Brother Jesus
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Brother Jesus

The Nazarene through Jewish Eyes

Title Details

Pages: 272

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 03/15/2012

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4430-0

List Price: $34.95


Pub Date: 11/15/2018

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5590-0

List Price: $104.95

Brother Jesus

The Nazarene through Jewish Eyes

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No matter what we would make of Jesus, says Schalom Ben-Chorin, he was first a Jewish man in a Jewish land. Brother Jesus leads us through the twists and turns of history to reveal the figure who extends a "brotherly hand" to the author as a fellow Jew.

Ben-Chorin's reach is astounding as he moves easily between literature, law, etymology, psychology, and theology to recover "Jesus' picture from the Christian overpainting." A commanding scholar of the historical Jesus who also devoted his life to widening Jewish-Christian dialogue, Ben-Chorin ranges across such events as the wedding at Cana, the Last Supper, and the crucifixion to reveal, in contemporary Christianity, traces of the Jewish codes and customs in which Jesus was immersed. Not only do we see how and why these events also resonate with Jews, but we are brought closer to Christianity in its primitive state: radical, directionless, even pagan.

Early in his book, Ben-Chorin writes, "the belief of Jesus unifies us, but the belief in Jesus divides us." It is the kind of paradox from which arise endless questions or, as Ben-Chorin would have it, endless opportunities for Jews and Christians to come together for meaningful, mutual discovery.

This is a precious book. We see a Jewish intellectual deconstructing the Christian gospels in his quest to reconstruct his brother Jesus. It is also a poignant book. For though he knew that the gospels were Christian myth, they were the only texts he had. His pursuit of historical truth despite the mystifications of the texts reveals the no-nonsense logic of an exceptionally well-trained mind in a relentless struggle with German scholarship. And in the end, by an amazing control of historical imagination, Ben-Chorin does catch sight of his non-Christian Jewish brother. Some will celebrate this book as the excellent translation of a most readable classic on the historical Jesus. But it is more. It is a moving documentation of a little-known chapter of cultural and intellectual history. It should be read as a meditation on the civility and skill of a German-Jewish scholar in pre- and post-holocaust debate with the Christian mind.

—Burton L. Mack

For centuries we Christians have imagined a composite gospel picture of Jesus's life and viewed it through the developing tradition of our own faith. It has usually been the Nazarene through Christian eyes. But what happens when a Jew imagines the Nazarene through Jewish eyes? Schalom Ben-Chorin's 1967 classic gives Jesus his proper context as a first-century Jew and sees him within that Judaism's vibrant and on-going tradition. But his book also carries a deeper challenge in the delicacy of its titular address and the pain of its terminal image. Those who stand with the crucifiers cannot stand with the crucified. Where have we Christians been standing throughout most of those centuries? Who, then, is brother to 'the Jew on the cross'?

—John Dominic Crossan

[An] elegant translation of the 1967 German original.

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

About the Author/Editor

SCHALOM BEN-CHORIN (1913-1999) wrote some thirty books on Jewish historical and cultural themes, of which Brother Jesus was his acknowledged favorite. German-born and -educated, Ben-Chorin emigrated to Jerusalem in 1935, where he spent the remainder of his life. In the aftermath of World War II, he worked tirelessly to repair relations between Jews and Germans and between Christians and Jews. His many awards include the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal and the Leo Baeck Prize.