By Jacob Neusner
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Extra info for A Rabbi Talks with Jesus
I think we owe him a serious hearing, and that means a fresh and interested encounter, not merely genuflection and obedience, on the one side, or a casual nod, on the other. So I state very simply: I can see myself meeting this man and, with courtesy, arguing with him. It is my form of respect, the only compliment I crave from others, the only serious tribute I pay to the people I take seriously - and therefore respect and even love. I can see myself not only meeting and arguing with him, taking up specific things he says and challenging him on the basis of our shared Torah, the Scriptures that Christians would later on adopt as the "Old Testament," but I can imagine myself also saying, "Friend, you go your way, I'll go mine.
But that is our task, too, if we are to have a serious argument about important truths. And it is time, I think, for some specific teachings of Matthew's Jesus to receive sustained and serious attention as not platitudes and truisms but contentious and vigorous propositions, demanding assent attained through argument. For, as you read the stories Matthew tells, you cannot avoid the simple fact that Jesus was a man who said things he thought new and important, and who claimed that his teachings formed the correct way to carry out and to fulfill the Torah, the teachings that God had given to Moses at Mount Sinai.
Several generations of Jewish apologists have fulsomely praised this "Galilean miracle worker," placing him in the tradition of Elijah and the Hasidic rabbis of the eighteenth century and afterward. Other generations have praised Jesus as a great rabbi. These evasions of the Christian claim to truth will serve no more. Christianity does not believe in a Galilean miracle worker, nor does Christianity worship a rabbi. For my part, I will not evade. I will not concede. I will not praise with excessive, irrelevant compliments someone else's God: it is demeaning and dishonest.