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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In a book that is part religious history, part rhetorical argument, National Review columnist and Orthodox Jew David Klinghoffer reopens debate on the thorny issue at the heart of Jewish-Christian relations: the messiahship of Jesus.
Drawing on Jewish tradition and Scripture itself, Klinghoffer examines the Messiah of prophecy -- a title with a complex history and very specific criteria for fulfillment -- and introduces us to Jesus of Nazareth, a charismatic but little-known figure who lived in first-century Roman-occupied Palestine, a land awash in would-be Messiahs and teeming with natural-born skeptics. Viewed from a contemporary perspective, this obscure Galilean -- who attracted fewer followers than John the Baptist and who exhibited none of the manifestations of the Messiah-king -- was an unlikely claimant to the title.
Yet, according to the author, Jesus was not rejected because he claimed to be the Messiah (he never did!), but because he jettisoned the oral Torah that contained the cultural directives observed by pious Jews. This flouting of the law led to his death -- a death Klinghoffer freely admits was orchestrated by the Jewish leaders of the day.
How then did Jesus of Nazareth become the divine centerpiece of Christianity? The credit goes to St. Paul, who, after suffering rejection by his fellow Jews, brought Jesus' message to the Gentile world, where it found a more enthusiastic reception. From there, early Christian writers were eager to shoehorn the words, works, and events of Jesus' life to "fit" the prophecies in the Old Testament. And the rest, as they say, is history! Putting an interesting twist on his treatise, Klinghoffer points out that the Jewish rejection of Jesus had life-changing cultural repercussions. The argument goes like this: If the Jews had accepted Jesus and if Paul had not converted the Gentiles, the Jesus cult would have quickly disappeared, leaving only the traditional Judaism of today. There would be no Christianity, no medieval Europe, and no Western civilization as we know it. The Jews inadvertently performed a mitzvah for the world! Anne Markowski