Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Book Note: Jared Calaway's Review of Peter Schaefer's Book, Jesus in the Talmud

If you haven't seen it yet, it is worth reading. On Antiquitopia, Jared Calaway has a very detailed review of Peter Schaefer's newest, Jesus in the Talmud. I haven't read the book myself yet, but it has been on my list (along with a huge stack sitting here in my office - gosh there have been some good books released lately!). Thanks Jared for an insightful review.

As for who the counternarrative might be directed to, maybe it isn't. Perhaps the narrative is not counternarrative or polemic with an opponent, but simply represents a formulation of the Jesus traditions within rabbinism for rabbinism?


Geoff Hudson said...

One has to suspect some collusion or exchange of information between early Jewish and Christian writers, neither of whom could have worked independently of Roman authorities?

Jared said...

If it is something that percolated within Rabbinic circles for Rabbinism, then that would support what I thought was my most important criticism--polemic or inversion of the gospel narrative for the purpose of monitoring those within rabbinic circles. And, of course, there is the additional satisfaction.

As per Geoff Hudson's comment, they could have worked independently of Roman authorities because most of the evidence comes from Sasanian Persia, unless by this you mean the more far-reaching issues of inter-imperial rivalries between the Roman and Persian empires that may have left their stamp (albeit indirectly) on these few texts, creating an environment where criticism of Christianity (b/c of its increasing associations with the Roman Empire) would be encouraged.

Leon said...

I agree with the point made by Jared in his original post on his blog that there is really too little about Jesus in the rabbinic literature to constitute a counter-narrative to the Gospels. There is also the problem of confusion which still continues that some rabbinic comments about another Jesus or Yeshua got mixed up with Jesus of Nazareth.

With one slight exception from the Tosefta (which would take too much space to discuss here), there is nothing of value about the historical Jesus in rabbinic lit. What the rabbis were responding to is what they heard Christians say. In that famous passage about Jesus' execution, they have Jesus being stoned. It is clear that the rabbis heard Christians say that Jews killed Jesus, they assumed this must be true, and then they reasoned it must have been carried out with a stoning. The rabbis clearly did not maintain any independent tradition about the historical Jesus (except for that one passage in the Tosefta).

Leon Zitzer

Geoff Hudson said...

The whole thing about Jesus's betrayal and execution strikes one of compromise of blame shared between a disloyal Christian believer, Jewish high priests, a Jewish ruler, and a Roman Prefect (made out to be a Governor and incompetant). It is all pure theatre. Of course the Rabbins could disown the high priests who spoke so roughly to each other, and the Christian writers could get away with blaming an incompetant Roman Governor. And both Jewish and Christian writers could take great delight in turning the prophet Judas into a villain.

And both Rabbin and Christian writers had a vested interest in creating Pharisees to appear as though they existed before and at the time of the prophet - Pharisees that receive no mention in either the DSS or Philo.

It all smacks of collusion.