Through the centuries, the relationships between Christians and Jews have all too frequently been characterized by mistrust and even hatred on both sides. More recently, the atmosphere has shifted, first because of the Shoah, and second because of Vatican II and Nostra Aetate. Thus, there is [End Page 404] greater openness between Jew and Christian than ever before, and the recent spate of books concerned with Jewish-Christian relations attests to this. Indeed Zev Garber, the editor of this book, cites several examples (p. 9 n. 1).
Obviously, Jesus is the central figure in Christianity. For Judaism, he is much more peripheral, yet because he lived and died within Judaism, it is pertinent to assess what he means—if anything—for Jews and Judaism today. Thus, he is the common denominator for all the essays in this book. Zev Garber presents nineteen essays by Jewish and Christian authors on Jesus, specifically Jesus as a Jew. The book emerged from a three-day conference in 2009 entitled "Jesus in the Context of Judaism and the Challenge to the Church" (p. 8). Approximately half the essays originated in that conference; the remainder were invited for the volume (p. 8).
The book is divided into three parts: "Reflections on the Jewish Jesus" (chapters 1-7), "Responding to the Jewish Jesus" (chapters 8-12), and "Teaching, Dialogue, Reclamation: Contemporary Views on the Jewish Jesus" (chapters 13-19).
The first section, "Reflections," primarily deals with Jesus as presented in the New Testament and by prophecy from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Garber (pp. 13-19) begins with an essay on the New Testament as midrash, an interpretation of Jesus' life and message, and finds that he was a Zealot sympathizer (p. 14). Bruce Chilton follows with a discussion of Jesus' Kabbalah; that is, his mystical union with the spirit of God, and compares him to Elijah (pp. 20-35). James F. Moore, in his essay, "The Amazing Mr. Jesus" (pp. 36-46), considers Jesus to be the "oral Torah" for Christians (p. 36) and discusses how to understand Jesus' miracles (p. 37). He cites two of Roy A. Eckhardt's books, but never really clarifies how they figure into his argument that only a future event, rather than a past event, can be redemptive (p. 45).
Joshua Schwartz discusses the archaeology of daily life in first-century Palestine, particularly the rural areas where Jesus lived (pp. 47-64), including housing (pp. 51-53), kitchen utensils (pp. 54-55), crops (p. 56), crafts (pp. 58-59), clothing (pp. 59-60), and tombs (pp. 60-61), in order to give a sense of how Jesus likely lived.
Ziony Zevit evaluates the "Jesus Stories" and the characteristics of ancient story (pp. 65-92). Such stories circulated independently both before and after the Gospels were written. This study considers which stories might have been acceptable to their Jewish audience, and which not (pp. 68-69), in particular because of Paul, who focused so completely on Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection (p. 66). Continuing the theme of Jesus' reception history, Herbert Besser discusses Jewish reaction to Jesus through the centuries (pp. 93-105). [End Page 405]
Rivka Ulmer provides a detailed analysis of the text, both Masoretic and Septuagint, of Psalm 22 (MT) and its relation to messianic suffering (pp. 106-128). This psalm was not considered to be a messianic text by the rabbis (p. 108), so there is relatively little in Jewish sources concerning it.
The second section, "Responding to the Jewish Jesus," contains five essays about subsequent interpretations of Jesus through history. Richard Rubenstein considers how the ways parted, in particular through the concept of human sacrifice in the Bible (pp. 131-158). He agrees with Jon Levenson that the Aqeda was in fact God's demand for Isaac's sacrifice (p. 131). He discusses the consequences of this interpretation, and also points out that the Lord's Supper, originally a fellowship meal, took on a sacrificial motif (pp. 147-148).
Yitzchak Kerem discusses the Hellenization of Jesus, his transformation from...