By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
(CNN) - The relationship between Jews and Jesus has traditionally been a complicated one, to say the least.
As his followers' message swept the ancient world, Jews who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah found themselves in the uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous, position of being blamed for his death.
Mainstream Christian theology's position held that Judaism had been supplanted, the Jewish covenant with the divine no longer valid, because of the incarnation of God as Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.
Jews, for their part, tended largely to ignore Jesus.
That's changing now.
In the past year, a spate of Jewish authors, from the popular to the rabbinic to the scholarly, have wrestled with what Jews should think about Jesus.
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And overwhelmingly, they are coming up with positive answers, urging their fellow Jews to learn about Jesus, understand him and claim him as one of their own.
"Jesus is a Jew. He spent his life talking to other Jews," said Amy-Jill Levine, co-editor of the recently released "Jewish Annotated New Testament."
"In reading the New Testament, I am often inspired, I am intrigued. I actually find myself becoming a better Jew because I become better informed about my own history," she said.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a media personality who recently launched a bid for a U.S. House seat, argues in his own new book, "Kosher Jesus," that "Jews have much to learn from Jesus - and from Christianity as a whole - without accepting Jesus' divinity. There are many reasons for accepting Jesus as a man of great wisdom, beautiful ethical teachings, and profound Jewish patriotism."
And Benyamin Cohen, an Orthodox Jew who spent a recent year going to church, admitted that he's jealous that Christians have Jesus.
"He's a tangible icon that everybody can latch on to. Judaism doesn't have a superhero like that," said Cohen, the author of the 2009 book "My Jesus Year."
"I'm not advocating for Moses dolls," he said, but he argued that "it's hard to believe in a God you can't see. I'm jealous of Christians in that regard, that they have this physical manifestation of the divine that they can pray to.
"There could be more devout Jews than me who don't need that, but to a young Jew living in the 21st century, I wish we had something more tangible," he said.
The flurry of recent Jewish books on Jesus - including this month's publication of "The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ" by Daniel Boyarin - is part of a trend of Jews taking pride in Jesus, interfaith expert Edward Kessler said.
"In the 1970s and 1980s, Christian New Testament scholars rediscovered the Jewish Jesus. They reminded all New Testament students that Jesus was Jewish," said Kessler, the director of the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, England, which focuses on relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims.
A generation later, that scholarship has percolated into Jewish thought, he said, welcoming the trend: "It's not a threat to Jews and it's not a threat to Christians."
For Jews in particular, he said, "It's not so threatening as it was even 30 years ago. There is almost a pride that Jesus was a Jew rather than an embarrassment about it."
Boteach agrees, writing in "Kosher Jesus" that "Jews will gain much from re-embracing him as a hero."
"The truth is important," Boteach writes. "A patriot of our people has been lost. Worse still, he's been painted as the father of a long and murderous tradition of anti-Semitism."
Boteach aims to claim, or reclaim, Jesus as a political rebel against Rome and to exonerate the Jews of his death. But Boteach's book has attracted plenty of criticism, for instance for blaming the Apostle Paul for everything he doesn't like about Christianity, such as hailing Jesus as divine and cutting his ties to Judaism.
"Paul never met Jesus, and Jesus certainly never would have sanctioned Paul's actions and embellishments," Boteach argues about the apostle who wrote much of the New Testament. "Jesus ... would have been appalled at how his followers would later define him."
"Jews will never accept his divinity. Nor should they," Boteach writes, in one of many instances of presuming to know what Jesus really thought and meant. "The belief that any man is God is an abomination to Judaism, a position that Jesus himself would maintain."
He cherry-picks the Gospels to to suit his arguments, writes in casual modern idioms (calling Pontius Pilate a "sadistic mass murderer" and comparing him to Hitler), and gets wrong the most basic details of the Passion story, such as the amount of money Judas took to betray Jesus.
Other experts in the field label Boteach's book "sensationalistic," and call him a "popularizer," but Kessler sees "Kosher Jesus" as part of the trend of Judaizing Jesus. Cohen, the "My Jesus Year" author, offered some support for Boteach even as he expressed doubts about the book.
"I understand what Shmuley is trying to get at there," he said, but added: "I don't think anyone has the right to say 'This is the definition of Jesus,' especially a rabbi. He's not ours to claim."
Levine, who teaches New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, also framed Jewish efforts to study Jesus in terms of mutual respect.
"Speaking personally as a Jew, if I want my neighbors to respect Judaism, which means knowing something about Jewish history, scripture and tradition, I owe my Christian neighbors the same courtesy. It's a matter of respect," she said.
She urged Jews to "become familiar with the material and make up their own mind as to how they understand Jesus."
Ironically, she added, Jews can understand their own history more thoroughly through studying the life of Jesus.
"The best source on the period for Jewish history other than (the first-century historian) Josephus is the New Testament," she said.
"It's one of those ironies of history that the only Pharisee writing in the Second Temple period from whom we have records is Paul of Tarsus," she said. " 'The Jewish Annotated New Testament' is designed in part to help Jews recover their own history."
But she also wants Christians to use it to understand Judaism more deeply, she said. While many Christian leaders acknowledge that Jesus was a Jew, she said, not many know much about what that means.
"Many Christian ministers and educators have no training in what early Judaism was like," she said. "Not to take seriously first-century Judaism seems to dismiss part of the message of the New Testament."
Cohen, the "My Jesus Year" author, found that Christians were very interested in Judaism during the 52 weeks he spent going from church to church.
"Many Christians look on Judaism as version 1.0 of their own religion. Because of that historical relationship, they're interested in a lot of the theology of Judaism," he said.
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For his part, Cohen learned much that surprised him. "I was shocked when I went to church and heard them give sermons about the Old Testament," he said. "I had no idea Christians read the Old Testament."
"One week, I went to church and the pastor gave exactly the same sermon my rabbi did the night before about Moses and the burning bush, and the pastor did it much better," he continued.
Cohen came away from his Jesus year with a clear understanding of what he believes.
"People ask me all the time if I believe in Jesus. Do I believe he exists? Sure. Do I believe he's your God? Sure, I have no problem with that," he said he tells Christians who ask.
"I understand Christians' love for Jesus and I respect that," he said. "If anything, I learned a lot from them and did become a more engaged Jew, a better Jew, and I appreciate my Judaism more because I hung out with Jesus."
I'm amazed that the Jews finally are opening their eyes! New teaching, very cool.
It's a good sign that Judaism will slowly declide and more and more start to face the truth, accept Jesus as our Lord & Saviour. There are still zionists who tries to brainwash and falsely spread their hatred and be Anti-Christ.
Looks like you are the one that is spreading the hatred.
If Jews truly repent and come into Christ, they will have no problems in Israel and in their trouble-filled lives. Jesus will surely be their Saviour.
Putting Jesus in the same straight jacket of religion that you are in is hypocritical. Jesus was beyond this false idea. He clearly stated to his apostles what the creator of the all wanted. This is the reason we have so much hatred for our fellow humans. You just don't get it, do you.
A very good video. Thanks for sharing!
You folks are so funny. Can we talk about Cats vs Dogs next?
The jews can have him.
Leave his memory. Take his followers.
Just Love one another- Jew or Gentile we need to Love. The Greatest gift is love. Paul was a jew, Peter was a Jew,John was a Jew. I was born into a Christian family and I love the Jewish people most of all I love Jesus Christ.
We believers echo your statement, spot on!
Gentile, Jew, and don't forget Mormon.
Just think about it. Mormons believe that a submarine loaded with Jews (lost tribe of Israel), landed in Central America and were greeted by Jesus. Thus, the Native Americans are really Jewish.
We are really all united as one big submarine filled with prophesizing Mormons.
Ease up on the Zanax, Jeffrey. Your go comatose if you keep doing that much.
May the Peace of Christ be with you always.
May the Force be with you always.
It is no fool who gives what it cannot keep to gain what it cannot lose. God bless
Something has to exist to keep or lose it. Truth.
Jesus said: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his own soul" That's good enough for me.
No one will lose that which does not exist.
The Old Testament talks about Jesus' birth, death and resurrection. Isaiah 53:1-12, Isaiah 9:6,7, Psalms 22 and many more.
What is the point of God coming down to Earth just to get himself killed? That's the most pathetic thing I've ever heard a god do.
Read the bible, watch Passion of the Christ, learn and you will know :)
The Old Testament is part of the Christian bible which is not the same as the Jewish bible (also called the Tanakh). You might want to read the Jewish bible and see the differences or google some Jewish websites and the question, 'why Jews do not think Jesus was the Messiah'. There is a reason Jews do not believe Jesus was the Messiah. he did not do any of the things required for the messiah to do that are in *our* bible. YOUR bible is different and I"m glad for you if belief in Jesus helps you in your life. That's great! Doesn't make it for me, though.
And as for the idea of watching the passion of the christ–that was made by Mel Gibson. I'll pass. Mel is tremendously talented but has said some very hateful things about Jews and about women and I'm not interested in him.
Beth.... I will pray for you. Jesus still loves you, and one day you'll meet him.
There you go, Jon. Read a bronze age work of fiction and watch a movie based on it. You'll be all set.
Gokubi; don't lie. Israel is a theocratic Apartheid state masked as a 'democracy'. You israeli Jews, the Ashkenazis are NOT Semites. Go back to Poland or wherever in Europe that you came from. You are not our ally. You are "all lie".
Coming from the guy who's probably never been there right?
And how do you know if I'm Ashkenazi or not? It's a solid guess but wrong in this regard. And most jews are semitic considering the diaspora and where we've all come from so, not really sure where you want to go from there.....
Of course Jesus was a Jew. Did they think he was a Christian? Jesus is the factor that sets Christianity from all other religions. They believe he was a prophet or a madman. The answer is neither. He is the Christ, Messiah, Son of God, and much more. THANK YOU JESUS! Happy Easter!
There are so many people upset that they aren't the chosen ones like us jews, must be really frustrating to know who god is and then know that he chose jews above all others, through thick and thin. I guess god just made you that way though so it isn't really your fault, I guess you could convert but you might just give us a bad name so we don't really want you.
Accept Christ or burn in hell you shylock swine. You will get your just deserts for murdering Christ......
$12! Who's the real Shylock here?!
And burn in hell? Naw, I'm good considering it doesn't exist, which is probably a good thing too or else you'd probably be on your way there.
Please be quite, am sure you are not a practicing Jew and if you are then you either have wasted your time not studying and or have a learning impedament that keeps you from forming opinions that reflect that of a Jew with a since of humanity. G-d ( as you should also try spelling) is for everyone. no one is excluded, the merit of being a Jew is only an honor of those how take on his laws fully , in short He choose us because we agreed to follow his commandments. G-d does not exclude non jews. Everyone has a role and place in the world to come. I pray you soon re explore your faith. If your not orthadox dont call yourself jewish and hand those statements that paint your brothers in a bad light.
ahhhh Dannyboy, so I now get a nice little attack from you also? If I'm not an orthodox jew that only means I live in the 21st century, not the 11th as your ilk does. And yes, I sort of know about my faith, I've done a bit of reading on it and you're right, god (I'll spell god the way I want thanks) does not exlude anyone, but he chose us for a reason to be his light on earth. All I'm simply saying is, as jews gods likes us more, that's really all there is too it.
Its a real shame ... Its that very mind set that darkens the word.. we are the light because we keep and teach Torah to those who truely seek it , not because we are some hot stuff that has no equal. Be for real. What was so special of our antsisters who were idolators, murderers and thieves? We are only choosen because we choose to follow G-ds word. You and others who think like you are not that light His word is....
I WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW THAT THESE ARE OPINIONS OF HIS OWN!
Get them all fired up. It's funny right? I think it is. If you believe in God how will he look upon you? You don't believe in God anymore than I do. But I don't pick on people, because it's wrong.
Why you got to be so mean? Also, learn a little about your ancestors buddy boy. We're supposed to separate ourselves from the gentiles and be the light because god chose us, you might be getting this "I'm hots.hit" atti.tude on my end but thats what the Torah teaches, you can try to doll it up and make it seem a lot nicer so people won't hate us, which would be swell, but it would be lying. These aren't my opinions, these are jewish opinions.
This is why am mean ........ "I guess you could convert but you might just give us a bad name so we don't really want you" (your words) am not dolling nothing G-d has selected us as his people . Yes we are a choosen and perfered nation , but your way of being is shamefull. Vain pride in the end equales what? you use "WE" as if your some kind of kohan.... Keep opinions like that to yourself . And yes you should learn about youor ancestors Abraham himself was a convert, Yetro, David,and so many others remebered in Judaism. you speaking for yourself. and yes we should seperate ourselves, Ill take that advise and seperate myself from people liked you.
To be fair, it's tradition to reject a person who wants to convert at least 3 times, thats not my own opinion, that's just what we do. Sorry that upsets you, again it might sound vain but then again we have to be in order to believe that we're still right and everyone is wrong. I don't see what upsets you so much, I mean as jews we have to believe we're chosen, do you want me to pus.syfoot around it? Also, I don't think you can call Abraham a convert in the usual sense, he was the founder, you can't convert to something that hasn't been founded yet.
Prayer changes things .
Prayer rules: Do pray for things that are incredibly likely to happen, such as praying that the ocean does not evaporate overnight, or that you are not viciously bonked on the head with acorns by a power-mad squirrel with delusions of being a demi-god.
Do NOT pray for things like world peace or a cure to cancer. While you might think that God can do it and would really want to do it, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment. Console yourself that God works in mysterious ways, even though those ways make seem like really bad ideas.
Pray at your own risk for things whose outcome is uncertain. It will seem that they are answered only occasionally, in proportion to the likelihood of a positive outcome with or without prayer. This is very confusing for people who pray, for it gives the appearance that God may not exist at all, or he just does not get involved in anything on Earth. Remember that this is God's plan – to make it seem like he does not exist, so that he can later punish people for thinking he does not exist.
Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Need proof ? Read the senseless drivel posted above by 'how to pray correctly'
God Bless Christians & Jews who believe in Jesus (Messianic)
Happy Easter and Passover. Jesus is the way, the truth, the love.
...And please pass the plate... and the kool-aid.
The problem with Jews thinking that Jesus had beautiful teachings, or was a good Jew, is that he absolutely committed blasphemy if he truly wasn't divine. It's why CS Lewis said that Jesus simply cannot be a good man. He claimed to be God. He claimed to be eternal. Good men don't do that. Either he's insane for thinking that, he's a liar who's trying to deceive people, or he really is God in human flesh. Being a 'good teacher' wasn't an option Jesus left on the table.
Jesus is Son of God. Jews are waiting for the Messiah, which will be a human, and Jesus came 2000 years ago and is the Messiah. There are some Orthodox Jews who believe another Orthodox Jew is the Messiah who died in Brooklyn few years ago LOL
If you understood the Bible – Old AND New Testaments you would know that God made a covenant with the Jews. Which was tha old law. He then sent His Son, Jesus Christ to suffer and die for the sins of the world – so that we have the chance of salvation
When Jesus was at the Last Supper He said ""Take this ,all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the blood of the NEW and eternal COVENANT, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in mem,ory of me.
Jesus is God as part of the Blessed Trinity. CS Lewis was a great writer – but hardly a Theologist. And We Catholics know that the Jews didn't kill Jesus, He died for us and OUR sins – the sins of the world. He suffered horribly for US. The Jews just happened to be , like Jesus, of David's line.
We do not know if Jesus believed he was divine. What we have are gospels, written by different persons, for different purposes. Yes, each gospel was directed to a different group and thus are slightly different because the purpose for each was different. Much of the remainder of the New Testament was written by Paul and he, too, was writing to different groups for different purposes. We can't know what Jesus, himself, believed.
I'm Jewish mother and happy seeing this article. Jeshua is the Jewish Messiah and all Jews must know that. Learn about him, love him and accept him. I'm proud being Jew, just like Jesus Christ was.
I think you are the same person posting under a lot of other screen names in this thread. None of these posts are going to end up converting a single Jewish person. If anything your posts push people away from your religion and your beliefs. You are not Jewish if you believe in jesus. That's a fine thing. Believe whatever you believe. Let me do the same.
Beth.... there are thousands and thousands of Jewish believers in Christ (Aka Messianic Jews), so don't think we're only one or two people. We are growing fast in Israel and everywhere, and hopefully one day all Jews will face the truth and know Jesus IS the Messiah. God Bless!
Jews for jesus aren't jewish, sorry kiddo, It's adorable that you think so though.
Jewish mom – I'm a Catholic and I not only enjoyed attending a Seder but helped prepare the food! It was great for me and my fellow Catholics to experience the Passover meal with explanations at every stage.
Jesus was a Jew – when He lived, He introduced a new covenant – not to negate God's original covenant with the Jews but to bring us closer to His Father and to offer Himself so that we may be saved.
As I said, I'm a Catholic but I recently found out that 4 generations back we were JEWISH! And I love it. God Bless you for a great post.
Jews for Jesus (Messianic Jews) are 100% Jews. We accepted Christ as our truly Jewish Messiah.
I still follow Halacha laws.
Nope, not 100% jewish, you might be a christian sect that wants to act like jews (and I understand because being jewish is pretty great) but sorry, you aren't jews. Good try though!
Nopp we are born and raised as Jews, and remain 100% Jews. You are Christian if you are baptised, and I'm not.
It's hard to discuss with you... I'll pray for you one day believe in Christ. He loves us all!
I understand you belive you are Jewish but Jews get to decide who is jewish and there isn't even one Jewish organization that would call you Jewish. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, all agree that if you believe in Jesus as the Messiah you are no longer Jewish. I know you are sincere. I am not trying to get you to change what you believe. I would like you to *leave Jews alone*. We do not want your beliefs.
Tsk tsk, sorry to hear you have issues writing, but what actually makes you a christian is your belief in christ as the messiah, that's really all it takes, you can go through a bunch of other mumbo jumbo to confirm your status but the first and only step you need to make is proclaiming jesus as your lord and savior. In that regard, I'm sorry to say that you've been lied to since birth apparently, which is a shame.
We are Jewish and will always be. Your leaders are not the ones' who are to tell anyone who is Jewish or not. Many Orthodox, Conservative and Reform leaders are Messianic Jews, some believe in Jesus secretly but won't admit it (just like I didn't do until few years ago) due to being scared of what others will think.. same as comming out as closet Atheist.
One day you will change your mind.... Shalom
Oh Jewish mom
People don't say who is and who isn't, its the doctrine you follow. You say jesus is the lord and savior that makes you a christian, you know CHRISTian.... yeah, seems unfair but you can't argue definitions now can ya? And why is the go to always " you secretly believe in him" ..... PUH-LEASE, in a country where being christian and believing in jesus is expected, it's a lot easy to secretly believe jesus WASN't the savior than he was, I can as.sure you jesus is no more the savior of humanity than the Kokhba was, of the Buddha, or anyone else for that matter. Have fun pretending to be jewish, you can even keep going around saying your jewish, but you aren't, sorry to tell ya.
I'm sick and tired of Judaism and their cr.ap whining. GIVE UP YOUR RELIGION...... JESUS CAME 2000 YEARS AGO AND HE IS THE TRUE MESSIAH! Now shut up and stop being id.iots!
Do you really think you're going to insult people into believing in Jesus? Do you think that's the method Jesus would want you to use to convince them that he is the Messiah?
I'm Agnostic and not Christian. Jews are baby criers and should believe in Christ openly, not secretly!!
Look who's calling others an idiot. Someone who believes there are invisible beings in the sky watching us. dum dum dum dum
Wow, that's "christian"!
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.