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Monday, November 14, 2005

New Testament: 'Greatest misreading in history.'

Jesus and Yahweh: The Loves Divine, by Harold BloomThe larger-than-life literary critic Harold Bloom talks to the Boston Globe about his new book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine, which I'm sure I won't be able to resist reading. Harvey Blume asks him especially about the way his most famous theory applies to religious history:

Would it be a misreading to say that your theory of the anxiety of influence in literature begins with your ideas about the relationship between Christian and Jewish Scripture?

BLOOM: It would not be a misreading at all. I began brooding about the anxiety of influence well before I came up with the phrase — probably in a course I took, back when I was 18 or 19, about the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible.

I think the Greek New Testament is the strongest and most successful misreading of a great prior text in the entire history of influence. Everything in the New Testament is deliberately lined up so as to serve — so they say — as the ultimate fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible. But, historically speaking, I do not think the treatment Jews have received from Christians is any kind of fulfillment. Rather it's an endless — I must fall back on the Yiddish here — shandah [shame].

("Divine (mis)readings," Harvey Blume, Boston Globe 11.13.05, reg req'd)

We live in an age when at least a few Christian leaders — including Pope John Paul II — have become aware of the great dangers embedded in the idea that Christianity has replaced or superceded Judaism. But it still seems that Christianity will need another profound misreading in order to recast its relationship with Judaism at the popular level. The liberal church practice of reading first from the "Hebrew Bible" and then from the "Christian scriptures" (rather than from the "Old" and "New" Testaments) obscures a relationship while trying to avoid hints of supercessionism — but such gestures don't go very far toward addressing a problem woven right into the texts themselves.

In case you're looking for a good but challenging read, I've found that the essays in Christianity in Jewish Terms (Westview 2002) offer a great way to see my own religious tradition through Jewish eyes.

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 14 November 2005 at 7:42 AM

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