Defending the Faith
Nineteenth-Century American Jewish Writing on Christianity and Jesus
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This book deals with nineteenth century American-Jewish perceptions of Christianity and Jesus. While its concern is the centuries-old argument between Christians and Jews, it focuses on the American setting of that argument and shows how American conditions shaped it.
America provided the Jews with a new kind of historical experience. Within a largely welcoming, legally equal society, a new and more positive Jewish perception of Christianity would seem to have been a natural development. However, traditionalists, such as Isaac Leeser, emphasized the differences between the two religions, assuming an outsider stance with regard to American culture. In contrast, Reformists identified the highest ideals of both Christianity and America with Judaism. They portrayed Jesus as a Jew who taught nothing contrasting Jewish belief. To the Reformers, Jews were the Americans par excellence.
This book demonstrates that these Jewish writings on Christianity and Jesus are not a matter of interest so much for their theological content, but more importantly, for their exposition of the struggle within the Jewish community to define its relationship to American culture and society.
George L. Berlin is a Professor at Baltimore Hebrew University.
"This book makes a two-fold contribution. In its first part, it makes a convincing case for differentiating between different 19th-century American-Jewish approaches to the phenomenon of Christianity and Chistian mission to the Jews. In its second part, it brings together and makes available to the modern student some very interesting 19th-century materials to which most modern readers would other wise have no access. " — Jakob J. Petuchowski, Hebrew Union College