The Table Video

James K.A. Smith

Are Jewish Traditions Helpful for Christians?

Professor of Philosophy / Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview, Calvin College
March 27, 2014

It’s good for Christians to become familiar with Jesus’s tradition of Judaism. But how much should we borrow from Jewish practices? Philosopher James K.A. Smith (Calvin College) comments on whether Jewish practices and traditions are helpful for Christian devotion and formation.


Absolutely. I think it’s a rich lesson to go back and understand the liturgical heritage of Jesus. The only thing is, I find some folks then think, I’m not saying you’re saying this, but some think that somehow those Jewish practices were like the original Christian practices, and we need to sort of be primitivist and go back to those. I’m not at all convinced by that. I think the spirit has led the church throughout the centuries, and there are reasons why there were innovations, Reformations, developments. But always, Christian worship has been indebted to and has appropriated those traditions. But I think you’re right, the people of the book comment, it’s funny, if you read Judaism, yes on the one hand it’s about the people of the book. On the other hand, it is very much a community of practice. And they will distinguish themselves from Christian Protestants on exactly that point. So we would have something to learn I think.

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