The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus
Donald A. Hagner
(Grand Rapids: Academie Books of Zondervan Publishing House 1984) 341 pp.
Donald A. Hagner, Associate Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, makes no bones about his “evangelical Christian” orientation. Neither does he claim to be any more objective than the Jewish writers he cites in his 341 page book, The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus.
What he does claim, however, is that “the Jewish reclamation of Jesus has been possible only by being unfair to the Gospels.” He goes on to say, “In order to arrive at their modern portraits of Jesus, Jewish scholars are forced to select from the Gospels what seems to agree with their views and to reject everything that does not” (page 14).
Hagner deals with some of the more difficult passages, centering on the authority Jesus claimed for himselff, the Sabbath controversy, divorce and dietary laws. He also clearly presents the eschatological and ethical teachings of Jesus.
It is insightful to contrast Hagner’s chapter on “First-Century Pharisaism” with Falk’s analysis of that period. In a later chapter, on “The person of Jesus: His Mission,” Hagner offers the opinions of numerous Jewish scholars on whether or not Jesus could be designated a Pharisee, an Essene, a Zealot, a Hasid or a Prophet. He also deals with what Jewish scholars would see as less desirable designations: Messiah, Lord, Son of Man, or Son of God.
Hagner concludes with a jarring challenge to both the Christian and Jewish reader. He tells Christians that they,
“…must learn again their Jewishness, the rock out of which they have been hewn, the root into which they have been grafted as unnatural branches.”
And he tells Jews that they,
“…must learn again that the Christ and Christianity they may choose to reject cannot be rejected as being incompatible with true Jewishness. Christianity rightly understood is not the cancellation of Judaism. It is at the heart of all that Jews hold dear. Jesus the Jew is the Christ of Christianity without being any less a Jew; Jesus the Christ is fully a Jew without being any less the Christ of the church.”