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Mainstream Christian theology's position held that Judaism had been supplanted, the Jewish covenant with the divine no longer valid, because of the incarnation of God as Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.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."
What an amazing collection of uninformed -dare I say – idiots here. Too much ignorance to even begin. Read ANYTHING by NT Wright and once you do see you back here,
I would think someone with such a low opinion of other's intellect would be able to use basic punctuation.
Jesus is a Mexican-American gardener in LA whose name means the son of Zeus. Joshua (Yashua in Hebrew) was the son of G_d.
In the early days of Christianity, the Non Christian Jews persecuted the Christian Jews relentlessly (well, Paul relented, but I digress) They were allowed to do this by the Roman masters because it was an internal Jewish matter (Jews killing Jews) If Jews were trying to arrest and persecute Greeks or Romans, they would face severe punishment. Jews were several rungs below Greek or Roman citizens of the empire.
So all original Christians were defined by both Jew and Roman alike as Jews! Get over it.
Actually the Romans were killing of the people of "Chrestus" not Christians. This is historically incorrect, this stemmed from the Roman-Mithradaitic wars, and this was particularly the case during the reign of Nero. That was Mithradaitus-Chrestus from the Kingdom of Pontus, it was Rome versus Pontus going to war, ancient Roman history here. Many people confuse this.
Also the people being persecuted were Hellenistic, and of Chrestus, some were Jewish though, that being Hellenistic Jews. They were not Christian. Christianity came much later.
"There are many reasons for accepting Jesus as a man of great wisdom, beautiful ethical teachings, and profound Jewish patriotism"...to comment quickly on this statement...this is absolutely ridiculous. Jesus clearly acknowledged His claim as the Son of God. As many scholars have put it, "you have 3 options when considering Jesus...He was either a liar, a lunatic or the LORD" ...i'm going to assume that many on CNN assume he was a liar or a lunatic, but nobody should ever claim that He was simply a "good and wise man" and nothing else. HE CLAIMED HE WAS GOD (ie the entire gospel of John and many parts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke). liar, lunatic, or Lord. I feel like saying He was a good man is simply a way for someone to pacify the situation and not really make a decision
Or his followers could have been either lying, mistaken or deluded when they created the story of his claiming to be the LORD. You have to at least consider the possibility that Jesus was a simple rabbi whose life was hijacked as the article suggests.
"HE CLAIMED HE WAS GOD"
Nope, a few first century evangelists said that. He never wrote a word, nor left any audio, video, still shots nor any other evidence.
Unfortunately NT scholars– including atheist NT scholars– don't agree with you. We have evidence both in the bible and outside of it that Jesus claimed to be God. Whether you believe Jesus or not is up to you. But to deny Jesus claimed to be God is just not historically true. If you'd like some scholarly proof of this, Bart Ehrmann, the worlds leading **atheist NT scholar**, has written multiple books and scholarly articles on the subject, but doesn't deny that Jesus claimed to be God. He just denies Jesus' claim, of course.
What evidence outside of the Bible? Josephus? He wrote about Hercules as though he were a real person too. Besides, you could cut the major paragraph in Josephus where he mentions Jesus out and the text actually reads far better than it does with it in. A skeptic might say that this is evidence that it was inserted by one of those Christian monks making copies of Josephus' works many years later.
HE CLAIMED HE WAS GOD.
actually no. since you have brought this up, most of the time he simply CLAIMED HE WAS "SON OF MAN".
Duhhhh... As if there was any doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew..... Still it makes little difference, because it is ANOTHER Jew, Paul of Tarsus, who put together the Christian Church...And yet another Jew who was the first Pope... Funny how History puts things back in perspective, once you know about it... Seems that the Christians were so ashamed of their origin that they had to persecute their "fathers"....
While Religion is helpful to many, it is just as detrimental to many others...... Freud,Lacan and Sibony (among others) need to be studied more... by those who can think.
I wonder how many mythologies include a story of a child gaining power over and then at least trying to kill the parent?
Yes, Freud said that the concept of God is a projection of a person's father, who will protect you in life and death. With this line of logic, atheists are people that are angry at their fathers, and project their anger onto God.
If someone told you that you actually had a third parent, one who snuck into your Mom's and Dad's bedroom while they were conceiving you and invisibly added pixie dust to the mix that resulted in you, would you believe it? We atheists have real mothers and fathers, ones that we have average relationships with, but we don't believe that we have invisible third parents, and no rational person would either, right?
Wow. I don't need to look out the window tonight to know that it's full moon. These comments are mostly from lunatics. Now, why don't all you non-believers go take your meds and let the rest of us have a normal interesting honest conversation about Judaism and Christianity.
Why do you mention the full moon? Do you know about the Feast of Gorgon
Nobody's stopping you from believing in your cute magic sky daddy who makes things all "boogety-boo" with magic incantations.. Knock yourself out.
Because, Joe, in the United States the first Amendment of the Consti.tution guarantees free speech. And in the United States the Consti.tution, not the bible, is the basis of law. So I'm sorry that you can't silence voices that you don't like.
Zionist Jews will go to hell anyway..... nobody likes them
well, most christians love them. they are often invited to speak on Christian TV shows in America.
To get all bent out of shape over someone who never existed except in some people's imaginations seems silly...
Next time you write your birthdate or the date try to think for example 2012 years after the birth of Christ.
Also I should welcome you to earth
So? Today is Thor's day! We have one of those every single week.
Yeah, and today is THOR'sday, so Thor must be real, too.
Naa. Not too many serious scholars would attempt to make a case for Jesus not being historical, but most would say that the fantastic details of his life, the miracles and claims to godhood, are not.
Hey Xena chickypoo! The year is 2012, which is 2018 years after the supposed birth of Jesus. It's also 1433 AH, Hebrew year 5772, Hindu year 5111, Heisei 24, and a whole raft of other names. The Christian based year is dominant because of military conquest, not righteousness.
um, some jews already except jesus. they're called messianic jews. and guess what? they aren't jews. they're christians. most jews think he was a cool dude, but he isn't the son of god. if you think he's the messiah, then YOU'RE NOT A JEW. YOU'RE A CHRISTIAN. when will people get this through their heads?
arg. accept, not except.
No, they are Jewish more than YOU are but believe in Christ as the Messiah. Stop judging others and let everyone believe whatever they want. You must be baptised in order to be Christian, and Messianic Jews are not. So shut up and go sleep
Messianic Jews are Jewish who believe in Jesus Christ.
Most Jews secretly believe in Christ anyway but scared to admit it....
LOL funny seeing Jews telling Messianic Jews they are not Jews......... WHO CARES I would be disgusted if I was Jew anyway..... Jews think only about money, dress up like maniacs with their big noses
xena, messianic jews get baptized. they just don't do it at birth. it has to be a willing event. you should probably know what you're talking about before you speak.
It is sad that so many define Jewishness by the rejection of Christ. All original followers of Jesus were Jews. Period. Christians are not all Jews, but some Jews are Christians.
They are still Jews because they are from the tribe of Judah ignorant. Has nothing to do with religion.Get some education and then give your opinion
uh, no. i am educated, and i am a jew. you want to know why jews can't believe in jesus as the messiah? because jews define the messiah as fulfilling all of the following;
A. Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
B. Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6).
C. Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)
D. Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: "God will be King over all the world—on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9).
jesus, according to jews, has done none of these things. therefore anyone who believes he is the messiah cannot be a jew. so who's "ignorant" now?
Tim, you just don't understand basic Christian theology, which was put together by very educated Jews. Paul was a Pharisee, for Gos's sake. The third temple and kingdom of peace etc. are in the world to come. You may not buy into it, but a lot of Jews did two thousand years ago, or we wouldn't be talking about it today.
except for the fact that Pharisees call out Jesus for contradicting the Torah and not observing Shabbat?
Tim, yes, Paul's first career was that of a persecutor of Christians. He was allowed to do this by the Roman masters because both Jew and Christian were considered by all involved as Jews. He later became convinced that the Jewish Christians he had been persecuting were correct that the Jewish Messiah had come.
regardless, as a jew, the concept of the messiah is clear: he will be born of human parents. he will not be a demi-god, which according to mythology, jesus is. he will not possess superhuman qualities and will not be able to perform miracles. i'm not arguing against jesus as the messiah from a biased standpoint - he may very well be and i could be wrong - all i'm saying is that a person who follows judaism by practice in any form can not accept him as a messiah in any form.
Tim, this isnyournfaith, and that is okay. But to attack any who accept Christ as not Jews anymore is silly. They are just as Jewish as you, but believe we are further along in God's plan than you do.
Tim – You may not buy this, but Passover is a picture of Jesus. It's all about the Blood. A lamb was slain and blood was shed to deliver Israel from death and to redeem them from slavery by the Egyptians. Jesus was the Lamb of God slain whose Blood is able to redeem mankind from the slavery of sin and the curse of death. Many Christians are now celebrating Passover as well as all the other major feasts that God ordained as everlasting memorials – the same way that Jesus also celebrated them. Mankind has been given such an incredible gift from God: His Son, Jesus. If only they would believe all that He has done for us.
Mainstream Christianity (Catholic – most christians are Catholic) believes Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism – rather than replacing or doing away with it. Judaism is our history.
According to real estate law, when you affix something to your property, it becomes part of that property. For example, if you put a fence on your property, the fence becomes part of the property. This concept is well established in all cultures.
With that in mind, Jesus was affixed to a Jewish-owned cross, which was securely mounted in Jewish-owned soil. He is therefore the property of the Jews to do with as they please.
Therefore, Jesus is Jewish. He is ours. Stop using our property.
Besides being stupid and childish, your reply is also devoid of facts. The Romans crucified Jesus, not the Jews. So the cross belonged to the Roman government. And so did Jerusalem and the rest of Judea at that time. Which I guess makes a good case for the Vatican (in Rome, you know) "owning" Jesus.
So basically you believe in slavery...
He was a human. Human's arn't property. Besides, you can borrow a fence, that doesn't mean it belongs to you.
Damn! Poe's Law is a doozy! I would have thought the utter absurdity of the comment would make the humor incredibly obvioous, but leave it to religious people to misunderstand the obvious.
What!?, ...Jesus was a JEW!, ...Jesus spent his life and practiced Judaism!, ...WHAT!!!??? Doesn't matter whether anyone believes he's the Messiah.
Depends on what kind of messiah you have in mind; the Christian one or the actual Jewish one.
1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.
MY Body is NOT Your Body and the same can be said that My God who is housed in My Body is no part of Your God who is housed in Your body and on and on down the assembly lines. Just what is the purpose regarding the Gods who all do live inside our bodies of Godly buildings? Again,, L if I no,,,,
Jesus spent a lot of time talking to Jews... this article is a joke...
Well I remember that little part in the Bible where Jesus tells the Jews that they are of the synagogue of satan...
And he also states that they are of their father the devil and thats why they love him not...
and lets not forget that he also told them that if they were Abrahams seed they would do the work of Abraham...
The bible is full of stories where Jesus dissed the jews...
I'm not religious, but I know enough about a lot of religions to smash wannabe holy people into the earth...
Interesting. I seem to have missed those passages. Could you provide references for your statements? Just a couple chapter and verse numbers so I can compare notes with my own copies of the Bible.
yea except for the part where your entire statement never happened
Its a little known fact that most people that own a bible or any other holy book do not read them...
You would not learn anything new if its just given to you... Its like throwing pearls to swine...
Just copy and paste my text to google and several bible verses will pop up...
(Rev 2:9) I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
(Rev 3:9) Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof. John 8:44
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. John 8:39
Those false books called "Gospels" were written decades after this "Yeshua" or whoever was supposedly executed, and they are full of lies, blasphemies, heresies and paganism. Therefore nothing stated within those false testimonies should be heeded period. There is one Book, that is the Tanakh, and the Talmud that provides exegesis.
Well usually my m.o is to get one to discredit one half of their book... Then when they suggest another book... I would slay them with their own book... But I only clicked on CNN tonight while I waited for my movie to download... All religion is a Joke and If anyone is crazy enough to fall for the old light and glitter show... It just makes it easier for them to be control... Good Night...
let the religious wars begin! oh my bad they never ended... i misspoke
jesus does not want them, they ruined our country.
How about Albinos give up Jesus to, seen what the people of Palestein look like and I have yet to see a baby faced blonde haired blue eyed prophet.
""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.""
=>yet another voice attesting to the historicity of the NT :-)
Remember, though, that Josephus also wrote of Hercules as though he were a historical person, so maybe demigods were more common back then, I guess?
We have to reclaim Bigfoot as a mormon.
mittens baptized jesus
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