This is a republished edition of Sigal’s pioneering work with a new preface by Eugene Fisher of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and an updating epilogue by Thomas Kazen of the Stockholm School of Theology. Sigal argues that, from a halakhic perspective, Jesus’ teachings on Sabbath and divorce in the Gospel of Matthew use the same methods of interpretation as those of his proto-rabbinic contemporaries. The Jesus of the Gospel of Matthew should thus be seen as a charismatic prophetic first-century proto-rabbi— independent in his halakhah and frequently anticipating later rabbinic positions—rather than as transcending proto-rabbinic halakhah or as an adherent of a particular school. Sigal concludes that, had it not been for the expulsion of Christian Jews from the synagogues after 90 C.E., Jesus could have been remembered as one of the rabbis of the Mishnah and that neither Christology nor halakhah were decisive for the break.
Phillip Sigal (1927–1985) was director of the University of Pittsburgh Jewish University Center; secretary of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis; and rabbi of congregations in New Jersey and Michigan. He taught at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, University of Michigan, and Duquesne University and authored numerous books including The Emergence of Contemporary Judaism (three volumes, Pickwick Press) and Judaism: The Evolution of a Faith (Eerdmans).
“Sigal’s original study was a significant contribution to Gospel scholarship. It is deservedly reprinted and enhanced by additions which increase its usefulness both to NT scholars and those seeking to promote Jewish–Christian relations.”
— Ruth B. Edwards, Journal for the Study of the New Testament