As I read Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s popular new book, Kosher Jesus, I couldn’t help smiling, remembering the first time I was assigned to teach a unit on the origins of Christianity. I figured it made sense to start with the historical Jesus himself. So I plunged into the most reputable scholarly literature, to separate fact from fiction. It didn’t take very long to realize that there was, and is, no fact.
I was soon entertaining my students by telling them, in all seriousness, that Jesus is like a huge inkblot in a Rohrschach test. Everyone sees what they want to see. what any New Testament scholar claims to see tells us nothing for sure about the factual reality of Jesus. But it tells a lot about even the greatest scholar’s own presuppositions, worldview, values, and beliefs.
Chernus is wondering how the back cover of Boteach’s book came to sport supportive blurbs by the likes of Glenn Beck and Pat Boone. The link, he discovers, is through the fervent Evangelical support for the State of Israel, and the call to “oppose evil.” Boteach discovers a Jesus who is “a patriotic Zealot, `calling his men to arms. An armed insurrection against Rome was his battle cry.’
Hmmm. While I do believe that each of us projects something of our own desires and personality onto Jesus (there have been studies that show people tend to see Jesus as being like themselves), I’m not quite ready to go all the way with Chernus and say “there is no fact.” Something in the core of the Jesus story resists the kind of interpretation that Boteach imposes.
What do you think? Is “Jesus” just a malleable figure who can be twisted to support any position?
Take a look at the whole review at: A Neoconservative Jesus, Certified Kosher