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The Reluctant Parting: How the New Testament’s Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book

Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
July 2017
Fred's Rating: 
Julie Galambush
Total Pages: 
Harper Collins

Julie Galambush, an associate Professor at The College of William and Mary, has a Ph.D. in OT studies from Emory Univ. and a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School. Formerly an ordained Baptist minister, she converted to Judaism and is a member of Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church. VA.

The Amazon website for the paperback edition I was given is

[None of the ISBN-10, ISBN-13, or ASIN numbers on Amazon’s websites for the three editions (Kindle, hardcover, or paperback) are recognized by Amazon, thus the ‘no image Circle' appears. I think this new change by Amazon is not good. However, you can see the images of this books' covers at the website above.]

Amazon’s home page has a summary (click on ‘Read more). Two other summaries occur further down the home page. But the best summary is on the Front and Back Flaps of the hardcover edition, which is what you get when you click on ‘Look inside’ of the paperback edition. Scrolling down takes you to the 2-pp Contents, with nine Parts (in all capital letters). Each Part has from three to ten chapters. (This feature gives the details I am always pleased to see.) This book also has a 5-pp Foreword by James Carroll, a 6-pp Introduction and an 8-pp Index.

The first two pages of the Foreword are omitted and pages of the Introduction are omitted in the paperback preview. So I strongly recommend that you switch over to the preview of the Kindle edition. It has all of the Foreword, all of the author’s important Introduction, as well as the first eight pages of the 11-pp first chapter – The Jewish World in the First Century CE. These 8-pp are also worthwhile history to read from the unusual viewpoint of an American Baptist who converted to Judaism. She is the only person I know of who has made this transformation. And she is also unique for the friend who gave me this book.

It was my deliberate choice to read this book (713) just after reading John Shelby Spong’s book (712). Spong covered the OT and the NT in 59 chapters in 407 pages – for a chapter average of 6.9 pages (and with some chapters as short as four pages). In this book (713) Julie Galambush covers the NT in 30 chapters in 309 pages – for a chapter average of 10.3 pages. Often the two coverages were relatively similar. But I didn’t find her book hard to put down. Perhaps the similarities were the reason for my lack of reluctance to put the book down. Being the second author to read about the NT books and letters may be the reason I sometimes felt that her coverage was a ‘cure for insomnia.’

It would be too much for me to compare their worldviews for specific chapters. But in general she focused much more on the Jews who became converts to the ‘Way of Jesus’ whereas he seemed to me to spend as much time on Gentile converts. She went into a bit more detail about how the Jews of Jesus’ time tried to maintain their Jewish ways of living while becoming a follower of Jesus’ Way. I’m using the more timely term ‘Way’ instead of ‘Christian' as did these two authors, who both knew the word Christian was never present during the time when the NT was first written.

The only specific comparison I make here is what these two authors had to say about 1 Corinthians. First I copy what I said in my review of book (712): With 59 brief chapters, I only refer here to the letter by Paul that most impressed me, for by my reading and rereading of Paul’s letters, I had asked myself where Paul’s wisdom impressed me the most. My answer was 1 Cor 13:10-13. So I was very happy to see that Spong’s assessment agreed with mine! After praising Paul’s poetic ‘ode to love’, Spong then says about Paul: “He recognizes that all human knowledge is partial. No one sees God face to face, we all see ‘through a glass darkly’ (1 Cor. 13:12). He urges the Corinthians to put away childish things and to grow up. Finally he concludes ‘that faith, hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13). It is Paul at his insightful best.” I was not surprised that this final quote from 1 Cor. 13 came at the end of this chapter (the 5-pp Ch. 34: The Corinthian Letters). That John Shelby Spong needed only five pages to summarize the two Corinthian Letters shows you how concise his summaries often were.

Now here is what Julie Galambush said in her 12-pp chapter ‘First Corinthians.’ “Chapters 11-14 are devoted to a number of conflicts related to the community’s worship practices.” …”Paul’s extended discussion of spiritual gifts mirrors his treatment of the various social and moral problems in the community. All involve issues of status. The Corinthians live in a world where, even more than our own, status existed to be exploited. Anything less would be weak, even dishonorable. Their new experience of spiritual power is something to enjoy, something in which to excel. The old social and moral codes have been transcended. The exceptional spiritual strength of the community allows them to justify everything from incest to communal meals in which some go hungry. The Corinthians enjoy all spiritual gifts except the one Paul says is required: a love that responds to the needs of others. Paul struggles to move the Corinthians out of the dominant value system into one shaped by Jesus’ crucifixion – the rejection of what is highest in this world in favor of what is lowest. Paul faces an uphill battle with his status-conscious Corinthian congregation, one almost wonders what they saw in one another in the first place.” Just one sentence mentions the crucial word ‘love.’ What she says isn’t wrong. It just has no mention of what Paul said so beautifully in 1 Cor: 13:10-13. How could anyone write about 1 Corinthians and omit Paul’s words about love, and love’s being more important than faith and hope? Her one sentence isn’t enough.

I feel that this book gave me a different worldview on Judaism’s ‘take’ on the NT. I have trouble deciding between 3 and 4 stars. I think 3 stars is an adequate rating.