Jesus: First Century Rabbi
Rabbi David Zaslow, Joseph A. Lieberman
Published by: Paraclete Press
Price: $16.99 (USD)
Publication Date: 12th May 2015
This bold, fresh look at the historical Jesus and the Jewish roots of Christianity challenges both Jews and Christians to re-examine their understanding of Jesus’ commitment to his Jewish faith. Instead of emphasizing the differences between the two religions, this groundbreaking text explains how the concepts of vicarious atonement, mediation, incarnation, and Trinity are actually rooted in classical Judaism. Using the cutting edge of scholarly research, Rabbi Zaslow dispels the myths of disparity between Christianity and Judaism without diluting the unique features of each faith. Jesus: First Century Rabbi is a breath of fresh air for Christians and Jews who want to strengthen and deepen their own faith traditions.
Being neither Christian nor Jewish (and in fact holding their god in barely concealed contempt), it might be said that I have no right to read and review, nor any particular interest in an interfaith book such as this. I would argue that greater understanding between faiths rather than rivalry benefits all of us (people keep dying because of the ignorance and rivalry, had you noticed?). Plus I’m nosey and want to know everything. It’s this thing called having an inquisitive nature and a desire for education.
So, what did it think?
This is an excellent book. The authors cover a variety of areas, putting Jesus as a person in his historical context and his teachings in their religious context. We see that Jesus’s life was that of a first century C.E. Judean rabbi, and that his teachings were firmly based in the Torah. It was only later writers, from Paul onwards that distorted his teachings and inserted anti-Jewish sentiments and interpretations into his teachings. Jesus can be understood as a rabbi engaging in the Jewish tradition of self-critical exploration to improve the Temple. Many other rabbis in the centuries before and after did the same thing, and during Jesus’s lifetime were in the process of changing Judaism from being Temple based to being synagogue based. Jesus was a part of that development and must be understood in that context.
Especially useful was the authors’ use of comparable texts from Christian and Jewish texts. I also found interesting the explanations of certain words especially when multiple meanings are present in the original word but a single specific word is used in translation. That may be because I’m a philophile (I love words).
This is a useful book for Jews, Christians and everyone else interested in interfaith understanding, and should reduce the sum total of ignorance in the world just a little bit.