Why Jews Don't Accept Jesus

David Klinghoffer explains what he wishes Christians understood about the Jewish rejection of Jesus--in the 1st century & today.

Jewish author David Klinghoffer has long been a thought-provoking voice on Beliefnet, commenting on issues ranging from Jewish holidays to politics to Mel Gibson's "Passion." His new book, "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus," traces the history of the debate between Christians and Jews over Jesus, from the first century to modern days. Beliefnet editors Rebecca Phillips and Laura Sheahen, approaching the book from a Jewish perspective and a Christian perspective, respectively, joined Klinghoffer for a conversation about the meaning of Isaiah 53, would-be messiahs in ancient Palestine, why Christian evangelism is healthy for Jews, and contemporary Jewish-Christian relations.

LS: What's the general attitude toward Jesus in Judaism?

The reality is that Judaism doesn't regard Jesus as particularly important. He's not a big subject. I wrote this book mainly for non-Jews, because to them the Jewish view of Jesus is a much bigger deal.


[Jewish radio personality] Michael Medved has made the point that this is the one thing that all Jews have in common--that we don't accept Jesus as our savior. That's the one and only thing on which all Jews agree. For many Jews, tragically, that's where their Judaism ends. For them, Judaism means we don't believe in Jesus. That's really a sad, impoverished version of Judaism.

RP: What Medved said has a lot of implications about the current state of Judaism itself within a larger Christian world. Jews often feel threatened by Jesus. Why is that?

Well, there's obviously history, 2,000 years of friction. In my book, I also deal with the historical backdrop. In the first century, there was a perception of Christian Jews as essentially deserters. When Jerusalem was under siege by Roman forces, the Jews looked around and discovered that the Christian Jews had fled across the Jordan to safe ground.

LS: If you talked to a contemporary rabbi about Jesus, would he or she consider Jesus a renegade rabbi who was a traitor to his religion, or a good person whose followers went astray and became traitors?
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