Comparing: Rabbinic / New Testament

The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature

The comparison of New Testament and Rabbinics works both ways. On the one hand, given the undisputed Hebrew Bible basis of the incipient Christian movement and the clear Jewish stratum of its earliest writings, Jewish sources come in first for comparison. More precisely, the popular character of much of rabbinic literature is especially close to the culture of the New Testament. Many literary themes and phenomena are found exclusively in these two bodies of literature. Needless to say, the comparison can only gain in adequacy by drawing in related phenomena in the surrounding Graeco-Roman culture.

On the other hand, the New Testament with its largely popular ambience is an important early source for studying Rabbinic literature. This concerns both halakhah and aggadah, “law” as well as “lore.” The infancy narratives in the Gospel of Luke, e.g., convey elements of Jewish law and custom that are documented as such only much later in rabbinic sources. Similarly, the scanty bits of information on the beliefs of Pharisees and Sadducees contained in the Acts of the Apostles add precious detail to the information to be gathered from Josephus and rabbinic literature.