A Jewish Perspective On The New Testament

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The New Testament is constantly being re-interpreted from a variety of perspectives. From feminists, to socialists, to traditionalists; there's even a version as seen through the prism of Star Wars.

Well now, you can add to the collection The Jewish Annotated New Testament by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler.

Levine, a professor of New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University, and Brettler, the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University, gathered a group of Jewish scholars to put together the first-ever annotated version of the New Testament from an entirely Jewish perspective.

Levine grew up in North Dartmouth, Mass., in a predominantly Portuguese Roman Catholic neighborhood, and that's where she first became fascinated with Christianity. She tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that Catholic Mass reminded her of going to her own synagogue.

"It was men in robes speaking in a language I didn't understand, but somehow it was inspirational and spiritual," Levine says.

The Jewish Annotated New Testament is the first time that Jewish scholars have ever been involved in editing a version of the New Testament. Though much of the New Testament is not subscribed to by the Jewish faith, Levine says there's much in the New Testament that corresponds perfectly with early Jewish history.

"Much of the ethical material in the New Testament is Jewish, and much of the history presented is Jewish," she says.

Reaction From The Jewish Community

Levine says that in her own congregation in Nashville and at synagogues across the country she has received positive reaction from the book, and she is being welcomed in to provide education about early Christianity.

"I think firmly that if we Jews want Christians to respect us, our practices, our beliefs, our traditions and our texts that we need to show the broader world, in particular, the Christian world, that same grace and that same courtesy," she says.

The blessed thing now, Levine says, is that Jews and Christians today can have that conversation.

"By talking with each other, we learn more about each other, and ideally we learn more about ourselves," she says.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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