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Mainstream Christian theology's position held that Judaism had been supplanted, the Jewish covenant with the divine no longer valid, because of the incarnation of God as Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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."
1. God told an Old Testament prophet he would have a son named X
2. That didn't happen, instead the prophet had a son named Y
3. A dude was born to somebody else, centuries later, named neither X nor Y, but Z (Jesus)
Conclusion: Jesus is the Messiah!!!!
It just makes sense, folks!
Jesus is not, has never been, never will be the king of Jews.
the joos rejected Him he is king of kings! You will get to meet him brienfly when you're dead on your way to HELL.
Actually, hawaaidude rejected Kevin James, he is king of queens! You will get to meet him brienfly when you're dead on your way to THE 99TH DIMENSION!! (scary music here) Duh duh Duuuuuuhhhh!!!!
Jesus was a Jew. Man coined King of the Jews. Jesus I doubt would need your approval much less anyone else.
Who cares what Jesus was. It's his message that we, who care, should remember and live by. The message was Love Everyone Unconditionally and treat them the way you want to be treated. For those that don't believe, why patronize those who do? If you don't, you don't. It sometimes seems as though your religion is to criticize others who do. Maybe you need to find some spirituality, whether it's from riding a bike, doing yoga, whatever. Find some peace and happiness so you don't feel the need to patronize others.
How can you argue something that can never be proven and is based on writings that happened long after this person was alleged to exist and written by a man(Paul or Saul) who experienced a seizure and others who had different stories. What does it matter to Jews anyway.? It is a Christian story even though the alleged person was supposed to be Jewish. It is a stupid arguement.Why bother. It is not about the person anyway. It is about what has evolved because of this alleged person, the religions, the wars, the conversions against peopl's will, the right wingers who think they are the only ones who are right and dismiss every other religion. That is nothing to be proud of.This is again, a stupid arguement.
Careful Dina, you might be attacked for having an opinion.
What a stupid article. I am Jewish and I will never accept him.
This is a very bad presentation of the Jewish view on JC.
The fact that there are Jews who go to church and don't follow the Jewish Law doesn't properly represent us.
Guess what, Jew? If you don't accept Christ, you will be consumed by fire for eternity. It's bad enough you shylock demons killed God, now you're openly proclaiming your hate of Him. "ye are of your father the devil....." – John 8:44, talking about YOUR people.
It's a good thing you and your god are so loving right? Also $10 for a bagel is waaaaay to much,
Sorry about the price; I'm trying my best to imitate the yids!
@$10, NICE ad hominem attack there, "dude"
Do Jews still believe in a messiah? If so, I wonder if any person claiming to be the "real" messiah these days would be either laughed at or tormented. I don't mean to incite anger with this question; it's just that I've always wondered about that one part of Judaism. Was Jesus executed because he denied the original teachings of the Bible–exposing them as man-made (and not God's true word)–or was it that he claimed to be the Messiah. Was the latter sufficient enough to warrant an execution?
Also, I believe the rabbis were concerned with losing power to this "mad man."
"It's bad enough you shylock demons killed God" Why is your God so weak that he can be killed so easily? Or was he so powerful that he was not really killed, which would make your point pointless? Oh, wait, I know, your God is Mysterious right? We just don't know how God could be dead and yet not be dead, to be a human who was strong enough to resist sin and yet be the divine creator who's every act by definition is divine. It's a mystery...
It is funny that they claim jesus death is predestined.. that he was meant to die for the sins of people.. and yet you claim jews killed him and are mad at them for that?? make up your fucking mind dude.. or did you not read your book of fairytales that closely?
geez, and to think this devout christian had to take lessons from an atheist about his own religion!
Even we jews know $10 is waaay too much.
We'll supposedly know because he'll fulfill the prophecies in the bible, You're probably right about the rabbis, but it's also because jesus was claiming to be the messiah and that he fulfilled the law and blah blah blah. I would probably laugh at a so-called "messiah" unless of course he started bringing people back to life or rained fire and brimstone or brought peace to the middle east and rebuilt the temple and other such nonsense.
You really have to admire a religion that takes a day out to celebrate a rabbit that lays eggs and a zombie.
Don't forget to paint a red X over your doorway in sheeps blood tomorrow, so god doesn't send the angel of death and kill your first born! ...but remember...god loves you! Haa Haa how's that for a crazy religion! Happy Zombie day!
That's not the Biblical meaning of Easter. Easter is the celebration and rejoicing of Jesus' resurrection. He's alive and not a zombie. Pagan people started the tradition of the rabbit and eggs. http://news.discovery.com/history/what-does-the-easter-bunny-have-to-do-with-easter.html
Lance...'pagans' had a fertility festival around the equinox long, long long before the bible. Christians came along and tried to convert the pagans by adding their little spring festival into their nutty cult to make it seem friendlier. Get it straight.
Bible is corrupted, written by some people who saw dreams, all the versions (matthew, mark, etc) contradicts each other, Only one truth is maintained throughout is The Holy Quran, It has the truth just read about Moses and Jesus in it, No one respects Jesus and Moses truely than Muslims, ...see who follows much of their religion as they(Jesus moses all prophets) did (practically), the way they dressed, ex:beard, 95% of christians doesnt even keep a beard as jesus did, drink eat pork, and they say they love him, Rediculous!!!
Truth? What would the follower of murderous desert raider who married a six year old girl know about the truth?
The Jews can have Jesus, he WAS actually a Jewish Myth anyway. Jesus was made up to fulfill the OT prophecies, simple as that. He was a compilation of many older deities, EVERYTHING in Christianity is copied from another religion, Christmas (Pagan), Easter (Pagan) just to name two. The cross is a variation of an Egyptian symbol. John the Baptist, was not the first to "Dunk Believers in Water." Jesus was not the first to be born of a virgin, in a manger, swaddled in cloth, and given gifts by some wise men. READ something people other than the bible, which was put together by the Catholic church in the fourth century at the Nicean Council.
Really? C'mon, bro. Everyone knows you got your info from zeitgeist, which is filled with SOOO many inaccuracies. Stop being led around by Peter J and think for yourself.
My friend, I am high educated, I do not get my information from any ONE source; instead, I have researched all that I claim, spoken with MANY theologians, as well as atheists. I have seen the the sources I speak of, in Egypt, India, and Syria. The "inaccuracies" you claim, you give no evidences of, so you are nothing more than a Christian appologist. Nice try.
So, you think Saul of Tarsus was just making things up so that he could be chased around town by the same Jews that once hired him to chase Christians down?
Simply based on his writings alone (which most trusted scholars claim to be authentic) recorded 150 years prior to your Catholic conspiracy theory you are the one making stuff up to fit your agenda
@Fred...If you have read the writings of Paul/Saul, you will note that he NEVER claims to have met Jesus. He NEVER mentions any of the Mystical claims about Jesus. I do not dispute that Paul wrote some of the letters; however, are you serious that YOU don't know about the Nicean council? I'm sorry, but NOTHING I have written is "made up" and the truth is I have NO agenda but the truth.
Seriously, everything you're spouting came DIRECTLY from zeitgeist. You're a Peter J worshiper, and you're spewing Jew poison. Wouldn't be surprised if you WERE a Jew. Think for yourself you kosher swine. As Jesus said, "The truth shall set you free....."
My friend, I do not KNOW this Peter J, and I resent the fact that you are attacking me adhominen. YOU are a racist and like MOST Christians you are forced to resorting to personal attacks instead of using logic and reason. You are useless in a debate, really, "Kosher Swine" is the best you got? I often wonder, since all of the books of the New Testament were written some fifty to a hundred years AFTER the death of Jesus, how did they know that Jesus said ANY of what is attributed to him? They had recorders back then?
The first council met in AD 325 a long time after Paul’s authenticated writings. Given few reputable scholars dispute them I like to use it as a good starting point. Paul may not have physically seen Jesus but he took note of meetings with people who had (including Peter and Luke). We cannot simply toss all the manuscripts based on a conspiracy theory that came about 1,500 years after the events. Without proof we cannot discount the evidence we have based on idle speculation of modern skeptics. I say give the history of Jesus as much credit as you other antiquity of that time period. In short be fair.
To be fair the dreams of a modern skeptic cannot without evidence outweigh authenticated writings.
So was pontius pilate real? You deny him too, fool? Stop trying to impose your refuted beliefs on everyone. This is a christian nation, and we're sick of Jew agents like you trying to destroy it. Go back to israel or wherever the hell you crawled from :)
HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE JEWS ARE STEALING MY INVISIBLE FRIEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Talmudic Judaism today is the MOST auntiechryst religion on the planet. Educate yourselves. zyohnizm is the beast that will usher in the auntiechryst.
Wow dude, if Jesus was a myth, which he was, what would that make the Anti-Christ?
Auntiechryst? Is that like my Auntie Joyce? I love her pies.
Right on, bro. Talmudic Judaism is straight out of hell. Visit http://www.jesuswasnotajew.com/ for the truth about Jesus.
That's enough out of you, young man. Back to your chores.
Yes, Jesus was a Jew from the line of David. The Jews rejected Jesus and tried Him for blasphemy and called for His death on the cross. Jesus never rejected the Jews. As a matter of fact, one of the two times Jesus wept in the Bible was for Jerusalem and her people. Jews can reclaim Him today, but only on His terms. If you don't believe He is who he says He is, than He must just be a liar.
God rejected the Jews the moment they murdered His son Jesus. Lemme ask you, o christian zionist: who shouted "crucify him!" Was that the Romans? Was it? If not, then who? Surely you won't say it was the Romans?
It was the JEWS you idiot!!!!
Boteach hss become a reality TV personality and a professional blabber. The day I start needing his advice, I'll ask the Kardashians for their opinion, too. I don't see that Jews need to learn about Jesus. The religions parted ways 2,000 years ago. It's great for the religions to respect each other, of course.
Worship the Creator not his Creation!!!
It's time for atheists to reclaim Einstein and Edison! Since christians claim that having "In god we trust" on our money makes us a christian nation, they must stop using lightbulbs, gps and nuclear power or acknowledge we are also an atheist/agnostic nation.
Einstein said "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.
@Mark B., Do your research. Einstein said he, if any god, believed in Spinoza's god. It might require some reading on your part, but you'll find he was not a religious person and was clearly agnostic, and easily argued to be an atheist. In his own words, he said that from the jesuit perspective he was an atheist.
Einstein also said that he did NOT believe in a personal god, further he specifically refuted ALL claims that he was religious.
From Adam to Abraham to Moses to Jesus to Mohammed, All were Muslim (one who submits to God Completely), There is only One God of All creation who created them from nothing.
There are exactly zero gods, so you're only off by one.
Most of what Muslims believe are taken from the Bible and distorted. The Bible even warns that in the last days there would be doctrines of devils.
"The Bible even warns that in the last days there would be doctrines of devils."
People have been calling the doctrines of others evil and of the devil for eons. Last days - pfui!
I AM THAT I AM is the one God. Not Alluh, Brahma, Mohammed nor any other.
Well the truth is people need a relationship with God and not religion. If anyoneone truely seek God he would reveal himself
You need to read the Bible if you want to know the truth. Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help us in our lives today as we learn what God wants us to do each day. Read the Bible daily to stay in tune with God and His will for you.
Jesus was not a jew:
Jew Talmud claims Jesus is burning in hell - in a vat of excrement!
Jews killed Jesus - Jews committed DEICIDE.
You are not wearing any pants, are you?
there is no hell in judaism so go back and do real research.
Fairies have 6 wings, not 4!
$10 idiot. Yes, the dead Jew hanging on the wall of your church (and the bobble headed one on your dashboard) was Jewish. Born, raised, died one. live it love it learn it.
That picture the" last supper", was the Jewish guy celebrating Passover.
That picture the" last supper", was the Jewish guy celebrating Passover, the night before he died. GO figure
The first thing that every Christian has to realize is that the word ‘Jew’ is a translation from two different words that are contained in the Bible: The Hebrew word ‘Yehudi’ and the Greek word ‘Ioudaios.’ Neither one of these words designates a modern Jew, who is neither a relative nor a co-religionist of the Hebrew Judahites (Yehudi). The word ‘Jew’ is only a recently used word, having been first employed in the 1750’s in England, as the J sound was just being introduced into England from France in those days. It was first seen written down in Sheridan’s play, “The Rivals,” in the year 1775.
There is a hell in Judaism.
I am sated with misfortune; I am at the brink of Sheol.
I am numbered with those who go down to the Pit;
I am a helpless man
abandoned among the dead,
like bodies lying in the grave
of whom You are mindful no more,
and who are cut off from Your care.
You have put me at the bottom of the Pit,
in the darkest places, in the depths.
So the Jews killed Jesus, in which case he's dead. Or he's not dead, in which case nobody killed him.
The Romans killed Christ. Plus, I am sure there were other races and creeds in the crowd shouting to crucify him. Look at today's executions all types are standing outside the prison's gate rejoicing and enjoying the death and a few others who are protesting legalized murder.
Here's an objective history of God:
That...narrator... sounds... like... a...robot (robot voice). AAARGHH! I couldn't stand that clip for more than 5 minutes!!!
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.