Friday, April 04, 2008

Book Notice: Meet the Rabbis by Brad H. Young

Brad H. Young
Meet the Rabbis: Rabbinic Thought and the Teachings of Jesus
Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007
Available from Alban Books
Available from

When I teach on NT backgrounds, the content and relevance of rabbinic literature is often hard to impart to students. There's a lot of material to cover such as the Mishnah, the two Talmuds, Midrashim, Tosefta, etc. Brad Young has done a good job of showing the relevance of alot of this literature to the Gospels through his study of rabbinic teachings. One of the good things about Young's book is that he approaches the subject as a devout Christian but is willing to listen to these texts on their own terms and without pre-judging them as inferior to his own religious tradition. He gives a sympathetic treatment of the Pharisees and goes so far as to say that: "The church has at times read the Gospels as if Jesus were a Christian pastor attacking the leaders of a synagogue" (p. 35). The best parts of Young's book are: his discussion on the Pharisees, his introduction to Jewish literature, and his description of Jewish piety.

An outline of Young's book includes:

Part I: Introduction to Rabbinic Thought
1. Introduction to Rabbinic Thought
2. Masters Teachers and Their Disciples
3. Torah Is More than Law
4. The Great Sanhedrin
5. Parallel Rabbinic and New Testament Texts

Part II: Introduction to Rabbinic Literature
6. Introduction to Early Jewish Writings
7. Ethics of the Fathers
8. The Amidah Prayer
9. Maimonides Third Principles of Jewish Faith
10. Hillel's Seven Principles of Bible Interpretation

Part III: Introduction to the Rabbis
11. Meet the Rabbis
12. Both Torahs Were Revealed at Mount Sinai
13. Utopia or Actions Plans

Part IV: Study Helps

One place where I'd disagree with Young is that I'd be somewhat more cautious about how far back alot of these rabbinic traditions go and we have to avoid parallelomania in tracing the relevance of rabbinic materials for the New Testament.


Chris Bruno said...

How does his method compare to Instone-Brewer's stuff?
Hope you are well.

Brian LePort said...


Who would be considered the authority as regards sifting what rabbinic material derives from the time of Christ and what comes afterward? We hear a lot about Jesus as Rabbi these days from everyone from Chilton to Rob Bell and it is getting kind of confusing--especially when Ben Witherington warns that these people are applying post-70 CE material to the time of Christ.

Any suggestions? Any thoughts?

Michael F. Bird said...

Chris: Young's stuff is more of an intro and trying to create interest in rabbinic literature, whereas Instone-Brewer is doing more of a critical study of the traditions in the rabbinic documents.

Brian: Jacob Neusner is considered to have done, to date, the best form-critical work on rabbinic traditions.