Recently I have been intrigued by the book “Kosher Jesus” written by Shmuley Boteach (known as “America’s Rabbi”) whom The Washington Post and Newsweek call “the most famous Rabbi in America.” He is also one of the world’s leading values and spirituality experts. In his book he compares scholarly views on the historical Jesus with theological views from the early rabbinic literature. Following it’s release “Kosher Jesus” received mixed reactions from the Jewish community as well as Christian reviewers.
Jacob Immanuel Schochet, a prominent rabbi of the Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement, was very critical, claiming the book to be heretical and stating that it “poses a tremendous risk to the Jewish community”. Other reviewer – Jeremy Rosen of The Algemeiner Journal notes that Boteach ”wants Jews to stop thinking of him as a heretic and the founder of a religion that persecuted them for two thousand years.”
I took an opportunity to speak with Rabbi Shmuley and find out about his views.
Why Jews don’t accept Jesus as a Messiah?
”Because he did not fulfill some of the prophets”, he says, ”made a world of peace, bring the Jews from all corners of the Earth, rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem… Person who is a Messiah will do all those things. And he was not the Messiah.”
Speaking on early Christians, this orthodox Rabbi thinks that “they definitely felt that he is Messiah, but they didn’t think that he was divine and didn’t think that he was G-d. Jesus was only made in to the God at the council of Nicaea which was in 325 AD. The Jewish Messiah is a king, a great leader who is going to fight the enemies of the Jewish people. Jewish Messiah is not someone who is divine, so I don’t think they believe that he was God in a body at all.”
For Muslims Jesus from Nazareth is a prophet (Isa), but not for the Jews.
“For us a prophecy stopped at the destruction of the buildings of the First Temple”, Shmuley states. That means that the last prophet was Malachi, and he lived about 400 years before Christ.
“So Jesus was not a prophet even though he predicted a second destruction of Jerusalem?”, I asked.
“Well everybody was predicting the destruction of the Temple. The Jews had a tremendous tension with the Romans. It was only a matter of time before their rebellion broke out and that bring to the destruction of the Temple. Jesus was not the only one. There were many at that time that was saying that Temple will be destroyed, because the Temple became corrupt, they were saying that the corruption will lead to the destruction.”
Jesus with no doubt was kosher. He was a good Jewish Rabbi who was teaching Torah and was against Roman occupation.
“He kept every word of Torah”, Shmuley adds. “In Mathew 5:18 He said: ‘For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.’”
Boteach states that Jesus never claimed his divinity. Then what about John 8:58: “Before Abraham was, I am?”
“The gospel of John was written a while after He left. There is no question that the gospel of John was completely different than the other gospels, completely.”
For other gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Rabbi says that “there is a lot of truth in them, but a lot of things were added to portray Jews as having killed Jesus, or telling Pontius Pilate: ‘His blood be on us and on our children’ (Matthew 25:27). That’s invention. That’s the source of the global anti-Semitism and it never happened. “
The reason why most of the Jews are uncomfortable with Jesus name is because it has been “used to justify the two thousand years of anti-Semitism.” In Talmud “Jesus” was described as someone who was practicing magic in Egypt, who was heretic, whose mother was adulteress etc. or maybe that was not the same Jesus?
“That what I’m saying in the book”, Shmuley explains. “There were many Jesus at the time, and I’m not sure which is which. I discussed that in my book with relevant source material.”
At the end, do Jews need to accept Jesus as one of their own? Rabbi says: “To accept him in a matter I described in the book, as a Jewish patriot who fought the Romans, who was preaching Torah, who never claimed to be divine, then – Yes.”