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Rabbi Talks with Jesus

Rabbi Talks with Jesus

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Rabbi Talks with Jesus
    Book Description:

    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. This revised and expanded edition, with a foreword by Donald Akenson, creates a thoughtful and accessible context for discussion of the most fundamental question of why Christians and Jews believe what they believe.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6839-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-2)
    Donald Harman Akenson

    This book is destined to be a minor classic and here minor is not a dismissive term. There are in world culture not many classics and few that are major, so even in our age of rhetorical inflation, “minor classic” is high praise.

    A Rabbi Talks with Jesusis a revised and expanded version of a volume that appeared fairly recently (1993) and disappeared quickly, though not before attracting some fervent admirers. A large part of the problem with the original edition was that the U.S. publisher appended a rebarbative subtitle on the otherwise lively work - “an intermillennial exchange”...

  5. 1 Come, Let Us Reason Together
    (pp. 3-17)

    In this book I explain in a very straightforward and unapologetic way why, if I had been in the Land of Israel in the first century, I would not have joined the circle of Jesus’s disciples. I would have dissented, I hope courteously, I am sure with solid reason and argument and fact. If I heard what he said in the Sermon on the Mount, for good and substantive reasons I would not have followed him.

    That may be hard for people to imagine, since it is difficult to think of words more deeply etched into our civilization and its...

  6. 2 A Practicing Jew in Dialogue with Jesus
    (pp. 18-34)

    Imagine walking on a dusty road in Galilee some summer, meeting up with a small band of youngsters, led by a young man. The man’s presence catches your attention: he talks, the others listen, respond, argue, obey - care what he says, follow him. You don’t know who the man is, but you do know he makes a difference to the people with him and to nearly everybody he meets. People respond, some with anger, some with admiration, a few with genuine faith. But no one walks away uninterested in the man and the things he says and does.


  7. 3 Not to Destroy but to Fulfill vs You Have Heard That It Was Said, but I Say to You
    (pp. 35-52)

    It would not take a long journey to meet the master. He was everywhere. But to hear the message whole, I had to wait until the day he ascended a mountain and talked there to his disciples, in the hearing of outsiders as well. For my part, drawn by curiosity about how the Torah would govern life in my time and place, I came too.

    And it was well that I did. For the sayings he said that day, now reaching us as the Sermon on the Mount, reported in Matthew 5:1-7:29, form. Jesus’ principal statement of teachings. These comprise...

  8. 4 Honor Your Father and Your Mother vs Do not Think That I Have Come to Bring Peace on Earth
    (pp. 53-72)

    It is one thing to decide not to follow the teacher but quietly to go back home, which, after hearing the Sermon on the Mount, I would have done. It is another thing altogether to lose interest in what Jesus had to say. And I cannot imagine, living at that time, I could ever have lost interest. For the same reason that Jesus’ teachings conquered and shaped much of world civilization, through the power of the message, not only the might of Christian armies, so even then, no thoughtful person could have heard such challenging words and turned away indifferent....

  9. 5 Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep It Holy vs Look, Your Disciples Are Doing What Is Not Lawful to Do on the Sabbath
    (pp. 73-88)

    The master’s many miracles - healing leprosy, paralysis, and fever; calming the storm; driving out demons - stories about such wonders will have caught my attention. But I would have been used to wonders; the Torah made me expect them, and wonder-workers even then would not have disappointed me. Such things may have been necessary, but to me were trivial. For my concern would have lain not in finding supernatural proofs for the master’s propositions, but in learning from him what he had to teach me about the Torah: analysis, argument, evidence. And to Jesus’ own credit, he dismissed people...

  10. 6 You Shall Be Holy; for I the Lord Your God Am Holy vs If You Would Be Perfect, Go, Sell All You Have and Come, Follow Me
    (pp. 89-110)

    Details of the Ten Commandments, honoring parents or following Christ, observing the Sabbath as holy or acknowledging the son of man as lord of the Sabbath - these really are the sideshow. All of them are important, but they merely illustrate the fundamental issue that Jesus comes to address. But what about the main event - what really counts: What does God want of me? And how can I make myself into what God wants me to be, made me to be? Is there an argument to be constructed about that most fundamental issue? And if I were there, what...

  11. 7 You Shall Be Holy vs Holier Than Thou
    (pp. 111-126)

    Clearly, it is one thing to be holy; it is another to be holier than thou. And easy and gentle though his yoke may be, the master, Jesus, has some pretty harsh things to say on people who make themselves out to be better than others. And this bothers me - a lot. The reason is not because plenty of Jesus’ criticisms of pious people in his time could well be addressed to pious people I know in synagogues today. A religion that teaches, as Judaism does, that God wants us to do certain things and not do other things...

  12. 8 The Road from Capernaum
    (pp. 127-133)

    When Jesus came down from the mountain, with great crowds following (Mt. 8:1), he headed toward Capernaum. I caught up with him, swept along in the happy, but strangely quiet throngs. Serene silence prevailed, everyone was thinking about the remarkable message of the master: the kingdom of Heaven goes to the poor in spirit, the meek shall inherit the earth, the pure in heart shall see God. With teachings such as these, with this torah, with the rest I found myself exalted, encountering the sublime. But I knew that I should not be following the master much longer. What I...

  13. 9 You Shall Tithe All the Yield of Your Seed vs You Tithe Mint and Dill and Cumin and Have Neglected the Weightier Matters of the Law
    (pp. 134-150)

    Moses says, “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed” (Deut 14:22); and Jesus says, do that but don’t neglect more important things. No one doubts that there are more important things, for instance, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “You shall be holy.” But part of holiness is tithing, along with the other teachings of the Torah. No one would claim that everything is as important as everything else; and everyone would agree with Jesus: Do the major commandments - the Ten Commandments, for instance - without neglecting the lesser ones.

    But Jesus takes for granted that right...

  14. 10 How Much Torah, After All?
    (pp. 151-161)

    Over breakfast the next morning, we had a chance to talk; the master planned to leave the village only later in the day. Sitting under a fig tree and enjoying its shade in the morning sun, we looked out over Galilee. He seemed pensive.

    I: “Leaving soon?”

    He: “Very soon.”

    “Then what?”

    “God knows.”



    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For...