arts & entertainment
Jewish Story Of The
Amy-Jill Levine speaks on Jewish-edited edition of the Christian holy book, with
notes and explanatory essays by more than 50 leading Jewish scholars.
I Contributing Writer
my-Jill Levine describes
herself as a "Yankee Jewish
feminist who teaches
New Testament in a predominantly
Protestant divinity school:'
Levine, 57, professor of New
Testament and Jewish Studies at
Vanderbilt University in Nashville,
Tenn., cannot remember a time when
she was not interested in religion.
While she had been fascinated by
Christian ritual as a youngster, she
became horrified by peer accusations
about Jews being responsible for the
death of Jesus; and she built a career
addressing relevant issues.
Levine will discuss The Jewish
Annotated New Testament: Why Jews
(and Christians) Should Read This
Book at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at
the Berman Center for the Performing
Arts in West Bloomfield. The talk
is presented by Seminars for Adult
Jewish Enrichment (SAJE).
The book demonstrates
Rembrandt: Young Jew as Christ, c. 1656, oil on wood: The
Levine's late rabbi, during youthful
the very Jewish nature
sitter of the painting is a young Jew evicted from Spain and
times in Massachusetts, encouraged
of the New Testament.
settled in Amsterdam in the neighborhood of Rembrandt.
her early explorations of Jewish-
Christian relations. She went on to
double-major in religion and English
A-JL: I shall be
at Smith College in Massachusetts as well
A-JL: The volume provides an informed,
talking about why Jews should read the
as earning both a master's and a doctoral
New Testament and why both Jews and
respectful treatment of books held sacred
degree in religion from Duke University in
Christians should become familiar with
by Christians and thus models a type of
civil conversation I find often lacking
its Jewish context. We'll explore how Jews
"I read voraciously and visited churches
and Christians can celebrate our common
today. The notes and essays reflect the
and synagogues to speak with members
roots, how we came to separate and how
diversity of Jewish views then and now
of congregations:' says the co-editor, with
we might foster better Jewish-Christian
(since not all the annotators agree with
Marc Z. Brettler, of The Jewish Annotated
each other), and they provide the impetus
New Testament (Oxford University Press;
for further study.
JN: How much of that relates to your
Earlier books include The Misunderstood book?
JN: What inspired the book?
A-JL: The Jewish Annotated New
A-JL: Don Kraus, our Oxford University
Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the
Jewish Jesus and The Meaning of the Bible:
Testament, which I edited with Marc Z.
Press editor, suggested the volume after
What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian
Brettler, presents discussions by Jewish
developing The Jewish Study Bible, which
Old Testament Can Teach Us.
scholars of the entire New Testament
Marc Brettler also edited (with Adele
Berlin). He thought — and Marc and I
Levine, who has spoken to religious
as well as more than 30 essays on the
gatherings around the state, previewed her time period, covering topics such as
enthusiastically agreed — that it would be
talk and discussed her interests during a
synagogues, the Jerusalem Temple, Jewish
an excellent resource for anyone interested
in the history of Judaism, Christian origins
phone conversation with the Detroit Jewish views of life after death and the ways
Judaism has been practiced.
and Jewish-Christian relations.
A-JL: Marc and I compiled an initial
list of Jewish scholars with the expertise
needed to do the annotations and essays.
also asked these scholars to recom-
mend other contributors. Our authors
cover the Jewish spectrum from secular
to Orthodox, and most of the English-
speaking world, from the U.S. and Canada
to England, Israel and Australia.
IN: Can you provide an anecdote from
the book that you think will give a sense
of its tone and content?
A-JL: I could note how Jesus is the first
person in literature ever called "rabbi"
or how Paul is the only Pharisee of the
Second Temple period from whom we
have written records.
JN: What will you cover in your
JN: What stands out to you about the
JN: How did you go about putting it
together considering the different con-
JN: What did you learn from working
on this project?
A-JL: Jewish interest in the New
Testament and Christian interest in the
New Testament's Jewish context are high
across the globe. I also learned that get-
ting 51 Jews to stay within word count is a
JN: How does learning about the New
Testament affect Jews confronted by
anyone trying to persuade them to join
Christian congregations, like Jews for
A-JL: Knowing the Jewish context of the
New Testament allows us to see both why
some Jews — such as Peter and Paul and
Mary Magdalene — concluded that Jesus
was the messiah and why most Jews did not.
JN: What do you hope readers will
remember long after they finish reading
A-JL: I hope that all readers find in the
New Testament inspirational and pro-
found teachings, recognize how some New
Testament passages have been interpreted
in ways hateful to Jews and Judaism, and
see through the commentary both the rea-
sons why these problematic teachings were
recorded and how we might today address
I find that the more I study the New
Jewish Story on page 57
December 5 • 2013