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A short, provocative work tracing the way that Jews have written and thought about Jesus in relation to themselves. Through succinct, often poetic excerpts Lapide pieces together a ""surprisingly mild and benevolent"" record, despite Jesus' name having been used as a weapon against Jews throughout history (there are few kind works for the Church here). ""Jesus"" of Nazareth, the preachings and the man, are recognized as kin, while ""Christ"" the Son of God is almost uniformly considered a Pauline, Gentile, or mythological accretion: ""we have no need either of a Son of God or of a Holy Ghost but of a true human brother,"" writes an Israeli poet. Lapide begins with modern Hebrew literature and Israeli history texts, and then shifts backwards to survey rabbinic writings on Jesus from first-century Palestine to the present. The testimonies are well presented: how original, political, Hellenistic, or Jewish was Jesus of Nazareth? Among them is the ironic assertion that the Jews are the real disciples of Jesus: they have borne the cross with faith while Christians have forged it into a sword. ""Isn't this rabbi bleeding on the cross the incarnation of all Israel which, tortured and mocked like him, is continually being crucified by the hatred for Jews?"" Lapide puts a new face on old arguments about Jesus by focusing primarily on historical events instead of the religious divisions to which they so quickly gave rise. Problematic, however, is his assumption that there existed an original Hebrew proto-gospel (which other scholars doubt) and that modern scholarship can divide the historical ""kernel"" of Jesus from its ""ecclesiastical accretions."" Where earlier scholars had sought acceptability in demonstrating to Christians their appreciation of Jesus as a Jew, Lapide instead issues a warning: the reintegration of Jesus into the Jewish heritage has no religious implications for his acceptance as the Christ--evangelists beware.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday