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A Rabbi Talks With Jesus Paperback – April 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews


"A tour de force and very, very moving." Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain "By far the most important book for the Jewish-Christian dialogue in the last decade. The absolute honesty, the precision of analysis, the union of respect for the other party with carefully grounded loyalty to one's own position characterize the book and make it a challenge especially to Christians, who will have to ponder the analysis of the contrast between Moses and Jesus." Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger "Neusner here makes a contribution to Jewish-Christian understanding that is as lively as it is unusual ... To listen in as he talks with Matthew's Jesus is to get a surer sense of the real issues on this important front of interreligious dialogue." Schubert M. Ogden, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 161 pages
  • Publisher: Mcgill Queens Univ Pr; Rev Sub edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0773520465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0773520462
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Mei L. Po on September 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
Listen folks, I don't think the polemics here (in some, not all, of the reviews) are exactly helpful in furthering meaningful dialogue-- something the author of this book deserves full credit for even attempting. If Christianity and Judaism have been talking at cross-purposes for 2000 years, it behooves those of us who call ourselves Christians to *LISTEN* and find out why.

I feel Rabbi Neusner on the whole does a fine job of addressing areas of contention and disagreement between the two faiths- however, he does miss some fine critical points:

- He contrasts the (Jewish/Torah) call to be holy because the Lord God is holy, over and against the Christian call to give up all and follow Christ- without, apparently, recognizing that for believing Christians as well as faithful Jews the chief motive for right living is to emulate God's character (why aspire to "be perfect"? Because our heavenly Father is perfect).

- He sees Judaism as addressing the practical concerns of living in the the here-and-now while Christianity is concerned with the future Kingdom Come- missing the relevance of applied Christian principles for daily living, and the idea that Christians no less than Jews are called to sanctify our days and hours, our waking and working and eating and sleeping; not just wait for "Pie in the sky by and by".

- Lastly, Neusner takes issue with the fact that that the Christian gospel message is addressed to the individual "you" and "I", not to the communal "we" of Israel. This is in fact largely true. We are called as individuals AS WELL AS corporately. But it is also a call to community, as the Body of Christ. How else to put into practice all those commands to love, serve, edify and encourage one another?

Torah, or Christ? At the end of the day, for Neusner, the question leads finally to a regretful parting of the ways.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Thomas C. Conlon on December 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
Jacob Neusner's exceptional book, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, gets at the heart of why Jews struggle to accept the entirety of Jesus' teachings. While avoiding new age relativist methodologies in dialogue, Neusner capitalizes on the reality that differences in belief do exist between Christians and Jews, and only by understanding these differences, can one truly engage in dialogue. Making it, as Pope Benedict the 16th compelling stated, "...the most important book in Jewish-Christian dialogue in the last decade."

In the opening lines, Neusner candidly explains that if he would have been a Jew in first century Palestine, he would not have joined the circle of Jesus' disciples. Even more, he writes that, "If I heard what ... [Jesus] said in the Sermon on the Mount, for good and substantive reasons I would not have followed him." Throughout the book Neusner envisions himself talking with Jesus and sincerely provides cogent reasons as to why he would have found it difficult to accept what Jesus had to say. However, Neusner's objective is neither proselytism nor apprizing Christians as to why their claims about Jesus are erroneous, rather it is to delineate some of the essential issues that divide Christians and Jews. While doing this, Neusner shows the utmost respect for Christian beliefs and takes seriously the teachings of Jesus, which is an essential ingredient for religious dialogue. For that reason, reading this book not only provides the reader with a deeper understanding of Judaism but also becomes a model for how to engage in religious dialogue.

The heart of Neusner's argument is based on the Jewish belief that the Torah gives the necessary guidelines for how to live in God's kingdom and according to Neusner, "by the truth of the Torah, much that Jesus said is wrong.
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Format: Paperback
I began reading this book excitedly, despite Neusner's rather limited premise: he sets out to argue with Jesus over whether his teachings actually stem from the Torah (Jewish Bible) or represent something completely different.
Neusner admits freely that he cannot debate against faith -- a person who believes in Jesus does so not only because of his compelling words. And he admits that he does not believe in Jesus... but claims he will debate Jesus' words (as they are passed on to us in the book of Matthew) to pay him the honour of listening to his words and considering them on their merit.
Although, as a Jew, I accepted Neusner's initial premises easily enough, I found his argument began to drone on tediously. His main points boil down to one or two: the Torah teaches holiness for all of Israel; Jesus (as depicted in Matthew), on the other hand, taught eschatological (end-times) lessons concerning salvation of the individual.
Neusner basically ends up insisting again and again that despite Jesus' urging, he would not give up the day-to-day holiness of Judaism for end times that may or may not occur in his lifetime. There's a little more to what he has to say than that, but it's difficult to see through his grandiose prose and excessive verbiage.
All in all, a worthwhile read, and definitely not your usual work of "why we don't worship Jesus" Jewish apologetics. There are plenty of excellent sources for that kind of thing, and Neusner has succeeded in creating something entirely different.
Whether or not it's something of lasting value -- for Jews or for Christians -- is up in the air because of the inaccessibility and redundancy of his style. Worth reading if you feel up to a good mental challenge, though... if you can tolerate his coming back to the same (very few) points over and over again.
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