Some Jewish Views of Jesus
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
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
Rabbi and Theologian
The New Testament is also our book, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.3
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.
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).
Israeli Teacher and Author
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).
Novelist and Essayist
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.
Former Editor of the Saturday Review
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.
Physicist and Professor, Princeton University
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.
Hyman G. Enelow
President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
and Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, New York City (Reform)