The foundational texts of Christianity take the time to tell their readers much about Jews and Judaism. The writings of the Church Fathers and the subsequent luminaries of the various Churches maintained this pattern of instructing their respective audiences on the subject of Judaism.
This Christian habit of discussing Judaism is not a positive one. The pages of history are stained with the ramifications of this ugly tradition. And the effects of this pattern are still very evident in the conversation between the Christian and the Jew. The Christian enters into a conversation with a Jew assuming a load of misconceptions that were taught as “gospel” truth. The Jew may talk but the Christian will not hear because he already “knows” what the Jew will say.
The purpose of this humble article is to dispel some of the more prominent myths that Christians believe about Jews and Judaism. It is my hope and prayer that these simple words will help people reconsider. If one person comes to the realization that it is irresponsible to characterize a community with the judgment of their theological opponents then my words were not written in vain.
Myth # 1
The Jewish people reject Jesus because they have a materialistic expectation of the Messiah. The Jewish people expect a conquering king who will give them dominion of the world and the deeply spiritual message of Jesus does not resonate with them.
The Jewish people reject Jesus’ Messianic claim because they have read the words of the prophets concerning the Messiah. The prophets presented a portrait of the Messiah both in letter and in spirit. Jesus did not conform to the letter of the prophet’s vision; the practical details of the Messianic prediction. But more importantly, Jesus is the very antithesis of the spiritual underpinnings of the Messianic hope.
The prophets of Scripture looked forward to a day when every man, woman and child join together in accepting God as Master over all. They foretold a time where people recognize that their very existence is an undeserved gift from the Creator. The Messiah that the Jewish prophets spoke of will accentuate and emphasize the truth that every iota of existence is intrinsically indebted to God.
The message of the “Messiah” of Christianity stands in direct conflict to the message of the Jewish prophets. His whole claim is built on the obfuscation of the distinction between Creator and created. The deification of a man is a denial of the inherent debt that all existence owes to God and it is certainly not an acknowledgement of that truth.
Myth # 2
The Jewish Scriptures clearly and unequivocally speak of the advent of Jesus. But the Jewish people, under the manipulative influence of their corrupt leaders, refuse to acknowledge this obvious truth.
The Jewish Scriptures say nothing positive about Jesus. The only way that the gospel writers were able to find “proof” for the advent of Jesus in the words of the prophets is by mistranslating, mauling and manipulating the text of the Jewish Scriptures. Not only do the gospel writers disregard the plain meaning of the Biblical text, but they also violate the spirit of the prophetic word. A passage like Isaiah 53 which is a message of comfort for the Jewish people that are loyal to God is turned by the Church into a word of condemnation and denunciation against these same people.
The Jewish rejection of the claims of the Church is not based on a disregard for Scripture. The Jewish rejection of the Christian claims is rooted in the spirit and in the letter of the Scriptural message.
Myth # 3
The ancient Jewish teachers spoke of a suffering Messiah but modern Jews suppress this teaching in order to discredit Jesus.
The teaching of a suffering Messiah is as popular amongst the Jewish people as it ever was. This teaching has never been suppressed in any way. This teaching was never presented as the straightforward contextual message of Scripture but as an allegorical and symbolic message. The modern Jewish teachers who focus on the symbolic messages of Scripture still speak of a suffering Messiah today.
The Jewish concept of a suffering Messiah has nothing to do with the Christian teaching about Jesus. One of the deepest differences between these two messages relates to the issue of faith. According to Christianity the suffering of Messiah only benefits those who believe in him and in the atoning power of his suffering. There is no parallel to this belief in all of the vast literature of Jewish thought. The Driver and Neubauer compendium on Isaiah 53 presents a quote from Rabbi Eliyahu di Vidas which would seem to indicate that this rabbi did believe in the concept of faith in the atoning power of Messiah’s suffering. But this quotation is simply a gross mistranslation. Rabbi di Vidas actually says the very opposite of what these professors would have their audience believe.
Myth # 4
The Jewish Scriptures and the ancient Jewish teachers spoke of corporeal manifestations of the Divine but Maimonides suppressed these teachings in order to discredit Jesus. The conflict between Maimonides and the ancient teachers is still reflected in the friction that exists between those Jews who emphasize the Kabbalistic teachings and those who favor the approach of Maimonides. The Jewish rejection of the Christian theology of the incarnation is only one side of the story. The Kabbalistic school of Judaism has no problem with that teaching.
All of Judaism rejects idolatry. All of Judaism, starting from the Scriptures, defines idolatry as worship of an entity other than the God who revealed Himself to our ancestors at Sinai as our ancestors preserved that revelation. The entire discussion between the Kabbalists and the rationalists is unrelated to worship. No school of thought within Judaism ever directed worship toward a finite existence no matter what the philosophical explanation. Every school of thought within Judaism identified this worship as the very antithesis of everything that Judaism stands for.
Christians seem to have a difficulty distinguishing between the act of worship and abstract discussions about God’s methods of interacting with the world. They see the distinction between worship and understanding God’s interaction with finite existence as an artificial distinction invented by Jews in a desperate effort to discredit Jesus. But this distinction is obvious in the Scriptures. The Scriptures clearly describe worship as an act of spiritual adultery and not as a misunderstanding of some theological abstract. The Christian devotion to Jesus is idolatry according to the only definition of idolatry that is recognized in Judaism.
Myth # 5
Judaism is a religion based on the arrogant notion that humanity can somehow earn God’s favor.
Judaism’s foundational premise is that everything belongs to God. No one can give to God that which does not already completely belong to God. As the true Messiah of Israel put this into words when he addressed God: “For everything is from You and it is from Your hand that we give to You” (1Chronicels 29:14). Judaism affirms that God’s favor can never be “earned”; not through works and not through faith. But God’s grace allows our activities and our heart to play a positive part His plan for the world.
It is Christianity that denies the absolute sovereignty of God with the belief that God’s favor can somehow be earned by a “perfect” performance of His commandments.
Myth # 6
The Talmud teaches Jewish people to hate Jesus.
The Talmud contains more than 2700 pages. In the entirety of the Talmud there are 3 paragraphs that some scholars understand as negative references to Jesus. (Contrast this with the amount of paragraphs that the Christian Scriptures fill with negative misinformation about the Pharisees in particular and about the Jewish people in general.) Jesus and Christianity are non-issues for most Jews. In the Yeshiva schools, where Talmud is taught according to the tradition, Jesus and Christianity are not considered subjects of discussion.
An Appeal to Reason
One of the great Jewish teachers was a man named Hillel. This stories that are recorded about Hillel portray a man of endless patience and deep humility. Hillel taught that the core of Judaism is the maxim: “that which you hate done unto yourself do not do unto others.”
If you are a Christian I ask you to put yourself in the shoes of the Jew. Imagine if someone were to arise and claim that she is an incarnation of Jesus. This new prophet claims that the only valid path to Jesus is through faith in her and that your faith in Jesus is meaningless without faith in her. This prophet claims that the certain passages in the Christian Scriptures speak of her advent but when you read those passages in context you see that she has misappropriated the words of the apostles. This woman expects total and unequivocal faith in her message and she responds with impatience and anger when her words are not received as she would like.
You then meet up with some devoted followers of this prophet and you disregard their efforts to persuade you to join their faith. These followers then point to your rejection of their hero as proof that you are blinded, spiritually hard of heart and a child of the devil.
If all of this were to happen to you, would you feel that you were treated fairly?
If this is not how you would like to be treated then please do not treat others this way.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
A few thoughts about these myths.
1. God created a material world and called it good. God took material like dust and created very good spiritual humans, but non-material angels were not assigned to do God’s will on earth. Some early Christians believed that there was no “material Jesus” (since matter is evil) and that he was all spiritual and docetic – only giving an appearance of a materialistic, fleshy body (ideas which were/are rejected by many other Christians although quite a few verses point to such a Jesus). Others believe that Jesus supposedly showed his worthiness by bodily pain & “his Godliness” by a bodily resurrection. This can be called a “materialistic expectation of the Messiah”, but most Jews, upon hearing the unsubstantiated rumor about a man being a god or a messiah, preferred their spiritual God over the “manly god”, the so called “lion of Zion”. Many Christians would prefer not to “reign on earth with Jesus for 1000 years”, nor do they want “on earth as it is in heaven”, preferring rather on going up “like a cloud of smoke” & “being gathered up in the clouds (which are material) and walking through “pearly gates” and upon “streets paved with gold” (sounds like materialistic expectations for their messiah, doesn’t it?).
2. Perhaps we can find the messiah prophesied in all those non-Jewish “scriptures” written for all those non-Jews? And perhaps for Jews too, since most Jews and most objective readers can’t find Jesus anywhere in “Jewish scriptures”. Oh, those “corrupt Jewish leaders” having such influence upon non-Jewish readers who probably never even met any type of Jew. Probably the only corrupt “Jewish leader” many might be familiar with, is Jesus?
3. I don’t know why God would punish or allow or cause his messiah to suffer unjustly, since that would be unattractive to potential believers who the messiah would be trying & working hard to influence. Those who would look upon this tortured man might have pity on him, but would then have a disgust & hatred for that merciless god. They would look upon this god as a “mafia boss” or maybe the “anti-Christ” or “the devil” who needs the concept of hell to be so real in order to convince the people to believe in “their messiah” since he is “good for them”.
4. Maimonides was only one man, so was he super-human? There were/are countless “kabbalistic teachers” (I assume most reject Jesus) and oodles & oodles of very capable, determined, smart, charismatic, “holy ghost filled” Christian evangelists preaching Jesus, so is a little reason that powerful enough to “keep Jesus at bay”?
5. Maybe “Judaism” could have increased “it’s arrogance” by teaching that one can become perfect by not only obeying the commandments of God but by following a wandering, itenerant preacher as if he were God himself. Or that by believing in one man as the only son of God (despite what that Jewish bible says) we can gain God’s favor and have everlasting life and all our sins are “washed away” forever through this favor and “once saved always saved” by this favor because of believing in a man. And even a “Hitler” could earn this favor by believing in a man, while those would believe in Jewish scripture & worship God only are doomed to hell.
Strange that “the children of the devil” not only don’t try to show the devil in a better light, in a kinder & more gentle way, but they don’t even promote the idea of his existence or that the devil is such a powerful force. They don’t even believe in a devil, since that diminishes God.
6. The “hate for Jesus” (if there really was any in the Talmud) is miniscule compared to the hate by Jesus (or his chroniclers) for Jews. One would expect more humanity or more Godliness from one who some claim was an “anointed one” or a “divine being”.
Yedidiah, I am sorry but the ‘hate’ is just in your head! If you can’t face confrontation with God’ s words that are disclosing sin ( Is 3;12) , you have a problem.
No, hate filled many Christian heads. The point that the Rabbi made was that the hate for Jesus that a lot of misinformed Christians believe is or believed was in the very large Talmud would be very, very small compared to the many verses in the relatively small NT. Not only can Jews see real hate (hate without a cause) in the NT, but so can many objective readers. Even many Christian scholars and leaders see the hate that is embedded in some parts of the gospels, and they are embarrassed by it and so often they feel the need to apologize for it. I know some people who intentionally say Yeshua instead of Jesus in order to put a “different spin” on the words in order to ease their conscience and to not sound anti-Jewish.
There is a difference between rebuke, which is meant to change the minds of the audience about their own behavior, and insults which would repel the audience. The gospels shows how an audience of thousands who came to hear Jesus, were repelled by his preaching of paganism and idolatry. It was not a “hard to follow” message that they rejected from Jesus, but an un-Godly, blasphemous one that he spoke. You do not have any “words of Jesus” (if he even existed) that Jesus spoke, what you might defend are the words written by unknown authors at unknown times and places. What was written were words meant to be read by other audiences (in Rome or wherever) and written to insult “the Jews” “behind their backs”. There is a difference between rebuke and downright insult, hate, and slander (many non-Jews like me can see this clearly). Scholars can show that almost all the sentences in the gospels (of either words or deeds) were not original by the writers (or Jesus), but were quotes (whether accurate or intentionally altered) and ideas taken from other sources. Why not go to the original sources, rather than accept the words that were taken out of the original context and altered or corrupted to tell a story? Why accept 2nd hand teaching? Even you try to prove that Jesus was a “real somebody” to consider, because of the similarity of words in the gospels or other NT writings with the words written hundreds of years earlier. There is a difference between hate and rebuke and we rebuke the written words of “scoundrels” who wrote about a man as if he were a god (or even blasphemously a 2nd god or even God himself), but by their very words make Jesus out to be a hypocrite, a liar, a failed prophet, and a teacher of several pagan ideas that the prophets of God of warned about and rebuked.
Somehow, in quite a few of the generations, in various times and places, many Christians were convinced by the words of Jesus by his “words of love” (since hate was only in their head), that they despised, harassed, persecuted, and even killed many innocent Jewish men, women, & children. They declared themselves to be judges who were acting for God. How did the words of unknown gospel & NT letter writers bring out those evil feelings? So maybe, those words that they wrote were perhaps closer to propaganda & “psychological warfare” used by corrupt Roman leaders, who seen Jews as their enemies, rather than they were to the “words of God?.
Jesus, a man, was not God speaking to “sinners”. He had no more authority than the devil (and about as historical). And Jesus, if he existed, failed to convince any of his audience, except for perhaps a few, a tiny fraction of one percent. If Jesus existed (one who was anywhere near what the gospel writers imagined him to be), he was also a “leader”, according to the NT claims that his Roman enemy, in 4 languages, called him “king of the Jews”. He fanatically even cursed a tree (trees sin?) and said it should be cut down & thrown into”the fire” since Jesus had no power and God did not answer his prayer for fruit when it was not God’s given season for the tree to bear fruit. So, he was hung “up in a tree” and was cut down by God and thrown into the fire. He said he would “cleanse the temple”, and instead wound up committing acts of vandalism or what today would be considered as an act of terrorism. Good he had no sword, AK-47 or plane or else many more could see his hypocrisy more clearly?
Of course, some people only read about the lamb Jesus “who did come to bring peace and not a sword”. As the song goes, “he’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partially fiction….”. Different people have different guesses of how much of each. Which most likely means that it is a fiction that people “have in their mind”. Or as some people ironically believe, “confusion is of or is from the devil”. So don’t blame me for all that confusion that was written long, long time ago.
If any Jews were followers of Jesus, they faced the same “fate” as other Jews in Judea, the Galil, and Jerusalem. Where did they disappear to for almost 75-100 years with only a few non-historical legends to keep the timeline going through that long period of inactivity and silence? There is one Christian legend that claims that when Rome tried to kill all the “sons of David” in Judea and the Galil in the late 1st century, 2 “cousins” of “Jesus, who were poor farmers, were arrested, but then their lives were spared and they were let go, because they were so pitifully poor & miserable that they posed no threat to Rome. They would likely die of disease or starvation, so why bother with them? For the next 300 years or so, Christians exaggeratedly claimed that they were so often “martyrs” and the victims of “persecution” (because of their sins? probably fulfilling Isa 3:13?).
If you believe God “created an enemy for the Jews”, and God even wanted ‘His house’ destroyed (the same one that Jesus wanted, but failed, to “cleanse”), Christians were also “punished” those many decades & centuries, until they finally understood Jesus’ message of “love” and became “Rome”, the new enemy of the Jews. And these new Romans did not mind continuing the old ways of persecution and murder, since that was the “real and true love”. So great was this message of “love for sinners” (which counters the hate that you claim is only in the mind, or in my mind, as it is in the minds of millions of other people), that many Christians often even “loved” their neighbors & fellow Christians unto death just as they loved “the Jews” so often. Where did those Christians get their Jesus from, which of his words did they love with all their mind & strength, and what sort of spirit filled their heart?
Read several chapters past Isaiah 3, and find a different message & conclusion that you either ignore or else you tend to read as if Isaiah was in the NT and not as if the NT writers were later writers who could read and could copy a relatively few choice verses (often taken out of context or mistranslated naively or crookedly). That external enemy of the Jews always loses. But often before then, there is 1 or more leaders, false prophets or “messiahs” that mislead the Jews (or people), so that they become like the enemies of God worshipping other gods or idols of “the nations” or “the gentile lord” (even ba’alim or Ba’al -lords or the lord- a man or image of a man), consuming non-kosher food or drink (symbolic blood & bread, etc), etc.
Not surprisingly, this is the time of the year (the month of Elul, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, etc.) where great emphasis is placed on repentance, forgiveness, and returning to God. Some people face & confront their sins (even concerned about hidden or unintentional sins) and turn to God. They don’t take the “smooth path” and imagine it is enough to “just believe in a man” written by unknown writers & words that were much edited and further corrupted. They face their sin and they do not arrogantly, self-righteously just imagine that it was magically taken away. Their faith is not dead, but they live it and don’t only read about it. And they seek one that is truly worthy to be called a messiah, “haMoshiach”.
I just listened to my reply above and it does sound hateful. But, it was not meant to be. There was much truth in there and not insult or slander. I apologize, especially to those who don’t see how their own words or the words of Jesus can be seen as hate and as hate without cause for worshippers of God as their bible taught them.
yedidiah, before I say anything here are your words ” I am an active member of a Christian Church ” and in another email you said ” in no way am I trying to prove falsehood of Jesus” but then you express your ‘disgust’ toward Jesus. You are really confusing. If you are a member of a Christian church that means it has to do something with Christ ( Jesus) , but if you don’t believe in him being sent by God how can you even identify with that Church and at the same time speak against Jesus. You are ‘not proving falsehood’ but you ARE!! I am not commenting anymore about that subject. I am simply fed up.
Reblogged this on 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources.
This is excellent.