Friday, September 01, 2017

What am I reading?

by Paul Kohler, Moderator-Elect, Champaign

A rabbi and a story teller, who was fascinated with the life and times of Jesus, wrote a very interesting book about said subject. The author’s name is Sholem Asch and his book is “The Nazarene”. We naturally associate “the Nazarene” with Jesus, and thus it is strange that Jesus does not enter the scene until the 570th page. The Nazarene centers on Jesus, but its main focus is on the text of the folkways and belief structures of the four major language groups with which Jesus interacted. The author explores the language of Jesus’ home, Nazritzii (Syriac Eastern Dialect). He also examines the following groups:
  • the other Syriac, spoken in Jerusalem
  • the Roman speakers (Latin speakers neither compliant nor having similar traditions)
  • the Greeks (Language Ellenah and traditions and belief structures similar enough to cause huge problems for the translator)
During the author’s exploration, “strange” and “wrong” things happen. For example, Jesus went about the country of his birth preaching and teaching in the synagogues. The translator’s presentation creates an illusion that He taught in Greek. However, according to Jewish law, conducting worship in Greek would be considered unclean. Ramifications include at the least being escorted out of the synagogue and at the worst, stoning. Also, Syriac was – and still is – the required language for various part of worship. Worship in a foreign tongue was permitted only in countries where the majority of congregants were known to speak a foreign language. Even now, the congregation’s warden polices violations. A more modern example of this can be seen in American synagogues. In the United States, English and Syriac are the languages used during worship. Thus, if Jesus taught in the Galilean synagogues or quoted scripture in the countryside, He spoke Syriac. Those listening expected to hear Syriac, as other languages were considered unclean.

Rabbi Asch points out many of the problems Christianity and Yeshuva bar Yoseph, bas Miriam, ben David, also known as Jesus, faced in the early days. On an interesting and better note, the Mishna, which is a growing and changing book of oral law, now contains many of the actions and laws that Jesus suggested changing. One example is that in Jesus’ time, under then Mishna law men could not commit adultery. Now, under revised Mishna law, a man commits adultery if he is a married man or if she is a married woman (Mishna: Baba).

I wish you the very best and will see hopefully see you at the Annual District Conference.

“The Nazarene” was originally written in Yiddish, so if you are planning on buying a copy, choose carefully.