Originally Posted by mamabadger
Maybe I misinterpreted. Your statement, like scripture, is open to many interpretations.
You explained that few people have the years of education and background to interpret Jewish texts, unlike Christian texts, which "speak for themselves." I should add that the concept held by some Protestant denominations, that the Bible can be picked up and correctly interpreted by anyone at all, is most definitely not accepted by all Christian churches.
One thing I was trying to explain, which I apparently did not do so well, it a basic difference in the way the "scriptures" are used and interpreted. In Protestant Christianity, the Bible, more or less, stands alone. A person just needs that one book to do basic "Bible study". Of course, there are many other texts that could be referenced, but the Bible itself is considered the ultimate authority. In traditional Judaism, on the other hand, one hardly ever reads "scripture" alone. The Chumash (the first 5 books of the Torah) is usually read with Rashi's commentary, for example. We might try to find personal meaning or make personal reflections on the words of the Torah, but for the correct interpretation, we look to centuries of Jewish sages to explain the words. We believe the words of the sages ultimately derive from the Torah itself, but one can't really be separated from the other. It's a rather complex relationship that's hard to explain, but I'm trying. Also, it is a very strong tradition in Protestantism that one can take a Bible in the vernacular and understand the text that way. While some do study in the original languages, this has never been considered sufficient in Judaism.
Also, as far as my comments about educational background go, I'm not just trying to say that non-Jews are just ignorant/stupid and can never understand what a Jew can. I do think that most people, Jews included, lack the required background to interpret the Torah. I include myself in this. Most people are woefully uneducated about Judaism. Unless a person has attended Jewish educational institutions or make a serious effort at self-education, the level of Jewish knowledge will be very poor.
On the other hand, in the US, basic and not-so-basic Christian history and knowledge is a part of most people's secular education. Probably a third of my European History courses in high school and college consisted of the history of the church. I had a required course in college on medieval thought in which I was assigned to read selections of many Christian thinkers, including Augustine, Anselm, Bernard and Aquinas (the professor was Jewish, btw!). I was an Art History major and I analyzed more Crucifixions and Annunciations than I could count (in several courses that were, interestingly, also taught by a Jewish professor). There was very little Jewish content to my liberal arts education, despite a large Jewish population and Jewish professors at the university I attended. They did have a Jewish studies department, but that was something one had to seek out, rather than part of the core requirements, as Christian knowledge was. So while I may not be the best person to interpret Christian scriptures, I do not feel that I am coming from a place of total ignorance as most people approach Judaism. It is virtually impossible to graduate from public schools and universities without some kind of background in Christianity. This is why I almost start to laugh when Christians start to try and explain the Reformation to me, like I wouldn't know just because I'm Jewish. I'm not saying I'm a scholar in this area of anything, but, really, we get a fair Christian education just by being in a Christian-majority country.