Saturday, May 12, 2007

Book Note: The Misunderstood Jew (A.J. Levine)

Most of you are probably already aware of Amy-Jill Levine's book, The Misunderstood Jew, published in 2006. But as always I am behind, and the book just arrived today, so this is my first glance at it. It reflects that call for a Jewish Jesus that I have been harping about lately, so I thought I would post a few lines from Levine's book that jumped out at me (perhaps because they sound similar to my own voice in my classroom). I recommend the book, especially in terms of helping to negotitate interfaith dialogue between Jewish and Christian communities. But the book also has a lot to contribute in terms of re-evaluating biblical scholarship which has largely been an enterprise influenced, and even controlled, by the Christian perspective.

Selections from Levine's book
"Recognize that Jewish sources and Christian sources both contain ugly, misogynistic, intolerant, and hateful material" (p. 216).

"Avoid comments that create the picture of a Jesus divorced from his own people. Jesus is not speaking against Jews and Judaism; he is speaking to Jews from within Judaism. However, also recognize that his words, put into the literary context of the Gospels and then put into the canon of the New Testament, may well take on problematic connotations" (pp. 216-217).

"Recognize that history is a messy business, and religious competition makes it even messier. The Gospels are products of this process. They are not objective reports; rather, they are the stories passed down from the eyewitnesses to the later followers. The Gospel writers adapted the received traditions to fit the needs of their congregrations, just as priests and pastors adapt the stories of the New Testament to address congregrational concerns today" (p. 217).

"As the church grew increasingly gentile, the Jewish followers of Jesus became a minority, and their practices eventually marked them as heretics" (p. 218).

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