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Bursting the Bonds? A Jewish-Christian Dialogue on Jesus and Paul.

This is a penetrating dialogue between two pairs of Jewish and Christian scholars. In a series of statements and responses Leonard Swidler, professor of Catholic thought and interreligious dialogue at Temple University, and Lewis John Eron, associate rabbi at Temple B'nai Abraham, Livingston, New Jersey, explore the figure, history, and theology of Jesus. Gerard Sloyan, formerly of the Catholic University of America, now professor emeritus at Temple University, and Lester Dean, instructor of religion at Temple University and Cabrini College, likewise discuss the life and thought of Paul. The starting point for each scholar is the historical fact that both Jesus and Paul were observant Jews. The aim is to overcome misperceptions about these two figures from both the Jewish and Christian sides.

This book originated from a number of formal and informal dialogues between these scholars, organized by Temple University's Religion Department, that took place mainly in Germany between 1980 and 1986. The volume consists of some twenty-three chapters, nine on Jesus and fourteen on Paul, followed by a useful select annotated bibliography.

The statement-response approach has the merit that usually only one controversial issue is addressed in a relatively concise section of six to ten pages. The wide-ranging debates include "Jesus-Yeshua: A Torah-Free Jew?"; "Yeshua: Messiah? Christ? Human? Divine?"; "Jesus and Judaism" and "Did Paul Represent or Misrepresent the Judaism of His Time?"; "Did Paul Have any Problems with the Law?"; "Did Paul Think That Jews and Jewish-Christians Must Follow Torah?"; "Was Paul's Chief Figure Justification by Faith or the Transfer of Lordship?"

The topics are approached in an irenic spirit in which each author interacts positively with his partner, seeking primarily to learn from rather than to teach him. The result is an excellent volume of theological-biblical questioning and reflective exchange in which traditional understandings are carefully scrutinized using the best of contemporary scholarship in a balanced and critical inquiry.

This book is significant in bringing together and exploring in a genuine dialogue and in short compass major issues that have created and maintained division between Jews and Christians for centuries. It should prove very useful for both dialogue and teaching.

William S. Campbell, a minister of the United Reformed Church, is head of Religious and Theological Studies at Westhill College, University of Birmingham, England. He is author of Paul's Gospel in an Intercultural Context: Jew and Gentile in the Letter to the Romans (Lang 1991) and participates in Christian-Jewish dialogue in Birmingham as chairman of the Council for Christians and Jews.
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Author:Campbell, William S.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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