Jesus

Yshua3

  • "He was a good rabbi. He taught everyone to be nice to one another."
  • "He was a good Jew, but Paul made him into a god for the Gentiles."
  • "He got in trouble with the authorities and became a political martyr."

One thing is certain; after two thousand years, Jesus of Nazareth is still as controversial in the Jewish community as he was in the first century. Still, most hold to the traditional bottom line that whatever he was, he wasn't the expected Messiah.

Jews for Jesus begs to differ. We believe that Jesus was, and still is, who he claimed to be-the Messiah of Israel and of all nations. In this section, we present you with arguments for his Messiahship and respond to objections that you may have heard or raised. In this way, we join with those first-century Jews and Gentiles who found Jesus-in Hebrew, Y'shua-to be "the way, the truth, and the life."

Popular Topics

Is Jesus The MessiahProof Of Jesus MessiahshipJesus Hate ParentsJewish Views Of JesusName Of JesusJesus Exist

Popular Topics

Is Jesus The MessiahProof Of Jesus MessiahshipJesus Hate ParentsJewish Views Of JesusName Of JesusJesus Exist

  • "He was a good rabbi. He taught everyone to be nice to one another."
  • "He was a good Jew, but Paul made him into a god for the Gentiles."
  • "He got in trouble with the authorities and became a political martyr."

One thing is certain; after two thousand years, Jesus of Nazareth is still as controversial in the Jewish community as he was in the first century. Still, most hold to the traditional bottom line that whatever he was, he wasn't the expected Messiah.

Jews for Jesus begs to differ. We believe that Jesus was, and still is, who he claimed to be-the Messiah of Israel and of all nations. In this section, we present you with arguments for his Messiahship and respond to objections that you may have heard or raised. In this way, we join with those first-century Jews and Gentiles who found Jesus-in Hebrew, Y'shua-to be "the way, the truth, and the life."

Jesus Jewish Views 700

I couldn't help writing on Jesus. Since I first met him he has held my mind and heart. I grew up, you know, on the border of Poland and Russia, which was not exactly the finest place in the world for a Jew to sit down and write a life of Jesus Christ. Yet even through these years the hope of doing just that fascinated me. For Jesus Christ is to me the outstanding personality of all time, all history, both as Son of God and as Son of Man. Everything he ever said or did has value for us today and that is something you can say of no other man, dead or alive. There is no easy middle ground to stroll upon. You either accept Jesus or reject him. You can analyze Mohammed and...Buddha, but don't try it with him. You either accept or you reject....1

Sholem Asch
Yiddish Author
1880-1957

He was a Jew among Jews; from no other people could a man like him have come forth, and in no other people could a man like him work; in no other people could he have found the apostles who believed in him.2

Leo Baeck
Rabbi and Theologian
1873-1956

The New Testament is also our book, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.3

Y.C.H. Brenner
Israeli Writer
1881-1921

From my youth onwards I have found in Jesus my great brother. That Christianity has regarded and does regard him as God and Savior has always appeared to me a fact of the highest importance which, for his sake and my own, I must endeavor to understand...

I am more than ever certain that a great place belongs to him in Israel's history of faith and that this place cannot be described by any of the usual categories.

Martin Buber
Philosopher
1878-1965

J. Carmel
Israeli Teacher and Author

If the prophet Elijah has ridden in a fiery chariot into heaven, why should not Jesus rise and go to heaven?

Cited by Pinchas Lapide, p. 138 in The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983).


John Cournos
Novelist and Essayist
1881-1966

Jesus was a Jew -- the best of Jews....

Jesus was not only a Jew. He was the apex and the acme of Jewish teaching, which began with Moses and ran the entire evolving gamut of kings, teachers, prophets, and rabbis -- David and Isaiah and Daniel and Hillel -- until their pith and essence was crystallized in this greatest of all Jews....

For a Jew, therefore, to forget that Jesus was a Jew, and to deny him, is to forget and to deny all the Jewish teaching that was before Jesus: it is to reject the Jewish heritage, to betray what was best in Israel....

I know a number of Jews who believe as I do, who believe it is time that the Jews reclaimed Jesus, and that it is desirable that they should do so...To take three examples among them, one is a novelist, whose books are about Jews and read by Jews; one is an educator, whose work is among Jews and who knows Jews exceptionally well; and one is a scholar interested in Jewish Sunday schools--if he were permitted by the elders he would include among his readings of "gems" of Jewish literature the Sermon on the Mount.

In An Open Letter to Jews and Christians (New York: Oxford University Press, 1938).


Norman Cousins
Former Editor of the Saturday Review
Born 1912

There is every reason for Judaism to lose its reluctance toward Jesus. His own towering spiritual presence is a projection of Judaism, not a repudiation of it. Jesus is not to be taxed for the un-Christian ideas and acts of those who have spoken in his name. Jesus never repudiated Judaism. He was proud to be a Jew, yet he did not confine himself to Judaism. He did not believe in spiritual exclusivity for either Jew or Gentile. He asserted the Jewish heritage and sought to preserve an exalt its values, but he did it within a universal context. No other figure -- spiritual, philosophical, political or intellectual -- has had a greater impact on human history. To belong to a people that produced Jesus is to share in a distinction of vast dimension and meaning....

The modern synagogue can live fully and openly with Jesus.

"The Jewishness of Jesus," American Judaism 10:1 (1960), p. 36.


Albert Einstein
Physicist and Professor, Princeton University
1879-1955

As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.

Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrase-mongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot.

George Sylvester Viereck, "What Life Means to Einstein," The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929.


Hyman G. Enelow
President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
and Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, New York City (Reform)
1877-1934

Jesus was not only born a Jew, but conscious of his Jewish descent.

Jesus realized the spiritual distinction of the Jewish people, and regarded himself as sent to teach and help his people.

Jesus, like other teachers, severely criticized his people for their spiritual short-comings, seeking to correct them, but at the same time he loved and pitied them. His whole ministry was saturated with love for his people, and loyalty to it.

Jesus, like all other of the noblest type of Jewish teachers, taught the essential lessons of spiritual religion -- love, justice, goodness, purity, holiness -- subordinating the material and the political to the spiritual and the eternal.

Who can compute all that Jesus has meant to humanity? The love he has inspired, the solace he has given, the good he has engendered, the hope and joy he has kindled -- all that is unequaled in human history.

"A Jewish View of Jesus", pp.441-442, 509 in Selected Works of Hyman G. Enelow, Volume III: Collected Writings (privately printed, 1935).


Solomon B. Freehof
Author and Professor at Hebrew Union College
1892-1990

All this vast diversity of opinion has not lessened the vividness of the personality of Jesus. The opposite opinions have not balanced each other into immobility. All the opinions are still staunchly held and ardently defended. The years have not diminished the urgency of the question: "What do you think of Jesus?"

...The significant fact is that time has not faded the vividness of his [Jesus'] image. Poetry still sings his praise. He is still the living comrade of countless lives. No Moslem ever sings, "Mohammed, lover of my soul," nor does any Jew say of Moses, the teacher, "I need thee every hour."

In Stormers of Heaven (New York: Harper and Row, 1931).


Paul Goodman
British Zionist and Author
1875-1949

The charm of his personality has sent its rays all over the world, and infused countless human hearts with the spirit of love and self-sacrifice....Yet the roots of the life and thought of Jesus lie entirely in Jewish soil.

In The Synagogue and the Church (1908), quoted in Jewish Views of Jesus: An Introduction and Appreciation by Thomas T. Walker (New York: Arno Press, 1973 [reprint of 1931 ed.]), p. 25.


Samuel Hirsch
German and American Reform Rabbi and Chief Rabbi of Luxembourg
1815-1899

In order that Jesus' power of hope and greatness of soul should not end with his death, God has raised in the group of his disciples the idea that he rose from death and continues living. Indeed, He continues living in all those who want to be true Jews.

Cited by Pinchas Lapide, p. 137 in The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983).


Joseph Klausner
Historian and Professor, Hebrew University
1874-1958

Jesus of Nazareth...was a product of Palestine alone, a product of Judaism unaffected by any foreign admixture. There were many Gentiles in Galilee, but Jesus was in no way influenced by them. In his days Galilee was the stronghold of the most enthusiastic Jewish patriotism...In all this Jesus is the most Jewish of Jews...more Jewish even than Hillel.

Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Macmillan, 1925), pp. 363, 374.


Gottlieb Klein
Chief Rabbi of Stockholm
1852-1914

The background [of the Synoptic Gospels] is definitely Jewish. The odor of the Palestinian earth which streams up from these pages is so strong that only unbridled fantasy could transform this historical Jesus into a myth....

Here is a fact which rests on so firm a foundation that no philosophy can shake it: Jesus of Nazareth is a historical personality.

In "Is Jesus a Historical Personality?" cited by Pinchas Lapide, pp. 116, 118 in Israelis, Jews, and Jesus (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979).


Kaufmann Kohler
Rabbbi and Educator
1843-1926

The times of Jesus were ripe for a social upheaval, for the Messianic Age, when the proud will be brought low, and the humble will be lifted up. Jesus, the most lowly of all men, the despised, beyond comparison, of the despised Jewish nation, has ascended the world's throne to become the Great King of the whole earth.

In Judaism at the World's Parliament of Religions (Cincinnati: Clarke, 1894).


Pinchas Lapide
Orthodox Jewish Scholar, Germany
Born 1922

I accept the resurrection of Easter Sunday not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as a historical event.

If the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on that Easter Sunday were a public event which had been made known...not only to the 530 Jewish witnesses but to the entire population, all Jews would have become followers of Jesus. To me this would have had only one imaginable consequence: the church, baptism, the forgiveness of sins, the cross, everything which today is Christian would have remained an inner-Jewish institution, and you [Gentiles], my dear friend, would today still be offering horsemeat to Wotan on the Godesberg. Put in other words, I see in the fact that the Easter experience was imparted to only some Jews the finger of God indicating that, as it says in the New Testament, "the time is fulfilled."

Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine: A Dialogueby Pinchas Lapide and Jürgen Moltmann (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), pp. 59, 68.


Maimonides (Moses Ben Maimon)
Philosopher and Legal Codifier
1135-1204

All these matters which refer to Jesus of Nazareth...only served to make the way free for the King Messiah and to prepare the whole world for the worship of God with a united heart, as it is written: "Yea, at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord" (Zeph. 3:9). In this way the messianic hope, the Torah, and the commandments have become a widespread heritage of faith -- among the inhabitants of the far islands and among many nations, uncircumcised in heart and flesh.

"Mishneh Torah" (Hilkhot Melakhim XI, 4), cited by Pinchas Lapide, p. 143 in The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983).


Isaac Joseph Poysner
Yiddish author

Christianity is bone of our bones, and flesh of our flesh. The bearers of the Christian message were Jews, and they hailed from Judaism.

In The Kingdom of the Messiah (Warsaw, 1925).


Hans Joachim Schoeps
Professor of the History of Religion at Erlangen
Born 1909

The church of Jesus Christ has preserved no portrait of its lord and saviour. If Jesus were to come again tomorrow, no Christian would know his face. But it might well be that he who is coming at the end of days, he who is awaited by the synagogue as by the church, is one, with one and the same face.

In The Jewish-Christian Argument: A History of Theologies in Conflict (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963).


Dr. Elie Soloweyczyk
Orthodox Rabbi
19th C.

Jesus had no other end in view than to animate men with faith in the one God and to urge them on to the practice of all the neighborly virtues and love for everyone, even enemies. May God grant us all, Jews and Christians, that we may follow the teaching of Jesus and his shining example, for our well-being in this world and our salvation in the next. Amen.

Kol Kore o Ha-Talmud Wehabrith Hachadasha III: 9; published 1875; cited in Pinchas Lapide, Israelis, Jews and Jesus (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1979), pp. 112-13.


Samuel Umen
American Reform Rabbi
Born 1917

If what Jesus said or did in his time among his people, appear strange to the Jew of our day, it is only because we are removed from the thoughts and life of his period by twenty centuries. We read his life, we judge his acts and his views, by our own present day knowledge and understanding of religion generally, and Judaism in particular. The misjudgment we oft-times impute to Jesus is completely that of our own.

Pharisaism and Jesus (New York: Philosophical Library, 1963), p. 110.


Geza Vermes
Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies, University of Oxford
Born 1924

...No objective and enlightened student of the Gospels can help but be struck by the incomparable superiority of Jesus....

Second to none in profundity of insight and grandeur of character, he is in particular an unsurpassed master of the art of laying bare the inmost core of spiritual truth and of bringing every issue back to the essence of religion, the existential relationship of man and man, and man and God.

Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973), p. 224.


Harris Weinstock
American Businessman, Synagogue President, and Author
1854-1922

His wisdom and gentleness, his unselfishness of spirit and his love for humanity, his desire to live in the spirit of the early Jewish prophets, and to practise in his daily life the ethics of Judaism, are becoming better understood, so that the modern Jew looks upon Jesus as one of the greatest gifts that Israel has given to the world, and he is, therefore, proud to call Jesus his very own: blood of his blood, flesh of his flesh.

Had there been no Abraham, there would have been no Moses. Had there been no Moses, there would have been no Jesus. Had there been no Jesus, there would have been no Paul. Had there been no Paul, there would have been no Christianity. Had there been no Christianity, there would have been no Luther. Had there been no Luther, there would have been no Pilgrim fathers to land on these shores with the Jewish Bibles under their arms. Had there been no Pilgrim fathers, there would have been no civil or religious liberty....Without Jesus or Paul, the God of Israel would still have been the God of a handful.

Jesus the Jew and Other Addresses (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1902).


Rabbi Stephen S. Wise
American Reform Rabbi
1874-1949

Neither Christian protest nor Jewish lamentation can annul the fact that Jesus was a Jew, an Hebrew of the Hebrews....

Jesus was not only a Jew but he was the Jew, the Jew of Jews...

In "The Life and Teaching of Jesus the Jew," The Outlook, June 7, 1913.

Ferdynand Zweig
Scholar and Visiting Professor at Hebrew and Tel Aviv Universities
Born 1896

The Book and the Land have become sanctified to the world and this was not the work of the Diaspora Jews who, in spite of the injunction, did not become "a light to the Gentiles," but was the work rather of a single Jew and his band of Jewish followers, all of them Sabras. They were all born and bred in the Land, which is in this sense the most fruitful land on earth.

In Israel: The Sword and the Harp, (Cranbury, NJ: Associated U. Presses, 1969).

  1. Ben Siegel, The Controversial Sholem Asch: An Introduction to His Fiction (Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1976), p. 148, quoting an interview with Asch by Frank S. Mead in The Christian Herald in 1944.
  2. Quoted by Shalom Ben-Chorin in "The Image of Jesus in Modern Judaism," Journal of Ecumenical Studies 11, no. 3 (Summer 1974), p. 408.
  3. Kol Kitve, Ha-Poel Ha-Mizrachi, Vol. VI (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1927), pp. 103-4.
  4. Two Types of Faith (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961), pp. 12-13.


It is important to begin by saying that for one who has already made up his or her mind that Jesus is not the Messiah, no amount of evidence will be convincing. But for those who are honest in asking, the evidence speaks for itself.

When sincerely asked, this question is a good one. After all, there have been false Messiahs in Jewish history. Among the most prominent were Bar Kochba and Shabbetai Zevi. Bar Kochba led a revolt against Rome in the years 132-135 C.E.

During this revolt, one of the most famous figures in Jewish history, Rabbi Akiva, proclaimed him to be "King Messiah." Unfortunately, Bar Kochba, Akiva and thousands of Jews were killed in 135 C.E. when the Romans stormed the stronghold of Betar. Shabbetai Zevi, on the other hand, was a self-proclaimed Messiah. Flourishing in 17th-century Europe, the Shabbatean movement spread among both the common people and the rabbis. But when Shabbetai Zevi was arrested in 1666 by the Sultan of Turkey, he converted to Islam rather than face death. We have been tragically wrong before, so it is not surprising that hard evidence should be sought for believing in Jesus.

The idea of a Messiah is one that is found throughout the Hebrew Bible.

There, the Messiah's "I.D." is given to us. Imagine looking up a friend by first locating his country. That would not be enough information, so you would need to ascertain his city, street, and specific number on that street. It would also help if you had a phone number and knew the time at which he would be home.

Similarly, the Bible tells us the "I.D." of the Messiah. His ethnic background, place of birth, time frame of his arrival and other identifying characteristics are given. These "credentials" enable us to identify the Messiah, and to recognize imposters.

Of course it might be objected that if these "credentials" are so clear, why didn't most Jewish people believe in Jesus, and why were they so taken in by false Messiahs like Bar Kochba and Shabbetai Zevi?

To understand this, one must realize that by the time of Jesus, the Messianic hope had become greatly politicized in the minds of the people. They were seeking deliverance from the tyranny of Rome. Although the Scripture spoke both of the sufferings and of the victories of the Messiah, the victorious aspect had become uppermost in the minds of the common people because of the Roman domination. This "lopsided" view of the Messiah has stuck with Jewish people, and the politicization of the Messianic hope has continued. Thus the hope of a political rather than a spiritual Messiah contributes to both the acceptance of people such as Bar Kochba, and the rejection of Jesus in his role as a Messiah.

This is not to say that all Jewish people rejected the claims of Jesus. Far from that being the case, all the first followers of Jesus were Jews. In fact, the rabbis of that time period and afterwards were well aware of the many Messianic prophecies which Christians claimed were fulfilled in Jesus. So for instance, although the Talmudic rabbis concurred that Isaiah 53 was a prediction of the Messiah, by medieval times the pressure from those who applied this prophecy to Jesus was so great that Rashi, that greatest medieval Biblical scholar, reinterpreted the chapter and said it referred to the nation of Israel. This interpretation is maintained today by many Jewish scholars, though it only dates back to the Middle Ages.

What, then, are some of the credentials of the Messiah?

Only a few can be listed below; there are many others. All of these passages were recognized by the early rabbis as referring to the Messiah:

  • Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem: Micah 5:2 (Micah 5:1 in Hebrew Bible)
  • Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah: Genesis 49:10
  • Messiah would present himself by riding on an ass: Zechariah 9:9
  • Messiah would be tortured to death: Psalm 22:1-31
  • Messiah would arrive before the destruction of the Second Temple: Daniel 9:24-27
  • Messiah's life would match a particular description, including suffering, silence at his arrest and trial, death and burial in a rich man's tomb, and resurrection: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

In detail as to lineage, birthplace, time, and lifestyle, Jesus matched the Messianic expectations of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The record of this fulfillment is to be found in the pages of the New Testament. But several other factors combine to further substantiate the Messiahship of Jesus.

In the first place, he claimed to be the Messiah! When a woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming." he replied, "I who speak to you am he" (John 4:25-26). Naturally, that doesn't prove anything one way or the other. But if Jesus had never made the claim to be the Messiah, why would we bother to try and prove that he was? His own claim lays the groundwork for the rest of the evidence.

Jesus' life is in sharp contrast to that of the false Messiahs, and it is a positive demonstration of what we would expect the Messiah to do.

Thus, Jesus worked many miracles of healing, bringing wholeness into people's lives, forgiving sin and restoring relationships. In contrast with Shabbetai Zevi, for instance, Jesus carried out the Law of Moses as a devout Jew. And in contrast with Bar Kochba, although Jesus also died, he was resurrected!

The resurrection is a third piece of additional evidence, and it is perhaps the most convincing vindication of Jesus' claims. It is interesting that an Israeli scholar, Pinchas Lapide, has written a book which has attracted no small amount of attention in the Jewish community. The reason is that Lapide has said that the resurrection of Jesus is well within the realm of possibility. After all, he reasoned, the Hebrew Scriptures give a number of accounts of people coming back to life. Why not Jesus as well? Regrettably, Lapide fails to note that the resurrection of Jesus is described in terms that go far beyond the resucitations of the other stories; and, he fails to come to grips with the fact that Jesus predicted his own resurrection, which vindicated his claims to Messiahship.

An assortment of explanations has been offered throughout history to explain away the resurrection as either non-historical ("It never happened.") or as non-supernatural ("Here's how it happened.").

But these explanations have not been successful. Run down the possibilities for yourself and see which makes the best sense. Did the Roman authorities steal the body of Jesus from the tomb? Then why didn't they produce it when the word started being spread that Jesus was risen? Or maybe the disciples stole it. But could such a fabrication on their part account for the change in their attitude? Three days earlier they were disillusioned, defeated idealists who had hoped that Jesus would bring in a new world order; could a lie which they knew to be a lie, now account for their hope, their boldness in the face of official persecution, and for the high ethical standards they set?

Perhaps Jesus never died: he just fainted on the cross and revived in the tomb.

This idea was popularized in the book The Passover Plot by Hugh Schonfield. Unfortunately the author overlooked the fact that the Romans pierced Jesus' side, which would have most certainly killed him. Also, there was a contingent of Roman soldiers guarding the tomb as well as a huge stone that blocked its entrance. There was no way that a resuscitated Jesus could have escaped and then convinced hundreds of skeptical eyewitnesses that he had conquered death forever! Or was it all a mass hallucination? It must have been quite a hallucination to be seen by vastly different kinds of people at different times of day in many different places. You might be able to fool one person, but can you fool five hundred who saw him at one time? And unlike the pattern of hallucinations, these appearances of the resurrected Jesus stopped as suddenly as they started, forty days after the resurrection took place.

The only satisfactory explanation is that the resurrection actually occurred, just as the record says. And if that's the case, it's a solid reason for accepting the Messiahship of Jesus.

Jesus transforms people's lives.

Because he provides atonement for sin and reconciliation with God, Jesus brings peace, joy, and purpose into people's lives. Apart from faith in him, there is no basis for true peace or direction, for as the psalmist says, "Man is estranged from the womb." That this estrangement is healed by the reconciling ministry of Jesus is the common experience of those who believe in him.

Between the objective evidence of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and the subjective verification in our own lives--we think there's ample evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be!