There are already a great many books by Jewish and Christian writers about the relationship between Judaism and Christianity in the first century, and anyone familiar with the subject will find much that is familiar in this book: to them it will hardly be "a new view of the Jewish contexts in which the New Testament and the community of Jesus followers arose", as the blurb has it. It is, however, a very useful reference book. Its purpose is to show what the teaching of the early church had in common with the Judaism from which it was born, where it diverged, and where New Testament texts became - in intention or in interpretation - the cause of Christian hatred of the Jews. But it particularly aims to make both Christians and Jews especially aware of what Jesus and Paul had in common with the Judaism of their time.
The annotations are to the text of the New Revised Standard Version of 1989, and they are extremely detailed - explaining the meaning of words; giving historical background; relating sentences in the New Testament to other sentences in the New Testament and/or to sentences in the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament"), and much else besides: by no means all of them concern themselves with Jewish perspectives.
In addition there is an introduction to each New Testament book; there are useful maps and tables; and 63 boxes in which some topics are dealt with in summary (there is, for example, one on the treatment of the Pharisees in Luke's Gospel, another on the role of the High Priest. Ten of these boxes explain aspects of the Book of Revelations.)
There are also 32 longer essays (87 pages of double columns and, like the annotations and the boxes, in rather small print), mostly on Jewish ideas and institutions (for example on Synagogues) or on Jewish ideas before, during, and, for a century or two, after the time of Jesus (for example on the Afterlife and Resurrection or on Jesus in the Rabbinic tradition). Some of these essays - the one on Paul and Judaism or the one about Jewish Christians - are contributions to ongoing discussions rather than undisputed interpretations. The penultimate essay gives an account of modern Jewish writers (from the early 19th century onwards) who have seen Jesus as a good Jew, though, oddly, there is nothing on Christian theologians who had done the same. Many of these Jewish scholars believe that it was Paul and not Jesus who was the true founder of Christianity and who regard him as a Jewish heretic; but the last essay shows that there are now even some Jewish scholars who are sympathetic to Paul as a Jew.
This recent publication is a superb resource for any student wishing to understand Christianity in its first century context of Rabbinic Judaism and the Roman Empire. Of particular note are the collection of essays numbering 100 pages at the end of the volume, together with charts and glossary. One particularly useful element is the list of available English translations of ancient texts (such as the Talmud, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Nag Hammadi texts, etc.) – an invaluable resource to any student without the confidence to work in the original languages. Each book of the New Testament (NRSV) is accompanied by extensive notes shedding light on the Jewish aspects and context of their contents from the perspective of a particular scholar. This work should be in the library of any Christian seminary student.
I love this version because the annotations give a really great insight into the culture and context of Jewish life around the time of Jesus, and it also gives lots of references, not only to other parts of Bible but to other sources such as Talmud, Mishnah, non-Canonical Scriptures such as Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hamadi finds, as well as writings by secular contemporary writers such as Cicero. This book is great for students of theology, but also for other people who just find this sort of thing fascinating.
This compact but overflowing book is full of Hebraic insights and information. Although I don't always agree with the applications made by the contributors, they do bring to the discussion documents that I would not necessarily have had access to. That said it looks like a an invaluable resource for biblical study.
One down side is the smallness of the type, but this is easily offset by the sheer quantity of data and insights.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament In their claim that this is the first time that Jewish scholars have notated and written essays on the complete New Testament, the editors of "The Jewish Annotated New Testament" appear to be distancing themselves from Messianic Jews or Jewish Christians and ignoring the written commentaries and works by them (with the exception of a mention of David Stern's Complete Jewish Bible as "a Messianic-Jewish translation of both testaments", found in the essay on "Translation of the Bible"), this is non-the-less a ground-breaking publication by acclaimed Jewish scholars.
The editors Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Avi Brettler bring together essays and commentaries by Daniel Boyarin, Shaye J D Cohen, Pamela Esenbaum, Susannah Heschel, Daniel Schwartz, David Stern (the midrash scholar, not the translator of the Complete Jewish Bible), Geza Vermes, Leonard Greenspoon, Mark Nanos and approximately 40 other respected Jewish experts in areas related to the NT gives a non-Hebrew, Jewish perspective on Jesus.
Amy-Jill Levine's "Bearing False Witness: Common Errors Made about Early Judaism is a good starting place to the JANT.
With regard to the Virgin Birth, Aaron Gale suggests that Matthew 1:18-25 constitutes a midrash--a legend similar to the one recounting the birth of Moses.
Lawrence Wills, commenting on Mark's profession that Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecies, states: "This observation has called into question whether these details actually occurred...Readers should decide for themselves whether actual incidents were interpreted through a scriptural lens or were suggested to the writer from the use of favourite biblical texts." Confusing and unimpressive to say the least!
Shira Lander's comment on 1 Corinthians 15:28 concerning Paul and the Trinity is equally unhelpful. She states: "This passage illustrates Paul's understanding that Christ [the Messiah] is not God, even though Christ incarnates God's wisdom and power...imparts the Holy Spirit...and is the conduit for all existence...Ultimately, Christ belongs to God."
Shaye J D Cohen's Torah negative approach to Paul's letter to the Galations will be frowned upon by Messianic readers.
Martin Goodman's "Jewish History, 331 BCE--134CE" helps readers keep track of the various Herods of the Gospels and Acts, and the historical backdrop of the entire NT period providing very useful material.
David B Levenson's "Messianic Movements" replaces the commonly-repeated trope that all Jews of the Second-Temple period believed in a political conqueror Messiah.
Mark Nanos gives a useful verse by verse commentary on Romans and includes invaluable notes on which words in the translation are present or absent from the original Greek (affecting interpretation), as well as longer notes explaining pivotal aspects of Paul's argument on oft-missed nuances of his language.
This is not a work to shy away from but should be embraced by Christians and Jews and indeed anyone interested in New Testament Studies. There is much to challenge and edify in this work and I warmly recommend it to any serious student of the New Testament. The Jewish Annotated New Testament convincingly reveals the growing and welcome interest among Jews concerning Jesus.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament soared to number 31 on Amazon's top 100 list--before temporarily selling out.
I had been looking for a New Testament like this for a LONG time. It includes essays and note that really help the reader to understand the cultural and historical contexts of both Jesus' life and teachings and the work and letters of the first Apostles.
Anyone desiring a better understanding of First Century Christianity and its Hebrew foundations will find this book fascinating. I can highly recommend both this and OUP's "Jewish Study Bible."
Amy-Jill Levine is an eminent scholar who has brought full academic rigour to this work. She's also a great communicator, and the body of her work about Jesus and the New Testament as a whole is a must for all who really want to understand why their Christian faith is what it is. I first heard the author talk about Jesus' and the New Testament's Jewish roots to a Christian theologian in this entertaining and extremely informative interview: [...] Highly recommended!