If you are at all interested in Christianity or Messianic Judaism, this is a must for your bookshelf. It tackles many thorny issues, including the Sabbath as Jesus celebrated and taught about it, the Law, and what Jesus really meant.
Young portrays Jesus very much as a man of his day, his teaching as it would be viewed by his peers and other wandering sages, and his Messianic claims. It definitely sheds new light on many of the well know teaching of Jesus.
This book enhances and gives understanding to our faith. It is scholarly, but very readable. I thoroughly recommended it and Young's other books.
Have just completed Jesus The Jewish Theologian and found it to be extremely revealing about the truth behind the words of Jesus. As a Christian I have always been interested in Judiasm and curious about how Jesus would feel today about his words in the Christian world. The book can only bring you closer to God. Whether you be Jewish or Christian. If Christian it will certainly give you "food" for thought.
"...Unfortunately the parts that are good are not original and the parts that are original are not good."
This was bought for me as present a couple of years ago but sat unread (alongside a number of books) on my bookcase until recently. It was then recommended to me by a friend from Church who was very enthused with it, so I decided to pick it up and have a read. I have to say, in contrast with my friend, that I am underwhelmed by the quality of the arguments made by Dr Young as well as questioning some of the assertions he makes.
Dr Young is obviously very sincere in his belief to foster interfaith dialogue between Christianity and Judaism and is be commended for such an approach. The glowing endorsements from both Christians and Jews (who write a foreword each) testifies to the success of his approach. Any attempt to bring fresh understanding between different beliefs who have had a troubled relationship both in the the past and present is a noble effort.
Dr Young main thesis is that Jesus was just as much a theologian as Paul the Apostle and that the Jewishness of early Christianity has been either been misunderstood, ignored or simply not taught so that the dominant picture of Jesus (and hence Christianity) is distorted. Dr Young is conversant with Rabbinic Judaism and draws may parallels between the teaching in the Talmud and the NT to build his case. He also uses numerous linguistic arguments, arguing that existing translations can lead to misinterpretation of Jesus' teaching. It should also be pointed out that although Dr Young doesn't explicitly say it, he is following the New Perspective in his interpretation of the Jesus' relationship to the Law. This is not necessarily a good or a bad thing but should be recognised as this will inevitably impact upon one's understanding of disputed passages.
My main concerns with Dr Young's thesis are threefold. One, his many allusions to Rabbinic teaching to help draw out the true meaning of the Gospels is not without its difficulties. Although no expert, I do know from my own training that the Rabbinic teachings cover a long period of time far removed from the 1st Century. Although some teachings may date from the time of Jesus, one needs to tread carefully unless you unwittingly read back a statement from a later time. On occasions Dr Young appears to slip into 'Parallelomania' where any slight allusion to a NT teaching or context is seized upon and read as a definite fact.
Two, a more serious concern is Dr Young's grasp of linguistics. Although feted by his reviewers as having a commanding grasp of both NT Greek and Hebrew, he appears to make a number of basic errors when handling them. In chapter 5, Dr Young discusses Jesus' statement from Matt 11.12 'the kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence...' where he argues that it should be better translated 'break through' and argues that the imagery comes from shepherding and flocks breaking out of temporary pens made to keep them safe at night. Nothing wrong so far but his choice of the KJV as an opponent is a bit odd as not many people, especially within the Academy, would argue against the KJV being flawed as a modern translation. Dr Young does mention the NIV translation, which is very close to his own interpretation of this passage (well it would if the recent revision hadn't reinstated the traditional interpretation), but does not mention the NRSV, which is usually the defacto translation for any academic work. It's absence here is puzzling to say the least and his use of the KJV version appears a little like a straw man argument.
Dr Young than starts listing all the different meanings of the word to justify his interpretation in this specific passage, and then seems to choose a meaning not even covered by the Greek but one from a Hebrew word that the Greek word sometimes translates in the LXX (without any recourse to the context to justify his choice)! This to the uninitiated is called 'Illegitimate Totality Transfer' and is a big no-no in linguisitics. He also keeps referring to a Hebrew translation of the Gospels to aid his argument without any explanation as to why, when they were neither written in Hebrew nor would Jesus have spoken in Hebrew.
Dr Young also interacts with a limited number of other scholars, for example in the passage from Matthew mentioned above he discusses Allison & Davies in the ICC series but does not even show any awareness of other commentators, especially when they would help support his argument (e.g. Carson).
My last point is that I don't find anything Dr Young says that original or groundbreaking, certainly it doesn't throw out any new insights on the Jewishness of Jesus that actually hasn't already been said by others. A case in point is his chapter on the Beatitudes of Matt 5, which is good and I agree with most of what he says but any decent recent commentary on Matthew (e.g. Carson, Keener, France) already discusses this information. Not neccessarily a seriously failing, but for a book that is advertised as bringing something new to the table..?
In the end Dr Young sounds like he is fighting a battle that no longer needs to be fought. Many scholars now recognise the distinctive Jewish nature of Jesus and early Christianity and there are many books (and commentaries) that discuss this very well. Dr Young's ardent desire to rehabilitate Chrsitianity from its anti-Jewish bias leads him to make a number of claims that are odd (such as Jesus was better trained as a Rabbi than Paul) to the more worrying (where he seems to suggest that Jews, although not recognising Jesus as the Messiah/Son of God still walk in the faith of Jesus, surely a plea to a pluralistic view of salvation).
In summary, alhough this is a book with many good insights, the mistakes and the questionable conclusions mean that I cannot recommend it especially as there are plenty of better books out there that cover the same ground.
Tracing back Jesus' parables to his Jewish background gives more depth and meaning as to what he was actually speaking about. This is a must read for any Christian who has no or very little knowledge of the Jewish Jesus and the society in which he grew up. Brad Young obviously is passionate about Jewish thinking and about conveying it to the 'Gentiles'. I shall read more of his books.
I concur with J. Ratcliff's review. In general I found this book disappointing not least because the style of writing is overly didactic, stressing the author's heartfelt wish for his readers to agree with his thesis. There is a lack of true academic or intellectual rigour which is a pity.