Saturday, November 19, 2005

The New Jesus Seal

A newly excavated seal, from the sixth century, found in ancient Tiberias, bears the likeness of Jesus on it. On its reverse side, it contains the inscription "Christos" and the depiction of a cross.
The archaeologist in charge speculates the seal belonged to a highranking Church official.

And, separately, Geza Vermes, the well known, Jewish, Dead Sea Scroll scholar, suggests a method of rapprochement between Jewish and Christian communities who often are ill at ease in dealing with each other.
Jews will have to stop being afraid of Jesus and treating Him as taboo. When we look at Him through the prism of history, rather than theology, and in the light of all the freshly gained knowledge of the world in which He lived, He reveals Himself as Jesus the Jew, who in the judgment of Martin Buber, one of the greatest modern Jewish thinkers, deserves an “important place in the religious history of Israel”.

From my own experience, I think a lot of Jews still regard the serious mention of Jesus as taboo, although the subject is rarely addressed head on. It's more often squelched.

I can endorse Vermes' perspective on this matter. I've found the historical approach to work quite well at easing awkwardness that may arise in religiously fraught situations. From the Jewish perspective, this approach helps to defuse the matter entirely.

The task Christians have to confront is, if anything, even more challenging. They must face up to the fact that the image of Jesus and the formulation of His message have come down to the Church not in their original language — they were delivered to simple Aramaic-speaking Galilean Jews — but in a culturally alien language (Greek) and in a form adapted to the needs of Hellenised non-Jews of Syria, Egypt, Asia Minor, Greece and Rome. The saying, Traduttore traditore (a translator is a traitor), applies not just to texts but to the transmission of religious ideas as well.

Christians will need to discover the Jewish meaning of the authentic message preached and practised by Jesus and a way to apply it to their own circumstances today.


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