Thorough, extensive, and well-researched… A stunning work of history.
Seager, a retired professor of history from the University of Montreal, makes some profound observations about Jesus and the New Testament, awareness of which he believes is a must for the masses, particularly contemporary Jews, who are generally unfamiliar with the politics of Jesus’s day. For example, Jesus misrepresented the Hebrew Scriptures, giving Judaism a bad name (his claim “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” encourages vengeance of reprisal. There is absolutely nothing in Judaism about hating one’s enemy: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat. If he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” — Old Testament prophesy edition). He further states that the Jesus story puts the Jews and Judaism in a bad light, which not only kindles anti-Semitic sentiments but also presents Jews as ignorant souls who rejected “the greatest man who ever lived.”. He vigorously defends Judaism against its numerous detractors, rejecting several widespread myths about Jesus in the process (women were given superior positions during Jesus; the commandment to love one’s neighbour and several others originated with Jesus). Seager also takes on Jewish academics who try to present both Jesus and The New Testament as a whole in the most favorable light possible. Ignoring Jesus’s call for violence (“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”), his attitude toward Gentiles which ranged from calculated indifference to undisguised contempt (“Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”), and other delinquencies (derogatory remarks about Jews, such as calling them sons of the devil), they either ignore it or offer convoluted theories as a justification. He criticizes rabbis who embrace Jesus as one of their own. Their sole purpose, he states, is to improve relations with Christians, hoping “that Jesus can become a “bridge” between Jews and Christians (“The cleansing of the Temple” incident supposedly inspired Hitler to order genocide of the Jews.). Rejecting the approach, the author states that the above attempt on their part may in time help reduce anti-Judaism among Christian theologians. But hoping that “it will affect the growing number of atheists whose views on Jesus and Judaism are derived from Christianity,” is expecting too much. Instead, it can encourage Jewish alienation, if nothing else. Arguing that Christianity interprets the Hebrew Scriptures in a way totally inconsistent with Jewish tradition, Seager says that merely writing books explaining how to refute the time-worn claims about Jesus will not solve the problem. A lot more needs to be done: “first, a coherent analysis of the Nazarene’s ministry and his compatriots’ reaction to it; second, an explanation of his moral teachings and their relevance, if any, for the problems of our own day.” To achieve that one needs to read the New Testament, and especially the Gospels. And though both the narratives are full of inconsistencies, these still provide a key to understanding why Jesus’s mission among his fellow Jews, despite some initial successes, eventually failed. To many devoted Christian readers, some of the arguments may seem convoluted. However, Seager’s questions and observations about Jesus and the New Testament are thought-provoking and wholly convincing. The biographical essay and end notes provide useful context. This well researched, powerful, and provocative guide on Christianity from a Jewish perspective is a must-read.
Jesus, the Man and the Myth
A Jewish Reading of the New Testament
Pub date April 13, 2021
Price $6.10 (USD) Paperback, $0.00 Kindle Unlimited