16

What attitudes toward Jesus are acceptable for a Jew? I understand that idolatry, or embracing the mainstream Christian perception of Jesus as divine, is absolutely out of the question. Furthermore, there are strong textual and cultural reasons that Jews should not consider Jesus to be Moshiach. However, is it acceptable to revere or even love Jesus? To appreciate his teachings to any degree? To consider him righteous, a tzaddik, or a good person?

(Please note: I am not asking "Was Jesus actually righteous/a tzaddik/worthy of reverence by a Jew?" But since that question will inevitably encroach on mine, I would like to mention that the "New Testament" contains wildly disparate reports of what Jesus actually taught during his lifetime. Whereas some gospelists portray Jesus as rejecting halacha, other accounts, including his most famous sermon, quote him as insisting categorically that halachic observance must be maintained in its entirety. What Christians actually did with that information is, I think, irrelevant to this question.)

5
  • 2
    Although I did not read Kosher Jesus by controversial rabbi Schmuley Botech, it may provide some answers. Let me suggest SAH, that you read information from the Internet with caution. In my experience, many sites, including come-and-h### and talmudreve###, tend to be anti-Jewish and hardly reflect Jewish thought on Jesus. timesofisrael.com/…
    – JJLL
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 23:07
  • 1
    Basically, this question is that if we change information, or select what we think is real, and come to the conclusion that he was righteous, may we actually think so. Keep in mind that he is irrelevant to Judaism. There is no prescribed law of what to think of him. Just like I may have whatever opinion I want about Homer, yeshu, once he becomes anonymous and is getting a new description may be anything between a saint and most evil.
    – HaLeiVi
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 3:39
  • @HaLeiVi Thanks for this valuable comment. I would wonder to a certain extent whether laws such as ahavas yisroel and loshon hara would apply to him. But I guess it's impossible to determine.
    – SAH
    Commented Sep 3, 2015 at 14:29
  • So I heard about a gemara in which 3 people -- maybe Titus Harasha, Balaam, and one definitely JC -- are asked by Onkelos about the Jews. JC tells Onkelos to love the Jews and seek their good or something. The other two say quite differently.
    – SAH
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 18:30
  • Jewish law quite clearly forbids to love a rasha (see rambam end of hilchos rotzeach). If Jesus claimed to be messiah (which I think he did) and Judaism views that as a false claim, then that would make him a "false prophet", and he would probably be considered a rasha, especially if he came to abolish the law. You would have to make a real hard case to prove that loving Jesus is Halachically permitted.
    – Bach
    Commented Jun 26, 2020 at 13:51

5 Answers 5

6

The "yeshu hanotzri" described by the uncensored Talmud is very much a no-goodnik. It is fair game to question which of those passages were intended literally, or referred to which character, or were intended as a way of disparaging people from moving to an emerging religion that was competing with rabbinic Judaism at the time. (The comments may have been more about the religion and its followers than the personality around whom it was founded.)

So it is not violating any of the principles of our faith to say, for instance, "so-and-so was a nice person with good ideas, but we can't accept him as a prophet." Obviously, a certain amount of distance is healthy.

I'd heard a fascinating quote (in a lecture from Rabbi Yaakov Haber) from R' Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin, that once a person reaches the 49th level of holiness, they have to make a decision -- they can either acknowledge that their greatness belongs to G-d alone, or they can decide to be greedy and take the credit for it. Two notable people who did the latter, says R' Tzadok, were Jesus and Shabtai Tzvi.

I'd similarly heard from Rabbi Dr. David Berger, who'd asked Dr. Bernard Lewis, about the Jewish attitudes towards Mohammed during the late medieval "golden age" of Jewish existence in Muslim lands. He said Jews were not in trouble for believing whatever was necessary for them to be Jews (and not Muslims), hence a Jew would not be in trouble for saying "we could not accept his prophecy and redefinition of the law"; he could get in trouble for calling Mohammed insulting names.

11
  • 2
    I've heard in the name of Yaavetz (Aharon) that any referrence in the Talmud to Yeshu is not Jesus. Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 15:38
  • 2
    Was there more than one Yeshu Ha'Notzri? That seems pretty specific to me...
    – SAH
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 16:09
  • 6
    @SAH Is there more than one Jon the New Yorker?
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 18:01
  • 2
    @SAH here is one discussion of it angelfire.com/mt/talmud/jesusnarr.html
    – rosends
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 18:13
  • @DoubleAA lol, point taken
    – SAH
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 18:27
5

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan wrote a piece called "Behold the man: The real Jesus" found on page 37 of this PDF downloadable here

He brings proofs from the new testament showing that Jesus was not the loving, kind person he has been made out to be. Rather he was an unloving, unforgiving, vindictive person who acted with hypocrisy in light of his own teachings.

He focuses for a bit in the opening remarks how impossible it would be for the vicious acts of the crusaders and the inquisition to have stemmed from the teachings of a good man.

Although he doesn't mention it, this idea seems to based on a passuk in Mishlei that the Talmud in the first chapter of Chulin, 4b brings to prove that all in Achav's camp were bad, and all in Yehoshaphat's camp were good.

משלי כט-יב: מושל מקשיב על דבר שקר כל משרתיו רשעים.

This was all written to combat the common mentality found amongst people, and I quote: "Many people are fascinated by the person of Jesus. Even when they find it impossible to accept Christian theology, they still feel that they can identify with Jesus the person. They see him as someone who preached love and peace, and whose life embodied the greatest ideals."

According to Rabbi Kaplan, Jesus does not deserve your love or admiration.

8
  • 1
    But would it be acceptable?
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 3:24
  • Would what be acceptable?
    – user6591
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 3:37
  • 1
    Love or admiration or appreciating his teachings to any degree.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 3:51
  • 1
    I think the questions were asked on the false premise that he was a decent person. This work was written to dispel that belief. But in a more direct sense, the title and opening question 'What attitudes toward Jesus are acceptable for a Jew?' is definitely addressed here. A well know Rabbi has stated his attitude towards Jesus.
    – user6591
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 3:55
  • We do not know what would be acceptable, i.e. permissible; only what one rabbi personally felt. We do not even know the range of possible attitudes that that rabbi felt were acceptable.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 4:32
3

Here is quote from the wiki entry on Yakov Emden. He saw good in him and his mission.

In a remarkable apology for Christianity, he wrote that that the original intention of Jesus, and especially of Paul, was to convert only the Gentiles to the Seven Laws of Noah and to let the Jews follow the Mosaic law. Emden praised the ethical teachings of the founder of Christianity, considering them as being beneficial to the Gentiles by removing the prevalence of idolatry and bestowing upon them a "moral doctrine." Emden also suggested that ascetic Christian practices provided additional rectification of the soul in the same way that Judaic commandments do.

2
  • 2
    He himself says, "We should consider Christians and Moslems as instruments for the fulfilment of the prophecy that the knowledge of God will one day spread throughout the earth. Whereas the nations before them worshipped idols, denied God's existence, and thus did not recognize God's power or retribution, the rise of Christianity and Islam served to spread among the nations, to the furthest ends of the earth, the knowledge that there is One God who rules the world, who rewards and punishes and reveals Himself to man." (from the same wiki article)
    – user2411
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 19:32
  • @Sarah there is an argument amongst the Rabbis if Christianity is considered idol worship for nonjews. All agree it is idol worship for Jews. But even Maimonides who believed it is actual idol worship even for nonjews, saw in it a general move towards the right direction away from the disgusting practices of ancient idol worshippers. It's a tough multifaceted discussion.
    – user6591
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 19:58
1

I'm not sure there is any proof that Jesus ever existed. the only documents that reference him directly are not first hand historical texts. these include the christian bible and Josephus. as far as the talmud that allegedly references Jesus these cannot refer to the Jesus of christianity as they either lived in a different location or different century. In my opinion the correct Jewish view of Jesus is a fairy tale created by wicked people to create a new religion. This new religion was then capitalized upon by the Roman government as a means of controlling the population and territorial expansion. As far as the Jewish view of christianity for non Jews in modern times. The positive are a set of morals to live by and that this introduced to the world the idea of mashiach and when mashiach comes goyim will realize they had the wrong person and the rest of false beliefs around mashiach were wrong as well.

2
  • 2
    I recall seeing a statement that the reference to that person in Josephus was actually added by a Christian writer centuries later so it would not be valid. The only reference would be in the writings of those believers, none of which were at that time. Commented Dec 8, 2021 at 18:52
  • it certainly does answer the question. he wasn't a real person and that's how we should view him.
    – Dude
    Commented Dec 9, 2021 at 16:03
0

I think the answer to this question should pivot on the point of "may we jews love j___?"

Was j___ a jew? If yes, and most all of the historic information points to yes, that born of a jewess, he was a jew, so then, as part of the tribe, we should treat him like we treat jews.

Since he was a jew then there can be some fences about what is possible to say about this deceased person.

It has been discussed on MY so many other aspects of the followers of j___ and whether jews are allowed to paricipate in any of those things. For this question its not the time to make those points.

What are the limits of what we could say if deceased j____ was a heretic? Should we treat him any differently than any other deceased jew? This raises other questions, too broad and not quite on the topic that covers whether we are in any way obligated to love j____.

4
  • The question wasn't exactly "should we", but "may we". || Actually the question of whether he was a Jew is mostly irrelevant. There are different categories of Jews, and not all deserve, in the OP's words "reverence and love".
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 15:17
  • 1
    Since he was a jew then there can be some fences about what is possible to say about this deceased person. At most it is forbidden to say negative untrue things about the dead. That doesn't mean that it is forbidden to say the negative truth. It is likely irrelevant given other rules that govern speech even among the living, allowing publicly known information to be discussed, for example. || Furthermore, the question wasn't what one may say, but what attitudes are appropriate.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 15:17
  • @mevaqesh , yes a heratic or non jew might only deserve a slightly different attitude? What do you think it would be, I agree as you say "negative truth" saying about dead people, even jews, is possibly not forbidden. But that kind of makes the question moot, no? or is it possible to love and reverence a heritic?
    – gamliela
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 15:43
  • @mevaqesh I agree, not all deserve rverence and love. I think that is what I was trying to say, it was convoluted
    – gamliela
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 15:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .