Christianity in Talmud and Midrash

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Strack and Billerbeck painstakingly gathered materials from the Talmud and Midrash that help explain the faith, perspectives, and practices of the Jews during the life of Christ and the period of the early church. Going through each New Testament book verse by verse, Strack and Billerbeck reference passages from the Midrash and the Talmud to show not only how they informed the opinions of the experts in the audience, but how centuries of teaching from those sources would have informed the popular understanding of what was being said or done in a particular verse or section.

Though much work has been done on Second-Temple Judaism since Strack and Billerbeck published this work, nothing has come close to replacing it.

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It is the seminal and standard reference work in this area of research. If you want to learn about the Jewish worldview at the time of Christ, you must have Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrash in your library. The Logos edition of Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Midrash is completely indexed, giving near-instant access to any word or reference. The Scripture references are linked to your preferred Bible translation and appear on mouseover. Greek, Latin, and Hebrew words link to the language tools in your library, allowing you to access basic lexical information with a simple right-click.

These books, previously available only to specialists, will soon be accessible to everyone. As the scope of the project becomes clearer, the price might increase, such as when we announce the translator and begin the work of translation. That means users who pre-order the earliest—with the fewest details available—will get the best price. Interested in having these volumes in the original German?

Christianity in Talmud and Midrash

Hermann Strack — was born in Berlin. In , Strack founded the Institutum Judaicm, an organization focused specifically on the conversion of Jews to Christianity. The Biblical and Hebrew term emunah, which is inadequately translated as faith or belief comes from the same root as the Hebrew term art — and, the Biblical term emunah is a matter of the heart like art , and not a matter of the rational mind like science or philosophy.

The Biblical term emunah does not appear one time in the Bible in the form of an explicit command to believe that God exists — nor is there any explicit command to believe any other theological or philosophic proposition, nor any philosophic argument attempting to prove the existence of God or any other theological or philosophic proposition.

The term emunah is not used in the command form. The term emunah throughout the Hebrew Bible is used in a psychological sense of loyalty or devotion to God that expresses itself in proper behavior or in an optimistic attitude of hope, thankfulness and appreciation.

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The Biblical concept of emunah faith or belief is a psychological and not theological concept of the heart. The implications here are enormous concerning the essence of religion. Faith conceived in an orthodox and theological sense such as belief that God exists is abstract and divorced from behavior.


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One can believe that God exists and yet live a completely immoral life; conversely, one can be a moral atheist denying the existence of God and yet live a moral life. By contrast, Biblical faith as reflected in the meaning of the term emunah is orthoprax and pragmatic in nature necessarily expressing itself in moral behavior. One who truly believes in God in the Biblical conception, which is a matter of the heart loyalty and devotion to God who in the Biblical conception demands morality , will necessarily live a moral life.

Moral character and behavior in the Biblical conception is testimony demonstrating loyalty and devotion to God in the heart constituting emunah, faith even though such a moral person may deny the existence of God theologically; conversely, immoral behavior is testimony demonstrating a lack of loyalty and devotion to God in the heart a lack of emunah, faith even though such an immoral person may declare that he or she believes in God.

Biblical faith emunah of the heart is revealed not in philosophic declarations but in behavior. With this background, we can now address the issue of contradictions in the Torah, Bible and Talmudic literature.

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I will give as an example of contradiction what in my mind is perhaps the most fundamental contradiction of the Hebrew Bible and Talmudic tradition — the contradictory conceptions reflected in the two main Biblical terms for God, YHVH the great unpronounceable name of God and Elohim. The distinction between the two terms YHVH usually translated as the Lord and Elohim usually translated as God is a fundamental distinction of the Bible and a key to understanding the Bible and Jewish tradition.

The differing terms are reflected in the two opening accounts of creation in the Torah.

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Thus, Elohim is conceived as the transcendent and universal God of nature and power who has created the entire universe. The image of Elohim, as Creator and Ruler of the world, is that of a judge who issues judgments. A judge in issuing judgments establishes justice. But, justice is imposed by the judge as a function of his or her power and authority. One may disagree with a ruling of a judge, and consider it to be immoral.

The verdict, though, must be accepted in respecting the power and authority of the judge , unless there is an option of appeal to a higher judicial authority. In the case of God, no such option exists. By contrast, YHVH is conceived as the God who acts in the world within history as a God of revelation and redemption redeeming the people Israel from slavery and giving them commandments on Sinai to guide them , and most importantly demands morality.

The name YHVH is associated with compassion and love, and the image of YHVH is that of a parent whose compassion and love for his or her child is unconditional. A judge may be willing to be lenient and understanding in imposing a sentence in a trial. However, such leniency and compassion is conditional, depending upon circumstances of the case, and signs of remorse and change on the part of the accused.

Incidentally, the Hebrew word for compassion contains within it the word womb. We are obviously not dealing in the Hebrew Bible with two separate and distinct gods. The idea expressed here, which is also expressed in the second story of creation Genesis 2, 4 in the joining of the terms for God, YHVH Elohim the Lord God , is that the true God Elohim who has created and has dominion over nature and the entire universe is a moral God YHVH , who demands morality. This is an experiential and orthoprax correct deeds expression of moral commitment to live a moral way of life that God YHVH demands, rather than a philosophic and orthodox correct belief affirmation; and, comes in response to an experiential question as to who is truly God in the Biblical world, and deserving of loyalty and worship among the many gods demanding loyalty and worship.

The worship of other gods, of forces of nature in the ancient pagan cultures expressed itself in the form of fertility cults. Elohim is a transcendent God outside of creation, YHVH is God of revelation and redemption who is revealed within history as a God of redemption and morality.

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The obvious question here is — how can one God be characterized by contradictory aspects? Either God is characterized by judgment or compassion, transcendence or immanence. This seeming paradox as to how contradictory aspects can each represent complementary aspects of one God is a product of a certain way of thinking. The outlook reflected in seeing a paradox here is what is called a western mentality — a highly rationalistic and analytical outlook that is an influence of the ancient Greek culture in which systematic philosophy originated.

In western thinking there is a tendency to see a contradiction either this or that regarding two contrasting things either front or back. This does not mean that everyone in the western world has such an outlook but that such a mentality is characteristic of western cultures that are based upon systematic philosophy, science and technology.

By contrast, an eastern mentality, which is characteristic of eastern cultures, is not rationalistic and analytical based upon analysis and fragmentation , but is intuitive and integrative based upon synthesis and integration. In eastern thinking there is a tendency to see a reciprocal relationship no this without that regarding two contrasting things in spite of the contradictions between them as front and back are complementary and inseparable aspects of an object, and there can be no front without the back and no back without the front.

The Hebrew Bible being entirely absent of systematic philosophy reflects in a consistent way an eastern mentality.