Item description for A Rabbi Talks With Jesus by Jacob Neusner & Donald Harman Akenson...
Imagine yourself transported two thousand years back in time to Galilee at the moment of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. After hearing it, would you abandon your religious beliefs and ideology to follow him, or would you hold on to your own beliefs and walk away? In A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, Jacob Neusner considers just such a spiritual journey. Placing himself within the context of the Gospel of Matthew, Neusner imagines himself in a dialogue with Jesus of Nazareth and pays him the supreme Judaic gesture of respect: making a connection with him through an honest debate about the nature of God's One Truth. Neusner explains why the Sermon on the Mount would not have convinced him to follow Jesus and why, by the criterion of the Torah of Moses, he would have continued to follow the teachings of Moses. He explores the reasons Christians believe in Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven, while Jews continue to believe in the Torah of Moses and a kingdom of priests and holy people on earth. a thoughtful and accessible context for discussion of the most fundamental question of why Christians and Jews believe what they believe.
Citations And Professional Reviews A Rabbi Talks With Jesus by Jacob Neusner & Donald Harman Akenson has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Univ PR Books for Public Libry - 01/01/2001 page 8
Reference and Research Bk News - 08/01/2000 page 13
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Studio: McGill-Queen's University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.25" Width: 5.57" Height: 0.51" Weight: 0.45 lbs.
Release Date Feb 16, 2000
Publisher McGill-Queen's University Press
ISBN 0773520465 ISBN13 9780773520462
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More About Jacob Neusner & Donald Harman Akenson
Jacob Neusner is Research Professor of Religion and Theology and Senior Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Theology at Bard College. He has published more than nine hundred books and innumerable articles, and he is editor of "The Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period" and the three-volume "Encyclopaedia of Judaism." In addition to his Rabbinic Midrash, he has translated the Mishnah, Tosefta, and both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud into English.
Jacob Neusner currently resides in Annandale-On-Hudson. Jacob Neusner was born in 1932 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Bard College Bard College, New York, USA Bard College, New York, USA B.
Jacob Neusner has published or released items in the following series...
Christianity and Judaism, the Formative Categories
Reviews - What do customers think about A Rabbi Talks With Jesus?
A book highly praised by Pope Benedict XVI in his own book "Jesus of Nazareth". Jan 12, 2008
I heard of this book reading the book "Jesus of Nazareth" by the Pope Benedict XVI. He quotes it with a lot of praise, in more than 20 pages of his own book. And there is no doubt that the actual Pope is a very knowledgeable person on all of these topics. It is an outstanding book for ecumenical dialog: intelligent, respectful and attractive. Of course, depending on your Faith, you will agree with the Author or not, but if you read the book, you will learn a lot.
A Rabbi Talks with Jesus Dec 14, 2007
Jacob Neusner's exceptional book, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, gets at the heart of why Jews struggle to accept the entirety of Jesus' teachings. While avoiding new age relativist methodologies in dialogue, Neusner capitalizes on the reality that differences in belief do exist between Christians and Jews, and only by understanding these differences, can one truly engage in dialogue. Making it, as Pope Benedict the 16th compelling stated, "...the most important book in Jewish-Christian dialogue in the last decade."
In the opening lines, Neusner candidly explains that if he would have been a Jew in first century Palestine, he would not have joined the circle of Jesus' disciples. Even more, he writes that, "If I heard what ... [Jesus] said in the Sermon on the Mount, for good and substantive reasons I would not have followed him." Throughout the book Neusner envisions himself talking with Jesus and sincerely provides cogent reasons as to why he would have found it difficult to accept what Jesus had to say. However, Neusner's objective is neither proselytism nor apprizing Christians as to why their claims about Jesus are erroneous, rather it is to delineate some of the essential issues that divide Christians and Jews. While doing this, Neusner shows the utmost respect for Christian beliefs and takes seriously the teachings of Jesus, which is an essential ingredient for religious dialogue. For that reason, reading this book not only provides the reader with a deeper understanding of Judaism but also becomes a model for how to engage in religious dialogue.
The heart of Neusner's argument is based on the Jewish belief that the Torah gives the necessary guidelines for how to live in God's kingdom and according to Neusner, "by the truth of the Torah, much that Jesus said is wrong." Neusner proves this by envisioning himself responding to Jesus' teachings in the context of a Jew who saw Israel's religion as genuine and faithful, in comparison to a religion that needed reform and renewal. Yet at the same time, Neusner takes to heart what Jesus preached and finds some things very appealing, but he significantly struggles with the nuances of Jesus' teachings, because he believes that if examined closely, it is incongruent with the Torah.
Thus, Neusner begins vicariously placing himself amongst an intrigued crowd who are listening attentively to Jesus preaching what will become known as the Sermon on the Mount. Neuser is at first impressed with Jesus' moving proclamation of the beatitudes' and finds it compatible with the Torah; nonetheless, Neusner's positive reaction suddenly changes as Jesus continues with his sermon: "You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil" (MT 5:38-39). Jesus' shocking words leave Neusner bewildered as he struggles to find parallels between resisting one who is evil and "an eye for an eye," but even more, to find parallels between what Jesus said and what the Torah teaches.
Stepping out of the first century and into the present, Nuesner explains that from a Jewish perspective "it is a religious duty to resist evil, to struggle for good, to love God, and to fight against those who make themselves into enemies of God." He goes on to mention that the Torah says nothing about resisting evil and actually looks down on those who behave cowardly and submit. In fact, the Torah expects Israel to always struggle for God's purpose, and in light of that cause, sanctions warfare. Sardonically, Neusner writes how amazing he found "...Jesus' statements that it is a religious duty to fold before evil." Neusner does, however, acknowledge the twenty-fifth proverb which stresses the importance of providing good, ethical treatment for one's enemies, but "not resisting one who is evil" is a completely different concept than fair treatment of one's enemies, and more importantly, it opposes the Torah. Neusner also argues that Jesus' teachings address a group of disciples and not internal Israel. "Jesus has spoken only about how I, in particular, can do what God wants of me. In the shift from the "us" of Sinai to the "I" of the torah of the Galilean sage Jesus takes an important step - in the wrong direction. And If I had been there, I would have wondered what he had to say to not me but to us: all Israel, assembled, that day, in the persons present, before him to hear his torah." This issue over addressing the "I" vs. "us" is a major problem for Nuesner, and he continues to point out throughout his book how Jesus neglects to address Israel as a whole and only concentrates on the individual.
In an another context of Neusner's book, he argues that Jesus is teaching people to violate some of the Ten Commandments, in particular, "take care to keep holy the Sabbath day." Neusner's allegations are based on Matthew 12:1-8, where Jesus and his disciples pluck ears of grain and eat them on the Sabbath. When Pharisees accuse Jesus of `doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath,' Jesus refers to the great King David who did similar unlawful acts and then declares that he, the Son of man, is lord of the Sabbath. Jesus then enters a synagogue, where he continues the debate with a parable, and in conclusion avers that "it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (MT 12:12).
According to Neusner, Jews do on the Sabbath what God did on the seventh day of creation, and keeping the Sabbath "...is not about doing good or not doing good; the issue of the Sabbath is holiness, and in the Torah, to be holy is to be like God." Keeping all of the laws centered on the Torah may seem senseless to non-Jews, but Neusner points out that "Israel is Israel on the Sabbath" by living out those seemingly senseless Sabbath rules. Hence, Neusner doesn't see how Jesus' teachings on the Sabbath relate to him as "a member of a family, on the one side, and as part of a community, sharing in the social order of the holy people, on the other?" Furthermore, Neusner affirms that "only God is lord of the Sabbath" and that "the Torah teaches me to rest on the Sabbath, because that is how I learn to act like God." Thus, for Neusner, not only is it obvious that Jesus has violated the commandment to "keep holy the Sabbath" and taught others to do so, but just as in the previous example, Jesus continues to address only the individual instead of the community as a whole. These two examples capitalize on Neusner's central points that, firstly, Jesus was not harmonious with the teachings of the Torah: "the Torah had told me things about God's kingdom that Jesus neglected, and Jesus had told me things about God's kingdom that the Torah had not affirmed," and secondly, Jesus' teachings tended to address the individual, neglecting the community or Israel as a people: "he has spoken to me, but not to us." Overall, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, coherently and concisely facilitates Jewish reasoning for not being able to accept the teachings of Jesus. Even more, it challenges readers to step away from post-modern relativist approaches of dialogue and instead lay claim to the truth that defines one's own religion.
Throughout the past few centuries, religious dialogue has taken on new shapes and forms as nascent views have immerged arguing that one cannot determine which religion holds "the truth" or is "the best." Thus, there is no objective truth to religion and each religion is true to the one holding it. This post-modern view differs significantly with medieval times when disputing the truth-claims of religion took center stage. One actually believed that their religion was the truth and having dialogue meant to engage in polemics. However, this medieval modus operandi diminished as the ideals of the Enlightenment led many to become indifferent to the truth-claims of religion. What soon emerged was a general toleration and respect for all religions. And the differences between religions were dismissed as trivial and unimportant. These fundamental ideas and concepts of the Enlightenment have continued to affect the West up to the present where now relativistic approaches to dialogue with other religions has led many westerners to believe that fundamentally all religions are relatively true for the beholder. Furthermore, the only way to have authentic dialogue would be to suppose, in principle, that the other can be as right, or more right than your beliefs. In light of this ideology, Pope Benedict the 16th wrote an extensive essay titled Relativism: the Central Problem for Faith Today. In this essay he explicates the perils of engaging in religious dialogue from a relativist perspective and states that it would seem as if it is a miracle that religions in general still exist. It is no surprise then that Benedict favored Neusner's approach, in A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, for they both have asserted the many differences that exist between Christianity and Judaism and believe that is through coming to a better understanding of these differences that one can have true religious dialogue. This contrasts significantly with a relativistic approach to dialogue which does not necessarily seek religious inquiry, but emphasizes, for the most part, that it doesn't matter what one believes to be true just as long as they seek to be good people.
At any rate, Neusner's book, under the auspices of Pope Benedict, challenges the Western world to not only strive to respect and develop a better understanding for other religions but to identify itself and be an apologist to whatever truth that their religion claims. This book definitely gave me a new perspective on why Jews struggle to accept the teachings of Jesus but also challenged me to not only strive to truly understand the differences and similarities amongst other religions but to identify and lay-claim to the truths of my particular religion.
"We" at Sinai with Moses or "you" at the Sermon on the Mount? Dec 1, 2007
Many reviews posted here on this controversial book fall into polemic. Neusner, read carefully in this uneven but thought-provoking study, demands that both Jews and Christians avoid fruitless harangue and take Jesus seriously on his own terms. Neusner argues that neither Jews who want to make Jesus just another rabbi or Christians who nod to Jesus' teachings as rooted in the Torah are making the right move.
He takes a central text that shows Jesus preaching to convince the Jews to change Torah and follow him. Why? Matthew 5-7 appeals to the Jewish community. It, before John's vitriolic gospel against the Jews, or Paul's messianic deification of Christ, represents an earlier stage in what we can learn about the core teachings of Jesus as he proclaimed them to his fellow Israelites.
Neusner, with his erudite incorporation of Talmudic passages and contrasts the message on another mountain, that of the Torah to Moses on Sinai on behalf of the community of Israel. The Torah requires a collective response and defines familial and cultic responsibility to ensure devotion of the Hebrews to their God on a daily, detailed, and sanctifying basis. Jesus, in the Sermon, addresses not the gathering of Jews at the base of the Mount-- who were amazed at his speaking with such bold authority against tradition even as he promised to fulfill the Torah-- so much as the smaller band of disciples at the top of the hill.
To his followers, Jesus began, Neusner explains, speaking to "you" as often in the singular as the plural. Rather than the incorporation of the communal and the domestic, the national responsibility of Israel and the actions prescribed to the priests in the Temple to attain holiness by ritual and practice, Jesus began to appeal to his disciples. In conversations, Jesus starts-- as Matthew describes it-- to place the personal ahead of the collective ''you." This, in turn, ties into the promotion of commitment to the Master instead of the Torah. Neusner demands that both Christians and Jews take seriously this crucial difference. The rabbi argues that Jesus did not follow Torah faithfully-- even long before the claims of messianic rule were attributed to him. By evidence in Matthew, which Neusner interprets as much as possible rather than using later New Testament texts that elaborate on earlier gospels, the rabbi asserts that following Jesus leads, inexorably, away from the communal Torah into an individual's reliance upon salvation through a decision to follow Jesus rather than stay behind with one's family and community in the Jewish tradition. Holiness, rather than perfection, and sanctity inched towards in the here and now rather than salvation in the world to come, are what distinguish Torah-true Judaism from Jesus's Sermon.
A Jew, Neusner imagines then (as now), cannot have it both ways. Jesus invites one to follow him towards holiness rather than remain totally loyal to the Torah of the Pharisees and scribes, of keeping holy the Sabbath, or of looking after one's parents instead of taking off with Jesus as he leaves Galilee for Jerusalem. These chapters, which take passages from the Sermon and juxtapose them with challenges made by Jews then to Jesus and other scriptural and Talmudic passages, do move in fits and starts, perhaps in homage to yeshiva discourse with its give-and-take as well as Neusner's own quickly paced method of scholarship.
Neusner is an astonishingly prolific critic on rabbinic-era texts; he notes how he wrote this book at a chapter or so a day and finished it in a week. (He wrote this in 1993 on his sixtieth birthday and already takes credit for 480 books.) This speed of composition implies a vast and rapid command of texts and ideas. In this book, aimed at the everyday reader, this accustomed pace may present a drawback for this short book; it could have been at least a third more brief as it is. Editing could have sharpened his argument. It rewards attention, but the critique unfolds in a recursive rather than linear fashion that may frustrate those less familiar with this venerable tendency of Jewish discourse about texts. I find it touching that Neusner looks forward to arguing in the Heavenly Yeshiva with Moses and the sages.
Chapters tend to drift about, although they do accumulate into a thoughtful consideration of why Jewish believers deserve, after two thousand years of condemnation and condescension by the majority faith, a chance for autonomy. Neusner posits that only now, in our climate of intermarriage, conversions across both communities, and interfaith dialogue, can Jews finally gain respect from Christians and return it in kind. A pioneer in Jewish-Christian dialogue, Neusner knows both sides well, and with his command of the Mishnah, he instantly can conjure up the proof-text he needs. This book comes with a pre-papal nod on the back jacket from no less than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger!
Neusner, as a believer but also as a scholar, looks at Matthew's primary appeal to the Jews, the Sermon on the Mount. He asks that both Jews and Christians look at Matthew's earlier gospel not as refined scholars (who take into account extra-textual sources) but on the level of the believer of the text-- and the inquirer who comes from the outside to the text and regards it (how else could it be thousands of years later?) as the primary instigation for dialogue and interfaith inquiry. Matthew sought to convert the Jews to the teachings of this radical rabbi, and Rabbi Neusner takes him on with respect in the Jewish tradition of a long conversation continuing over the centuries about how best to live life according to the Torah, and talks to as well as with Jesus, as one sage to another.
In a moving chapter, he concludes his study of the Sermon by defending his own Jewish observance against the new faith that Jesus creates. Neusner would not join the disciples, but would have remained at the foot of the Mount, "because, for Jesus, 'you' is as often singular as plural. But for the Torah, from Sinai onward, 'you' is always plural. 'You shall have no other gods before me.' 'We'-- eternal Israel-- are here to respond: 'We shall do and we shall obey.' And I do not believe God would want it any other way." (143)
A must read Jul 19, 2007
This is a unique treatise carefully dissecting the issues that differentiate Jews and Christians. Written with deep respect for Jesus Christ and his message; while clearly and deliberately identifying the boundaries that separate Jewish thinking, philosophy, and theology. No other text has been written in the history of these religions that approaches these differences in the style Rabbi Neusner brings. Read it, and understand.
Seems A Bit Too Politically Correct May 31, 2007
I personally feel V'Da Mah SheTashiv: Know What To Answer (To Missionaries) A Thorough Jewish response To Missionaries is the book for Jews to get to see why Jews can not believe in Jesus (or Yeshua). I feel when you write a book to present the Jewish side yet say it is meant to make Christians more comfortable in their OWN religion it sounds too 'politically correct'. Meaning either the Jewish defense is not solid in it or there is overt patronizing to make Christian readers comfortable with it.