Jesus and the Jews

New Testament scholars have spent an impressive amount of energy on the study of the historical Jesus and much of it in the last few decades has revolved around his Jewishness.

Christian reawakening to the Jewishness of Jesus began in the late nineteenth century but received greater attention as Christians devoted increased attention to Jews and Judaism in light of the Shoah.

From the 1960s onwards, a desire for reconciliation with, and greater understanding of, Judaism became commonplace, epitomised by Vatican II and the publication of Nostra Aetate in 1965.

Nearly all Christian studies now take the Jewishness of Jesus seriously, but what is less well known is the work of Jewish scholars who similarly have re-awoken to the fact that Judaism nurtured Jesus the Jew.

In the latter part of the twentieth century, David Flusser and Géza Vermes, both of whom built on the pioneering work of a small number of Jewish scholars in the early twentieth century (notably Martin Buber, Joseph Klausner and Claude Montefiore), have been followed by three new Jewish scholars – Shmuley Boteach, Daniel Boyarin and Amy-Jill Levine.

While Flusser portrayed Jesus as a charismatic figure whose teaching demonstrated an extraordinary sense of mission, Vermes depicted Jesus as a Galilean Hasid and holy man.

For both, Jesus was a charismatic teacher, healer and prophet. Vermes in particular has had the greater impact, demonstrated by the title of his first book, Jesus the Jew, which in 1973 seemed revolutionary but now is taken for granted in New Testament scholarship. Continue reading.

Source: The Tablet

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