Stern (California State Univ., Fullerton) offers a worthy introduction to the study of Christianity from its beginnings as a Jewish-Christian sect. A rabbinic scholar, he illustrates the Jewish precedents underlying the parables by references to and quotations from the Hebrew prophets (e.g., Micah, Isaiah), the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Deuteronomy and Leviticus), and renowned rabbis such as Hillel and Eliezer. The author presents a parable, suggests the secret knowledge the parable conveys to believers, discusses how Jesus built on Jewish images, and considers how this plays out in each of the synoptic gospels. In somewhat more detail he looks at the primary figure (e.g., the Pharisee), the primary concept (e.g., the imminence of God's Kingdom), and the primary image (e.g., the fig tree). In each case he illustrates their role in the Jewish tradition. Throughout, Stern indicates the problems in the later Greek translation of the parables, which had been spoken by Jesus in Aramaic with Hebrew references at least a generation earlier. Ultimately, the outstanding issue that separated Jesus from the earlier prophets and his Jewish contemporaries was his teaching that access to God, and thereby salvation, was possible only through Jesus himself. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and general readers.
Frank Stern is an ordained rabbi and the Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Religion in American Life at California State University-Fullerton. He also lectures widely on Judaism, Comparative Religion, and Jewish-Christian Relations.