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Jesus: First Century Rabbi Hardcover – 28 Feb 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press (28 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612612962
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612612966
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 601,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Christian Priest I cannot recommend this book enough. It is one of the best pieces of interfaith Edifications I have ever had the pleasure to read, and re-read.
Rabbi Zaslow approaches Jesus in an unbiased and truthfully honest way. He can do this with total perfection because of two great but forgotten reasons, firstly Jesus like the author was a practising Jew who was devoted heart and soul to his faith, he was also like the author a Rabbi teaching from the wealth of the Torah and Oral Traditions.
This book gives us a beautiful tapestry that is the historical Jesus and sets him against an accurate back cloth of life and times. It hands us back the Hebrew Scriptures as Jesus loved them, not as something to be forgotten or defunct but as real and necessary today as they were to Jesus then.
This book is enlightening, deep, thoughtful and a blessing if read as it was written with a contrite heart, an open spirit and with love.
The disciples and those who heard Jesus in his day would have sat at his feet with the same open heart and listened to their Rabbi. While reading this book I too sat at the feet of Rabbi Zaslow and listened. Thank God I did!
The Revd. Timothy Baker.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The Bridge Between Judaism and Christianity 18 Nov 2013
By Sunny - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been sitting here devouring every word and have come to believe this author has certainly captured that bridge of commonality found in Judaism and Christianity. It is written in such a way that it is without prejudice or condemnation. This book is an amazingly generous, kind and considerate contribution to the works cited in the bibliography, and certainly a wonderful companion to any scholarly work on historical Judaism and the how it relates to Jesus/Joshua.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Jesus for Jews? 15 Dec 2013
By James R. V. Matichuk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Rabbi David Zaslow is the synagogue leader of Havurah Shir Hadash in Ashland Oregon. As a Jew, he does not call Jesus God, much less the messiah; however he argues that as Jew, he can accept Jesus as a brother and son of first-century Judaism. In Jesus First-Century Rabbi Zaslow takes a sympathetic-critical look at the Younger Testament (also known as ‘New’) and points out that a great deal of what Jesus said is in continuity with the tradition that he was born into: Judaism.

Interfaith discussion are tricky. When you describe a tradition that is not your own, you run the risk of caricaturing an entire religion, or reducing distinctives to the lowest common denominator. This is especially tricky when the religion you are describing ( in this case, Christianity) developed from the soil of your own religious tradition (Judaism). However Zaslow does a masterful job of exploring the Jesus from his own faith-perspective. At times he sees a great deal of continuity between Christian and Jewish understanding of God and morality. At other points he draws a sharper distinction, but does so with grace and appreciation. This is not an apologetic work designed to get Christians like me to covert to Judaism. It is a book which invites us to reflect on our common heritage and overcome some of the historical enmity that has existed between Jews and Christians. Zaslow also extols the insights and gifts of both religions.

There are five parts of this book. In part one, Zaslow discusses the similarities between Jesus’ moral teaching and that of his fellow Rabbis. Whereas Christians have classically characterized first-century Judaism as legalistic, Zaslow shows that many of Jesus’ teachings correlate to the Jewish oral tradition (which is recorded in the Mishna). Part two explores the thought world of first Century Judaism that would have shaped Jesus. There were various aspects of Judaism which informed both Jesus and the alternate way in which Judaism later developed. These include the ‘Oral Torah’(the Jewish tradition interpreting the written Torah), the various sects of Ancient Judaism, the sacrificial system, the Jewish understanding of atonement and the importance of the ‘binding of Issac’ as paradigmatic for our understanding of God’s salvation. Part three describes differences and commonalities between Jesus and Hebraic thinking. Part four continues this, delving deeper into theological matters: What did Jesus really mean by his ‘I am’ statements? What is the the meaning of grace, redemption and suffering? Is Judaism legalistic and Christianity antinomian? What is Paul’s problem anyway? Zaslow rounds off part five by rehearsing some of the ugly history of Christian antisemitism (and its rootedness in Christian supersessionism) and his hope for more amiable relations in the future.

I happily recommend this book because I think it promotes mutual understanding between Jews and Christians. However I recommend it while acknowledging deep disagreements with Zaslow. For example, he argues that Christian atonement tradition rests on a misreading of the meaning of sacrifice in Judaism. There are also occasional places where I think he labors too hard to erase Jesus’ distinctiveness. For example his explanation of Jesus statement in John 8:58, ““Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” is to say that Jesus could have been pointing back to YHWH’s ancient existence does not do justice to the narrative (140). In John’s gospel, Jesus’ hearers picked up stones to stone him (John 8:59), which points to his words being more offensive than Zaslow makes them out to be. Likewise he interprets John 14:6 as Jesus’ commending YHWH to his disciples (‘I AM’ the way, the truth, and the life) without ever acknowledging the latter part of the verse, “No one comes to the Father, but through me” (139). These and other examples minimize what is unique about Jesus’ claims and open up different possibilities, but they do so by selectively reading the gospel texts.

Yet Zaslow makes many good observations. The continuity between Jesus’ moral teaching and some rabbis in the oral tradition is well founded. As is his observation of how statements in the gospels about ‘the Jews’ have been used to justify centuries of religious hate and antisemitism. I think it is fair to note, that the Pharisees were theologically closest to Jesus of anyone in the gospels, and that the gospels paint them in the worst possible light. The historical picture is much more nuanced and I appreciate Zaslow’s descriptions of the world of Judaism that Jesus would have been born into.

Zaslow blames Paul for introducing a theology of supersessionism (God’s promises to Israel now apply to Christians only) and widening the divide between Jews and Christians in the early common era. He questions if Paul was really a Pharisee because his teachings seem so unlike the Pharisees of old, and as apostle to the Gentiles, Paul’s rhetoric sometimes erased the importance of a distinct Jewish identity (though not always). Certainly that is how Paul has been interpreted by early and later Christians. I don’t think that is what Paul had in mind, but the seeds of a widening divide are there.

I happily give this book four stars, while acknowledging my points of contention. My Christian heritage gives me a different picture of Jesus. Zaslow would say that my picture of Jesus is theological whereas his picture of Jesus the Jew is historical. I hope that my picture of Jesus is both historical (the events of the gospels actually happened!) and theological (Jesus is God come in the flesh). But for an interesting and challenging take on the historic Jesus, Zaslow is a good read! I give this book four stars: ★★★★

Thank you to Paraclete Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
An anointed exegetical writing of reconciliation which will unite Jew and Gentile! 7 Jan 2014
By Moshe Bogar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is evident Rabbi Zaslow has taken painstaking efforts to pave a path of understanding between the Jewish and Christian faiths in a true exegetical attempt to leave behind centuries of misperceptions by both faiths. I have long perceived this. This book paves a pathway of reconciliation through which the Jewish and Christian community can come together to, kibitz, schmooze, reason and celebrate the countless parallels of faith running concurrent throughout the scriptures. In Yeshayahu(Isaiah) 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert. Perhaps we'll come to discover we are just different sides of the same coin. I highly recommend this anointed writing. If I had the resources I would send a copy to each Pastor and Rabbi in the world. Perhaps I'll start first here in my own neighborhood. May the basket of reconciliation begin to multiply and overflow! Brachot!(Blessings) Moshe
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic resource and voice for deeper interfaith understanding and mutual appreciation 23 Feb 2014
By Maurice D. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rabbi Zaslow offers us a clear, thoroughly researched, yet very accessible book that calls on Jews and Christians alike to discover and appreciate the spiritual validity and integrity of their respective religions. In the introduction he writes, "Some Jews and Christians may choose to spend another two thousand years criticizing each other's rituals, theological dogmas, and beliefs, but I believe that God would be better served if we were to look into the mirror and correct the errors within our own religions and denominations first."

Written with a light touch, clarity, and warm humor, Jesus: First-Century Rabbi successfully unpacks complex material in a variety of ways reflecting the author's gifts for storytelling and organizing information in ways that help us get down to the heart of things.

I've known Reb David as a colleague for a decade now, and have long admired his passionate work for interfaith bridge-building. He has modeled a path of reciprocal respect and mutual spiritual appreciation with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and leaders of many other faiths, and has done so with an authentic joyfulness that warms the heart. These qualities shine through in this book, providing a hopeful and gentle tone that animates a work filled with great scholarship, historical understanding, theology, and text study.

Church and synagogue book groups, or interfaith study groups could not find a better resource book on this topic. And readers of other faith traditions (or of no tradition) will also learn a lot, not only about Judaism and Christianity, but also about the tools humanity needs to establish a new era in which the many religions of the world learn to appreciate and support the light that shines in each of them.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
finally getting the facts 14 Jan 2014
By boozie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most important books ever. It presents in a humble and readable way information that can help our world leave behind misinformation, inappropriate attitudes, and dysfunctional behaviors. I am reading it slowly, marking it as i go, so i can learn and be able to share key information that is huge for me personally and global healing. I am also getting copies for clergy and friends who wish to help there be peace on earth, through understanding, respect, and celebration of Life Itself.
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