New Teaching Paradigm

A model of the "New Teaching Paradigm" is being developed by the Bat Kol Academic Team, under the direction of Dr. Maureena Fritz, Academic Director of Course Development. This paradigm forms the basis for the new courses being produced for Bat Kol’s International Study Programs, both in Jerusalem and abroad.

“Whoever meets Jesus Christ, meets Judaism.”
—John Paul II, 1980

Encounter and Relationships: The Gospels as Jewish Literature The New Teaching Paradigm

Introduction
After the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965, a sea of change took place in biblical exegesis and theological thinking with the publication of Nostra Aetate and subsequent documents on the Church’s relationship to Jews and Judaism.

Two important foundation stones for the new paradigm change emerge from the statement by John Paul II, repeated several times thereafter:
1. that the covenant of God with the Jewish people has “never been revoked” (cf. John Paul II, Mainz, 1980; Romans 11:29), and,
2. the statement from the 1985 post-Vatican Council’s Notes on the Correct Way to Present Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechism...: “The Gospels are the outcome of long and complicated editorial work: The sacred authors wrote the four Gospels, selecting some things from the many which had been handed on by word of mouth or in writing, reducing some of them to a synthesis, (and) explicating some in view of the situation of their Churches...” (#24).

Many international initiatives followed: explanatory Vatican documents, liturgical renewals, resolutions, and apologies for past wrongdoings and erroneous teachings. But there was also a clear need to change catechetical and clerical education programs and to re-school teachers and preachers of scripture on all levels of church ministry and service.

Teaching Objectives
Bat Kol Institute, inspired from its founding in 1983 by Nostra Aetate, and encouraged by the Vatican imperatives for this new teaching paradigm, has been developing new courses which provide RE teachers and catechists with a new approach to Scripture.

They begin with recognition of the Gospels as Jewish literature and then seek to read and understand those stories and teachings in their original Jewish cultural setting and historical context, using the many Jewish sources which have been available to exegetes through the ages.

The themes are that of creating and maintaining relationships between People and God—How to read the Bible in light of the covenant in a post-Nostra Aetate world.

Outline of Lectures
[1] A Brief History of Christian-Jewish Relations, beginning with the first century. This lecture is to provide an answer to the question, “What happened during the previous 1900 years that caused the Catholic Church to respond so compellingly and dramatically with new teachings, biblical interpretations, and teaching guidelines for all levels of religious education?”

“We [Jews and Christians] must work together to build a future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians, or any anti-Christian feeling among Jews. We have many things in common. We can do much for the sake of peace, for a more human and more fraternal world.” —Pope John Paul II

View I am Joseph, Your Brother... an award-winning film production that opens with the Pope landing in Israel for his historic visit in 2000, and works back through the church’s often tortured history of relationships and teachings on Judaism.
[2] Church Documents: The series of published materials prepared by the Vatican since the declaration of Nostra Aetate are a response to its stated desire to treat differently the elements of religious education in our colleges, schools, and parishes. These documents are not well known to all coordinators, curriculum writers, and teachers.

“...the Jews and Judaism should not occupy an occasional and marginal place in catechesis. Their presence there is essential and should be organically integrated.” —Pope Benedict XVI

“The urgency and importance of precise, objective, and rigorously accurate teaching on Judaism for our faithful follow too from the danger of anti-semitism which is always ready to reappear under different guises.” —Notes on the Correct Way to Present Jews and Judaism..., Vatican document

[3] Introduction to Jewish Scriptures & Sources: Talmud, Midrash—the Oral Torah. Teaching the use of the Jewish sources, and introducing students to key texts/authors available. This material provides a vast untapped resource for study and teaching, adding new depth and understanding to readings of the Torah/Jewish Scriptures, situating the story back into its original context, considering the audience to which the text was addressed.

“Christians must strive to acquire a better knowledge of the basic components of the religious tradition of Judaism; they must strive to learn by what essential traits the Jews define themselves in the light of their own religious experience.” —from Guidelines...for Implementing the Conciliar Declaration, Nostra Aetate, 1975.

“Traditional Jewish methods of scriptural argumentation for the purpose of establishing rules of conduct —methods later codified by the Rabbis—are frequently used in the words of Jesus transmitted in the Gospels and the Epistles.” —The Jewish people and their sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, Vatican document

[4] Introducing the Gospels as Jewish Literature. Study opens with the more familiar New Testament readings, and then draws texts parallels with Jewish Scripture and literature.

“Whoever meets Jesus Christ, meets Judaism.” —John Paul II, Rome 1980

“Without the Old Testament, the New Testament would be an incomprehensible book, a plant deprived of its roots and destined to dry up and wither.”

—The Jewish people and their sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, Vatican document

“The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion.” —John Paul II, Rome, 1986

Following is a selection of the lectures, drawing first from a New Testament text and developing its understanding through reference to the Old Testament and Oral Torah. The number of such examples depends on whether this is for, say, an international weekend workshop or for a month-long Jerusalem Study Program.

The number of lessons and examples in this section will vary according to the study settings. Longer international course offerings, and universities, will use the extended version, with more texts.

a. The Wicked Tenants: [Matt. 21:33-45; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19]. This parable, which is a retelling of the Song of the Vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7, is a good text to use to exemplify the new paradigm shift of “the covenant with the Jewish people never revoked” and the cultural setting in which the gospel writers wrote the text. Examples of ways to interpret difficult texts in the Old and New Testaments are presented.

b. The Samaritan Woman: [John 4:4-26]. Here is a story about encounter, living water, and the Spirit. It is taught in conjunction with the Jewish Festival of Succoth, with its ritual of the water-drawing at the Temple, where Jesus was present.

c. The Good Samaritan: [Luke 10:25-37]. The well-known NT parable is related to the laws of purity in the Book of Leviticus and Talmudic teaching on love of neighbor [Lev. 19:18].

d. How to Gain Eternal Life: [Mark 10:17-31; Matt. 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30]. A pious Jew wanted to know how to inherit eternal life. Jesus appealed to the absolute priority to be given to God described in the Decalogue, the summary kernel of the Jewish religion. The Talmud talks about an elephant passing through the eye of a needle [Ber. 55b].

e. The Parable of the Two Brothers and their Father: [Luke 15:11-32, Gen. 25] will be taught in conjunction with the season of repentance (Elul) and of Yom Kippur, the day of forgiveness.

f. God of our fathers,

You chose Abraham and his descendants to bring Your name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of Yours to suffer and asking Your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine fellowship with the people of the Covenant. —John Paul II, Western Wall Prayer, Jerusalem, 26 March 2000.

g. Search for the Lost Sheep: [Matt. 18:12-14; Luke 15:1-10; Ezek. 34:11-12; Psalm 119:3]. God’s name of Shepherd of Israel is taught along with other names given to God in the Hebrew Scriptures. The names of God are more than distinguish-ing titles. They represent God’s relationship to the people. This parable will be taught with some of God’s other names that represent God’s search for man/woman.

h. The Sabbath: “When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. [Luke 4:16]. The New Testament texts on the Sabbath are related to Jewish teachings on the Sabbath, beginning with the Decalogue: “Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it holy.”

i. The Last Supper and the story of Passover in the Book of Exodus and in rabbinic literature teachings.

j. The Lord’s Prayer and Synagogue service, i.e., the Amidah and the Kaddish prayers.

k. The Beatitudes and the Decalogue: [Matt. 5 and Exod. 20]. The teachings on the two mountains, Mount Sinai and Mount of Beatitudes. See also Parashat Behutotai, Leviticus 26:3-27:34, If you follow in my laws, you shall be blessed.

“The New Testament writings were never presented as something entirely new. On the contrary, they attest their rootedness in the long religious experience of the people of Israel...” —The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible

[5] Introduction of the Parashat HaShavuah/Torah Portion of the Week On April 11, 1997, in Rome, John Paul II, said: Jesus’ human identity is determined on the basis of his bond with the people of Israel.... And this does not mean only a physical belonging. By taking part in the synagogue celebrations where the Old Testament texts were read and commented on, Jesus also came humanly to know these texts; he nourished his mind and heart with them, using them in prayer and as an inspiration for his actions. Thus he became an authentic son of Israel, deeply rooted in his own people’s long history. When he began to preach and teach, he drew abundantly from the treasure of Scripture, enriching this treasure with new inspirations and unexpected initiatives.” In imitation of Jesus, we participate in the weekly synagogue readings of Scripture/Torah and introduce our students to the writing and studying of Bat Kol commentaries on the weekly portion. Key Jewish sources and methods of interpretation are brought to bear to examine sub-themes: Talmud, Midrash, Rashi, Sefat Emet, Leibowitz, etc.

[6] The Jewish understanding as a legitimate reading of the text. These closing topics in the course move from what has been an uncovering of the relevance, depth, and spirituality of the Jewish sources for the Christian student, to a treatment of the question: What influenced the decision-making for canon and teaching in the early years? What went wrong through the ages which led to Christian-Jewish breakdown of trust and relationship? The lessons include reference to the work of Vermes, A. J. Levine, and others in order to develop in the student “sensitive ears” to the New Testament texts, and how they can discern meanings and intent in understanding the relationships. This then completes the circle from where the course began, with the history of political and religious breakdowns in relationships, the way in which the Church responded, the tools it provided for new teaching, and examples of Jesus’ teachings and Gospel stories being set into their original [Jewish] context]. The goal is to provide the student with a new awareness of the pitfalls of difficult texts, to look at them again, to read differently and without reverting to expressions of ‘supersessionism’—and avoiding “The Teachings of Contempt.”

“What ought to emerge is a new respect for the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament.”
—Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001