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Jesus Back By Popular Demand

Thursday, December 21, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every week that begins at 4:00 pm on Thursday, repeating until Thursday, December 28, 2023

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No, we’re not talking about the Second Coming. The first part of Marc Michael Epstein’s CSP course on Jesus was so popular that we’re bringing Professor Epstein back with a new four week series. 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 second series, series, we’ll continue to examine 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and the literally hundred extracanonical Gospels not as authoritative holy scriptures, or even as a collection of historical documents, but as a group of literary documents that became holy scripture. We will also 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. The new set of topics touches on the physical setting of the life of Jesus; Jesus’ role as “rabbi”; how we got from the Jesus Movement of Eretz Yisrael to the world-transforming religion of Christianity; and where we go from here. 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?

December 7, 2023
SESSION 1: The Lay of the Land

When we look at the US map today, we can chart regional differences. Stereotypes abound regarding Northerners and Southerners, the East and West Coasts. And don’t get me started about the way midwesterners are thought about and portrayed. Believe it or not, such variations played out even within the narrow borders of the Land of Israel in the time of Jesus. What does the geography of the Land of Israel have to do with Jesus, and how did Jews (and Romans) exploit geography for purposes of division and solidarity?

December 14, 2023
SESSION 2: “If it bothers you, don’t do it to others.” What is a rabbi? What was a rabbi? Was Jesus a rabbi?

In the Gospels, Jesus is sometimes called “rabbi,” and you may have heard him referred to as such. But what was a rabbi in Jesus’ time? In the time of “the rabbis”? How does this compare and contrast with the role of rabbis today.

December 21, 2023
SESSION 3: Jesus, Paul, Christians, and the Torah

We will explore the still-open question of whether Jesus was a “law-abiding” Jew. But whatever we conclude, we must then ask what happened to divide Jews and Christians? Where, when, and how, did a “parting of the ways” occur— was it subtle and gradual? Or sudden and definitive? Did it ever occur at all?

December 28, 2023
SESSION 4: Siblings? Rivalry?

We are told that the Pharisees of Jesus time were narrow-minded, nit-picking, and rigid. And that Jesus was all about spirituality versus law and love versus strictness. Is this true? What was Jesus’ attitude towards the Torah and Jewish law? And what was his attitude towards love of neighbor and love of God?

Winner of the 2015 Jewish Book Award in Visual Arts for Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts, 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.  His book, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination (Yale, 2011) was selected by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of 2011.  During the ‘80s, Epstein was Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division of Sotheby’s Judaica department. He continues to serve as consultant to various libraries, auction houses, museums and private collectors throughout the world, among them, the Herbert C. and Eileen Bernard Museum at Temple Emanu-El in New York City, for which he curated the inaugural exhibition, and the Fowler Museum at UCLA. He is the Director of Beit Venezia, the home for International Jewish Studies in Venice, Italy.

CSP Partners: Beth Israel (San Diego, CA), Beth Israel Congregation (Waterville, ME), Center for Small Town Judaism (Waterville, ME), Congregation Adath Jeshurun (Elkins Park, PA), Congregation B’nai Tzedek (Fountain Valley, CA), Congregation B’nai Israel (Tustin, CA), Jewish Collaborative of Orange County, Temple Bat Yahm (Newport Beach, CA), Temple Beth David (Westminster, CA),Temple Beth El of South Orange County (Aliso Viejo, CA), Temple Beth Ohr (La Mirada, CA), Temple Beth Shalom (Needham, MA), Temple Beth Sholom (Hull, MA), Temple Beth Sholom (Santa Ana, CA), Temple Emanuel (Newton, MA), Temple Judea of Laguna Woods, CA,  Town & Village Synagogue (NYC, NY), University Synagogue (Irvine, CA), Valley Beth Shalom (Encino, CA) & Walnut Street Synagogue (Chelsea, MA)


Thursday, December 21, 2023
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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