Amy-Jill Levine is a professor of Jewish and New Testament studies. She teaches at Vanderbilt University and Wesley House, Cambridge. Here are a few extracts from the “back page interview” in this week’s Church Times.
For Christians interested in promoting a two-state resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I can help them see how their legitimate concern for Palestinian rights is often expressed in ways that prevent like-minded Jews from working with them.
My students often see Jesus as a feminist who lived within a Jewish world that made the Taliban look progressive. To the contrary, the Gospels tell us about women’s substantial rights: owning homes, having use of their own property, having freedom of travel, worshipping in synagogues and the Jerusalem Temple, and so on. Women did not join Jesus because Judaism oppressed them, and the Jewish women who followed him did not cease to be Jews.
If my work can help eliminate anti-Jewish teachings and preaching in churches and anti-Christian attitudes among Jews, and sexist and homophobic theologies, I shall be more than content.
The Bible offers numerous profound insights: that victims’ voices must be heard; that perpetrators are also humans beings made in the image and likeness of the divine; that violence impacts not only the victim and the perpetrator, but their families, their communities, even their descendents; that violence is not restricted to some other group but is in our own households; that responding to violence with more violence is not the answer; that there is no quick fix; that repentance is possible but that one also must take responsiblity for one’s actions; that no one is immune to sin; that perfect justice is usually elusive.
At the moment I’d like to be locked in a church with Mahmoud Abbas and Bibi Netanyahu, and not let them out until they brokered a peace agreement. I doubt that this would be a pleasant experience, but it has the potential to be productive.