The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus

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Sep 01, Nick rated it liked it Shelves: This is a difficult book for me to rate and review. On the one hand, it was well written and thought provoking. Levine gave me much food for thought here. She makes many valid criticisms of Christian interpretation of Scripture throughout history, as well as the way that Christians have treated Jews. I was truly shocked to read about how some passages of the New Testament have been used to degrade or even persecute Jewish people.

Yes, Jesus was a Jew and the disciples were too. She points out th This is a difficult book for me to rate and review. She points out that many Christian interpretations of the Gospel have gone too far. In order to make Jesus look better, many interpreters, pastors, etc. She seems like a thorough scholar, but I have heard some interpretations for instance that Jesus was protecting women from a divorce culture that allowed men to divorce their wives willy-nilly so often that I find myself wanting to do my own fact-checking. This is never a bad thing. Goodness knows that there are plenty of spurious readings of the Bible floating around with little to no exegetical proof!

On the other hand, she falls into wanting to separate Paul's gospel from Peter and James quite often. The second chapter was the worst for this. She also claims that certain events described in the NT are improbable, such as the dispute between Paul and Peter over eating with gentiles or the guards at the tomb claiming to have fallen asleep in order to convince the Jewish population that Jesus' body had been stolen by the disciples.

Wright said in one of his lectures that there are some scholars that make Jesus so cozy with Judaism that it's inconceivable that he would have been crucified. I get this vibe from Levine a lot. While she thinks it's a cop-out for people to translate certain passages about Jews being resistant to Jesus as "the Jewish leaders" or "Judeans", she also likes to point out that many of the Jews would not have had a problem with what Jesus was doing or teaching.

She makes the case that the Temple itself wasn't the problem--maybe the High Priest and other Temple management wasn't so great from time to time--but that Jesus and his disciples even after the resurrection spent a great deal of time in the Temple She doesn't seem to offer any alternative explanations for why Jesus was crucified. Part of this could be that she wrote this book to promote Jewish-Christian dialogue and relations.

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The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus

Over-all I felt ping-ponged between one star and four star material, so I found it a bit draining. But this is an important discussion that every Christian should engage in. I would love to see some scholarly dialogue with this book. Ben Witherington III BW3 gave it an endorsement one of the main reasons I bought the book , but I can't believe that he wouldn't take Levine to task on a few things at least.

View all 5 comments. Feb 19, Dennis Fischman rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Christians and Jews who want to stop bearing false witness about one another. She is well positioned to speak to people in both religious camps.

I was not surprised to hear that Jesus and his followers were Jews all their lives, nor that a lot of the anti-Jewish thinking and writing crept into Christianity at the point where it attempted to win over gentile followers throughout the Roman empire. I was also familiar with the idea that the Gospels are historical documents, and read critically, they can tell Jews something about life in Roman-occupied Judea in the first century CE although I think all of these ideas are not broadly understood. The main points she made that were somewhat new to me and that stuck with me are these: Most Christians including theologians and preachers have formed erroneous pictures of what Jewish life was like back then by taking the Gospels out of context--and many think Judaism froze in place at the time of Jesus, and we still sacrifice animals, etc.

To teach progressive and even liberating interpretations of Jesus' message, these Christian writers and preachers have set up a straw man--a Judaism that is monolithic and repressive--and assumed that Jesus was reacting AGAINST it, when many of his ideas were either standard Jewish ideas or developed from them. Jews have also read the Gospels naively, not realizing what interpretations Christian thinkers have developed from them for good and ill. Jews have too often treated Christians as a bloc, as if Catholic and Orthodox, Presbyterian and Southern Baptist teachings were all the same thing.

We should not ask any religious or cultural group to be happy to disappear, or to give up the beliefs at its core. We should expect people to be critical of their own traditions, seeking historical truth AND figuring out how to live together. We should cultivate "holy envy" for what is beautiful and meaningful in traditions other than our own. This is a short book, easy to read, but I have not succeeded in summarizing it. You should read it--and then write back to me about what you learned!

Sep 20, Lee Harmon rated it it was amazing. What started out as a light-hearted look at the Jewish Jesus quickly turned somber. This is a serious look at the pain that anti-Semitic interpretations of the Bible have caused and continue to cause. Levine, a Jew, has an excellent grasp of New Testament studies, so this is more than a rant against Christian prejudice. It's a serious look at the real Jesus, his Jewishness, and Christianity's emergence within first-century Judaism.

A provocative quote from the book: I also have to admit to a bit of pride in thinking about him--he's one of ours. She does so from both a Jewish and a scholarly perspective. Levine made me think differently about first-century Judaism and how Jesus fit within that context. Because I've never keenly felt the sting of anti-Semitism, or felt myself anti-Semitic in any way, much of the book was an eye opener. I felt myself often teetering on the edge between thinking Levine oversensitive and thinking her insightful.

Paul writes in Galatians 3: On the other hand, your shrink will tell you that feelings are the ultimate truth; Christians must validate the feelings that their teachings evoke among Jews, and seek to correct the source. Levine's final chapter provides several helpful suggestions to facilitate interfaith understanding.

Jan 15, David rated it really liked it Shelves: Reading the Bible as a lifelong Christian means it is easy to accept certain things about the story rather uncritically. While we recognize that Jesus was Jewish, we tend to contrast Jesus with most other Jews of his day. What we do not realize is that there was a lot of development of what it meant to be Jewish in both of those periods.

Amy Jill-Levine has done Christians everywher Reading the Bible as a lifelong Christian means it is easy to accept certain things about the story rather uncritically. The Church and the Scandal of Jesus. She writes with humor and wit, especially early on. Yet as you move through the book much of this is left behind and the tone becomes somber as she attacks the anti-Semitism she sees in the Church throughout history and today. The biggest benefit of this book is that Jesus is placed deeply within his cultural context, a context much richer than we often make it.

Levine takes familiar texts and asks questions that Christians do not ask. She helps us see where our assumptions about first-century Judaism have led to a misreading of texts. Further, this book is not just for Christians. By seeing Jesus as a Jew, Levine argues he can be appreciated as a Jew. To put it another way, if he fit in so well to his culture, why on earth was he crucified?

For Levine, the answer is that Jesus could garner opposition to some of his claims without every single thing he did being totally new and radical. Jesus can be unique, to Christians, even if some of what he did was not totally unprecedented but instead fit nicely with segments of Jewish thought in the first century. I highly recommend this book for pastors and I hope I keep in mind some of its lessons when I talk about Jesus. Jan 30, Bruno rated it really liked it.

Levine takes few prisoners in this witty, acerbic,and pointed defense of the Jewishness of Jesus of Nazareth. In my opinion, her eloquent yet vicious take on the WCC was worth the price of the book. As a facilitator in a Protestant Bible study group, I constantly badger our folks to remember that we Christians stole this Jew - He did not come to earth to form a new religion but to justify and fulfill Judaism.

The church fathers of the first and second century drove home the wedges Outstanding. The church fathers of the first and second century drove home the wedges that separate these two religions to this day - I only wish that it did not have to be that way. And stop already with the "Jews are Christ killers"! The victors get to control the history and Rome was in charge at that time.


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Had the Gospel writers blamed the Romans - the Gospels would not have survived. Jews, on the other hand, were fair game. Jesus was a political threat to Rome's power in Judea - He died a death of a political prisoner. The book has several liabilities: In reading several reviews from other GoodReads members, I agree with The book has several liabilities: In reading several reviews from other GoodReads members, I agree with the suggestion that this book fizzles out and loses its way.

All that in mind, Levine's insights in the early chapters of the book are powerful and persuasive. This work has forced me to question the things I have been taught about the New Testament and Jesus, by proxy and had begun me on a journey to learn more about the Church's early leaders.

Honestly, I gave up before I finished. I thought it was interesting at first, but then felt like it was more of an article stretched out into a book. Nov 19, John Martindale rated it liked it Shelves: It was interesting hearing a Jewish perspective on Jesus, Levine argued that in order to prop up Christianity and to make Jesus look more progressive and inclusive, many have contrasted Christianity with the ever "regressive" and "exclusive" Judaism, and have though often quite unintentionally thus denigrated the Jews in the process and have embraced, what seems to some Jews, very antisemitic interpretations.

Levine thinks much of the contrast between "enlightened" Christianity and "oppressive It was interesting hearing a Jewish perspective on Jesus, Levine argued that in order to prop up Christianity and to make Jesus look more progressive and inclusive, many have contrasted Christianity with the ever "regressive" and "exclusive" Judaism, and have though often quite unintentionally thus denigrated the Jews in the process and have embraced, what seems to some Jews, very antisemitic interpretations.

Levine thinks much of the contrast between "enlightened" Christianity and "oppressive" Judaism are based upon poor scholarship. She brought to my attention how I should be cautious, checking sources and being careful to not over-generalize, and not to look for contrast that are not actually there. Indeed, there were many different view points at the time of Jesus, and finding some sexist Rabbi expressed his an extremely low view of woman, or that a man could divorce his wife for burning the toast, or that woman's testimony was worthless, doesn't mean the Jews were or are as a whole so oppressive towards woman.

Just because there were some who looked for a violent and revolutionary Messiah doesn't mean all were looking for this. Now I do think a very Jewish Jesus engaged in "critique from within", and this was in keeping with the tradition of the prophets, and it isn't necessarily antisemitic to recognize this, I guess this is what I don't think Levine addressed to my satisfaction.

Suppose, I like the prophets insistence upon the centrality of concerning for the poor, and the emphasis on righteousness, justice, compassion and mercy over sacrifice, religious rites, etc I'd almost feel Levine would consider any attempt to prop up the Prophets message, by contrasting it with some of the religious and political leaders of the time, which they railed against, would be to denigrate the people.

I don't think Levine showed a way to even consider and take serious "critic from within" without it coming off as antisemitic. It was sad to realize that there really does appear to be some anti-Jewish sentiment in the Gospel of John and a handful of Paul's letters. I always just assumed "Well, they were Jews so they couldn't be antisemitic", But Levine made it look otherwise, indeed it is conceivable for Jewish Christians, reacting to persecution and difference in belief to begin to despise the Jews and place the blame wholly on them for the death of Jesus.

Jesus was a Jew. This is the main theme of Amy-Jill Levine's book. This is important to remember when we are surrounded by pictures and religious icons suggesting he is white, fair-haired, and blue-eyed. The back of the book suggests that Levine "helps Christians and Jews understand the 'Jewishness' of Jesus so that their appreciation of him deepens and a greater interfaith dialogue can take place.

But to be honest, I never realized that was up for debate. Sure, we were taught that a lot of the leadership was corrupt and had their hand in the killing of Jesus, but then they turned Him over to the Romans. But, Jesus was a Jew - so were His followers. Just like there are good and bad of any culture or nation, there were good Jews and bad Jews. Maybe this is something I've been blind to. And of course, now that I've had more experience, I've seen that there is anti-Jewish sentiment in Christianity. But I can't see that it's as widespread as Levine suggests. Of course, just because I'm not familiar with something doesn't mean I shouldn't learn about it, understand it, and discover it's existence.

If I'd never read The New Jim Crow, I'd never have learned how much young black men are still being oppressed in our society.

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It is up to us to learn and ensure that we do not keep making the same mistakes. Jill-Levine takes us through the culture, the language and words of the New Testament, the early church, and history; identifying and discussing those things that are anti-Semitic. Is the New Testament anti-Jewish? With this, she does a wonderful job.

I don't want to take away from Amy-Jill Levine's experience, but the statement "depicting a Jesus who stands out as unique in his Jewish context… is done by painting that Jewish context in noxious colors," is something I don't think I have much experience with.

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Though there is value in this book with the idea that the "social-justice interests [of Jesus] make him a Jew rather than distinguishing him from Judaism. There were likely very devout Jews who followed the scriptures that wouldn't have seen the message of Jesus as quite as radical as we might think.

Interestingly, Levine also turns upside down the in her words "bigoted" idea that "Jesus was a feminist who liberated women from misogynistic Judaism," suggesting that 1 the ideas of Jesus weren't much different from mainstream Judaism and that 2 Jesus wasn't being necessarily progressive with the Samaritan women and his teachings on divorce. But I can't see where she suggests what the real point was of the teachings of Jesus on divorce. She first says discusses the "harshness of the ruling", which seems to indicate that Jesus was simply saying "do not divorce"; but follows it with "All this is not to say that Jesus required husbands and wives to remain together.

This is an important discussion of some very basic issues. The God of Israel and of the church is One and the same; we need not fear dialogue under the wings of a loving, merciful God, portrayed both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. If I may be so personal, when I was Dean of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, I arranged on a regular basis to have a Jewish rabbi teach a course on Judaism and Jewish views of Christianity—with no strings attached.

Many students took this course and learned a great deal from it we also had this rabbi preach in chapel—a little uncomfortable, but wonderful. It is a brilliant and thoughtful list of detailed ideas. One item that raised a question for me was the section on addressing the reason Jesus died Jews and Christians should be ready always to forgive each other for unintended hurts and serious misunderstandings. How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Who has known the mind of the Lord? And, note, Paul cites here Isa It is a very important book for Christians to read. Would that all partners to theological dialogue were as careful and kind as Levine. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. CFT publishes original content. Our writer's guidelines are here. Unauthorized duplication or reproduction of the material on this website, without express written permission, is prohibited.

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