Here’s a first: a New Testament annotated from a Jewish point of view

It’s a view we don’t consider very often, but a new, ground-breaking book offers some intriguing food for thought:

The New Testament is constantly being re-interpreted from a variety of perspectives. From feminists, to socialists, to traditionalists; there’s even a version as seen through the prism of Star Wars.

Well now, you can add to the collection The Jewish Annotated New Testament by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler.

Levine, a professor of New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University, and Brettler, the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University, gathered a group of Jewish scholars to put together the first-ever annotated version of the New Testament from an entirely Jewish perspective.

Levine grew up in North Dartmouth, Mass., in a predominantly Portuguese Roman Catholic neighborhood, and that’s where she first became fascinated with Christianity. She tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that Catholic Mass reminded her of going to her own synagogue.

“It was men in robes speaking in a language I didn’t understand, but somehow it was inspirational and spiritual,” Levine says.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament is the first time that Jewish scholars have ever been involved in editing a version of the New Testament. Though much of the New Testament is not subscribed to by the Jewish faith, Levine says there’s much in the New Testament that corresponds perfectly with early Jewish history.

“Much of the ethical material in the New Testament is Jewish, and much of the history presented is Jewish,” she says.

Reaction From The Jewish Community

Levine says that in her own congregation in Nashville and at synagogues across the country she has received positive reaction from the book, and she is being welcomed in to provide education about early Christianity.

“I think firmly that if we Jews want Christians to respect us, our practices, our beliefs, our traditions and our texts that we need to show the broader world, in particular, the Christian world, that same grace and that same courtesy,” she says.

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  1. After reading about this via a link on Fr. James Martin’s Facebook page, I ordered a copy. I have been studying it and used it for a reflection that I recently offered.

    This book is a great addition to the library and I hope that it is welcomed by many.

  2. I listened to Amy Jill Levine’s course on the Jewish Bible which is produced by the Teaching Company. Very illuminating!

  3. Oregon Catholic says:

    Having read this book I’d be interested in your opinion of the scholarship of the work. Do you think the authors understand Christianity well enough to make valid comments on the NT? I read some of the excerpts on Amazon and that came to mind since a few of the comments came across as the authors seemingly knowing what the early Christians were about better than the Church.

  4. I’m fascinated by the possibilities of this. Thank Deacon Greg. Am thinking of ordering it.

  5. Matthew the Wayfarer says:

    It’s not about whether they have an understanding of Christianity (whose version?) or the Church (again, whose definition?). They are interpreting the New Testament in the Light of their own Tradition to see just how “Jewish” Jesus, the Apostles and Disciples that made up the first churches were.
    I will be ordering a copy today. Looking forward to what they gleaned from the Apostolic witness.

  6. naturgesetz says:

    Me too. Thanks for alerting us, Deacon Greg.

  7. I have her course on the New Testament. It’s fair and she tries to be sensitive to Christians, but it strikes me as a little off the mark. But I’m not a theologian. There are better course on the New Testament if you ask me. I have been tempted to pick up her course on the Old Testament. Your endorsement might sway me.

  8. Joe Piccione says:

    Sacred Scripture is my daily lectio divina and I am using this edition now. Was it Pope Pius XII who said that we are spiritually Semites? The footnotes and introductions help us to encounter the New Testament as the first hearers of the good news heard it. And so following Vatican II and Catholic Scripture scholarship in the twentieth century, this is a good thing indeed. My favorite Bible for the historic sense is the New Jerusalem (NJB) edition with the complete footnotes (not the “Standard Edition”) based on the work of the Dominican Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.

  9. Donal Mahoney says:

    The fact that Jewish scholars saw fit to do this is a wonderful thing. The book now, if possible, should lead to further discussions between Jews and Christians, first to see what additional common ground we may have beyond the Old Testament but also with an eye also to explain Christianity from our point of view in a way that might help some Jews come to view Christ as the Messiah. Both authors would make wonderful guests on EWTN Live, where Fr. Mitch Pacwa could lead an informed discussion for Catholics in the trenches. The Catholics Come Home Campaign is important but it’s just as important to try to bring Jews home as well. Now I hope some Baptist will write a book kind to Catholicism so I can give it to my barber who is still suspicious that Catholics, like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, are nothing but a cult.

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