Jesus: First-Century Rabbi

by Rabbi David Zaslow
with Joseph A. Lieberman

This bold, fresh look at the historical Jesus and the Jewish roots of Christianity challenges both Jews and Christians to re-examine their understanding of Jesus’ commitment to his Jewish faith. Instead of emphasizing the differences between the two religions, this groundbreaking text explains how the concepts of vicarious atonement, mediation, incarnation, and Trinity are actually rooted in classical Judaism. Using the cutting edge of scholarly research, Rabbi Zaslow dispels the myths of disparity between Christianity and Judaism without diluting the unique features of each faith. Jesus: First Century Rabbi is a breath of fresh air for Christians and Jews who want to strengthen and deepen their own faith traditions.

bblogo2Awarded “Best Book of the Year” by the Church & Synagogue Library Association

Fox Television interview with Lauren Green about the book

KDOV Television interview on with Rev. Perry Atkinson about the book

Click here to see the book trailer

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Rabbi Zaslow has done a tremendous service to Christians and Jews alike—this book is wonderful! An important contribution to the continuing dialogue and relationship building between these two faith communities. We need to hear more of what brings us together, what we share, not just what sets us apart. Thank you both Rabbi Zaslow and Paraclete for bringing this work to fruition and for creating greater light in our world!

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein z”l,
President, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

…[a] wonderful book by another very ecumenical Rabbi. Many excellent points I needed to read about.

Father Thomas Keating z”l

Rabbi Jesus seen in his native setting was a he artful teacher of Jewish lore and morals. Rabbi Zaslow has brought him home to us so that we may hear him among his own contemporaries whom we honor and learn from.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi zt”l, author of Jewish With Feeling and Davening

…this is a beautiful book, and when read as an example of how to see what we love most in ourselves as being deeply present even with others, it deserves the attention of all people whose love of God and humanity is as deep as their love of the particular faith they follow.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, President, CLAL

As a Christian Priest I cannot recommend this book enough. It is one of the best pieces of interfaith edifications I have ever had the pleasure to read….
The Rev. Timothy Baker

Today our faith traditions are in need of healing – both within themselves and with each other. Rabbi Zaslow’s book is a dose of sacred medicine for both Christianity and Judaism. He challenges us to face our prejudices, while affirming and celebrating our unique traditions. While Jesus has a different meaning for a Christian and a Jew, reflecting on that can takes us on a deeper and yet more universal journey into our own faith. Based on solid scholarship and a luminous open heart, Zaslow makes a powerful and much needed contribution to the interfaith dialogue.

Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.
Author of A Woman’s Journey to God, and co-author of
Your Soul’s Compass

This an important book, for Christians and Jews alike. Rabbi Zaslow has tried to stimulate a conversation and build bridges between the two faiths. This is a critically important task, and this book makes that attempt with broad scholarship and great clarity.

Rev. John M. Salmon, Ph. D., Princeton Theological Seminary

Christian readers will find their faith stirred by reading this book on their own, or as shared reading with Jewish friends. Renewal is coming to faith by learning in the presence of the other…Add to this the restorative power the world has awaited to heal centuries of religious enmity and mistrust and hatred and bloodshed.  Jews are discovering ways to love being Jewish in the same room with Christians who are discovering ways to love being Christian.  It is as if Jesus has been holding his breath, waiting for this time.

Rev. Dr. Joseph Ward, D.Min., Presbyterian Church USA

Christians professing faith in Jesus will surely learn and be enriched immensely by studying Rabbi David Zaslow’s great new book. The book is a must read for everyone exploring the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. The book fosters conversation and co-operation through mutual respect… fresh and insightful approaches to historic issues that have driven a wedge between two faiths that ironically share so many common values. Rabbi Zaslow encourages the orchestra to play the music that the world needs to hear and enjoy.

Dr. Brad H. Young, Ph.D. Oral Roberts University
author of Parables: The Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation

Theology books are rarely real page-turners but if you yearn to know Rabbi Jesus better, and to understand his parables and sayings, you won’t be able to put this book down! Rabbi Zaslow has put the pieces back together for us. Learning more about the roots and branches that Jews and Christians share will  bring us closer to the center of God’s new community and create a way to peace for people of every faith.

The Rev. Dr. Barbara J. Campbell. Pastor, St. Mark Presbyterian Church

This book will broaden the minds and deepen the hearts of individuals who read it, but imagine the possibilities for deeper understanding and compassion between Jewish and Christian congregations if Jesus: First-Century Rabbi was used in interfaith study groups!  I thank my friend and spiritual colleague, Rabbi David Zaslow, for his scholarship, humor, honesty and generosity of spirit .  This unique resource is a gift to us all.

The Rev. Anne K. Bartlett, Episcopal Priest

I love every line, every phrase, every paragraph of this book. Rabbi David is a compassionate teacher who understands the ingrained biases that both Jews and Christians hold because of past experience. The book opens doors! This is a whole new breakthrough, like a conversation that unfolds and melts our hearts.

Rabbi Alica Magal

The Revd. Timothy Baker, Anglical Priest, United Kingdom

As a Christian Priest I cannot recommend this book enough. It is one of the best pieces of interfaith edifications I have ever had the pleasure to read, and re-read. Rabbi Zaslow approaches Jesus in an unbiased and truthfully honest way. He can do this with total perfection because of two great but forgotten reasons, firstly Jesus like the author was a practising Jew who was devoted heart and soul to his faith, he was also like the author a Rabbi teaching from the wealth of the Torah and Oral Traditions.

This book gives us a beautiful tapestry that is the historical Jesus and sets him against an accurate back cloth of life and times. It hands us back the Hebrew Scriptures as Jesus loved them, not as something to be forgotten or defunct but as real and necessary today as they were to Jesus then. This book is enlightening, deep, thoughtful and a blessing if read as it was written with a contrite heart, an open spirit and with love.

The disciples and those who heard Jesus in his day would have sat at his feet with the same open heart and listened to their Rabbi. While reading this book I too sat at the feet of Rabbi Zaslow and listened. Thank God I did!”

Jesus: First-Century Rabbi
A Review by Brad H. Young, Ph.D.

 Christians professing faith in Jesus will surely learn and be enriched immensely by studying Rabbi David Zaslow’s great new book, written by a true humanitarian and intellectual, Jewish spiritual leader who shares the faith of Jesus.  We Christians need to learn about the historical Jesus from family members who share the faith of Jesus. Rabbi Zaslow is a rabbi who lives the life of a religious Jew.  As a religious Jew, he knows the holidays, life cycle events, the prayers his family has prayed for generations. He shares the faith of Jesus.  He is also a practical theologian who challenges both the Jewish and Christian communities with fresh and insightful approaches to historic issues that have driven a wedge between two faiths that ironically share so many common values.  He goes beyond the important discussion of events like the Roman crucifixion of the historical Jesus, often wrongly blamed on the Jews by the Christian church, and moves toward discussion of  traditional theological issues such as incarnation, trinity, views of suffering, the interpretation of Isaiah 53, redemption, covenants, community life, replacement theology, the third Temple, and eschatology.

 The book is a must read for everyone exploring the relationship between Christianity and Judaism.  Even though the Jewish and Christian communities approach such concepts of faith from distinctive positions of polarity, the sensitive insights of this original work lay a firm foundation for meaningful dialogue and interaction. Dialogue demands intense conversation and active listening by all partners. Educators, Rabbis, biblical scholars, Christian leaders, community directors, and everyone who desires a fair and balanced discussion will discover a meaningful bridge book that explores theological constructs with a view toward practical application. On the one hand, the vibrancy of the Jewish community through history has preserved true biblical faith values within family practice. On the other hand, the Christian community has brought ethical monotheism to the world through the teaching of the life of Jesus and through establishing Christian faith values based upon the Bible. Both communities serve the common good and both are interconnected in history and experience.

Rabbi Zaslow acknowledges the fact that Christians have sought to correct many wrongs done to the synagogue in the name of the church and that now is a time for greater unity of purpose in joining together in co-operation and genuine esteem one for the other.  The misrepresentation of one community of another has caused harm.  Rejecting stubborn dogmatism based upon unfounded prejudice and bigotry will create a new reality for the Christian and Jewish communities to enter into conversation and find ways to help each other.  Each community has a significant role to play just as each section of an orchestra is interconnected and in need of support from one another. The wind section needs the strings, and the strings need the wind section.  The book fosters conversation and co-operation through mutual respect. Rabbi Zaslow encourages the orchestra to play the music that the world needs to hear and enjoy.

Jesus: First-Century Rabbi
A Review by Rabbi Maurice D. Harris, author of “Leviticus, You Have No Idea.”

Rabbi Zaslow offers us a clear, thoroughly researched, yet very accessible book that calls on Jews and Christians alike to discover and appreciate the spiritual validity and integrity of their respective religions. In the introduction he writes, “Some Jews and Christians may choose to spend another two thousand years criticizing each other’s rituals, theological dogmas, and beliefs, but I believe that God would be better served if we were to look into the mirror and correct the errors within our own religions and denominations first.”

Written with a light touch, clarity, and warm humor, Jesus: First-Century Rabbi successfully unpacks complex material in a variety of ways reflecting the author’s gifts for storytelling and organizing information in ways that help us get down to the heart of things.

I’ve known Reb David as a colleague for a decade now, and have long admired his passionate work for interfaith bridge-building. He has modeled a path of reciprocal respect and mutual spiritual appreciation with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and leaders of many other faiths, and has done so with an authentic joyfulness that warms the heart. These qualities shine through in this book, providing a hopeful and gentle tone that animates a work filled with great scholarship, historical understanding, theology, and text study.

Church and synagogue book groups, or interfaith study groups could not find a better resource book on this topic. And readers of other faith traditions (or of no tradition) will also learn a lot, not only about Judaism and Christianity, but also about the tools humanity needs to establish a new era in which the many religions of the world learn to appreciate and support the light that shines in each of them.