The Jewish Jesus

The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other

Peter Schäfer
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 370
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  • Book Info
    The Jewish Jesus
    Book Description:

    In late antiquity, as Christianity emerged from Judaism, it was not only the new religion that was being influenced by the old. The rise and revolutionary challenge of Christianity also had a profound influence on rabbinic Judaism, which was itself just emerging and, like Christianity, trying to shape its own identity. InThe Jewish Jesus, Peter Schäfer reveals the crucial ways in which various Jewish heresies, including Christianity, affected the development of rabbinic Judaism. He even shows that some of the ideas that the rabbis appropriated from Christianity were actually reappropriated Jewish ideas. The result is a demonstration of the deep mutual influence between the sister religions, one that calls into question hard and fast distinctions between orthodoxy and heresy, and even Judaism and Christianity, during the first centuries CE.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4228-5
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    This is a book about the emergence of rabbinic Judaism, that momentous manifestation of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple, under the impact of the rise of Christianity in the first centuries C.E. It is about identities and boundaries, boundaries between religions and boundaries within religions; about the fluidity of boundaries and the demarcation of boundaries—identities that are less stable and boundaries that are more permeable than has been previously thought and yet increasingly demarcated in order to occupy territories. It is about the fluidity of categories such as “inside” and “outside,” “orthodoxy” and “heresy,” not least “Judaism”...

  7. 1 Different Names of God
    (pp. 21-54)

    Even if one runs only a cursory check of the Bible (in the original as well as in translations), it becomes immediately obvious that it uses several names and not just a single appellation to designate God. The two most common names are the tetragrammatonYHWHandElohim. Whereas the former has notoriously resisted not only its translation but also its proper pronunciation, the latter is grammatically a plural and literally means “gods.” The rabbis of the talmudic period solved the problem of these two names by assigning them to two attributes of God—the one (YHWH) to the divine...

  8. 2 The Young and the Old God
    (pp. 55-67)

    God appears in the Hebrew Bible not only under different names; he even takes on different guises or, as it were, assumes different incarnations. This phenomenon also did not escape the attention of the rabbis; or, rather, the rabbis could not miss it, because it was used by their heretical opponents in quite obvious ways and gave rise to debates between them. Speaking of rabbinic “opponents,” I again leave it an open question as to whether we are dealing with opponents from within, that is, within rabbinic Judaism, or opponents from the outside, that is, groups or rather certain individuals...

  9. 3 God and David
    (pp. 68-102)

    The collection of problematic Bible verses referring to the name of God in the plural or to the different names of God that the Bavli transmits in the name of R. Yohanan (R. Simlai’s teacher) climaxes with Daniel 7:9 (“I beheld till thrones were placed”),¹ the verse quoted but not discussed in the Mekhilta. This verse deviates from the other verses in R. Yohanan’s collection in that the problem it poses does not relate to God’s names and to the question of whether the verb coupled with them is in the singular or plural. What then is its problem? Let...

  10. 4 God and Metatron
    (pp. 103-149)

    It is not only David, the king of Israel and archetype of the Messiah, whom some rabbis elevated to an outstanding and privileged position in heaven. Some sources, and, as we will see, again the Babylonian Talmud and the Hekhalot literature in particular, single out another human being that they promote to the highest possible position in heaven, namely, the antediluvian patriarch Enoch, whom we have encountered as the hero of the Ethiopic Book of Enoch (1 Enoch). But whereas Enoch is transformed into an angel here and, in the Similitudes, is identified with the Son of Man, in the...

  11. 5 Has God a Father, a Son, or a Brother?
    (pp. 150-159)

    If God might have a junior partner in heaven, the question of a divine family arises, one similar to the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon or, accordingly, the imperial family, with the emperor’s son or adoptive son as the most prominent member. Hence it comes as no surprise that a series of midrashim attack the idea that God might be assigned a family and in particular that he should have a son. The most straightforward—and probably earliest—of such exegeses appears in the Yerushalmi:

    [He (King Nebuchadnezzar) answered: “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of...

  12. 6 The Angels
    (pp. 160-196)

    In analyzing Metatron’s peculiar function as a possible younger partner within the divine configuration, we touched upon the relationship between God and his angels. After all, despite—or because of?—his human origin, Metatron became the highest angel in God’s celestial household. But the question of how the angels relate to God, their creator, is a much broader one that has been extensively discussed in rabbinic Judaism. In this chapter I will resume a discussion that I began more than thirty years ago in my bookRivalität zwischen Engeln und Menschen: Untersuchungen zur rabbinischen Engelvorstellung,¹ with special emphasis, of course,...

  13. 7 Adam
    (pp. 197-213)

    The Hebrew Bible gives two very different accounts of God’s creation of Adam, the first man. In the first creation account (Gen. 1:1–2:3), presumably part of the Priestly narrative (P), Adam’s creation comes at the very end of God’s creation activity, on the sixth and last day. Having finished with all the creatures inhabiting the newly created earth, God finally says: “Let us make man (adam) in our image (be-tzalmenu), after our likeness (ki-demutenu)” (Gen. 1:26), and then he immediately puts this plan into action: “And God created man (adam) in his image (be-tzalmo), in the image of God...

  14. 8 The Birth of the Messiah, or Why Did Baby Messiah Disappear?
    (pp. 214-235)

    Proving to be of crucial importance for our subject is the distinction between Palestine and Babylonia, the two centers of Jewish life in antiquity as reflected in the predominantly Palestinian Midrashim and the Jerusalem Talmud on the one hand and the Babylonian Talmud on the other. These two Jewish communities lived under very different political and social circumstances: the former under Roman rule with the growing influence of a Christian religion that would increasingly dominate and even suffocate Jewish life in Palestine, and the latter under Persian (that is, Sassanian) rule with theChristiancommunity increasingly seen as the fifth...

  15. 9 The Suffering Messiah Ephraim
    (pp. 236-272)

    In addition to the Messiah from the house of David (the Messiah ben David)—the predominant messianic figure—rabbinic Judaism knows of a Messiah ben Joseph (ben Ephraim), that is, a Messiah from the house of Joseph or Ephraim respectively. Joseph, as one of Jacob’s twelve sons, was the progenitor of one of Israel’s twelve tribes, the tribe that was later divided into Ephraim and Manasseh (Josh. 17:17).¹ We don’t know why Joseph of all people was honored with his own Messiah, nor can we explain or pinpoint the origin of this idea of a Messiah from his house.² What...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 273-328)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 329-342)
  18. Index
    (pp. 343-349)