Several years ago, before my children took so much of my time, energy, and brain cells, I studied different religions and wrote about them on my blog. Oh, I had fun. The things I read! The people I met!
Then I went from one child to three, and my muse went into hibernation. All along I have continued to read, study, ponder, and learn but I haven’t shared any of it in writing. Which is too bad, because I have pondered such gorgeous, breathtaking things.
In due time I wound up at Judaism, which is complicated for me in a good way. As a Christian, I am as familiar with many of the ancient Hebrew texts and stories as I am my home address, but I know them as a Western, modern-day Christian. I couldn’t approach my study of Judaism as I did the others because its very familiarity makes it more difficult to approach. In truth, the modern or ancient Jewish worldviews are as unique to mine as any other, even if we do tell some of the same stories.
Furthermore, Judaism has greater implications for me given that my life’s focal point is what I believe to be the history of God’s plan for humanity through the Jewish people, a Jewish family, and ultimately a Jewish man. So my process and my intent, this time around, was to learn as much as I could of the culture, history, and practice of Judaism, while simultaneously using this knowledge to better understand the Christian branch that veered off from the tree two thousand years ago.
I began as far back as I could reach, studying ancient Sumer, Mesopotamia, and the ancient Near East. I have spent almost two years immersing myself into what we understand of the prehistoric, pre-Hebrew religious thought of the ancient Near East. I have read the old, old stories of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis and Utnapishtim, creation myths such as Enuma Elish; Sumerian, Egyptian, or Mesopotamian tales similar to Job or Babel; all of them stories that go back literally before the dawn of recorded time.
I have read theories on what we can (and can’t) know about the ancient Hebrew people through literature, archaeology, and artifacts. I have read debates on the formation of Israel as a nation, and the Torah/Tanakh as scripture. I have learned about the powerful civilizations of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Egypt, as well as the smaller tribes of Canaanites and Philistines. I have studied photos of the pottery and religious relics and read their stories.
Now, at last, I am turning to what in the Jewish faith is known as the Tanakh, and what I as a Christian have known as the Old Testament. And what a stunningly gorgeous treasure it is, truly a gift from the ancient world. I’m grateful for the new eyes I have to bring to the text and for the profound, breathtaking, and very Jewish message I find there…which in turn shines a piercing light on Jesus, what he taught, how he lived, and the community he began – of which I am part of to this day.
And here I ask you to join me, as I ponder these scriptures as a student of both Judaism and Christianity. I am bringing a number of much more qualified Biblical scholars with me (well, their books and a few lectures or conversations anyway), whom you will meet in due time. Some of these scholars are Christians, while others are Jewish; a few are neither one.
Come along and join me as we begin at the beginning. It is a very good place to start.