Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes

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9780060675578: Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes

In this boldest book since Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Bishop John Shelby Spong offers a compelling view of the Gospels as thoroughly Jewish tests.Spong powerfully argues that many of the key Gospel accounts of events in the life of Jesus—from the stories of his birth to his physical resurrection—are not literally true. He offers convincing evidence that the Gospels are a collection of Jewish midrashic stories written to convey the significance of Jesus. This remarkable discovery brings us closer to how Jesus was really understood in his day and should be in ours.

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From the Inside Flap:

Bishop John Shelby Spong's name and work have become nearly synonymous with the word controversy. His books have challenged traditional Christian teachings on sexual morality, on the literal interpretation of the Bible, and on the understanding of women--among other hot-button issues in both the church and the popular culture. Liberating the Gospels continues this tradition as Spong reveals his most provocative argument to date--that Christians have misread Jesus and the Gospels for centuries by ignoring the thoroughly Jewish content below the surface of the New Testament.

With a keen eye and years of deliberate investigation, Spong traces the long period of history in which the Gospels were "cut away from the essential Jewishness" and interpreted as if they were primarily gentile books, distorting their meaning with a deeply prejudiced anti-Jewish bias. To remedy both that bias and the continued misinterpretation of the Gospels' message, Spong believes we must recognize the Gospels as the thoroughly Jewish books they are and learn to read them with a clear understanding of the Jewish context, frame of reference, vocabulary, and history that shaped and informed them.

By connecting the Gospels to the style of the Jewish midrashic literature of Jesus' era, he shows how the Gospel authors intended their stories to be perceived, not as historical accounts of actual events, but rather as interpretive narratives about the meaning of Jesus, using images and themes from the Hebrew Bible. Some examples of his fascinating arguments and conclusions are:

The significant events of Jesus' life follow an orderly cycle of Jewish feasts and rites of passage.

Judas never existed but was a fictional scapegoat created to shift the blame for Jesus' death from the Romans to the Jews.

Leading characters of Jewish scripture make cameo appearances in the Gospels.

Stories about Jesus, from the infancy narratives to the resurrection, can all be freshly understood as interpretive tales based on key passages in the Old Testament.

Like any good detective story, Liberating the Gospels is a riveting account of facts and theories coming together, piece by piece, to form a brilliant, convincing whole. Spong approaches the Gospels with reverence and a determination to restore their meaning, their vivid historical context, and the respect so long eroded between Christians and Jews. The result is a remarkable revisioning of Jesus and the Gospels that brings us closer to how Jesus was really understood in his day and should be in ours.

From the Back Cover:

As politicians battle over the moral heart of the nation, the outspoken and controversial Bishop John Shelby Spong brings us his boldest book yet. Liberating the Gospels reclaims the original Jewish context and meaning of the Gospels, revealing how Christians have misread them--and Jesus--for centuries by disregarding the thoroughly Jewish substance at the core of the New Testament. His goal, Spong writes, is to restore "the power present in the Scriptures for our time."

"Compelling, controversial, substantive, provocative, and original...remarkably convincing." (Rabbi Jack D. Spiro, director, Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Judaic Studies)

"Throughout his career as an Episcopal priest and bishop, John Shelby Spong has been surrounded by controversy as he has labored on the leading edge of movements to bring blacks, women, and homosexuals into the full life of his church." (New York Times)

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