Amy-Jill Levine, who teaches New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt, is the author of The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus and coeditor of The Jewish Annotated New Testament. She has also written (with Sandy Eisenberg Sasso) several children’s books, including Who Counts? 100 Sheep, 10 Coins, and 2 Sons.
Dr. Levine is a member of an Orthodox synagogue and speaks frequently in Christian congregations. Her most recent book is Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week, designed for use in group discussions.
How did you as a Jewish scholar come to focus on the New Testament? What is it about Jesus that drew you in?
I think Jesus is fascinating. Plus he’s Jewish, so he’s one of ours. The more I read not only the words attributed to him but also the stories told about him, the more intriguing I find the material.
I also have very much worried about the anti-Jewish views that frequently surface in studies about Jesus. A number of Christian commentators feel the need to make Judaism look bad in order to make Jesus look good. Instead of portraying Jesus as a Jew talking to other Jews, he becomes in their views the first Christian, the one who invented divine grace, mercy, and love, and all that other good stuff. Such views neglect the presence of these same virtues within Jesus’ own Jewish context…
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