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Institute Director Bruce Chilton has written extensively on Jewish-Christian relations and on the Jewish foundations of Christian doctrine and practice. By working within the diverse religious texts of antiquity, he and his colleagues have shown that the nascent Jesus movement was a sect within the many varieties of Judaism and that the first followers of Jesus viewed themselves as Jews and adhered to Jewish law.

Jacob Neusner, senior fellow of the Institute, has worked together with Chilton for many years. They have undertaken the comparison of Judaism and Christianity, two religions with a deep experience of mutual love and hatred, sympathetic study and heated apologetics. Years of cooperative work have yielded a simple but radical insight: the two religions have, in intellectual terms, been speaking different languages for centuries. Words such as "messiah," "law," and "salvation" have fundamentally different meanings from one system to another. Thus, people have been talking over and around, not with, one another.

Seeking a remedy, Neusner and Chilton have experimented with a series of lectures, public dialogues, conferences, and publications in an attempt to discover a common language of comparison. That common language can be found in those issues where each system, in all its complexity, addresses a concern held in common with the other. These nodes of interest link one religion to another, making comparative discussion possible. With the examples of Judaism and Christianity, two religions that have the greatest degree of historical contact, the Institute has refined this new method of comparison, extensible to other global religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.

Oil lamp (First century), Found near Jerusalem.
Photo by Tania Barricklo

 

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