Thursday, May 16, 2019


A Special Jewish Woman, the Pharisees, and a Good Opportunity Missed By Pope Francis


“In spite of the progress in the historical work on the Pharisees, preaching all over the Christian world continues to depict these Jewish teachers as xenophobes, elitists, legalists, lovers of money and moral hypocrites. Moreover, in general the term ‘Pharisee’ implies ‘Jew,’ since many Jews and Christians consider the Pharisees the precursors of rabbinic Judaism. Therefore, even when Christians use the term ‘Pharisee’ to denounce clericalism in ecclesial contexts, they do nothing but reinforce prejudice toward Jews.”

That’s how Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish American from Vanderbilt University, began the talk she gave on May 9 in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University, at a conference dedicated to the theme “Jesus and the Pharisees. A multidisciplinary reexamination.”

But who flat out uses the term “Pharisee” to denounce “clericalism in ecclesial contexts” if not Pope Francis himself?


rcg said...

This is interesting because I can’t recall ever hearing Pharisee used as code for Jew in the USA. I do think that the unfortunate influence of European culture brings antisemitism with it in the same way American culture has a special problem with Negros. In her estimation there is an offense in the common use of the word Pharisee because it is used as a pejorative code word for Jew. Is that a common use?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Ms. Levine was one of the plenary speakers at the National Jewish-Christian Workshop in 2015. She was superb in her topic, "Jesus, Judaism, and Jewish-Christian Relations." Interesting that she is a professor of the New Testament at Vanderbilt.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

I found in my notes a summary of the presentation Dr. Levine gave to the National Workshop on Christian Unity in 2015

She presented a “Top Ten” list of where misunderstanding of Judaism can lead Christian preachers to misrepresent. Some of the misunderstood items are: Judaism
and the Law (Law v Grace), Ancient Jewish understanding of Resurrection from the dead, “Old Testament” v “New Testament” understandings of God (“God of Wrath” v “God of Love”), Ancient Jewish understanding of women, the use of rhetoric in
biblical times, early Jewish messianic expectations, the Transcendence v the Immanence of God, the “xenophobia” of 1st c Judaism, how do we identify “the
Jews” (esp in John’s Gospel), and the Jewish understanding of “the land” of Israel via-a-vis the Palestinians.

Unknown said...

I would love to have heard her presentation.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

NWCU used to do audio/video recordings. Alas, the cost got too high, given our very limited budgets. I'll keep looking and see if I can come up with my full notes.

Unknown said...

I'd love it.