1/03/2010

The Gospel According to Steven

I honestly do not understand why people are looking to, um, crucify Rabbi Riskin for his recent "Rabbi Jesus" statements. I mean, did people really think that he's some kind of closet Christian? He was clearly propounding his view of what he calls the "historical Jesus". Of course, we all know that the 'historical Jesus' is inaccessible, but that does not undermine the legitimacy of a Jewish 'take' on Jesus. Toldot Yeshu is one such 'gospel'.
Point is, as Christian rethink Jesus and begin to think of him as having emerged from a Jewish milieu, it's desirable for Jews to rethink Jesus as well.

A few years ago, I was asked by a Christian group at UMD to give the Jewish 'approach' to Jesus. I basically said that the main issue with regard to the Jewish approach to Jesus is that he was not the Messiah and not the son of God. Everything else is commentary. He may have been a villain or a saint, but he was, at the end of the day, a human being like you and me. I went on to say that I had no problem saying that he was a great man who had a tremendous amount to offer. I do not need to believe that he is eternally boiling in a vat of semen, as the Talmud suggests in Gittin - he's just not the Messiah.

There may have been a time - not even so long ago - that the name of Jesus inspired visceral reactions of hatred: Yoshke yemach shmo. There was good reason for it, too. Christianity was the enemy, or, at the very least, Christians were. I cannot help but believe that the demonization of Jesus was related to that history. In a more positive relationship, Jesus can be Jewishly re-read in a positive light - he just wasn't the Messiah.
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