Book Title: Kosher Jesus
Author: Shmuley Boteach
Date Published: February 1, 2012
Publisher: Gefen Publishing House; First Edition (US) First Printing edition
Genre: 1. Theology
2. Jewish Life
3. Biographies
ISBN: 978-9652295781
Reviewer: Rich Robinson
Review Date: July 20, 2012

I’ll keep this one short: “Huh?”

According to Boteach, the New Testament tries to paint Jesus as a rebel against Torah and Judaism. This was supposedly done “to make Jesus’ teachings more palatable to gentiles.”

His evidence, such as it is, comes from Mark’s Gospel and the story of Jesus and his disciples picking heads of grain (Mark 2:23-28). The saying that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” is supposedly an example of the gospels portraying Jesus as a rebel against Jewish tradition. But then Boteach goes on to the say that the entire story reflects Jewish teaching of how saving life supersedes the Sabbath! So if it reflects Jewish teaching, how exactly does it depict rebellion against Jewish teaching? Huh?

His second example is from Jesus’ remark in Matthew 15:11 that, “What goes into a someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Boteach tells us that there is a long tradition among Christians of taking this statement to mean that Jesus abolished kashrut (kosher laws). While that is close to the mark, um, Mark 7:19 is the verse that has been generally used to reach that conclusion. But that interpretation reflects less the intention of the gospel writers than later understandings, and Boteach simply conflates the New Testament with its later interpretation. Boteach takes this statement to mean that Jesus affirmed that our conversation should be clean, and says that “its source, as with most of Jesus’ statements, was the Talmud” (p. 32). The Talmud was compiled 200 CE to 550 CE. Matthew and Mark date to the first century. Huh?

But Boteach is correct that Jesus’ ethical teaching is reflective of Jewish values. Jesus’ point was rather that the Jewish leadership did not always uphold the values that it was entrusted with. (And if Matthew is trying to show Jesus as a Jewish rebel, what is 5:17 doing there? “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”)

So the gospels show Jesus teaching Jewish values, but they also show Jesus rebelling against Jewish values. For the last time… huh?