During the last two years of my undergraduate days at UCLA, I drove an ambulance for California's largest Jewish mortuary. I slept in an upstairs room at the mortuary, a phone on my bedside table, waiting for the inevitable calls that would interrupt my slumber. Not only did I help my Jewish friends collect their dead, I also helped bury them. I attended countless funerals, heard the rhythms of Hebrew chanted in the synagogue, and listened to rabbis explain to their mourning congregations the meaning of life and death as experienced within the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and the prophets. Occasionally, I would discuss theology with the rabbis and was often struck by how much we agreed on key themes. But we disagreed strongly on a central question: Is Jesus of Nazareth the promised Messiah?

In Whose Bible Is It? A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages, the recently deceased Jaroslav Pelikan, who was Sterling Professor of History at Yale, sheds new light on the historical and theological factors that drove Jews and Christians—who have so much in common—so very far apart.

As Pelikan points out, "the Christian appropriation of the originally Jewish Septuagint" translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was a bitter experience for the Jewish community. "Some later Jews came to regret the translation of their Scriptures into Greek because of the Christian usage of the Septuagint version of the Book of Isaiah to prove various doctrines such as the Virgin Birth of Jesus."

Pelikan lists other factors as well: the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, the triumph of "Pharisaism and the Talmud as 'normative Judaism,'" the increasing independence of Christianity from its Jewish roots, and "the enthronement of Catholic ...

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