Saturday, July 05, 2008

Joseph Klausner and the Neglect of Jewish Scholarship

Up until only recently the work of Jewish scholars has been largely ignored by those doing historical Jesus research. One such scholar whose work, though lacking some of the critical precision expected today, is still immensely insightful is Joseph Klausner. In particular I've been reading his work of Jesus of Nazareth (repr., Boston: Beacon, 1964 [1925]).

One of the great things about this work is survey of the history of Jewish scholarship. It is worth noting the number of Jewish scholars mentioned who have been largely ignored. In particular, I was struck by the way Klausner discusses the way Albert Schweitzer’s seminal survey of the history of Jesus research pays hardly any notice to the work of Joseph Salvador, Jésus Christ et sa doctrine: histoire de la naissance de l’église, de son organisation et de ses progrès pendant le premier siecle (2 vols., Paris: A. Guyot et Scribe, 1838; 2nd ed., Paris: M. Lévy Frères, 1864–65).
The neglect cannot simply be chalked up to the fact that the work was originally written in French--as Klausner suggests--since Salvador’s work had been translated into German by the time of Schweitzer’s writing [cf. Das Leben Jesu und sein Lehre: die Geschichte der Entstehung der christichen Kirche, ihrer Organisation und Fortschritte während des ersten Jahhunderts (Dresden: Walther’s Buchhandlung, 1841)].
Strikingly, not only is Salvador’s work badly mischaracterized and mentioned only in passing, appearing under the section, "Further Imaginative Lives of Jesus," but Schweitzer even misspells his name (“Salvator”)! See Schweitzer's, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, 162.
By the way, a great antidote to this kind of neglect is Donald A. Hagner, The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus: An Analysis and Critique of Modern Jewish Study of Jesus (with a foreword by G. Lindeskog; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).


Stuart said...

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but didn't Schweitzer come from that much disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine? If so, wouldn't his French perhaps have been as good as his German to start with? If it was it makes the omission you have pointed out even more inexcusable: he wouldn't have had to wait for a translation.

Anonymous said...

To Stuart's comment.
1. A. Schweitzer came from Straßburg [this is the German rendering or Strasbourg - the French rendering], Alsace, at the time of his writing, before the end of WWI it was German territory and German was the language.
In 1871 after the French-Prussian war's ended, the city was annexed to the newly-established German Empire as part of the Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen (via the Treaty of Frankfurt).
Following the Fall of France in 1940 during World War II, the city was annexed by Nazi Germany.
On November 23, 1944, the city was officially liberated by General Le-clerc and, Strasbourg was returned to France.
Surprisingly, even today the people in Strasbourg speak German. Having been influenced by Germanic culture since the Frankish Realm, Strasbourg remained largely Alsatian-speaking well into the 20th century, and Germany continued to covet it. The local vernacular [Alsatian, not French] is Germanic to begin with.
2. I thought this piece was supposed to be dedicated to J. Klausner's book[s]. Klausenr, the Great Israeli Scholar, A professor of the Hebrew Language, Literature and History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
In this piece you devoted only a small fraction to describe Klausner's seminal work- Only the minor comment that he had exposed Jewish scholars who had dealt with Jesus.
I am holding in my hand the 4th edition of the Hebrew text entitled YESHU Ha'NOZRI.published in 1933 in Tel Aviv. The first edition was also published in Tel Aviv in 1922.
It is one of the most remarkable treatments of the Life, Time and Teachings of JESUS of NAZARETH.
Compared to the modern or post modern scholarship about Jesus this is a thorough study of the deep roots of the New Testament writings, especially the gospels in the scriptures of the Torah, Prophets and Writings [TANAKH] and the Oral Torah [Talmuds, and other exegesis]. He acknowledges that the oral Torah was rendered to a written version only later than the first century C.E., so that many of the traditions and laws in it may not have been practiced during these years.
One of the major points Klausner is making are the discrepancies within the 4 gospels and to a great extent the misinformation or lack of information of the gospel writers about the the period they are talking about.
A major point to be raised is that the leadership in Jerusalem during Jesus' time was not Pharisee [Perushim] but Sadducee [Zedukim].
The Sanhedrin was primarily Zedukite and so were the high priests - Zedukim-Beitusim: Hannan, Joseph ben HaKeif {Kaiafas].
Since the gospels were written much later, perhaps after the destruction of the 2nd temple when the Perushim were in charge of the spiritual and legal institutions that all the "heat" was directed against them in the gospels, insted toward the Zedukim.
Many other important "historical" and scriptural issues have been highlighted by Klausner which modern scholars, except for those who have adequate background in the Hebrew scriptures written and/or oral,tend to neglect.
3. Christians keep forgetting that Jesus was born, lived and died as a Galilean [Israelite, not Jew. The "Jew" ["Jehudi, Judean" refers to a person from Judea and Jesus came from the Galilea].
Even Wellhausen who was an anti-semite did not fail to highlight this very fact.
Remembring this fact there was nothing "Christian" in Jesus' life, teaching and eschatology.
I'll be happy to continue this dialog if and when someone will take me up on it