Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment


An honest, probing look at the dynamics of the New Testament—in relation to problems that disconcert Jews and Christians today.

Despite the New Testament’s impact on Jewish history, virtually all Jews avoid knowledge of its underlying dynamics. Jewish families and communities thus remain needlessly stymied when responding to a deeply Christian culture. Their Christian friends, meanwhile, are left perplexed as to why Jews are wary of the ...

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Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment

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An honest, probing look at the dynamics of the New Testament—in relation to problems that disconcert Jews and Christians today.

Despite the New Testament’s impact on Jewish history, virtually all Jews avoid knowledge of its underlying dynamics. Jewish families and communities thus remain needlessly stymied when responding to a deeply Christian culture. Their Christian friends, meanwhile, are left perplexed as to why Jews are wary of the Gospel’s “good news.”

This long-awaited volume offers an unprecedented solution-oriented introduction to Jesus and Paul, the Gospels and Revelation, leading Jews out of anxieties that plague them, and clarifying for Christians why Jews draw back from Christians’ sacred writings.

Accessible to laypeople, scholars and clergy of all faiths, innovative teaching aids make this valuable resource ideal for rabbis, ministers and other educators. Topics include:

  • The Gospels, Romans and Revelation— the Key Concerns for Jews
  • Misusing the Talmud in Gospel Study
  • Jesus’ Trial, the “Virgin Birth” and Empty Tomb Enigmas
  • Millennialist Scenarios and Missionary Encroachment
  • The Last Supper and Church Seders
  • Is the New Testament Antisemitic?

While written primarily with Jews in mind, this groundbreaking volume will also help Christians understand issues involved in the origin of the New Testament, the portrayal of Judaism in it, and why for centuries their “good news” has been a source of fear and mistrust among Jews.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This arcane treatise aims to familiarize Jews with the New Testament. According to Cook, Jews shortchange themselves by failing to learn about the New Testament since they live in a Christian environment where their ignorance is a handicap. He wrote this manual to help Jews overcome this limitation, which he contends is a departure from the value Jews place on knowledge. At Hebrew Union College, where Cook teaches Judeo-Christian studies, rabbinical students have to learn the New Testament, a requirement that he feels should be mandated for all Jewish seminarians and college students. His handbook lays out the content for such courses for the benefit of non-Jews and secularists as well as Jews. Unfortunately, instead of presenting a primer, Cook offers a complicated text, replete with esoteric diagrams. His assumption of a base of knowledge contradicts his assertion that Jews know little about the New Testament. He examines the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, discussing their abstruse and often contradictory meanings. Most beginning readers will get lost in Cook's perplexing consideration of minutiae, despite his comprehensive expertise. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580233132
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/1/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,502,937
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Michael J. Cook, PhD, is professor of intertestamental and early Christian literatures and holds the Sol and Arlene Bronstein Professorship in Judaeo-Christian Studies at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. He is author of Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment and is a leader in the field of Jewish-Christian relations.

Rabbi Michael J. Cook, PhD, is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Jews, Jesus and "Gospel Dynamics": Why the Future Is Not What It Used to Be
  • From Calvary to Oberammergau 2010: The Impact of Jesus' Death on Jewish Life
  • Now That Jesus Hasn't Returned, What Does It Mean for the Jews?
  • Jesus Was No Myth, But Who Then Was He?
  • "And as They Were at Table Eating" (Mk 14): Could the Last Supper Have Been a Seder?
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Table of Contents

Before We Proceed: How to Read This Book Introduction: Reversing "Statuary Blindness"—the Goal That Distinguishes This Book Notes on Terminology—Keeping Our Referents Straight xviii Part One Renouncing Intentional Ignorance 1 When Advice of Sages Ceases to Be Sage Advice 2 Results of Ignorance: Evolving Jewish Views of Jesus 3 Presenting the New Testament: Order and Dis-orders Part Two Basics We Should Know 4 Prisms for Viewing Early Christianity 5 Jesus and His Setting in the Land of Israel 6 Paul in His Diaspora Context Part Three Reasoning Matters Through 7 Characteristic Jewish Perspectives on the Gospels 8 Mastering “Gospel Dynamics”: Avenues to Ponder Part Four Christian Holy Days: Beneficial Applications of Jewish Gospel Study 9 Christmas: Why the Infancy (“Virgin Birth”) Stories Arose 10 Maundy (Holy) Thursday: Can We Right What's Wrong with Church “Seders”? 11 Good Friday: Responding to Blame for Jesus’ Death 12 Good Friday (Extended): Did the Sanhedrin and Barabbas Episodes Actually Occur? 13 Easter: Empty Tomb Enigmas Part Five Primary New Testament Writings: A Concern for Jews from Each 14 Romans–11: Why Paul’s Anxiety for Israel? 15 The Gospel of Mark: Destabilizing a Betrayal by “Judas” (“the Jews”?) 16 The Gospel of Matthew: Why So “Pro-Jewish” a Flavor to So “Anti-Jewish” a Gospel? 17 The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts: Did Jews Flock to Christianity? Luke’s Myth of the “Myriads” 18 The Gospel of John: Why Are Jesus’ Enemies So Conspicuously Termed “the Jews”? Part Six When Wariness Is Warranted: New Testament Knowledge for Self-Defense 19 The Christian Apocalypse: Jews as God’s Odometer in End-Times Scenarios 20 Neutralizing Missionary Encroachment: Conceptual Frameworks Part Seven Integrating Matters 21 My Personal Positions: Where They May Be Distinctive 22 Is the New Testament “Antisemitic”? 23 Never Again! Never Before! Suitability Index for Using This Multipurpose Book: Matching Contents to Occasion Listing of Figures Acknowledgments Abbreviations Notes Selected Bibliography Modern Author Index Scripture Index Gospel Dynamics Index Subject Index

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  • Posted October 23, 2010

    A wonderful resource for all families!

    My teacher has crafted a truly useful tool for all families - Jewish or not - in addressing the challenging questions that have arisen out of generations of Jews living in a non-Jewish world.
    Dr. Cook's great plea is that the Jewish people - who pride themselves historically on progress through learning - overcome the general ignorance regarding the New Testament and Christian origins. The more people know and appreciate about traditions that differ from their own, the more confident they become in their own religious perspective.
    Beautifully thought, persuasively articulated. A great addition to the field of interfaith understanding.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2008

    Stimulating and Ground-breaking

    Cook wants modern Jews to come to grips with the New Testament and understand the 'Gospel Dynamics' by which Christian writers addressed the needs of their constituents forty to seventy years after the death of Jesus. The Gospels reflect a situation that arose during the decades after the first Jewish War with Rome in 66-73 CE. Some of the animosity that colored the relation between Jews and Christians in those years was read back 'retrojected' into Gospel accounts of Jesus' ministry. After centuries of persecution, based largely on a few scripture texts, leading up to the Holocaust, it is not surprising that modern Jews are intimidated by the New Testament. Some are even forbidden to read it. Should they dare to pick up a copy of the Gospels and peek into it, they will find shocking passages that describe Jews as intrinsically evil, without distinction as to time or place. No wonder that Jews don't read the New Testament and feel ill at ease in a Christian environment in the shadow of the cross. Unacquainted with the circumstances under which the Gospels were composed, when late-blooming prejudice was turned into historical event, the Jews in the pew do not know how to defend themselves on being told that they and their children have inherited the curse of their ancestors for having murdered 'the Author of Life,' in Acts 3:15. All this in spite of the fact that, according to the Fourth Gospel, those who arrested, scourged, and crucified Jesus were Roman soldiers in John 18:12. Readers and New Testament scholars will be stimulated by Professor Cook's fresh handling of the Infancy Stories, the Parables, and the Passion Narratives. After twenty centuries, it is hard to say anything new about Jesus, but it is interesting to revisit familiar New Testament passages and view them 'through Jewish eyes'. Cook's conception of dialogue neither begins nor ends with an adversarial position. He simply wants his Jewish and Christian readers to understand the New Testament from a literary, social, and philosophical point of view, free from contamination by late blooming 'sources' with polemical axes to grind. Above all, warns the author, Jews should not accept at face value a literal reading of emotionally charged ancient texts that have been used down the centuries to perpetuate hatred of Jews. Professor Cook is a scrupulously fair New Testament scholar and his research is addressed to members of his peer group in academia as well as to Jews and Christian laypersons. Helpful diagrams, figures, and charts, the product of careful research and design, add to the value of this handsomely bound volume with its four indices. Christian scholars, who have spent years in dialogue with one another, will find here a fresh look at the New Testament. I am confident that Cook's volume will become a standard resource in public and private libraries both here and abroad.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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