An American Christian divinity scholar who is participating in an Australian Jewish study program has said the Jewish community may need to come to terms with Jews who believe in Jesus.Professor Amy-Jill Levine trains Christian pastors at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and describes herself as “a Yankee-Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Protestant divinity school in the buckle of the Bible belt”.
Prof Levine and her partner Professor Jay Geller are lecturing at Monash University’s Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation Winter School program this month.
On the subject of messianic Jews, Prof Levine said that for many people there was a “dividing line here over which one cannot step” and “once the Jewish person accepts Jesus as lord and saviour, that person is no longer a Jew, but a Christian”.
Prof Levine said she respected that view but also looked at the subject from “the other side”.
Prof Levine said it was an “exceptionally complicated issue” because Jews who say they accept Jesus have “palpable and real” views.
“It’s often easier,” she said, “to simply say ‘I’m not a Jew for Jesus, I’m a Presbyterian or Lutheran or Catholic’, but what happens when they want to hang on to that Jewish identity, and what do we do with that individual’s family?
“One could look at them simply as a Christian, one could look at them from a traditional Jewish perspective as a ‘bad’ Jew or an apostate Jew, or a very confused Jew.
“On the other hand, if the argument is that they have a different way to the divine, a different pathway to God, then I can say the atheist Jew doesn’t care about God at all. Why would I accept one and not the other?”
Prof Levine said she was concerned at the impact on Jewish families. “Sometimes children of these marriages will say to their grandparents, ‘Gee, bubby and zaide, it’s too bad you’re going to hell’.”