The Pope's Favorite Rabbi

How a Jewish scholar became a muse for the No. 1 Catholic

Gillian Laub for TIME

Jacob "Jack" Neusner photographed at his home in Rhinebeck, New York on May 10, 2007.

I'm not offended when Christians eat pork," says Jacob Neusner. At least not usually. The brilliant--and none too patient--Jewish scholar does recall a religion conference where so much of the other white meat was served that he was reduced to a diet of hard-boiled eggs. One day on the food line something snapped, and he rhymed aloud, "I hope you all get trichinosis/And come to believe in the God of Moses." A fellow conferee instantly replied, "And if we don't get such diseases/Will you believe in the God of Jesus?" Neusner cackles. "That's an example of the right way to do...

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