Walter Russel Mead has been awaiting the arrival of the Jewish Annotated New Testament, which he has ordered from Amazon.com. This is a look at the New Testament by prominent Jewish scholars. As Mead puts it;
This is a book that any serious Christian student of the New Testament will want to consult; anytime a familiar text is read from an unfamiliar angle, new insights are likely to come. More to the point, rabbinical Judaism and Christianity are the two great religious legacies of first century Palestine. Learning to see Jesus through Jewish eyes is a way for Christians to encounter another side of the man we recognize as son of God and savior.
Considering that all but one of the authors of the books of the New Testament are believed to be Jews (Luke was the exception). and that Jesus and his disciples were all Jews, it is amazing that no one ever thought of doing a project like this before. Well, perhaps not since the mutual antagonism between these two great faiths has only declined this century with the lessening of anti-semitism among many Christians. As Mead points out, this process began with the Protestant Reformation and the reformers’ translation of the Bible into vernacular languages.
This began to change with the Reformation — although Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism helped embed some deeply destructive memes in German culture. First and foremost, the translation of the whole Bible into the vernacular languages coupled with the invention of printing put the Jewish scriptures into the hands of ordinary Christians for the first time. In Medieval Christian preaching and liturgy, the New Testament got more attention than the Old, the gospels got more than the epistles of Paul, and the Passion narratives got more attention than the rest of the gospel story.
The consequence was that most Christians spent most of their time with the parts of their Bible in which Jesus was engaged in theological controversy with Jewish religious leaders, or being handed over to the Romans for execution by a faction of the Jewish religious leadership of the day. Every Sunday the liturgy of the Mass retold the story of the crucifixion; every year reached its religious climax with the intense focus on the sufferings of Christ in the last week of his life — arguing with Jews, and ultimately dying at the instigation of his (Jewish) enemies.
But as Christians encountered more of the Bible, this picture began to change. Calvinists and others who believed in the literal and eternal truth of the Word of God came to believe that the promises God made to Abraham were still valid today: that the Jews still had a place in God’s plan, that the gift of the Holy Land to the physical descendants of Abraham remained valid, that Jews would return to that land before the end of history, and that God commanded the rest of mankind to bless and help Israel, rather than to curse and attack it.
More, acquaintance with the Old Testament exposed Christians to Jewish heroes of faith: to kings and prophets and warriors who walked with the God of Abraham and from whose teachings and experiences Christians had much to learn. Where Calvinist, Anabaptist and Quaker influence was strong, Christian parents began to give their children names from the Jewish scriptures: Hannah, Caleb, Esther, Josiah, Ruth, Joshua, Ezekiel, Rebecca, Ezra, Nathaniel, Naomi, Seth and Sarah entered the English speaking world.
This includes the Puritans who settled New England. An archeologist of the future who examined cemeteries of seventeenth century Massachusetts might well come to believe that the colony was settled by Hebrews based on the names on the grave stones.
I think that I will get this book too, if it can be gotten for the Kindle. I have no idea what Jewish scholars might have to say about the New Testament but I am sure that their insights will be interesting and profitable. I would be especially interested in reading how the teachings of Jesus related to the various Jewish factions of his day.