Biblical Archaeology Review 35:3, May/June 2009

Strata: In Their Own Words

Rebecca Moore and Risa Levitt Kohn are associate professors in the Religious Studies Department at San Diego State University. Moore is a specialist in early Christianity and the New Testament and is director of the Religious Studies Department. Levitt Kohn teaches Hebrew Bible and Judaism and serves as director of the Jewish Studies Program. Their collaborative work, including their recent book A Portable God: The Origin of Judaism and Christianity (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), which is excerpted here, has focused on promoting interfaith dialogue through a historical perspective.

Christians and Jews tend to believe that their faiths developed independently and apart from each other. Although they have many things in common—especially sacred texts and an ancient history—most Jews and Christians believe that their religions are distinct from, and perhaps even antagonistic toward, the other ...

On the contrary, both Judaism and Christianity emerge from the same religious tradition—that of ancient Israel—at the same time. Both claim to be Israel. Indeed, both initially identify themselves as Israel, and not as Jews or Christians ...

Using similar texts and traditions, adherents of the two groups come up with creative, alternative, and different understandings of identical sources. This use of the same terminology—the very same words—to describe vastly different concepts accounts for the misunderstanding and hostility followers of these new religions experience, even as they are appealing to the same audience.

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