In attempting to unravel the muddle David Klinghoffer presents in the Jewish reaction to Jesus Christ (February), Richard John Neuhaus creates some muddle of his own.
It is not erroneous, as he claims, to believe that the Gospels reflect a Pauline theologizing of the original Jesus message. Paul himself fought against the mainstream Jerusalem church that reflected most accurately what Jesus had taught, and the Gospels ignore completely the Jewish-Christians who were on their way toward being regarded as heretics. Paul's Christianity was earlier than that of the Gospels but not necessarily more historical. It makes one laugh and cry at the same time to reflect on the fact that, for many Jews like Mr. Klinghoffer, Paul of Tarsus is too Hellenistic, while for Houston Stewart Chamberlain and the Nazis the "rabbi" Paul was too Jewish.
Fr. Neuhaus deserves credit for observing what few have, that many Jews must have become Christians in the first several centuries A.D., otherwise what happened to the millions of Jews in the days of Josephus? He also is right in regarding Christianity and Talmudic Judaism as two versions of pre-70 A.D. Judaism. The best authority here is Donald Harmon Akensen's two books Surpassing Wonder and St. Saul.
But of course the real question, not addressed either by Mr. Klinghoffer or Fr. Neuhaus, is whether the Gospels can be considered anything more authoritative than Hellenized Jewish novels.
Richard John Neuhaus' generally helpful review of David Klinghoffer's Why the Jews Rejected Jesus seems to reflect some of the same circular thinking that he rightly criticizes. The review employs the oddly redundant phrase "Messianic Christians," apparently to describe Jews who believe in Jesus. Does this mean Father Neuhaus agrees with Mr. Klinghoffer "that Jews reject Jesus because they are already Jews, and the mark of being a Jew is that one...