Arguing With Jesus

Professor Neusner, one of the world's most accomplished scholars in the field of religious studies, begins by proclaiming that as a practicing and believing Jew he says a polite "No" to another practicing and believing Jew—but one who made extraordinary claims for himself —Jesus of Nazareth. Both the "No" and the politeness come out clearly in Neusner's book: indeed, politeness is too weak a word to express the respect that the rabbi feels for this enigmatic figure who changed the chronology of world history and in the process relegated Israel to a different and at times more painful kind of marginalization than its people had experienced during any of the tumultuous centuries B.C.

Through the centuries, there have been a number of books by Jewish authors claiming to discredit Jesus and the Church, some alleging that Jesus was a charlatan and an imposter, or that his disciples perpetrated a monstrous fraud in order not to lose their investment in him, or that, beginning at least with Paul, the message of Jesus—Jesus's own religion, if we may put it this way was distorted into a "Jesus religion." Indeed, not a few Christian and other Gentile scholars have contributed to this variety of interpretation, which seeks ultimately to banish the influence of Jesus from civilization.

Jacob Neusner's book is altogether different. He does not accept the traditional Christian...

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