September 7, 2011


Jesus was not a 'pretend Jew'

James Carroll speaking during the first of his four planned lectures.

"Jesus was a Jew in the fullest sense of that word. He was not a 'pretend Jew' any more than he was a 'pretend human being,' " said James Carroll, award-winning author and journalist, during his opening address Aug. 29.

Carroll is Candler School of Theology's 2011 Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and their Impact on Culture. He is delivering a series of four lectures and luncheon conversations this fall on the theme "Jesus Against Himself: From Itinerant Galilean to Christ of God and Back Again."

Citing historical and doctrinal evidence, Carroll made the case that the Jewishness of Jesus had been suppressed not only to justify atrocities such as the Holocaust, but also to assert a particular vision of Jesus' divine status. "A Jesus made divine at the expense of his humanity has no need of the mediation of religion. Such a move makes Jesus' Jewishness not just unnecessary but impossible."

Carroll said the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was the pivotal event that seemed to set Christ against the Jews, and therefore against the Jewishness of Jesus. This event, more than any other, put Christianity in Gentile hands and forced a split between the two religions. The memory of Jesus, Carroll said, has never been the same since.

He hopes that by accepting Jesus' Jewishness, we may not only come to see Jesus more clearly, but one another as well. "God came to Jesus as the Jew he was," Carroll said, "just as God comes to us as we are."

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