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The Dawning Of The Jewish Jesus


john76
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At the 2011 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in San Francisco, there are two parallel sessions (Nov. 20) highlighting Jewish involvement in Jesus scholarship: book discussion on "The Jewish Jesus: Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation (Purdue University Press)" and perspectives on "The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford University Press)." Well known professor Zev Garber calls this "The dawning of Jesus for Jews in the City by the Bay." It seems that the main controversy will be over the issue of "Midrash and the New Testament." For example, they claim Matthew's Jesus infancy story recapitulates the story of Moses. Does this mean (1) the author of Matthew started with facts about Jesus and then added material to make it resemble the account of Moses, or (2) The author of Matthew started with the account in the Old Testament about Moses and then rewrote it using Jesus as the central character? This is a hard and sophisticated question. The two possibilities represent two poles of possibility, with lots of room in between. I don't know that we have enough information to answer this question. This focus on "The Jewish Factor" may result in us knowing less about the historical Jesus, not more. These are interesting times.

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I don't know that we have enough information to answer this question. This focus on "The Jewish Factor" may result in us knowing less about the historical Jesus, not more.

John,

 

First, welcome. It would be helpful to provide a little information on how you came here in the "Introduce Yourself" thread.

 

Second, I would be interested in why you think this endeavor might lead to less understanding of the historical Jesus.

 

Have you read either of these books? If so, what are your thoughts?

 

George

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Thanks for the book references. That sounds like something I'd be interested in.

 

Also, is the book organized around the question of sequence regarding Jesus & the Moses narrative in Matthew, or is that a question of yours based on that book's conclusion about a relationship between Jesus & Moses? I'm only asking to make sure I know who is saying what :)

 

Third, could you elaborate on your point that "focus on "The Jewish Factor" may result in us knowing less about the historical Jesus, not more"?

 

And finally, welcome :)

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Hi. I came here because John Shelby Spong wrote his fantastic book "Liberating the gospels: Reading the Bible wiyh Jewish Eyes" where he discussed midrash, and "The Jewish Annotated New Testament" really bring out the importance of this issue. Another good article on the topic is "New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midras" in "The Encyclopedia of Midras" (ed. Jacob Neusner and Alan Avery Peck). I've read the books that will be presented at the conference, and mentioned to one of the editors, Dr. Marc Brettler, that midrash as a genre of writing presents an interesting problem. There are two poles of interpretation, with a lot of room in between. On one end, as I said, we could argue that the gospel writer started with a lot of information about the historical Jesus and then added some material to make it seem like a story from the Old Testament. On the other end, we could say the gospel writer simply wanted to rewrite a story from the old Testament, in which case there is no reason to think there is any reliable information about the historical Jesus at all in the midrash narrative. And there is a lot of room between these two poles. Dr. Brettler agreed that when we present the problem in this way, it becomes a hard and sophisticated problem to try to determine what part of the midrash narrative (if any) presents information about the historical Jesus. The 2 books are excellent. An international team of scholars worked on both. "The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford University Press)" is a masterpiece and places the gospels in their Jewish context. I do not think this amazing work will be received well by fundamentalists.

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Welcome, John.

 

I came here because John Shelby Spong wrote his fantastic book "Liberating the gospels: Reading the Bible wiyh Jewish Eyes" where he discussed midrash, and "The Jewish Annotated New Testament" really bring out the importance of this issue.

 

Sounds like two books I need to read, if only my job and family didn't interfere with my schedule. :D

 

I've heard something really good things about TJANT and, personally, I'm for keeping Jesus in his Jewish context in order to understand him and his teachings better. At the same time, I recognize that others are more drawn to the Christ figure which, imo, is a more Greek context. So we end up with Jesus Christ which is, perhaps, a blending of the two. But I think that though some fundamentalists condemn critical scholars as trying to destroy Jesus, our scholars are actually working to help us discover a Jesus that is believable and worth believing in.

 

ws

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Thanks for the book references. That sounds like something I'd be interested in.

 

Also, is the book organized around the question of sequence regarding Jesus & the Moses narrative in Matthew, or is that a question of yours based on that book's conclusion about a relationship between Jesus & Moses? I'm only asking to make sure I know who is saying what :)

 

Third, could you elaborate on your point that "focus on "The Jewish Factor" may result in us knowing less about the historical Jesus, not more"?

 

And finally, welcome :)

 

Hi.

 

I heard "The Jewish Annotated New Testament" had "Midrash" as one of its topics. But "Midrash" can mean a lot of things. So I emailed one of the editors, Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, and asked for an example. She kindly replied and said "Matthew's Jesus infancy story recapitulates the story of Moses." I found this interesting and wished to have further clarification. So I emailed the other editor of the book, Dr. Marc Brettler, and asked if this meant (1) the author of Matthew started with facts about Jesus and then added material to make it resemble the account of Moses, or (2) The author of Matthew started with the account in the Old Testament about Moses and then rewrote it using Jesus as the central character? Dr. Brettler's reply was "You are asking a hard and sophisticated question. Your two possibilities represent two poles of possibility, with lots of room in between. I don't know that we have enough information to answer that specific question." This is a problem that comes up when the issue of "Midrash" is introduced as a New Testament Genre. The question is: What criteria or method do we use to determine which part of the "Midrash" narrative is giving us information about the historical Jesus? Can we assume that any part of the "Midrash" narrative is representing the historical Jesus? If it says that Jesus did "such and such" in the "Midrash" narrative, does this mean Jesus actually did it, or was this characterization of Jesus just the author's way of rewriting the Old Testament story (and the historical Jesus never did it)? This is why "Midrash" as a literary genre makes reconstructing the historical Jesus difficult. I think you'll really like these two books. They interpret Jesus as best they can from his time and culture, not later church agendas.

Edited by john76
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Welcome, John.

 

 

 

Sounds like two books I need to read, if only my job and family didn't interfere with my schedule. :D

 

I've heard something really good things about TJANT and, personally, I'm for keeping Jesus in his Jewish context in order to understand him and his teachings better. At the same time, I recognize that others are more drawn to the Christ figure which, imo, is a more Greek context. So we end up with Jesus Christ which is, perhaps, a blending of the two. But I think that though some fundamentalists condemn critical scholars as trying to destroy Jesus, our scholars are actually working to help us discover a Jesus that is believable and worth believing in.

 

ws

 

It's an excellent book that talks about all of these isssue and is completely up to date on current and past critical scholarship. I think it is destined to become a major work in New Testament studies. Here are some of the reviews:

 

" An historic volume of extraordinary scholarship that can transform Christian-Jewish relations. . . . A must-read for both clergy and laity. . . . A significant achievement."

--Rabbi A. James Rudin, Senior Interreligious Advisor, The American Jewish Committee

 

" This exciting collection by leading Jewish scholars not only annotates the New Testament but also brings out its themes, context, and interpretation over the centuries. Essential for libraries of scholars in Christian-Jewish studies, academic institutions offering degrees in theology, and dialogue groups at all levels."--Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, Distinguished Professor of Catholic-Jewish Studies, Saint Leo University; Former Associate Director, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

" One volume must find its way to seminarians, preachers, and other students of Scripture: The Jewish Annotated New Testament. With insightful essays and page-by-page notes and sidebars on each book, this volume fills a huge gap in the world of biblical interpretation, providing an accessible guide to how this most Jewish document from antiquity is understood by Jewish scholars today."--The Rev. William Brosend, School of Theology, Sewanee, TN and Executive Director, Episcopal Preaching Foundation

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The Jewish Annotated New Testament sounds really interesting, I'm going to try to locate a copy. Two bible teachers I've personally encountered that were most effective in presenting understandings that help maked sense of Jesus' words and actions as recorded in the NT, one a Baptist preacher, the other the head of the Rel Studies dept at UH, himself a UCC pastor, made excellent use of casting them in context of religious and cultural and linguistic traditions of the time in which they were written. Doing that often opens up possiblities for meaning one wouldn't have had a clue to without it. Knowing what something would have, or might have, meant to the people of that actual time and place is invaluable to discerning meaning and intent of the biblical writers.

 

Jenell

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