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The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other [Kindle Edition]

Peter Schäfer
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In late antiquity, as Christianity emerged from Judaism, it was not only the new religion that was being influenced by the old. The rise and revolutionary challenge of Christianity also had a profound influence on rabbinic Judaism, which was itself just emerging and, like Christianity, trying to shape its own identity. In The Jewish Jesus, Peter Schäfer reveals the crucial ways in which various Jewish heresies, including Christianity, affected the development of rabbinic Judaism. He even shows that some of the ideas that the rabbis appropriated from Christianity were actually reappropriated Jewish ideas. The result is a demonstration of the deep mutual influence between the sister religions, one that calls into question hard and fast distinctions between orthodoxy and heresy, and even Judaism and Christianity, during the first centuries CE.

Editorial Reviews


Peter Schfer, Winner of the 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

"This volume combines several provocative theses. Schäfer suggests that arguments in the Talmud against ostensibly heretical teachings are aimed not only at opponents of the rabbis but also at circles among the ancient rabbis themselves that found such teachings attractive. . . . The author is a highly respected scholar of ancient Judaism, and the present book continues lines of thought that appeared in his earlier writings, including Jesus in the Talmud. This volume's presentation is erudite yet accessible. The arguments against scholars with other views are especially robust and forthright."--Choice

"Schäfer's book is very illuminating and fascinating. The author examines a rich collection of rabbinic texts, which shed light and better understanding on many concepts included in the Old and New Testaments. His emphasis on the geographical distinction between Palestine and Babylonia, in the evaluation of the rabbinic sources is worthy of attention. . . . [T]he book is an excellent presentation of the mutual interaction between the sister religions and deserves an important place amongst the studies about early Judaism and Christianity."--Miroslaw S. Wróbel, Biblical Annals

From the Inside Flap

"Watching Peter Schfer explicate Jewish and Christian texts is like watching a great restorer work on a fresco damaged by time, wind, and water. Blurred outlines come into focus, dull colors become brilliant, and suddenly a forgotten story of exchange between the two religions comes back to dramatic life. This is great scholarship, applied to a subject so complex and difficult that nothing less could do it justice."--Anthony T. Grafton, Princeton University

"The Jewish Jesus is the natural sequel to Peter Schfer's widely acclaimed Jesus in the Talmud. Against overly simplistic conceptions of Christian influences on Judaism, Schfer posits a dynamic dialogue between two not yet clearly demarcated communities. Christianity grew out of Judaism, but Judaism also developed and changed in constant exchange with and differentiation from Christianity. Schfer's fascinating and highly readable book offers an important change of perspective from traditional religious histories and deserves many readers."--Günter Stemberger, author of Jews and Christians in the Holy Land: Palestine in the Fourth Century

"Schfer's thought-provoking book challenges readers to reimagine the relationship of early Judaism and Christianity and the theological matrices in which they developed. Must reading for students and scholars alike."--Burton L. Visotzky, Jewish Theological Seminary

"This excellent and important book will be seized on eagerly and read with attention. Peter Schfer makes his argument with great clarity and a formidable command of the sources, building his case from close readings of the texts. The scholarship is impeccable."--Philip Alexander, professor emeritus, University of Manchester

Product Details

  • File Size: 913 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0691153906
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (February 26, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007AIXL1U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,627 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging reinterpretation May 30, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The title of this book would suggest that it is yet another monograph affirming the truism that Jesus was a Jew, standing alongside other books of this genre by John Dominic Crossan, E. P. Saunders, and especially Geza Vermes.

There is no need to turn to these books to acknowledge the following points, easily derivable from the four canonical Christian Gospels. From his birth Jesus was raised a Jew. He was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2.21) and bore a common Jewish name, Yeshua, "he [God] saves" (Matthew 1.21). In fact, scholars have determined that Yeshua was the fifth most common male Jewish name of the time. Joseph was the second most common male name and Mary the most common among women. The child Jesus was presented to the Lord in the Jerusalem temple (Luke 2.22; cf. Deuteronomy 18.4; Exodus 13.2,12,15), A sacrifice was offered for him, a pair of doves and 2 young pigeons, indicating that his family were not wealthy (Leviticus 12.2,6,8; Luke 2.22-24). Thus Jesus was raised according to the law (Luke 2.39).

These points being granted, it should be noted that Jesus belonged to pre-Rabbinical Judaism, differing in many ways from the faith of the two Talmuds (where he is sometimes denounced, as Schäfer showed in another monograph). One must be wary of anachronism.

Evidently, "The Jewish Jesus" essentially replicates the author's German original text, which I have not seen. In translation the title of that book is "The Birth of Judaism from the Spirit of Christianity." At all events, in this book Schäfer prefers a more interactive model in which a number of ideas circulated freely among both parties.

The conventional view of the contrast between Judaism and Christianity is that one is strictly monotheistic, the other tritheistic.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Significant mutuality December 20, 2013
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This is a rare book that crosses an expert knowledge of the Rabbinic literature, especially the difficult to trace midrashim, with a knowledge of early Christianity. It is unique in so far as it works in the opposite direction to most scholarly analyses of the relationship between late Judaism and early Christianity. We normally trace the impact that Jewish traditions have had upon emerging Christianity. This books devotes careful attention to the possible influence emerging Christianity - especially the concept of a triune God - had upon Rabbinic Judaism.

Schaefer shows that it was something of a two-way street.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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This is a very difficult book to read if you do not have experience with the Talmud and other Jewish writings apart from the Old Testament. After having already shown in an earlier book that the Babylonian Talmud quite explicitly attacked Jesus and the belief in him (despite the hidden nature of these comments) Peter Schafer here demonstrates that the rabbis continued to attack the basic ideas of Christianity about the multiplicity of God. But curiously most of these Christian ideas which the rabbis fomented against were originally Jewish ideas in an earlier period. Thus the rabbis were trying to censor their own tradition lest it give support to Jews and even rabbis who responded positively to Jesus and to Christianity.

Conclusions are hard to come by, but here are my conclusions:
1. Christianity is almost entirely Jewish with little important input from Graeco-Roman culture. This is generally now accepted by most biblical scholars.
2. The Talmud (especially the Babylonian one) was designed, among other purposes, to keep Jews away from Christian beliefs even though many of those beliefs if not all were perfectly Jewish to begin with.
3. The rabbis created a new Judaism (not that of the Old Testament) which Jews today don't realize is essentially a form of censorship of their own religious history. The Talmudic rabbis, in my view, are scoundrels and criminals and should not be respected. To say this is not anti-semitic but truth. Granted the church authorities have burned copies of the Talmud and persecuted Jews for anti-Christian dogma. But while we should regret the persecution, the burning of the Talmud sounds like a pretty good an idea to me! The rabbis are nasty censors, much worse arguably than anything Christian theologians have produced.
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4 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is an academic study. October 29, 2013
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This is not a work for the casual reader. The style reflects an academic work of interest to the serious student.
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1 of 38 people found the following review helpful
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The obvious conclusion from his work is that Jews knew we Christians were right about their own scripture and tried to construct a counterfeit religious movement that they could control. But not where we could see them! Like in Jerusalem! Only over in Babylon where we're couldn't say anything about it or respond to it.

So we're not looking at unstable boundaries between two movements in one religion that hasn't split off into Christianity and Judaism yet; which is the actual thesis of this book. This is all one way: rabbis scurrying about trying to repair the mortal damage Jesus and his followers inflicted on their faith. It's actually pretty pathetic if you think about it, and there's NOTHING like this going on on the Christian end.

I'm glad I'm on the winning team.
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