One day, waiting for the Q train, I noticed a New Testament left next to my wooden seat. I looked around for its owner, stared at the book for any signs of disease, and took it with me on the train. I never before laid eyes on the actual words of the New Testament. My heart raced as I flipped the pages of another religion’s bible. In my hands, I felt the accumulated weight of generations of history, beliefs, hopes, and longings. Millions of people, I realized, consider these words as holy as the words of my Bible. Reading the New Testament, even holding it felt treacherous, like cherry red coals in my hands. It hurt my soul on some basic, childlike level in an unprecedented manner. It felt like a betrayal, scanned by the same eyes that spent thousands of hours poring over the Talmud and the Bible sans New Testament.
The very name New Testament raises visceral ire for many Jews across the spectrum. It brings up questions of rejection, deicide, anti-Semitism, and the supplanting of one people for another. No wonder then, that even the most secular Jews often stayed away from studying the New Testament.
No more, it seems.
Two academics, a Dr. Amy-Jill Levine from Vanderbilt University, and Professor Marc Brettler from Brandeis University served as editors for the first, The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford University Press) that contains commentary and essays from the range of elite Jewish academicians. I for one applaud the effort, and look forward to reading this potentially momentous work.