Obstacles Affecting the Jewish View of Jesus
MANY Jews living today accept as fact that a man by the name of Jesus lived in the first century C.E. Even the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1904 identifies Jesus as the “Founder of Christianity” and places the time of his birth at about 2 B.C.E. Nevertheless, comparatively few Jews believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah or Christ. To some the very thought of becoming a member of a church of Christendom is repulsive. Could it be that the churches bear some or much of the blame for this?
Attitude of Christendom’s Churches
It should be remembered that the Jews have for centuries been subjected to suffering at the hands of persons professing to be followers of Jesus. Writing in We Jews and You Christians, Samuel Sandmel observes: “When in the past you persecuted us in his name, we could scarcely be expected to honor and cherish that name. . . . In parts of Europe, many of us completely abstained from letting the name Jesus come to our lips.”
In view of this, Jacob Jocz notes in The Jewish People and Jesus Christ: “The Church has, therefore, been the first and foremost stumbling-block in the Jewish appreciation of Jesus. . . . Between Jesus and the Jews stands the Christian Church,” that is, Christendom.
The twentieth century has not changed matters. In fact, this century witnessed the brutal murder of about six million Jewish men, women and children in the concentration camps established by Nazi Germany. On the attitude of Christendom’s clergymen toward such mass murder, Dagobert D. Runes observes:
“Innumerable photographs of Christian men and women led by Catholic priests and Protestant ministers are available to those seriously interested, giving irrefutable evidence of the thunderous enthusiasm rendered Hitler and his gang. These pictures show the benign and cheerful countenances of Christian churchmen not only blessing the arms of the murderous Hitler storm-troops, but welcoming them at the Nazi festivals, Nazi-sponsored church affairs, Nazi public gatherings, Nazi receptions, Nazi-sponsored musicals and Nazi-arranged victory celebrations. In fact there is no public event during the Hitler decade in Germany and in Austria in which the Christian churches did not cheerfully participate. The Cardinal of Vienna, Innitzer, during that era signed all his correspondence with ‘Heil Hitler!’ And the Bishop of Rome himself, Pope Pius XII, a former papal nuncio in Berlin, refused even to utter a plea of pity in behalf of one million Jewish children being put to death in airtight trains and gas chambers.
“. . . Austrian and Italian clergymen who failed to see the bleeding children at their doorstep lived on to praise Jesus. Indeed, if you raise this issue now, as I do and others did before me, these clergymen become rather annoyed with our unwillingness to forget.”—The Jew and the Cross, pp. 50-52.
But were the members of the various religious organizations and their clergy thereby imitating Jesus? Not at all. Jesus encouraged his followers to display genuine neighbor love, citing this as the second greatest commandment in the Law. (Matt. 22:39) He directed that even enemies be shown love, saying: “Continue to love your enemies . . . that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens.”—Matt. 5:44, 45.
False Teachings, Another Obstacle
Besides being guilty of dastardly actions toward the Jews and others, Christendom’s churches have taught doctrines that make it difficult for Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. Believing in only one God, the Jews cannot see how Jesus could be equal to God as the second person of the Trinity. But did Jesus himself ever teach what is commonly believed about him in most churches of Christendom?
An examination of the words of Jesus clearly shows that he never claimed to be God but referred to himself as “God’s Son.” (John 10:36) Jesus spoke of his Father as his “God” (John 20:17) and attributed superior authority, knowledge and greatness to him.—Matt. 20:23; Mark 13:32; John 14:28.
There is unmistakable evidence that the actions and teachings of Christendom’s churches stand in opposition to those of Jesus. This shows that a person should not base his view of Jesus on what Christendom’s churches have done and taught.
Examine the Evidence
So if you are Jewish, would it not be an indication of wisdom on your part to examine the evidence about Jesus personally? Surely you would not want prejudice to hinder you from examining it with more than the usual care and thought, since the identifying of the Messiah is the real issue involved. From what has befallen the Jews throughout the centuries at the hands of others, you can appreciate that prejudice tends to becloud sound thinking. It can cause otherwise intelligent people to act contrary to good reasoning and logic. Knowing of this danger, you can protect yourself from drawing wrong conclusions about Jesus.
Jewish testimony concerning Jesus is readily available to you. The Gospel accounts written by the Jewish evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John relate the events of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and the rest of the Christian Greek Scriptures (commonly designated as the New Testament), also written by Jews, sets forth Christian teaching. Have you read and studied this information?
Doubtless you are aware of the fact that the Christian Greek Scriptures set forth the claim that Jesus is the Messiah. “Even in the Talmud it is admitted that Jesus of Nazareth was of the family of David,” says author David Baron. He continues: “In ‘Sanhedrin,’ folio 43, Jesus is spoken of as One ‘that is akin to the kingdom.’” The Talmud even admits the truthfulness of major events of Jesus’ life, although portraying them in an unfavorable light. Notes Jewish scholar Joseph Klausner:
“These Talmud stories seem as though they are deliberately intended to contradict events recorded in the Gospels: the selfsame facts are perverted into bad and blamable acts. For example, the Gospels say that Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit and not of a human father; the Talmud stories assert that Jesus was indeed born without a father, yet not of the Holy Spirit but as the result of an irregular union. The Gospels say that he performed signs and wonders through the Holy Spirit and the power of God; the Talmud stories allow that he did indeed work signs and wonders, but by means of magic.”
Thus the question of Jesus’ identity narrows down to which is the correct testimony concerning him, the writings of his Jewish disciples as contained in the Christian Greek Scriptures or what was said by Jews who did not accept him as the Messiah. If the claim set forth in the Christian Greek Scriptures is true, the sincere investigator should be able to find convincing evidence within the pages of this record. Of course, wrong and unreasonable conclusions could easily be reached by persons who investigate with certain preconceived ideas or by individuals who are merely trying to justify their personal views in reading the Biblical evidence.
On the other hand, if Jesus is not the Messiah, the Jews who accepted him as such must have been deluded in some way. But was this the case? Why did they believe that Jesus was the Messiah?
Jesus’ Role as a Prophet
In speaking to his disciples, one of the things that Jesus himself pointed to as evidence of his messiahship was his role as a prophet. At John 13:19 we read: “I am telling you before it occurs, in order that when it does occur you may believe that I am he.”
Accordingly, if Jesus was indeed a true prophet, there should be some evidence to this effect. Also, heeding his prophetic words should have brought benefit to believing Jews. Did it?
Well, consider as just one example what Jesus said concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the possibility of escaping that calamity:
“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her; because these are days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled. Woe to the pregnant women and the ones suckling a baby in those days! For there will be great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”—Luke 21:20-24.
Just as Jesus had foretold, an opportunity to escape from Jerusalem came even after the Roman armies, under the command of Cestius Gallus, surrounded the city in 66 C.E. Reports the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus:
“Cestius . . . suddenly called off his men, abandoned hope though he had suffered no reverse, and flying in the face of all reason retired from the City.”
Did Jewish Christians seize the opportunity to leave Jerusalem or did they get involved in the war with Rome? Writes Jewish scholar Joseph Klausner:
“While even the Essenes, in spite of all their asceticism, joined with the fighters for freedom . . . , the Christians forsook Jerusalem immediately after the outbreak of the rebellion and fled to Pella in Transjordania, a city which was for the most part foreign. . . . The Christians, and even the Jewish Nazarenes [Christians], did not accept the political aspect of Jewish Messianism at all. And the religious and spiritual aspect had for them already been realized in Jesus—so what interest had they in a war between the Jews and the Romans?”—From Jesus to Paul, pp. 598, 599.
Of course, Jewish scholars like Klausner may not admit that it was a prophecy uttered by Jesus that prompted Christian Jews to leave Jerusalem. But such scholars do acknowledge that the Jews participating in the war against Rome included no followers of Jesus. Thus it becomes evident that acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah spared Christian Jews from the terrible suffering that came upon the Jews when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Heeding Jesus’ prophetic words resulted in the preservation of life.
Hence there is good reason to make a thorough investigation of Jesus’ messiahship so as not to bring unnecessary harm to oneself. (Deut. 18:18, 19) Also the sincere investigator would want to find persons who are truly living in harmony with the teachings of Jesus so as to ascertain whether Christianity has had a wholesome effect on their lives. This does not require an extensive examination of all the various religious organizations claiming to be Christian. The bloodguilt in which the churches of Christendom have shared is sufficient proof of their misrepresentation of Jesus and his teachings.
However, there is one group of Christians that is known earth wide for its freedom from nationalistic pride and hatred. In fact, because of this, these Christians, known as Jehovah’s witnesses, have experienced bitter persecution in the twentieth century. But they have not allowed persecution to silence their exposure of violations of God’s righteous laws or change their moral stand. They have not shared in the bloodguilt of any nation. So why not let Jehovah’s witnesses assist you in your investigation of Jesus and his teachings?
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Clergy cooperation with murderous Hitler, attested to by many photographs, stands as an obstacle to many Jews’ accepting Jesus
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A symbol of the Trinity, a doctrine that Jews cannot accept, since they believe in only one God