- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: The New Press; 1St Edition edition (April 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1595584684
- ISBN-13: 978-1595584687
- Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 110 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Jewish Gospels Hardcover – April 1, 2012
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"Boyarin proposes that by constructing the categories of religious orthodoxy and heresy,second-century Gentile Christians created the concept of religion which pervades the Western world to this day . . . intensely provocative and innovative."
"A brilliant and momentous book."
—Karen L. King, Harvard Divinity School
"Raises profound questions . . . this provocative book will change the way we think of the Gospels in their Jewish context."
—John J. Collins, Yale Divinity School
"It’s certainly noteworthy when one of the world’s leading Jewish scholars publishes a book about Jesus . . . extremely stimulating."
—Daniel C. Peterson, The Deseret News
"[A] fascinating recasting of the story of Jesus."
—Elliot Wolfson, New York University
About the Author
Top customer reviews
At the same time, the only mention of the suffering "Messiah ben Joseph" is relegated to an end note. Other scholars have linked that particular Messianic character to Jesus. I believe that it would have further strengthened Dr. Boyarin's hypothesis had he discussed it.
A glossary would have been very helpful addition to the book, as it contains a number of words and concepts that the target audience is not likely to understand. Dr. Boyarin makes some sweeping assumptions about what Christians believe regarding the Trinity and Incarnation. That's what you expect when a scholar of one faith tradition writes for an audience of a different one.
Readers interested in the Biblical version of Jesus will likely find new and interesting material in this book. Still, I felt somewhat disappointed with it.
Over the past few decades it has become increasing clear that to understand more fully the New Testament writings we need to have a greater, more in-depth understanding of the conceptual and cultural world in which these texts were written...and this is primarily the world of Judaism.
Understanding the Jewish conceptual and cultural world in which Jesus, the disciples and writers of the New Testament lived and moved in has open up the richness of Scripture and given it greater clarity in innumerable ways.
One area that has now been greatly enriched by understanding the Jewish Background involves the Deity of Jesus.
Boyarin's work deftly demonstrates through the use of various streams of Jewish thought and literary works that the idea of a Divine Messiah was not foreign to Jewish thought and belief....and was even expected. He lays out the various beliefs about the Messiah down through the centuries before and during the time of Jesus using texts such as Daniel 7:13-14, the Similitudes of Enoch, First Ezra as well as insights from the Talmud and other rabbinic literature that may reflect earlier Jewish thought on this subject.
Boyarin view is that the seeds of the concept of a divine Messiah were present in Judaism before and during the time of Jesus. This is important for three reasons :
1. It explains how the first century disciples and followers of Jesus could believe that Jesus is God/deity. Boyarin's work demonstrates pretty well that such a belief and concept was NOT outside the scope of Jewish belief within the First century
2. It helps present day believer in Jesus, who also study the Jewish roots of the faith to see that there is no contradiction between Jewish Monotheism and belief in the deity of Jesus. This has become an increasing problem and a source of cognitive dissonance for some within the "Jewish Roots" movement and Messianic Judaism. "Would first century, observant Jews who hold that there is but one God also hold to a belief that the Man Jesus is also God? How does this fit with Jewish/rabbinic belief in monotheism?"
This has led some to deny the deity of Jesus while holding to his Messiah-ship as they are seeking to be faithful to their understanding of Judaism of the First Century and of the Bible. Hopefully Boyarin's book will help many to see that if they take into account that there are different and various views concerning the Messiah within early Jewish thought itself (and not just within the Talmud) then they will see that Jesus as a "divine messiah" is not a contradiction at all but rather is in harmony with different streams of Jewish thought in the First century Jewish World.
3. It locates Jesus divinity in his Identification of Himself as The Son of Man from Daniel 7:13-14; This helps us to see that Jesus view of Himself was NOT shaped by later Christians borrowing these ideas from the Roman concept of Cesar as the divine son of god (or borrowing the concept from other pagan sources concerning a god-man)
This work is also important because it helps to clarify Paul's presentation of Jesus in his epistle's as a cosmic, transcendent Being. Boyarin's work does not directly or specifically focus on Paul or his portrayal of Jesus but it does help to give an understanding as to how Paul may have come to his view of Jesus. Paul's view of Jesus is the Jewish View of the Divine Messiah/Son of Man.
What I would like to have seen in the book is more development of some of Boyarin's ideas in detail. But what is written is enough to motivate myself and others to do further research on this fascinating subject by seeking out at my local theological library the numerous scholarly articles and books listed in his footnotes.
Another great aspect of the book is chapter three "Jesus kept kosher" . Here Boyarin demonstrates that Jesus, far from doing away with the laws of Kashrut was actually Kosher himself and was giving his halakha on a question concerning the rules of clean and unclean. I had read David Biven's synopsis of Yair Furstenberg's article (Defilement Penetrating the Body: A New Understanding of Contamination in Mark 7:15 in New Testament Studies #54, 2008) in a Jerusalem Perspective online article a few years ago and then later read the full article by Furstenberg himself. Boyarin does a great job of simplifying and clarifying what was really going on in Mark 7:1-15. I especially liked the distinction he makes between the categories of clean and unclean and permitted and prohibited -with Mark 7 being about clean and unclean and Kashrut being about what foods are permitted and not permitted (or prohibited for food) -an important distinction that has been missed by many Christian commentaries on Mark 7:1-15 , leading to a misinterpretation of the meaning of the entire passage.
Boyarin s not a Christian nor a Messianic believer in Jesus. The book is thus not an attempt to try and win Jews over to a belief in Jesus and his divinity. Boyarin stated goals early in the book (pages 6-7) are to change the vilifying dialogue between Jews and Christians that has gone on for centuires and to foster a better understanding of each other; and also to offer a challenge (and I would say critique) of liberal Christian scholars who see the idea of a divine, suffering Messiah as having been invented by the later Christians leaders who foisted these ideas upon the church. Boyarin again shows throughout the book that these ideas pre-date the time of Jesus and are found within Judaism itself.
The book is an easy read and one that I feel further advances the understanding of the Jewish Roots of Christianity. I thought the book important enough that I bought a copy for a friend of mine and plan to re-read it myself. This is a book I highly recommend.