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David Flusser – Reclaiming Jesus from Christianity?

[ The late Dr. Flusser is sort of an evangelist for a “liberal” idea of Jesus — not unlike what the German Higher Critical Schools attempted to do last century… What makes this disturbing, however, is that many in Israel appear to be listening to his “reconstructed” views of Jesus… ]

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He’s one of us, he’s from here

By Yitzhak Laor

“Yeshu,” by David Flusser, Magnes Press and Dvir, 255 pages, NIS 88

The new translation into Hebrew of David Flusser’s “Jesus” is sheer delight. This marvelous book first came out in German in 1968. The new version is a rendition of the English translation of 1997 (Magnes Press, $46), and is published nine years after its illustrious author passed away.

It is a riveting book, and not only because Flusser refrains from repeating what he had discussed in a plethora of articles he published beforehand. Although it falls squarely into the imaginary narrative that Zionism takes for granted – according to which Jesus was “one of us” and, more important, from this land – the book also shows that one can both take part in shaping the national fantasy and also be interesting.

In other words, what was once seen as the acronym for the Hebrew “yimah shmo vazikhro” (“may his name and his memory be obliterated”), “Yeshu” is described by Flusser as the Galilean version of the Hebrew name Yehoshua, Joshua. There’s an idea for a scholarly research project: The history of the depiction of Christianity in Jewish culture.

When it first came out, conservative Christians didn’t like it, and various Christian radicals also had their reservations, because Flusser had tried hard to write the biography of Jesus as a figure of his time, while basing it on the New Testament, and in particular the Gospels, which were not contemporary with Jesus’ life. Indeed, from the conservatives’ point of view, it’s clear why Flusser was infuriating: It’s doubtful that a religious person, in this case a Christian, could accept the historical figure as portrayed by Flusser, mainly because the author elegantly bypasses everything the Christian faith accepts as part of Jesus’ revelation. At the same time, however, Flusser does accept the Gospels as very reliable texts, with the reservation that one must distinguish between what is original and later distortions.

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