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Gale Family Foundation Spring 2023 Lecture: "White Jesus, Black Jesus, Christian Jesus, Jewish Jesus” by Dr. Susannah Heschel

Was Jesus a Jew or a Christian? Theologians on both sides have depicted Jesus either as a pious Jew seeking to reform Judaism or as the first Christian who introduced unique ideas and a new way of being a religious person. The debate between Jewish and Christian theologians over the religious identity of Jesus grew in intensity throughout the course of the nineteenth century and played an important role in the Nazi period. This lecture will review both sides of the debate and ask where we stand in our contemporary debates, including over Jesus as a person of color. Does Christianity change if Jesus was Jewish, Black, or Asian? 

Susannah Heschel is the Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College. She has been a pioneer in Jewish feminism and brought feminist theory and postcolonial theory to her analyses of modern Jewish thought, Jewish-Christian relations, and Jewish understandings of Islam. Her books include a study of 19thcentury Jewish-Christian debates over the Jewishness of Jesus, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus, and a book and several articles on German church support for Hitler, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. She has just completed a book with Sarah Imhoff, Jewish Studies and the Woman Question, forthcoming next year. She has also edited two collections of her father’s writings, including Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays of Abraham Joshua Heschel. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and has received numerous grants and five honorary doctorates from universities in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States.