I know–I usually put my book recommendations in the “What I’m Reading” section. But this book so absolutely intrigued me that I decided to put it here.
The Jewish Gospels was another of the books that I picked up from the “new book” shelf at my local library. I started reading it but then got sidetracked for a little bit. (I also needed to find a section of time that I was going to be able to devote to reading it in big chunks in order to absorb!)
When I went back to it, I kept going “Wow!” I’ve decided that it’s one to add to my own personal library as well.
I’ve done quite a bit of reading about the Gospels…from authors who have varying points of view about how to read them, when they were written, etc., etc., etc. But this one came from a perspective I hadn’t found before. Daniel Boyarin, the author, is the Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, and has an entirely different idea about reading the Gospels.
He places them squarely in the context of Judaism, strongly suggesting that the ways both Christians and Jews have read them are incorrect…especially in the interpretation that they were written to make a distinct break between the two religious traditions.
He presented some Jewish theology I was not familiar with at all–especially the idea that the coming of the Messiah was fully imagined in the ancient Jewish texts. Jesus, moreover, was embraced by many Jews as this person, and his core teachings were not at all a break from Jewish beliefs and teachings. While I have long believed that we cannot ignore Jesus’ Jewishness, Boyarin presented significant evidence that Jesus and his teachings were not a call to separateness–that split came several hundred years later.
His book is not an attempt to “convert” either Christians or Jews to a particular set of beliefs. Instead it is an attempt to help both understand the culture and context of Jesus and his followers.
There is so much more that could be said about The Jewish Gospels…but much of it has already been said in the user reviews on Amazon.com. This is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone interested in knowing more about the time/culture/context of Jesus–and it certainly helped clarify (for me) some things that have often left me scratching my head.