Letter: The teaching of theology is not dependent on a set of religious beliefs

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am attacked by Hyam Maccoby (Letters, 24 December), because 'having previously derived the concept of Hell from Judaism', I now say that it derives from 'Jewish apocalyptic literature'. I must make it clear that I have never written or implied that the concept of Hell in primitive Christianity came from mainstream Judaism - indeed, in common with many scholars, I doubt if there was any such thing in 1st-century Judaea.

I simply wrote ('Is there or isn't there? The infernal question', 15 December), uncontroversially as I thought, that it 'derived from its Jewish origins', and I later gave evidence for this. Where else could it have come from? Jesus was a Jew, and primitive Christianity began life as a sect within Judaism.

It may be unpalatable to some Christians to have to admit that many of its beliefs derive from Jewish sources. It may be unpalatable to some Jews that this kind of thing is found in Jewish sources. Both happen to be true. It is sad that Mr Maccoby should write about a 'familiar pattern of prejudice whereby everything unpleasant in Christianity is blamed on Judaism'. I write as a Jewish Christian, and I despair of any understanding between the two faiths unless both parties stop trading insults and together pursue the truth.

Yours faithfully,

HUGH MONTEFIORE

London, SW17

24 December

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