A Jewish View of Jesus


A few days ago Christians around the world celebrated the birthday of a Jewish boy from Bethlehem — Jesus (in Hebrew “Yeshu”) — a religious figure revered by nearly half the world’s population: two billion Christians and one billion Muslims (yes, Jesus is important to Muslims).

Yet Jews rarely, if ever, talk about Jesus. I’ve never given a sermon about Jesus, not even at this obvious time of year, and I’ve never heard a rabbi speak about Jesus from the pulpit. I assume, and I presume most of my colleagues presume, that congregants would completely freak out if a rabbi were to speak about Jesus, even as a historical figure, even as a “know your neighbors” kind of thing. I feel like I’m very bold as a rabbi because I’ve actually dared to quote from the New Testament once or twice from the pulpit in the last ten plus years.

What is it about Jesus that gives Jews the “heebie-jeebie’s?” Is he a topic we shouldn’t discuss?

It’s understandable why Jews have problems with Jesus. Centuries of anti-Semitism were carried out in his name. It’s nice that Christians have apologized for that, but the Jewish cultural aversion to Christianity, Jesus, crosses, etc., runs very deep. For Christians, Judaism is the root and source of their religion, so many Christians are comfortable talking about Judaism. For Jews, Christianity is not just heresy, it’s a threat. It’s heresy that has led to persecution and violence on the one hand, and assimilation and loss of identity on the other hand. Christianity is the dominant culture in most of the countries the majority of Jews have lived in for centuries. Compared with converting to Judaism, it’s very easy to convert to Christianity, and the temptation to convert in order to secure access to an easier way of life was great for many centuries. Many Jewish parents worry about ending up like Rabbi Moses Mendelssohn, the great 18th century rabbi, whose grandson, the composer Felix Mendelssohn, is one of the most famous Jewish apostates.

Furthermore, many Jews look at doctrines such as the Trinity, and objects such as icons, and conclude that Christianity is a form of idol worship, against which the Jewish tradition takes the strongest possible stand.

So when Christians ask their Jewish friends “what do you think about Jesus?” most Jews are at a loss for words. They know that the biggest theological gulf between Jews and Christians is that we “deny” Jesus. But what exactly is it that we deny? What, or who, do we think this character called Jesus was, anyway? Are Christians idol worshippers?

In this blog post, I am not presenting any kind of authoritative “Jewish view of Jesus.” There is no such thing. I’m just presenting my personal opinion, an opinion that has been shaped by actually reading at least part of the New Testament, by engaging in serious interfaith work with Christians for many years (I teach Torah at a monastery here in Israel once a month, and some of the nuns came to our Chanukah party), and by reading books such as Bruce Chilton’s “Rabbi Jesus,” and Hyam Maccoby’s “The Myth-maker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity.”

I have occasionally been surprised when I meet Christians who are not aware that Jews deny the central theological assumptions of Christianity. To wit, we do not believe:

  • That Jesus is part of God, i.e., part of a “Trinity” of God
  • That Jesus is the son of God
  • That Jesus was born from a virgin mother
  • That Jesus was the promised Messiah that Jews have been waiting for

But what do we believe? Who was this Jew, Jesus?

I believe Jesus was a historical figure. The earliest gospels are thought to have been written down only 30-40 years after the death of Jesus. It seems unlikely that he was made up out of whole cloth.

Jesus was a rabbi – a teacher of Torah (the picture at right is a picture of “Rabbi Barry” at “Rabbi Jesus’s” synagogue in Capernaum). I think he trained as a rabbi, and had a falling out with his teachers, because, like the great prophets of the Jewish tradition, he was disgusted by the hypocrisy of the upper class authorities, who he saw as being more concerned with shows of piety than with either real piety or concern for their fellow man.

I was browsing through the New Testament the other day, and was struck how there are references that nowadays the only people who would really understand them are rabbis. For example, in Matthew 15:2 it says “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” To understand this properly, you need to understand the Talmudic discussion on the topic. Even most Jews wouldn’t get this right, because washing hands before eating bread has become accepted as completely normative for all observant Jews. However, if you go back over 2,000 years ago, it was only the priests, the kohanim, who were required to eat their food in a state of ritual purity, and who therefore had to wash their hands. The Pharisees (a.k.a., “the rabbis”) took it upon themselves as a stringency to conduct themselves like priests, and always washed their hands before eating, and they only ate ritually “pure” food. Washing the hands before eating indicated you were a “chaver,” a learned person, part of the “in group” of people who adopted this custom. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, a requirement incumbent upon all Jews. So by not washing before eating bread, Jesus and his disciples were making a political statement that they were aligning with the “common people,” not with the “elite.” It is made clear in the next few verses why: the Pharisees were seen by Jesus as hypocrites, violating the commandment to “honor your parents,” while focusing on ritual observances like hand washing.

Jesus was a revolutionary figure, but it does not seem to be Rome he was revolting against. In a historical context, it seems odd that the Romans would have agreed to put Jesus to death. Jesus was no threat to Rome: he preached a message of passivity in the face of the Romans. His famous speech about “turn the other cheek” is directed at the Roman persecutors. It’s a message of “don’t fight back.” If there was any doubt about his message, in Mark chapter 12 Jesus tells his disciples to give him a coin; “’Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at him.”

Yet his criticism against the Jewish power structure – Pharisee and Sadducee alike – was sharp and pointed. He called them hypocrites – more concerned with shows of piety like washing hands and lengthening prayers – than with caring for people. The story of the Good Samaritan is a stinging indictment of priests and Levites, who are indifferent to a suffering person, while the “outcast,” the “heretic” Samaritan takes care of him. But his indictment of his fellow Jews was no harsher than many previous Jewish prophets, such as Isaiah, who said “Is this the fast I want?…. Is not this rather the fast that I have chosen? to loose the chains of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring the poor, who are cast out, to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh?”

Jesus was against false shows of piety – “unnecessary” hand washing, and dragging prayers out excessively (we still make our prayers rather long, don’t we? Typical Yom Kippur service: 5 hours. Typical Christmas Mass 90 minutes). He wasn’t against following Jewish law: in fact, in Matthew chapter 5 Jesus says, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Jewish followers of Jesus were still expected to follow halacha; it was only his non-Jewish followers who were exempt. Jesus was, however, certainly less strict than the Pharisees. I suppose many liberal Jews today would approve of Jesus’ teaching that “the Sabbath was made to serve man, not man to serve the Sabbath.”

Jews wouldn’t call Jesus a prophet, because we say the era of prophecy ended with Malachi, yet his message was one that was clearly in the prophetic tradition.

So if Jesus was a rabbi, what do we make of his followers who turned him into God? Is Christianity, the Trinity, etc., a form of idol worship?

The answer to that one is “no.” Christians are very clear that there is only one God. That one God is expressed in a tripartite form of “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” but Christian doctrine is clear that they are all part of only one God. I think of the Christian concept of the Trinity as similar to the Kabbalistic concept of the ten sefirot, different ways God has of manifesting Himself in the world.

What about the icons, the images, etc., in a church that Christians seem to worship? Isn’t that idol worship? The answer again, is “no.” Christians do not worship relics (remains of saints, or objects associated with Jesus). Saint Jerome declared, “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore him whose martyrs they are.” While it is true that some Christians believe relics or icons have healing power, that seems to be similar to some Jewish superstitions about things like wearing red strings on your wrist. Generally speaking, icons and such are simply used as objects to focus one’s concentration, the way that Jews use a “mizrach,” a wall plaque with phrases or God’s name on it, that we put on the wall facing Israel (or here in Israel facing Jerusalem or the Temple Mount) to help us focus our prayers.

My own view, informed by Maccoby’s excellent book, is that the “Jewish” parts of the Christian tradition are likely the parts attributable to Jesus, and the elements that seem very foreign to Judaism – virgin birth, the deity in human form, “God” born of a woman, the symbolism of transubstantiation in Communion – are elements that were imported from Greek thought and traditions by Paul.

So as Jews, it is clear that we do not accept Jesus as part of God, or I should say at least no more part of God than any of the rest of us (after all, kabbalistically, the ultimate level of God is “Ein Sof,” the infinite, and we are all part of that infinite oneness as well). What about the Messiah part? How do we Jews react to that?

We do not believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah of our tradition because one look at the world around us shows that it is still a very broken place. We do not yet live in the era of peace and prosperity prophesied by Isaiah. What we are waiting for is what Christians call the “second coming.” However, and most Jews may not have thought about it this way, at the same time I have no trouble acknowledging that Jesus has indeed been a PERSONAL savior many millions of people. There is no doubt that there are many people whose lives have been completely transformed, who have been saved from a life of fear, or hate, or drugs and despair, thanks to their belief in Jesus. So to that extent he has been a force for good.

And that is a point that “ardent atheists” like the late Christopher Hitchens miss. Hitchens, a famous and very articulate essayist, who only learned as an adult that he was born a Jew, wrote a book called “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” Hitchens wrote that organized religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” Hitchens was an equal opportunity basher – it didn’t matter what religion you practiced, it was messed up. He thought that Hanukkah was celebrating a “disaster,” it would have been much better for the Hellenized, more secular Jews, to have come out on top.

The bad things that happen in the name of religion are obvious: wars, hatred, anti-Semitism, etc. The good things are less obvious: the lives transformed, the soup kitchens, the care for other people. The Torah tells us “the inclination of man is evil from his youth.” We don’t need religion to be evil. Coming off of centuries of church-sanctioned anti-Semitism, it can be hard for Jews to acknowledge the positive aspects of Christianity, but they clearly do exist.

The thawing of relations between Jews and Christians has led many Christians to develop an interest in the Jewish roots of Christianity, hence books such as Chilton’s. Perhaps as a sign that New Testament studies are becoming less “off limits” for Jews, there is a new book, “The Jewish Annotated New Testament” that I’m looking forward to reading which is a Jewish scholarly commentary on the NT. I think it will help interfaith dialog: many Jews who would not otherwise feel comfortable picking up the NT may feel comfortable reading it with a commentary that looks at it from a Jewish perspective – and I mean a “real” Jewish perspective, not a “Jews for Jesus” perspective.

At this time of year, as the Christians celebrate “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men,” may the rest of us also join that spirit of good will, and learn to love and respect one another.



Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

37 thoughts on “A Jewish View of Jesus

  • December 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    WOW! This one’s a keeper . . . thanks Barry! Sorry we missed you on your last trip back to the “Nu?’ Country.

  • December 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    As a student of comparative religion, and as a Christian, I am exceedingly grateful for this article.

    Growing up wavering between atheism and agnosticism, I converted to Protestant Christianity when I was 23. Now I am 29, and for the last six years I have tried to figure out what it means to live as a follower of Jesus. There are many things I don’t yet understand, but I can tell you this: Christianity is not simply “an easier form of life.”

    Since my conversion I have studied history, Hebrew, Near Eastern archaeology, the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament. I have grappled with Judeo versus Pauline Christianity, and I am probably more confused now than I was when I first became a Christian. Nevertheless, I would like to point out that there is a great amount of diversity that exists under the canopy of Christianity. Also, just to address some of the things that were mentioned in the above article…

    • I don’t understand the Trinity, and I’m not sure anyone else does either.
    • I don’t believe the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Christ, rather communion is taken in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice. The bread and wine are purely symbolic. I’m pretty sure that only Catholics (and maybe Eastern Orthodox Christians?) believe in the literal transubstantiation.
    • Similarly, we don’t all do the icon thing. Many Christians also view that as idolatry. Again, I think that is primarily a Catholic and Eastern Orthodox thing.

    Anyway, thanks again for this article and the opportunity to share.

    • January 21, 2015 at 5:59 am

      Jessica, with all due respect, I would like to say a couple of things in defense of Catholicism…
      First of all, as St. Jerome said, “If we were to understand the mind of God, then God would cease to be God.” Alot rests in faith; if He says, we take Him to His word. After all, we are called to be a people of faith.
      1). Trinity… Jesus made the reference that the Father was in Him and He was in the Father. Remember, when Jesus was asked, “How can He know Abraham,” and He said “Before Abraham came to be…I AM.” Remember in the Old Testament, when told to go and tell the people that He (God) sent him to them and he asked, “Who am I to say sent me?” and was told, “I AM sent me to you.” Jesus also told His apostles that He would not leave them orphaned; that He would send His Spirit upon them and that they would be able to do even greater works than Him..etc..etc…
      2).The Eucharist.. Jesus told His apostles at the Last Supper… ‘Take this.. This is My Body… THis is My Blood.” He never said it was a symbol.. He also told them that He who ‘eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood abides in me and I in him and I will raise HIm up on the last day.’ It also says that ‘unlike your ancestors that ate manna in the desert and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.. It also says in Scripture that ‘He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood unworthily, eats and drinks to his own condemnation.’ (Pray and read John 6: 22-…..) If you recall, in John 6:52, some of the Jews quarreled among themselves and asked how He could give them His flesh to eat and MANY left.. Jesus NEVER said, “Hey guys, come back!!! I meant it is ‘symbolic! HE just looked at Peter and asked him, “Do you plan to leave me, too?” Remember that discourse???? I’m sure Peter didn’t quite understand it because it looked and tasted like bread and wine, but he did tell Jesus, ‘Where are we to go? You have the words of eternal life.’ Jesus gave them instructions “as often as you do this you do it in memory of Me.” There is so much… But, if Jesus says it is His Body and Blood, we believe it.. Neither do we believe that when God turned the sea to blood; that that was symbolic either… He can do anything.
      As far as ‘icons’ and relics, etc.. Werent’ they told in the Old Testament to mount angels on both sides of the Arc of the Covenant? Didn’t God tell Moses to mount a seraph serpent on a wooden pole and that ‘anyone who looked upon it would live?” Didn’t they lay a dead man on the bones of Elisha and his life was restored??? Didn’t Acts talk about the people just wanting to Peters shadow to pass over them or people were trying to touch Pauls apron or handkercheif so they would be healed???
      Often times I ask certain people; especially those who are Jehovah Witness or Mormons who think the Catholics are the whore of Babylon, if they know what a Black Mass is and they usually say… “It is a satanic ritual where they worship the devil” and they are right.. But they don’t understand that these people take the ROMAN CATHOLIC MASS and read it backwards; they steal our consecrated hosts (the Body and Blood of our Lord) to desecrate during their rituals; they steal Holy Water and it has to be blessed by a Catholic priest and urinate in it so instead of blessing things/people with it they use it to curse them, etc.. Now, if our Church is so evil, why aren’t they coming to Mass with us every Sunday and Holy Day??? Why do they have to CHANGE everything?? After all, satan KNOWS Scripture probably better than most of us as he used it to tempt Jesus in the desert. It just made me realize the power in our Mass and appreciate the awesomeness of it more than ever.. Just thought I would share that and maybe you might understand a little more the ‘whys’ of our faith a little more. God bless you..

  • December 29, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Barry, thanks for this well thought out and insightful work. It is nice to see a scholarly Jewish perspective on Jesus. I think you are right on target with your analysis. Jesus’ most ardent criticism was leveled at religious leaders for hypocrisy. His criticism is still valid today, and I feel its sting from time to time as well. Jesus was clearly a practicing Hebrew. It does not appear that he intended for a new religion to be started in his name. You pointed out the issues of Hellenistic influence on the development of Christianity, which I think is huge. However, I also believe that it was having a very large impact on Judea and Galilean Hebrews of Jesus day. They had been under Hellenistic rule and influence for some time. So it is difficult to separate what may have been added later by Gospel writers using the the Greek Language and influenced by Hellenistic thought. I am not so sure that Jesus and even ordinary people would not have been able to speak Greek in addition to Aramaic and Hebrew. Any of course they would have some knowledge of Latin as well.

    Thanks for you insightful comments.

  • December 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Dear Barry,

    Thank you for a thoughtful reflection as a Jew on the person of Jesus of Nazareth. I believe that you have looked with fairness on some of the key differences between our two traditions.

    In my first year of theological studies my professor of theology, James Griffiss (may he rest in peace and rise in glory) said that the key Christian belief is this: When you meet Jesus of Nazareth, you meet God. Everything else is commentary.

    For two thousand years Christians, sometimes in conversation with our Jewish sisters and brothers, sometimes in controversy with our Jewish sisters and brothers, have been working out what it means to make this affirmation of faith. We have done so in conversation with the cultures in which the Christian movement found itself, especially the Greek culture which also had its influences on Philo and other Jewish thinkers. I do think that it is unfortunate that there are writers who try to ‘blame’ Paul; Paul, like every other religious teacher of his time (and ours for that matter), was working out the vocabulary to explain how one could confess that in Jesus we meet God in a unique way.

    I think that the key experience of the early Christian movement was the resurrection. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christians have no reason to make any claims for the uniqueness of Jesus as our ‘way’ of following the commandments of God and living in covenant with the Holy One.

    Thank you again for your thoughts.

  • December 29, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    If we all would just deny ourselves, follow Hashem as He asks in Dueteronomy or Devarim 6:4. The world would be a better place. I am a Jewish believer, who has been a church goer for 30 years. Now I do not claim Christianity, but I claim to follow Hashem HaMashiac.

  • December 29, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    I quite disagree. First of all, Christianity was founded by Saul/Paul, not Jesus, whom many believe was schizophrenic.

    I was raised a reform Jew and my family moved around a lot. We lived in very small Jewish communities where I was usually one of a handful of Jewish kids in school. I had a great deal of anti-Semitism directed personally at me. I was called Christ Killer and dirty Jew as I was thrown off my bike and pummeled with balls of ice. I had rocks thrown at me on the way to school. Even so, I had many Christian friends so I knew this wasn’t normal, nor did I ever think all Christians act this way. It effected me to the extent that I would probably never live in the country again. Not that it doesn’t happen in the city, but it happens far less frequently.

    I’ve attended services with my Christian friends. I’ve heard them and their clergy pray. They pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior. They say prayers “In Jesus’ name.” I’ve been told many times that I cannot get to heaven, nor have a relationship with God unless I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I’m sorry if that doesn’t sound like idol worship to you, but it is. God is real specific about this and why he made it the first commandment. It is also repeated all through the Torah, like a mantra, woven in and out of almost every story. To me, the trinity was created to try to justify this idol worship.

    I don’t judge anyone. Everyone has a right to their beliefs or none at all. I have all kinds of friends and I’m happy to have them. But denying the “lordship” of Jesus in Christianity is absolutely false.

    • May 9, 2014 at 5:49 am

      As being someone who was raised a Catholic you are ABSOLUTELY correct in the Jesus Lord thing. To me I felt like the religion was steering people to view Jesus as more important than God which obviously conflicts with the ten commandments. And when you ask someone about this conflict they say well Jesus is God who came down to Earth, which always made me wonder why would they be called two different names if they were the same. If you study the Catholic religion historically you come to find the religion was more of a vehicle of a political/ ruling party focused on power to control the masses. You also see the many times the monks through the ages rewrote the bible over and over again as instructed by the pope, etc. ruling power to sway the public to what they wanted them to think. Its history and teachings in my opinion totally conflict with Jesus’ true message and life’s work which sent him all over Europe and Asia as can been seen by the mentioning of him in other religions’ texts. I believe he was a good man who just wanted people to know the power and love of God and the idea that we are all a part of each other and Him so we should strive to show empathy and compassion for our fellow brother in our daily life.

      • September 5, 2014 at 8:19 pm

        your just a poor catholic you know. see God sent Jesus to save our sins, he was the messiah and the son of man for without him you shall not have internal life. your not grateful and you say that Catholics view Jesus more than God himself? and which is against the ten commands? I tell you again Jesus talked about the 10 commandments which he said that the greatest commandment of all is that ‘you shall love your neighbors as you love yourself. Moreover, jesus himself taught his father prayer which is the “Our Father” And you probably know what i’m talking about. That prayer is considered as a powerful prayer as to drive away demons or evil spirits. On the whole try and be a stronger and proud catholic 🙂

        • April 23, 2015 at 5:05 pm

          The Jewish Jesus, has been lost within Greek Mythology . Christianity is returning to it’s Jewish roots. Jesus, YESHUA, has to be seen for who he really was a reformer away from DOGMA. In other words he was reforming away from DOGMA. Christianity has to reform from it’s own DOGMA. Then the truth will out.

  • December 30, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Anti semitism is every where, especially in the churches.
    I have never experienced it in the world as much as I do in the church. One big reason I left. Hey how about the fact that Marcion decided to call Yeshua, JeZues after the diety Zues. So every time the church prays in the name of JeZues they really are praying to another god. How sad is that? And we only get salvation through Hashem, not their JeZues, Who they have dumbed down to be their bowling partner.

  • December 30, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Thanks Barry for your article. I’m suffering from a cold and woke up early this morning due to trout pain. I checked my Facebook and one of my friends had recommended your article.
    Reading it has strengthen myself and I would like to comment one thing.
    I, as a christian, doesn’t understand the talks about the trinity.
    In your article you make a reference to it “no more part of God than any of the rest of us… The ultimate level of God is the infinite, and we are all part of that infinite oneness as well.
    I share your explanation of it to 100 %.
    Sometimes symbols can explain things much better than words. The symbol of Israel, the Star of David, is a symbol, which I think in a good way symbolise the trinity and the union of God and Humanity.

  • December 30, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Thank you, thank you. So many obvious and not so obvious points made – and so well. I have had this discussion with so many acquaintances over many years. When I am asked what the Jewish perspective is on Jesus,I have usually answered that Jesus was a charismatic teacher and a prophet who was able to instill his followers with better behaviour (towards one another and towards the world – tikun olam) and a more hopeful perspective (that the world and life could be made better).
    I appreciate your perspective – and I appreciate that you as a Rabbi have tackled this question at all.

  • December 30, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you for a well thought out article. I would just like to comment on a couple of points you made regarding the relationship of Jesus with the Roman Occupation. You suggest that he was not a threat to Rome and give the example of his preaching about ‘turning the other cheek’. I would argue that, in fact, Jesus was a very real threat to Rome and that his sayings have been taken out of context. What Jesus is asking of his disciples is to take up non-violent resistance, but effective and damaging resistance non-the-less. A Roman soldier would hit a Jew or ‘lesser person’ with the back of his hand. If the Jew were to turn his other cheek in a defiant manner, were the soldier to hit him again, he would have to use the front of his hand and that would make the recipient of the blow equal to him. When a Jew offers to carry a soldier’s load for an extra mile, he was actually inciting the soldier to disobey his commanding officers who said that soldiers could not ask for the indigenous people to carry loads for further than a mile because they wanted to avoid being so harsh that they incited rebellions. Carrying the load further could get the soldier into trouble. And again, giving up your tunic if your cloak has been taken is another very clever way of coming out on top. If a person is naked, the shame is on the onlooker. So if your cloak is taken and you then take off your tunic as well and hand it over, you would be naked and would cause a great deal of embarrassment. The story about Jesus and the coin, where he says ‘give unto Caesar that which is Caesars’ etc, is also very interesting. In Judaism I believe it is clearly stated that everything belongs to God. In suggesting that Caesar should receive that which belongs to him, he is in effect very cleverly saying that as everything belongs to God, then nothing at all belongs to Caesar.
    Jesus had a huge following, which was growing. There was a lot of suffering and the people were looking to someone to show them the way. Non-violent resistance is much more difficult to subdue than violent resistance. Soldiers are not trained to handle it. Jesus was a very real threat to Rome. I had always wondered why Rome would have complied with the request to crucify Jesus. I believe that the situation was used by them to get rid of Jesus. It could not have happened otherwise.
    There are as many varieties of Christian belief as there are within Judaism, Islam or any of the other religions. Some Christians do not believe in the virgin birth and some of the other claims that more fundamentalist Christians believe. The word translated to ‘virgin’ some say actually just refers to a young woman, and there are lots of other examples where translation and interpretation can make very different meanings out of a single text.
    Whether all Christians believe in these things is much less important that the teachings of Jesus. It is interesting that Jesus was preceded by a Rabbi called Hillel who preached similar ideas, but who perhaps, did not take them to such extremes.

  • January 4, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Interestingly, I just discovered that the quote from Jesus I have in the article, about “The Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath” also appears in a Jewish source, in Mekhilta, which is a compilation of halachic midrash on the book Exodus. Mekhilta was clearly written down later than the gospels. It’s probably an old saying that was around before the time of Jesus, although I suppose there is always the possibility that the words of Jesus were picked up by the rabbis without attribution.

  • December 5, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I found this very interesting;to see a Rabbi’sviews.I was raised a Catholic and was terribly shocked when I discovered the way the Jews in Europe were treated..I was born in 1945.
    I could say a lot but I think you say it all..
    This may seem odd to you but I am sure alot of English people think Jesus was English…I feel the best parts of Christianity are very compatible with Judaism.and how could we be persecuting the very people from whom Jesus came.
    I know quite a few Jewish people here but none are observant..
    I think they are third generation.Many lost their Faith after the Holocaust… or maybe they wished to assimilate like
    Jonathan Miller the playwright…he says he is Jewish but not a Jew..
    Certainly we have many prominent intellectuals and writers who are of Jewish ancestry… but that is not a religious thing.. maybe it’s related to the high value placed on studying in your culture.Or something genetic?

  • December 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    On the matter of the Trinity I believe Christians have as much as they know to be true as true. The imagery or the extended parable of the trinity idea is simply for the common man to relate to such a high King and Lord. I personally have the belief that Jesus is the Messiah as the Christians refer. But Jesus is not an eternal Son of God. There is no purpose for that, at least not that stands to reasons in my small mind. And likewise, God the Father in perspective of the father of Jesus is also not eternal. Yet God remains eternal. Now God’s name is eternal. Not the word “God.” I do not believe that is his name that is simply a way to discuss him, so to speak. God has a Spirit, that is Holy. To say he has three persons is not necessary to me. The whole idea of a trinity is not necessary for me, and should not be for anyone. I do not think it is heresy because I feel people have this assumption that we need to view God as these three different parts. And I’m fully aware of the N.T. references to the different persons but I feel God is much more mystical than a trinity. To think we even understand God is a disobedience to the first commandment. I enjoy your boldness in your teachings. I know we differ in views, beliefs and convictions but I pray the peace of God be with you.

  • March 13, 2013 at 11:46 am

    barry the problem Jesus had a couple of centuries ago are rerepeating themselves even nyw. Have u read your whole Hebrew bible were God say your ways are not my ways and your thoughts are not my thoughts.how many times have the Jews deviated from the torah. And God was not pleased.what guarantee do you have that the religion you follow is still the same.its the same with christianity sme false teaches send out false teachings.however that doesnt make Jesus’ divinity any less true.can u heal in moses’ name

  • April 27, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Being “Christian” I find a lot of it to be confusing and am now finding that much of it does not go with the Jewish teachings and Jesus was Jewish. Obviously the apostles created Christianity. I do not have much experience with Judaism but it seems what Jesus taught is how Jews were supposed to behave. With regard to the trinity I do not get it myself, Jesus did not write the new testament or create the church his followers did based on their own “inspiration”. Jesus the Jewish rabbi preached to treat each other with love. I also personally think he practiced kabbalah which allowed him to be in touch with God and create miracles. I think religion has perverted a lot of what Jesus did. In the end I find it all pretty confusing and think Jesus is the most influential and healing rabbi.
    P.S. Some Christian ideas are taken from Greece and Norse which were pagan at the time.
    In the end I think there is one God and religion is a “way”
    I think people should keep in mind Jesus was Jewish and his followers created a religion. I have no real problems with Jesus’ teachings but I do have problems with some of Christianity’s dogma because they do not go along with Judaism which Jesus saught to teach.

  • September 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Hello Rabbi Barry,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the topic of Jesus. I’m wondering if you’ve had any more insights over the past 2-years? I am a Catholic and my girlfriend is Jewish. We are mature, open minded people, in our early 50’s, and have been a couple for 4-years and living together for two. Religion and religious traditions are frequent topics of conversation for us. I regularly attend Jewish holiday services with her, but she is more reserved in her interest in attending mine. I think much of my interest stems from the fact that Christianity has its foundational roots in Jewish teachings and traditions. Even as a young man, attending a Catholic high school in my hometown of New Orleans, we were encouraged by our priests and teachers to learn more about Judaism (and other religions) in an attempt towards finding unity (not converting others) in our one God. I attended my first Seder during my high school years with a group of other Jesuit high school friends. Although I don’t understand the ancient language, I always feel very at home with the prayers and topics discussed among Jews during Seder or in synagogue; the stories and tenets of the faith are consistent and familiar with what I have been brought up with. My curiosity stems from how little my erudite girlfriend and her equally informed Jewish friends know about Jesus who was a significant Jew in history (if not the single most significant Jew in history based on how many people around the world have been guided by his teachings). I can understand Jews (or others) not being able to take the huge leap of faith to accept him as the Messiah, or comprehending the divine nature that is the formation of Christian faith, that’s difficult even for thoughtful Christians, but I don’t understand not holding him in some esteemed place as a great Jewish leader or philosopher, and one who’s rabbinic lessons are timelessly appropriate. In nearly every Jewish service I have attended, the rabbis will quote great philosophers from ancient times to modern times, be they political, religious, or philosophical leaders, to reinforce the thesis of their sermons, but never do they use the messages of arguably one of the most influential rabbis of all time, Jesus. Do you see any likelihood of that changing in the synagogues? I think it would do much to bridge the gulf that still exists between some Christian communities and Jewish communities. As a side note, thank you for your service in the U.S. Army. I am a retired U.S. Air Force officer and I was just relaying a story to some of my Jewish friends about religious life in the U.S. military. More specifically, the multi-faith use of base Chapels, and how there is a curtain that can be pulled in front of the cross so when a Christian service ends, a Jewish or Muslim service can follow right behind in the same edifice. It is the most beautiful example of us all living as one community, brothers and sisters under one God, sharing our praise and thanks for Him in our different tongues and traditions. Pax vobiscum!

  • October 19, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    I was raised catholic christian and from a very tender age I’ve had many questions about catholic teachings. As a adult I visited other christian demominations and compared teachings. A few years ago my sister and I started bible study with an Adventist woman. We focused alot on the prophesies of Daniel. Specifically the prophesy which talks about the lawless one who is going to change God’s laws. The interpretation is that, the change from Judaism to Christianity was an inevitable thing. Further reading of the new testatment revealed to me that this was facilitate by a Helenistic Jew called Paul. Seventh Day Adventist are of the view that Paul was a very learned man, and that his writing is so complex that he is missunderstood. I have long ago understood that Paul is the vehicle by which the transition fron Judiasm to CHistianity would have been facilitated. I have read extra biblical sources and compared scriptures and I’am convienced that the change was prophesied, was inevitable, needed someoneto effect and it was done by none other than a Hellenized Jew who amalgameted Jewish and Greek traditions to form the confusion which we now know as christianty. Paul singlehandely has caused more division between so called christians than any other writer. When I read his writings I see more confusion than intelligenc. Today, with my increase knowledge I no longer believe Jesus is God, I understand him to be a religo-political “insurgent”, a revolutionary rabbi in the context of his country’s geopolitical standing during his time. It is quite difficult to make others, not even my sister to understand it that way.

  • January 6, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    This article has open a little my life or situation…I’m from Mexico City, born also. not to long ago did learned that I’m of jewish descendant particular of germany (my grandfather was german and grandmother jewish) makes my mother of european jewish lineaje and my father mexican or so, my grandparents came to Mexico via Veracruz in the 30’s i did grow up with religios values and ethics but no jewish, I was though to strive for respect, education, and free mind specially on other religions and aspects of their views, my father left when I was very young and I was raise by my mother, hard worker and a unique woman and person she was a doctor or MD which did make things easer for us and good memories…anyway, DNA and Genealogy trace this lineaje as far the Near East or somewhere in Israel, I was surprise of course and then I did had all kind the questions on faith, star reading about Jesus “the men” and the history behind him as a person and also jewish history so on and then…”confuse”…this article for me has open better roads and views of both “Abrahamy religions” still alot to learn…I think that thanks to “god” and faith we all have a purpose for our life and journeys on this place we all call “HOME”(the world)…I now live in he US New Mexico a very diverse state about religions, people etc. I guess life is always getting interesting and full of surprises…thanks for this article and personal opinion.

  • September 4, 2014 at 1:02 am

    THANK YOU FOR THE AERTICLE. i have few things to say. 1. trinity was never mentioned in new testament. is simply human religion. 2. it was quoted that jesus didnt fulfil isaiah prophecy, but you will have to know that those prophesies needs spiritual intelligence to understand
    . Again, on the issue of son of God, jesus said he is son of God and i believe him. if u can, study mathew and jihn account of jesus. jesus validated his position by telling his followrs that in his name, they will heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and do many mighty work. it was recorded that his disciples manifested power of healing and so on as he promised. we can argue that we were not they. but the good news is that i am also manifesting the same power even from nigeria. its real. jesus is lord. what about the jews?, bible says that at the end time, a fraction of them will be saved still base on putting faith in lordship of jesus. but that will be when he returns. God bless u.

  • December 17, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Why was Jesus given the death sentence? He spoke and did nice things. Isn’t the death sentence reserved for hardened criminals?

    • December 17, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Jesus was viewed as a threat by the authorities. I believe it would have been the Romans, not the Sanhedrin, who sentenced him to death — the Sanhedrin had very strict rules about capital punishment, and Jesus would not have met the criteria.

      • December 19, 2014 at 7:41 am

        One thing no one talks about from biblical and historical senses is that the religious leaders, Herod, his Sons, and the leaders he appointed were not Jews at all! The were clearly Edomites whom G-d promised to cut off. We know from history, the decendents of Esua were forced to convert which was not a legal practice under Moses law. Isaac promise to Esua? To break the Yoke of Jacob from off his neck.

        When the word Jews and Synagogue of Satan in the new testement, it is NOT accurate in the legal or real sense. I was raised a “xtian”, but my mother instructed me to read the bible. That I did over the course of 50 years and learned history too. I cannot call myself a Jew or a Christian. I love the laws of Moses, the prophets and the teachings of Yeahua. His teachings are just. When he was accused of blashemy, he refered to David in the psalms calling me g-ds in sarcasm. Xtianity does not understand this. We are ALL conceived from the declarations/breath of G-d. That makes us all his sons who live according to his laws.

        Thank you so much for the time you took here. It is one of the most balanced and intelligent thing I have read in a long time. It often gets lonely when you here uneducated comment. I was blessed and comforted by your intelligence and honesty!


        • December 19, 2014 at 8:00 am

          Let me add…Yeshua did save the Jews, knowing Isaac’s promise to Esua, knowing the decendents of Esua were the leaders, religious and civil at that time and the poor class ( the real Jews ) were told to turn the other cheek, to run as soon as they saw the signs, not even turning back for anything. The prophets were all clear on this as they were Esua’s destruction, because he loved blood.

          Was he THE messiah that brings about the building of the third temple and subdues Israel’s enemies? He is yet to come. Weather he is of the same spirit, I cannot say – but, Yeshua did indeed save the Jews on the day of destruction of Esua and her leaders in Israel 2000 years ago.

          You can find Isaac’s promise to Esua in the naritive after Jacob tricked him.

        • January 1, 2015 at 11:20 am


  • December 17, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    During the Roman Occupation the Jewish Temple priest hierarchy was in the pay of Rome. They were used to keep the peace and one way of doing that was to make Judaism a religion of the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. Jesus complained that there was no love or humanity in the way the law was carried out. Jesus was therefore a threat to law and order, which in turn was a threat to both the Jewish Hierarchy and to Rome. It was very much a joint effort.

  • December 19, 2014 at 9:35 am

    I have one more thing to add before I go to sleep. I see a great argument between xtian and Jews over Mathew 2 “out of Egypt I call my son. Xtians will argue the point over the book of Hosea with Jews and they sound sillly. Who determined that Hosea was the prophet spoke of?

    It was Micah. I hope you read what I wrote. I hope you considered it and did not through it away. Test it against your knowledge. Here is what Micah has to say…

    See… In Chapter 5. He is of old and he gives them up until they give birth. 🙂

    1a Now muster your troops, O daughterb of troops;
    siege is laid against us;
    with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
    on the cheek.
    2c But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
    from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
    whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.
    3Therefore he shall give them up until the time
    when she who is in labor has given birth;
    then the rest of his brothers shall return
    to the people of Israel.
    4And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
    in the m

    • January 1, 2015 at 11:21 am

      When the Messiah does finally come, we can ask if he/she has ever been here before…

      • January 1, 2015 at 5:05 pm

        First we have to recognise the ‘person’ as the Messiah or the Second Coming, whichever is hoped for. A lot of assumptions are made, but if you believe that Jesus was the Messiah or that he will return, then you have to remember how he was received and that many did not/do not believe that he was the Messiah.
        To ask if she has been before is to recognize that possibility. I very much doubt that he/she would be obviously Jewish or Christian. And if they were, I suspect they would not be mainstream as Jesus was not mainstream in his day. We live in a far more sceptical age now.

  • May 5, 2015 at 10:26 am

    Barry Leff,

    You are a man of peace. You have listened well. You remind me that God’s image & likeness is still shining on planet earth, despite the old dragon’s attempts to besmirch it.

    I am glad to share this earth with you, and hope we can share more.

    • May 14, 2015 at 7:05 am

      Thanks for the kind words Paul.

  • May 20, 2015 at 12:55 am

    Fantastic ! thanks for this marvellous new perspective on this issue.

  • July 17, 2015 at 1:16 am

    Some pepul here are sayin wat they don’t know. Callin Paul d founder of Chritianity!! What! Without Jesus wuld ythere av been Paul?!? Pls, u guys shuld not just xpose ur ignorance, tink b4 talkin: Jesus is d founder of chrstianity. Calin Paul our founda is like calling Ezra of Isaiah d founder of Judaism(and we know dat without Moses, there if not Isaiah, just as without Jesus There’s no Paul)
    Hope u guys get it?

    As for the Trinity, let me ask you only this:
    Is Yahweh love? Ur answer- yes
    does Yahweh love eternally? Ur answer- yes
    So Yahweh has loved eternally into d past, and will continue to love eternally into the future? Ur answer- yes
    So, before Yahweh had created d angels, man, etc. He was alone? Ur answer- yes
    Therefore, at this point, can you tell me who did Yahweh love during the time when He was alone? Ur answer- Himself
    It that possible, can one love himself apart 4rm for self-preservation? Ur answer- alright, what d’you want?

    Now, then, at this juncture, our only hope of making Yahweh to b LOVE, is: ADOPTING A TRINITARIAN DOCTRINE.
    It is simple: when Yahweh was alone in the whole Universe:
    God loved Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was the Spirit of love btwn them. Do u understand? The FATHER if the LOVER, the SON is the BELOVED, and the HOLY SPIRIT is the SPIRIT OF THE LOVE BETWEEN THEM!


    Another point, u guys are sayin Christianity stole from Hellenism. I can only shake my head here. Let me ask you only this: If u contend that Christianity was influenced by Greeks, then why don’t u accept that the Book of Daniel was influenced by Zoroastrianism?? Why don’t u accept that the Torah was influenced by Canaanite and Egyptian religion. You must understand, THAT SIMILARITY DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN INFLUENCE OF ONE ON THE OTHER.
    Hope you get the point?

    There is a reason Christianity is probably the Greatest Religion ever(though I admit that a false religion could eclipse even d true one in greatness)

    I am inviting you to Christ this day, if only you could see the miracles worked in His NAME!!

    And the Lord passed by Moses; face and said”YHWH, YHWH, YHWH, a God of mercy and goodness”
    Do you remember a passage lilke that(I don’t know d actual wording, check the “Trinity” on wikipedia)? Or what about the passages in the Book of Job where GOD SPEAKS IN THE THIRD PERSON? THIS MIGHT BE THE TRINITY!

    When God appears in human form, who do you think it is, if it is not the Word made Flesh(Gospel of John)? The three men visiting Abraham? Do you think God created His Word? Do youy think He created His Spirit? These are eternanl! THAT IS THE TRINITY!!
    When Moses, etc. “see God”, who do you think they see? If it is not “God in flesh”,ie Jesus!

    *Note: I actually appreciate the article. It is very good, however the comments made are……………


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