The Jewish Gospels, the Story of the Jewish Christ by Daniel Boyarin (New York: The New Press, 2012), 160 pp., cloth $21.95.
Daniel Boyarin is the Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture and Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the world’s leading Talmud scholars. In The Jewish Gospels Boyarin challenges how most modern Jewish theologians have interpreted the New Testament Gospels and Jesus Himself. He examines the Old Testament prophecies, New Testament narratives and Jewish extra-biblical literature such as First Enoch and Fourth Ezra and reaches some startling conclusions, considering they come from a highly respected Jewish rabbical scholar. Boyarin concludes:
· The idea of a Trinity or at least a second member of the Godhead has been present among Jewish believers long before the coming of Jesus (pp. XVII, 5, 44, 56, 72, 102, 128, 132, 142, 158-160).
· The big distinction between Judaism and Christianity did not take place until the Council of Nicaea (pp. 1, 13-15). Some Old Testament Jews believed that the Messiah, who would restore Israel’s glory, was a man, others that He was divine and others that He was both human and divine (pp. 5-7, 77, 102, 128, 132, 142).
· The title “Son of Man,” which Jesus often used for Himself, is drawn from Daniel 7:13-14 and is a reference to a second divine figure who was the Messiah (pp. 26, 30-34, 35-36, 40, 46-47, 53, 56, 141). Jesus definitely saw Himself as the Messiah (pp. 56-70, 101), as well as deity (p. 138). This is in opposition to liberal Christian scholarship that claims His followers invented all this (pp. 157-160).
· Isaiah 53 has been interpreted historically as referring to a suffering Messiah who died vicariously in order to atone for man’s sins. It was not interpreted until modern times as the suffering servant Israel (pp. 132, 152-156).
These arguments are astonishing considering the source. On the other hand, Boyarin does not go so far as to accept Jesus as Messiah (p. 160), does not believe that Jesus ever rejected Kosher laws (pp. 109-128, esp. p. 121), and embraces liberal views on dates of Old Testament books, source criticism and authorship (pp. 31, 42, 105).
The Jewish Gospels is readable, challenging and helpful in understanding both Scripture and our witness to Jewish people.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher Southern View Chapel