Item description for Jesus and the Judaism of His Time by Irving M. Zeitlin...
Overview The main aim of this work is to understand Jesus as he saw himself, and to compare that self-understanding with the ways in which others have grasped the nature of his mission. (Theology)
Publishers Description Following his study of Ancient Judaism, the author turns his attention to the emergence of Christianity. The main aim of this work is to understand Jesus as he saw himself, and to compare that self-understanding with the ways in which others have grasped the nature of his mission. To achieve this aim, the key problems, questions and issues in dispute among scholars are re-examined, and resolved by means of a sociological method - that is, by carefully situating Jesus' biography in its social and historical context.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.02" Width: 6.01" Height: 0.76" Weight: 0.84 lbs.
Release Date Jan 8, 1991
ISBN 0745607845 ISBN13 9780745607849
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More About Irving M. Zeitlin
Irving M. Zeitlin is Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and a leading authority on the sociology of religion. His many books include The Historical Muhammad, Jesus and the Judaism of His Time and Ancient Judaism.
Irving M. Zeitlin has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Toronto.
Reviews - What do customers think about Jesus and the Judaism of His Time?
Signs of the times... Jun 6, 2003
Irving Zeitlin followed up his acclaimed survey of `Ancient Judaism' with a study of one of the pivotal points in Jewish political, sociological, and theological history: the time of the Roman occupation, which is also the time of Jesus.
In his book, `Jesus and the Judaism of His Time', Zeitlin examines the different varieties of Judaism present in Palestine during the period of the early Caesars, to look for unifying principles (that which all Jewish people would agree makes one a member of the people) as well as the established variants: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Sicarii. He also looks at a movement of thought and feeling that was crossing these more established lines, namely, the messianic idea.
Drawing primarily on the three sources contemporary with the time, namely, the writings of Josephus, the Misnah*, and the Christian New Testament*, and borrowing occasionally from other sources such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Zeitlin constructs a picture of Judaism that works toward a comprehensive overview of the source of both modern Judaism and Christianity. Zeitlin pulls in examples of Judaic influence outside (such as on the works of Aristobulus and Philo) to show the influence that Judaism was already having in the Greek- and Roman-dominated world.
(*While the Misnah and the New Testament were largely composed after this period, the subject material and stories date to this period, and were carried by people comfortable with oral traditions of transmission.)
Across the varieties of Jewish expression, Zeitlin argues, there was always a grassroots support for each of the varieties because they adhered to certain principles of respect for the Torah in the face of much more politically-powerful and worldly-seductive influences. As Josephus wrote:
`The greatest miracle of all is that our Law holds out no seductive bait of sensual pleasure, but has exercised this influence through its own inherent merits; and, as God permeates the universe, so the Law has found its way among all mankind.'
There was, however, varying shifts in outlook, not the least of which was the definition of salvation, redemption, and God's ultimate will (a situation that occurs in the development of many religious frameworks). Is salvation corporate or individual? Is God working to save the people of Israel, or each individual among the people of Israel, or both? Messianic feeling wavered between these two sentiments, and can often be seen in interchanges that occur between Jesus and others, particularly Zealots.
Of course, the idea of messianism gave rise to false prophets (and, most likely, some of them truly believed themselves to be acting according to the will of God), who often lead their followers to disaster. In some terms, even the Jesus movement apparently ended in disaster. It was due to the continuing rise of messianic figures that the Romans were sensitive to political uprising and difficulty in a province so strategically located to the Parthians and the Egyptians.
Zeitlin then turns to the person of Jesus and characteristic of Jesus in this context. He identifies Jesus in this milieu as a charismatic leader. This he defines carefully:
`Charisma, meaning literally "gift of grace", is a form of authority based upon the extraordinary personal qualities of an individual who, thanks to those qualities, is able to call forth an absolutely personal devotion to his leadership.'
He sees Jesus as a pious Jew of the time, and if he seemed at odds with a particular Jewish practice or belief, he could rest assured that given the diversity of interpretation in Judaism at the time that he was not out of place in ascribing his own practice and interpretation. Indeed, Jesus was closer to the Pharisees (whom later Christians have come to recognise often almost as an enemy force against Jesus) with concern for holiness and observance of Torah, but Zeitlin also highlights again the cross-variety influences at play. Jesus and his followers were important enough to come to the attention of observers such as Josephus, who records that the execution of James (the Jerusalem leader of the Jesus movement after Jesus) by a Sadducean high-priest was of sufficient odiousness to cause the ouster of that high-priest. That James should incur the wrath of the Sadducees (and not the Pharisees) shows that there was much more happening at the time that might appear in the New Testament.
Zeitlin continues his analysis to look at the elements of the life and teaching of Jesus that were original and creative in this context. He looks at the conflicting images of Jesus as revolutionary, and the political and social context behind his arrest, trial, and execution. He examines the early formation of a Christian community and the influence of Paul on this new movement.
In all, this is a fascinating study. The early chapters on the varieties of religious expression in Judaism are perhaps the best part of the book. Zeitlin offers his own interpretations (as well as discussing those of others) of how early Christianity grew out of this framework. While not the definitive work on this topic by any means, it is a worthy contribution to dialogue.