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Judaism's view of Jesus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Among followers of Judaism, Jesus is viewed as having been the most influential and, consequently, the most damaging of all false messiahs.[1] However, since the traditional Jewish belief is that the messiah has not yet come and the Messianic Age is not yet present, the total rejection of Jesus as either messiah or deity has never been a central issue for Judaism.

Judaism has never accepted any of the claimed fulfillments of prophecy that Christianity attributes to Jesus. Judaism also forbids the worship of a person as a form of idolatry, since the central belief of Judaism is the absolute unity and singularity of God.[2][3] Jewish eschatology holds that the coming of the Messiah will be associated with a specific series of events that have not yet occurred, including the return of Jews to their homeland and the rebuilding of The Temple, a Messianic Age of peace[4] and understanding during which "the knowledge of God" fills the earth."[5] And since Jews believe that none of these events occurred during the lifetime of Jesus (nor have they occurred afterwards), he was not the Messiah.

Traditional views of Jesus have been mostly negative (see: Toledot Yeshu), an account that portrays Jesus as an impostor, although in the Middle Ages Judah Halevi and Maimonides viewed Jesus as an important preparatory figure for a future universal ethical monotheism of the Messianic Age. Some modern Jewish thinkers have sympathetically speculated that the historical Jesus may have been closer to Judaism than either the Gospels or traditional Jewish accounts would indicate, starting in the 18th century with the Orthodox Jacob Emden and the reformer Moses Mendelssohn. This view is still espoused by some.

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Hi there my name’s John Green, this is Crash Course: World History and today we’re going to talk about Jesus. This is a Roman coin from around the time Jesus was born in the Roman Empire, and it calls Augustus, the emperor, the son of God. So let’s just state at the outset that in 4 BCE, being the son of God, or at least being the son of a god was not such an unusual thing. But a poor Jew being the son of God— that was news. [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] Any understanding of Christianity has to start with Judaism, because Jesus was born a Jew, and he grew up in the Jewish tradition. He was one of many teachers spreading his ideas in the Roman province of Judea at the time, and he was part of a messianic tradition that helps us understand why he was thought of not only teacher but something much, much more. Let’s go straight to the Thought Bubble today. The people who would become the Jews, were just one of many tribal peoples eeking out an existence in that not-very fertile crescent world of Mesopotamia after the agricultural revolution. The Hebrews initially worshipped many gods, making sacrifices to them in order to bring good weather and good fortune. But they eventually developed a religion centered around an idea that would become key to the other great western religions. This was monotheism, the idea that there is only one true god (or at least that if there are other gods around, they are total lameoids). The Hebrews developed a second concept that is key to their religion as well: the idea of the covenant, a deal with God. The main man in this, the big macher was Abraham. Not to make this too much of a scripture lesson, but it’s kind of hard to understand the Jews without understanding Abraham, or Abram as he was known before he had his big conversation with God, recorded in Genesis 17: When Abram was ninety years and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." And I’m a make a covenant with you and a bunch of cool things will happen like you’re gonna have kids and your descendants will number the stars and you can have all the land of Canaan forever, it’s gonna be awesome. I’m paraphrasing by the way, Thought Bubble. So God promised that Abram would have kids with his wife even though the dude was already like 99, but there was a catch: This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. Keep it PG-13, Thought Bubble. Now that is asking a lot from a guy, especially a 99 year old geezer like Abram living in a time before general anesthesia. But those were the terms of the deal, and in exchange God had chosen Abraham and his descendants to be a great nation. From this we get the expression that the Jews are the Chosen people. Thanks for keeping it clean, Thought Bubble. So, some important things about this god: 1. Singularity. He—and I’m using the masculine pronoun because that’s what Hebrew prayers use—does not want you to put any gods before Him. He is also transcendent, having always existed and he is deeply personal – he chats with prophets, sends locusts, etc. But he doesn’t take corporeal form like the Greek and Roman Gods do. He is also involved in history, like he will destroy cities, and bring floods, and determine the outcomes of wars, and possibly football games. Stan, no! FOOTBALL games! Probably most important to us today, and certainly most important to Jesus, this god demands moral righteousness and social justice. So, this is the god of the Hebrews, Yahweh, and despite many ups and downs, the Jewish people have stuck with him for- according to the Hebrew calendar, at least- over 5700 years. And he has stuck by them too, despite the Jews being, on occasion, something of a disappointment to him, which leads to various miseries, and also to a tradition of prophets who speak for God and warn the people to get back on the right path lest there be more miseries. Which brings us back to our friends, the Romans. By the time that Jesus was born, the land of the Israelites had been absorbed into the Roman Empire as the province of Judea. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Judea was under the control of Herod the Great, best known for building the massive temple in Jerusalem, that the Romans would later destroy. And by the time Jesus died, an expanded Judea was under the rule of Herod Antipater. Also, unhelpfully, known as Herod. Both Herods ultimately took their orders from the Romans, and they both show up on the list of rulers who are oppressive to the Jews, partly because there’s never that much religious freedom in an empire. Unless you are, wait for it... The Mongols or the Persians. Also, they were Hellenizers, bringing in Greek theater and architecture, and rationalism. And in response to those Hellenistic influences, there were a lot of preachers trying to get the Jews to return to the traditions and the godly ways of the past, including the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, and the Essenes, and the Zealots. And one of those preachers, who didn’t fit comfortably into any of these four groups, was Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was a preacher who spread his message of peace, love and, above all, justice, across Judea over the course of his actually average-length life for his time. He was remarkably charismatic, attracting a small but incredibly loyal group of followers, and he was said to perform miracles—although it’s worth noting that miracles weren’t terribly uncommon at the time. Jesus’s message was particularly resonant to the poor and downtrodden and pretty radical in its anti-authoritarian stance. He said it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven, he said the meek were blessed, that the last would be first and the first would be last— All of which was kind of threatening to the powers that be, who accordingly had him arrested, tried and then executed in the normal method of killing rebels at that time, crucifixion. Also, just to put this question to bed, the Romans that crucified Jesus, because he was a threat to their authority. Later traditions saying that the Jews killed Jesus? Very unfortunate. Also, very untrue. We’re not going to discuss Jesus’s divinity, because 1. This isn’t a theology class, and 2. Flame wars on the Internet make me so uncomfortable I have to turn to camera 2, Hi there camera 2, I’m here to remind you that 3. Fighting over such things, like fighting over whether the proverbial cake is a lie, rarely accomplishes anything, Plus 4. What matters to us is the historical fact that people at the time believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed One, the son of God. And they believed that he would return some day to redeem the world. Which leads us to two questions about Christianity: First, Why did this small group of people believe this, and Why and how did that belief become so widespread? So why would people believe that Jesus was the Messiah? First, the Jews had a long tradition of believing that a savior who would come to them in a time of trouble. And Judea under the rule of Herod and the Romans… definitely a time of trouble. And many of the prophecies about this savior point to someone whose life looks a lot like Jesus'. For instance, Isaiah 53 says the person will be misunderstood and mistreated, just like Jesus was: “He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we didn't respect him.” And a lot of the prophecies like Daniel 7:14, for instance, explained that when the Messiah comes there will be this awesome new, everlasting kingdom. And that had to sound pretty good to people who’d had their autonomy taken away from them. So some religious Jews saw Jesus in those prophecies and came to believe either during his life or shortly thereafter, that he was the messiah. Most of them thought the new everlasting kingdom was right around the corner, which is probably why no one bothered to write down much about the life of Jesus for several decades, by which time it was clear that we might have to wait a bit for this brilliant new everlasting kingdom. I should note, by the way, that the idea of a messiah was not unique to the Jews at the time. Even the Romans got in on the action. For Instance, the Roman poet Vergil wrote of a boy who: “Shall free the earth from never-ceasing fear. He shall receive the life of gods, and see Heroes with gods commingling.” Sound familiar? But Vergil was writing about Emperor Augustus in that poem, not Jesus, which points again to the similarities between the two. Both called sons of God. Both sent to free the earth from never-ceasing fear. But one ruled the largest empire in the world; and the other believed that empire, and the world, needed to change dramatically. So why did the less wealthy and famous son of God become by far the more influential? Well, here are three possible historical reasons: Reason #1: The Romans continued to make things bad for the Jews. In fact, things got much worse for the Jews, especially after they launched a revolt between 66-73 CE, which did not go well. By the time the dust settled, the Romans had destroyed the Temple and expelled the Jews from Judaea, beginning what we now know as the Jewish Diaspora. And without a Temple or geographic unity, the Jews had to solidify what it meant to be a Jew and what the basic tenants of the religion were. This forced the followers of Jesus to make a decision; Were they going to continue to be Jews following stricter laws set forth by rabbis, or were they going to be something else. The decision to open up their religion to non-Jews, people who weren’t part of the covenant, is the central reason that Christianity could become a world religion instead of just a sect of Judaism. And it probably didn’t hurt that the main proponent of sticking with Judaism was James, Jesus’s brother, who was killed by the Romans. Reason #2: Is related to reason number 1 and it’s all about a dude named Saul. No, not that Saul. Yes, Saul of Tarsus, thank you. Saul, having received a vision on the road to Damascus, became Paul and began visiting and sending letters to Jesus followers throughout the Mediterranean. And it was Paul who emphatically declared that Jesus followers did NOT have to be Jews, that they did not have to be circumcised or keep to Jewish laws or any of that stuff. This opened the floodgates for thousands of people to convert to this new religion. And the other thing to remember about Paul is that he was a Roman citizen. Which meant that he could travel freely throughout the Roman Empire. This allowed him to make his case to lots of different people and facilitated the geographic spread of Christianity. Oh, it’s time for the open letter? Alright. An open letter, to the fish. But first, lets see what’s in the secret compartment today. Oh, Stan. [JCSS-esque music briefly plays] It’s my favorite album Jesus Christ Superstar, finally available in my favorite format, the cassette. Did I color-coordinate my shirt to Jesus Christ Superstar? Yes. Dear Ichthys, So check this out: In the first century when it was still super underground and hipster to be a Christian, you were a secret symbol of Christianity, used to kind of hide from the Romans. Ichthys, the Greek word for fish was an acronym and it was a super clever way to talk about religion without anyone knowing that you were talking about it. But you’ll never guess what happened- even in places where it’s completely fine to talk about Christianity now and to use, you know, regular Christian symbols, like the cross You have had a huge resurgence thanks to the plastic automobile decal industry. I mean seriously, Ichthys, I haven’t seen a comeback like this since Jesus. Best wishes, John Green And lastly, Christianity was born and flourished an empire with a common language that allowed for its spread. And crucially, it was also an Empire in decline. Like even by the end of the first century CE, Rome was on its way down. And for the average person, and even for some elites, things weren’t as good as they had been, if fact they were getting worse so fast that you might have thought the end of the world was coming. And Roman religion offered no promise of an afterlife, and a bunch of squabbling whiny gods- sorry if I offended adherents to Roman religion, but seriously, they squabble. So even though early Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire and sometimes fed to the lions and other animals, the religion continued to grow, albeit slowly. But then as the Roman decline continued, Emperor Constantine allowed the worship of Jesus and then eventually converted to Christianity himself. And then the religion really took off. I mean, Rome wasn’t what it used to be, but everybody still wanted to be like the Emperor. And soon enough there was a new son of God on coins. Thanks for watching. See you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller, our script supervisor is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself and our graphics team is Thought Bubble. As only 62 million of you guessed last week, the Phrase of the Week was "Chipotle Burrito" if you want to guess at this week’s Phrase of the Week or suggest future ones, you can do so in Comments where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered, hopefully, by our team of historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course, and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome. Ow... again.



Woodcut carved by Johann von Armssheim (1483). Portrays a disputation between Christian and Jewish scholars
Woodcut carved by Johann von Armssheim (1483). Portrays a disputation between Christian and Jewish scholars

The belief that Jesus is God, the Son of God, or a person of the Trinity, is incompatible with Jewish theology. Jews believe Jesus of Nazareth did not fulfill messianic prophecies that establish the criteria for the coming of the messiah.[6] Judaism rejects Jesus as God, Divine Being, intermediary between humans and God, messiah or holy. Belief in the Trinity is also held to be incompatible with Judaism, as are a number of other tenets of Christianity.

Jewish theology

Oneness and indivisibility of God

In Judaism, the idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical — it is even considered by some polytheistic.[7] According to Judaic beliefs, the Torah rules out a trinitarian God in Deuteronomy (6:4): "Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one."

Judaism teaches that it is heretical for any man to claim to be God, part of God, or the literal son of God. The Jerusalem Talmud (Ta'anit 2:1) states explicitly: "if a man claims to be God, he is a liar."

In his book A History of the Jews, Paul Johnson describes the schism between Jews and Christians caused by a divergence from this principle:

To the question, Was Jesus God or man?, the Christians therefore answered: both. After 70 AD, their answer was unanimous and increasingly emphatic. This made a complete breach with Judaism inevitable.[8]

In the 12th century, the preeminent Jewish scholar Maimonides codified core principles of Modern Judaism, writing "[God], the Cause of all, is one. This does not mean one as in one of a pair, nor one like a species (which encompasses many individuals), nor one as in an object that is made up of many elements, nor as a single simple object that is infinitely divisible. Rather, God is a unity unlike any other possible unity."[9]

Some Orthodox Jewish scholars note that the common poetic Jewish expression, "Our Father in Heaven", was used literally by Jesus to refer to God as "his Father in Heaven" (cf. Lord's Prayer).[10]

God is not corporeal

Maimonides' thirteen principles of faith includes the concept that God has no body and that physical concepts do not apply to Him.[11][12] In the "Yigdal" prayer, found towards the beginning of the Jewish prayer books used in synagogues around the world, it states "He has no semblance of a body nor is He corporeal". It is a central tenet of Judaism that God does not have any physical characteristics;[13] that God's essence cannot be fathomed.[14][15][16][17]

Jesus as the Jewish Messiah

Judaism's idea of the messiah differs substantially from the Christian idea of the Messiah. In Orthodox Judaism, the messiah's task is to bring in the Messianic Age, a one-time event, and a presumed messiah who is killed before completing the task (i.e. compelling all of Israel to walk in the way of Torah, repairing the breaches in observance, fighting the wars of God, building the Temple in its place, gathering in the dispersed exiles of Israel) is not the messiah. Maimonides states,

But if he did not succeed in all this or was killed, he is definitely not the Moshiach promised in the Torah... and God only appointed him in order to test the masses.[18]

Jews believe that the messiah will fulfill the messianic prophecies of the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel.[19][20][21][22] According to Isaiah, the messiah will be a paternal descendant of King David.[23] He is expected to return the Jews to their homeland and rebuild the Temple, reign as King, and usher in an era of peace[4] and understanding where "the knowledge of God" fills the earth,[5] leading the nations to "end up recognizing the wrongs they did Israel".[24] Ezekiel states the messiah will redeem the Jews.[25]

The Jewish view of Jesus is influenced by the fact that Jesus lived while the Second Temple was standing, and not while the Jews were exiled. He never reigned as King, and there was no subsequent era of peace or great knowledge. Jesus died without completing or even accomplishing part of any of the messianic tasks, instead promising a Second Coming. Rather than being redeemed, the Jews were subsequently exiled from Israel, and the temple was destroyed years later not rebuilt. These discrepancies were noted by Jewish scholars who were contemporaries of Jesus, as later pointed out by Nahmanides, who in 1263 observed that Jesus was rejected as the messiah by the rabbis of his time.[26]

Moreover, Judaism sees Christian claims that Jesus is the textual messiah of the Hebrew Bible as being based on mistranslations,[27][28] with the idea that Jesus did not fulfill any of the Jewish Messiah qualifications.[29]

As for the synoptic Jesus' relationship with Jewish law, E.P. Sanders argues that “The Synoptic Jesus lived as a law-abiding Jew" and that “What he wanted, what he said, and what he did, finally led to his execution, but to think of the conflict being determined by differences over various points of the law is to misconceive it."[30]

Prophecy and Jesus

According to the Torah (Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:18-22), the criteria for a person to be considered a prophet or speak for God in Judaism are that he must follow the God of Israel (and no other god); he must not describe God differently from how he is known to be from Scripture; he must not advocate change to God's word or state that God has changed his mind and wishes things that contradict his already-stated eternal word.[31] There is no concept of the Messiah "fulfilling the law" to free the Israelites from their duty to maintain the mitzvot in Judaism, as is understood in much of Christianity or Messianic Judaism.

There are two types of "false prophet" recognized in the Hebrew Bible: the one who claims to be a prophet in the name of idolatry, and the one who claims to be a prophet in the name of the God of Israel, but declares that any word or commandment (mitzvah) which God has said no longer applies, or makes false statements in the name of God.[32] As traditional Judaism believes that God's word is true eternally, one who claims to speak in God's name but diverges in any way from what God himself has said, logically cannot be inspired by divine authority. Deuteronomy 13:1 states simply, "Be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you; neither add to it nor take away from it."[33][34][35]

Even if someone who appears to be a prophet can perform supernatural acts or signs, no prophet or dreamer can contradict the laws already stated in the Bible.[36][37] Thus, any divergence espoused by Jesus from the tenets of biblical Judaism would disqualify him from being considered a prophet in Judaism. This was the view adopted by Jesus' contemporaries, as according to rabbinical tradition as stated in the Talmud (Sotah 48b) "when Malachi died the Prophecy departed from Israel." As Malachi lived centuries before Jesus it is clear that the rabbis of Talmudic times did not view Jesus as a divinely inspired prophet. Furthermore, the Bible itself includes an example of a prophet who could speak directly with God and could work miracles but was "evil",[38] in the form of Balaam.

Jesus and salvation

Judaism does not share the Christian concept of salvation, as it does not believe people are born in a "state of sin".[39] Judaism holds instead that a person who sins can repent of that sin and, in most cases, have it be forgiven.[40]

Jesus in the rabbinical literature

The Talmud

Various works of classical Jewish rabbinic literature are thought to contain references to Jesus, including some uncensored manuscripts of the Babylonian Talmud and the classical midrash literature written between 250 CE and 700 CE. There is a spectrum of scholarly views on how many of these references are actually to Jesus.[41]

Christian authorities in Europe were largely unaware of possible references to Jesus in the Talmud until 1236, when a convert from Judaism, Nicholas Donin, laid thirty-five formal charges against the Talmud before Pope Gregory IX, and these charges were brought upon rabbi Yechiel of Paris to defend at the Disputation of Paris in 1240.[42] Yehiel's primary defence was that the Yeshu in rabbinic literature was a disciple of Joshua ben Perachiah, and not to be confused with Jesus (Vikkuah Rabbenu Yehiel mi-Paris). At the later Disputation of Barcelona (1263) Nahmanides made the same point.[43] Jacob ben Meir,[44] Jehiel ben Solomon Heilprin (17th century) and Jacob Emden (18th century) support this view.

Not all rabbis took this view. The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi (c.1075-1141),[45] understood these references in Talmud as referring to Jesus of Nazareth and based on argumentable evidences that assure Jesus of Nazareth lived 130 years prior to the date that Christians believe he lived, account regarding the chronology of Jesus.[clarification needed] Profiat Duran's anti-Christian polemic Kelimmat ha-Goyim ("Shame of the Gentiles", 1397) makes it evident that Duran gave no credence to Yehiel of Paris' theory of two Jesuses.[46]

Modern scholarship on the Talmud has a spectrum[47] of views from Joseph Klausner, R. Travers Herford and Peter Schäfer[48] who see some traces of a historical Jesus in the Talmud, to the views of Johann Maier, and Jacob Neusner who consider that there are little or no historical traces and texts have been applied to Jesus in later editing, and others such as Daniel Boyarin (1999) who argue that Jesus in the Talmud is a literary device used by Pharisaic rabbis to comment on their relationship to and with early Messianic Jews.[49]

The primary references to a Yeshu are found only in uncensored texts of the Babylonian Talmud and the Tosefta.[citation needed] The Vatican's papal bull issued in 1554 censored the Talmud and other Jewish texts, resulting in the removal of references to a Yeshu.[citation needed] No known manuscript of the Jerusalem Talmud makes mention of the name, although one translation (Herford) has added it to Avodah Zarah 2:2 to align it with similar text of Chullin 2:22 in the Tosefta.[citation needed] All later usages of the term Yeshu are derived from these primary references.[citation needed] In the Munich (1342 CE), Paris, and Jewish Theological Seminary of America manuscripts of the Talmud, the appellation Ha-Notzri is added to the last mention of a Yeshu in Sanhedrin 107b and Sotah 47a as well as to the occurrences in Sanhedrin 43a, Sanhedrin 103a, Berachot 17b and Avodah Zarah 16b-17a. Student,[50] Zindler and McKinsey[51] Ha-Notzri is not found in other early pre-censorship partial manuscripts (the Florence, Hamburg and Karlsruhe) where these cover the passages in question.[citation needed]

Although Notzri does not appear in the Tosefta, by the time the Babylonian Talmud was produced, Notzri had become the standard Hebrew word for Christian and the Yeshu Ha-Notzri found in the Talmud has become the controversial rendition of "Jesus the Nazarene" in Hebrew. For example, by 1180 CE the term Yeshu Ha-Notzri can be found in the Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (Hilchos Melachim 11:4, uncensored version).

In Sanhedrin 107b; Sotah 47a states that Jesus was sexually immoral and worshiped idols.[52]

Toledot Yeshu

In the Toledot Yeshu the name of Yeshu is taken to mean yimakh shemo.[53] In all cases of its use, the references are to Yeshu are associated with acts or behaviour that are seen as leading Jews away from Judaism to minuth (a term usually translated as "heresy" or "apostasy"). Historically, the portrayals of a Jesus in the Talmud and Jewish literature were used as an excuse for anti-Jewish sentiments.[54]


Maimonides lamented the pains that Jews felt as a result of new faiths that attempted to supplant Judaism, specifically Christianity and Islam. Referring to Jesus, he wrote:

Even Jesus the Nazarene who imagined that he would be Messiah and was killed by the court, was interpreted as prophesied by Daniel. So that it was said, "And the members of the outlaws of your nation would be carried to make a (prophetic) vision stand. And they stumbled" (Daniel 11.14). Because, is there a greater stumbling-block than this one? So that all of the prophets spoke that the Messiah redeems Israel, and saves them, and gathers their banished ones, and strengthens their commandments. And this one caused (nations) to destroy Israel by sword, and to scatter their remnant, and to humiliate them, and to exchange the Torah, and to make the majority of the world err to serve a divinity besides God.[55]

Nonetheless, Maimonides continued, developing a thought earlier expressed in Judah Halevi's Kuzari,[56]

But the human mind has no power to reach the thoughts of the Creator, for his thoughts and ways are unlike ours. And all these things of Jesus the Nazarene, and of (Muhammad) the Ishmaelite who stood after him – there is no (purpose) but to straighten out the way for the King Messiah, and to restore all the world to serve God together. So that it is said, "Because then I will turn toward the nations (giving them) a clear lip, to call all of them in the name of God and to serve God (shoulder to shoulder as) one shoulder." (Zephaniah 3:9). How is this? The entire world had become filled with the issues of the anointed one and of the Torah and the Laws, and these issues had spread out unto faraway islands and among many nations uncircumcised in the heart, and they discuss these issues and the Torah's laws. These say: These Laws were true but are already defunct in these days, and do not rule for the following generations; whereas the other ones say: There are secret layers in them and they are not to be treated literally, and (the Messiah had come and revealed their secret meanings). But when the anointed king will truly rise and succeed and will be raised and uplifted, they all immediately turn about and know that their fathers inherited falsehood, and their prophets and ancestors led them astray. (Hilkhot Melakhim 11:10–12.)[55]

Epistle to Yemen

Jesus is mentioned in Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen, written about 1172 to Rabbi Jacob ben Netan'el al-Fayyumi, head of the Yemen Jewish community

Ever since the time of Revelation, every despot or slave that has attained to power, be he violent or ignoble, has made it his first aim and his final purpose to destroy our law, and to vitiate our religion, by means of the sword, by violence, or by brute force, such as Amalek, Sisera, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Titus, Hadrian, may their bones be ground to dust, and others like them. This is one of the two classes which attempt to foil the Divine will.

The second class consists of the most intelligent and educated among the nations, such as the Syrians, Persians, and Greeks. These also endeavor to demolish our law and to vitiate it by means of arguments which they invent, and by means of controversies which they institute....

After that there arose a new sect which combined the two methods, namely, conquest and controversy, into one, because it believed that this procedure would be more effective in wiping out every trace of the Jewish nation and religion. It, therefore, resolved to lay claim to prophecy and to found a new faith, contrary to our Divine religion, and to contend that it was equally God-given. Thereby it hoped to raise doubts and to create confusion, since one is opposed to the other and both supposedly emanate from a Divine source, which would lead to the destruction of both religions. For such is the remarkable plan contrived by a man who is envious and querulous. He will strive to kill his enemy and to save his own life, but when he finds it impossible to attain his objective, he will devise a scheme whereby they both will be slain.

The first one to have adopted this plan was Jesus the Nazarene, may his bones be ground to dust. He was a Jew because his mother was a Jewess although his father was a Gentile. For in accordance with the principles of our law, a child born of a Jewess and a Gentile, or of a Jewess and a slave, is legitimate. (Yebamot 45a). Jesus is only figuratively termed an illegitimate child. He impelled people to believe that he was a prophet sent by God to clarify perplexities in the Torah, and that he was the Messiah that was predicted by each and every seer. He interpreted the Torah and its precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment, to the abolition of all its commandments and to the violation of its prohibitions. The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to him.

Daniel had already alluded to him when he presaged the downfall of a wicked one and a heretic among the Jews who would endeavor to destroy the Law, claim prophecy for himself, make pretenses to miracles, and allege that he is the Messiah, as it is written, "Also the children of the impudent among thy people shall make bold to claim prophecy, but they shall fall." (Daniel 11:14).[57]

In the context of refuting the claims of a contemporary in Yemen purporting to be the Messiah, Maimonides mentions Jesus again:

You know that the Christians falsely ascribe marvelous powers to Jesus the Nazarene, may his bones be ground to dust, such as the resurrection of the dead and other miracles. Even if we would grant them for the sake of argument, we should not be convinced by their reasoning that Jesus is the Messiah. For we can bring a thousand proofs or so from the Scripture that it is not so even from their point of view. Indeed, will anyone arrogate this rank to himself unless he wishes to make himself a laughing stock?[58]

Positive historical reevaluations

Considering the historical Jesus, some modern Jewish thinkers have come to hold a more positive view of Jesus, arguing that he himself did not abandon Judaism and/or that he benefited non-Jews. Among historic Orthodox rabbis holding these views are Jacob Emden,[59][60] Eliyahu Soloveitchik, and Elijah Benamozegh.[61]

Moses Mendelssohn, as well as some other religious thinkers of the Jewish Enlightenment, also held more positive views.[62] Austrian-born philosopher Martin Buber also had Jesus in a great regard.[63] A positive view of Jesus is fairly represented among modern Jews[64] in the currents of Reform (Emil G. Hirsch and Kaufmann Kohler), Conservative (Milton Steinberg and Byron Sherwin), and Jewish Renewal (Zalman Schachter-Shalomi).

Some Orthodox rabbis today, like Irving Greenberg and Jonathan Sacks, also hold positive views. Shmuley Boteach takes this even farther, following the research of Hyam Maccoby.[65] These views have been challenged by the majority of the wider Orthodox community.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Sefer Shofetim, Melachim uMilchamot, Chapter 11, Halacha 4. Chabad translation by Eliyahu Touge.
  2. ^ Devarim (Deuteronomy) 6:4
  3. ^ A belief in the divinity of Jesus is incompatible with Judaism:
    • "The point is this: that the whole Christology of the Church - the whole complex of doctrines about the Son of God who died on the Cross to save humanity from sin and death - is incompatible with Judaism, and indeed in discontinuity with the Hebraism that preceded it." Rayner, John D. A Jewish Understanding of the World, Berghahn Books, 1998, p. 187. ISBN 1-57181-974-6
    • "Aside from its belief in Jesus as the Messiah, Christianity has altered many of the most fundamental concepts of Judaism." Kaplan, Aryeh. The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology: Volume 1, Illuminating Expositions on Jewish Thought and Practice, Mesorah Publication, 1991, p. 264. ISBN 0-89906-866-9
    • "...the doctrine of Christ was and will remain alien to Jewish religious thought." Wylen, Stephen M. Settings of Silver: An Introduction to Judaism, Paulist Press, 2000, p. 75. ISBN 0-8091-3960-X
    • "For a Jew, however, any form of shituf is tantamount to idolatry in the fullest sense of the word. There is then no way that a Jew can ever accept Jesus as a deity, mediator or savior (messiah), or even as a prophet, without betraying Judaism." Schochet, Rabbi J. Emmanuel (29 July 1999). "Judaism has no place for those who betray their roots". The Canadian Jewish News. Archived from the original on 20 March 2001. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
    Judaism and Jesus Don't Mix (
    • "If you believe Jesus is the messiah, died for anyone else's sins, is God's chosen son, or any other dogma of Christian belief, you are not Jewish. You are Christian. Period." (Jews for Jesus: Who's Who & What's What Archived 2006-11-23 at the Wayback Machine. by Rabbi Susan Grossman (beliefnet - virtualtalmud) August 28, 2006)
    • "For two thousand years, Jews rejected the claim that Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Bible, as well as the dogmatic claims about him made by the church fathers - that he was born of a virgin, the son of God, part of a divine Trinity, and was resurrected after his death. ... For two thousand years, a central wish of Christianity was to be the object of desire by Jews, whose conversion would demonstrate their acceptance that Jesus has fulfilled their own biblical prophecies." (Jewish Views of Jesus by Susannah Heschel, in Jesus In The World's Faiths: Leading Thinkers From Five Faiths Reflect On His Meaning by Gregory A. Barker, editor. (Orbis Books, 2005) ISBN 1-57075-573-6. p.149)
    • "No Jew accepts Jesus as the Messiah. When someone makes that faith commitment, they become Christian. It is not possible for someone to be both Christian and Jewish." (Why don't Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah? by Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner)
  4. ^ a b Isaiah 2:4
  5. ^ a b Isaiah 11:9
  6. ^ Rabbi Shraga Simmons, "Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus". Retrieved 2006-03-14., "Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus", Ohr Samayach - Ask the Rabbi, accessed March 14, 2006; "Why don't Jews believe that Jesus was the messiah?",, accessed March 14, 2006.
  7. ^ The concept of Trinity is incompatible with Judaism:
  8. ^ Johnson, Paul (1987). A History of the Jews. HarperCollins. p. 144. ISBN 0-06-091533-1.
  9. ^ Maimonides, Mishneh Torah Madda Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5
  10. ^ Kaplan, Aryeh (1985) [1976]. "From Messiah to Christ". The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries. New York: National Conference of Synagogue Youth. p. 33. ISBN 1-879016-11-7. During his lifetime, Jesus often spoke of God as "my Father in Heaven." For the Jews, this was a common poetic expression, and one that is still used in Jewish prayers. For the pagan gentiles, however, it had a much more literal connotation.
  11. ^ "Judaism 101: The Nature of G-d". Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  12. ^ "Principal Beliefs of Judaism - Israel & Judaism Studies". Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  13. ^ "Anthropomorphism | Jewish Virtual Library". Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  14. ^ Deuteronomy. 4:12. The Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of the words, but saw no image, just a voice.
  15. ^ Exodus. pp. 25:20. ... for man shall not see Me and live.
  16. ^ "Maimonides #3 - God's Incorporeality". aishcom. Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  17. ^ "Chapter 1: G-D Part 1". Retrieved 2016-12-08.
  18. ^ Maimonides, Hilchos Melachim 11:4-5.
  19. ^ Nahmanides in his dispute with Pablo Christiani in 1263 paragraph 49.
  20. ^ Simmons, Rabbi Shraga, "Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus", accessed March 14, 2006.
  21. ^ "Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus", Ohr Samayach - Ask the Rabbi, accessed March 14, 2006.
  22. ^ "Why don't Jews believe that Jesus was the messiah?",, accessed March 14, 2006.
  23. ^ Isaiah 11:1
  24. ^ Isaiah 52:13-53:5
  25. ^ Ezekiel 16:55
  26. ^ Nahmanides in the Disputation of Barcelona with Pablo Christiani in 1263 paragraph 103.
  27. ^ Michoel Drazin (1990). Their Hollow Inheritance. A Comprehensive Refutation of Christian Missionaries. Gefen Publishing House, Ltd. ISBN 965-229-070-X.
  28. ^ Troki, Isaac. "Faith Strengthened" Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine..
  29. ^ Simmons, Shraga. "Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus". Aish HaTorah. Retrieved August 15, 2011. Jews do not accept Jesus as the messiah because:
    #Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies. #Jesus did not embody the personal qualifications of the Messiah. #Biblical verses "referring" to Jesus are mistranslations. #Jewish belief is based on national revelation.
  30. ^ Sanders, E.P. (1990). Jewish Law from Jesus to Mishnah. London: SCM Press. pp. 90, 95. ISBN 0-334-02102-2.
  31. ^ Mishneh Torah Madah Yeshodai HaTorah 8:7-9
  32. ^ A source for these is Deuteronomy 18:20, which refers to false prophets who claim to speak in the name of God.
  33. ^ Rich, Tracey, "Prophets and Prophecy", Judaism 101, accessed March 14, 2006.
  34. ^ Frankel, Rabbi Pinchas, "Covenant of History", Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations of America, accessed March 14, 2006.
  35. ^ Edwards, Laurence, "Torat Hayim - Living Torah: No Rest(s) for the Wicked" Archived 2005-12-21 at the Wayback Machine., Union of American Hebrew Congregations, accessed March 14, 2006.
  36. ^ Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:18-22
  37. ^ Buchwald, Rabbi Ephraim, "Parashat Re'eh 5764-2004: Identifying a True Prophet", National Jewish Outreach Program, accessed March 14, 2006
  38. ^
  39. ^ Kolatch, Alfred (2000) [1985]. "Judaism and Christianity". The Second Jewish Book of Why. Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David Publishers, Inc. pp. 61–64. ISBN 978-0-8246-0314-4. LCCN 84-21477. Original sin, the virgin birth, the Trinity, and vicarious atonement are among the concepts that Christians embrace but Jews reject.…The doctrine of original sin is totally unacceptable to Jews (as it is to Fundamentalist Christian sects such as the Baptists and Assemblies of God). Jews believe that man enters the world free of sin, with a soul that is pure and innocent and untainted.
  40. ^ Gerondi, Yonah (1981) [1505]. שערי תשובה [The Gates of Repentance] (in Hebrew and English). translated by Shraga Silverstein. Nanuet, New York: Feldheim Publishers. ISBN 978-0-87306-252-7.
  41. ^ Delbert Burkett. The Blackwell Companion to Jesus. 2010. p. 220. "Accordingly, scholars' analyses range widely from minimalists (eg, Lauterbach 1951) – who recognize only relatively few passages that actually have Jesus in mind – to moderates (eg, Herford [1903] 2006), to maximalists (Klausner 1943, 17–54; especially Schäfer 2007)."
  42. ^ Saadia R. Eisenberg Reading Medieval Religious Disputation: The 1240 "Debate" Between Rabbi Yechiel of Paris and Friar Nicholas Donin
  43. ^ paragraph 22. Vikuach HaRamban found in Otzar Havikuchim by J. D. Eisenstein, Hebrew Publishing Society, 1915 and Kitvey HaRamban by Rabbi Charles D. Chavel, Mosad Horav Kook, 1963
  44. ^ David R. Catchpole The trial of Jesus: a study in the Gospels and Jewish Historiography from 1770 to the Present Day, Leiden, 1971 Page 62 "(c) Rabbenu Tam (b.Shabb. 104b) declared: 'This was not Jesus of Nazareth.' But his view, from the 12th century, constitutes no evidence."
  45. ^ Section 3 paragraph 65.
  46. ^ Berger D. Jewish history and Jewish memory: essays in honor of Yosef Hayim p39 "This discussion makes it perfectly clear that Duran gave no credence to a theory of two Jesuses." etc.
  47. ^ Robert E. Van Voorst Jesus outside the New Testament: an introduction to the ancient evidence p108 "While Herford was somewhat critical of their accuracy, he seems almost never to have met a possible reference to Jesus that he did not like!70 On the other end of the spectrum, Johann Maier in his Jesus von Nazareth in der talmudischen ..." 2000
  48. ^ Peter Schäfer Jesus in the Talmud
  49. ^ Boyarin Dying for God: martyrdom and the making of Christianity and Judaism 1999
  50. ^ "The Jesus Narrative In The Talmud".
  51. ^ "Ancient Hebrew (Talmud) account of Christ--McKinsey".
  52. ^ "Who Was Jesus?".
  53. ^ Apocryphal gospels: an introduction :Hans-Josef Klauck p213. "An unfriendly interpretation of the child's name is offered: 'But the name Yeshu means: "May his name be blotted out, and his memory too!"' (§ 58). The three letters of which the name Jesus in Hebrew consists, yod, sin and waw,"
  54. ^ Schäfer Jesus in the Talmud 2009 p4 "Whereas in the early modern period the "Jesus in the Talmud" paradigm served almost solely as an inexhaustible source for anti-Jewish sentiments, the subject gained more serious and critical recognition in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."
  55. ^ a b A. James Rudin. Christians & Jews Faith to Faith: Tragic History, Promising Present, Fragile Future, Jewish Lights Publishing, 2010, pp. 128–129.
  56. ^ Jerald d. Gort, ed. (2006). Religions view religions : explorations in pursuit of understanding ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). Amsterdam [u.a.]: Rodopi. p. 102. ISBN 9042018585.
  57. ^ Halkin, Abraham S., ed., and Cohen, Boaz, trans. Moses Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen: The Arabic Original and the Three Hebrew Versions, American Academy for Jewish Research, 1952, pp. iii-iv.
  58. ^ Halkin, Abraham S., ed., and Cohen, Boaz, trans. Moses Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen: The Arabic Original and the Three Hebrew Versions, American Academy for Jewish Research, 1952, p. xvii.
  59. ^ "Emden's letter about Jesus", Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 19:1, Winter 1982, pp. 105-111. "The Nazarene brought about a double kindness in the world. On the one hand, he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically, as mentioned earlier, and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah. And on the other hand, he did much good for the Gentiles."
  60. ^ Gregory A. Barker and Stephen E. Gregg. Jesus beyond Christianity: The Classic Texts, Oxford University Press, 2010, ISBN 0-19-955345-9, p. 29-31.
  61. ^ Elijah Benamozegh, Israel and Humanity, Paulist Press, 1995, ISBN 0-8047-5371-7, p. 329. "Jesus was a good Jew who did not dream of founding a rival church".
  62. ^ Matthew B. Hoffman, From rebel to rabbi: reclaiming Jesus and the making of modern Jewish culture, Stanford University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-8047-5371-7, p. 22: "Mendelssohn depicts Jesus as a model rabbinical Jew... as a loyal rabbi"; p. 259: "Mendelssohn was not the first to make such claims. Jacob Emden (1696-1776), a leading figure of traditional Judaism in eighteenth-century Germany, also looked vary favorably on Jesus"; p. 50: "Elijah Benamozegh (1823-1901) showed the resemblance between parables and ethical imperatives in the gospels and the Talmud, concluding that 'when Jesus spoke these words he was in no way abandoning Judaism'"; p. 258: "Levinsohn avowed that Jesus was a law-abiding Jew"
  63. ^ Rehearing Buber's Jesus Deepens Jewish-Christian Dialogue / By Kramer, Kenneth P., Questia
  64. ^ Neusner, Jacob (2000). A rabbi talks with Jesus (Rev. ed.). Montreal [Que.]: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 4. ISBN 0773568395. For a long time Jews have praised Jesus as a rabbi, a Jew like us really;
  65. ^ Zev Garber (ed.) The Jewish Jesus: Revelation, Reflection, Reclamation, Purdue University Press, 2011, ISBN 1-55753-579-5, p. 361. "Both Greenberg and Sherwin use this model of a bifurcated messianic in different ways to suggest that Jews could, perhaps, accept Jesus as a "messiah" without agreeing with the Christian demands that he is the ultimate messiah."

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