The Eastern PA Conference Congregational Development Team (CDT) Book Club will welcome back in March internationally renowned author, scholar and professor Amy-Jill Levine for a new four-week book study via Zoom, on Wednesdays, March 2 to March 23, at 11 AM to 12 PM.
As we begin the Lenten season, “AJ” will prepare us to celebrate Jesus’ Passion by guiding us over four Wednesdays through her newly released book Witness at the Cross: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Friday.
Amy-Jill Levine describes herself as “an unorthodox member of an Orthodox synagogue and a Yankee Jewish feminist, who until last year taught New Testament in a Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt.”
In Witness at the Cross she explores the roles and testimonies of those who are with Jesus as he hangs dying on the cross. And she invites readers to imagine themselves there as witnesses, too, to determine what their own testimonies will be.
“In each chapter of Witness at the Cross, Levine parses out the Gospel’s witness accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion and invites readers to be transformed by this theological symphony of the cross,” writes the Rev. Dr. Deborah Appler, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Moravian Theological Seminary and Eastern PA Conference member. “This informative, witty, and accessible study provides a welcome preaching and teaching resource for clergy and laity. Small group leaders will also appreciate its six-chapter format ideal for a Lenten study.”
Read about the book and author, and view a short video with AJ’s comments at Witness at the Cross: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Friday by Amy-Jill Levine. Her new book is also available as a six-week study that includes a DVD featuring Dr. Levine and a comprehensive Leader’s Guide.
Over 90 Eastern PA Conference members and guests joined her for four weeks in June 2021, as she discussed her fascinating book The Bible With and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently.
Wednesdays: March 2, 9, 16, 23 (4 weeks), from 11 AM to 12 PM.
- March 2: Seeing with Simon of Cyrene: An introduction to the witnesses at the Cross
- March 9: Women: friends and family, patrons and mourners
- March 16: The men who died alongside Jesus: Hope and Despair
- March 23: Deposition: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, God and Nature
Amy-Jill Levine is the Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford University for Religion and Peace in Hartford, Connecticut. And she is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies Emerita, Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies Emerita, and Professor of New Testament Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
AJ’s latest books are Witness at the Cross: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Fridayand The Pharisees (co-edited with Joseph Sievers). She has authored numerous other books including:
- Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi;
- Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week;
- Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent;
- Sermon on the Mount: A Beginner’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven; and
- The Difficult Words of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to His Most Perplexing Teachings.
She is also coeditor of the Jewish Annotated New Testament and co-author of The Bible With and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently—both with Marc Zvi Brettler.
AJ is the first Jew to teach New Testament at Rome’s Pontifical Biblical Institute. In 2021 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She describes herself as “an unorthodox member of an Orthodox synagogue and a Yankee Jewish feminist who until 2021 taught New Testament in a Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt.”
More information from the publisher about Witness at the Cross: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Friday by Amy-Jill Levine:
Experience Holy Friday from the perspective of those who watched Jesus die: Mary his mother; the Beloved Disciple from the Gospel of John; Mary Magdalene and the other women from Galilee; the two men, usually identified as thieves, crucified with Jesus; the centurion and the soldiers; Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. Jews and Romans, friends and strangers, the powerful and the powerless, the hopeful and the despairing.
In Witness at the Cross, Amy-Jill Levine shows how the people at the cross each have distinct roles to play. Each Evangelist presents a distinct picture of the death of Jesus. Each portrays different individuals and groups of people at the cross, each offers different images and dialogues, and so from each, we learn how those meanings and messages cross the centuries to any who would come to the cross today.
The story of Jesus’s death is not something we just read: we think about it, and we experience it; we hear the taunts of the soldiers, the priests, and the passersby even as we hear the famous “seven last words” from the cross.
Each Gospel has its own story to tell, all the witnesses have their own memories, and every reader comes away with a new insight. The witnesses at the Crucifixion watch Jesus die, and we watch with them, and we watch them. And we come away transformed.
And the Rev. Mitch Gieselman, Indiana Conference Superintendent, writes:
With her wit, wisdom, and vast knowledge of the scriptures in their historical context, Amy-Jill Levine has brought to life the characters who the Gospels tell us were witnesses to the Crucifixion. Witness at the Cross: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Friday is structured in a way that easily serves as a weekly Lenten study. But this isn’t “Bible Study Lite.” The reader/student does well to summon a little courage for this journey. Levine’s insights often challenge things we may have assumed we knew, and she does so with humor and generosity of heart that blesses even the simplest search for biblical understanding.