case western reserve university



Events 2008-09


Jesus in the Context of Judaism
and the Challenge to the Church

A three-day scholarly symposium of invited papers

Preliminary Program

Unless noted otherwise, all sessions and meals held in Clark Hall, Room 206, 11130 Bellflower Road, Cleveland.

Paper Titles and Abstracts (Scroll down)

Sunday (May 24, 2009):  Reception and Dinner
    Opening Plenary:  Zev Garber, Los Angeles Valley College,  Imagining the Jewish Jesus

5:30 p.m. Reception
6:00 p.m. Dinner
$35.00 reception & dinner (Reservations required; 216/368-8961)
Clark Hall, Room 206, 11130 Bellflower Road, Cleveland

7:00 p.m. Lecture, "Imaginging the Jewish Jesus," (lecture is free and open to the public), Clark Hall, Room 309

Zev Garger is professor and chair of Jewish Studies at Los Angeles Valley College.

Monday (May 25, 2009)
    8:00-9:00 a.m.:   Ziony Zevit, American Jewish University,  Jesus, God of the Hebrew Bible
  9:00-10:00:    James F. Moore, Valparaiso University, The Amazing Mr. Jesus: Recovering the Jewish Jesus in Christian Scripture 


    10:30-12:00: Herbert Basser, Queens University, Canada,  Avon Gilyon or Euagelon?

1:30-3:00: Plenary and Lunch
Eugene Fisher, Typical Jewish Misunderstandings of Christ Christianity and Jewish-Christian  Relations over the Centuries

Eugene Fisher is U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.


     3:30 - 5:00:  Steve Bowman, University of Cincinnati,  Jesus in Byzantium Apologetics and Polemics in the 10th and 11th Century

Plenary Session--Reception and Dinner:
Plenary: "Jesus, Paul, and Christology"
Richard L. Rubenstein

5:30 p.m. Reception
6:00 p.m. Dinner
$35.00 reception & dinner (Reservations required; 216/368-8961)
Clark Hall, Room 206, 11130 Bellflower Road, Cleveland

7:00 p.m. Lecture, "Jesus, Paul, and Christology ," (lecture is free and open to the public), Clark Hall, Room 309

Richard L. Rubenstein is President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Bridgeport. 

  Tuesday (May 26, 2009)

    8:30-10:00: Henry F.  Knight, Keene State College, Before Whom Do We Stand? A Post-Shoah Question for Synagogue and Church


    10:30- 12 Noon:   Steve L. Jacobs, University of Alabama, Can We Talk?  The Jewish Jesus in a Dialogue Between Jews and Christians

12:00 Noon: Conference ends

 Information on "Maven in Blue Jeans: Festschrift in honor of Zev Garber".


A limited number of rooms have been reserved at the Glidden House Inn, 1901 Ford Road, Cleveland, OH 44106 (216/231-8900).  Special conference rate of $139.00 per night (includes continental breakfast) for reservations made by April 22, 2009.  Reservations made after April 22nd will be subject to going rates and availability. When contacting the Glidden House, please specify the "Jesus Conference" room block when making a reservation to receive the conference rate.

 Conference Registration:

The conference registration fee is $115.0 per person (includes coffee breaks, dinners on Sunday and Monday, and lunches on Monday and Tuesday; Kosher availalbe).
Payable in U.S. dollars, Mastercard/Visa, or check drawn on a U.S. bank.

Note for CWRU Students : There is no charge for currently enrolled Case Western Reserve University students, however, students must contact Professor Peter Haas ( to pre-register for the symposium.

Registration Form--Print and Mail or Fax

Make checks payable to: Case Western Reserve University

Send payment to:
Case Western Reserve University
Attn: Linda Gilmore, Rosenthal Center
10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-7120 USA


Dr. Peter J. Haas (; 216/368-2741)
Linda Gilmore (; 216/368-1040)

(Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.)

Titles and Abstracts

 Ziony Zevit (American Jewish University)
“Jesus, God of the Hebrew Bible”

 The Hebrew Bible presents God in many dichotomous ways: present-absent, visible-invisible, caring about an individual/Israel-not caring, imminent-transcendent, responsive to prayer/sacrifice-not responsive, dependable-not dependable.  Not all of these fit neatly into theological categories such as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, or kind, merciful, forgiving, welcoming. By the Persian Period, God was considered more absent than present, more transcendent than immanent, less caring and involved than their opposites. During the Greco-Roman periods many factors fomented crises in emergent Judaism. Israelite exposure to Hellenistic pessimism and skepticism raised issues bearing on theodicy and death, e.g. Ecclesiastes; questions about the appropriateness of the Jerusalem priesthood raised issues of the efficacy of Temple sacrifice after the rise of the Hasmonean dynasty; the persisting diasporas raised issues of broken promises to ancient prophets; social turmoil raised issues of religious authority; Jewish teachings about the primal sin of Adam and Eve since the second century BCE raised issues of blighted souls; Greco-Roman authority raised issues of whether or not a New Age had dawned. Depending on their intellectual predispositions and predilections, and their religiosity, different individuals found some issues more significant than others. This determined their religious politics and associates. This paper argues that the claims of Jesus as God would not have seemed unreasonable to those whose religious politics were determined by a particular view of God in the Hebrew Bible and by a unique understanding of the New Age.

James F. Moore (Valparaiso University)
“The Amazing Mr. Jesus: Recovering the Jewish Jesus in Christian Scriptures” 

The Christian scriptures have a picture of Jesus that clearly has been influenced by a post-Easter perspective already present in the texts of the Christian Gospels.  We can call this a Christian theology and this shapes both the material used and the framework in which it appears.  Of course, the history of Christian thought also has constructed various frames which shape how Christians (and the churches) read even these narratives.  Much of that history saw attempts to view Jesus as an abstracted, transcendent figure shaped mainly by the dogmatic statements of the fourth and fifth century councils.  Naturally, this history ignored and sometimes intentionally denied the actual Jewishness of Jesus.  This has led scholars even very recently to despair that any authentic recovery of the “historical” Jesus is next to impossible.  Any sense that the texts can give us how Jesus fit (or fits) in Judaism (particular the Judaism of his time) seems hopeless given all of this.  However, we have texts that give us a narrative about this Jesus and these texts do give clues that Jesus, the teacher, was thoroughly in tune with various components of Judaism of his time.  Thus, we might make an effort to recover this Jesus by following a path I have identified as a midrashic approach which re-inserts the teaching into the context of the Torah texts.  If we do this, we might also be able to assess just what shape such a picture of Jesus takes as a Jewish teacher and whether such a recovery can be of use to contemporary Judaism and, especially, to the churches.  This paper aims toward this kind of recovery and makes an attempt at answering these questions.

Herbert Basser (Queens University, Canada)
 “Avon Gilyon or Euagelon?”

  My expertise in New Testament lies in the Synoptic Gospels, the Epistles of Paul and the Epistle of James and the Epistle to the Hebrews. With the exception of James, all the others in my list are without doubt out and out attempts to show that the Mosaic Covenant with the Jews has expired and that the risen Messiah, the Christ, will save all those who have accepted him. The Jews (i.e. their Torah) have been superseded by the Gentiles (i.e. their Hope) as the chosen people of God and He redeems the latter from sin and eternal death. The question I pose is why the documents are so heavily laden with authentic Jewish idioms and concepts if their audience is so predominantly gentile? Put another way-- do the documents at all reflect anything that Jesus did or said, and if so, how much?

Eugene Fisher
“Typical Jewish Misunderstandings of Christ,Christianity and Jewish-Christian Relations over the Centuries”

 Many Jews tend to think of Jesus of Nazareth as a good Jew who never said much of anything that would push the envelope of his Jewish heritage and tradition, a healer and challenger, like the prophets, of his people.  The bad guy who changed all of this and created Christianity whole cloth was Paul of Tarsus, who turned the good Jew, Jesus, into the Christ, pseudo-Messiah and (gasp!) incarnate Son of God, an idea which was more Greek than Jewish and led quickly to the quirky Christian notion that the One God is really three Gods, who are really One God, etc. Pauline-inspired Christianity, many Jews believe, quickly turned against their parent religion and by the fourth century began persecuting Jews, singling them out for torment.  My paper will challenge these notions about Jesus the Christ and Jewish-Christian history.

Steve Bowman (University of Cincinnati)
“Jesus in Byzantium Apologetics and Polemics in the 10th and 11th Century”

 Byzantine Jews lived in Greece since Hellenistic times and were among the first to experience Paul’s missionary propaganda. While the Christian mission continued to the end of the empire in the 15th century, the question is how and why the tactics changed in the Christian argument before and after the Byzantine Crusades of the 10th century and what were the Jewish responses to the changing patterns of the discussions over Jesus in the face of the evolving international conditions. How did the overt and covert allusions to Jesus in Sefer Yosippon and contemporary Byzantine midrashim reflect a Jewish response to Christian tracts of the same period? Also David Flusser’s treatment of Jesus will be discussed within the context of his seminal work on Sefer Yosippon.

Richard L. Rubenstein (University of Bridgeport)
 "Jesus, Paul, and Christology"

 In much of thoughtful Jewish New Testament scholarship, there has long been a tendency to regard Paul of Tarsus as the ultimate apostate. Martin Buber referred to Jesus as his “brother.” He could never have so referred to Paul.
When I wrote by book on Paul, I deliberately gave it the title My Brother Paul to indicate my dissent from Buber and because I saw a profound fraternal relation between the disciples of Paul and rabbinic Israel. I hasten to add that fraternal relations have all too often had tragic outcomes, of which Cain and Abel and the relationship of Church and Synagogue, which Paul himself characterized as a relation of siblings, are paradigmatic examples (Rom. 9:6-9; Gal. 4:21-31). I believe there is a far deeper connection between Judaism and Christianity than between Judaism and Islam to which Judaism arguably bears a stronger, albeit superficial, resemblance. Moreover, I believe that Christology rather than a comparison of Jesus’ teachings with those of the rabbis can tell us more about this relationship. I further believe that the fundamental relation between Church and Synagogue was understood by those Fathers of the Church who argued that which is latent in Judaism (latet) became manifest in Christianity (patet). This can be seen in the Church Fathers’ view of Isaac’s Akedah as an aborted Golgotha and the identification of Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29) and as “our paschal lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7) in which the crucial animal sacrifice in Judaism, itself a surrogate for a human sacrifice, becomes once again a divine-human sacrifice. In terms of depth psychology, sublimation through substitution (e.g. pidyon ha-ben) is the Jewish approach to the sacrificial impulse. In Christianity, the sacrificial impulse is openly expressed, albeit in a strictly-controlled, sacred precinct. The Christian hermeneutic can and all too often has led to a supersessionism with tragic consequences for Jews. Undoubtedly, the very (dialectical) closeness of the two faiths and their complex interrelations have led to the conflicts between them. I intend to explore these issues in my essay.  

Henry F. Knight (Keene State College)
“Before Whom Do We Stand? A Post-Shoah Question for Synagogue and Church”

Before whom do we stand?  After the Holocaust that question, echoing the instructions of Rabbi Eliezer to his disciples, that they know the One before whom they stand, calls Jews and Christians into new space with new understandings about how they might share that space.  Yitz Greenberg's criterion of the burning children articulates a critical quality of that reality.  Those who stand there, stand before missing children -  1.5 million who were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.  To be sure, Jews and Christians face those children from different vantage points, but they face them nonetheless; and their presence changes the way Jews and Christians now face each other and themselves, not to mention the Jew, Jesus, before whom Christians stand in new ways as well.

This changed context, viewed through the lingering power of Rabbi Eliezer's instruction, offers an intriguing way to examine the post-Holocaust dimensions of Jewish-Christian relationships - especially the character of interreligious community generally and Church-Synagogue relationships more specifically. Mediated by asking, Before whom do we stand as post-Holocaust Jews and Christians,? this paper will explore the implications of observations like the following:  Christians, who take J.B. Metz's admonition that they do their theology after Auschwitz with Jews, accept their place confronting "new" knowledge about themselves and their relationships with Jews now and in the past.  They do their theology with Jews attending to distinctive claims about their covenantal responsibilities in and for all God's creatures/children.  Christians who stand self-consciously in the shadows of the Shoah to do their theology facing a Jewish Jesus with whom they must reacquaint themselves in critical fashion and with help from their Jewish colleagues.  Christians who stand before their Jewish other face a confessional challenge regarding how to relate to otherness with respect and understanding while honoring that same confessional identity as a source of Christian identity and guidance for Church mission.  Christians and Jews who wrestle with these matters do so always in the shadows of the missing children before whom they stand, even as they stand before God

In full and faithful study or prayer. Before whom do we stand?  After Auschwitz, that question opens important doors for understanding what's at stake in the relationships between Jews and Christians, Synagogue and Church

Steve Jacobs (University of Alabama)
"Can We Talk?  The Jewish Jesus in a Dialogue Between Jews and Christians"

 That Jesus was a Jew during the troubled Roman oppression in Palestine is a fact.  That his 'messiahship' remains a fundamental stumbling block between Jews and Christians and has been so for 2,000 years is fact.  Can Jews somehow import him into Jewish thinking and open doors to conversations with Christians?  Can Christians somehow revisit their thinking about him in ways that will open doors to conversations with Jews?  Is there truly anything we can say to each other in this 21st century about Jesus the Jew?  Is there anyone truly left to say or has it all been said before?  Is there any hope of any present and future dialogue whatsoever without this conversation?  This paper is a 'preliminary' attempt to explore these and other questions in a dialogical context