One of the panel reviewers asked whether something like this could have been achieved by previous generations of Jewish scholars. I have wondered this myself. There have been remarkable personalities in Jewish and Christian scholarship who have attempted to bridge the divide between camps, but have there ever been this many specialists willing and able to produce a Jewish Annotated New Testament? ...more...
More importantly, would there have been a market for something like this in previous generations? Historically speaking (rightly or wrongly) Jews have been highly suspicious of Christian writings and Christian "Bible experts". Christian attempts to proselytize and dehumanize Jews have punctuated our long and tragic history of relations. So finding a Jewish readership for the New Testament would have been nearly impossible for previous generations. That this problem is deeply entrenched can be seen in this comment by one amazon reviewer:
December 1, 2011
This review is from: The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Hardcover)It is evil for Christians to try to convert Jews with this dreck. Why don't you people leave us in peace?
Obviously, the New Testament has been so often associated with a particular brand of Christianity that this "Jew for Judaism" assumed that A.-J. and Marc were Christians (or worse: undercover Christians)! This assumption is funny on one level, but it is also quite disheartening. As a Christian, it reminds me that my people have been so decidedly ignorant, inhospitable, and/or violent that default positions like this are common. So I welcome this volume's admirable attempt to open new avenues for readership and education.
I truly hope that this volume finds readership among both Jews and Christians. I will echo Larry Hurtado here and suggest that this NT should be used to sensitize Christian preachers our unwitting anti-Judaism. I will also go a step further and suggest that Christians use this NT to balance out what they hear from the pulpit. In fact, I just did so yesterday. Over the past few months, my pastors have been preaching from the books of John and Hebrews. Knowing well that these books can often fan the fire of anti-Judaism among Christians, I have been taking my Jewish Annotated New Testament (JANT) with me to church. In this way, I have allowed my pastors and my JANT to create a Jewish-Christian dialogue for me.
This volume isn't perfect. It might be overly concerned with matters of authorship at times. It might assume a little defended thesis (without mentioning that a minority view has been adopted) at times. It might propel a neat distinction between Judaism and Hellenism at times. I have no doubt that much will be done to improve this volume when the second edition is published. But as the first attempt to do what this volume does, indeed the first attempt in 2000 years, the small deficiencies represented in this volume should not overshadow this important opportunity for Christians and Jews to find common ground.
I often tell my students that the New Testament was composed mostly by Jews, in dialogue with other Jews, on topics of Jewish theology. We Christians would do well to use whatever tools we have at our disposal to rediscover just how Jewish our theological undergirdings are. The Jewish Annotated New Testament is a powerful new tool for this purpose.