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Jesus the Pharisee by Hyam Maccoby

Author: Hyam Maccoby
Book title: Jesus the Pharisee
ISBN10: 0334029147
ISBN13: 978-0334029144
Publisher: SCM Press (March 1, 2003)
Language: English
Pages: 240
Size PDF: 1374 kb
Size FB2: 1846 kb
Size ePUB: 1633 kb
Rating: 4.5 ✯
Votes: 572
Subcategory: Theology

Jesus the Pharisee by Hyam Maccoby

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In this text, Hyam Maccoby controversially suggests that Jesus was not only friendly to the Pharisees, but was actually a member of their group. He aims to throw new light on the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist, exploring the political aspect of their movements and their adherence to the Torah. He looks at evidence from the rabbinic sources to show a strong affinity between Jesus and the Pharisees and discusses previously misunderstood or ignored stories about Jesus found in the Talmud. The book rehabilitates the Pharisees and uses the New Testament to show that there is continuity between Pharisaism and rabbinism. It should prove influential in the strategy to combat anti-Semitism.
Reviews (7)
As I haven't quite finished reading the book yet, I will reserve a final review; but this far, quite informative and I highly recommend this and several others written by Hyam.
Reading this book will help you understand how Jesus was nurtured by and lived out of the dynamics and dualities of the Pharisees and their spirituality.
In 1980, Maccoby wrote his first book entitled "Revolution in Judea"--don't bother trying to find this book--it's out of print. If you are somehow able to get a copy, grab it--it will open your eyes about what really happened in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Be prepared for all of your conceptions and beliefs to be systematically shattered by this master historian. Now, 23 years later, Maccoby's book Jesus the Pharisee is the expounding of his earlier work on this subject, not as much focused on the crucifixtion and trial, but moreso on the actual intent of Jesus's sayings and works. Maccoby lays out a very compelling, if not certain case that Jesus was a Pharisee, most likely a Chasid, and had no intention whatsoever of abrogating or eliminating even a single Jewish law. In fact, he and his disciples were extremely scrupulous adherents of Jewish law. His claim to be the Messiah was not only not unusual (other Jews had done so as well), but the leader of the Pharisee movement himself, Rabbi Gamaliel, defended Peter's leadership of the post-crucifixion Jesus messianic movement. Maccoby has an amazing ability to find bits and pieces of truth amongst the writings of the Gospels. The Gospel writers all, to varying degrees, accidentally left lines from the original Jerusalem Church documents as they were redrafting and concocting the Pauline Jesus mythology---lines which completely contradict their other manufactured statements and depictions of the life of Jesus. Maccoby successfully challenges the theories of many contemporary pro-Gospel Christian historians who, as Maccoby demonstrates, lack even the most basic logical and commonsensical abilities, and whose true motivations can sometimes best be explained as anti-Semitic. Through proven and accepted methods of textual examination, Maccoby pieces together a truly shocking picture of Jesus that goes completely against the portrayal that Christians are taught to believe. Although this was certainly not his intent, this book exposes the fatal flaws of Christianity's Jesus mythology and makes its adherants look absolutely foolish.

You will not be able to put this book down, and will certainly want to pass it along to friends and family.
The late Rabbi Maccoby may not have gotten every aspect of this viewpoint correct, but its basic conclusion that Jesus was a Rabbi holding to many of the verdicts of the school of Hillel is easily supported by the Gospels and the Book of Acts. Many Christian scholars will take issue with this view and some will angrily give the Book one star, but it's the only way to make sense of certain New Testament passages. Jesus was arrested because the Sadducees did not like the commotion created when Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers just before Passover. Many Pharisees supported Jesus, and would later get the apostles out of jail in the Book of Acts by overruling the Sadducees in the Sanhedrin. Just because Jesus pointed out hypocrisy among Pharisees doesn't mean they hated him. Charismatic Rabbis were not opposed to healing on the Sabbath, either, according to the Talmud. Thus, the Pharisees really got a bad rap over the centuries.
Maccoby (in this and his other books) examines the New Testament without making assumptions based on later Church teachings. He gathers compelling circumstantial evidence, common sense, and knowledge of historical events at the time. By unearthing and contextualizing passages that run against the grain of later Church teachings, Maccoby demonstrates that Jesus was more Jewish and anti-Roman than the depiction of the Gospels.
This, together with Maccoby's "The Mythmaker" provide eye-opening correctives to perceptions of Jesus and his world around him.
When Diane Sawyer interviewed Mel Gibson about his movie, "The Passion of the Christ," she asked him if the Jews killed Jesus. Gibson replied flippantly that Jews and Romans were there, and that there weren't any Norwegians. Later Church teachings and their advocates (until Vatican II) promulgated that "the Jews" (as if they were one cohesive monolith) killed Jesus. Curiously, though, these same teachings have also successfully wrenched Jesus from *his* Jewish -- and Pharisaic -- roots.
If you thought "The Da Vinci Code" was eye-opening regarding the Holy Grail, I urge you to read this about Jesus himself.
This totally goes against what most evangelical and regular christians believe but it is very educational and sheds some light on a subject that perplexed and haunted human beings for the nearly the past 2,000 years. All I can say is this is a lot better than some of the more evangelical books such as "More than a Carpenter" and "A Case for Faith" by Lee Strobel (note: I didn't comment on those books yet and I will try not to because it might just make me angry)...
The Pharisees have gotten a bad rap throughout history, but Maccoby's attempt to rehabilitate them by placing Jesus within their movement fails miserably. His characterization of Judaism in the 1st century CE as monolithic is a caricature that ignores the huge amount of evidence we have that attests to the diversity of the religion at the time. His selective readings of his sources (Josephus, the Gospels, and the rabbinic texts) are highly misleading, and he provides almost no hard evidence for some of his most central claims (for example, that the Chasids were Pharisees). Additionally, many of his arguments contain so many internal contradictions as to render them almost worthless. He does a decent job of exposing the reasons for the negative portrayal the Pharisees get in the Gospels, but this adds little to his book because the rest of it is practically useless, and better studies of anti-Pharisee Gospel bias are available elsewhere. Read Sanders and Neusner on this topic instead.

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