No “Christian Seders,” Please!

155NOTE: In March 2013, I posted a series of Facebook Notes about so-called “Christian Seders” and the special obligation Christians have in Lent and Holy Week especially to be vigilant about the way our observances may have an impact on Jews, Christian understandings of Judaism, and related matters. I have been asked by several colleagues to re-post these reflections this year. I am happy to do so. I need to make it clear, however, that I am not an expert on these matters. What I say below is my take on controverted questions, born mostly of my own reading and of my interfaith relationships. Please take them as such.

No “Christian Seders,” Please!

With Holy Week on the horizon,  many Christian congregations have started announcing “Christian Seder” meals to observe Maundy Thursday. People of good will recognize this as a devout and well-intentioned attempt to honor the Jewishness of Jesus, and the Jewish roots of the Christian communion meal which was, Christians say, instituted by Jesus on the night he was handed over–a night that fell, according to the gospel accounts, during the annual Passover observance. It is understandable, therefore, that Christians would desire to commemorate this institution with a nod to its original context.

There are many difficulties attaching to the practice of a Seder meal by Christians, however (the biggest being that a Seder is simply not for Christians, but we’ll get to that later). Some of them are historical. For example, we really do not know for sure what the “original context” of Jesus’ so-called Last Supper was.  We think we do: since Sunday School we’ve been taught it was a Passover meal, or Seder; but scholars continue to debate the precise character of the meal Jesus shared with his disciples that night. One thing we know for sure, however, is that, although it may have been a Passover meal of some sort, it was not a Seder in the modern sense. We know this because the introduction into Jewish ritual life of the Seder we know today came generations after the time of Jesus

Modern day Jewish celebrations of the Passover are a melding of traditions that arose after the destruction of the Temple, and developed through Late Antiquity into Middle Ages. It is a still-developing tradition, too, with additions being made to the Haggadah even to this day. Ironically, some scholars believe that the modern Seder developed in part at least as a reaction and resistance to the growing influence of the Christian church and its sacred meal, the Eucharist. If that is true, Christians celebrating a Seder in the form their Jewish neighbors are using are celebrating, at least in part, a meal that was meant to criticize them and establish the distinctiveness of Jewish rites over against Christian ones. This anti-Christian critique is no longer prominent in most contemporary Seders, but this curious history of the Seder still makes for a polemical mish-mash that, if known by the organizers of “Christian “Seders, might take away some of the romance of the night!

So for starters, to hold a Seder as a way to commemorate the “background” meal Jesus shared with his disciples and which he “turned into” a Communion meal (as I have heard some Christians say) is anachronistic—it is a tradition Jesus did not know. More precisely and significantly, however, it is a tradition that developed into its present forms after Jews and Christians had taken separate religious paths. It’s a tradition, therefore, that Jews and those who became Christian never shared in the first place. It belongs to Jews only and distinguishes them as Jews in ways that make any Christian usage of it seem presumptuous, especially given the fraught and violent history of Christian usurpation and replacement of all things Jewish that we call supersessionism.  Given this history and this ongoing supplanting of the Jewish covenant, I wonder if we would do better to spend our time reflecting on what often befell Jews in Holy Week in many places in medieval Western and Eastern Europe—the pogrom—than to spend time appropriating one of their characteristic rituals and making it our own.

Holding a Seder in a Christian church as a Christian event during Christian Holy Week is dicey. Dicier still is  celebrating a Eucharist in the course of the Seder meal or finishing the Seder with a Communion service. This  sends an unintentional but real message that the important thing about this Seder is what Jesus did to transform it and make it into something else. In other words, what we imply is that the Seder’s real value is to point towards or usher in Communion– that Communion is really what it’s all about, when all else is said and done. This is to write Jews out of their own story. We have already succeeded in often writing them out by the way we often use “Old Testament” texts in preaching and teaching—let’s not turn their meal into our meal for our devotional agendas, just because it feels more authentic or rootsy for us to do so.

Ritual is, after all, lodged in and arises from a community’s corporate experience; and in this case, it is the experience of suffering and liberation, slavery and salvation that Christian share with Jews in a kind of mythical and mystical sense, but not in fact: we are not Jews (the vast majority of us, anyway) and we cannot and do not celebrate a Seder out of anything remotely resembling the lived experience of Jews, or with the theological and spiritual worldview such experience generates. We can and must appreciate it, revere it, admire it, learn about it, even participate in it (for example, when invited into a Jewish home during Passover), but it is and never will be ours, and we ought not treat it as if it were. Just because we are a “successor tradition” doesn’t mean that everything that “they” have is or should also be ours.

There is a danger that in a well-intentioned attempt to honor the church’s Jewish origins, and (we think) do what Jesus did that night, we may end up caricaturing the Jewish ritual we claim to honor. It can be a kind of pious play-acting that is a very far cry from the profound communal anamnesis that is proper to “this night unlike any other night.” Only Jews can experience Passover in such a way that those who ate in haste and fled the Egyptians through the Sea have no spiritual  advantage over those who sit at the Seder table today.

Beyond all this is the basic question of why some of us feel we need to hold a Seder in Holy Week in our Christian congregations in the first place. The treasure chest of Christian liturgical ritual that pertains to the Paschal season is so enormously rich that one wonders why we would turn to someone else’s. Perhaps it is because so few of our churches celebrate this range and depth of options that we cast around looking for something meaningful and rich like we imagine a Seder to be.

What could Christian do instead during Holy Week if we take seriously the objection that a “Christian Seder” is anachronistic, a contradiction in terms, and a potential offense to Jews today for whom the Passover rituals are a living tradition, and not a sort of curious antiquarianism?

If we really want to understand the mysteries of Jesus’ last days, we might consider participating in the classic liturgies of the Triduum, the Great Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. It is there, in the experience of those ancient liturgical traditions that we encounter the meaning, depth, and power of our salvation. In the rituals associated with Passover, Jews recount their story of redemption. In the liturgies of the Great Three Days, and especially in the Easter Vigil, Christians recount and relive our own.

In the end, congregations that hold “Christian Seders” may simply desire to learn about Judaism, better understand their Jewish neighbors, and grapple with the Jewish roots of Christianity—all of which is commendable, even urgent. They should go ahead and do so, not with a Christianized Seder, but with a visit to their local synagogue for a talk with the Rabbi about how best to facilitate that understanding with respect. Perhaps the Rabbi would come and talk to a group in that congregation about what a Seder entails and what it means to Jews. Or perhaps a Jewish friend might have an extra place at their Seder table for some folks from the Christian congregation this year.

And if Maundy Thursday still cries out for a meal, hold a potluck, an agape meal, a love feast, an elaborated Communion service—choose from the Christian repertoire of feasts to celebrate with— but let the Jews have their feast. No Christian Seders, please!

More on “Christian Seders”

At the risk of overdoing it (I am not in fact persuaded that we can ever overdo this), I want to add to my previous Note about “Christan Seders” the following precision:

On Maundy Thursday, many Christian congregations hold “Christian Seders” in conjunction with Tenebrae, Holy Communion, and other liturgical commemorations of the night Jesus was handed over.  They give various reasons for doing so, but in general they use the Seder as a way to recall and explore the Jewish roots of our faith, to honor the Jewishness of Jesus, to lend historical context to the institution of the Christian Eucharist, and to learn about Jewish ritual practices (i. e., “teaching Seders”) in an open, interfaith spirit.

In some cases, these Seders are led by Jews—a local rabbi, or Jewish friends of the congregation—but the majority are not. They are a wholly “in-house” affair, for Christians by Christians. My objections are directed at these in-house kinds of  “Christian Seder” celebrations.

Congregations that borrow or adapt the modern Jewish Seder for their own devotional purposes on Maundy Thursday during Holy Week need to understand that what they are doing is not a neutral act. Apart from other significant theological and historical objections that should be made to a “Christian Seder,”  [see my previous “Note”] the long, violent and painful story of Christian appropriation of Judaism itself—replacement theology or ‘supersessionism’—should be enough to make us think twice about doing it.

It is no accident that many a medieval pogrom erupted during Holy Week. It was a time rife with anti-Jewish preaching that placed the blame for Jesus’ death on Jews—not just on the ancient Jews, but on all Jews— and, in some cases, directly called for unsparing violence against them. Whenever Christians celebrate a “Christian Seder” that includes or culminates in Holy Communion, it is also chillingly instructive to recall that one of the great medieval slanders against the Jews is that they routinely committed sacrilege against the communion wafer in all kinds of horrific and bloodthirsty ways. This is the history we ineluctably carry with us whenever we do something like celebrate a “Christian Seder.”

My objection to the “Christian Seder” is not about the potential it has for offending Jews. It has that potential, and it does offend many Jews, and avoiding this offense is a good thing to want to do, and I do want us to avoid giving it! But the bigger issue for me is the insidious impact it can have on us Christians.

Let’s face it, despite years of interfaith  efforts, many Christians continue to assume reflexively that Christianity has supplanted Judaism in God’s plan and affections. We might not say it that way, but it shows in the way we use certain biblical texts, talk about a God of Love (Christian) and a God of Wrath (the “Old Testament God”), and juxtapose Law and Grace—in these cases and others, the clear implication is that Christianity has not only succeeded Judaism, it has superseded it.

In their everyday dealings with Jews (if they have such connections), most mainline Christians probably don’t regard the religion of their neighbors, friends, and coworkers as inferior to their own; but in church, in the course of hearing scripture and sermons on scripture, during certain liturgical seasons, and in devotional conversations, an old reflex asserts itself. Our inner Marcionite emerges, and as long as no one corrects us, we continue to operate in the universe of stereotype and slander that for centuries made it possible for Christians to see it as a religious duty to defame and slaughter Jews. And the fact that we do so often unwittingly makes it all the worse.

This is my point: not only because we have a long history of appropriating Judaism for Christian  ends, making of it a mere preparation for the true faith and regarding its characteristic practices as mere foreshadowings and symbols of the real things, we are still doing it today. The practice of a “Christian Seder” is a good example of just how unexamined this fraught relationship remains, and thus how easily its consequences could be visited on our neighbors again, even in our enlightened, interfaith, tolerant, and inclusive age.

That it could never happen here, that it could never happen again, that we would never do that—these are the lazy assumptions that allow us to meander through Holy Week up to our necks in the dangerous waters of supersessionism, playing out again and again the old patterns of reflex disdain.

Contempt takes many forms: I think the celebration of a Seder by Christians and for Christians for our own Christian agenda is one of them. It may seem devout and altogether benign, even constructive, on the surface; but it is just one more in a long sad line of things we have tried to steal from Jesus’ people in his name, as we have systematically written Jews out of their own story because, we say (not without truth), it is also in a deep sense our story too. And if it is also our story (and here we go wrong) we can do with it whatever we please.

Although holding a Seder (for Christians by Christians for a Christian agenda) may seem like a devout and constructive thing to do, and no doubt for many Christians it lends meaning to the Holy Week journey, it is an unavoidably fraught activity. Our anti-Jewish history has earned us a particular responsibility to make sure that our embrace of the Jewish heritage is serious, respectful, self-conscious and well-considered. We may not borrow, play-act, adapt, or otherwise appropriate anything Jewish like a Seder without carrying with us into that activity this whole history.

Remembering and telling the Jewish story is one of the Seder’s most characteristic features. Maybe instead of holding a Seder we should make time in Holy Week remembering and telling our own story, lamenting and repenting the sad history that haunts us still, and looking to Christ for the grace to change it, once and for all.

Postscript on “Christian Seders,” supersessionism, and reading Scripture

Some of you asked me to make more widely available this comment I left in a thread about the “Christian Seder” business. It concerns supersessionism and the Bible. Here it is:

I do not mean to say that we Christians cannot read texts from the Bible (”Old Testament”) and find in them Christological meaning. I think it is perfectly appropriate for us who hold (and have tenaciously held since the days of Marcion) to both ‘testaments’ as one Bible to read ‘backwards and forwards’ in this way.

Within the household of the Christian church, I believe we can own and interpret Hebrew Scripture faithfully, without  contempt, even when the meaning we find in the texts is not its “original” meaning for the people who gave the world the Bible.

I don’t think it is necessarily a usurpation of a supersessionist variety for us to cherish, for example, the suffering servant text in Isaiah as having something to do with the way we think about Jesus, or the text about the young woman conceiving as having something to do with the way we think about Mary, as long as at the same time we also know that it doesn’t in fact have to do with Jesus or Mary, and that it has a meaning of its own not only for the Jews “back then,” but also for the ongoing community for whom the Book is a living testament.

What we cannot do is say ‘This (Mariological or Christolical reading) is THE meaning of the text.” We must say instead, “This is the way we (Christians) read it in the light of our religious experience and tradition.” There’s a difference, I think, between reading the ‘Old Testament’ in a Christian way and circumscribing its universe of meaning to the Christian reading.

In short, no Christian in the pew should ever come away from a sermon on the suffering servant text thinking it is a Christian passage, even if they’ve been helped to see that, while it does not refer to Christ, it can and does help us think about, know, and love him.

To avoid “writing Jews out of their own story” when we engage in a “Christian” reading of the Hebrew Scriptures, then, we need to operate on two levels at once: on the level of the text as an expression of a particular people’s religious experience, which is not ours; and on the level of the text as the Church hears it in the context of its its particular experience of Christ.

This double-vision may oblige us, for example, to refrain from a too-easy juxtaposition in liturgy of certain texts, “OT” and “NT,” that suggests that the NT text explains or fulfills the OT text in a way that exhausts all other possibilities of interpretation (this happens way too frequently in some lectionary pairings).

It may oblige us to speak of certain figures and events in the Hebrew Scriptures less as archetypes, allegories, or foreshadowings of Christ and his ministry, and more as evidence of the consistent pattern of God’s activity throughout ”salvation history,” with which our Christian experience of God in Christ is wholly consistent .

It may simply mean that we take the time to put a short note in the bulletin giving the original context of  the text, or explaining the way the texts are used in, say, The Messiah or other Christian sacred music.

Before all else, however, it means that we have to spend more time as pastors,  educators, leaders in and of Christian congregations helping people to love the Bible, read the Bible, and to read it with prismed glasses, since for Christians, no one lens suffices.

Of course, this is a super-challenging activity for many contemporary Christians who barely know the Bible at all any more, let alone its hermeneutical complexities, but we can’t expect anyone to read “without contempt” if we don’t teach with urgency.

144 thoughts on “No “Christian Seders,” Please!

  1. RabbiHarvey

    I am thrilled that this conversation has continued after so many years. I remember making my comment back in early 2015. I teach a great deal about this and would be happy to provide guidance to any Christian clergy looking to create a connection with their Jewish houses of worship who will be celebrating Pesach this Friday evening and onward.

  2. thefartherpfarrer

    Thank you for articulating this so well! I’d recommend “The Teaching of Disdain,” if you don’t know it. It’s a good overview of anti-Judaical texts in the New Testament, by Holocaust survivor Walter Ziffer, who was a UCC minister and theologian before converting back to Judaism.

    1. Connie Tuttle

      As the pastor of a church that celebrates a passover seder each year, I agree that it is disrespectful to appropriate the event as a Christian observance. The story of passover is both powerful and universal. In ‘the telling’ we share the story that resonates with places we are oppressed or places we become pharaoh in our own lives or in the world – or both. I blogged about it this year again.

      1. sicutlocutusest Post author

        If not as a Christian one, how do you celebrate the Seder? As a Jewish observance? Can’t be , since you are (I am presuming) not Jewish. As a ‘universal’ observance, and in that sense symbolic and potentially inclusive of all? I get that, but it concerns me that by making it universal, in other words, by making it about us and everyone,the particularity gets lost and Jews get written out of their own story.

    2. ProclaimLiberty

      Properly understood there are no “anti-judaical” texts in what has been called the New Testament. The problem has occurred when people with an anti-Jewish mindset misread it.

      1. RabbiHarvey

        “Properly understood there are no “anti-judaical” texts in what has been called the New Testament. The problem has occurred when people with an anti-Jewish mindset misread it.” I’m afraid this is inherently false.

        There are anti-Jewish texts in the synoptic gospels, some clear as day. One cannot say that Matthews editing of Mark’s idea of testimony against Jesus as “false” (Mk 14:55 and Mt 26:59), Matthew’s insertion of the blood curse (Mk.15:15 and Mt. 24), Matthew’s removal of the Sh’ma (Mk.12:28 and Mt. 23:35), the parable of the marriage feast, the parable of the wicked tenants, are misunderstandings. They are inherently anti-Jewish. Matthew’s INTENTIONS were perhaps for self-preservation of Christianity, but they are anti-Jewish. To say nothing of the works of John, such as: 8:37-47: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies…you are not of God,” to say nothing of the 40 other references John makes corporately to “the Jews” in a negative light in his gospel.
        Remember that when we say “anti-Jewish” we do not necessarily mean malicious; what we mean is that these texts paint Christianity in a positive light, as they were attempting to grow their religion, and changing the historical narrative to one that made peace with an oppressive Roman government, pointing the finger at the Jews, as a “common enemy.”
        To say that these are all “Misunderstandings” is a very problematic interpretation.

      2. Howard

        Rabbi Harvey, it is clear that you do not believe in the Holy Spirit-inspiration of all Scripture. The God of Israel has a wisdom higher than ours, and He is certainly not against His people or an apologist for Christianity. When most of the gospel accounts were written, the faith once delivered unto the saints had only been around for a generation. Spiritual discernment is crucial if we are going to take the true gospel to the Jews and to the Gentiles.

      3. RabbiHarvey

        Hi Howard, I am a proud Jew and a Rabbi. I have no interest in the Gospel coming to the Jews. Over the past 2,000 years Jews have endured nothing but pain, murder, theft, rape, torture, forced conversions, manipulation, barring from organizations and jobs, all under the cross. One day Christians will realize there is no humility in proselytization, and that Jews would just like to be left alone, for once. You and I can discuss scriptural interpretation, but I’m afraid our views differ too much to discuss what we believe The God of Israel “wants.” Let’s keep the topic, if you wish to continue speaking, away from these differing “truths” and work on the actual historic understandings to build bridges. Many thanks.

      4. ProclaimLiberty

        Well, RabbiHarvey, dear brother o’ mine, let’s begin with the primary misunderstanding. The writers were all Jews, and Christianity didn’t exist, let alone seek to grow. Consequently, all later Christian interpretation throughout the centuries must be thrown out summarily — and a new interpretive paradigm must be applied to these Jewish writings. Talmud is never deemed anti-Jewish, but it contains a lot of criticisms against Jews as well as enemies of Jews. In fact, various kinds of Pharisees are severely criticized, and for good reasons. This was never deemed a dismissal of all Pharisees, whose work, on the contrary, is recognized as the rabbinic forerunner of all subsequent Judaism. I don’t understand your claim about Matthew’s supposed “removal” of the Shm’a, because while Matthew and Luke both fail to report the Shm’a passage, it may have been because their audiences did not need the particular additional emphasis Mark wished to include via that vignette. Mark was tailored to a Roman audience that preferred a more stripped-down story. Matthew, on the other hand, was written originally in Hebrew (as reported later by Papias) and tailored to a Jewish audience. Producing a Greek version of it later, which might even have been done by someone else, may have borrowed heavily from the Markan version but may have included a few original details that Mark omitted.

        Let’s take a closer look at a few of the passage pairs that you cited, and I’ll try to offer an alternative perspective.

        Mk.14:55 [I’ll include 56-58 as well.]
        55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Yeshua to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. 57 Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’”

        Mt.26:59 [where I’ll include up to v.61 as well],
        59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Yeshua, so that they might put Him to death. 60 They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61 and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’”

        [So you’re complaining that Matthew includes an adjective “false” that Mark does not? The context makes it clear that they are reporting the same event with the same meaning. Yes, they both claim that there was an ulterior motive, a political motivation, to obtain an unjust verdict against their rabbi. You may question their perception of the Sanhedrin’s motives, but the result justifies it. It certainly was not an anti-Jewish statement, coming as it did from Jews, but merely a complaint against injustice. They were not the only complainants of that era against political corruption in Jerusalem.]

        Mk.15:15 [starting from v.12]
        12 Answering again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify Him!” 14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” 15 Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Yeshua scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

        Mt. 24 [sic], [I think you meant Mt.27:22-26]
        22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Yeshua who is called Moshiakh?” They all said, “Crucify Him!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!”
        24 When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Yeshua scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

        [And here you would complain that Matthew reports some details omitted by Mark? I think that can be explained by the differing audiences I described above. Matthew included a simulated Jewish symbol by a Roman and a colloquial expression that his Jewish audience could appreciate: “Aleinu v’al baneinu”. The phrase “all the people”, obviously, referred only to those present watching to see what Pilate would do — not exactly a representative or unbiased Jewish audience. But those who falsely believed justice was being done to someone who supposedly threatened to bring political repercussions down upon them from Rome for insurrection, would not have hesitated to shout this expression with the meaning that they and their generations after them take responsibility for ensuring justice. Translating Matthew’s original Hebrew version into Greek would have elaborated the pithy Hebrew phrase to include the reference to his blood that Pilate had just invoked literally. Even a Hebrew reader familiar with the original phrasing would not have balked at such a translation correlating the execution of severe justice with blood. Still, this is not an anti-Jewish statement, despite its criticism of behavior that was properly deemed to have been severely mistaken. Only a later anti-Jewish gentile reader would interpret this as a “blood curse” (as, horribly, they did).]

        Mk.12:28 [where I’ll include up to v.32 as well],
        28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Yeshua answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

        Mt. 23:35 [where I’ll include from v.29 up to v.39],,
        29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
        34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,

        35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

        36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
        37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” [The implication being that praying the Hallel with true kavanah would modify the attitudes and outlook which had produced the behaviors being criticized, and enable recognition of the man who was validly calling it to their attention.]

        [Now this pair of citations puzzles me, because they are not addressing the same event. Perhaps their only correlation is that Mark has cited the Shm’a and Matthew begins chapter 23 with Rav Yeshua’s instruction to his disciples to obey the proper Mosaic authority of the scribes and Pharisees. The rest of that chapter is a litany of their behaviors that did *not* reflect that upright example, which the disciples were not to emulate. Now Matthew and Luke both fail to report the Shm’a passage, though again it may have been because their audiences did not need the particular additional emphasis carried by that vignette. It’s true that Mt.23:35 contains a serious accusation, but then virtually the entire chapter is pretty severe criticism. Is it really any worse than the Talmud’s criticisms? The only aspect that I can see which makes it more severe is that it fell into the hands of an unsympathetic Christian readership, whose leaders preserved it and elaborated upon it unlike their relative ignorance of Talmud.]

        Now a similar alternative Jewishly-sympathetic perspective analysis can be performed on all the passages to which you alluded, showing that Christianity’s adoption of Roman disdain and enmity was not justified by any intimate knowledge of the cultural context of the apostolic texts or the attitudes of their authors. Consequently I stand by my accusation against Christian interpreters that they have misread and misunderstood a collection of Jewish literature, sometimes deliberately and antagonistically, by adopting an anti-Jewish lens through which to filter the texts, at other times through mere ignorance. Regrettably, their interpretations are what we Jews have had to withstand and survive for something like 18 centuries, and it was obvious that even if we had offered alternative interpretations they would not have accepted them, so we had no motive even to try until sometime within the past century (by my estimation). Some, however, have now mustered their academic skills to do so, to discover the ancient Israeli admor haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef who is not a gentile demigod but a real rabbi with meaningful Torah insights to offer. Nonetheless, I hope this clarifies for you my use of the word “misunderstanding”.

  3. Marianne Allison

    I really love your posts in general, and this one resonated with me especially. I am an Episcopal priest and my brother is an Orthodox rabbi (a convert) — a tremendous gift of learning for me. I asked him about this topic as it was raised in another article. He doesn’t relate so much to the point of view that Christian seders are triggering trauma of past anti-Semitism and the like. But, perhaps by virtue of being Orthodox, he is not a fan of syncretism, and he sees them as syncretizing Jewish and Christian traditions in a way that distorts them both. He pointed out that the Last Supper could not have been a seder anyway (they didn’t really come in until the Rabbinic era). Nevertheless, he certainly gets the Jewishness of Jesus, and the historical link of Easter to the Passover season and to our ideas about Jesus. He offered that Christians might go to an unadulterated Jewish seder as a guest and ask our hosts not to change anything they do except possibly to explain. Of course his would be in Hebrew–when I am with his family, they find a transliteration and translation of whatever Haggadah they are using. He recommended reading a good Hagaddah that is not (again) overly modernized or adapted for Christians. He is a Chabad rabbi, and they are naturally fairly extraverted in their theology and look for universal themes, so he offered this theological bit on Passover, which I rather liked and share: “the Lubavitcher Rebbe would make a connection between the word Mitzrayim, Egypt, and metzarim, straits. Egypt is the narrow place you are stuck in, it’s the metzarim *and* Mitzrayim, and we all have these tight places in our lives. He would also bring together the word Pesach with the word lifsoach (which has the same root letters), which means to skip, as in skipping steps, leaping over boundaries that we normally could not manage–that is the special quality of Passover–that it has a special spiritual power, if you will, through which we can escape limitations which have been holding us back.”

  4. Pingback: Things I’m Verbing: Christian seders, future ruins and rappelling for suffrage – Esther Bergdahl

  5. anice chenault

    so… a group of christian feminists using a feminist haggadah to create a seder for a small group – not tied to the eucharist, but for the seder ritual itself – would this be OK? I’m very aware of and interested in avoiding cultural appropriation… this is the kind of thing I’ve done many times in small faith communities – but never as a part of/replacement for/lead-in to eucharist. I’m wondering your take on that. thanks.

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      I think I’d avoid doing it–for all the reasons I stated. With or without a Eucharist, I believe that when Christians celebrate the seder in the complete absence of Jews, we appropriate a ritual that does not belong to us and step onto shaky ground. I know this is debatable, and even some Jews I know don’t seem to find it objectionable (altho’ the vast majority do…). But here’s the thing–given the long hard awful history of Christian erasure of all things Jewish, including the repeated attemped erasure of Jews themselves, wouldn’t you want to err on the side of caution here? Why not find a group of Jewish feminists and join them for the seder? THEIR seder. Let them lead and host and invite you in to their observance.

      1. Nancy

        I understand your experience that the vast majority of Jews find it objectionable. I have found just the opposite. Possibly due the number of mixed marriages (religious and race) I am surrounded by. As a learning experience regarding Passover, I found, Jewish conservative Elders willing to review and correct the Seder so it would be accurate, mixed religion families grateful for the program (attending with their children, both worshiping families and outsiders: Jewish father with his daughter being raised with both religions & Jewish mom attending with her son who was being raised catholic), Solomon Schechter kindergarten teacher shared in teaching the lesson as well as family members who thought it was awesome that gentile family member was exposing non-jews to the lesson of Passover. But I did review a Christian Seder program once years ago and I found it objectionable due to the distortion of the content of the lesson.

    2. ProclaimLiberty

      so… a group of feminists, Christian or Jewish or both, using the story of the Jewish liberation from bondage under idolatry as an archetype for liberation from … what? … the bi-gendered human reproductive and relational system created by HaShem and declared by Him to be “very good”, in favor of bondage to an alternative humanistic idolatry? The ancient liberation of Jews had a clear target of entering into a covenant with HaShem in obedience to His Torah. Feminism would seem to represent an antithesis to that goal, hence co-opting the seder for such a purpose is an insult to the Jewish people whose story needs to be remembered for its own sake and not submerged under other agendas.

      Incidentally, the notion that human beings, both male and female, ought to cooperate with one another rather than to struggle against one another is not a characteristic of “feminism”. It is, however, characteristic of HaShem’s Torah. But that is another discussion a bit off-topic from the present discussion about misuses of the seder.

  6. Nancy

    This article speaks of Christian Seders, which is used as part of Holy Week. The appropriation of the Ceremony into the Christian tradition/teaching. But you do not address if the Seder is held as a Jewish one, not connected to Holy Week but rather to teach the Passover Story. Or the help Christian children to understand what their Jewish friends are learning and celebrating with their families, with respect. As a Christian with 2 Jewish Sister In Laws and 3 mixed religion nieces(Jewish/Catholic) and many friends with mixed households, the honor paid to the Jewish tradition by Christians was greatly appreciated. Jewish father accompanied his children happily to church and Jewish mom whose child was being raised in the Catholic Church attended with her child and was trilled with the dedication to the Passover lesson and the respect shown for the Jewish faith. So does the teaching of the Passover Lesson change the opinion of the tradition taking place in a Christian setting vs. a Christian Seder?

    1. ProclaimLiberty

      Dear Nancy — I don’t know how “Sicut Locutus Est” might respond to this; and I hardly know how to respond to it myself. But if I understand you correctly, you have described three (or four) Jews in your extended family who have cut themselves off from the covenant of Israel or have been cut off by the actions of their parents. You describe a Jewish father who happily attends a Christian church with his children, whom I presume are two of the three “mixed” nieces, and a Jewish mother whose technically-Jewish daughter is being raised under Catholic Christian church teaching, as well as a second Jewish sister-in-law whose children, if any, you haven’t mentioned. I don’t see how any of these people can produce or raise children who will contribute to the continuing existence of the Jewish people. Any “respect” that they may feel toward the Jewish people must occur from a position entirely outside the boundaries that define that people and its eternal covenant with HaShem.

      How, then, do you imagine that they may understand the primary lesson of the Passover, which is a story of HaShem’s triumph over the false gods of Egyptian idolatry, and His establishment of His Torah covenant with the descendants of Avraham, via Yitzhak and Yacov, whom He had rescued from Egypt by means of extraordinary miracles and power? Can you grasp the damage that these cut-off Jews have done to the Jewish people? Can you grasp the magnitude and severity of the loss that they themselves have suffered, whether or not they are able to sense it? Can you not see the parallel between their condition and that of the segment of Israelites in the desert who complained that they wished they had never left Egypt and wanted to go back? HaShem punished these folks severely because of their disaffection from all that He had done for them. Somehow I doubt that this lesson is emphasized in the Passover presentations that your in-laws are likely to attend in a Christian setting.

      The Jewish Prophets describe a role for non-Jews in these latter days, by which they assist Jews to return to Israel, even carrying some of them. It may be that early stages of such a return must include a return to Jewish praxis and fellowship even in the diaspora. That cannot happen in a church environment, no matter how respectful and supportive it may be. The Jerusalem Council, in Acts 15, exempted the gentile disciples from full obligation to Jewish Torah praxis, despite Rav Yeshua’s observations to Jews in Mt.5:19 that greatness in the kingdom of heaven depends on keeping and teaching such praxis, and his observation in v.18 that the finest details of the Torah and the Prophets remain unchangingly valid as long as the present heavens and earth endure. Consequently, churches of gentiles who are not bound under the Torah covenant cannot provide a suitable working environment for Jewish disciples who do bear that responsibility. Nonetheless, modern gentile disciples may provide other kinds of encouragement.

  7. Susan Katz Miller

    As a Jew, of course I find supersessionist “Christian Seders” conducted without the involvement of actual Jews to be problematic.

    But I am equally concerned that this type of post, which has become very popular in recent years, will discourage or intimidate the many progressive churches who do invite rabbis or other Jewish leaders to lead Seders for them. I know a (Conservative!) rabbi who will be co-leading an Interfaith Agape Seder on Maundy Thursday, with a minister. And yes, it will involve the sharing of matzo and wine. Even those who understand that the Last Supper did not involve a fully-articulated modern Seder will acknowledge that it probably involved those two essential blessings. Also, take a look at the work of Rabbi Evan Moffic, who has written several books on how Christian churches can honor the Jewishness of Jesus.

    I also object to the repeated assertion that Passover is “only for Jews.” First of all, the Exodus story belongs to all three “Abrahamic” faiths. Second, it is not so easy these days to separate Jews from non-Jews on Passover–we are married to each other, we are going to celebrate together, and some of us have complex non-binary religious identities. But also, for many Jewish families, Passover has always been a teaching experience, and has always included inviting friends of other faiths to share the experience. I am happy to be going to a Jewish and Muslim interfaith Seder this year. Religious differences are important. But we do, in fact, have common ground. Religions are inherently syncretic and fluid. And celebrating together, and acknowledging what we do share, is not appropriation or usurpation. It is, in fact, vital in this time of increased bigotry, racism, and intolerance.

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      Thanks for this comment, Susan My objection is ONLY to “seders” conducted by Christians for Christians, especially when they are followed by the Christian Eucharist, as if to say: Now let’s do the real thing. I not only have no objection to seders hosted by synagogues to which Christians are invited, or seders led by rabbis in Christian congregations with or without Jews in attendance, or any other such experience, whether it be a teaching seder or simply sharing the meal in a Jewish home, I actively encourage these things. I write only to try to persuade Christians that holding a seder by themselves for themselves runs a strong risk of coopting a practice that isn’t our own.This practice of holding “Cbhristian seders” is widespread–it may appear harmless, and it is a simple and sincere attempt to “get inside” the last night Jesus spent with his disciples and “appreciate” the passover meal, but given the fraught history of supersessionism, I think it best to actively discourage them. Which is why I make the arguments I make.

    2. ProclaimLiberty

      Shalom Susan — While I appreciate your interfaith sentiments, I must demur from your assertion that the Exodus story belongs to all three “Abrahamic” faiths. That is patently untrue. Just as the Holocaust was a uniquely Jewish catastrophe, despite the deaths of millions of others in WW2, so also the Exodus was a uniquely Jewish event applicable only to the covenantal descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob/Israel. Even the “mixed multitude” did not necessarily include Egyptians or other sorts of non-Jews, but rather Jews whose tribal lineage was mixed across multiple tribes such that they could not identify any particular one of the twelve tribes as their own. We see that by the time the Sinai covenant was promulgated there are no further mentions of a mixed multitude. It appears that everyone managed to be absorbed into some one of the tribes, if they did not go elsewhere to seek their own people. Generalizing the Exodus is just as mistaken (and dangerous for the Jewish people) as is generalizing the Holocaust as merely one more genocide among others.

      1. ProclaimLiberty

        But notice, Susan, that Tziporah did not accompany Moshe during the events in Egypt nor the departure of the Israelites therefrom, consequently you cannot cite her as if she played any part in those events. In fact, Moshe had sent her away, back to her father’s home in Midian, because of a disagreement over the fundamental Jewish covenantal rite of circumcision, before reaching Egypt to confront Pharaoh. While that action was virtually equivalent to divorce in that era, her father Yitro later tried to effect a reconciliation with Moshe, after the Exodus, when he had brought the people to mount Sinai where he had seen the burning bush and received his commission from HaShem. We can infer that this location was not far from Yitro’s home in Midian, because Moshe had been tending Yitro’s flocks when he first noticed the bush. Despite that, no Midianites nor Ishmaelites nor Moabites nor any other gentiles played any part in the Passover redemption — despite what some might mistakenly infer from the film “Prince of Egypt” or from the generations-earlier film “The Ten Commandments”. Consequently, non-Jews 3500 years later who wish to honor the commemoration of that event, and the Jewish civilization that it engendered, must do so with a clear perception about those whom are its only true subjects, as well as of the conditions by which “foreigners” (see Is.56) may approach and embrace it.

        Christians in particular are subject to confusion about it because they fail to recognize that the demonstration meal that Rav Yeshua celebrated with his disciples the night before Passover, after which he was arrested, was not the actual seder but only a midrashic teaching that augmented the meaning of some of its symbols — and that even so it was celebrated only with Jewish disciples. It was years, perhaps decades, later that one of those disciples had a vision leading him to accept G-d-fearing gentiles to enter a similar form of discipleship. And it was centuries later that gentile Christians began to interpret some instructions from Rav Shaul to gentile disciples in Corinth as a symbolic pseudo-Passover-seder, thus inventing the Eucharist. It is out of this confusion that Christians attempt to co-opt the seder as either a glorified expanded Eucharist or as a ceremony that belongs to them because the Torah-observant Jew Rav Yeshua celebrated it. They should rather recognize it for what it was, and that any participation in it that may be afforded them is still a secondary one not their own, solely by grace, as it were. Incidentally, Muslims have no inherent reason at all within Islam to celebrate this commemoration. Consequently, interfaith efforts to increase understanding about this Jewish event, by which it is hoped to diminish long-standing misapprehensions about it, and thus prevent related historic resentments against Jews, must not make the mistake of trying to universalize it and must insist that it be respected as a characteristically-Jewish event.

      2. Jordan

        Mr. Proclaim Liberty is partly correct and partly incorrect. He is correct that the most ancient understanding of the Exodus is that it was a Jewish liberation story, and that the “mixed multitude” was a mixed group of different tribes of Israelites. It is also true that the Hebrew Bible takes a positive view of non-Israelite monotheists such as the Midianites, who were descendants of Ishmael, and apparently were pre-Islamic Arab monotheists.

        But while the celebration of Passover was not originally universalized to all peoples, it certainly began to take on that character long before the modern era or the emergence of what we call progressive Judaism. It’s been customary for centuries to invite all who hunger for redemption with a literal open door. That obviously includes non-Jews. We pray that no other people may be oppressed as we were. And other groups of people who hold the Hebrew Bible as scripture naturally see the Exodus as a story told for all people–a prototype of many liberation movements. Think of the way Christianized African slaves in America naturally saw themselves in the story. No faithful Jew who has absorbed the meaning of Passover could possibly object to this.

      3. ProclaimLiberty

        Shavua Tov, Jordan — While certainly there need be no objection to viewing the Passover redemption as an archetype, that is a far cry from changing the interpretation of the seder itself in ways that diminish its particularly Jewish meaning. The African slaves didn’t bogart the Jewish seder when they adopted its biblical theme of liberation. The original Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua merely added to the seder a midrashic gloss upon its existing symbols; they did not neglect the “pshat” of their original meaning. And later gentile Christians were not the inventors of the interpretation that similarly envisioned a personal departure from enslavement to sin as a metaphorical or symbolic parallel to the departure from Egyptian enslavement. That appeared first in the rabbinic environment. I believe the author of the original essay above was also pleading for a similar emphasis on authentic seders, regardless of who might attend, and to eschew the conduct of ersatz seders.

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  9. Nick Doversberger

    Many, many years ago, in the remote community where I was living in southern Oregon, our tiny Christian congregation decided to do a Seder. We involved such Jewish people as we knew who were living in the area as participants and leaders. The Seder was not a “Christian”
    Seder as such at all as we used a prepared Haggadah out of the Reformed tradition, without changes. Our purpose was not to coopt anyone else’s rituals, but to experience rather than merely discuss, those rituals. Our people discovered first hand many common themes that are shared with and arise out of Judaism. It was a rich time together and led to some lasting friendships. Perhaps it was only a lame attempt and probably could have been done better, but I have never regretted the effort to build bridges.

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  12. Bowman Walton

    “Thou shalt not steal.” The unilateral theft of another people’s rituals puts one in a decidedly wrong relationship to them of symbolic conquest. If one doubts that said people actually are ‘another people,’ then one should simply go to their rituals, if invited. This universal ethical principle requires no theological justification and admits no theological excuse. If you are not a shoplifter or an embezzler, neither should you steal another people’s rituals. Therefore: no ‘Christian’ Seder– and no ‘Christian’ haj to Mecca, no ‘Christian’ Santeria sacrifices, etc.

    Some Christians who see this ethical reality without difficulty wonder, however, what to make of the whole post-Marcion Church. Is it not all one vast appropriation of the religious traditions of ancient Israel? Indeed, it is. To this very day and in this faraway land, there are Christian seminarians, clergy, and scholars studying and explaining writings about God written or collected in the ancient Roman province of Palestine. Most congregations go so far as to read from those writings at every Eucharist. Marcion hated this practice. What do the people of ancient Israel think about it?

    Or, more provocatively yet, what are Christians today to do about Jewish sages and scholars writing about Jesus, the Resurrection, Paul, the New Testament, etc, not to us, but to fellow Jews? One rabbinical body recently had the audacity to cite the words of a certain rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, as an authority in a responsum on the rite of circumcision. And the eminent Gershom Scholem went so far as to identify this same rabbi– famous for a vision on the road to Damascus and for visits to the Third Heaven– as the first known practitioner of the merkaba mysticism that evolved into kabbala. These Jewish scholars, with a flagrant disregard for centuries of Talmudic disdain and Christian supersessionism, dare to write about Jesus and the apostles as though they were Jews practicing Judaism. Because, of course, they were.

    The historical reality, which neither tradition has fully engaged in recent time, is that both the Jews who followed Jesus and the Jews who founded rabbinical Judaism began as sects in the exuberantly creative but doomed world of Second Temple Judaism. As sects, they both reimagined the Israelite whole in distinctive ways– apostles with an eye on universalizing prophecy, rabbis with an ear to oral tradition– but both were equally Jewish parts of it. Of course, there were many other sects in Israel besides– did one worship Enoch?– but, when the Romans finally lost patience with their rebellious province and destroyed the Second Temple, these were the two that survived. The universalizing apostles came to see ‘Israel’ as including faithful Gentiles, though not without a fight. To their ancient scriptures, they added new ones– the New Testament. The traditioning rabbis likewise came to see matrilineal descent and male circumcision as markers of their community’s boundaries, though this too was settled through debate over time. And they too completed old Israel’s scriptures with new writings– Mishna and Talmud. The bright red lines that we take for granted today were once only penciled in.

    The Passover Seder is itself a part of that mitosis, one marked by the rabbis’ understanding of their new tradition’s identity. Christians need not deny their own equally organic roots in the traditions of ancient Israel to respect that boundary.

  13. Howard

    I very much appreciate the desire to maintain the truth that there is, was, and will be a Jewish people who are still the covenanted people of YHVH God. The Passover, and the Exodus from Egypt is the mighty act by which God said that the nations would know Him, and the God of Israel is still remembered for that.

    Yet, as one who is Jewish, is a believer in Jesus, and lives in Israel among my own people, Messiah came as our Passover, which my people in the flesh still reject, but, thankfully, by the grace of God, I now know and believe. The last Passover which Jesus/Yeshua held with His apostles was not following what we today would call a Hagadah; in face, the Jewish hagadah of Passover may well have been written up in reaction to the truth of the New Testament gospel, which, till now, Israel rejects. But, praise God, the day is coming when they will repent and believe!

    God is moving on in His plan of redemption, and He calls the present regathering of the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel a greater thing than His bringing us up out of Egypt. And, of course, Jesus has brought those who believe from death to life, an even greater Passover exodus! And we look forward to the final redemption of our bodies at the resurrection. Israel will still celebrate the Passover during the 1000-year Millennial reign of Christ upon His return, and the Lord’s Supper is for Christians until He returns.

    All this to say, the continuing foundation which the Passover paradigm provides is still relevant, both for Jews and for all who believe that Messiah is our Passover.

    Some years ago, I wrote up a hagadah, which our congregation uses as a ‘working tool’ when we celebrate the Passover and the Resurrection of the Lord. We do not go through it all each year, but take from it to emphasize what seems particularly relevant for the occasion each year. You can read it here, and it can be printed out:

    God bless you all as you rejoice in Jesus, who died and rose again!

  14. Melanie Lee

    Now are you going to say the same thing to the African-Americans whose slave ancestors “usurped” the story of the Exodus and sang songs like “Go Down, Moses” and “Oh, Freedom”?

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      Of course not! There’s a big difference between using the text to illumine and make sense of your life and condition– i. e., to see your story in that story–and using the texts and rituals of Jews to erase them from their story–i. e., to say that their story only has meaning (or that it acquires ‘the true meaning’) when seen through a Christological lens. This is what Christians do when they celebrate a Eucharist as the culmination of a “Christian Seder.” It’s as if they’re saying that the Seder (and the Jews) is a mere foreshadowing of the real thing, and that now that we have the real thing, the old thing is rendered essentially obsolete.

      1. Melanie Lee

        As a Christian who regularly celebrates some form of Passover, I don’t agree with most of what you say. However, you do raise some good points. In my own church, I was disturbed when some congregants would refer to OT people as “Christians”. I understood what they meant: they saw these characters as people who did God’s will and paved the way for Christ. I was concerned that they were taking away the Jewishness/Israeliness/Hebrewness of these characters.

        Come to think of it, except for the model seders I’ve made for myself or my family, I don’t think I’ve ever attended a seder not hosted by a Jew, whether a traditional Jew or a Messianic Jew. The very first seder I ever attended at Riverside Church in NYC in the 1980s, was hosted by a young female rabbi who sang and acted the story.

        (to be continued)

  15. george613

    I am a Jewish educator who is often asked to conduct Seders in church settings as an educational tool. One of the first things I say is that the Last Supper looked nothing like the modern Seder and we go from there. I conduct a Jewish Seder and I focus on the changing aspects of the ritual and its importance to Judaism and why it resonates will so many Jewish people who may not do any other ritual. It is a perfect teaching medium for learning about the Jewish experience historically, the Jewish ancient history and connection to the Torah but also the modern Jewish experience.

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      This is the sort of thing I am heartily encouraging. So different from a Christian appropriation of the Seder, and so useful for the education of Christians who often bring a lot of (mistaken) assumptions to these things because we think we know all about Jewish stuff because of what’s in the gospels. Thanks for this beautiful work!

  16. Jamie

    I get this. I think a church near my parents holds a “seder,” and I don’t know how closely it strives to uphold Jewish seder traditions. I also know lots of Jewish families that celebrate Christmas, in a commercial and shallow way that has nothing to do with the Christian rite. Appropriation is everywhere.

    1. thathat

      Jewish families celebrating Christmas “in a commercial and shallow way” isn’t appropriation–it’s assimilation. If you look at early 20th century immigrant history, you can see it taking root, but even now, just imagine how much Christmas is a part of the entire American culture from November through December. It’s inescapable. And in America, at least, it’s as much a secular holiday as it is a religious one. Santa, elves, and Christmas specials (that inevitably talk about the vague-but-warm “Christmas Spirit”) about, but have very little, if anything, to do with Christianity as a religion. They become part of the American culture, and are generally very difficult to avoid.

      Participating in a dominant culture’s practice isn’t appropriation because when a practice becomes so pervasive, it’s sort of socially enforced. Whether or not someone’s Christian, in America, celebrating Christmas with gifts or parties or visiting is just “the thing you do” during December, and anyone who doesn’t do those things is seen as strange. Adapting to a dominant culture because of social pressure is very different than seeking out practices from a marginalized culture and adapting them to fit your own lifestyle.

  17. erin

    I love this and your thoughtful and careful comments about our clumsiness in usurping Jewish traditions for our own benefit. Too many ordinary Christians are sloppy in their exigetical work when preaching from Hebrew scriptures. They all too easily hijack passages like Isaiah 53 and say they were prophecies about Jesus, the suffering servant, when they are nothing of the kind, as you say. We make the passage fit our preconceived notion about the fortelling of Jesus and the suffering he would endure instead of doing the hard work of study. I preached recently on Is 53 and made a point to say this was about Israel, not Jesus. I appreciate you nuancing this issue and being diligent strident about your cautions. I have attended both a “christian seder” and a seder at a synagogue, explained by a rabbi and elders of the church. The difference was night and day. To listen to our Jewish friends explain their faith and tbeir rituals helps, but you sense you are just stratching the surface. Jews are people of the earth and by that they embody the word in a way I don’t think we ever can. We live in our head, not our heart, per se. There’s a big difference. Well done. Thanks.

    1. Bowman Walton

      Since readers of scripture in Second Temple Judaism were not polarized to messianic or rabbinical poles as they came to be in later centuries, neither were their readings of the prophets. At the very end, for example, the rabbi Akiva could say things about his messiah Bar Kochva that would have been strange to most sages of the Babylonian Talmud. Thus such Jewish scholars as the Berkeley talmudist Daniel Boyarin argue reasonably that the ordinary midrashic exegesis of readers concerned with Daniel 7 probably found the ‘representative suffering messiah’ reading of Isaiah 53 before the lifetime of Jesus. Indeed, because the person/people ambiguity that you mention is a feature of both texts, they were a quite logical match for midrashic interpretation. Read Daniel 7 and Isaiah 53 together yourself and you will find a messianism more robust than that of the contemporary Christian preaching you mention. What those preachers retroject into Isaiah 53 is not so much their weak messianism, as a modern, culture-bound way of reading the scriptures of ancient Israel foreign to their authors and first readers. Of course, if that much of Christianity actually preceded Jesus, then many commonplace suppositions need reconsideration.

    2. Olga

      Except there is a nuance. Whenever Israel is spoken of in the Hebrew version of the Bible, feminine forms are used. Yet in Isaiah 53, the suffering Messiah is clearly described as a man. Look it up.

      1. ProclaimLiberty

        What do you mean, Olga? Israel’s actions regularly use masculine-gendered Hebrew verb forms. I haven’t checked every single instance, so I can’t say it is never feminine. I can think of circumstances where a feminine form might be used, to express a certain aspect of relationship with HaShem, but this is not true as a general case. Even in Isaiah’s servant songs, you will generally find Israel as masculine. The distinction in Is.53 is that of a singular individual who suffers on behalf of plural entities such as “we” (also masculine) who erred or turned away (“we” being the collective of Israel), rather than other cases where it is the collective entity Israel that suffers.

  18. Ginna Watson

    While I understand your comments about respecting the origins of the Seder, I think any chance to find a shared ground between religions should be celebrated, not discouraged!

    Ginna Watson

  19. Devra Ariel

    Pastor/Professor Luti, as an Orthodox Israeli Jew deeply devoted to building bridges with Christians, I found your article fascinating, encouraging and even exciting. Supersessionism, and replacement theology (if they are not the same thing), remain as tremendous barriers but I am happy to meet more and more people devoted to breaking down those barriers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and best wishes at this holy season.

  20. David Simon

    The problem with too many Christian Seders is we seek to overlay them with our expectations or liturgies, rather than discover the richness and fullness of a tradition which has endured through not centuries, but through millennium. Christians short-circuit the Seder by making one cup all important; to the Jews there are four (or five!) which are all required in order to tell the whole story.
    If Christians attend the meal with the question of the second son, “What does this ceremony mean to you;” (Ex 12:26) rather than the inquiry of the wise son: “What are the testimonies, the statues, and the judgments which the Lord our God commanded us;” (Dt 6:29) the meal only becomes an event to reinforce a practical practice of shallowness experienced by many Christians. [Some ideas on how a “Wise Son” can prepare for the Seder are found under the blog tab of beginning March 7, 2015, please read and comment.]
    The Passover meal is ancient! Although the earliest Haggadah date merely to eighth century AD, the order of today’s service is related in the Mishnah of the second century AD. Hints of the service are found in the book of Psalms (800 BC) and in Exodus 12-13. Through the Passover (when presented correctly) celebrants can find motivation for thanksgiving, celebration of freedom (and salvation), proper perspectives on treating the alien (who might reside illegally in the US), a method of passing our faith through the generations, and the compassion to reach out to the poor.
    A great lesson for Christians, who in this day and age practice their faith often solely in the church building led by ordained clergy could be taken from Exodus 12, where Passover originated in the home led by a non-ordained facilitator called “father.” The lesson is staged for children (not adults) in order to pass on the heritage, with fantastic teaching tools (Salt water = tears; through bitter herbs we can taste the feelings of a slave).
    To hold a Christian Passover as a “well-intentioned attempt to honor the Jewishness of Jesus, and the Jewish roots of the Christian communion meal” misses the point. Great spiritual lessons can come through Christian and/or Jewish observance of this meal … and these lessons are multiplied when holding the meal becomes an annual tradition (Is it Biblical to make this an annual tradition?).

  21. Ùr-Fhàsaidh

    The celebration of the Eucharist is (to the Christian) the paschal mystery – the feast and the anamnesis of our delivery from the darkness of sin, alienation, suffering and death. Christianity simply does not exist without this ‘Christian’ seder. Yes, the present Jewish and Christian rituals are different, and these differences must be respected. They are not the same, and nor should they be, but they do find their historical root in the same (or very similar) rite.

  22. Michael Harvey

    Dear Pastor/Professor,
    I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful writing. With Pesach just around the corner, many of us in the rabbinate fear the upcoming “Christian Seders” with less than pure intentions. I’m wondering if you’ve read a book by my professor at Hebrew Union College, Dr. Michael Cook, called “Modern Jews Engage the New Testament.” He devotes an entire chapter to this subject and does it quite well. You hit on many of his points, and I think you’d enjoy reading it. As a soon-to-be Rabbi (this may I am ordained) and one who is heavily passionate about interfaith dialogue and education, I am very grateful and touched by your intelligent words in this post. Many thanks!

    Michael Harvey

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      Michael, thanks so much for your comment, and for the reference to Dr. Cook’s book. I have not read it, and look forward to doing so. Congratulations on your upcoming ordination! And have a blessed happy Pesach! M.

  23. Bowman Walton

    Since reading *Another Reformation* by the Jewish philosopher Peter Ochs (Virginia), I have been further and pleasantly challenged by *Border Lines: the partition of Judeo-Christianity* and *The Jewish Gospels: the story of the Jewish Christ*, both by the Jewish talmudist Daniel Boyarin (Berkeley). Boyarin argues that Christianity’s characteristic themes (divine triunity, incarnate God-Man, atonement, etc) were first synthesized in apocalyptic circles of Second Temple Judaism, and that Jesus was recognized as the Christ on that basis. That is, the theological development that most scholars view as having happened after the Resurrection, Boyarin regards as having happened before the Nativity.

  24. Mclennan Family

    I think this discussion on the minutiae of two of the world’s major religions highlights the fact that religions are made up by people, mainly men. Religions are used for good and ill, but they do this by forming a gang of people who do as they are told because they believe in the ‘God’ and then further believe that to demonstrate ,that, they have to do certain things. When viewed from the outside it looks a lot like culture not God.

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  28. David

    As a Presbyterian pastor with a Jewish wife and kids, I have to say this was thought-provoking! On the one hand, we need to respect the narrative of Torah, and not muddle it. But on the other, I think the suggestion that the Passover narrative can only be truly understood from within the framework of Judaism does not do it justice.

    1. Rabbi David Greenspoon

      David, I humbly offer this response to your comment:

      I agree that many different traditions can access the Passover narrative as found in shared Scriptures. The suggestion of the author as I understand it and concur, is that the Seder is a uniquely Jewish expression of meaning in recreating the experience. So, as a faithful Christian, please _do_ find meaning in the meta-story of Passover.

      At the same time, I urge that the Seder as a rabbinic liturgy created after the destruction of the Second Temple be respected as a uniquely Jewish liturgy.

  29. Pingback: Against "Christian Seders" | Notes from Mere O

  30. Rabbi Mark Wm. Gross - Coral Springs Hebrew Congregation

    Kudos to Pastor Luti for her thoughtful and important insights.

    Ever since the quest for “the historic Jesus” in the wake of Vatican II led many loving and enthused Christians to explore the Jewish roots of both their Savior and their religion, there have been far too many queasy activities that effectively blur the important distinctions between two great ethical monotheist faiths. As Pastor Luti correctly emphasizes, contemporary Jewish practice bears little resemblance to The Last Supper, while Jewish religious rituals and ceremonies have no real connection the Christian symbolism that has been assigned to them. There is a simple and practical reason that there are three cakes of unleavened bread at the Passover seider table; it is not in invocation of the Holy Trinity.

    When called upon to conduct “interfaith seiders” by our City’s Multi-Cultural Commission, I have coordinated a program reconstructing what a Passover celebration would have looked like early in the first century, while the Jerusalem Temple was still standing. That allowed Christian participants to relive the “Upper Room” experience, while giving Jewish participants the opportunity to see the roots of their own observance, before the destruction of the Temple and the suspension of sacrifice on its Altar led to the innovation of the seider they practice today. It is quite possible to share and explore together, but it can only be done effectively and meaningfully without a spirit of usurpation and cultural colonialism, when the engine of engagement instead is mutual understanding of the issues; mutual respect for the boundaries; and mutual affection for one another.

  31. mevashir

    This should read: “Whenever the Final Supper actually took place, the Jewish nation was eating its Passover Meal after Jesus had been brutally executed and was NOW lying in the tomb.”

  32. mevashir

    I have had lots of experience leading Passover Seders both at college as a member of Hillel and in Israel as an ultra Orthodox Jew. The Seder was a high point of the year for me. I would prepare for about a month and utilize one of the modern Haggadot that have excellent commentaries. I always would get frustrated trying to balance the teaching portion with the need for the participants to eat and to finish up before midnight, as Jewish law requires.

    For many Jews, Passover is virtually their only link to Jewishness. They have little understanding about the meaning of the symbols. They don’t know about Elijah as forerunner to Messiah, since most Jews no longer believe in a personal Messiah but rather in a kind of nebulous Messianic Era (if that much!).

    I think the book mentioned above by Dr. Humphreys provides excellent insight into the Passover conducted by Jesus. The lectures by Scott Hahn and Brant Pitre also provide insight into the connection between the Final Supper and the Eucharist. (I am not Catholic but have appreciated many Catholic teachings.)

    The problem for followers of Jesus is that Passover is tinged with sorrow. SInce our Paschal lamb has died, I don’t think we can fully share the joy Jewish participants have in recollecting their Exodus from Egypt. Our joy is not complete until Easter Sunday when our Lord has risen from the grave, confirming retroactively that all He said and taught was true and that He truly is the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world.

    Jewish people tend to overeat and get intoxicated on Passover, something that the Gospel discussion of the Final Supper clearly averts by the various unusual things Jesus introduces into the meal: foot washings, New Covenant on Bread and Wine, prediction of betrayal, and departing for Gethsemane where He experienced agony in the garden. None of these poignant things are reflected in the conventional Jewish Passover.

    Whenever the Final Supper actually took place, the Jewish nation was eating its Passover Meal after Jesus had been brutally executed and was not lying in the tomb. Their joy contrasted sharply with the grief of Jesus’ followers and His mother. This grief is captured vividly in Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ when both Marys are reciting verses from the Haggadah while huddled in darkness and expecting the worst for Jesus at the hands of His enemies.

    So my reservation about Christian participation in Passover is that they cannot share in the unmitigated joy the Jewish participants are experiencing at this ceremonial meal and also most important of all this Jewish meal omits the New Covenant that Jesus taught without which we have no share in Him and no portion in the World to Come.

  33. sicutlocutusest Post author

    With respect to all who may wish to comment further, I am now closing comments on this piece. I am (mostly) happy for the robust discussion, but also concerned that several posters have begun to use the reply section as a platform for espousing causes that, although tangentially related to the narrow proposal of the original post, are either taking the discussion too far afield, or are inappropriately (in my view–and I own the blog, so I get to judge) proselytizing and preaching. So, until another day…

  34. James

    I came across this blog post because it was reblogged at the Rosh Pina Project. As a Gentile Christian who is intermarried to a Jewish spouse and who has an interest in looking at my faith through a “Jewish” lens, I always imagine myself to be part of a very small, select perspective, especially in my attitude toward supersessionism. I appreciate what you’ve written here and in several years of blogging on WordPress, this is the first time I’ve chosen to reblog anyone else’s material.

  35. James

    Reblogged this on Morning Meditations and commented:
    I don’t think I’ve ever reblogged another’s material before, but after seeing this reblogged at the Rosh Pina Project, I was compelled to read the original. Having read the original, I found myself greatly impressed by this thoughtful woman’s insights and sensitivity and thought it important to share.

  36. Howard

    As a Jewish pastor of a Messianic congregation in Israel, and not being a scholar, nor the son of a scholar, nonetheless I am delighted in knowing and believing all that God has done — and is still doing — for my people, and for all those born-again by the Holy Spirit. That being so, I have posted an e-mail exchange on the significance of the use of which bread during that Passover week by Yeshua and His disciples under the New Covenant in His blood, and also a Passover Hagggadah for seder use.

    May we all rejoice during this God-given week for the whole world to be reminded that YHVH made His name great among the nations as the God of Israel who brought out His people from Egypt by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm to serve Him, and that Jesus Christ died and rose again!

  37. Jason Jehosephat

    If Christians want to emulate Christ’s Judaism, they could go back to observing the Sabbath on the same day that Jesus did.

  38. John Jackman

    Interesting — Sr. Luti has a point from one particular narrow point of view, and probably is responding to some ill-considered abuses. But at a higher level, almost everyone here is being entirely to literal and anal about all of the issues. There is profound spiritual meaning and sharing that can happen here — as long as respect is shown on all sides. If the problem is lack of respect for boundaries, then name that and do not condemn more appropriate sharings. Christians at the more mystical (less literailistic) end have a great deal of common ground with more mystical Jews. Finding myself most in agreement with the UU — humility and respect sanctify any sharing of traditions.

  39. Eric

    somehow the author’s interest in building community (a much stronger Jewish value, IMHO, than honor-checking the neighbors semi-Seder) doesn’t really come through. This brand of we-own-it elitism continues to internally damage the community of diasporic Judaism. Instead of writing this long-winded whining, the author’s time would have been much better spent with arms around neighbors. Imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery. What’s next? Skip the whole Elijah thing? She totally misses the point. We were ALL slaves in the land of Eqypt. Community is EVERYTHING, people!

  40. Hyacinth

    I am a Unitarian Universalist. In our churches, we have a lot of people from a lot of religious backgrounds, Christian, Buddhist, etc. I think we have learned to do some of the Jewish holidays in a respectful manner, over the years. My advice, if you would like to observe Jewish holidays and observences reprectfully, would be to seek out Jewish friends or neighbors, and humbly ask to participate. My experience has been that people are more than happy to share their culture and faith. That way you are not just hijacking their culture.

  41. mevashir

    I highly recommend this book by Cambridge Professor Colin Humphrey that attempts to resolves the apparent contradictions between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John regarding the Final Supper, Passover, and the day of Crucifixion:

    1. He accepts the Good Friday crucifixion day, and believes from highly complex astronomical calculations that it occurred on April 3, 33 AD (Julian calendar).

    2. He believes 3 hours of darkness were caused by a sandstorm and Peter’s citing Joel in Acts 2 about the moon turning to blood reflects a lunar eclipse that occurred just at sundown of Passover night, the Friday night after Jesus’ death and crucifixion. He says astronomical calculations show such an eclipse on that same date of April 3, 33 AD.

    3. He believes that the Final Supper occurred on Wednesday night and that John and the Synoptics are in agreement and do not contradict each other on this. He says there is a pre exilic lunar calendar used by Moses and a post exilic lunar calendar used by the Jews returning from Babylon under Ezra that differed slightly. According to Dr. Humphreys Moses fixed the new lunar month when the earth moon and sun were in conjunction as per the Egyptian practice, whereas the Babylonians marked the beginning of the new lunar month by the first visible appearance of the new lunar crescent, which would occur 1-2 days after the Egyptian method. Ergo, it was possible for Jesus to have a Passover meal on Wednesday night while the official Jewish Passover meal was held Friday night after the crucifixion.

    4. He proves that a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection do not violate Jesus’ words about being in the tomb for three days and three nights, as many SDAs and Messianics claim in lobbying for a Wednesday crucifixion day.

    5. Most amazingly to me is that he shows how if the Final Supper was on Wednesday night then the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus was fully legal and did not violate numerous rules and regulations of that body. He proposes that Jesus was first brought before the Sanhedrin early Thursday morning and was sentenced to death. The Sanhedrin has a rule that a guilty verdict in a capital case must be reconfirmed the following day, so he proposes that Jesus spent Thursday in prison and then was brought before the Sanhedrin again early Friday morning. They confirmed their death sentence and then brought Him to Pilate to authorize the verdict.

    1. mevashir

      I think your article is very insightful. I was an ultra-Orthodox Jew for 18 years before converting to Christianity, and you are correct that the traditional Jewish Passover is an almost xenophobic ceremony (as contrasted to the Fall Festival of Booths which is more inclusive). You might find this lecture by an Israeli historian of religion to be of interest and very relevant to your comments here:

      1. mevashir

        “Let’s face it, despite years of interfaith efforts, many Christians continue to assume reflexively that Christianity has supplanted Judaism in God’s plan and affections. We might not say it that way, but it shows in the way we use certain biblical texts, talk about a God of Love (Christian) and a God of Wrath (the “Old Testament God”), and juxtapose Law and Grace—in these cases and others, the clear implication is that Christianity has not only succeeded Judaism, it has superseded it.”

        I’m not sure about this comment. It seems pretty clear that Jesus was a supercessionist. He said He came to fulfill/complete the Law. He saw Himself as the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish hope and expectation that the Word of God would go forth throughout the world to all nations. I think supercessionism is a bad term. I see Jesus as not replacing Judaism but rather prying open the cloistered and introverted world of rabbinical Judaism in a way that makes the Truth of Torah accessible to the entire world. In a way that Jews cannot and will not do themselves!

        So I don’t see why you are apologetic about it. If you don’t believe Jesus fulfills this role then you are not really a Christian. If you do believe He fulfills this role then you are not being honest about the power of His teaching as compared to that of other religions including even Judaism.

        I see Judaism as stunted in perpetual Messianic expectation; while Christianity offers the fulfillment of that expectation. Or perhaps this analogy would be better: Judaism is fixated on the pregnancy stage, while Christianity celebrates the baby who already has been born and focuses on implementing His teachings and drawing His grace into the world.

      2. Carney Bland

        Paul was clear that true Israel had not been rejected or superseded in Romans 11. Gentile’s are graphed into the Olive tree of service and are supported by the root and warned that we are not be arrogant toward the natural benches. As a gentile believer in Christ (Messiah) you are claiming to have the King of the Jews reigning in your heart. Paul was imprisoned and laid down his life to fulfill his calling to reach the nations, now we among the nations must humbly reflect the same concern for his family and hold unity with Jewish believers as we are called (Ephesians 3-4). Gentiles were always to be adopted into the promises made to the Jews…but that is just it, we are adopted in and graphed in, and not replacing or superceeding. There is a unity between Jews and Gentiles in Messiah where Israel remains intact with its identity and not a uniformity where one has to become the other or supersede the other. In anything, the gentile are the ones embracing the blessing clause promise in the covenant given to Abraham. Galatians 3:14

      3. levraphael

        What on earth are you talking about when you make this outrageous claim: “the traditional Jewish Passover is an almost xenophobic ceremony”? I’ve seen it crop up here or there on the Internet and it’s nonsense. Passover is about Liberation and I’ve been to umpteen different kinds of Seders and not one of them was xenophobic.

    2. mevashir

      I think your article is very insightful. I was an ultra-Orthodox Jew for 18 years before converting to Christianity, and you are correct that the traditional Jewish Passover is an almost xenophobic ceremony (as contrasted to the Fall Festival of Booths which is more inclusive). You might find this lecture by an Israeli historian of religion to be of interest and very relevant to your comments here

  42. Carney Bland

    What do you make of the Apostle Paul’s request of the gentile Church in Corinth to keep the feast of Passover but in a new spirit of truth given Christ is Himself the Passover?
    1 Corinthians 5:6-8
    6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    If the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is not referring to Christ, then who?

    Food for thought. We should NOT equate the Old Testament scripture with the Law of Moses.
    John 5:45-47
    45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father ; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

    1. jldown2

      I cannot answer some of your question because, quite honestly, I simply don’t believe Jesus to be the Messiah. I’m not interested in engaging that part of the debate.

      However, I will argue that the Feast Paul abjures his followers to celebrate cannot be Passover as celebrated now. What we know as a Seder was not codified until the early Middle Ages. As such, Paul could have been referring to many things–but not a Seder. It is also interesting to note that Paul instructs to remember the Feast, whereas Jews are reminded to “tell the tale.” The meal and its liturgy was developed as a way to do this.

      Christianity was developed as a religion long before the concretization of the Seder. This is pure appropriation.

      1. Carney Bland

        If Yeshua is the Messiah, then He is the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham by faith and given first to Israel but not for Israel alone. Through Abraham and his “seed” ALL the nations of the earth be blessed. “Christianity” is merely the name many give to what was always believed to be a new covenant that would replace the one delivered by Moses at Sinai. It is a fulfillment of the unconditional covenant given to Abraham which was ratified 400 years before the conditional ratified at Sinai. Jeremiah 31:31-34 makes it clear. Moses himself said the Messiah would usher in such a change and like Abraham looked forward by faith for the salvation of Messiah. It all pointed to Him and His redemption from the first sign of sin and the promise that the “seed” of the woman would dash the head of the serpent in Gen 3.

      1. Carney Bland

        Completely agree. Paul used leaven as a symbol of pride and sin versus humility and dependence on God’s grace through faith. Leaven puffs up and inflates and is a symbol of our pride. If one were to celebrate the feast and think somehow that by doing so they are themselves being “righteous” as opposed to doing so as a testimony of His righteousness alone then that person would miss the point.

      2. jldown2

        I appreciate the “all due respect” tag–statements started with that phrase so rarely are intended in that manner. I was simply trying to contribute to the discussion–not unlike the dozens of other comments and questions in the post (your’s included). If the blogger wants to delete the post, add to, or contradict me, I am happy to listen and learn. In the meantime, however, I’m not sure there is much harm in attempting to contribute to a discussion in some way.

  43. whateverisinthekitchen

    Thank you for your thoughtful deconstruction of this topic. I’ve experienced one so-called “christian seder” and, while it was a meaningful experience at the time, I feel your response is the better one. Although I would love to invite Rabbi Greenspoon (commenting above) to preach on that very topic. Interesting all around!

      1. whateverisinthekitchen

        Well, I’m sure we live nowhere near each other (I’m in rural southern New Mexico!), but I would still love to connect. I’m not sure if one can put email addresses here, but if so I can be reached at allwestcomm at gmail.

  44. histdg

    Sadly Sicutlocutusest seems just more a defender of “Christian pagan” traditions than an historical and biblical one… For pagan background on your Christianity, please read Frank Viola and George Barna work “Pagan Christianity?” pp. 49-82, 193-198.

  45. Daniel Guerrero

    Sadly for the autor of such article is ok to celebrate roman-pagan traditions, but very bad to celebrate jewish-christian traditions… He prefers “the special OBLIGATION Christians have in Lent and Holy Week”… But Who said so? Who Did establish “that” obligation of lent and “holy week”, Roma or Jerusalem? Is his “holy week different than the O.T and N.T Passover that Moses established and Jesus established?

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  47. Menashe Dovid (מנשה דוד)

    Passover and Some Common Misconceptions

    © by Menashe Dovid

    grosseramaThe blood, welts, cuts and drizzling spit from his hair and beard, just how graphic can it get? Up until recently pretty ghastly when one considers the many films on the subject but Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ eclipses them all! Where could such a spectacle have come from? Perhaps what may be seen in at least most Roman Catholic Churches, for sure….yes! Such high emotion, theatrical license and drama serves a very useful purpose in the guilt laden trip agenda set by Christian theology imposed over the masses for just less than two thousand years.

    A typology as invented by the New Testament (especially the book of Hebrews) has set a whole agenda of having folks believe that the whole sacrificial system as outlined in the Torah is fulfilled to a tee in Yeshua and/ or Jesus.

    The Torah fulfilled to the smallest detail in Yeshua and/ or Jesus even extends to things Jewish outside of the New Testament further on in time to include the post Jesus Rabbinical teaching aids of the Passover Seder. Messianics are quick to point out that Jews unwittingly fail to see the major significance of the pierced holes and stripes of the Matzos, a ‘trinity’ of three Matzos used in the Seder and why the middle Matzo ‘Jesus’ is broken and hidden only to be ‘resurrected’, to be found later! The irony for most Jews not ‘in the know’ but according to many who believe Jews without Jesus are ‘spiritually blind’… there is no lamb Jesus, no sacrifice ‘crucifixion’, only a burnt egg and a shank bone on the Seder plate! Who would have known that all of this is tied up to a historical event 3500 years ago and traditional rabbinic visual aids of the Seder Plate, wine and now modern day machine baked Matzos providing the holes and the stripes!

    An error on the part of messianics who are strictly ‘Karaite’ or those who use arbitrarily ‘rabbinical Judaism’, is the failure of the messianics to understand what the Passover Sacrifice was all about. Ad infinitum will they insist that that the sacrifice of the Passover was a substitutionary sacrifice for atonement of sins!

    The lamb in the context of the Passover story was a god (amongst many) for the Egyptians. Indeed some of the ten plagues were with respect to the other idols of the Egyptians (frogs, river Nile, wild animals for example). Tellingly, the lamb, a sign of fertility, was killed in the middle of the month of Nisan (Aries in the zodiac corresponds to the time of Nisan and has the sign of the sheep) and the blood of the lamb placed on the door lintels of the Israelites’ dwellings. A biblical proof that the lamb was a god of the Egyptians is by consideration of Exodus 8 which concerns Moshe’s request of pharaoh to allow a sacrifice in the desert. Considering verse 22:

    ram god
    Granite statue of Amun in the from of a ram protecting Taharqa, British Museum.

    22 And Moses said: ‘It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God; lo, if we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? Exodus 8

    A question may be asked if the sacrifice (lamb/ sheep) was an abomination to the Israelites or the Egyptians. The answer to the rhetorical question asked by Moshe causes us to consider what would the basis be for the Egyptians to stone the Israelites, if not for Israelites sacrificing the god of the Egyptians?

    The spiritual force of this Egyptian lamb god, in the middle of the month of Nisan (Aries in the zodiac) was supposed to be at its most potent then! The Israelites brazenly chose to go out of Egypt, painting their lintels with lamb blood and eating their lamb sacrifice, something never done before with respect to sacrifices of animals!

    In contradistinction, the actions and thoughts behind the actions of the Israelites with respect to (but not only) slaying of the Passover lamb, where saving actions and thoughts by virtue of the Israelites choosing the G-d of Israel over the lamb god of the Egyptians! The Passover Lamb was a sacrifice to show ones’ allegiance to the G-d of Israel!

    Obedience to the word of G-d is more valuable to G-d than sacrifice [1 Sam 15:22, Jer 7:23 & Amos 5:25]. And where one does need to bring a sacrifice for sin as commanded in the Torah, a primary prerequisite is teshuva or in the not so accurate English term repentance. Judaism considers the prerequisite teshuva or repentance to achieve atonement and not the idea of a penal human substitutionary atonement which the Jewish scriptures clearly teach against [Ezekiel 20:20, 21, Deut 12:31].

    Without teshuva any sacrifice for sin is worthless otherwise! With the prerequisites of teshuva in place and obedience to the word of G-d being preferable than sacrifice, the sacrificial sacrifice[1] aspect of Torah is placed in its proper context. Without the sacrificial sacrifice aspect of Torah in its proper context, Christianity makes sacrifice for atonement alone the sole basis of its religion without any reference to a personal effort to get closer to G-d.

    However, with Passover we are talking about something altogether different. Passover is a sacrifice of allegiance not a sacrifice of atonement.

    Human Sacrifice

    Given a wider understanding of what sacrifice achieves and what it does not, one may already conclude in the case of Passover, that the Passover sacrifice draws us closer to G-d and each other by virtue of eating the sacrifice. Here also in the Passover sacrifice a vehicle is provided to express mans’ desire to forsake idols, enslavement and choose G-d exclusively.

    Understanding the context of sacrifices and the wider understanding of what sacrifice achieves and what it does not helps us to understand the dangers of other non-Israelite and/ or Christian ideas, with respect to sacrifices. A danger being that of idolatry by worship of created things instead of the creator by making the sacrifice and ‘the blood’ the sole object of worship. The Jewish scriptures clearly teach against the idea of a substitutionary atonement and instead, stress the importance of an individual’s and a nation’s responsibility for sin and taking appropriate action.

    20 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them. 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. 22 None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked (?), declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? Ezek 18:20-22

    human sacIn contradistinction, Christianity makes belief in Jesus doing all the work for the sinner on the cross the sole basis for its religion. The reality and truth is that nobody ‘takes it’ for anyone with respect to sin, rather each and everyone is responsible for their sins and teshuvah (as evidenced by subsequent righteous things they have done) is what brings life NOT some inherent magical power in death, blood, flower and incense etc.[2].

    The major foundational component of atonement that is missing from Christianity is how Teshuvah (repentance) is initiated at least by the death and/ or suffering of someone else or even a nation. Suffering of someone else or a nation to initiate Teshuvah is never vicarious or substitutionary, however! Teshuvah of the Kings of nations, as with case of Isaiah[3] for example, is elicited by virtue of the Kings witnessing the death and/ or suffering of the servant nation Israel. Therefore, in God’s plan, Israel’s sufferings have been to the benefit of the other nations at least in part to an acknowledgment by the nations that Israel has been the true servant of God all along!

    Animal sacrifice has always been permitted and post Sinai only under extremely limited and controlled circumstances as to time, place[4] and intention as detailed by the Torah. Certain sacrifices are brought purely for the purpose of communing with God and becoming closer to Him. Others are brought for the purpose of expressing thanks, love, or gratitude to God. Others are used to cleanse a person of ritual impurity (which does not necessarily have anything to do with sin). And yes, some sacrifices are brought for purposes of atonement. The messianic era does have sacrifices if Jer 33:15-18 is considered.

    So what about human sacrifice?

    1 Thus says the LORD: The heaven is My Throne, and the earth is My Footstool, where is the house that you may build unto Me? And where is the place that may be My resting-place? 2 For all These things has My hand made, and so all These things Came to be, says the LORD, But on this man will I look, even on Him That is poor and of a Contrite Spirit, and Trembleth at My word. 3 He That Kills an ox is as if he slew a man, he That Sacrifices a lamb, as if he broke a dog’s neck, he That Offers a meal-Offering, as if he Offered swine’s blood, he That makes a memorial-Offering of frankincense, as if he blessed an idol; according as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations;

    Isaiah 66 is talking primarily about sacrifices without repentance and chapter 66 resonates with the opening chapter 1 of Isaiah.

    You shall no longer bring vain meal-offerings, it is smoke of abomination to Me; New Moons and Sabbaths, calling convocations, I cannot [bear] iniquity with assembly. (Isaiah 1:13)

    Without proper and sincere repentance it is as if one has killed a man, offered swine’s blood and blesses an idol (see verse 3) all of which have always have been and always will be unacceptable at any time or place!

    [1] Korban (קרבן) in Hebrew has its root in the concept of ‘to draw near’ to an unfathomable G-d.

    [2] Flour to atone (Lev 5;12-15), Incense to atone (Num 17:11-13), Charity (Prov 10:2, 11:4, 16:6, 21:3, Hos 6:6, Dan 4:27), Silver (Ex 30:15), Repentance (Lev 26:40-42, Ezek 18:21-32), Jewelry (Num 31:50), Righteousness and Charity (Dan 4:24, 9:18), Post Temple period without blood and Jesus (Isaiah 27:9, 40:1, Ezek 33:11-16).

    [3] “Kings shall shut their mouths at him. For what was not told them, they shall see. And what they did not hear, they shall observe. ‘Who would have believed our report? Upon whom has the arm of the L-rd been revealed?’ He arose before him like a sucker, like a root out of dry ground. He had no visage and no majesty. ‘We saw him, and there was no appearance that we should find him pleasing. He was despised and shunned by men, a man of sufferings and familiar with sickness; like one who hides his face from us. He was despised, and we held him of no account.’” (Isaiah 52:15b-53:3)

    [4] Speak to Aaron and to his sons, and to all the children of Israel, and say to them: This is the thing the Lord has commanded, saying: Any man of the House of Israel, who slaughters an ox, a lamb, or a goat inside the camp, or who slaughters outside the camp, but does not bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to offer up as a sacrifice to the Lord before the Mishkan of the Lord, this [act] shall be counted for that man as blood he has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people; in order that the children of Israel should bring their offerings which they slaughter on the open field, and bring them to the Lord, to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, to the kohen, and slaughter them as peace offerings to the Lord. (Lev 17:2-5)

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  49. cleeoh

    As a church organist for 35 years I have observed many a seder-type meal in progress. Some are simply “agape” meals with communion and “the types of food people would have eaten in Jesus’ day” such as olives, pita (not matzoh), cheese, etc., and some have been “Seders” run by Jews for Jesus at the invitation of the church. Oy.

  50. Rabbi David Greenspoon

    I’m a rabbi who has been actively engaged in interfaith dialogue and education efforts for over twenty years. I deeply appreciate this thoughtful appreciation of the difficulties underlying “Christian Seders.”

    One alternative to these events not suggested yet is to have a rabbi come and teach from the Mishnah (the first authoritative post-biblical, rabbinic code of Jewish law). The final chapter of Mishnah Pesachim lays out what would have been the observance of Passover during the Second Temple through the time of Jesus and a little later. It also suggests how the Seder ritual developed after that time, and thus provide the object lesson that Judaism has always been a religion undergoing historical development and cannot be seen merely as a precursor to Christianity.

  51. Vicar's Husband

    Thank you for a helpful posting. Especially given that my wife, an Episcopalian priest, is invited each year to an ecumenical “Seder” held by the local guild of (Roman) Catholic women where the main course is ham salad.

  52. frank jaffee

    As a Jew I can assure you that when Christians acknowledge Passover and bring Judaism into their practice they are far less likely to hate Jews and condone the type of talk we hear in Ron Paul’s newsletters, for one. To discourage our shared history and ethics is to intentionally increase the distance between american Christians and Jews. If you don’t want to celebrate, or wish to deny, that Jesus was Jewish, that He celebrated Passover, and keep ‘Christianity for only Christians’, go ahead. But do not clock it in a message of tolerance. Tolerance is to learn you neighbor’s beliefs and celebrate them together. ‘No christian seders’? There’s no way around the hate there, friend.

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      I’m afraid you have misread what I said. No one who knows me or reads these essays carefully could possibly imagine that I am counseling intolerance, downplaying our shared history, or desiring to drive a wedge between Christians and Jews. And where have I denied that Jesus was Jewish? Please do not draw conclusions that are not warranted either by what I have written or how I live (which you cannot know–and which makes your judgment all the more surprising.)

  53. theatrewidow

    You invoke the pogrom. Perhaps you would share with your readers the etymology of the word?

    I am asking a loaded question. Russia and Russian would soon need to be discussed. With that, are you folding Eastern Orthodoxy into the rest of Christian practice you describe? This strikes me as another form of appropriation.

    I have no quibble with the fact that the Western Churches’ treatment of Jews has been historically deplorable. But the East and the West are different. If we are going to carry the sins of the East when it comes to Jews, then we should carry the East in our hearts and in our heads all the time.

  54. levraphael

    I don’t know any Greek, so Rev. Luti, can you tell us if this observation is accurate, and if it is, does it matter?

    “Mark and Matthew do not link the meal with the Exodus from Egypt; and not only do they use the Greek word for regular leavened bread (artos) —rather than that for matzah (azyma)—but Paul, writing far earlier in the 50s, likewise terms the Last Supper “the night when [the Lord Jesus]…took [leavened] bread” (1 Corinthians 11:23).”

    I found it on line in Reform Judaism Magazine (, which I used to respect until it ran an utterly tendentious and badly researched cover story claiming that Shakespeare was a Sephardic Jewish woman. I’m not kidding!

      1. Nicole Czarnecki

        According to Strong’s, the word that Paul uses is αρτος. Nonetheless, it is understood to be matzah.

        “food composed of flour mixed with water and baked
        the Israelites made it in the form of an oblong or round cake, as thick as one’s thumb, and as large as a plate or platter hence it was not to be cut but broken
        loaves were consecrated to the Lord
        of the bread used at the love-feasts and at the Lord’s Table
        food of any kind”

      2. ProclaimLiberty

        The distinction between “azumon”, which is distinctly unleavened, and “arton” which is generic and could be applied to either leavened or unleavened bread, opens a discussion of the nature of that final meal before the arrest, execution, et al. We do not really require of Matthew or Mark or even Paul to make explicit linkages between that meal and the Exodus, because the context makes the link with the Passover seder for us. John, on the other hand, provides us with many clues to clarify that the last supper occurred the evening before the 14 Nisan Day of Preparation, such that the crucifixion was occurring at essentially the same time as the slaughter of Paschal lambs and the body was entombed before the evening of the seder itself. The arrest, trial and execution did not occur during the festival, and would have required numerous Torah violations that would have prevented the participants from being able to celebrate the Passover due to ritual uncleanness. Instead, John places all of this immediately before Passover began, which means that the last supper was effectively a “demonstration seder” or “teaching seder” in which the rabbi and his disciples concluded their three-year period of instruction with discussions about the impending seder. Rav Yeshua proceeds to invoke covenantal imagery and language associated with Jeremiah’s “new covenant”, as well as offering interpretive augmentations (not alternatives) for several seder symbols. He begins the meal with a statement of regret that he will not be celebrating Passover with his disciples that year, though he had wished very much to do so. The pre-Passover timing provides an explanation about why the generic “arton” was appropriate, because it is possible that the bread was leavened and merely representative of the matza that would be used in the seder itself. The tradition of a later time is that matza is not to be eaten before the seder so that its distinctive taste will be associated with the seder, however we do not know if this tradition was already active at the time of the last supper. Nonetheless, the notion of a shared formally-structured meal convened the night prior to Passover, at which the symbols of the actual original Passover story are discussed along with the additional metaphorical (even “midrashic”) interpretations of them that Rav Yeshua offered to his disciples, is something in which Christians certainly could participate beneficially. If they wish to use matza (“azumon”) for the sake of its symbolisms, they are welcome to do so (and may still call it “arton” if they wish), though they should probably take care to explain to all participants that it is a review of or discussion of the Passover seder rather than being a “Christian Passover Seder”. The seder itself, then, could retain its proper Jewish focus on the original classic story of the Passover on the prescribed night. If Jewish messianists wish also to recall Rav Yeshua’s symbolic augmentations in addition, their seder will be thereby filled with just that much additional richness.

  55. kingstboy

    As a Unitarian Universalist by denomination and a Christian by faith, with 20 years and counting in UU parish ministry, I agree completely: “No Christian Seders, please,” for all the reasons you cite. Unfortunately, some of my UU friends and colleagues, in their enthusiasm for various world religions, cross the line into misappropriation; such as Seder would be an example, in my opinion. I have been a guest more than once at Seders given by Jewish friends, was even honored by being given ownership of their chametz for the season. To be clear, not every Jew I’ve asked objected to such a Christian Seder, but most found it over the line. I, myself, would never countenance it in a church I served. Thanks for laying this out so clearly.

  56. ShadesofNorth

    Reblogged this on Shades of the North and commented:
    I have a renewed spirit tonight … the blog , as well as the comment thread is so enervating…stimulating, and worth careful dissection…As a member of a United Churchchoir, I have participated in the annual Seder Meal at my church…I will be sharing the insights that the author challenges us to consider..on “controverted questions”. Thank you Sicut Locutus Est…your writing is remarkable…and i am indebted to you for the work you have undertaken on the subject of The Seder Meal….in its’ simplicity…it is anything..but simple.. God Bless You ..

  57. Wayne Bradley

    I am a retired pastor. I did Seders several times during my ministry; twice at a Jewish delicatessen! I also had Jewish attendees at the ones we did at church. Each and every time, I was told that it was a beautiful Seder and that I was to be commended for helping Christians understand this Jewish tradition. I was careful not to construe it as a “replacement” or “institution” of the Eucharist. The biggest blessing was when the Hispanic kitchen staff at the Jewish delicatessen sang along with “Da-Ye-Nu”!!!

  58. Alyson

    I agree with Micknail. I have no problem with Christians having a “Seder” during Holy Week. The question is “Are we going to have a traditional Jewish Passover Seder?” or “Are we going to do a reenactment of the Last Supper?” If you are planning to do number one, the smart thing to do would be to have an interfaith Seder. If it is number two, then simply have a church dinner and talk about the points Jesus talked about at the Last Supper.

  59. Mali

    Thank you for this article. I am a practicing Jew, and find that when I hear of Christian leaders who respect, as opposed to appropriate, Jewish traditions, I feel grateful. However, I must wonder why it is that you use the term midrash in this blog that is very much central to Christian musings. I read some of your posts that were included under the category of “Midrash” and they weren’t midrashim. It is easy to appropriate small Jewish concepts without even realizing it. Please consider this.

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      Thanks for this comment. I admit I used the term unthinkingly, since in the interfaith circles I travel in, many people use it as a generic term for commentary on and application of texts. But you have given me something to think about, and I plan to remove it from the categories and replace it with “commentary.” Thanks.

  60. R Lundquist

    I fully agree with your premise. As a parish priest I’ve found that it’s not too difficult to wrangle an invitation from a temple or synagogue to their community seder. I strongly encourage my congregation to attend and participate in a Passover meal as opposed to trying to recreate something from a different (but related) tradition.

  61. Micknail

    I think I hear what the writer is saying, but I can’t say that I agree with all of it. The fact is Jews and Christians do share a common heritage, and while we can’t be certain exactly which meal it was Jesus shared at ‘The Last Supper’, there can be no doubt that Jesus, a Jew, was sharing a traditional meal with his Jewish friends at Passover, and that he re-interpreted its existing powerful symbolism into his own ministry (to what extent the church itself re-interpreted it rather than Jesus is a moot point,but does not ultimately change things). That the ‘Seder’ itself was only realised in its present form much later does not exclude it from Christian use, however. Human beings instinctively find meaning in the raw material of their own faith traditions, and inevitably the profound depths of the Seder, rooted as they are in the Jewish scriptures we have adopted and the great stories of creation, exodus from slavery into freedom, exile, and the longing for Messiah we share, will attract Christians. Matthew, Paul, and the author of Hebrews, all being Jewish theologians, make very strong appeals to the connections we share with the God of the ‘Old Testament’ and actively encourage our participation in that narrative: Abraham is our father in the faith too, Moses our guide to liberation, and we also wait for Elijah to take his chair at the appropriate time (or more likely, live eternally in hope of the time when all our longings expressed in the Seder are fulfilled). On the other hand, what I do hear from this writer is 1) a plea to be humble in our attempts to celebrate these quintessentially Jewish ‘feasts’, and not arrogant in our insistence that in some way Jesus ‘fulfils’ them, and 2) to be reminded that it is precisely in such arrogance that Christians for centuries have actively persecuted Jews. Of this I am extremely ashamed and beg forgiveness. On the other hand, my faith has been greatly enriched as I have personally celebrated the ‘Seder’ in one form or another for nearly 30 years, having been introduced to it at St Paul’s College by Bishop Duncan Buchanan, had it modified and enriched with the experience of organisations like ‘Jews for Jesus’ and ‘Messiah’s People’ at St Luke’s Church in Johannesburg, and constantly updated my understanding of it by reading a host of books like ‘Celebrate the Feasts’ and ‘All about Jewish holidays and customs’ (Morris Epstein), and others, and I hope to continue celebrating it for years to come with reverence, celebration, and longing!

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      No doubt about it–Christians and Jews share a common heritage. It’s how we think about that heritage and what we do with it in current practice that concerns me. I never discourage the exploration of Christianity’s Jewish origins or anything at all that helps Christians grasp more fully the ‘Jewishness’ of Jesus and all its implications for the way we read, teach, and preach the scriptures, build our ethics, and the like. I wish more Christians took as their own memory the memory of the great movements of liberation and prophecy that in many ways ‘belong’ to us as much as to Jews. I also have no beef with Christians who want to observe the Seder–I ask only that they do so with Jews, and preferably at a Jewish table. What I am concerned about is the stuff you enumerate, and the ways in which without a careful reflection on those things, Christians may misunderstand, misappropriate, and even demean what they claim to be loving and respecting. It’s very complicated, this historical and current relationship we have with Judaism(s), and Christians cannot afford to be romantic or simplistic about it. Things have consequences.

      1. Lev Raphael

        It’s a small point, but such an important one: Judaism(s). I thank you for that important recognition, for the plural. Scholar and author Evelyn Torton Beck told me many years ago, “Make no mistake, now that you’re a public figure, you’ll informally be teaching Judaism 101 throughout your life.” She wasn’t kidding! Most Christians I encounter have no idea that Judaism is not centralized in terms of a hierarchy; that it has a handful of contemporary movements with their own very different histories and relationship to Jewish culture and tradition; and that many Jews identify themselves as being Jewish and feel it strongly in ways that have nothing whatsoever to do with religion. Those things barely scratch the surface: rabbinical Judaism–everything that was born after the destruction of the Temple–is a blank to most Christians. Somehow they think we live a version of what’s in scriptures written 2500 years ago or more…..

      2. Nicole Czarnecki

        “I never discourage the exploration of Christianity’s Jewish origins or anything at all that helps Christians grasp more fully the ‘Jewishness’ of Jesus and all its implications for the way we read, teach, and preach the scriptures, build our ethics, and the like.”

        Then how come you put “Jewishness” in quotes? Shouldn’t it read, “the Jewishness of Jesus”?

        “I also have no beef with Christians who want to observe the Seder–I ask only that they do so with Jews, and preferably at a Jewish table.”

        Perhaps Jesus Himself would have to observe at a different table, then. After all, Jesus was a Christian (Χριστιανός) or Messianic (משיחי).

        “It’s very complicated, this historical and current relationship we have with Judaism(s), and Christians cannot afford to be romantic or simplistic about it. Things have consequences.”

        Sure, and especially descendants of Crypto Jews know that. For that reason, to leave us out of the equation is (to say the least) is insulting. For example, my Crypto-Jewish dad took us to a seder at his church; and now that I look back, I know that it was one of his ways of dropping a hint—and he’s the son of a man who adamantly denied our Jewishness until one of my final phone conversations (if not my final phone conversation) with him (This man changed his story from how we are related to Stefan Czarniecki, etc. to “If we had any Jewish blood, I don’t know about it.” He had claimed that we were descendants of szlachta for years up to that point.).

  62. Lev Raphael

    I’m grateful that a friend sent this to me. I loved reading the thoughtful, passionate, detailed, spirit-filled analysis of a difficult issue that is far more complex than well-meaning “seder-holders” understand. I have and will always have many non-Jewish friends (I grew up in New York!). I attended an amazing Catholic college where I did work-study at Campus Ministries and I have long read about Jewish-Christian relations; the history of both religions; studied the sacred texts of each; taught Torah study at one of the synagogues I belonged to; privately studied Torah for several years in Hebrew and English; visited holy sites of each religion in Israel/The Holy Land. I applaud the blog author’s recognition that Christians have a sometimes profound lack of understanding or Judaism in its history, development, movements, usages and would do better trying to try to fill their knowledge gap rather than mimic some of its observances (and ahistorically, too). In the spirit of brotherhood, might I ask that you consider not using the term “Old Testament”? Why not do what so many Biblical scholars and religious do: say Torah or Hebrew Scriptures or Hebrew Bible, whichever feels most comfortable for you? Those are not hegemonistic terms and respect the Jewish people’s scared texts as their own on their own terms.

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      Lev, thanks for your comment. I deeply appreciate your engagement with Christianity and Jewish-Christian relations generally. AS for “Old Testament,” I am in agreement with you–there are many ways to speak of the Hebrew Scriptures that are better and more respectful than this. I often use them. But I have not abandoned “Old Testament” altogether, for reasons that are complicated–and because they are complicated, I won’t try to list them here in this reply. But I may have to blog about this soon. It will give me a chance to think the nomenclature issue through again, more carefully still. In the meanwhile, I take your words to heart.

      1. levraphael

        Thank you for your thoughtful and speedy reply. I forgot to mention that as an author, I enjoyed the grace of your writing. I did have one question. It seems that there is currently the belief or notion (I’m not sure what to call it), that the Seder in its development had some anti-Christian motivation or elements–I’m not sure what one would call it. You mention this above, I’ve seen rabbis say that in arguing against Christian Seders, and then here’s one rabbi who argues for Christian Seders who says such a claim cannot be supported: I don’t know anything about him or his organization, and I’m actually surprised to be thinking about this issue since I’ve always viewed the Seder qua Seder: as something uniquely Jewish in the way it developed from post-Destruction times, and not really influenced by Christianity, though I suppose it’s naive to assume any minority could be untouched by the larger culture it lives in. Do you have any references to extended discussion on this issue?

      2. sicutlocutusest Post author

        All I know about Lapin is that he is allied with right wing political movements and counts Glen Beck as one of his close friends. For whatever that’s worth. I take my cues from scholars like Jon Leveson, Amy Jill Levine, Marc Brettler, and others.

  63. stokesnet

    Amen, sister! Thank you so much. I get so upset about these “Christian Seders” every year. I so dislike that it has become trendy for Protestants to have them. I’m a Protestant and a feminist and these events make me cringe. Thank you for your careful articulation of the problems!

  64. bowmanwalton

    Rev’d and dear Ms Luti,

    Thank you for kind words.

    Jason Goroncy’s reblogs of your sermons led me to your site. Someday I hope to skip across the Mystic and the Charles to hear you preach. Where does this happen?

    And– I have to ask– is the border of your webpage from Topkapi Saray in Istanbul? The red looks like the mysterious Iznik red used from about 1550-1580. Gorgeous, but a short-lived fashion, never successfully replicated.



    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      I’m not preaching at the moment–semi-retired, teaching at the seminary (Andover Newton)–but you’d be most welcome! And although I’ve been in Istanbul recently and know the red of which you speak, the tile border on the webpage is from Seville, where I spend a good deal of time.

  65. Jordan Friedman

    Dear Rev. Luti,

    Never having seen or heard of your blog before, I happened upon this entry by accident when it was shared by a Facebook friend of mine. I’m a 23-year-old theological oddball and anomaly: I’m a die-hard adherent of what has come to be known as “classical Reform Judaism”, which is the classically progressive, universalistic, post-ethnic, post-legalistic, but still classically theistic (as opposed to naturalistic) expression that was born from the encounter of traditional “orthodox” Judaism with Enlightenment ideas in 19th century Western Europe.

    After getting my BA in Religious Studies from Beloit College, I’m doing some grad-level course work at Loyola University in Chicago before applying to rabbinical seminary, and I’ve discovered a passion for Jewish-Christian relations. I am most keenly interested in postcolonial, post-supersessionist theologies in Protestantism and Catholicism. Most recently, I’ve been studying the interfaith/”Christian” seder phenomenon. Passover has always been my favorite holiday, and I’ve been horrified to encounter the ways in which even quite progressive Christians unintentionally perpetuate epistemologically violent anti-Jewish or supersessionist memes in their appropriation of the Seder ritual. Your honest reflection on this brought tears of gratitude to my eyes, and has helped in a real way to heal some of my disappointment and hurt. Thank you for your erudite and constructive framing of this issue. I am always wary about saying these things to Christians myself for fear of the complaint that I would only ever be satisfied with a Christian theology denuded of its essentially Christian character, which, of course, is not true! It’s better that Christians get this corrective message from their own clergy.

    I think an under-tapped resource for progressive Protestants interested in interfaith and Jewish-Christian dialogue and programming is the legacy of historic Euro-American progressive Judaism, which in many ways is a closer parallel to, say, the UCC or ECUSA than the mainstream of any of the major progressive Jewish denominations. Please let me know if you’d like some links or resources.

    Thanks again for your kindness and sensitivity!


    1. sicutlocutusest Post author

      I am grateful you comment, Jordan. I have been so privileged to learn from Jewish friends over the years, having for too long been guilty of much of what I now decry. I am constantly brought up short by how much work is left to be done among Christian progressives, but I am not discouraged. I want to keep at it. So… any all means any resources you have!

    2. levraphael

      Jordan, are you talking about Jewish Renewal? BTW, speaking of Classical Reform, it might amuse you to know that many years ago, I did my dissertation on the American novels of Isaac Mayer Wise and I may be the only person in the country to have ever read them. At the time, they were mainly on microfilm at the Library of Congress. 🙂

    3. Keith Charles Edwards

      You are not an an oddball in the sense. Rather, you Jordan are deeply insightful. Do not feel hurt, but rather feel sorry for others’ lack of knowledge.

    4. ProclaimLiberty

      Dear Jordan — I applaud your interest in improving Jewish-Christian relations, though I wonder if “Classical Reform Judaism” is a suitable platform from which to pursue this interest. Does your embrace of this “CRJ” include its rejection of classical Jewish characteristics and cultural artifacts, such as kippah, tallit, tefilin, Hebrew prayers and general language study, and any other outward signs of distinctive Jewishness such as avoidance of non-kosher foods? CRJ both in Germany and in the USA produced a marked trend to assimilation — not that it mitigated the subsequent Shoah in Germany and throughout Europe, nor did it inhibit Americans from introducing anti-Jewish quotas in jobs, housing, and social organizations even after WW2. Jewish ethnic and religious distinctiveness is an invention by HaShem that is not to be dismissed or denigrated by any theistic position that claims to be informed by classic Jewish texts such as the Torah; and it is critical to the present discussion about the Passover Seder.

      Modern Orthodox rabbis and academics have also written recently about re-embracing the “Jewish Jesus”, sometimes even acknowledging his Hebrew name as Yeshua rather than the traditional epithet “Yeshu” that was born of polemics between Jews and Christians. If Christians are to be persuaded not to re-invent the Seder in a manner that strips it of its original Jewish meaning and replaces it with a Eucharistic gloss, not unlike what the Nicene church fathers did in replacing Passover with Easter, it seems to me that there must be an emphasis on fundamentals of Jewish tradition, including the post-Mishnaic definition of the Seder, the first-century precursors of it that Rav Yeshua was discussing and celebrating, and also its form in even earlier periods of Jewish praxis insofar as it may be identifiable.

      If Christians wish to identify with the “mixed multitude” that left Egypt alongside the Hebrews, and wish to acknowledge the events at Mount Sinai and the G-d of the Hebrews, well and good. But they may not excuse any misappropriation of the Jewish Passover Seder because of a midrashicly metaphorical gloss overlaid onto some of its symbols by a charismatic Israeli rabbi named Yeshua some 20 centuries ago. Even Rav Shaul’s encouragement to his Corinthian readers to metaphorically “celebrate the feast … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Cor.5:8), because of their recognition of Rav Yeshua’s messianic martyrdom as a metaphorical evocation of the Paschal sacrifice, does not justify misappropriating and re-inventing the Seder. I’m not sure it even justifies the invention of the “new” ceremony known as the Eucharist or Communion, but that is a different discussion from our present consideration of how Passover should be approached.

      1. Howard

        Not being a scholar, nor the son of a scholar, nonetheless I am delighted in knowing and believing all that God has done — and is still doing — for my people, and for all those born-again by the Holy Spirit. That being so, I have posted an e-mail exchange on the significance of the use of which bread during that Passover week by Yeshua and His disciples under the New Covenant in His blood, and also a Passover Hagggadah for seder use.

        May we all rejoice during this God-given week for the whole world to be reminded that YHVH made His name great among the nations as the God of Israel who brought out His people from Egypt by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm to serve Him, and that Jesus Christ died and rose again!

  66. Bowman Walton

    I wish you posted more often! I followed the links from Jason Goroncy’s blog and have been delighted with what I find here.

    On ‘Christian seders’– In the one or two instances of this that I know, what happened was that good ol’ liberal pastors wanted to share happy experiences of real Jewish seders with their own congregations, asked good ol’ liberal rabbis if there was a problem with that, and hearing no objections, went ahead and scheduled it for Thursday in holy week because they had nothing else to schedule. I have suspected that Zwinglian semiotics were to blame– if ritual processes are memorial symbols of the cross, then why would you commemorate the birth of the symbol when you have the cross itself to commemorate the next day? Turning the commemoration into a seder seems like a way to fill the void with a not unpopular thoughts that this exhibits respect for the Jews and is a fun, not very churchy, ritual. You are right, of course, but without a change of semiotic the alternatives may not make sense.

    On anti-supersessionism– Though I share your anti-supersessionist view and its implication that the scriptures of ancient Israel are open to both Jewish and Christian interpretation, less robust trinitarian readings of those scriptures do not seem to follow from our convictions about this. Put another way, anti-supesessionism is an inner imperative of the gospel of Jesus, not ‘political correctness,’ modern scepticism, or academic scrupulosity about the Bible. The Jewish philosopher Peter Ochs’s study of Christian post-liberal theologians, ‘Another Reformation: Postliberal Christianity and the Jews,’ is a brilliant extended study of just that point.

    A gospel-faithful Church needs for the Old Testament to remain open to interpretation until the Lord returns. Supersessionism claims the OT for the Church at the unacceptably steep price of walling it off, reducing it to backstory and Advent readings. Naturally, this does not stop Jews from interpreting these scriptures in new ways; rather, it stops Christians from interpreting them in new ways. This is a disaster for the Church because the hot problems of our own time are often better explored in the OT than in the NT. However to account for why the Church is re-engaging these texts today as more than backstory and Advent readings, we have to invoke the Creator God that Jesus knew as his Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. Clearing this up may make both the Bible and its hermeneutics more approachable– certainly more interesting– to lay Christians.

    1. sicutlocutusest Post author


      Among all the wonderful comments here — for which I thank you–I am most grateful for your reference to Peter Och’s study. I did not know it, and now it’s zoomed to the top of my reading list. And I’ll be chewing on this paragraph for a while: “A gospel-faithful Church needs for the Old Testament to remain open to interpretation until the Lord returns. Supersessionism claims the OT for the Church at the unacceptably steep price of walling it off, reducing it to backstory and Advent readings. Naturally, this does not stop Jews from interpreting these scriptures in new ways; rather, it stops Christians from interpreting them in new ways. This is a disaster for the Church because the hot problems of our own time are often better explored in the OT than in the NT. However to account for why the Church is re-engaging these texts today as more than backstory and Advent readings, we have to invoke the Creator God that Jesus knew as his Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. Clearing this up may make both the Bible and its hermeneutics more approachable– certainly more interesting– to lay Christians.”

      I am grateful to you.

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