Christianity And The Piety Of Pre-Destruction Hebraic Judaism -- By: Richard N. Longenecker

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 05:2 (Spring 1962)
Article: Christianity And The Piety Of Pre-Destruction Hebraic Judaism
Author: Richard N. Longenecker

Christianity And The Piety Of
Pre-Destruction Hebraic Judaism

Richard N. Longenecker, Ph.D.

Throughout the course of the years since the first century, many comparisons have been made and many distinctions drawn between Christianity and Judaism. And with the modern ecumenical emphasis, this interest is being revived. It is, of course, always possible to consider these two great monotheistic faiths from the perspective of their contemporary manifestations and relations; but of greater significance for theology is a comparison of the two as based upon their own normative records of the first century. And this is the purpose of the present study: to compare and contrast the spirituality of New Testament Christianity with that of the Judaism which existed before the destruction of 70 A.D. and which was Hebraic, not Hellenistic, in character. And, assuming that at least the main outlines of New Testament Christianity are known to the audience addressed herein, we will devote the major portion of this study to an analysis of the piety of pre-destruction Hebraic Judaism.

The Problem

Judging from the very diverse opinions expressed, an analysis of pre-destruction Hebraic Judaism’s spirituality seems well-nigh impossible. On the one hand, the majority of Christian scholars have followed the position popularized by Emil Schurer; i.e., that first century Pharisaism’s motivation lay in its “faith in Divine retribution,”1its “ethic and theology were swallowed up in jurisprudence,”2 and the combined result was a “fearful burden which a spurious legalism had laid upon the shoulders of the people.”3 Thus the many statements in Christian writings which easily equate Pharisaism with “legalistic Judaism” or “legalism,”4 and the direct assertions that the Pharisee of the first century lacked “inwardness, a sense of relative values, unity and peace of his religious and moral life” while he lived in an atmosphere of “externalism, superficiality, casuistry and unsatisfactory religious fellowship.”5 On the other hand, most Jews agree with Solomon Schechter and Israel Abrahams: insisting that “it is hardly an exaggeration to maintain that there is no noble manifestation of real religion, no expression of real piety, reverence, and devotion, to which Jewish literature would not offer a fair parallel.”6 And concurrently, some Christian scholars argue that “the Judaism of the Pharisees, from which Christianity tore itself away, ...

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