Vandy professor discusses ‘New’ Testament

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Vandy professor discusses ‘New’ Testament

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Amy-Jill Levine, Ph.D, a New Testament professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, spoke for over an hour on Sunday at the Aquinas Institute of Theology.

Levine, a practicing Orthodox Jew, discussed a new version of the New Testament, which she co-edited. Levine’s new version differs from other versions already available because it was edited and footnoted by leading Jewish scholars.

Levine began her speech on Sunday talking about the book, The Jewish Annotated New Testament, but she finished with an exhortation to Christians, Jews and other faiths to keep up an interfaith dialogue with those around them.

Levine noted that the New Testament tells a story that appeals to Jews about people who were primarily Jewish. This fact allows it to be helpful in interfaith dialogue.

Christians can look at the Jewish annotations to understand the way in which many of their customs and beliefs follow directly from Jewish tradition. Modern Jews can read the New Testament as a historical text to gain insight on how some of their traditions were practiced at that time.

“From this new dialogue can come understanding,” Levine said. “By understanding each other, we can begin to erase the misunderstanding and stereotyping between many Jews and Christians. After all, Jews and Christians did not become separate until 200 years later.”

Levine said that one thing Christians can learn from Jews is how they view inclusion into their faith and disagreements within members. She mentioned that one becomes Jewish by blood, not by choice. If a Jew disagrees with a Jewish practice, she can disagree with it her whole life, but in the end, she will still be a Jew.

One becomes a Christian by belief. If one disagrees then one is discounted as a Christian. Levine said she saw this as a weakness in the Christian faith.

“It could be better, and Christians would have more freedom to argue safely. If Christians took Baptism more seriously,” she said.

After speaking, Levine took questions from the audience. The topics of the questions ranged from the Jewish perspective of the Eucharist, to current Jewish eschatology, a branch of theology concerning the end of the world.

A diverse crowd of approximately 150 people attended the event, which was co-sponsored by the Aquinas Institute of Theology, Eden Theological Seminary and the Jewish Community Relations Council. The attendees consisted of many who identified as Catholic, Jewish or Protestant.

Levine is a nationally recognized author and New Testament and Jewish Studies professor. She described herself academically as combining “historical-critical rigor, literary-critical sensitivity and a frequent dash of humor with a commitment to eliminate anti-Jewish, sexist and homophobic theologies.”

The Jewish Annotated New Testament and many other books by Dr. Levine are available from in paperback, hardcover or e-book formats.