By Aaron Elder
I have missed out. I feel like we (the western church) have been missing out on a great treasure. What is that treasure? Jewish thought on the scriptures. The rhetoric goes like this: Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah, therefore their lens is broken and little can be gained, if anything, from their comments on the scriptures. I certainly held to this view personally.
Friends, this is deeply unfortunate. It feels a bit like saying, “since none of my family members are Christian, I’m not going to engage deeply in a relationship with them.” Christian or not, we are who we are at this moment because of everything that has come in the past. This is certainly so when it comes to the church and God’s word. Especially when we realize that nearly everything Jesus said is a direct reference to Old Testament Scripture. Even Acts and the Epistles are dripping with Jewish thought and hermeneutic.
In my English Bible, for example, I’m not alerted to the fact that Psalm 7 is always read during Purim. If you’re not familiar with Purim, not a worry, neither was I one year ago. It does make sense in the fact that I, an American Christian, don’t celebrate this two-day holiday. This holiday celebrates God’s rescuing of Israel from Haman’s schemes as described in the book of Esther. It doesn’t appear that this Psalm was written for that occasion, but it overlays the story of Esther perfectly.
This is but a small taste of the treasure buried within the pages of our bibles. There are a multitude of resources out there to do some digging, and there have been a handful that have been particularly helpful for me.
If you’re a podcast listener, I recommend BEMA podcast (start at the beginning) and The Bible Project podcast (also check out the Bible Project videos on YouTube). A source I’ve sampled but not purchased is the DVD series, “That The World May Know” by Ray Vander Laan. And a website resource that has been insightful is Chabad.org.
You will likely not agree with absolutely everything you hear or read, but there is much treasure to be gained. Here’s what these resources will not do: they will not give you all the answers. They will encourage you to wrestle with the text. And in the midst of that wrestling we will know ourselves and our God more.