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#3: A Priest, A Rabbi, and a Minister Walk into a Bar, Part 2


Does the math.
Validated User
One wonders exactly how theological research is conducted, or new knowledge identified.

But if theology is thinking about the nature of god(s), the relation of god and humans, the question of evil, and such, Christianity hardly has a monopoly. Hindus, Greeks, Buddhism, Islam (Kalam). Sometimes under the name of philosophy, perhaps, but still the same class of thoughts.

M. J. Young

Retired User
M.J. Young, I'm not sold on what you write about Rabbis based on a single contemporary example. Rabbis accept an American Protestant scholar as a Rabbi? How much of this is "political correctness" emerging from contemporary needs and the drive to get the support of the type of people that Dr. Marvin Wilson represents? Would Rabbis a generation ago accept something like this? Two generations ago? 200 years ago? Would Rabbis accept into their fold an Islamic scholar?
Well, I'm old enough that my acquaintance with Dr. Wilson would be counted as a generation ago by some measures--I was his student from 1976 through 1978, and he was already department chairman at a school that hired only degreed doctors and doctoral candidates for faculty, so it had been at least a few years then. Yet it is a reasonable objection nonetheless.

There is also the contextual problem. I doubt that any Hasidic congregation would recognize his rabbinic credentials. On the other hand, I doubt that such a congregation would recognize the credentials of Rabbi Marc Tannenbaum (former Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee and the only Jew attending Vatican II) or Rabbi James Rudin (former Director of Interreligous Affairs of the International Jewish Committee). They would reject the education of anyone of non-Hasidic training. Also, being recognized as a rabbi and invited to speak in synagogues is not the same as being hired by a congregation to serve as rabbi, and unless there are some Jewish Christian synagogues in that area (there are some around the country) I don't think he'd have much hope of being hired.

That does not negate the point. It is not a matter of whether his credentials would have been accepted a century ago, but of whether he could have obtained those credentials a century ago. That he was admitted to and graduated from a Jewish seminary is the remarkable point. No one would have accepted a Goy to such a school until this century, even if any Goy had been interested in attending.
One wonders exactly how theological research is conducted, or new knowledge identified.
In Christian circles, it is primarily by textual studies. Some very small portion of this pertains to the ongoing efforts to get as close as possible to the original text of the Bible after centuries of transmission (and the evidence says that our modern versions are extremely accurate, but not without a few minor uncertainties here and there). Much more is involved in linguistic studies--vocabularly, grammar, syntax, efforts to ascertain what the words meant thousands of years ago, refining our understanding. There are places in scripture where an interpretation from a couple centuries after the text was written became the accepted understanding of the meaning of that passage, with the result that the words were understood to have definitions that might not have been exactly right originally. Most of the theological work of which I am aware today stems from that sort of effort.

If you're referring to the work of the early twentieth century, a lot of that was based on structural studies of the books as books, and some benefit was gleaned from it, but a lot of faulty assumptions were made during that period that undermined the value of much of it. Still, form criticism has had its benefits in revealing understandings of scripture based on the type of documents being written. In sum, our efforts in Christian theology are always most effective when they are about pushing back to the intended meaning of the original text.

I agree, however, that other faiths also have theological studies, pursued and expressed in different ways.

--M. J. Young
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