The Jewish Annotated New Testament and Amy-Jill Levine

Oxford University Press recently published the Jewish Annotated New Testament (eds. M. Brettler and A.J. Levine). As described by Oxford, this work,

“Although major New Testament figures–Jesus and Paul, Peter and James, Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdalene–were Jews, living in a culture steeped in Jewish history, beliefs, and practices, there has never been an edition of the New Testament that addresses its Jewish background and the culture from which it grew–until now.

In The Jewish Annotated New Testament, eminent experts under the general editorship of Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler put these writings back into the context of their original authors and audiences. And they explain how these writings have affected the relations of Jews and Christians over the past two thousand years. An international team of scholars introduces and annotates the Gospels, Acts, Letters, and Revelation from Jewish perspectives, in the New Revised Standard Version translation. They show how Jewish practices and writings, particularly the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, influenced the New Testament writers. From this perspective, readers gain new insight into the New Testament’s meaning and significance. In addition, thirty essays on historical and religious topics–Divine Beings, Jesus in Jewish thought, Parables and Midrash, Mysticism, Jewish Family Life, Messianic Movements, Dead Sea Scrolls, questions of the New Testament and anti-Judaism, and others–bring the Jewish context of the New Testament to the fore, enabling all readers to see these writings both in their original contexts and in the history of interpretation. For readers unfamiliar with Christian language and customs, there are explanations of such matters as the Eucharist, the significance of baptism, and “original sin.”

For non-Jewish readers interested in the Jewish roots of Christianity and for Jewish readers who want a New Testament that neither proselytizes for Christianity nor denigrates Judaism, The Jewish Annotated New Testament is an essential volume that places these writings in a context that will enlighten students, professionals, and general readers.”

While I haven’t had enough time to go through the entire work, from what I have seen it is exceptional and unprecedented. The translation is the NRSV (I believe unchanged) with copious notes and an Introduction for each book. In the back of the volume are several helpful articles that help to acquaint the reader to the cultural nuances of the Second Temple period and issues that have arisen from centuries-worth of theological interpretation

C. Berkeley for the NY Times

Amy-Jill Levine,  the chair of my session during this year’s SBL, and the aforementioned publication were recently NY Times (Focusing on the Jewish Story of the New Testament). Her work has been important to the field of Historical Jesus studies.

SAN FRANCISCO — Growing up Jewish in North Dartmouth, Mass., Amy-Jill Levine loved Christianity.

Her neighborhood “was almost entirely Portuguese and Roman Catholic,” Dr. Levine said last Sunday at her book party here during the annual American Academy of Religion conference. “My introduction to Christianity was ethnic Roman Catholicism, and I loved it. I used to practice giving communion to Barbie. Church was like the synagogue: guys in robes speaking languages I didn’t understand. My favorite movie was ‘The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.’ ”

Christianity might have stayed just a fascination, but for an unfortunate episode in second grade: “When I was 7 years old, one girl said to me on the school bus, ‘You killed our Lord.’ I couldn’t fathom how this religion that was so beautiful was saying such a dreadful thing.”

That encounter with the dark side of her friends’ religion sent Dr. Levine on a quest, one that took her to graduate school in New Testament studies and eventually to Vanderbilt University, where she has taught since 1994. Dr. Levine is still a committed Jew — she attends an Orthodox synagogue in Nashville — but she is a leading New Testament scholar. [See rest here]

HT: A. Amihay for both.

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