Book: The Bible for the Curious
Chapter: 6. Ancient Judaisms
We have seen how ‘Israel’ is an identity with several claimants, each with
its own story. In the case of the New Testament, we have a multiplicity of
‘Jesuses’. There is more than one memory of a historical figure and more
than one understanding of what followers of Jesus Christ, as he becomes,
should believe and do. The New Testament exposes these identities, ending
in a highly vivid climax: Jesus Christ returns to defeat his enemies,
gather the righteous to himself and bring creation and history to an end.
The stories begin in Palestine with a Jewish teacher and healer understood
by his followers as the culmination of all that the scriptures mean.
They move beyond Palestine and beyond Judaism, and what begins as a
confrontation with Jewish authorities ends as a confrontation with the
Roman Empire. But they give only hints of the eventful history of their
time and little explanation of the culture of first century ce Palestinian
Judaism. The original readers, of course, did not need telling, but two thousand
years later, some explanation is necessary.