Q As a Jewish Christian myself, I think there’s a sense that one is betraying his or her heritage — it’s as if we’ve defected. Even the language of conversion makes it sound as if we’ve left one side and joined the other. Might there be a way to see that that separateness is not a betrayal?
I think so. My own work is partly a way of mediating and trying to reconcile these different sides of myself and my own background — and to affirm both my Jewish heritage and my Christian conviction. I see myself as both Jewish and Christian. For many people those terms are opposite, but who defines what Jewish means and what Christian means?
This in-between group that saw itself as both Jewish and Christian has a right to be heard, just as the voices of those who eventually decided that “Jew” and “Christian” were opposites have been, and which is the way that we usually think of things today.
I get a thrill in reading the Pseudo-Clementines, say, or the Gospel of Matthew — these texts are in some ways so Jewish, and affirm the Jewish heritage, and yet are obviously Christian. It makes things a lot more interesting for me, because it gives these documents a sort of ethnic texture; that is a texture that I relate to, and know about, and can recognize.
Q I wonder if your research on the parting of the ways between Jews and Christians might shed light on some of the problematic “anti-Jewish” passages in the New Testament?
This fall, I have a long article coming out about a Jewish curse against heretics, which became part of the standard Jewish prayer, and which I think was originally directed against Christians. So that has to do with the rabbis and their relationship to Jewish Christians, and their attempt to drive these two communities apart. So it does have to do with Jewish Christians, but it also has to do with the rabbis’ response to them. And I think this is part of the background to some of the rage against “the Jews” in the Gospel of John, for example.
Recently I’ve also been working on an apocryphal work called The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, which I want to argue is Jewish Christian. People have noticed that it has Jewish elements, and then there are these passages that are obviously Christian. So there’s been a big debate: Was this originally a Jewish work that was later interpolated by Christians, or was it Christian from its inception?
I want to argue that it was both. Actually, this was a fairly common view in the middle- and late-19th century. But since then, most scholars have said that it’s got to be either Jewish or Christian. I think that’s partly because that’s the way we’re trained to think — because most people today are either Jewish or Christian. The idea that there could have been people who were both, and who produced some significant literature, doesn’t even occur to people. But it might occur to someone like you and me, who are similarly situated.
Lori Baron was born and raised in St. Louis where she attended a conservative synagogue, which her parents still attend. She holds a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and an M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary. Professor Marcus is the faculty advisor for her dissertation, “The Shema in the Gospel of John.” She currently worships at the United Church of Christ in Chapel Hill, N.C.