law -- their observance must have therefore had some relation to the rabbinic tradition of that time. I think what is of most interest to me here is not just how the Jewish-Christians (the "Nazarenes," as Fr. Bernstein puts it in "Surprised by Christ") worshiped, but what informed their worship -- what the content of their oral tradition was, and whether or not that was assimilated into the Church. I'm not yet willing to chalk it up to hypocrisy alone (a la Paul's confrontation of Peter) that the Nazarenes as a whole remained observant of mosaic law.

There are some fascinating things coming up in my study with my chasidic friends -- certain traditions, a lot of which have to do with genealogy in Genesis as well as ideas about oral traditions given to Moses (minhag and midrash). These, however, are actually helping to make sense of certain biblical mysteries, such as the reference to the book of Enoch in Jude and other such oddities. I'm simply wondering what happened to these minhag/midrash traditions -- whether they were truly separated from the Church traditions as the Church competed with/separated from rabbinic Judaism, or whether they are fully represented and fulfilled in Church teaching. I don't doubt core Christological doctrines -- but I do have concern that history -- and thus a clearer biblical narrative of sacred history -- is being lost.

For instance -- what if it really is true that stories or traditions were passed down from Adam through Seth, Noah, Abraham, all the patriarchs, Moses, etc, that circulated through the Hebrew priesthood that are alive in Jewish tradition today but lost to the Church? Does the fact that Christ is the fulfillment of any such hypothetical tradition make it any less valuable? And what if it is just as illuminating as the writings of the Fathers? Such is the nature of my questions.

I liken it to a common argument I see in favor of the Church's teaching authority -- sola scriptura isn't sufficient authority because it was the Church's corporate authorities that decided upon the canon. Not only this, but the Church existed before the writing of many New Testament documents. Likewise, the hebrews had their own canon of teachings, many of which would today still be considered minhag/midrash, which helped certain individuals see Christ before His time (or recognize Him when He came) -- what were they? What did the Holy Spirit reveal to David? What traditions did he receive from his fathers that the Holy Spirit revealed to them that were not written by Moses? etc.

Fr. Raphael, I appreciate your response, as well as the rest of the responses on this thread. I will be investigating the "Jewish Roots of Eastern Mysticism" site.

Oy, it's late. Thanks for all the responses!

#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 03:52 PM

From my persepctive we can afford to read the earliest texts of the Church- what we now call the NT, and the Apostolic Fathers (also some of the early Apologists)- to see where the Church stood in relation to Judaism. If we read these texts and let them speak for themselves and also hear what they say in terms of the Church what is very striking is how rapidly the early Church moves beyond the Judaism of its time. That there is no influence at all is not what I am saying- but still when we read a very early text like the Didache for example, it is striking to what degree the Church has taken Jewish modes of piety, worship and scripture- and now sees it as Its own. In other words what stands out is the way in which the earliest Church documents that we have do not at all maintain that the Christian community is the historical continuity of Judaism in the sense that is just a reformation of Judaism, or a more pure form/sect within Judaism. This is what many scholars maintain, positing that at some point after the first apostles (mostly with St Paul) an almost new religion is created which replaces the earliest Jewish Christians.

However- again to return to the actual evidence we have from the earliest Church documents- we see something radically different. Which is that the Church sees itself as the true Israel, and that the OT scriptures are of the Church, not of the old Israel. This leads to the often repeated point which we know of up to our own time that in the Church the old Israel is fulfilled, because the purpose of the old Israel dispensation was to lead to Christ.

That the earliest Jewish Christians followed several Jewish practices is undeniable. St Paul himself is a good example here for the in Acts we see him (and the other disciples also) attending the Temple, going to meetings of the synagogue, and following several pious Jewish customs. However at the same time we also see how he moves beyond this in way hardly countenanced by contemporary Judaism- but which more importantly he himself sees as the establishing of the New Law of faith in Christ as found within the body of the believing Church as founded in Christ. This is not at all to disparage Judaism in its essence- this is not St Pauls' point either. But rather to stress that already by the time of St Paul, the Church openly taught that the life of Israel could only be found in the Church.

This then is hardly evidence of the early Christians as the Jewish-Nazarene sect that often is depicted in scholarship. Rather the evidence speaks of a Church very rapidly appropriating whatever it saw fit of Jewish piety and sense and of course the scripture. But filtering this through the lens of the light of Christ so that in remarkably short order much that marked historic Judaism was left behind. It is no accident then that the evidence shows that the Church after its earliest period saw those who strongly retained Jewish practice as being heretical. And again, after its earliest period, the form of Christianity brought to the Hellenic- Roman world was scarcely mistaken for Judaism.

In all of this I think we have to be very careful of seeing the Church as subject to the secular historical laws that scholars often perceive. It is largely due to this that the idea has become so popular that the early Church was the synagogue with Christ the Rabbi Messiah as its inspiration. Then comes the second and third wave of apostles & fathers who basically add to and bury the original simple teaching of the Church. So that what was originally there was lost to a great degree.

Of course the Orthodox could never accept this last point. For us to maintain that the Church has true continuity (and if it doesn't it clearly isn't the Church but rather a human invention as the scholars claim) then it must be apostolic not only in theology but also historically. Which means that in terms of the Old Israel, the Church is consciously founded as a renewed Body in Christ from its first days. This doesn't mean that everything of the old Israel was left behind. But it does mean that very rapidly only that which pointed directly to Christ, was preserved.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael




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