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Jesus the Jew, Part 1: Jesus Didn’t Have A New Testament

Hosted By: Orange County Community Scholar Program (CSP)

What story do the narratives with which Jesus would have been familiar tell about humanity, where it had gone astray, what needed fixing, and how that was to be accomplished?

Reprising for the CSP audience his legendary course at Vassar College, “Something Like A Hundred Gospels And The Confused, Conflicted Life of Jesus,” Marc Michael Epstein approaches the person of Jesus in its historical context, not as God or Son of God, but as he would have been known, perceived and understood by his contemporaries. In this series, Epstein will unpack how this charismatic teacher and healer lived and taught. Our sources will be the four canonical and the literally hundred extracanonical Gospels not as authoritative holy scriptures, or even as a collection of historical documents, but as a group of literary documents that became holy scripture.

Consider the historical works of the Jewish general and eventually traitor to Rome, Flavius Josephus, and later rabbinic documents to flesh out what Jesus’ world looked like, intellectually, socially and spiritually. You are invited to leave behind your pre-conceived notions of the person of Jesus and to understand him against the backdrop of the Jewish environment of Roman-occupied Judea/Palestine of the first century. How was an indigenously and intrinsically Jewish story transformed into a Graeco-Roman Christian, and, eventually, a “universal” one?

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Marc Michael Epstein

Marc Michael Epstein is the product of a mixed marriage between the scions of Slonimer and Lubavitcher Hassidim and Romanian socialists, and grew up, rather confused, but happy, in Brooklyn, New York. He is currently Professor of Religion at Vassar College, where he has been teaching since 1992, and was the first Director of Jewish Studies. At Vassar, he teaches courses on medieval Christianity, religion, arts and politics, and Jewish texts and sources. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, received the PhD at Yale University, and did much of his graduate research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written numerous articles and three books on various topics in visual and material culture produced by, for, and about Jews.
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