Judaism's view of Jesus

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Judaism's view of Jesus per se reflects Jewish views of eschatology, the characteristics of the Messiah, the gift of prophecy, and the cosmological nature of God, which are derived from the Torah and Biblical prophecies expressed by Isaiah, Ezekiel, and others from Biblical times through the destruction of Solomon's Temple in the 6th Century BCE. These statements and the rabbinic views derived therefrom present a specific picture of the indivisible nature of God, and of the events and characteristics that would be associated with the supposed coming of the Messiah.

According to these criteria, Jesus did not fulfill the qualifications of the Messiah or Messianic prophecies, he was not a prophet, and it is heresy to believe that he was divine or an intermediary between humans and God. The belief in the Trinity is incompatible with Judaism. Very few texts in Judaism directly refer to or take note of Jesus.

Finally, some Jews doubt the historical existence of Jesus. Based on a Talmudic tradition <ref>Sotah 47a, Sanhedrin 107b.</ref> some <ref>Nahmanides in his dispute with Pablo Christiani in 1263 paragraph 22. Vikuach HaRamban found in Otzar Havikuchim by J. D. Eisenstein, Hebrew Publishing Society, 1915 and Kitvey HaRamban by Rabbi Charles D. Chavel, Mosad Horav Kook, 1963; See also "The Kuzari" by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi Section 3 paragraph 65.</ref> believed that Jesus lived 130 years prior to the date that Christians believe he lived, contradicting the Gospels' account regarding the years.


[edit] Jewish worldview and Jesus

[edit] Indivisibility of God

In Judaism, the idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical — it is considered akin to polytheism. This is referred to in the Torah in Deuteronomy (6:4): "Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." See also Shema Yisrael.

Fundamentally, Judaism believes that God, as the creator of time, space, and matter, is beyond them, and cannot be born or die, or have a son. Judaism teaches that it is heretical for any man to claim to be God, part of God, or the literal son of God. The Jerusalem Talmud (Ta'anit 2:1) states explicitly: "if a man claims to be God, he is a liar."

In the 12th Century CE, the Jewish scholar Maimonides elucidated the core principles of Judaism, writing "[God], the Cause of all, is one. This does not mean one as in one of a pair, nor one like a species (which encompasses many individuals), nor one as in an object that is made up of many elements, nor as a single simple object that is infinitely divisible. Rather, God is a unity unlike any other possible unity." <ref> Maimonides, Mishneh Torah Madda Yesodei ha-Torah 1:5</ref>

Though Jesus is said to have used the phrase "my Father in Heaven" (cf. Lord's Prayer), this common poetic Jewish expression may have been misinterpreted as literal.

[edit] Jewish view of the Messiah

Main articles: Messiah and Jewish Messiah

The Jewish view of the Messiah differs substantially from the Christian idea of the Messiah. According to the mainstream Jewish conception of the Messiah as described by the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, Jesus did not fulfill the predictions associated with the Messiah's coming. <ref name=nachmanides2>Nahmanides in his dispute with Pablo Christiani in 1263 paragraph 49.</ref> <ref name=simmons>Simmons, Rabbi Shraga, "Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus", accessed March 14, 2006.</ref> <ref name=ohr>"Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus", Ohr Samayach - Ask the Rabbi, accessed March 14, 2006.</ref> <ref name=askmoses>"Why don't Jews believe that Jesus was the messiah?", AskMoses.com, accessed March 14, 2006.</ref>

According to Isaiah, the Messiah will be a paternal descendant of King David (Isaiah 11:1) via King Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:8-10). He is expected to return the Jews to their homeland and rebuild the Temple, reign as King, and usher in an era of peace (Isaiah 2:4) and understanding where "the knowledge of God" fills the earth (Isaiah 11:9), leading the nations to "end up recognizing the wrongs they did Israel" (Isaiah 52:13-53:5). Ezekiel states the Messiah will redeem the Jews (Ezekiel 16:55).

Jesus lived while The Second Temple was standing, and not while the Jews were exiled. He never reigned as King of the Jews, and there was no subsequent era of peace or great knowledge. Rather than being redeemed, the Jews were subsequently exiled from Israel. These discrepancies were noted by Jewish scholars who were contemporaries of Jesus, as later pointed out by Nahmanides, who in 1263 observed that Jesus was rejected as the Messiah by the rabbis of his time. <ref>Nahmanides in his dispute with Pablo Christiani in 1263 paragraph 103.</ref>

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[edit] Jewish prophecy and Jesus

Main articles: Prophet and False prophet

According to the Torah, at a minimum the criteria for a person to be considered a prophet or speak for God in Judaism are that they must follow the God of Israel (and no other God), they must not describe God differently than he is known to be from Scripture, they must not advocate change to God's word or state that God has changed his mind and wishes things that contradict his already-stated eternal word, and the things they do speak of must come to pass (Deuteronomy 13:1-5;18:18-22).

Additionally, there are two types of "false prophet" recognized in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh): the one who claims to be a prophet in the name of idolatry, and the one who claims to be a prophet in the name of the God of Israel, but declares that any word or commandment (mitzvah) which God has said no longer applies, or makes false statements in the name of God. <ref> A source for these is Deuteronomy 18:20, which refers to false prophets who claim to speak in the name of God.</ref> As Judaism believes that God's word is true eternally, one who claims to speak in God's name but diverges in any way from what God himself has said, logically cannot be inspired by divine authority. Deuteronomy 13:1 states simply, "All this which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." <ref name=jewfaq>Rich, Tracey, "Prophets and Prophecy", Judaism 101, accessed March 14, 2006.</ref> <ref name=ou>Frankel, Rabbi Pinchas, "Covenant of History: A Fools Prophecy", Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations of America, accessed March 14, 2006.</ref> <ref name=urj>Edwards, Laurence, "Torat Hayim - Living Torah: No Rest(s) for the Wicked", Union of American Hebrew Congregations, accessed March 14, 2006.</ref>

Even if someone who appears to be a prophet can perform supernatural acts or signs, no prophet or dreamer can contradict the laws already stated in the Bible (Deuteronomy 13:1-5;18:18-22). <ref name=buchwald>Buchwald, Rabbi Ephraim, "Parashat Re'eh 5764-2004: Identifying a True Prophet", National Jewish Outreach Program, accessed March 14, 2006</ref>

Thus, any divergence from the tenets of Biblical Judaism espoused by Jesus would disqualify him from being considered a prophet in Judaism. This was the view adopted by Jesus' contemporaries, as according to rabbinical tradition as stated in the Talmud (Sotah 48b) "when Malachi died the Prophecy departed from Israel." As Malachi lived centuries before Jesus it is clear that the rabbis of Talmudic times did not view Jesus as a divinely-inspired prophet.

[edit] Jesus and the Jewish view of redemption and salvation

Jews do not believe that salvation or repentance from sin can be achieved through sacrifice on another's behalf, ("The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.")<ref>Deuteronomy 24:16</ref> and is instead focused on the requirements of personal repentance.<ref> See (Ezekiel 33:11,33:19, and Jeremiah 36:3).</ref>

In addition, Judaism focuses on understanding how one may live a sacred life according to God's will in this world, rather than the hope of or methods for finding spiritual salvation in a future one. Jews view their divine obligation to be living as a "holy people" in full accordance with Divine will, as a "light unto the nations," and Judaism does not purport to offer the exclusive path to salvation or "the one path to God." Accordingly, the implications of the Christian conception of Jesus massively diverge from the Jewish worldview.

[edit] Jewish texts that mention Jesus

[edit] Talmud

Main article: Yeshu

Scholars have debated the meaning of the name Yeshu (יש"ו in Hebrew), (alt: Jeshu, Yeishu) that appears in various works of classical Jewish rabbinic literature, including the Babylonian Talmud (redacted roughly before 600 CE) and the classical midrash literature written between 200 CE and 700 CE. It has been used as an acronym for the Hebrew expression yemach shemo vezichro, meaning "May his name and memory be obliterated", used for those guilty of enticing Jews to idolatry in place of the real names of individuals. In all cases the references are to individuals who (whether real or not) are associated with acts or behaviour that are seen as leading Jews away from Judaism to minuth (a term usually translated "heresy" or "apostasy"). Some or many of the references to Yeshu have been traditionally understood to refer to the Jesus of Christianity, for a number of reasons. In several manuscripts of the Babylonian Talmud the appellation Ha-Notzri, meaning the nazarene, appears. Others have criticized this view, <ref>In the 13th century Jehiel ben Joseph of Paris wrote that the Yeshu in rabbinic literature was a disciple of Joshua ben Perachiah, and not to be confused with Jesus the Nazarene (Vikkuah Rabbenu Yehiel mi-Paris). Nahmanides too makes this point, and Rabbis Jacob ben Meir (Rabbeinu Tam) (12th century) and Jehiel Heilprin (17th century) also belong to this school. Likewise the comments of Rabbi Jacob Emden cannot be reconciled with the collective identification. In addition, the information cited from the Munich, Florence and other manuscripts in support of the identification are late comments written centuries after the original redaction of the Talmud.</ref> citing discrepancies between events mentioned in association with Yeshu and the time of Jesus' life, <ref> The oppression by King Janneus mentioned in the Talmud occurred about 87 BCE, which would put the events of the story about a century before Jesus. The Yeshu who taught Jacob of Sechania would have lived a century after Jesus.</ref> and differences between accounts of the deaths of Yeshu and Jesus. <ref>The forty day waiting period before execution is absent from the Christian tradition and moreover Jesus did not have connections with the government. Jesus was crucified not stoned. Jesus was executed in Jerusalem not Lod. Jesus did not burn his food in public and moreover the Yeshu who did this corresponds to Manasseh of Judah in the Shulkhan Arukh. Jesus did not make incisions in his flesh, nor was he caught by hidden observers.</ref>

The primary references to Yeshu are found in uncensored texts of the Babylonian Talmud and the Tosefta. (In 1554 the Vatican issued a papal bull censoring the Talmud and other Jewish texts, resulting in the removal of references to Yeshu). No known manuscript of the Jerusalem Talmud makes mention of the name although one translation (Herford) has added it to Avodah Zarah 2:2 to align it with similar text of Chullin 2:22 in the Tosefta. All later usages of the term Yeshu are derived from these primary references. In the Munich (1342 CE), Paris, and Jewish Theological Seminary manuscripts of the Talmud, the appellation Ha-Notzri is added to the last mention of Yeshu in Sanhedrin 107b and Sotah 47a as well as to the occurrences in Sanhedrin 43a, Sanhedrin 103a, Berachot 17b and Avodah Zarah 16b-17a. Student [1], Zindler and McKinsey [2] note that Ha-Notzri is not found in other early pre-censorship partial manuscripts (the Florence, Hamburg and Karlsruhe) where these cover the passages in question.

Although Notzri does not appear in the Tosefta, by the time the Babylonian Talmud was produced, Notzri had become the standard Hebrew word for Christian and Yeshu Ha-Notzri had become the conventional rendition of "Jesus the Nazarene" in Hebrew. For example, by 1180 CE the term Yeshu Ha-Notzri can be found in the Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (Hilchos Melachim 11:4, uncensored version). Although the word Ha-Notzri literally means the nezarene (the one who was born in Nazareth), Maimonides' reference is clearly intended to indicate Jesus.

To explain the dearth of references to Jesus in the Talmud, it has been argued that

  • The Talmud was subject to censorship. During the medieval period in Europe, Jewish texts were often placed on the Index of Forbidden Books and passages deemed insulting to the Church were expurgated as of 1264 (The entire Talmud was placed on the Index by Pope Paul IV in 1559).
  • Although restoring these passages still produces only a few mentions of Yeshu, the Mishnah, which forms the skeleton of the Talmud, was written at a time when Christianity was first emerging. The Christians were just one, apparently usual, sect with which the authors contended (others included Sadducees, Samaritans, and Gnostics).
  • The final redaction of the Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud was created in Babylonia, where Christianity did not have the same impact as it did in the Mediterranean Basin. As such, it was not perceived of as a particularly noticeable threat.
  • Although it is generally comprehensive, the Talmud is also prone to instances of self-censorship, particularly in response to controversial Jewish factionalism and the fear of anti-Semitic reaction (e.g. Hanukkah is only mentioned in passing in the Talmud, possibly for these reasons).
  • The Talmud may mention Jesus and Christianity in coded terms, such as min (מין, sometimes translated "apostate" or "heretic"), though this term refers to various sectarian groups. In terms of labeling Christians as minim it is important to note the adage of Rav Nahman in the name of Rava bar Avuha in Tractate Chullin 13b: There are no minim among the gentiles, i.e., the appellation could only be applied to converts from Judaism.
  • The Talmud was essentially the writing down of the basics of the Oral Law - despite its great size, it is still a very condensed form compared to the knowledge that existed originally, therefore, due to the limited space, only the necessities were discussed that might otherwise be forgotten.

[edit] Maimonides' Mishneh Torah

Commonly used image indicating one artist's conception of Maimonides's appearance

Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) writes why Jews believe that Jesus was wrong to create Christianity (and why they believe that Muhammad was wrong to create Islam); he laments the pains that Jews felt as a result of these new faiths that attempted to supplant Judaism. However, Maimonides then goes on to say that God has made this happen for a purpose:

Even Jesus the Nazarene who imagined that he would be Messiah and was killed by the court, was already prophesied by Daniel. So that it was said, “And the members of the outlaws of your nation would be carried to make a (prophetic) vision stand. And they stumbled” (Daniel 11.14). Because, is there a greater stumbling-block than this one? So that all of the prophets spoke that the Messiah redeems Israel, and saves them, and gathers their banished ones, and strengthens their commandments. And this one caused (nations) to destroy Israel by sword, and to scatter their remnant, and to humiliate them, and to exchange the Torah, and to make the majority of the world err to serve a divinity besides God. However, the thoughts of the Creator of the world – there is no force in a human to attain them because our ways are not God's ways, and our thoughts not God's thoughts. And all these things of Jesus the Nazarene, and of (Muhammad) the Ishmaelite who stood after him – there is no (purpose) but to straighten out the way for the King Messiah, and to restore all the world to serve God together. So that it is said, “Because then I will turn toward the nations (giving them) a clear lip, to call all of them in the name of God and to serve God (shoulder to shoulder as) one shoulder.” (Zephaniah 3:9). Look how all the world already becomes full of the things of the Messiah, and the things of the Torah, and the things of the commandments! And these things spread among the far islands and among the many nations uncircumcized of heart. (Hilkhot Melakhim 11:10–12.)

[edit] Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen

Jesus is mentioned in Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen, written about 1172 to Rabbi Jacob ben Netan'el al-Fayyumi, head of the Yemen Jewish community during a time when Jews of that country were passing through a crisis, namely a forced conversion to Islam, inaugurated about 1165 by 'Abd-al-Nabi ibn Mahdi, and a campaign conducted by a recent convert to win them to his new faith. The context of Maimonides' mention of Jesus is during a portion retelling the history of those who tried to destroy Judaism 1) by the sword, 2) by controversies, and 3) by both conquest and controversy. The latter category begins with Jesus, and goes on to mention Paul, and then Muhammad.

Ever since the time of Revelation, every despot or slave that has attained to power, be he violent or ignoble, has made it his first aim and his final purpose to destroy our law, and to vitiate our religion, by means of the sword, by violence, or by brute force, such as Amalek, Sisera, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Titus, Hadrian, may their bones be ground to dust, and others like them. This is one of the two classes which attempt to foil the Divine will. </p> <p><i>The second class consists of the most intelligent and educated among the nations, such as the Syrians, Persians, and Greeks. These also endeavor to demolish our law and to vitiate it by means of arguments which they invent, and by means of controversies which they institute....</p> <p><i>After that there arose a new sect which combined the two methods, namely, conquest and controversy, into one, because it believed that this procedure would be more effective in wiping out every trace of the Jewish nation and religion. It, therefore, resolved to lay claim to prophecy and to found a new faith, contrary to our Divine religion, and to contend that it was equally God-given. Thereby it hoped to raise doubts and to create confusion, since one is opposed to the other and both supposedly emanate from a Divine source, which would lead to the destruction of both religions. For such is the remarkable plan contrived by a man who is envious and querulous. He will strive to kill his enemy and to save his own life, but when he finds it impossible to attain his objective, he will devise a scheme whereby they both will be slain.</p> <p><i>The first one to have adopted this plan was Jesus the Nazarene, may his bones be ground to dust. He was a Jew because his mother was a Jewess although his father was a Gentile. For in accordance with the principles of our law, a child born of a Jewess and a Gentile, or of a Jewess and a slave, is legitimate. (Yebamot 45a). Jesus is only figuratively termed an illegitimate child. He impelled people to believe that he was a prophet sent by God to clarify perplexities in the Torah, and that he was the Messiah that was predicted by each and every seer. He interpreted the Torah and its precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment, to the abolition of all its commandments and to the violation of its prohibitions. The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to him. </p> <p>Daniel had already alluded to him when he presaged the downfall of a wicked one and a heretic among the Jews who would endeavor to destroy the Law, claim prophecy for himself, make pretenses to miracles, and allege that he is the Messiah, as it is written, "Also the children of the impudent among thy people shall make bold to claim prophecy, but they shall fall." (Daniel 11:14). <ref name=Halkin>Halkin, Abraham S., ed., and Cohen, Boaz, trans. Moses Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen: The Arabic Original and the Three Hebrew Versions, American Academy for Jewish Research, 1952, pp. iii-iv.</ref>

In the context of refuting the claims of a contemporary in Yemen purporting to be the Messiah, Maimonides mentions Jesus again:

You know that the Christians falsely ascribe marvelous powers to Jesus the Nazarene, may his bones be ground to dust, such as the resurrection of the dead and other miracles. Even if we would grant them for the sake of argument, we should not be convinced by their reasoning that Jesus is the Messiah. For we can bring a thousand proofs or so from the Scripture that it is not so even from their point of view. Indeed, will anyone arrogate this rank to himself unless he wishes to make himself a laughing stock? <ref name=Halkin2>Halkin, Abraham S., ed., and Cohen, Boaz, trans. Moses Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen: The Arabic Original and the Three Hebrew Versions, American Academy for Jewish Research, 1952, p. xvii.</ref>

[edit] Nahmanides' disputation at Barcelona

In 1263, Nahmanides, rabbi of Girona and later chief rabbi of Catalonia, was ordered by King James I of Aragon to take part in a public disputation with the apostate Pablo Christiani.

Christiani had been trying to make the Jews of Provence abandon Judaism and convert to Christianity. Relying upon the reserve his adversary would be forced to maintain through fear of wounding the feelings of the Christian dignitaries, Pablo assured the King that he could prove the truth of Christianity from the Talmud and other rabbinical writings. Nahmanides complied with the order of the King, but stipulated that complete freedom of speech should be granted, and for four days (July 20-24) debated with Pablo Christiani in the presence of the King, the court, and many ecclesiastical dignitaries.

The subjects discussed were:

  1. whether the Messiah had appeared;
  2. whether the Messiah announced by the Prophets was to be considered as divine or as a man born of human parents;
  3. whether the Jews or the Christians were in possession of the true faith.

Christiani argued, based upon several aggadic passages, that the Pharisee sages believed that the Messiah had lived during the Talmudic period, and that they ostensibly believed that the Messiah was therefore Jesus. Nahmanides countered that Christiani's interpretations were per-se distortions; the rabbis would not hint that Jesus was Messiah while, at the same time, explicitly opposing him as such. Nahmanides proceeded to provide context for the proof-texts cited by Christiani, showing that they were most clearly understood differently than as proposed by Christiani. Furthermore, Nahmanides demonstrated from numerous biblical and talmudic sources that traditional Jewish belief ran contrary to Christiani's postulates.

Nahmanides went on to show that the Biblical prophets regarded the future messiah as a human, a person of flesh and blood, and not as a divinity, in the way that Christians view Jesus. He noted that their promises of a reign of universal peace and justice had not yet been fulfilled. On the contrary, since the appearance of Jesus, the world had been filled with violence and injustice, and among all denominations the Christians were the most warlike.

He noted that questions of the Messiah are of less dogmatic importance to Jews than most Christians imagine. The reason given by him for this bold statement is that it is more meritorious for the Jews to observe the precepts under a Christian ruler, while in exile and suffering humiliation and abuse, than under the rule of the Messiah, when every one would perforce act in accordance with the Law.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

<references />

[edit] External links

pl:Jezus w judaizmie

Judaism's view of Jesus

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