The Schmooze

An Exceptional Jew: Jesus as Seen by Jewish Historians

Before 1970, writings about Jesus by Jewish scriptural authorities were relatively rare, apart from the widely known works of Lithuanian-born Joseph Klausner. But as the Swiss New Testament scholar Daniel Marguerat writes in a preface to Dan Jaffé’s informative “20th century Jewish Historians on Jesus,” Christianity is the “only world religion whose founder is not a member of it. Jesus of Nazareth is not the first Christian, but rather an exceptional Jew.”

Jaffé, a historian of religions at Bar Ilan University, concludes that while there is no specifically Jewish method of studying the scriptural and historical Jesus, Jewish authorities ultimately “re-humanized” Jesus. As Klausner writes in “Jesus of Nazareth,” (1922) Jewish writing about Jesus “fills a blank page of the history of Israel which hitherto had been almost wholly written by Christians.” Klausner’s view of Jesus as a Jewish reformer and Pharisee sage has been influential, arguing that the depiction of the Pharisee movement in the Gospels is highly prejudiced.

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An Exceptional Jew: Jesus as Seen by Jewish Historians

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