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Reviewed by:
  • Juden und Christen—das eine Volk Gottes by Walter Kasper
  • Leonard Swidler
Walter Kasper Juden und Christen—das eine Volk Gottes, Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder Verlag, 2020. Pp. 160.

This is an important book. But first some pertinent—and perhaps some may also think, "impertinent"—background information. Reviewing this "must read" contribution to Jewish-Christian relations by Cardinal Professor Walter Kasper brings me back to when I was fortunate enough to be a fellow Professor with three of the most influential Catholic theologians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, when I was Guest Professor of the Pontifical Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Tübingen, Germany, in the early 1970's. Those hyper-influential Catholic theologians are Josef Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), Professor Hans Küng, and Cardinal Walter Kasper. I beg the readers' permission to say a word about my contact with each of them.

I became a close personal friend of Küng already in 1959 when I was finishing my Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) degree in Catholic Theology at Tübingen (perhaps the first Catholic layperson to receive a degree in Catholic theology ever!), and he was the successor there to my "Doktor Vater," Professor Heinrich Fries (who had just moved to the University of Munich). In those early years, Kasper was an assistant to Küng and subsequently became Professor there. During Vatican II, Küng was hired as the successor to Fries. A short few years later, Küng was the Dean of the Catholic Theology Faculty and hired Josef Ratzinger, with whom he earlier had been a fellow Assistant in the Catholic Theology faculty of the University of Münster and also a colleague at Vatican II. Thus, the Catholic Theology Faculty of the University of Tübingen housed at the same time three theological world-shapers—and I was privileged to know them all. [End Page 453]

Walter Kasper was made Cardinal in 2001 and the Head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity during 2001–10. In many ways, this book is the fruit of his experience then, as well as his continued very active involvement in Jewish-Christian matters. The reader is the beneficiary of his manifold decades working in, and helping to shape, the ever-developing relationship between Catholics and Jews. The fact that he is a German theologian also cannot help but be important, given the Holocaust, during which all four of us were alive. This volume will be an eye-opener for those Christians and Jews, and intelligent outside observers, such as Muslims and "Nones," how these two sibling religions—Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism—came into existence and developed alongside each other. It is worth the price of the book just to learn of the family-intertwined relationship of these two religions.

To begin, "Jesus" is an English spelling of the Latin Iesus, which is a translation of the New Testament Greek, Iesous, which is a translation of the Hebrew/Aramaic Yeshua. The latter was how he in life was named by his friends and enemies. Also telling, in this regard, was that he was addressed as "Rabbi," which means "Teacher." The New Testament was written Greek (the generally known language in the Roman Empire of the first century of the Common Era), and, consequently, almost always in its pages Jesus/Yeshua was addressed as Didascalos, Teacher, which is a translation of the term actually used, Rabbi ("Teacher") in Hebrew. So, when we read in English that he is addressed as Master or Lord, he in fact was addressed as Rabbi. What difference in Christian-Jewish relations might it have made over the centuries if the masses of illiterate Christians had constantly heard Yeshua addressed as Rabbi!

There were at least a half dozen Jewish groups contending during Yeshua's time about what was the correct way to live as a Jew: Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Qumranites, Hellenists, and "Yeshuites." The latter, initially, according to Luke's Acts of the Apostles, called themselves "Followers of the Way"—Hodos in Greek—of Rabbi Yeshua. It was only many decades after the death of their Rabbi that they were...


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