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Jesus Reclaimed: Jewish Perspectives on the Nazarene

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Jesus Reclaimed

Jewish Perspectives on the Nazarene

Walter Homolka
Translated by Ingrid Shafer
Foreword by Leonard Swidler

166 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-579-0 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (January 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-580-6 eBook

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“Homolka offers a knowledgeable and very readable overview over the engagement of Jewish scholars and intellectuals with the historical Jesus.” • Deutschlandfunk

“The book is to be recommended…It provides a good overview of the most important ‘Jewish’ approaches to Jesus, which can serve to initiate further discussions and theological rethinking.” • Theologische Literaturzeitung

“Perhaps the most significant contribution of the book is the chapter on Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict), whose trilogy on Jesus was largely ignored by Jewish scholars. Rabbi Homolka’s careful and thoughtful assessment of Pope Benedict’s views are important for Jews to read and understand. Rabbi Homolka’s book returns the discussion of “Jesus the Jew” to some of its original roots in Germany 150 years ago to a newly reconstituted twenty-first-century Jewish community there… required reading for those engaged in modern dialogue.” • Journal of Jewish Identities

“…a brief and very helpful summary of a large body of scholarly work [that] includes an extensive and very useful bibliography.” • Journal of Ecumenical Studies

“The book is well researched and is presented in a way that is accessible to any adult reader. This title would be appropriate for any collection serving an adult population.” • Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

“Homolka’s book is not only a very good introduction to an important topic, but it is also a kind of catalog with running comments on central theses and publications but also on studies in art history and literature on this topic.” • Christoph Marschkies, President of the Academy of Arts and Sciences Berlin-Brandenburg in Die Kirche

“On the basis of integral bible hermeneutic the new Jewish interpretation of the Jew Jesus also is for us Christians a genuine enrichment.” • Henryk J. Muszyński, Archbishop emeritus of Gnesen/Gniezo, Poland

“This book offers a constructive contribution to the debates on the theological significance of Jewish and Christian approaches to the historical Jesus. The author’s knowledge of Jewish and Christian discourses on both sides of the Atlantic is impressive.” • Werner G. Jeanrond, University of Oxford


After centuries of persecution, oppression, forced migrations, and exclusion in the name of Christ, the development of a Jewish “Quest for the Historical Jesus” might seem unexpected.  This book gives an overview and analysis of the various Jewish perspectives on the Nazarene throughout the centuries, emphasizing the variety of German voices in Anglo-American contexts. It explores the reasons for a steady increase in Jewish interest in Jesus since the end of the eighteenth century, arguing that this growth had a strategic goal: the justification of Judaism as a living faith alongside Christianity.

Rabbi Walter Homolka is the rector of the Abraham Geiger College, Germany’s first rabbinical seminary after the Holocaust, and a professor of Modern Jewish Thought at the School of Jewish Theology of the University of Potsdam in Germany. Active in Jewish-Christian dialogue, he is author of many books, including The Gate to Perfection: The Idea of Peace in Jewish Thought (Berghahn 1995), Jewish Identity in Modern Times: Leo Baeck and German Protestantism (Berghahn 1995), and co-author with Hans Küng of How to Do Good & Avoid Evil: A Global Ethic from the Sources of Judaism (Skylight Paths, 2009).

Subject: Jewish Studies


Leonard Swidler

Translator’s Preface
Ingrid Shafer


Introduction: The Life of Jesus according to the Sources

  • The Sources
  • The Early Years
  • Public Appearance
  • Jesus’s Message
  • Arrest and Trial
  • Death

Chapter 1. Jewish Images of Jesus prior to the Early Modern Period    

  • Jesus in the Mishnah and Talmud
  • The Toldot Yeshu
  • Rabbinic Polemics against Jesus
  • Christian Talmud Criticism and Censorship

Chapter 2. The Historical Jesus since the Early Modern Period

  • Jesus and the Jewish Enlightenment
  • The Christian Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Departure from Dogma
  • The Jewish Quest of the Historical Jesus as Repatriation of Jesus to Judaism
  • The Berlin Anti-Semitism Debate
  • The “Jesus Scandal” around Max Liebermann
  • Leo Baeck and Adolf von Harnack: The Controversy

Chapter 3. The Jewish Quest of Jesus

  • From Joseph Klausner to Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich

Chapter 4. Joseph Ratzinger and the Jewish Jesus

  • That Jesus Was a Jew: A Cultural Coincidence?
  • The “Rabbi Jesus”: For Christians Only as Important as Christ?
  • “Reading the Whole Bible in the Light of Christ”: Joseph Ratzinger’s Hermeneutics
  • Christian Faith and “Historical Reason”



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