Quote for the Day: "Words That Make Us Lie"

Donald Akenson — ever known for his sweetness and tact — has the following to say about using “Jew” in a pre-70 context (Saint Saul: A Skeleton Key to the Historical Jesus, pp 55, 61-62):

“Language teachers sometimes refer to ‘false-friends’, words that are familiar in one language, but which, when they are found in another tongue, mean something entirely different. Unfortunately, the present-day vocabularies of the Jewish and the Christian faiths are so full of false-friends that they almost seem designed to lead us astray. We need to guard ourselves against words that give false continuity…

“Two pivotal words that we will not use to refer to the historical situation before 70 CE are: ‘Christianity’ and ‘Judaism’, and their derivative forms ‘Christian’, ‘Jew’, and ‘Jewish’. That is a very tough line indeed, but the reasons for it are dead-simple… Each of those sister faiths came into being as responses to the ancient world’s equivalent of a nuclear explosion, the virtual levelling of the great Temple during the Roman-Jewish war of 66-73 CE… We cannot use ‘Christian’ or ‘Jewish’ to describe pre-70 groups, because doing so presupposes a false continuity which, in each case, will lead us to lie to ourselves.”

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