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The Parting of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity 2nd Edition
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About the Author
James Dunn was Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham until his recent retirement. He is the author of numerous best-selling books and acknowledged as one of the world's leading experts on New Testament study.
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Top Customer Reviews
Chapters 9--11 basically deal with Christology and Monotheism, and I consider this to be the heart of the book. Dunn explores key Christological texts that present a high view of Christ. He notes that in these treatments, while they express very innovative statements about Christ, the authors are careful to distinguish between God the father and Christ. Moreover, he claims their descriptions and treatments have parallels in other Second Temple Judaism writings. He concludes that there is basically nothing that would necessitate a parting of the ways between Christianity and Judaism, in spite of the unique claims for Christ.
He has an excellent discussion of how early Christological thinking was developed in patristics as new issues arose. He contends that as the earlier thinking was forgotten or overlooked, and words, concepts or new definitions were used, Christology did result in views that compromised both Christian and Jewish monotheism (theo--logy). Specifically, in early Christological thinking the Word or Wisdom of God was manifested in and through Jesus. But, as the concept of Jesus as the "Son of God" began to replace the concept of Jesus as the "Word," and the focus switched from the continuity between Jesus and God to the relationship between them,and the Word became a person (in our modern sense of the term), Christianity's original monotheistic belief became bi-theistic. Dunn comments in this section were invaluable as a contribution to the discussion of Christology, and in helping to pave the way to proper understanding of what Orthodox Christology was and how orthodox Christology should be understood.
Dunn believes the reason for the final parting of the ways between Chistianity and Judaism was because, as speculation and expressions grew after 70AD and statements began to challenge basic monotheistic thinking, Christian thinking continued expanding its thinking about Christ while Jewish thinking was becoming rabbinic and narrowing its thinking about God. I am sure the disagreement over Jesus being the Messiah was also a key factor.
The main point I like about Dunn's writings is that he continues to try to express the fact that when we read the various types of N.T. Christologies (Lord, Son of Man, Second Adam, Wisdom, etc.), these should be interpreted in terms of ancient Jewish thought, which was not mythological but poetical and theological (indicative of the significance of a person or event). It is amazing how often theologians take notice of this but then proceed to take such claims as historical factual descriptions. I do think more attention needs to be paid to explaining how the specific Christological statements actually function in the texts.
Dunn begins this book with a brief historical overview of this particular vein of study. Having brought the reader up to speed, Dunn presents what he calls "The Four Pillars of Second temple Judaism" (monotheism, election, covenant focused Torah, land focused temple). Dunn's premise is that it was in these four areas that Judaism and Christianity clashed and eventually split from each other. However, it must be said that very early on (beginning with the title of the book) Dunn points out that it is incorrect to speak of a single "parting" of ways, rather it was indeed "partings" of the ways--partings between different groups of believers in different geographic areas, at different times, and over different issues. What's more, even after such a parting can be identified, the paths of Judaism and Christianity still continued on in very close proximity to each other for hundreds of years.
As each of the four pillars is examined Dunn begins by considering the relation of the historical Jesus and his teachings to the pillar at hand, followed by the history of developing theologies in the emerging Christian sects, and their relation to the pillar in question. After the evidence is examined, Dunn attempts to pin down a precise point (or points) of departure between the ways of Judaism and Christianity.
The reading is a bit laborious (especially if you intend to check all the scriptures and texts Dunn refers to) but well worth the reward! The picture of both Judaism and Christianity in this point of history is not the bland monolithic portrait systematic theology has produced. Instead, Dunn uses not only the familiar Old and New Testament texts, but well over a hundred other texts from the late second Temple period (including selections from the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Josephus, Rabbinic texts, etc.), as well as copious references to more contemporary works in order to produce a masterful panorama of the heterodoxy of both Judaism and Christianity of the time--literally the Judaisms and Christianities of the late second Temple period. I highly recommend this book for not only those who wish to understand the "hows" and "whys" of the split between Judaism and Christianity, but also for those who desire a more accurate and realistic portrayal of the developing Church than the one usually presented by various Christian denominations.