The Religion of Jesus the Jew

The Religion of Jesus the Jew

The Religion of Jesus the Jew

The Religion of Jesus the Jew


The leading Jewish scholar of the New Testament and the Dead Sea Scrolls trains his attention on Jesus' own religious life-his teaching, preaching, and practice.


The present volume completes a trilogy which started in 1973 with Jesus the Jew and continued ten years later with the appearance of Jesus and the World of Judaism.

Like its predecessors, The Religion of Jesus the Jew is one man’s reading of the Synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. It does not offer readers a status quaestionis, a general sketch of scholarly views, nor does it engage in a systematic discussion with proponents of different theories. Opinions of other writers are presented only when they have actually inspired me or challenged me to a fruitful debate.

This book is primarily addressed to readers whose expertise lies outside the Bible, the New Testament and theology, viz. students of ancient religions, history and culture, Judaism in particular, though I hope biblical scholars and theologians will also at least glance at it. Christian readers, untrained in the academic study of the origins of their faith, may find many of these pages, most of all the final chapter, disturbing, but I trust thought-provoking too.

For the benefit of those unacquainted with the Gospels and/or with the non-scriptural books of ancient Judaism, literary evidence will always be cited rather than alluded to in references.

Over the years, when lecturing on Jesus the Jew, I have often encountered an objection, usually raised at the very beginning of the discussion, which runs like this. If Jesus was neither a political agitator, nor a teacher attacking fundamental tenets of the Jewish religion, why was he put to death? Without rehearsing the argument set out in the Preface of Jesus and the World of Judaism (pp. viii–ix), I would like to summarize my view very briefly.

The arrest and execution of Jesus were due, not directly to his words and deeds, but to their possible insurrectionary consequences feared by the nervous authorities in charge of law and order in that powder-keg of first-century Jerusalem, overcrowded with pilgrims. Had Jesus not caused an affray in the Temple by . . .

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