“The Pope’s Favorite Rabbi”


I was going to write my own notice of this profile and summary, but Dr. West beat me to it. Instead, I quote him in full.

A Profile of Jacob Neusner

Time Magazine has an engaging portrait of Jacob Neusner on its website which folk here will find interesting, to say the least.  With thanks to Matthijs den Dulk for mentioning it.

It begins

I’m not offended when Christians eat pork,” says Jacob Neusner. At least not usually. The brilliant–and none too patient–Jewish scholar does recall a religion conference where so much of the other white meat was served that he was reduced to a diet of hard-boiled eggs. One day on the food line something snapped, and he rhymed aloud, “I hope you all get trichinosis/And come to believe in the God of Moses.” A fellow conferee instantly replied, “And if we don’t get such diseases/Will you believe in the God of Jesus?” Neusner cackles. “That’s an example of the right way to do Judeo-Christian dialogue,” he says. “If religion matters, and it does, then it’s not honest to be indifferent to the convictions of others.”

Read it all, and enjoy.

The story has come about because the Pope’s new book, Jesus of Nazareth, deals directly with Neusner’s 1993 book, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus. One section to comment upon:

In choosing Neusner as his muse, Benedict selected a man as formidable and controversial in the field of Jewish studies as the Pope is in Catholicism. An expert on the sprawling literature of the 1st through 6th century rabbis who shaped modern Judaism, Neusner is an empire builder, a central figure in wrestling an examination of Judaism into America’s universities. He accomplished this through brilliance (he developed his own secularly comprehensible synthesis of rabbinics), superhuman productivity (he has written more than 950 books, although he will admit to a certain reprocessing of material)…

Just a bit of “reprocessing”? Yup. A bit.

(Via Dr Jim West.)

 

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