2016.05.05. LaCocque, Jesus the Central Jew

Andre LaCocque, Jesus the Central Jew: His Times and His People
Reviewed by Leonard Greenspoon


  1. Anonymous11 June, 2016

    The following is a response to Leonard Greenspoon’s review of my book, Jesus: The Central Jew. I appreciate the time and the work he spent in reading and critiquing my work, and I respect his scholarship. That being said, I would like to clarify and correct several points raised in the review.

    As Greenspoon notes, the book does not claim to present a new Jesus of Nazareth, but readers of the review might not gather what it does claim to do. Its purpose is to buttress the complete “Jewishness” of Jesus and his unwavering commitment to Israel’s Judaism, past and future. The list of sources both secondary and contemporary with Jesus of Nazareth is as exhaustive as could be provided. In so doing, the intent is to “purify” the field of non-Jewish elements that some New Testaments scholars have cluttered it with, for example, the criterion of textual skepticism as to the “authenticity” of Jesus’ sayings when it duplicates or echoes traditions illustrated by other Jewish sources. Strictly adhering to Jesus’ Jewishness allows the development of a fresh appreciation for the man. Concurrently, it provides a better understanding of the gospel writers.

    This is perhaps a more conservative interpretation of Jewish sources about Jesus than some prefer. However, such a positive approach addresses itself more carefully and intently to the purpose of any given tradition than to its authenticity. For example, Greenspoon writes of my treatment of Judas, “LaCocque does find historical value in gospel accounts about which most others are highly skeptical.” I believe he may have misunderstood my position: I do not value the account for its historicity but rather take note that the account is a midrash based on Zech 11. I conclude, “No other chapter in Jesus’ story—with the exception of the birth narrative—is more fraught with the legendary” (215).

    Likewise, as to the questioning of Jesus by the Sanhedrin (another example that Greenspoon mentions), I conclude that one must be skeptical of the accuracy of all the gospel versions of the episode. One should assess cautiously the improbable historicity of its events. There is high historical probability that some religious Jewish authorities participated in the condemnation of the Nazarene and that there was some kind of collusion with the Roman power. Under what form is a moot question in view of contradictory statements in the New Testament.

    To conclude, the extensive references to Jewish sources, which include many rabbinic citations not previously referred to by scholars, shed new and more accurate light on and a sharper image of the person of Jesus as a Jew. They also illuminate the Jewish “times and people” of the Nazarene’s environment. It is my hope that those who are not “faint of heart” will ask themselves if Jesus was and is the central Jew. Consequently, they may also ask themselves whether Christianity as an institution is a justified phenomenon or is in need of reassessment.

    André LaCocque

  2. Mary Phil Korsak17 June, 2016

    So good to read you! I fully appreciate the above. Mary Phil Korsak


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