Why Jews Don't Accept Jesus
An answer to Christian missionaries
3. Some of Jesus' teachings seem to Jews either contradictory or simply immoral. This does not negate the possibility that Jesus was a great moral teacher, but he was far from perfect in his moral outlook. The idea that eternal punishment would follow from rejecting Jesus seems downright evil. That someone could live a noble life and not be saved, when another could live a depraved and cruel life and through a true conversion of his heart at the end of life still be saved, is hard to tote up on the moral balance sheet. I am aware that many Christian groups reject this doctrine today, but for centuries it was normative church doctrine.
The Jesus who said (in Matthew 10:34-37), "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother" is not a Jesus whom I can accept as a moral model. The statement is consistent, however, with the Jesus of Luke 14:26, who says, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
In addition, the Jesus who withers a fig tree because it did not provide him with fruit when he was hungry seems peevish rather than exemplary (Matthew 21:17-19).
There are many remarkable and wonderful teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. However, they are the teachings of a human being, not a God, and many of them--including the most morally enlightened--are paralleled in rabbinic literature. One cannot truly understand Jesus without understanding the climate in which he grew up. When one studies the Talmud, the image of Jesus becomes sharper--and still very impressive--but less original.
Jesus' criticisms of the rabbis of his day are echoed in the literature of the prophets centuries before. When Hosea writes, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6), or Isaiah thunders, "I cannot endure sin coupled with solemn ceremonies (Isaiah 1:13), we are hearing the same themes Jesus so deftly expounded later on.
4. The idea of the Second Coming seems to have grown out of genuine disappointment. We are told in the Gospels, "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." When Jesus died, true believers had to theologically compensate for the disaster. It remains significant, I believe, that the vast majority of people who knew him did not see Jesus as divine. Unless the entire Jewish population of Jerusalem at the time was either wicked or foolish, they--who knew Jesus far better than we--did not respond to his presumed divinity because he was clearly human.
5. The history of Christianity is not such as would persuade Jews that Christians are in possession of a superior moral truth. The history is too long and painful to summarize here, but many good books are available that elaborate on what the historian Jules Isaac called "the teaching of contempt." The thousands, even millions, of innocents who lost their lives, their children, their hope, from a refusal to be other than they were make it difficult to see Christianity in its historical garb in anything but a dark, forbidding light.
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