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.
There's a huge diversity of opinion. You have someone like Rabbi Irving Greenberg, an Orthodox rabbi who is quite liberal and provocative, who regards Jesus as having been a failed messiah. You also have [Talmudic scholar]Jacob Emden
, who died in 1776. He was traditionally Orthodox--in no way a modernizer--and regarded Jesus as a hero who brought religious civilization to the gentile world. He writes amazingly positively of Jesus.
In a lot of ways, the [contemporary] rabbinate has not really caught up to Emden. Most people don't know about his view of Jesus.
LS: Is Jesus ever mentioned in Hebrew school or in other Jewish contexts?
There's a lot of Jewish ignorance about Christianity, a lot of fear and mistrust--not so much about Jesus the person but about Christianity as a historical phenomenon. Unfortunately, in every area of Jewish life, you'll find people who have an irrational fear of Christianity. The more serious the Christianity is--for example, evangelical Christianity--the more of a bogeyman it becomes in the mind of some Jews.
RP: I often find it hard to explain to serious Christians exactly how Jews regard Jesus. I remember a conversation I had with a woman on the subway who invited me to a Bible study class. When I explained that I was Jewish and didn't believe Jesus was the Messiah, she exclaimed, "But he was such a great guy!" For a lot of Jews, that's the hardest thing to explain--why we can believe he was a good person, but not the Messiah. Are there a few talking points for Jews you can give us?
There's a lot of misunderstanding among Christians about how a Jew is "saved." Even using that word, you're already using Christian vocabulary. Christians, especially evangelicals, regard Judaism as a system where you purchase salvation with acts, good deeds, sacrifices. That's such a misunderstanding of Judaism.
Jews were assured that we had been "saved"--to use Christian language--at Mount Sinai [where the Jews received the Torah]. The 613mitzvot
to being saved. They're the grammar in which we conduct our relationship with God. The relationship has already been given to us as an unmerited gift at Mount Sinai. Just as there's a grammar of your relationship with your parents, your friends, your spouse. It's the same with God and the Jews and the Torah.