The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other Paperback – 23 Feb 2014
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Peter Schfer, Winner of the 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
"[Readers] will enjoy the rabbinic interpretations, debates and stories as well as Schafer's lucid and penetrating explications. They will come away with a more lively appreciation of the intertwining of the Jewish tree and the Christian branches."--Hilmar M. Pabel, "Tablet"
Peter Schfer, Winner of the 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Peter SchAfer, Winner of the 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Peter Schafer, Winner of the 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Peter Schafer, Winner of the 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation"
"This volume combines several provocative theses. Schafer suggests that arguments in the Talmud against ostensibly heretical teachings are aimed not only at opponents of the rabbis but also at circles among the ancient rabbis themselves that found such teachings attractive. . . . The author is a highly respected scholar of ancient Judaism, and the present book continues lines of thought that appeared in his earlier writings, including "Jesus in the Talmud." This volume's presentation is erudite yet accessible. The arguments against scholars with other views are especially robust and forthright."--"Choice""
"Schafer's book is very illuminating and fascinating. The author examines a rich collection of rabbinic texts, which shed light and better understanding on many concepts included in the Old and New Testaments. His emphasis on the geographical distinction between Palestine and Babylonia, in the evaluation of the rabbinic sources is worthy of attention. . . . [T]he book is an excellent presentation of the mutual interaction between the sister religions and deserves an important place amongst the studies about early Judaism and Christianity."--Miroslaw S. Wrobel, "Biblical Annals""
"There have been a number of revelatory books in recent decades on the relations between early Christianity and Judaism, especially on how each influenced the other. This book by Peter Schafer . . . is among them."--Glenn W. Olsen, "European Legacy"
From the Back Cover
"Watching Peter Schafer explicate Jewish and Christian texts is like watching a great restorer work on a fresco damaged by time, wind, and water. Blurred outlines come into focus, dull colors become brilliant, and suddenly a forgotten story of exchange between the two religions comes back to dramatic life. This is great scholarship, applied to a subject so complex and difficult that nothing less could do it justice."--Anthony T. Grafton, Princeton University
""The Jewish Jesus" is the natural sequel to Peter Schafer's widely acclaimed "Jesus in the Talmud." Against overly simplistic conceptions of Christian influences on Judaism, Schafer posits a dynamic dialogue between two not yet clearly demarcated communities. Christianity grew out of Judaism, but Judaism also developed and changed in constant exchange with and differentiation from Christianity. Schafer's fascinating and highly readable book offers an important change of perspective from traditional religious histories and deserves many readers."--Gunter Stemberger, author of "Jews and Christians in the Holy Land: Palestine in the Fourth Century"
"Schafer's thought-provoking book challenges readers to reimagine the relationship of early Judaism and Christianity and the theological matrices in which they developed. Must reading for students and scholars alike."--Burton L. Visotzky, Jewish Theological Seminary
"This excellent and important book will be seized on eagerly and read with attention. Peter Schafer makes his argument with great clarity and a formidable command of the sources, building his case from close readings of the texts. The scholarship is impeccable."--Philip Alexander, professor emeritus, University of Manchester"See all Product Description
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There is no need to turn to these books to acknowledge the following points, easily derivable from the four canonical Christian Gospels. From his birth Jesus was raised a Jew. He was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2.21) and bore a common Jewish name, Yeshua, "he [God] saves" (Matthew 1.21). In fact, scholars have determined that Yeshua was the fifth most common male Jewish name of the time. Joseph was the second most common male name and Mary the most common among women. The child Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Jerusalem temple (Luke 2.22; cf. Deuteronomy 18.4; Exodus 13.2,12,15), A sacrifice was offered for him, a pair of doves and 2 young pigeons, indicating that his family were not wealthy (Leviticus 12.2,6,8; Luke 2.22-24). Thus Jesus was raised according to the law (Luke 2.39).
These points being granted, it should be noted that Jesus belonged to pre-Rabbinical Judaism, differing in many ways from the faith of the two Talmuds (where he is sometimes denounced, as Schäfer showed in another monograph). One must be wary of anachronism.
Evidently, "The Jewish Jesus" essentially replicates the author's German original text, which I have not seen. In translation the title of that book is "The Birth of Judaism from the Spirit of Christianity." At all events, in this book Schäfer prefers a more interactive model in which a number of ideas circulated freely among both parties.
The conventional view of the contrast between Judaism and Christianity is that one is strictly monotheistic, the other tritheistic. With regard to antiquity, especially late antiquity, Peter Schäfer assembles considerable evidence to undermine this view, exploring a whole range of partner-deities for the supposedly unique God of Hebraic tradition. These motifs include the duality of Elohim (literally "gods") and Yahweh in the Pentateuch; the contrast of the old god (the "ancient of days") and the young god; the use of plural verbs in the Hebrew Bible to describe divine actions; the curious figure of Metatron, ostensibly the chief of the angels; and the idea of the eternal David.
All of these nominations point in the direction of binitarianism, the idea that there are two high gods. This notion finds a parallel in gnosticism, but Schäfer thinks that this is not very important, for in that tradition the partner tends to have a negative connotation.
Schäfer showcases the binitarian concept. Here Judaism (or at least some strands of it) joins with New Testament Christianity, which basically was binitarian (with the Holy Spirit not yet admitted to full partnership). Thus Judaism was not strictly monotheistic, nor was Christianity always trinitarian. Schäfer holds that binitarianism found an important support in the imperial concept, developed by Diocletian at the end of the third century CE, of the Augustus (or chief emperor) assisted by the Caesar (or junior emperor).
This book, by a major scholar in the field, is carefully composed. I recommend it highly.
Schaefer shows that it was something of a two-way street.
Christianity was issued from a dissident faction of post-Temple Messianic Judaism that underwent powerful second century Hellenistic influences more conform to Greco-Roman ideals. We know little about 2nd-3rd-century CE Christianity tempting post-Temple Judaism and the counter-reactions. And out of academic circles, the rabbi’s seventh century messianic literature and homilies cover only a restricted audience. Schaffer’s book repairs these important lacunae.
Schaffer’s Jesus in the Talmud offers a useful preparation to tackle his present publication: it trains the reader with the rabbi’s tortuous exegesis and Schaffer’s enlightening interpretations.
Chapter 1-2 of The Jewish Jesus posits that Christians with two divine figures, God and his Son, were provocatively pointing to all the biblical textual references that could mirror their own theology: Genesis where on several occasions God is mentioned in plural and in Exodus where God is depicted as a young warrior God in Egypt very different from the Mt. Sinai old God of justice and mercy. Using the OT as a springboard that announces Christianity, 2nd century CE church fathers could argue that even the Jewish Bible had two Gods. During the early centuries CE the rabbis were trying to talk themselves out of such difficulties. Attempting to explain the apparent contradictions the rabbi’s were in for a spell of exegetical acrobatics difficult to understand without Schaffer’s clear explanations. (It would have been more realistic, on behalf of the rabbis, to accept that early traditions were different, that several writers intervened and that dogma had evolved over the centuries BCE)
I find it difficult to follow Schaffer when he believes that pre-Christian Jewish texts elaborating on Wisdom and the Logos were instrumental in establishing Christianity’s divine family. The Christian bi- and Trinitarian concepts of the divine owe more to Hellenistic Docetic doctrines than to oldest Judaism. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus has no divine status and his messianic standing is very hesitant in Mark.
Chapter 3. Schaffer shows that marginal factions of Judaism were attempting to promote a different Messiah-King than Jesus Christ. With the Apocalypse of David, writers in Babylonia responded to the “Jesus” literature as found in the Book of Revelation. The short analysis of third century CE frescoes from the Dura Europos Synagogue is a remarkable addition to Shaffer’s demonstration.
Chapter 4 continues with the figure of Enoch. Schaffer carefully exposes Enoch’s transformation from a biblical figure walking with God into a celestial scribe then an angelic figure before becoming a Lesser God under the name of Metatron in the third Book of Enoch.
All these later apocalyptic texts had BCE Jewish antecedents, essentially in Jubilees, Daniel and the Song of Songs. (Qumran literature also gave Melchizedeck an outstanding messianic rank next to God and their Teacher was elevated to messianic eminence).
The second to fourth century CE Babylonian texts promoting divine Messiahs that remained in the Jewish fold intended to propose an alternative to Jesus Messiah that the nations had taken out of Israel’s hands. Schaffer revives the influences Christianity’s divine Messiah had on Babylonian Judaism. The process was tortuous and contested, and here again Schaffer’s analysis is very helpful. These local apocalyptic theologies nevertheless remained marginal. The Jewish Messiahs “catching up with Jesus” did not receive official theological recognition on behalf of centrist Rabbinical Judaism and only survived in fringe communities.
Chapter 5. God’s family
Schaffer settles scores with Maier who attempts to purify rabbinic traditions of all anti-Christian implications.
Chapter 6. The Angels
The Palestinian rabbis are caught in endless exegetical gossip: when were the angels created, did God consult them before creating man, do they have a higher or lower standing than Adam?
The Babylonian rabbis step in to give a resolutely anti angelic version of God’s consulting them before the creation. Behind the discussions the uniqueness of God is at stake. The traditions of angels attending God and transmitting the law to Moses are contested because negatively used by Christian writers. (God didn’t give the law himself because it was not the final one). Worship and sacrifice for angels are prohibited.
Chapter 7. Adam
This is a wonderful chapter that shows how the two creation accounts in Genesis were used to validate an earthly Jesus and a heavenly, immaterial and incorruptible Jesus.
Chapter 8. The Birth of the Messiah, or Why did Baby Messiah Disappear?
Interesting in this strange and wonderfully commented story that counters the NT birth narrative, the fact that this Davidic Messiah, born in Bethlehem, is a post-Temple affair, and not some 35 yrs before stretching from Herod to Pilate. Schaffer does not try to explain this oddity. But the rabbis knew that there were no Jesus traditions while the Temple was standing. Facing its destruction, all strains of Judaism had to react. To dissident Jewish factions, the Temple’s fall meant that God was displeased with the present day administration and was asking for things to change. The Jesus-for-Messiah forwarded by a Nazarene community was a Temple replacement answer: a Messiah that held in his hands the Holy Spirit, replacing Elijah (the prototype of the Temple’s Messiah) and Moses (so silent on eternal life). They started setting the contours of their new messianic party in script around 75 CE (Mark’s). It was expanded and completed over the following century.
Chapter 9. The Suffering Messiah Ephraim
We find here a tradition that derives the Messiah from the house of Joseph and not the house of David.
The first homily stresses that Torah tradition is not enough if messianic expectations are neglected.
The second homily reverts to a more traditional: “Torah obedience leads to salvation.” And then changes it’s course. The Messiah was created before the creation and his light hides under God’s seat. God negotiates Messiah-ship against seven years of suffering. The Messiah will take on all the sins of all generations! Salvation here is exclusively for Israel and the Messiah gains a throne of glory.
During the first half of the seventh century, at a time when Christianity was better established and Islam was rapidly expanding, taking over Jerusalem, some Jewish writers were again in an apocalyptic mood, catching up with messianic expectations now coming from two sides. Contrary to much earlier texts, these homilies were not mocking the Jesus Messiah, but attempting to create a credible alternative facing Jesus and Mohamed.
Schaffer’s book is complex and well documented. It opens a window on mutual influences between the Christian Messiah that was taken out of their hands and the rabbi’s conflicting attempts to restore Israel’s Messianic role.
Conclusions are hard to come by, but here are my conclusions:
1. Christianity is almost entirely Jewish with little important input from Graeco-Roman culture. This is generally now accepted by most biblical scholars.
2. The Talmud (especially the Babylonian one) was designed, among other purposes, to keep Jews away from Christian beliefs even though many of those beliefs if not all were perfectly Jewish to begin with.
3. The rabbis created a new Judaism (not that of the Old Testament) which Jews today don't realize is essentially a form of censorship of their own religious history. The Talmudic rabbis, in my view, are scoundrels and criminals and should not be respected. To say this is not anti-semitic but truth. Granted the church authorities have burned copies of the Talmud and persecuted Jews for anti-Christian dogma. But while we should regret the persecution, the burning of the Talmud sounds like a pretty good an idea to me! The rabbis are nasty censors, much worse arguably than anything Christian theologians have produced.
4. The general public will learn nothing of all this, unfortunately. Biblical scholarship does not get down to the people. The decline of Christianity is not based on scholarship as you might expect but largely on the failures of religion, Christianity and Judaism alike, to provide the promised goods.
5. Yes, I don't like rabbis!
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