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Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Christians celebrate “Biblical Feasts”: My Jewish Perspective

Other posts you may or may not want to read:

festivals2 When Christians celebrate “Biblical Feasts” – ie, appropriate Jewish holidays and give them all kinds of marvellous messianic meanings. Ugh.

As a homeschooler, it was inevitable that I’d come across homeschool materials offering information about “Biblical feasts” – which is what Christians call our holidays. (despite the fact that at least one – Chanukah – isn’t mentioned in the Bible) (okay, except the Catholic Bible, which did canonize the book of Maccabees)

festivals

There are also all kinds of homeschool materials purporting to teach Hebrew and other information about Shabbat and holidays, always with the helpful Christian perspective.

I read a post recently on a homeschool list mentioning a book which would be useful for sharing these “Biblical feasts” with Christian homeschooled kids. Even though I mostly lurk, I felt I had to jump in:

Many Jews don't appreciate the way Jewish holidays have been
appropriated by Christians, with Christian meanings superimposed on them.
Most Christian websites and books promote an inauthentic (ie non-Jewish)
perspective on these holidays - akin to finding Jesus in Divali, Eid, or any
other non-Christian festival.
It is true that Jesus was Jewish and did observe many of these holidays.
However, he did not follow them with any "Christian" intent, for obvious
reasons. Additionally, Jewish holiday celebrations have changed a great deal in the
last 2000 years.
Jesus himself, if he were here today, might not recognize the modern form of
many Jewish observances, all of which were instituted by rabbis who did not
accept Jesus as a Jewish messiah.
If the Biblical holidays lend depth to your study of the Jewish Bible, that's
wonderful, but it is important to maintain a perspective on just how authentic
they are (or are not).

Though I still find this kind of study (especially with kids) really distasteful – particularly in the many “Christ in the Passover” observances that have sprung up in even the most well-meaning Christian churches, I have begun to differentiate slightly between the active-proselytization brand of Hebrew Christianity and the sincere-Christian-seeking-knowledge type.

In one case, they’re sharks… and I completely believe they will not stop until they have absorbed every single Jewish soul. On the other hand, maybe just innocent dupes, or miseducated -slash- bigoted clergy…? I don’t know. I really don’t know enough.

Either way, these are not really friends I am comfortable snuggling up in bed with, so to speak. Speaking of which: almost 12:30! Gack! I have done my part to destroy years of interfaith relations, at least enough for one day… on this cheery note, goodnight!

I welcome your comments and questions.  Moderation is on to block spam, but I will post all legitimate comments, even if I do not agree with your views.

7 comments:

rivster said...

I have long had a similar response to the reappropriation of **our** festivals. Your reply was well-written.

Anonymous said...

As a homeschooler, it was inevitable that I’d come across homeschool materials offering information about “Biblical feasts” – which is what Christians call our holidays. (despite the fact that at least one – Chanukah – isn’t mentioned in the Bible) (okay, except the Catholic Bible, which did canonize the book of Maccabees,

I am Catholic, and I once questioned a 'messianic christian' about this. It throws a wrench in the Protestant 'bible alone' mentality, doesn't it? They've rejected the rituals of Christianity and yet they yearn for rituals. It's either accept that 'bible alone' is not true Christianity or take over the Jewish holidays. I guess I have to give them some credit for digging deeper than most Protestants who pretend to reject 'tradition' and yet celebrate Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter that were brought about by tradition. Those Christians don't even realize that Christmas means the mass of Christ, and the Catholic church decided that 12/25 would be the feast of the nativity. Maybe the Messianic Christians will wake up and realize that what they really want is to be Catholic:)

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

I agree, it's a contradiction.
What many people don't realize is that many of the Jewish rituals and prayers these Christians are adding are post-Biblical, ie they are rabbinic in origin.
The kippah (scullcap) and other things like bar mitzvahs are fairly modern. If they are trying to reclaim the faith of Jesus, shouldn't they reject rituals created by rabbis who refuted his authenticity as a Jewish messiah?
You cannot seamlessly blend two faiths a couple thousand years after they diverged.

Anonymous said...

I did not realize that they incorporate Jewish practices that are post-biblical. That makes this conversation even more fascinating.

Elle said...

Thank you so much for bringing up this subject with such tact! I think we have to remember that things are both on an individual level and a national one. Individually there is little harm meant by this - they are simply trying to find meaning in their faith by finding "their roots" so to speak. Nationally, this has a devastating reality - it serves to wash out everything that is Judaism and redefine it into something it was never meant to be.

I personally feel it is best to educate people about this. Most are shocked that this was offensive to Jews! When the truth is shed on that subject many people are astounded. Christianity knows very little about Judaism, but it perceives itself to know much. Ignorance in bliss.

How do I know? well, feel free to read my blog to find out more about me... no sense in me taking up more space here than I already have :)

Anonymous said...

Is it not acceptable for non-Jews to celebrate with their Jewish friends? Earlier this year for Passover, I was away at university over what should have been my spring break, but my parents' house was flooded and I had to stay in the dormitory. A Jewish friend of mine found out, said that was really depressing, and invited me to his family's Passover seder. I'm agnostic, but I accepted, because I was lonely and he wasn't taking no for an answer. It was very fun and everyone was very welcoming to me, even though I wasn't Jewish. Was it not appropriate for me to attend? Now I feel really bad, that I might have barged in somewhere where I wasn't supposed to be. I didn't think it was a problem at the time, but now, after reading your blog and many others raising issues about fake Jews, now I'm wondering.

Sorry, this is really verbose and probably a stupid question.

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

@Anonymous, Oh my goodness, NO! What you did was completely appropriate, and so wonderful that you were able to join them!

What I said applies mostly to Christians who create their own Jewish-inspired rituals and "give them all kinds of marvellous messianic meanings".

It doesn't sound like you were doing that AT ALL. It sounds like you were being very respectful of their rituals, and very open to learning about them. You weren't pretending to be Jewish and Christian at the same time... or claiming their seder would be better if they did it "in Jesus' name," were you? :-)))

Thanks for stopping by, and come back anytime!