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|1||The Premise of Paul's Ethnic Israel||1|
|2||What Is Israel?||21|
|3||The Family of Israel||40|
|4||The People of Israel and How They Know God||59|
|5||Religion, Nationality, and Ethnicity||84|
|Epilogue: What Is at Stake in the Sanctity of Israel?||99|
Posted June 15, 2009
Anyone expecting Prof. Neusner to continue in the mode of his Rabbi Talks with Jesus book, only this time with Paul, will be a bit disappointed. All the same, this book reflects Neusner's lifelong scholarship on Rabbinic Judaism and his engagement with the Jewish community in the United States and elsewhere. I have now read several of Neusner's books and am still struggling to make sense of what appears to be a near-contradiction between his recent books like the Jesus book, this book, and Recovering Judaism, on the one hand, and his books such as Who, What, and Where is Israel as well as Stranger at Home (plus others), on the other. The tension is between the historical use of family as a metaphor for understanding the Jewish people and its relationship with outsiders--a metaphor that Jews as religious people almost have to forget *is* a metaphor (according to what I read in Neusner)--and Neusner's defense of Judaism as a universalistic, non-ethnic religion, at least as much as Christianity (as promulgated since Paul).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 29, 2009
I Also Recommend:
Children of the Flesh, Children of the Promise is subtitled A Rabbi Talks with Paul is somewhat misleading. The book is tedious and one begins to wonder with whom the author is actually speaking. Jacob Nuesner begins his book by saying that Paul viewed Judaism as an ethnic religion, i.e., one joined Judaism by being born a Jew, whereas, Christianity was more universal, i.e., anyone can become a Christian.
Nuesner then goes on to build his case that Judaism is also a universal religion, and not an ethnic religion. In Christianity anyone who comes to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and the Lord, that person is baptized and becomes a member of the Church, the Body of Christ. In Judaism one becomes a Jew, a member of eternal Israel, by either being born to Jewish parents, and, in the case of the male, circumcised, or by converting, being baptized and, in the case of the male, circumcised.
Paul would have agreed with all this. But for Paul there were two main questions. Is Jesus the Messiah? To which Paul gave a resounding yes and tried to convince his fellow Jews of that truth. The second question was what shall be done with the Gentiles that want to join us? There were two answers, the first, supported by James, et al, was that Gentiles must first accept the Law of Moses, be baptized and, in the case of males, be circumcised, and only then can they go on to join us. The other answer, supported by Paul, was that Gentiles need not do all that, and in the case of males, not even be circucised. All they needed was to be baptized in Christ.
One only discovers in the last chapter and epilogue with whom Nuesner wishes to speak. It is primarily with his fellow Jews and only secondarily with Christians. He accuses his fellow Jews of seeing themselves as members of an ethnic group who happen to have a unique religion, and not as a people called into being by God at Sinai who are called to live out the Torah and to invite others to join them.
For Jews this will be a thought provoking book. Do they see themselves as an ethnic group where their religion is of secondary, if any, importance? For Christians who never thought of Judaism as a universal religion, it too will give them something to think about.