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Acknowledgments This study has two roots. The first goes back to the late 1970s, when I read Johann Maier’s book Jesus von Nazareth in der talmudischen Überlieferung, which appeared in 1978. I was stunned by the erudition and meticulous scholarship of my colleague at that time at Cologne University , which nevertheless left me deeply dissatisfied. Having worked my way through the book’s sophisticated arguments and painstakingly prepared charts, I was left wondering: what an expenditure of time and energy , just to prove that there is no Jesus in the Talmud and that the Talmud is an unreliable historical source for Jesus and early Christianity. I had the feeling that somehow the wrong questions were asked, or rather that the chimera of a rationalistic and positivistic historicity was evoked, almost as if to evade the real questions. True, and to be fair, our notion of Judaism and Christianity—and of their mutual relationship—has changed considerably over the last thirty years, but still the sources cry out for a more nuanced approach that takes into consideration the difference between pure factuality and a longer and complex process of Wirkungsgeschichte (reception history). I always wanted to get back to the subject, but it took until the spring term of 2004 at Princeton University that I finally had a chance to realize this desire. When my friend Israel Yuval of the Hebrew University, who spent that term at Princeton as a visiting professor in the Department of Religion, suggested that we address in a joint seminar the topic of “How Much Christianity in Talmud and Midrash?”—the larger and much discussed question of rabbinic responses to Christianity—I enthusiastically agreed and proposed to include the Jesus passages in the Talmud. This memorable seminar belongs among the most exciting and rewarding teaching experiences in my life, not only because of a uniquely congenial group of students (undergraduate and graduate) as well as of colleagues (our Princeton colleagues Martha Himmelfarb and John Gager honored us with their presence), but also and above all because of the time Israel and I spent together preparing the seminar. At first we wanted to meet briefly to discuss the structure and strategy of the seminar sessions , but soon our meetings became longer and longer, until we spent hours reading the texts together—brainstorming together and driving each other to ever bolder interpretations and conclusions. Much of what will appear on the following pages, in particular with regard to the exegeses of the talmudic sources, has its root in these preparations and the subsequent seminar sessions. It would be a fruitless exercise to seek to divide up the birthright of certain ideas and suggestions, but I do not hesitate to acknowledge gladly and gratefully that this book in its present form could not have been written without the experience of this joint enterprise . The students’, the colleagues’, and above all Israel Yuval’s creativity and ingenuity contributed greatly to many of the ideas developed in this book. Research on the Babylonian Talmud has considerably advanced recently . Venturing into a field that is not my primary research area, I had the good fortune that Richard Kalmin of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York was kind enough to read a draft of the manuscript . I owe him thanks for his many helpful suggestions, further clarifications of complicated talmudic texts, and corrections of several mistakes or misreadings. With regard to the New Testament—a field of which I can claim even less competence—Martin Hengel, my longtime mentor, senior colleague, and friend, generously commented on the manuscript and showered upon me an embarrassingly rich cornucopia of advice, improvement , further insights, bibliographical details, and, not least, corrections . (I wish I had taken advantage of his erudition at an earlier stage of writing the manuscript: it would have been considerably improved.) It is with admiration for his work and with heartfelt gratitude for his continuous support since I became his assistant at the University of Tübingen that I dedicate this small volume to him. My Princeton colleagues Martha Himmelfarb and Elaine Pagels read parts of the manuscript and made many helpful suggestions. The two anonymous readers for the Press took the trouble of reading an early draft of the manuscript and giving me much useful advice. I am deeply grateful to all of them. As always, I must x Acknowledgments take the responsibility for any remaining shortcomings. Finally, I would like to thank Brigitta van Rheinberg...


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