A Rabbi Argues with Jesus: A Noted Talmudic Scholar Insists That Jews Must Remain Faithful to the Words of the Torah

By Neusner, Jacob | Newsweek, March 27, 2000 | Go to article overview

A Rabbi Argues with Jesus: A Noted Talmudic Scholar Insists That Jews Must Remain Faithful to the Words of the Torah


Neusner, Jacob, Newsweek


Imagine walking on a dusty road in Galilee nearly 2,000 years ago and meeting up with a small band of youngsters, led by a young man. The leader'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 know he makes a difference to the people with him and to nearly everyone 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.

I can see myself meeting this man, and, with courtesy, arguing with him. It is my form of respect, the only compliment I crave from others, the only serious tribute I pay to the people I take seriously. I can see myself not only meeting and arguing with Jesus, challenging him on the basis of our shared Torah, the Scriptures Christians would later adopt as the "Old Testament." I can also imagine myself saying, "Friend, you go your way, I'll go mine, I wish you well--without me. Yours is not the Torah of Moses, and all I have from God, and all I ever need from God, is that one Torah of Moses."

We would meet, we would argue, we would part friends --but we would part. He would have gone his way, to Jerusalem and the place he believed God had prepared for him; I would have gone my way, home to my wife and my children, my dog and my garden. He would have gone his way to glory, I my way to my duties and my responsibilities.

Why? Because the Torah teaches that the kingdom that matters is not in heaven, but the one we find ourselves in now: sustaining life, sanctifying life, in the here and the now of home and family, community and society.

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