- Published on Thursday, 20 December 2012 06:34
- Written by By Dr Glenville Ashby
More importantly, the author makes a compelling argument that all of Jewry may not have heard of Jesus, curiously alluding to the ministry of John the Baptist as larger. He cites the paucity of writings on Jesus by the famous 1st century historian Josephus, to prove his point. While many today will allude to the endurance, ubiquity, and influence of Christianity to challenge Klinghoffer's claims, his work is worthy of consideration.
Jesus, the author posits, was an orthodox Jew who broke from rabbinical authority by questioning oral tradition. For example, Judaism requires a quorum of ten for prayers to be performed. Jesus counseled to pray alone. And when the Messiah admonished a young man to follow him and “let the dead bury the dead,” he again contravened traditions on Jewish burial rites. In other words, Jesus viewed oral traditions as the mere teachings of men, that may have little in the way of spiritual enlightenment. Klinghoffer writes: “For Jesus, oral tradition was a man-made accretion without transcendent authority,” and cites the following, attributed to the Christian Messiah: “For the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God.”
A protean in the classical sense of the word, Jesus was an exorcist, miracle worker, Messiah, and son of God. Yet, the author argues, these were not unique characteristics in that era.
The Talmud, the sacred book documenting Jewish traditions and history is replete with Hasids or pious ones who performed wonders. Hanina ben Dosa, a Galilean, like Jesus; and Honi, the Circle Maker were just two of the many Jewish mystics who befuddled the multitude.
Even in his role as the Messiah, Jesus was hardly unique. Again, there were many purported Messiahs before Jesus’ time – and many with larger followings. Some met their deaths at the hands of the Romans, while others drifted into oblivion. Kinghoffer presents a scenario that gives Jesus little credit for originality. The question is: Why should the Jews at that time have believed in this newcomer? Even the term "Son of God," is said to have been used by God in the Talmud as he addressed the 2nd century Rabbi Meir, and Hasid Hanina Ben Dosa.
Yet, some dye-in wool Jews, such as the Nazarites, believed in Jesus the Messiah, while the Ebionites went one step further, attributing divinity to him. Such groups were called Minim, and were deemed syncretic in the eyes of Jewish orthodoxy. Nevertheless, they were all Jews, following the dietary laws, and those pertaining to circumcision. Such were Jesus’ apostles, except Luke who was a gentile.
The birth of Christianity, according to the author was created by Paul who was bent on abrogating, even subverting both the oral tradition and the Torah. Paul became an existential threat to the immutable covenant that God had made with the Jewish people, even more than Jesus.
By 70 AD with the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans and the tepid response by the Minim, Orthodox Judaism condemned the Jews for Jesus movements, severing all ties with them. More and more gentiles were proselytized in the process.
Klinghoffer sees the ascension of Jesus as God, as an intellectual, if not a political evolution with the Nicene Council in the 4th century – a development that every Jew viewed as an anathema, given their strict monotheistic doctrine.
Arguably, Jesus himself would reject the Christian doctrine as promulgated by Paul, according to Klinghoffer.
In the second half of the book, the author provides a fascinating account of Jewish - Christian polemics in the immediate centuries after Jesus' death, a time when the Christian persecution of Jews was non-existent.
Christian apologists, such as Tertullian, Origen, and Justin Martyr challenged well known Rabbis on the Jesus question. On each point, the rabbis rationally supported their position..
Dr Genville Ashby, literary critic - Caribbean Book Review/ Follow me on Twitter@glenvilleashby
Why the Jews Rejected Jesus by David Klinghoffer
Three Leaves Press. a division of Random House, Inc., New York
Available: Barnes and Boble.com/Amazon.com
Ratings: *****: Essential