TNR: Peter Schäfer Pans Daniel Boyarin's Jesus Book

Are all the basic theological ideas of Christianity found in earlier forms of Judaism? Boyarin says yes indeed, Schäfer says no way.

In TNR Peter Schäfer has negatively reviewed Daniel Boyarin's new Jesus Book.

The bottom line according to Schäfer is, "BOYARIN’S BOOK leaves the reader irritated and sad. It has very little that is new to offer—and what appears to be new is wildly speculative and highly idiosyncratic. Even judged by its commendable intentions—to win over dogmatic defenders of the perfect uniqueness of Christianity or Judaism—it is disappointing."

The idiosyncratic nature of the book can be seen from its TOC:
1. From Son of God to Son of Man
2. The Son of Man in First Enoch and Fourth Ezra: Other Jewish Messiahs of the First Century
3. Jesus Kept Kosher
4. The Suffering Christ as a Midrash on Daniel
Epilogue: The Jewish Gospel
Here we have the menu: Christology mixed with kosher mixed with messiah talk. The agenda of the book is confusing if it exists at all.

In the Foreword to the book Jack Miles writes,
In chapter 3 of the book you are about to read, titled “Jesus Kept Kosher,” Boyarin writes:
Most (if not all) of the ideas and practices of the Jesus movement of the first century and the beginning of the second century—and even later—can be safely understood as part of the ideas and practices that we understand to be “Judaism.”. . . The ideas of Trinity and incarnation, or certainly the germs of those ideas, were already present among Jewish believers well before Jesus came on the scene to incarnate in himself, as it were, those theological notions and take up his messianic calling.
Miles does no favor to Boyarin by citing up front a section with phrases like these:
  • "Most (if not all)"
  • "present among Jewish believers"
  • that we understand to be “Judaism”
  • "or certainly the germs of those ideas"
Such qualifiers defeat any claim, rendering it impenetrable to understand and impossible to challenge. From what Professor Schäfer says, he is sure that Boyarin is wrong and sure that Boyarin does not account for basic scholarship in the field in which he writes, saying in a most biting scholarly criticism, "All the relevant pre-Christian Jewish sources as well as the New Testament sources have been exemplarily presented and analyzed by Martin Hengel in his seminal book, The Son of God: The Origin of Christology and the History of Jewish-Hellenistic Religion, published in many editions, of which Boyarin seems unaware."

Whether Boyarin is "unaware" or "aware" what Schäfer means to say is that he does not "cite" this work in the book and that diminishes its value as a work of scholarship. Further, Schäfer makes it utterly clear that he is not convinced of the value of the core insights or analyses of this book.

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