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Mainstream Christian theology's position held that Judaism had been supplanted, the Jewish covenant with the divine no longer valid, because of the incarnation of God as Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.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."
As a Jew I always thought Jesus was just a nice Jewish boy that went bad
Jesus was one of many during that time period who were viewed by the majority of the Jewish people as messiahs and false messiahs at that. Many Jews have no problem accepting his existence or his teachings as they were largely within the framework of Judaism at that time. Jews do not accept Jesus or any of the other "messiahs" at that time as THE Messiah. If you look at the history of Christian Jewish relations, while for the most part we get along better now, the history has not been good. Jews have been blamed for the death of Jesus, using the blood of Christian children in rituals, and forced conversions and persecution. It takes time to get over this events.
It is one thing not wanting to accept a false messiah. But it is entirely a different story to not accept THE Messiah that was prophesied many many times in their own bible. The Old Testament is riddled with prophesies that only Jesus Christ fulfilled to to a T when He was born, lived, died and then resurrected.
That is why true Christians do not have any issues preaching from the Old Testament...because it promotes Christ and His redemptive message.
Besides, who said God was finished with Israel? They are still God's elect.
Bold George: – "The Old Testament is riddled with prophesies that only Jesus Christ fulfilled to to a T..."
Don't you think that the writers of the NT stories read (or otherwise knew about) those old-time OT prophesies when they wrote their stories?
@ Annie Sue
Of course they read 'em. But up until this moment in time, Jesus Christ has been the only one up until now who has fulfilled those prophesies, no one else has stepped up to the plate. Again, Jesus Christ fulfilled many specific prophecies. And no one has said, "Let's choose this baby boy born in a manger to fulfill them." Besides, there were many eyewitness accounts before, during and after Jesus Christ's walk here on earth. How would you get thousands of people to harmoniously agree on these specifics, when not even two people (like you and I) can agree?
Another thing, the new testament is also riddled with future prophecies, some have come to pass right after the new testament was written, and some have not yet come to pass. Would you say that there are people now trying to fulfill these prophecies like consistent earthquakes and natural phenomenons around the world, talks of a new world order, peace and security for Israel, and the very recent one, the ruin of Damascus, Syria and other middle eastern countries demise?
You (and everyone else) should really read the bible to really/truly realize that everything from beginning of the old testament to the end of the new testament points to Christ. Don;t even take my word for it. Read your bible.
Sorry, my last two comments above were meant for "What If".
De txt shorthand I use is cos on my fon I'm ltd to 300x'ters/post otherwise I wud write to ur hearts content. I don't even use shorthand that u won't understand. If u can decipher it then I believe u can look beyond it. I look beyond insults everyday. Teasing I never cared. I like de knight.
That's understandable, just offering some advice.
There is only one truth, regardless of what faith you choose to follow, there is still only one truth. There is no such thing as "your God" or "my God". Either Jesus was God or he was a prophet or he was a crackpot, but nobody has the authority to change what the Bilbe (the entire Bible) says and teaches. I find it amazing the Cohen did not know that Christians also learned the Old Testament as well and the New Testament. That is the difference between Christians and the Jews of today is that most of the Jewish people I know do not even acknowledge the New Testament, whereas all of the Christians I know preach both the Old and New Testaments. However, as much as I hate to admit it, there is still much disagreement, even among Christians, as to what the truth is and how we are to live our lives today. The miracles of the Bible still happen today, the same as they did back then, but many dismiss them as coincidence or simply impossible. I invite all of you that do that to refer to Hebrews 13:8. Gods word has not changed since it was written almost 2000 years ago.
Well if there are always disagreements then I guess we better stop looking for it then. You'll never be able to find it.
Speaking of entertainment value. Here you go folks...classic example of delusion. Better watch it..Santa keeps a list and checks it twice. I will put a good word in for you to Santa in hopes that you start believing in him. Santa is real based on a book I have..you should read it. Reject it and you go on the bad list.
“but nobody has the authority to change what the Bilbe (the entire Bible) says and teaches.”
Actually, I have that authority. The OT is codified oral tradition and the NT is clearly a work of fiction loosely based on the OT. There is nothing in there that I need for my life or that of my family. NOTHING. Why would I take something that is untrue and try to pass it off as the “Truth”?
"Why would I take something that is untrue and try to pass it off as the “Truth”?"
Because Santa SAYS SO
Fraud alert God bless.
God alert. Fraud bless.
God creates dinosaur.
God destroys dinosaur.
God creates man.
Man destroys God.
Man creates dinosaur.
SO you want to be like Jesus???
...Then quit eating pork, shellfish, cheeseburgers and bacon-encrusted-everything, for starters...
Second, start helping the sick, poor and less-fortunate... (that means provide them with assistance, charity and healthcare)
Third, go to a synagogue!
–Now you can ask, WWJD?
This world has no time or place for rotten jews. And their jew tax on everything we buy at the grocery store. Look for the c and k or google jew tax.
Haha, oh man those crazy Jews. What Jew stuff will those Jews do next? Oh man. Yup, that's the Jews for you. Jewing it up all over the place.
Which line of the tax return is the jew tax?
the kosher mark on all our foods is a sign of the mark that we cannot even buy or sell without the kosher seal. Sound familiar?
Try to buy some cream cheese or potato chips without the mark. Try to make a company that sells millions of food products without having rabbis telling you that you need the mark or you will be boycotted.
So, you are NOT a Christian?
I do not in any part believe that there is founded "hate" for the Jews by Christians. I am a strong Christian and firmly believe that the Jews are the the Chosen people of God. Why? It is Biblical. For those who chose to blame a whole nation for a few people's mistake two thousand years ago are just clouded in their views.
From the New to the Old Testament, God is continuous on his love for his chosen people. Those who chose to turn their backs on the Jewish nation are turning their backs on God. Simple as that.
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?
First I think you might be confusing hate with simply seeing some people as absurd. To get an idea...imagine yourself living in a reality of being surrounding by a majority that constantly told you that Santa keeps a list and checks it twice and that you need to abide by Santa's rules or you will go on the bad list. Then they went further to say they would put a good word into Santa for you because they were so concerned for you.
Because you're wasting your time on your delusion. Prayer is just another way of talking to yourself. There is no god. Why dont you go out and actually do something instead of sitting around talking to imaginary friends?
This seems to be a common problem. Many non-religious people see religion as completely absurd. When comments are made along those lines religious people see them as insulting or hateful when in fact they are simply stating what they believe to be fact, and usually trying to help religious people out of their delusionals.
"Why dont you go out and actually do something instead of sitting around talking to imaginary friends?"
The sad reality is some need imaginary things in their life to get through. Take HeavenSent for example.....clearly needs such things due to what they have experienced in life. They cannot cope with reality...it scare the he ll out of them.
How can one hate what brings loads of entertainment? We have access to a mental ward right here on these boards.
I would take what a Christian thinks or says as much as a rambling idiot in a mental hospital. Only difference is one is wearing a straight jacket and one isnt.
multiple fraud alerts God bless
If you people would research the origin of the origin of the Jews religion, you all would probably question your faith. Yahweh was actually one of many gods that the Jews used to worship.
This is one of the reasons I have decided to learn and follow the ancient gods of my Scandinavian ancestors. There is no reason to import religion from the middle east.
This is making Mel Gibson VERY upset!
If you ever want a real Jewish perspective on anything (Jewish), the you must hear from an authentic orthodox rabbi. Just taking anything that people say seriously in not right. Especially if they are not orthodox. They do not represent the real facts of Judaism. The author can contact me with questions.
If Jesus did exist, he was Jewish. You can't really dispute that.
["Jews have much to learn from Jesus – and from Christianity as a whole – without accepting Jesus' divinity."]
Let me state this here in this public forum that without accepting Jesus Christ's divinity/deity, there is nothing else to learn. The cornerstone of Christianity is that Jesus is God. Any belief other than this would make it a made-up-Christ...and as the bible so clearly states, worshiping a made-up-God is idolatry. Besides, Jesus Himself proclaimed many times to be God...to be one with the Father.
["There are many reasons for accepting Jesus as a man of great wisdom, beautiful ethical teachings, and profound Jewish patriotism."]
Again, Jesus declared Himself to be God and all of Scripture attests to that fact and many in the bible have prophesied about this one important truth. Now, let me ask you this, how can you believe that Jesus was a man of great wisdom, with beautiful ethical teachings and not believe Him when He proclaimed to be God??? You can't be a "man of great wisdom, with beautiful ethical teachings" and be a liar at the same time.
Lighten up, Francis.
And the same goes for all atheists who don't think before they speak then cry "troll" because a Christian challenged them. Or insults people who don't belong to their religion. I hate it when a Christian does and I hate it when anyone does it.
We shall say 'nii' again to you....if you do not appease us. Bring me a shrubbery.
One that's nice. And not too expensive.
With a little path running down the middle?
Jesus and the original Hebrew Israelites were black, Around AD 66 Flavius Josephus a roman jew drove the remaining jews out of Israel. Ancient Egyptians are black to,according to statues and drawings on the walls,Moses was raised by Pharoahs daughter
I'm not troll but u can't see that cos of ur level of "intelligence". Intelligence? Now thats a loaded word! Do u understand it? Your hatred makes u unwise. If you love your neighbor as yourself you will be able to think intelligently. Then the stories of Jesus will seem more probable.
Speaking of intellegence, people might take you more seriously when you stop typing in "illitrate teen text language" using "de" for "the", "cos" for "cause" "u" for "you". And you expect anyone to take you seriously?
JUST SAYIN ATHEIST
I have been told this several times by Evangelicals I disagreed with but I just ignored it. This makes u happier than lashing out angrily. Hey if Santa brings the presents put in a word for me. I don't care n won't die either way. Unless u can prove they are doing more than pray.
There's a woeful lack of evidence to support the belief that Jesus was an actual historical figure. Although many "go-along-to-get-along" academics are reluctant to question the standard view, the only evidence that Jesus existed is in the four gospels, the first of which, Mark, was written anonymously at least 40 years after the crucifixion. The others were written late in the 1st century. There are no writings by eyewitnesses to Jesus' life. The earliest written non-Christian acknowledgment of Jesus was not until 100 CE. It's a serious mistake for Jews to blindly accept the Christian myth that Jesus existed.
Thank you for an accurate historical account that is also supported by catholic and protestant scholarship (except for your last line.) Regardless of the opinion you expressed at the end, everyone here can learn something by actually studying the religious texts instead of parroting what their 4th grade Sunday school teacher told them.
There is also the "fifth" gospel, Q, that Matthew and Luke share as source material, as well as Mark, to a far lesser extent.
Jesus wasn't Jewish, he believed in himself, Jews didn't believe in him and still don't. The Old Testament said they would deny him, they did, that they would be driven from the promised land, they were, and they would be hated for it, they are. Still they don't see the connection.
You don't understand either old or new testament – try getting an education before you spread your hateful crap.
I was raised a Christian and grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, with many good Jewish friends. I went to a Christian (Lutheran) grade school and then public high school with again, a number of both Christian and Jewish friends. There was never any hate taught to me nor demonstrated toward me or by me concerning the differences of our faiths. Jesus was a Jew and the Jews were his people. However, he died to atone for our sins. Sin separated us from God until we were unrighteously and through grace, gifted with Christ's death and resurrection allowing anyone who accepts this gift salvation. This is a message and gift of love and inclusion, not exclusion. We have done nothing to deserve good or bad in our lives. Our human condition is what it is. Through love we are called to do good works, but works cannot save us. And works without love is meaningless.
The old testament is the "law". The new testament carries the message of salvation, the "good news" for all people. Christians believe both the old and the new testament and one is not complete without the other. As for the 'law" dying I believe Paul's message was that the "hopelessness" felt in those wanting to follow God's law and knowing they fall short was erased in the Resurrection. That is the triumph over not being "good enough", even not being "Jewish" or chosen as according to the "law". In the end, we are all descended from the same original parents of all mankind and all a part of God's beloved family. It makes my heart sad to hear such angry and misunderstanding rhetoric on Good Friday while the burden Christ took on for us weighs so heavily today. Faith is just that – faith. I pray for peace that passes all understanding for anyone with a troubled heart, for that is the only way to be rid of it – through our Savior.
Jesus? Tangible? There may have been a man who claimed to be the messiah around 1 CE. He certainly wasn't a semi-divine being. If the bible is to be believed, he did focus on his fellow Jews. It was only paul who decided to change the message and take it on the road. JC is no more tangible than Noah, Moses (funny how the Egyptians didn't notice any "exodus" or that none of their competing neighbors noticed either) or the god that this nonsense is based on.
The history of Christianity is just too well established for theorists to disprove it in the 20th century. There are mystical things they can dispute not historicity. Christs brother James was the founder of the EPISCOPACY. The fact that you don't know doesn't mean it wasn't. U don't know that much
I have no problem with Jesus really existing. I think there is more evidence of him being delusional, insane, gay, pedo p hi le and suicidal vs magical acts.
@nii: we know your level of intelligence on most topics, return to your corner troll.
Nii said, "The fact that you don't know doesn't mean it wasn't. U don't know that much"
The same can be said about Christian knowledge of evolution.
Even in the US most Christians are not literalist fundamentalist. There are a lot of Christians who will impress u with evolutionary theory which was formulated and confirmed by a Christian. Mendel n Darwin were Christians.
define literalist fundamentalist then?
Besides, do you mean to say that the definition of god and what god did have been changing? what kind of all powerful god changes over time.. unless, umm, that god was made up..??
and finally, since you say christians "formulated and confirmed" evolution, (really? I want whatever that thing that you are smoking), I guess you do not have any problem with evolution theory be taught in the classes and scrapping the ID?
serious fraud alert God bless
The multiple personality disorder has finally taken over.
I am going to ask myself to prove the fraud. I am going to ask myself to show proof that I own the handle. I await my answer.
Ask CNN to boot the fraud for violating original agreement. Simple and effective. God bless
I ask my self to post the sp eci fic port ion in the "agreement" that I am relying upon. I also ask myself to provide docu ment aiton related to "just sayin" and such reg istra tion.
Knock yourself out God bless
God alert...fraud bless
I asked the easter bunny for pants
Please Jesus let him bring me pants
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.