The Resurrection Of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective, by Pinchas Lapide
In reading this book, I was struck by the way that the author was particularly keen on doing what it took to make an ecumenical appeal to mainstream Christians given the author’s firm commitment to Judaism. If I can be rather skeptical about Jewish appeals to the Talmud, this book strikes the right tone in being more interested in a midrashic interpretation of both the Old and New Testament that finds the author making some very worthwhile and intriguing comments about the need for Christianity to avoid being assimilated into heathen thought and also about the author’s belief that Jesus Christ rose again taking the Gospels seriously as texts but also demonstrating that even a belief that Jesus Christ rose on the third day was itself insufficient to convince the reader that He was the Messiah because the expectations for the restoration of Israel and the establishment of God’s rule over the earth. The result is a compelling and enjoyable work that deserves to be read because of the approach the author takes and because of the gulf that exists between Jewish and Christian expectations for the Messianic age, and the greater sensitivity that the Jews have to how they have been treated throughout history.
This book is a short one at about 150 pages or so. The introduction discusses the author’s interest in the interfaith communications between Judaism and Christianity. After that there is a prologue and the author’s dealing with the historical value of the Gospels as a testimony to Jesus’ resurrection, a testimony that the author views as being honest and quite in contrast to the post-messianic accounts in the Church fathers and other writings. The author talks about resurrection in Judaism, the relationship between Sinai and Golgotha, the Jewish faith experience that survives in the New Testament, and a question of translations. There are discussions about God’s teaching methods and some explanations for the current division between Jews and Christians, which the author hopes will end in a Messianic Age where the whole world is brought into obedience with the laws of God. The book ends with a discussion of the testimony of Maimonides as well as the common hope that exists in Judaism and Christianity that demonstrates that his fondness for Christianity does not mean that the author is interested in conversion but rather that from a Jewish perspective he finds much to praise about Christianity. After that there is an epilogue, glossary, and bibliograhy.
If you want to look at this book and see how it judges the question of resurrection, the author is one of those who has done a good job at pointing out the Jewish roots of Christianity and the implications this has for understanding the New Testament. Quite often the New Testament depends on biblical contexts that come from the Hebrew scriptures, and few Christians have any knowledge or any particular interest in what this means in terms of how the Bible must be interpreted. A few cases of this occurring take place and the author is right to call out many Christians for viewing a sharp discontinuity between Jesus’ life as an observant Jew and the way that Christians should continue to behave. The author’s awareness of the Jewish context of the New Testament and his willingness to meet Christians halfway, even if he seems not very aware of nontrinitarian Christians, is certainly commendable and the book is definitely better because the author knows and cares what would be considered to be acceptable evidence and argumentation to a Christian audience, a necessary aspect of interfaith communication that is not always easy to find.