Exhibition Highlights Mutual Origins of Judaism, Christianity, Islam

British Library unveils its treasures

Sacred: Discover What We Share is the title of a major exhibition presented by the British Library at its St. Pancreas, London facility. This “Must See” exhibition is drawn from the collections of the Library as well as other UK and Irish collections to highlight the development of the texts considered sacred by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Starting with a fragment of the Psalms from the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated to circa C.E. 50, the display covers materials relating to the three religions up to the current time. 


Given the nature of the British Library’s holding in ancient texts, this is a rich exhibition for anyone to appreciate.  What is more, it is not just a collection of old documents, but a wonderful interplay of the ancient with the modern.  Using the latest technology, visitors can turn the pages of some of the finest items in the libraries collection.  To be able to electronically turn the pages of a 500 year old treasure provides a unique sense of connection with the past.


One purpose that the exhibition seeks to accomplish is to show the mutual origins of the three religions, thus contributing to the multicultural environment that is encouraged in theUnited Kingdom.  A recent comment by an Israeli academic, Rivkah Duker Fishman, published in the Jewish Political Studies Review shows how tenuous that relationship has been.  

Thanks to Paleojudiaca for the reference.

Tags: christianity, Islam., Dead Sea Scrolls, Judaism, British Library, Sacred texts

Patristics and the Jewish Roots of Christianity

Musings from the Fifteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies

Last week (August 6-11) Oxford University hosted its Fifteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies, an event conducted by the University every four years.  This event brings together over 500 academics from the four corners of the globe and from all denominations. “Patristics” is a name given to the study of the Church Fathers from the post apostolic time of Clement I of Rome into the fifth century of this era. 

Delegates attended lectures and workshop sessions covering subjects often defined by century, geographical location and language: either Greek, Latin, Syriac, and or Coptic. Of particular interest to me were the sessions covering the Jewish and Christian interaction in the third century. 

Several papers were presented on various writings of Origen who wrote in some detail of the interactions he had with either Jewish Christians and/or Jews in both Alexandria and inCaesarea. The strength of his polemic against such people is indicative of the sense of challenge that existed even in the early third century to define Christianity as it appears today.

Clearly in Origen's time, people were very much more aware of the Jewish roots of Christianity, in a way that would surprise most present day people who claim to be Christian. The subject of identity formation of the emerging Christian community is currently well considered in academic circles, but conferences such as this highlight how antithetical so many of the leaders and opinion formers of this earlier period were to the foundation that Jesus Christ had laid. The result is a movement that would not even recognize its founder if he appeared today. 

One area of this period that highlights that difference and has shaped today’s Christianity more than the teachings of Jesus Christ himself is that of Christology, in which philosophical reasoning was brought to bear in the understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ. The historical period of the patristic studies covers the time in which the development of Christology led to the development of the doctrine of the Trinity and the attendant nature of God; doctrines which are used today to define whether or not a person is a Christian.

This period is a very crucial era to appreciate and understand. It has had a far greater impact on the development of what is today considered Christianity than did the era of Jesus and the Apostles.

Tags: Jesus, first christians, Origen, Apostles, Church Fathers, Jewish Christians, Patristics

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