Page 231 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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Glimpses of Jesus in Yiddish and
Hebrew Literature
h e
f i g u r e
o f
Jesus appears in Jewish literature of several
genres: in the Talmud, the polemical literature of the Middle
Ages and in the writings of modern rabbis and theologians.
It also appears in twentieth century Yiddish and Hebrew writing
which was never intended to be theological or halakhic. We can­
not deal here with this vast body of writing,1 but shall concen­
trate upon a limited number of modern Yiddish and Hebrew
writers and seek to understand what motivates their positive
depictions of Jesus. In all these instances we shall see that their
interest lies in Jesus the man, the Jew and the moral teacher,
not in the Jesus of theology (God, Son of God, Person of the
Trinity). It is also a matter of interest that modern Jewish
survivalists and nationalists relate so warmly to an image many
Jews in the past and even today have found threatening.
Before the modern era there were more negative expressions
than positive. The Babylonian Talmud cites a number of un-
historical and uncomplimentary anecdotes about Jesus.2 The
Toledot Yeshu,
first published by Wagenseil in 1681,
is anything but historical or positive.3
Views of Jesus held by modern Jews are to be connected with
the views o f nineteenth century German liberal Protestant schol­
1. See, for example, James Parkes,
Jewry and Jesus of Nazareth
(1964); George
G. Fox,
The Jews, Jesus and Christ
(Chicago, 1953); David Flusser,y«Ms (Ger­
man) (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1968); Trude Weiss-Rosmarin
, J ewish Expressions
on Jesus
(New York, 1977); Samuel Sandmel,
We Jews and Jesus
2. Morris Goldstein,
Jesus in the Jewish Tradition
(New York, 1950); Joseph
Jesus of Nazareth,
trans. by H. Danby (New York, 1925), 18-47.
Toledot Yeshu Ha-Notsri,
in J.D . Eisenstein, ed.,
Otsar Vikkuhim
(New York,
1928), 226 -235 ; Klausner,
op. cit.,
47 -54 ; S. Krauss,
Das Leben Jesu nach
judischen Quellen
(Berlin, 1902).