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Reviewed by:
  • Preaching in Judaism and Christianity: Encounters and Developments from Biblical Times to Modernity
  • Gerard Rouwhorst, Faculty of Catholic Theology
Preaching in Judaism and Christianity: Encounters and Developments from Biblical Times to Modernity, by Alexander Deeg, Walter Homolka, and Heinz-Günther Schöttler. Studia Judaica XLI. Berlin and New York, Walter de Gruyter, 2008. 247 pp. $110.00.

In the last few decades, a remarkable change has taken place in the research on the relations between Jewish and Christian liturgical traditions. Up till recently, most scholars used a model that is now often called the "mother-daughter" paradigm. It was characterized by two major assumptions: a) that Christian liturgical traditions had their roots in Jewish ones and b) that, from a certain [End Page 165] moment onwards, Jews and Christian liturgies went their own ways, completely independently from each other. At this moment, this model is more and more called into question (incidentally, this does not only hold for liturgy, but for other aspects of Jewish and Christian religious life as well), and instead a twin model is increasingly advocated which is inspired by the story of Jacob of Esau. This new model implies a questioning of the first assumption, the whole idea of the "Jewish roots" of Christian liturgy. The second assumption, namely that of a radical, once and for all "parting of the ways" from a certain moment onwards, is no less problematic than the first. Actually, there is increasing historical evidence that, over the centuries, at least Jewish forms of worship did not develop in complete isolation from the dominant majority religion.

This volume, which contains the papers presented at an international conference on "Preaching in Judaism and Christianity," organized by the Universities of Bamberg and Erlangen with the Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam, is an important contribution to the debate about the relationship between Jewish and Christian liturgies. It is so for two reasons. First, compared with other liturgical elements, such as prayer, the reading of Scripture, hymns and so on, the issue of homiletics has received rather little attention up till now, and already for that reason this book fills a gap. Its value is still further enhanced by the wide perspective from which the issue of preaching is studied: it encompasses all of the historical periods up to the twentieth century, and includes not only historical studies, but also reconstructions supplemented by contributions dealing with hermeneutical issues.

Three papers deal with the period of Antiquity. Günter Stemberger critically discusses the evidence available for the existence of the rabbinic sermon. Contrary to Leopold Zunz, the author of the classical work entitled Die Vorträge der Juden (1832), Stemberger declares himself to be sceptical about the possibility of deriving direct knowledge from rabbinic, especially midrashic, sources concerning rabbinic preaching practice. Stemberger does not claim that there was no regular preaching in the synagogues of the rabbinic period. Neither does he deny that midrashic texts have been a source of inspiration for homilies. Still, according to him, at this moment, hardly anything can be said with certainty about the practice of Jewish preaching in rabbinic times.

While the role played by the homily in Rabbinic Judaism proves to be surrounded by a lot of uncertainty, its existence in Hellenistic Judaism is beyond any doubt. Folker Siegert presents it in his paper as a Hellenistic Jewish innovation which according to him originated in Greek-speaking Diaspora synagogues and was taken over by the Christians. Both papers comport remarkably well with the contribution of Annette von Stockhausen, which deals with the "Christian Perception of Jewish Preaching in Early Christianity." The [End Page 166] outcome of her investigation is, apparently somewhat to her own surprise, that convincing evidence for a Christian perception of Jewish preaching in the first centuries is lacking. This leads the author to raise the question whether the reason for this fact might not simply have been that "there was no such preaching in the synagogues in the late antique Roman Empire at all or that it at least was not as significant as it was for Jewish Christian worship as it was for the Christian" (p. 70). A good question...


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