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The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus Paperback – November 20, 2007
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Which helps to make Levine's point. Our biases unconsciously affect our categories. And, as Levine argues in "The Misunderstood Jew," our categories often make Jews the bad guy in order to make Jesus look good.
I have been a Christian religious education teacher for a number of years and I recently received a Masters degree in theology. But I found Levine's thesis at once fresh and engaging, if not completely convincing. Her basic idea is that Christians, usually in an effort to make Jesus more palatable to secular, pro-feminist and pro-multicultural worshippers, often do so by making his Jewish culture more rigidly pietistic, misogynistic and insular. Take the divorce issue. It is not uncommon for progressive Christian preachers to state that Jesus's prohibition against divorce was actually a pro-feminist attempt to counteract the misogyny of Jewish custom. These customs (we are told) allowed men to put women aside for trifling faults, such as bad cooking. But Levine shows that the portrayal of Jewish customs is based on a single utterance by rabbi engaged in testing the hypothetical limits of just causes for divorce. Hardly was this statement the mainstream view of Jewish scholars or rabbis. But by claiming it was, Christians can water down Christ's absolute prohibition into a pro-female statement. Levine's familiarity with the New Testament is evident.Read more ›
Amy-Jill Levine is a "woman of valour" in the world of Christian New Testament scholarship, and her book is a mitzvah for Jews and Christians. She is a modern Orthodox Jew, observant and informed as much about her own faith tradition as she is about the beginnings of the Christian movement. Levine brings to the table a wealth of knowledge about the late Second Temple period, the Jewish mileau surrounding the life of Yeshua/Jesus, and the complex beginnings of the Christian movement. Her razor sharp erudition is applied to the person of Jesus the observant and faithful Torah Jew using mishnaic and later rabbinic texts to give the reader a very comprehensive picture of the world/s in which Jesus lived and moved. Reading the Gospels from a Jewish perspective and with a critical eye to "weeding" out inaccurate (usually Christian) interpolations gives this foundation period in Christian history a wonderfully refreshing and academically satisfying perspective. I found her exegesis of John 4 a typical example of Levine's scholarship; theology - both Jewish and Christian, biblical and post-biblical, early Christian and Rabbinic literary analysis and criticism, historical contexts and implications for dialogue and teaching.Read more ›
Which brings me to her latest book, The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. It is precisely, I think, because of A-J's deep appreciation of Jesus as a specifically Jewish man, and the plainly Jewish character of the New Testament, that leads her to describe and rebut Christians' historic and ongoing habit of thinking of Jesus as some kind of "counter-Jew" who sought to radically change his own religious traditions and teachings or even overturn them. Even worse has been the use of the New Testament by Christians to justify anti-Judaism, which is a very short step from anti-Jew; neither position is simply tenable with the identity and life of Jesus.
This book is not another bewailing of how Christian Germany came to commit the Holocaust. In fact, the Shoah gets only a very brief mention in her book. A-J isn't writing to point the finger at Christians for our sins. She simply wishes to introduce the reader to the Jewish ordinariness of Jesus himself and of his place and time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Somewhat on the heavy side, not for the casual reader. But for someone who wants to really think through things and gain insight into what was more likely Jesus' mindset than most... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Hannah
It made me understand better the points in common we Christians and Jews share. Rather than stressing the differences we should take a different approach and be positive.Published 2 months ago by Jaime Gonzalez
Great book - wish I would have read it years ago when it came out. I am a Conservative Jew from the south and while knowledgeable about what my Christian friends call "Old... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bentennessee
Clearly written and much more accessible than many "scholarly works written for the general public. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Dennis E Murphy
Amy-Jill Levine is not only a knowledgeable and fascinating lecturer on the Bible, she brings a perspective that is rare - a Jewish scholar of the New Testament. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Kathryn Kiracofe