Historic book sparks interfaith dialogue
A book about historical Jesus is probably not a topic that comes to mine when one thinks of contemporary and cutting-edge works. But a new book about “re-Judaising” Jesus is bridging two topics that may seem like they lie on opposite ends of the spectrum. Written by Ashland Rabbi David Zaslow with Eugene writer Joseph Lieberman, “Jesus: First Century Rabbi” explores fresh ways of looking at historical Jesus and Christianity’s early Jewish roots that can challenge Jews and Christians, alike.
The Jewish Renewal rabbi says he decided to address topics in Jesus: First Century Rabbi because he believes now is “the best possible time.” After 2,000 years the political and religious climate is good, and the evangelical churches strongly support the state of Israel.
Drawing on biblical, historical and contemporary sources, Zaslow and Lieberman look at essential topics in the Christian/Jewish interfaith dialogue. They examine what was Jewish about Jesus, along with Jewish themes that were adopted in Christianity – many of which Jews and Christians alike may not be aware. Pointing to shared topics like the Trinity, Zaslow writes about the Jewish version that most people do not acknowledge – one that includes Israel, Torah and G-d, while the Christian counterpart is the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Bringing humor and transforming what can be challenging material into an easy read, Zaslow looks at traditional thoughts such as Jews as the chosen people. In “Jesus: First Century Rabbi,” Zaslow and Lieberman question that idea and say that Jews were chosen people, but rather chosen to teach the world about monotheism. They discuss the impact Jesus has had on that. From covenants to scapegoats to sacrifices, Zaslow explores different concepts and looks at borrowed and shared themes in Judaism and Christianity.
Both authors do a good job covering a lot of ground and raising questions that are important to both beliefs. Pointing out the obvious, Zaslow says the common thread in Judaism and Christianity is that there are many groups, movements and sects within the respective beliefs and all compete somewhat. He says there is no one truth. If you doubt that, just go to a Torah study where three Jews will have five opinions; everything is always under discussion. This book enables readers to debate their own truths in a biblical context with important figures.
Abra Cohen is a writer and photojournalist who divides her time between Israel and Eugene.