Synopses & Reviews
Mixing rigorous scholarship with helpings of both wit and pastoral care, Amy-Jill Levine reveals Jesus as The Misunderstood Jew
. Levine shows how Christians often misunderstand Judaism in general, misunderstand the New Testament in particular, and thus yank Jesus out of his Jewish context—resulting in intolerance (and sometimes outright hatred) of Jews. She doesn't let Jews off the hook either, cutting through willful ignorance of Jesus and his message. A Jewish scholar who teaches in a primarily Protestant divinity school in Nashville, Tennessee—the buckle of the Bible Belt—Levine offers a unique, deeper understanding of who Jesus was and what he taught.
There's no getting around the fact that Christianity started as a Jewish movement before spreading to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean. Levine helps readers understand the culture in which Jesus grew up and that he celebrated—the diet and dress of first-century Palestine, Jewish holidays and customs, the numerous public roles of Jewish women, and the rituals of the Temple. All those head-scratching sayings and acts of Jesus's that have befuddled Bible readers for generations suddenly make sense in light of his Jewish heritage.
Levine also takes an unflinching look at modern anti-Jewish readings of the New Testament, including the stereotyping of Judaism as legalistic, purity-obsessed, Temple-dominated, xenophobic, violent, greedy, and misogynist. She shows how Christian theologians often make Judaism look backward and antiquated so that Christianity can, in contrast, look progressive and superior.
Levine's candor will prompt much-needed conversation and debate about how Christians and Jews should understand Jesus, the Gospels, and the New Testament.
"It is a simple truth that Jews and Christians should be close friends, since they share common roots and a basic ethical system. But the gulf between the groups seems vast. Levine, professor of New Testament studies at Vanderbilt, presents a strong and convincing case for understanding Jesus as 'a Jew speaking to Jews,' and for viewing Christianity as a Jewish movement that ultimately swept the world in its influence and authority. But with this expansion came an insidious anti-Jewish sentiment, fed by some New Testament texts (wrongly understood, the author urges) and the emerging political power of the Christian church. Levine does a masterful job of describing the subtleties of anti-Semitism, across the years and across the religious spectrum, from the conservative evangelical mission to convert the Jews to the liberation theologians who picture Jews as adherents to an older, less merciful religion. In the end, Levine offers a prescription for healing and mutual understanding; a chapter titled 'Quo Vadis?' outlines steps that can be taken by Jews and Christians alike to bridge the divide that has caused so much suffering over the centuries. Written for the general public, this is an outstanding addition to the literature of interfaith dialogue." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Shows how frequently and disastrously inaccurate beliefs about Jesus and early Judaism produce distorted relationships in the present. New York Times
Written for the general reading public, this is an outstanding addition to the literature of interfaith dialogue. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Passionate, witty, and compelling . . . Levines depth of knowledge and understanding are evident on every page. . . . There is much food for thought in this wonderful book.” Biblical Interpretation
Country Western singer Kinky Friedman often performs a song entitled "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore," and New Testament professor Amy–Jill Levine would agree. In fact, her career is dedicated to helping Christians and Jews understand the Jewishness of Jesus, thereby deepening the understanding of him, and facilitating greater interfaith dialogue. In this book, she shows how liberal Christians misunderstand Judaism, misunderstand the New Testament, and thus yank Jesus out of his Jewish context and wind up promoting hatred of Jews. Only with the deeper understanding this top Jewish, Southern–born New Testament scholar provides can we hope to respect each other's beliefs, as well as enrich our own.
Through a extremely busy teaching and speaking schedule, Levine has honed her message at synagogues, Catholic conferences, Jewish Community Centers, denominational meetings, in the classroom and in her highly successful Teaching Company audios and videos. Levine is brilliant, charming, funny and forceful, and uses these traits to give a completely fresh perspective on Jesus and the New Testament. In addition to offering new insights with great skill, she has the remarkable ability to be tough, pointing out how even liberal Christians can be unwittingly anti–Semitic in their understanding of what Jesus stood for.Her truth–telling here will provoke honest dialogue on how Christians and Jews should understand Jesus and our New Testament heritage.
About the Author
Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University and affiliate faculty at the Centre for the Study of Jewish Christian Relations in Cambridge, UK. Awarded grants from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Council of Learned Societies, Levine, an internationally sought lecturer, has authored and edited numerous books, including the highly acclaimed The Misunderstood Jew. She has also recorded “Introduction to the Old Testament” for the Teaching Company.