Monday, January 01, 2007

AMY-JILL LEVINE'S BOOK, The Misunderstood Jew, is reviewed by Julie Galambush in the New York Times:
Interfaith Approach to Forgiving Trespass

Published: January 1, 2007

As a child Amy-Jill Levine insisted on attending catechism class at a Catholic church. She faithfully administered Holy Communion to her Barbie doll. This, despite being, then as now, an observant Jew. A professor of New Testament studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Ms. Levine has spent a lifetime exploring the profound connections and equally profound divisions between Christianity and Judaism — and, perhaps more important, between Christians and Jews.

The premise of “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus” is simple: Jews and Christians need to understand one another. The implicit corollary: Despite years of trying, and to their mutual harm, they do not.

In a book intended for Jews and Christians alike (but mostly addressed to Christians) Ms. Levine offers both critique and corrective on topics as seemingly disparate as the Jewish content of the Lord’s Prayer and Christian responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But that is Ms. Levine’s point: to show how frequently and disastrously inaccurate beliefs about Jesus and early Judaism produce distorted relationships in the present.


Jewish-Christian dialogue, having come into its own in the aftermath of the Holocaust, has seemed less compelling in recent decades. Ms. Levine’s chilling tales of casual anti-Judaism among scholars who should know better rekindles the urgency of the task. She covers a vast canvas and of necessity does so in broad strokes, some more effective than others. But it is a book whose strengths far outweigh its flaws, and whose flaws count only because its subject matters so deeply.

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