From Mark Oppenheimer, the New York Times:
SAN FRANCISCO — Growing up Jewish in North Dartmouth, Mass., Amy-Jill Levine loved Christianity.
Her neighborhood "was almost entirely Portuguese and Roman Catholic," Dr. Levine said last Sunday at her book party here during the annual American Academy of Religion conference. "My introduction to Christianity was ethnic Roman Catholicism, and I loved it. I used to practice giving communion to Barbie. Church was like the synagogue: guys in robes speaking languages I didn't understand. My favorite movie was 'The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.'"
Christianity might have stayed just a fascination, but for an unfortunate episode in second grade: "When I was 7 years old, one girl said to me on the school bus, 'You killed our Lord.' I couldn't fathom how this religion that was so beautiful was saying such a dreadful thing."
That encounter with the dark side of her friends' religion sent Dr. Levine on a quest, one that took her to graduate school in New Testament studies and eventually to Vanderbilt University, where she has taught since 1994. Dr. Levine is still a committed Jew — she attends an Orthodox synagogue in Nashville — but she is a leading New Testament scholar.
And she is not alone. The book she has just edited with a Brandeis University professor, Marc Zvi Brettler, "The Jewish Annotated New Testament" (Oxford University Press), is an unusual scholarly experiment: an edition of the Christian holy book edited entirely by Jews. The volume includes notes and explanatory essays by 50 leading Jewish scholars, including Susannah Heschel, a historian and the daughter of the theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel; the Talmudist Daniel Boyarin; and Shaye J. D. Cohen, who teaches ancient Judaism at Harvard.
Jewish scholars have typically been involved only with editions of the Old Testament, which Jews call the Hebrew Bible or, using a Hebrew acronym, the Tanakh. Of course, many curious Jews and Christians consult all sorts of editions, without regard to editor. But among scholars, Christians produce editions of both sacred books, while Jewish editors generally consult only the book that is sacred to them. What's been left out is a Jewish perspective on the New Testament — a book Jews do not consider holy but which, given its influence and literary excellence, no Jew should ignore.
This volume is thus for anybody interested in a Bible more attuned to Jewish sources. But it is of special interest to Jews who "may believe that any annotated New Testament is aimed at persuasion, if not conversion," Drs. Levine and Brettler write in their preface. "This volume, edited and written by Jewish scholars, should not raise that suspicion."
Jews who peek inside these forbidding covers will also find essays anticipating the arguments of Christian evangelists. Confronted by Christians who extol their religion’s conceptions of neighbor love or the afterlife, for example, many Jews do not know their own tradition’s teachings. So "The Jewish Annotated New Testament" includes essays like "The Concept of Neighbor in Jewish and Christian Ethics" and "Afterlife and Resurrection."
You can read the entire article, "Focusing on the Jewish Story of the New Testament," here.