From Rebel to Rab­bi: Reclaim­ing Jesus and the Mak­ing of Mod­ern Jew­ish Culture

Matthew Hoff­man
  • Review
By – December 12, 2011
If you have ever puz­zled over Marc Chagall’s incor­po­ra­tion of the cru­ci­fied Jesus into his paint­ings, or won­dered at Scholem Asch’s pos­i­tive inter­pre­ta­tions of Jesus in his sto­ries, this mono­graph is for you. These two fig­ures are among the many dis­cussed from the late 18th to ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, with spe­cial focus on Yid­dish mod­ernism in the pre-Shoah peri­od of the 1920’s to 30’s. In case after case, Hoff­man explains how the var­i­ous con­flicts fac­ing these authors and artists were re-inter­pret­ed in terms of Jesus in ways that were pro­found­ly Jew­ish while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly chal­leng­ing both tra­di­tion­al Chris­t­ian anti-Jew­ish rep­re­sen­ta­tions of him and his teach­ings, and tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish respons­es. Jew­ish suf­fer­ing at the hands of Chris­tians, legit­i­mat­ed by appeals to Jesus, are shown to be want­i­ng in view of a Jesus whose own suf­fer­ing was like­wise that of a par­a­dig­mat­ic Jew­ish mar­tyr. Many did not agree with the wis­dom of this strat­e­gy, and Hoff­man presents their voic­es too.
Mark D. Nanos, Ph.D., Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas, is the author of Mys­tery­of Romans, win­ner of the 1996 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, Charles H. Revson­Award in Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian Relations.

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