Judeo-Christian - Input Junkie
There's a recent discussion
of "Judeo-Christian" started by fjm
, and I have a sufficiently different spin that I'm putting my reply here.
"Judeo-Christian" has both always gotten on my nerves and seemed like an effort at good will. I see it as a way of defanging the worst sorts of anti-semitism-- the kind that presents Jews as malign aliens. This is something I really want defanged, and it isn't completely dead yet.
My usual reaction has been to say "I prefer 'Jewish and Christian' instead", which at least both respected my pretty mild annoyance and my desire not to swat down an effort at good will on an important matter.
There's obviously a fair amount going on behind that phrase, and at this point I'm curious-- if you're a Christian and use "Judeo-Christian" or used to use it, what do you think it means? What do you think other Christians think it means? Do you think Jews and Christians have things in common which aren't shared by other groups?
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This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/500128.html
. Comments are welcome here or there.
comments so far on that entry.
I use "Judaeo-Christian" if and only if referring to elements which show continuity through the first few centuries of the common era and are shared by the whole spectrum from post-Ezra Judaism through the Gentile Christianity of the first few centuries CE and post-Tannaitic Judaism. Thus it might refer to liturgical elements carried over from Synagogue to general Christian use, or to views which distinguished both groups from their pagan surroundings. There certainly are such elements (see work by Neusner, for example) and it seems to me to be meaningful to discuss them using a single label.
|Date:||September 21st, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC)|| |
This is my general understanding of the term, too. Thanks for expressing it so clearly.
|Date:||September 21st, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)|| |
How about "A Person"?
|Date:||September 21st, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)|| |
Additionally, the Babylon 5 episode comes to mind where the religious customs of the various member worlds are demonstrated. At the end Sheridan introduces a line of human beings, beginning with, "This is (so and so), he's an Atheist. This is a Buddhist..."
"Abrahamic" drives me bananas, and probably doesn't capture the gamut of current Christian cults. It bothers me for reasons related to what alletedb said about supposed superceding of earlier doctrine by later, and because, AIUI from my outsider's perspective, Christianity is supposed to be a creed separate from ethnicity, so I don't understand why Abraham should be so very important to it all, especially since Mohammed is the Seal of Prophets. Judeo-Christian seems like a useful inclusive label for ideas that are common to Jews and Christians, but I contend that you could also use "biblical" or "scriptural" for a lot of cases.
But I'm an atheist, so I probably shouldn't be replying here anyway.
|Date:||September 21st, 2011 07:14 pm (UTC)|| |
"so I don't understand why Abraham should be so very important to it all, especially since Mohammed is the Seal of Prophets."
Mohammed is that *in Islam* -- in Christianity and Judaism he's nothing, or less than nothing.
Abraham on the other hand is revered by all three faith groupings: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
So there's an easy answer to your question.
"Judeo-Christian seems like a useful inclusive label for ideas that are common to Jews and Christians, but I contend that you could also use "biblical" or "scriptural" for a lot of cases."
'biblical' and 'scriptural' don't work, because they're a reference to particular written works, not to the faiths, traditions or cultures in questions.
|Date:||September 21st, 2011 02:24 pm (UTC)|| |
I used to defend the term because there are commonalities between the religions that seemed hard to describe any other way. Now I use more precise phrases such as "Hebraic influences on Christianity," "Biblical," "monotheism," "from the psalms," and so on.
I agree that socially the term is friendly but appropriative and perhaps condescending, in that whether the speaker shares the assumption or not, the term plays into the idea that Christianity supersedes Judaism. (I never thought of it that way; for instance, in "socio-cultural," I see both as vital and the concept about the overlap.)
Ehrman's books of historical Biblical scholarship, which I reviewed recently, covers some of the same matters as the talk lethargic_man gives notes on, but in more detail and not to a specific Jewish audience--that is, not so much "Christian treatment of these Jewish elements twists them" as much as different sets of textual interpretation, even various within each faith, as in each faith's interpretations closer to the time of writing vs. now. In fact, he concentrates on all the various viewpoints even in one "testament," exploring how the fractures rub up against one another in interesting ways.
So yes, I think there are definite commonalities between the two religions, although Christians often re-interpreted the Hebrew bible to justify being Jewish and believing Jesus is the Messiah, or to establish a history. I honestly don't know what aspects Judaism and Christianity share that Islam does not, or any pair within the three except in the most superficial sense (no pork in Judaism and Islam).
It never occurred to me that "Judeo-Christian" could be taken to mean that Christianity has superseded Judaism. I still can't see how that idea can be derived directly from the phrase, and I'm not bad at deducting meanings from context. This is not intended to deny that people could frequently mean that, just that it doesn't seem inherent in the phrase.
On the other hand, there are a lot of Christians who apparently have "superseded by Christianity" automatically appended to any thought of Judaism. Maybe that's the connection.
I'm American and while I have a Protestant Christian background with several ordained ministers and church historians in my family tree, I'm more of a Theist or Universalist, myself.
I use the term to refer to the American Protestant parts of the Bible that overlap in both faiths, something that seems rather unique. This is, as Aliette said, not necessarily true in Catholicism, which has a different version of the Bible from (most) American Protestant, though not hugely different and a different emphasis than most American Protestant churches. Many American Protestant churches do look to the Old Testament for inspiration and give it equal weight with the New Testament as the Word of God.
So I would agree that it's probably an American term and even then might be limited to particular sects of American Christianity and have little to do with Judaism.
You did ask for a personal interpretation of the term and that's all this is.
That's all I wanted. Thank you.
I heard the phrase during my university years, usually delineating cultural themes and attitudes shared by both religious traditions (stemming from what the Christians call the Old Testament, and the Bible, or Torah, for the Jews). I've tried not to use it in recent decades as it's inexact--there are better terms for whatever cultural issue one is discussing--but no one had told me it was offensive. Glad to learn that, and will try to excise it more consciously.
|Date:||September 22nd, 2011 04:00 am (UTC)|| |
not quite right
The Torah -- literally, "instruction" or "teaching" -- comprises specifically the first five books, called in English Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.* What Christians call the Old Testament, we call "Tanakh" in Hebrew -- an acronym for its three divisions, Torah, Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings). In English it's often called the Hebrew Bible. I don't call it the "Old Testament" for the same reason that I don't refer to the woman I met 43 years ago today as my "first wife" :-). [I've been waiting years
for an opportunity to use that line; the timing is incredibly great.]
* "Torah" is also used more broadly to refer to
1. the entire Hebrew Bible -- this is the sense you were thinking of -- or
2. even more broadly to the entire corpus of Jewish law. See http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/The_Written_Law.html
I've mostly taken to using "the Abrahamic religions," which includes Islam, since most things in common between Judaism and Christianity are also common with Islam.
|Date:||September 21st, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)|| |
One test of elision, I'd think, is whether people who talk about Judeo-Christian thought also ever talk about Jewish thought on its own. A lot of the public faces of the religious right, for instance, talk a lot about Christianity and Judeo-Christian values, but rarely about actual Judaism, and then often only in terms of a Christian end-times scenario. Maybe anyone using the term should be tested to see if s/he is able to talk for at least five minutes in a positive way about Jewish tradition as it differs from Christian tradition.
I hear the phrase "Judeo-Christian" and I hear "the only two religious groups that good Americans aren't supposed to hate and fear."
This is not meant to be taken as sarcasm.
Somehow, I find this reassuring. That you said so, I mean. Out in public. Sort of.
|Date:||September 21st, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC)|| |
I used to think it was an honest attempt at inclusiveness, but as I learned to listen for context, I realized that it was usually used in the phrase "our Judeo-Christian values" by Christians who actually meant "our Christian values, but let me add 'Judeo-' on there so I don't sound antisemitic".
Google has found for me an essay about the term
which claims it was first coined in England in the 1820s to refer to Jewish converts to Christianity, and the more modern sense of the term was introduced by liberals in the 1930s at the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Its adoption by the right started in the '50s, partly as a way of contrasting a religious America with an atheistic USSR. For the past decade it's been used a lot to portray Jews and Christians as having a relationship not shared by Muslims.
|Date:||September 21st, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)|| |
Btw, Womzilla and I are finally watching Community, starting with the first season--I have no idea why it took so long to register on our radar--and we just watched an episode with an almost excruciating example of a single-minded Christian trying to deal with the fact that other religions exist. ("Comparative Religion," season 1 episode 12.)
Hmm. Okay, I'm a Christian and:
1. I do not find the term in itself offensive; it used to turn up regularly in my History of Religion classes. As far as I know, it refers to the cultural/religious intersection of those two religions, i.e. what they have in common, and it's an adjective, not a noun.
2. I have observed that in certain circles it gets used in a condescending, just-this-side-of-hostile way that grates on me like fingernails on a blackboard. (These are contexts where the users are unfriendly to Judeo-Christian beliefs and Christian beliefs/Christians in particular.) :/
|Date:||September 22nd, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)|| |
My main question is whether Judeo-Christian, or Jewish, or Christian, is supposed to refer to their present meaning, their original meaning, or their "average" meaning over a historic interval; or is it an adjective that varies over the time it is applied to?
The original, scriptural Judaism was ruthless, brutal, and genocidal. The original Christianity was fanatically pacifist, anti-family, anti-materialistic, apolitical, and communistic. I'm pretty sure almost nobody uses any of these terms to refer to the beliefs and traditions found in the original scriptures.
|Date:||September 22nd, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)|| |
Not to mention that you need to state whether Pauline Christianity is "original" Christianity. (I would say no.)
|Date:||September 26th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)|| |
I see "Judeo-Christian" as an attempt to co-opt Judaism, used by Christians who, perhaps quite innocently, have no idea how different the religions are. "The Abrahamic religions" doesn't bother me that way, partly because it's a plural, indicating they are really different religions that are simply being spoken of together for convenience, and not mashing two together in a compound. ("The Abrahamic religious tradition" on the other hand would convey the same feeling of co-opting that "Judeo-Christian" does.)