Tag Archives: jewish jesus

The Goyishe King

Lion of JudahClap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah

God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a maskil!

God reigns over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted!

Psalm 47 (ESV)

The Messiah will come and reign over all the earth. He will return as ben David the conqueror and will establish Israel above all the nations. He will proclaim good news to the poor, release the captive, and give freedom to the oppressed (Luke 4:19; Isaiah 61:1,2; (see Septuagint); Isaiah 58:6). But who is our King?

You may think that’s a silly question, but depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers. Ask a Christian, and you’ll get the immediate answer, “Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.” Not a bad answer. But if you ask a religious Jew, the answer certainly won’t be “Jesus.” Instead, it will be, “the Moshiach, son of David.” Technically, at least from my point of view, both the Christian and the Jew are talking about the same person, but my hypothetical Christian would probably chafe at the obvious “Jewishness” of the hypothetical Jew’s answer. On the other hand, my hypothetical Jew will certainly be insulted at the hypothetical Christian’s suggestion that the goyishe Jesus could possibly be the Moshiach (Messiah).

The Jew may have a point. Here’s why.

“Appoint a king upon yourselves”—Deuteronomy 17:15.

We are commanded to appoint a king, who will unite and rule over our nation. This is one of the three mitzvot the Jews were commanded upon entering the Land—the other two were building the Holy Temple and eradicating Amalek.

The king whom we appoint must command our awe. We must have the ultimate respect, reverence and estimation for the monarch—greater even than that we have for prophets. Any decree that the king issues must be obeyed—provided that it doesn’t countermand a Torah law. And the Torah-sanctioned king has the right to have executed anyone who disregards his orders.

Crowning a King
Positive Commandment 173
Sefer Hamitzvot in English

“You may not set a stranger over you who is not your brother”—Deuteronomy 17:15.

We are forbidden to appoint a king who is not from Jewish ancestry, even if he is a righteous convert. To be eligible for the position, the individual must have been born to a Jewish mother.

The same is true with regards to all appointments – whether governmental or Torah-related – only one with Jewish ancestry may be appointed.

This all applied until King David became king. From that point and onwards, only a descendant of King David (specifically through his son Solomon) is eligible to be king. Anyone other than a descendant of David is considered a “stranger” with regards to kingship, as is anyone not of Aaron’s seed with relation to priesthood.

Appointing a Foreigner
Negative Commandment 362
Sefer Hamitzvot in English

Judaism formally recognizes 613 commandments all found in the written Torah which directs the behavior and lifestyle of every religious Jew. These are also the laws that are used to govern the nation of Israel in Messianic days. As you can see from the two examples I quoted above, the requirements for a Jewish king, based on the commands of God, are very specific. No non-Jewish person may be a King over Israel, even a “righteous convert” from among the Goyim…the Gentiles. The King of Israel must be Jewish and further, he must be from the line of David through Solomon. The King can never be goyishe.

I received communion there and looked up from where I was kneeling to see the enormous stained glass window and its image of Jesus, Jesus as a pale-faced, European. It occurred to me that this church, like many others, was on a journey to at last understand the “Christ” in the word “Christian” in a way that penetrated the veil of Anglo Jesus.

-Derek Leman
“From Anglo Jesus to Yeshua”
Messianic Jewish Musings

Depending on who you ask, how we imagine what Jesus looks like is very different, with some images of the Christ seeming extremely Caucasian European, and other impressions of him being focused on the Semitic appearance of “Yeshua ben Yosef of Natzaret.” I could write a great deal about these two different men, but hopefully you get the point. If you believe somehow that the Jewish Jesus was “transmogrified” to something else upon his resurrection and that he will attain a Gentile identity in his second coming, then it is extremely unlikely that he will be recognized as the prophesied Messiah and King of Israel.

The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” –Luke 23:36-38 (ESV)

ShekhinahWhat the Romans said to mock him, I say in truth, Jesus is the King of the Jews, at his death, his resurrection, at his ascension to the right hand of God, and it is who he is and will be when he comes again.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. –Revelation 19:11-16 (ESV)

Israel can never have a goyishe King for this would be disobeying God. Israel’s King is himself a Son of Israel and a descendant of David. He will rule over Israel forever and all the nations of the earth will submit to him. This is a Jesus most Christians don’t want to contemplate and perhaps after so many centuries of uncomfortable distance between the synagogue and the church, it’s understandable. But the Christ of Christianity is the Jewish Moshiach of Israel and we all had better get used to the idea that when he returns, we will be paying homage to a Jewish King, and the throne of David’s heir will be in Jerusalem.

It also wouldn’t hurt to read this new article at JewishJournal.com called, Jews Must Demand a Relationship of Full Equality with Christianity. He who curses Israel will be cursed.

Kosher Jesus: The Undivine Savior

It’s important to acknowledge the obvious. I have called into question the veracity of much that is contained in the holy Gospels. I’ve cast doubt on some of the essential elements of the story of Jesus as they have been handed down by generations of Christians. Obviously, my Christian readers are going to feel somewhat confused or, worse still, offended – which is, of course, not my intention.

-Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Chapter 19: Jesus, Lover of Israel (pp 136-7)
Part III: What Christians Have to Learn from the Jewish Jesus
Kosher Jesus

That’s an understatement. OK, to be fair, I’m hardly surprised or dismayed at Rabbi Boteach’s illustration of Jesus, Paul, the early church, and Christianity in general. And while I will be writing a full review of this book right after I finish it, I wanted to address this particular aspect of the Rabbi’s writing right now, since it’s been pretty much what I’ve been thinking about for the last 150 pages or so.

I’ve been thinking about what would happen if a Christian actually took everything in this book at face value. I’ve been thinking about what would happen if a Christian reading Kosher Jesus were to get to this point and say to himself, “Oh wow, he’s right.” If Rabbi Boteach wants Christians to “learn from the Jewish Jesus,” what exactly does he expect them (us) to learn?

Paul’s claims about who Jesus was and what he preached are made more tenuous by the sheer scope of his deviations from the lessons of Jesus’ own followers. The leaders of the Jerusalem Church, Peter and James, insisted that Jesus’ message was for the Jews and was dedicated to preserving Jewish law and observance. Paul transformed that message completely.

Paul claimed to know better what Jesus intended than the disciples whom Jesus taught directly – even though Paul never even met Jesus. He said that Jesus meant to abolish Jewish law, that faith is more important than works, and that the sole criteria for salvation is faith in Christ. Not only that, Paul added that Jesus was not mortal, and his claim to be the messiah meant that he was the divine son of God. Finally, Paul, a self-declared Roman citizen, shifts the developing faith of Jesus, Christianity, to be pro-Roman and anti-Jewish. Paul attacks Judaism as antiquated and obsolete, and to cap it all off, he accuses the Jews of killing Jesus, also claiming they attacked him personally on many occasions.

-Boteach, pg 121

Interestingly enough, most Christians reading the paragraph I just quoted, would probably nod their heads in agreement to all of those statements saying that indeed, Jesus really did all of those things…except Rabbi Boteach says they are all patently false. He says that while Jesus may have honestly believed he was the Messiah and desired to free his people from Roman tyranny, he could not have believed he was also God or intended for anyone to worship him, least of all Gentiles. While Boteach paints a picture of Peter as a coward and a hypocrite, the real “villain” of his piece is Paul, who may not even have been a born Jew, and who took the teachings of an innocent Rabbi and would-be revolutionary Messiah, and turned them into the basis for a Gentile religion that was bent on placating idolatrous Rome while “demonizing” Judaism and the Jewish people.

In order to make his points regarding the Jewish identity of Jesus credible, Rabbi Boteach has to deconstruct every single major tenet of the Christian church. Jesus was a man and not God incarnate. He thought he was the Messiah (which is not a crime in Judaism) but obviously he wasn’t since he died rather than successfully establishing Israel’s self-rule. He was not born of a virgin, he did not speak against the Law, he lead a lifestyle that was completely Jewish and totally consistent with the Law of the Jews, and he didn’t want to have anything to do with the non-Jewish peoples. He hated Rome and he loved his people and wanted to free them from their cruel oppressors. Period.

While I agree there is much to learn by rediscovering the Jewish Jesus, I’m not sure what Rabbi Boteach wants his Christian readers to do about it. If a Christian were to read all of this and take every word at face value, questioning nothing, he’d have to conclude that his Christian faith is a sham. He’d have to conclude that everything he had been taught by the church about Jesus and faith and salvation was at best, an elaborate fantasy, and at worst, the most heinous of lies.

I really don’t think most Christians will be taking this part of the book to such extremes. Yes, they may be confused. Yes, they may certainly feel offended. But since Rabbi Boteach says it is not his intent to confuse or offend his Christian readers, how does he expect them to reconcile their faith with his book short of tossing it into the trash can?

In reading this book, I ask my Christian readers not to discard but to expand their existing ideas about who Jesus really was. But what is the impact in doing so? Does this mean we can’t trust the New Testament? Does this mean we’re tinkering with a divine document? Again the answer is no. The writers of the New Testament indeed may have drawn from divine inspiration.

-Boteach, pg 144

If Rabbi Boteach really believes that it’s possible the content of the New Testament was divinely inspired, I can understand why a good many Orthodox Jewish Rabbis are upset with him right now. Also, if he really believes that statement, how can he use the New Testament content to acknowledge his viewpoint of Jesus the Rabbi and political dissident while denying Jesus the Messiah, Prophet, and Savior from God? He can’t have it both ways, or can he?

I believe the Lucan editors made their changes for the reasons enumerated and to hide the subversive details of the revolutionary nature of Jesus. But the changes they made were not total. They didn’t erase the entire original meanings; messages may actually have been intentionally encoded into the Gospels…

This isn’t without precedent. There are plenty of examples of this phenomenon in the Hebrew Bible. In order to comprehend God’s true meaning, we sort through four levels of interpretation…peshat, remez, drush, and sod: peshat being the simple, straightforward meaning; remez, the alluded to meaning of the text; drush, the homiletic meaning of the text; and finally sod, the esoteric meaning of the text.

Beyond the simplest reading of the New Testament, just as in the Hebrew Bible, there remain layers and layers hidden from view.

-Boteach, pg 145

broken-crossIt sounds like, in order to encourage his Christian readers to not “discard but to expand their existing ideas about who Jesus really was,” Rabbi Boteach is encouraging them (us) to still consider the New Testament text as divinely inspired and containing hidden messages, just as the Tanakh (Old Testament; Hebrew Bible) does, from a Jewish point of view.

In making this statement (and I have to be really careful here), Rabbi Boteach does not sound unlike some of those Jews who really do believe Jesus was the Messiah King and who accept that the New Testament has as much validity as a holy book of the Jews as does the Tanakh.

No, I don’t think Rabbi Boteach is some sort of “crypto-Messianic Jew,” but some of what he writes intersects with what the ethnically, culturally, and religiously Jewish people who have faith in Jesus as Messiah and Savior believe.

Rabbi Boteach walks a very fine line here. He must communicate that he, as a Jew, does not believe for a split second that Jesus was of divine origin or any of the supernatural claims about him that are typically made in Christianity, but at the same time, he must convince his Christian readers that he does not think they are a bunch of fools or lunatics for believing everything the church believes about Christ.

I don’t think that’s possible or at least, I don’t think that Rabbi Boteach actually pulled it off. Either Jesus is the Christ as the church says he is, divine in origin, having a place of extremely high merit in the Heavenly court, and is much more than just one of the myriad tzadikim in Jewish history…or he was a great Rabbi, a passionate leader of his people, a revolutionary who desired to free Israel from Rome…and he was a man who died fighting for a worthy cause. It may be possible to overlap those roles and to distill out of them, a portrait of the Jewish Jesus who was Messiah, Prophet, miracle worker; who died and was resurrected but never ever abandoned his people or taught against the Law, but you can’t delete so much of the Christian faith from the Jewish Jesus and have him remain the resurrected King who will return on the clouds to free not only Israel, but the world.

Either Christians, mistaken though they may be in not recognizing the true Jewishness of Jesus, can have faith in their Savior or they can’t. Rabbi Boteach may intrigue his Christian readers, and he may get some of them to consider a somewhat more Jewish perspective on the heretofore Gentile Jesus, but he will never sell the Christians that Jesus had no power to save their souls, and never even wanted to. Any Christian who would choose to completely embrace Rabbi Boteach’s reconstruction of Jesus would be a person completely broken in their faith; crushed under the burden of a salvation lost and a King who never cared about all the Gentiles in need of a Savior.