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Reviewed by:
  • The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other by Peter Schäfer, and: The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ by Daniel Boyarin
  • Zev Garber
The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other Peter Schäfer . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. 370 pp.
The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ Daniel Boyarin . New York, 2012. 224 pp.

The effort of Peter Schäfer, emeritus Director of the Program in Judaic Studies and Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion at Princeton University, to evaluate the challenge and influence of nascent Christianity on formative rabbinic Judaism in the Second Temple Judaism period is distinguished by a dual accomplishment. The introductory chapter of The Jewish Jesus presents an overview of the volume, which argues that Christianity and Judaism are parallel sister religions engaged in self-other polemical and apologetic interaction during late antiquity in search of personal and group identity. Rigid definitions ("heresies," "orthodoxy." religions," "sects," etc.) are questioned. Radicalization of strict monotheism is offered; that is, to demarcate between the rhetoric and practice of the belief mitswah. More important, the accepted paradigm of rabbinic opponents, that is, pagan Greco-Roman polytheism, in all its diversity on the one hand, and beginnings of Christianity on the other hand, is reassessed. Selections from the varied streams of biblical, rabbinical, and noncanonical writings are compared and contrasted. Together they encompasses politics, theology, mysticism, eschatology, and history issues primarily related to creation, revelation, and redemption in the period of Jesus reaching ab [End Page 131] initio and projecting ad infinium.

Second, Schäfer's cogent methodology provides a critical view of the literary structures and secondary sources under discussion. He sees additional sources in the basic narrative and his literary analytical approach enables the reader to encounter literary themes and approaches in context and to appreciate different opinions on the rabbinic imagination. His chapters are carefully planned and argued: anatomy of a literary composition, levels of interpretation, sample readings, several footnotes and an acceptable bibliography.

Schäfer's volume is divided into nine chapters. Chapter 1, "Different Names of God," is an analytical discussion focusing on the mis/understanding and mis/usage of the two basic names for the Israelite God in the Hebrew Bible, namely, the grammatically plural ending Elohim (God/Gods) and the mystery surrounding the sacramental activity of the high priest related to the tetragrammaton YHWH (Lord). In Second Temple Judaism, "heretics" chose to see Elohim referring to a variety of gods. Thus, parallels with pagan Greco-Roman cults, the complex diarchy and tetrarchy of the hierarchical Roman Empire, and the birthing of the two later three powers of the Christian God. Chapter 2, "The Young and Old God," explains that the different guises associated with God in a third-century Palestinian midrash represent multiple activities and attributes explicit in the narrative. By no means do the titles mean multiple gods. Chapter 3, "God and David," explicates a heretical tendenz within Babylonian rabbinical authority founded on Daniel 7:9 and mentioned in the anonymous David Apocalypse in the Hakhalot literature that the throne of mashiach ben david (Judean Messiah of the line of David) is exalted alongside the throne of God. Rejection of the thrones of equal divine figures is interpreted as rejection of the elevated Lamb of God in the New Testament Book of Revelation. Chapter 4, "God and Metatron," opines that the elevation of Enoch-Metatron in the Bavli and in 3 Enoch (Hekhalot literature) are a sharp rejection of the elevation of Jesus to divine status in the New Testament. Chapter 5,"Has God a Father, a Son, or a Brother?," relates Roman Empire hierarchy to God's family background in Palestinian midrashim, and embraces dissection of God and Son in Christian origins played out against the claims of Judaism and Christianity on the proper inheritor of Eretz Israel.

Chapter 6, "The Angels," depicts early Palestinian authority negation of a trend in angelology that elevates angels beyond their usual role of praising and serving the Lord. For example, literality of biblical verses on [End Page 132] creation ("Let us [God and Angels] make man") pose...


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