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Mainstream Christian theology's position held that Judaism had been supplanted, the Jewish covenant with the divine no longer valid, because of the incarnation of God as Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.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."
Dont' forget about Not So Smart 4:20 wherein God said, "and he shall use my name to get human beings to give you money and ye priests shall fondle the little boys."
hey, don't diss 420....
I love when people quote the bible as a source for anything. It's fiction written by human beings hundreds of years after Jesus died. Should I quote the lord of the rings to prove that wizards are real.
"Should I quote the lord of the rings to prove that wizards are real."
Not yet...wait for another 300 years...then we can start quoting Lord of the Rings.
Of course Wizards are real.. Besides.. there are so many contemporary books that talk about the greatness of wizards.. Harry Potter, Dresden files.. it can not be that books written by completely unrelated people talk about similar stories and not be true.. isn't it?
Would anyone tell me why Christians do not believe the creed of their founder Jesus? Jesus, in agreement with a scribe in Mark 12:29, recited the "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord." Will anyone dare to say that this was a Trinitarian creed? It was not. Jesus's God was the God of Israel. In Church there is a Triune God. So is Christianity the only world religion which begins by discarding its own founder's creed?
They shouldn't depict Jesus's skin tone or hair color because no one truly knows how he looked. Jewish is a religion so he could've been from olive color to dark-skinned. People have changed a lot physically over thousands of years so it's difficult to know. There are Asian, Hispanic, White, Middle-Eastern, African & Black Jews. Yes, the Jews were originally taught because they were the witnesses & his message was to be shared all over the world no matter what ethnicity or color he was. Also, since Jesus was created supernaturally by Jehovah God allowing the virgin Mary to become pregnant there is technically no human male who his lineage could be connected to besides his mother & siblings. Technically he'd have only part of her genetics.
Jesus was an Arab Jew so he probably looked something like Osama Bin Laden.
i don't know about the osama bin laden look...i am thinking more like egyptians
Jews, Christians and Muslims were almost all together in thought up to Moses. Muslims think Jesus was a nice guy and prophet but won't believe the divinity of Christ. Their Abba isn't the same as the Jewish or Christian view.
Jesus was a good Jew and practicing prophet. To Christians, Jesus is the only begotten son of God, our Lord and Messiah, our Savior and the fullfillment of the covenant. Moses received the Ten Commandments from God for the formal training on how to live a good life. Then Jesus came and showed us how to live that good life and in the Spirit of the law.
Just like teaching basic rules as children so you know how to behave as an adult. Many are still learning.
One example: Thou shall not Kill. If you follow that to its basic core the outrageousness of today's media sources they are all doing gossip and character assassinations. Remember if you don't want to love the Lord as your God than at least love and respect your neighbor and anyone you meet as you would like them to respect and treat you. Nuff Said!
Thou shall not kill?
After he came down from the mountain, didn't Moses command the Levites to massacre the tribes people worshiping the Golden Calf?
It does baffle me that some people do not believe that Jesus Christ was the chosen one & the Messiah when his birth was predicted years before his birth. Jehovah told believers the signs to look out for such as the place of birth, the baptism & etc. Just like the bible tells us the warning signs of the signs of time such as people being lovers of money rather than lover's of God, obedience in children, heartless murders, natural disasters in areas where it has ever been, nation raising against nation in the list goes on. Remember that the bible was written thousands of years before we were born.
neesha: you are right. it was written thousands of years before we were born. the question is, why do you think that the morality of an agrarian, iron age, middle east is valid in our current society? do you feel the same about right and wrong as did your grandparents? that is two generations. imagine the change in 100 generations.
There is no proof that Jesus was a historical figure. The only stories we have about him are from the New Testament Gospels which were written decades , if not centuries, after his alleged life. Not a single Jewish, Roman, or Greek historian alive at the time Jesus supposedly lived ever mentioned him . For someone who was going around raising the dead and healing lepers, you'd think he'd get a bit more press coverage... Rather, Jesus is a composite figure, based upon several "savior god" figures, such as Attus, Mithra, Osiris, etc.
Jack, you might want to check out Josephus and the Roman writer Tacitus. I'll quote John Dominic Crossan: "Jesus' execution is as historically certain as any ancient event can ever be..." Crossan is no conservative Christian, and neither am I. I just want to get things as correctly as possible. Jesus existed. That certainly doesn't mean he was God, but to say he didn't exist, is as "fundamentalistic" a statement as the fundamentalist who claim him to be God.
All those writers were after JC was supposed to have died.. not a contemporary to him.. anyone who was born 40-50 yrs after the dude's death could not have been saying the truth entirely nor could he have been recording the history.. he would be recording people's impressions of history
That kind of I'll pray for u means that "I don't understand ur point of view but I hope that at a later date u will see the truth of mine". If a Christian wants to insult u he can. They are human and they think good and bad things as well.
Christians are only partially human, because of their lack of reasoning and below-level IQs.
I don't believe you are a typical atheist at all. You seem so emotionally immature, irrational and unintelligent.
Eat him, Chewy.
The story of Passover:
God kills a bunch of babies, except for Jewish ones.
Chewy is awarded 850 internet for his most excellent analysis of Passover.
Primework, I stole it from Reddit
maybe too simplistic way of saying it.. but doesn't mean it isn't the truth.. coz that's exactly the story of passover..
I don't even understand some of you atheist. When someone wants to pray for you he definitely is doing it out of love so how can you hate that?
That's a load of crap. Until you've been on the receiving end of those words uttered through a sneer after you've just destroyed some poor Christians argument, you have no idea what you're talking about. In my experience "I'll pray for you" is Christian for "Go F- yourself".
He's attempting to telepathically communicate with Yahweh or Jesus because it makes him/her feel better, thats the only reason.
Because the prayers are not needed, not warranted, and not wanted. And, according to peer-reviewed scientific research, patients who knew they were being prayed for had higher rates of postoperative complications.
Have you still not found a hobby? Can't they at least kick you out of the library for a break once in a while?
It's the same thing like: "I will go pray to that weird alien lord who lives on planet Zenda on your behalf."
You may then cry out aloud, "I don't believe in that crap, mister."
It is so saddening to see so many lost souls that still remain hardened against the truth of God. Saints of God, this is why we pray for their eyes to be opened to the things the bounds of this world will never be able to show them. So I say, if you know how to pray for the lost, keep praying...keep fasting.... you may not be able to see the results right away but at least in my church things are changing. People are coming to know Jesus for themselves in a very personal way. Lives are changing for the better...hope is being restored. Keep praying Church, that all who are called, answer the call....you will be doing the Lords will for your life!!
Yeah, you keep praying for us poor heathens and apostates, let us all know how that works out for you, lol.
We'll keep thinking for you in the mean time.
You would probably be interested in this:
not to mention the pompous ba$tard$ who claim to KNOW "the truth of god".
Satan's the cool guy.. Guy never hurt anyone, never had a gospel inspired by him to represent his side and this fair god tortures him?
Christians are one sick breed. No wonder the US has more christians in jail than any other group by %.
'If you ask me God and the Devil are having an argument, and the Devil's being the bigger man.' – Jim Jefferies
Unlike Yahweh, Satan accepts all people unconditionally.
The idea of the Devil is just odd from a theological perspective.
First the assumptions. God exists (this is just an assumption required fro the thought experiment). God is omnipotent and as such there is no force more powerful that God. Free will exists only as God allows it (this corollary stems from the first assumption). Rebellion requires free will.
So if we go with the idea that Satan is a fallen angel who has rebelled against god we *must* assume that Satan is exercising free will. However, as we know, free will only exists because God allows it to exist. So Satan's rebellion – even on this level – requires the tacit approval of God. On a larger level, Unless we assume that Satan is also omnipotent we have to conclude that God hasn't snuffed out Satan with a cosmic shrug is because God *wants* Satan to exist. The idea that Satan exists without God's approval is impossible given the assumption that God is omnipotent. So that leaves us in a tough spot – if Satan exists then It does so with God's approval which runs counter to the idea that God is also relatively benevolent. So there we are. If Satan exists then either God is not all powerful *or* Satan is doing God's bidding and God is some kind of sadist (cf Book of Job). Neither conclusion is entirely comfortable for those that believe in God (as I do). The only conclusion you can reach is that Satan doesn't actually exist. That the evil we see doesn't come from some infernal source but from within us as we freely makes choices to do either good or evil.
In conclusion, God may or may not exist but it's theological inconsistent, if not actually impossible, for there to be some sort of infernal embodiment of evil seeking to corrupt humankind.
I like your thought experiment Chris.. I would like to see an absolute believer's impressions of your argument..
And the point remains that if Jesus really did claim to be divine in any sense, he WAS a blasphemer (not to mention a clown).
if he was real, there is no doubt he was mentally ill.. suicidal too!
When you look at the upgringing and mother of Jesus, it is not hard to see how he was delusional and suicidal. His mother was a wh ore who lied to her husband. Jesus was born from a lie and was considered a bas tard. Joseph probably rejected him on a daily basis knowing that he married a wh ore and that she slept around. Jesus created his "happy place" and magical father in the sky. Now you mix in his hom o se xu ality and lov eof children. Not hard to see the path he took. He was sick, twisted and simply messed up in the head. Perfect brew for a cult leader.
christians have it all wrong; The jews were being nice to jesus, they built him a wooden airplane – he just kept falling off.
ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS-
Putting the kibosh on the Book of Revelation and the rest of Christianity in less than 500 words.
JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")
Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.
Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.
Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.
Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!
So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?
No to mention he professed his love to his 12 guy friends which he lived with and loved to touch children. He didnt hold a real job and mooched off people.
disgusting .. something is definitely wrong with christians. Bet if their, delusion, jesus died in the 1700's, instead of crosses on the churches.. they'd have a guy with a rope around his neck hanging off their churches
Religion has been a destructive force since its invention. I just wanted to get that out, because it puts a lot of other discussions into a context.
That said, Christ was a Jew, his mother was a Jew, and all Christians are Jews first, Christians second. Maybe pagans can be thrown into that lot, too. And really, what does it matter, anyway? Judaism was the thing 2000 years ago–why is this an issue for anyone?
Religion was invented in a time when 99.99% of people couldn't read or write; they needed an explanation for many things, and religion fit the bill. It's not complicated.
Last, if more people were educated about the various fairy tales of religion, there might be fewer wars. That Catholics and Protestants have infected their religions with politics, that Sunnis and Shiites are trying to kill each other...none of this sounds like the children of the god of Abraham. It's this destructiveness and anger that is in opposition to the Ten Commandments and the teachings of any religion. (As in, does any religion really teach its followers to destroy and kill others?)
If you believe in religion, I invite you to learn about others. According to the Physics of Hell, everyone is going to hell anyway, so why not just be as good, kind and compassionate as possible while you are alive? Although I never met the man, I think Jesus Christ would probably approve of that suggestion.
Agree with most of what you post. Except that the religious wars of today are similar to the wars that the Israelites were involved in. Remember that the "promised land" was occupied by 7 nations which, according to the Bible, the Israelites exterminated. So the children of the god of Abraham committed the same evil acts as today.
Rev 2:9 & Rev. 3:9.
@ 1st: austin 3:16 beats them all. :p lmao
Roddenberry 68:12 We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.
""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."
First statement is true in a visual sense but in reality it is nonsense to believe in a god. Second statement is disturbing beyond imagination.
Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
Most atheists probably aren't bothered by being called a "fool" by people who believe in talking snakes and magical incantations.. Besides, there's always Matthew 5:22
Dont forget about the talking donkey. Just like in Shrek.
And only a fool cannot see the Emperor's new clothes, right? Only a bas.tard cannot see the Sultan's new turban... and only a cuckold cannot see the Miller's gold thumb.
This is an age-old tactic of mind-manipulation used to cow people into believing stuff. The ancient Hebrews (and Paul of Tarsus) were quite adept at it.
Deuteronomy 22:28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and ra.pes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
Yep, hell of nice god you chose to worship. I wonder why you fundiots aren't doing this here? After all, your god commands it.
Remember that Paul did not actually see Jesus in the flesh, and the Apostle John warns about that in 1Jn 4:2-3. Also, Jesus in no place said he was God. He said he was the Son of God, and that is what angered the Jewish leaders of his day: "Art thou the Christ, the son of the Blessed?" Not being a Jew by birth, I have always been confused why this was a problem to the 1st century Jewish leaders, and to the Jews of our day. Back to Paul, he is in direct contradiction to the words of Jesus when he says that when Jesus died, somehow the Law died also. Compare Romans 7: 4-6 to Jesus' words in Matthew 5:17-19. Pertaining to the Law, Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40 that first having love for God, and second having love for your neighbor hangs (supports, depends, etc.) all the Law and the Prophets.
Surely Jesus claimed to be God. Why else would they want to stone Him
"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
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.