Jesus was not just a good man.
Klinghoffer, David. Why the Jews Rejected Jesus. New York:Doubleday, 2005. 247 pp.
Chopra, Deepak. The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore. New York: Harmony Books, 2008. 242 pp.
The three books under review are indeed quite original and unique in their composition in that they are written for the secular Jews and Christians of the twenty--first century--the inquisitive mind. They attempt to answer the question, who was Jesus? All three studies assert a positive view that Jesus was a good man. These three books, written by outstanding scholars, are also the latest attempt to diminish the Christian concept of Jesus to just a good man, a good rabbi, a good Jewish guy!
Three different methods of analysis are employed by the authors and the works are saturated with footnotes and references, but they remain totally unconvincing!
Amy-Jill Levine's study, THE MISUNDERSTOOD JEW goes to great lengths to depict the Jewishness of Jesus and that attempts to separate Jesus from His Jewish roots and environment by some Christian sects are scandalous, to say the least, and lead to anti-Semitism; it perpetuates slander upon the Jews as the "Christ Killers." Professor Levine confronts that notion and many other stereotypical beliefs still taught by some religious groups and churches. Many Christian claims are scrutinized to show that Jews could not accept Jesus as the Messiah "without a messianic age," as Christians have done.
David Klinghoffer's work, WHY THE JEWS REJECTED JESUS, builds upon the above theme. For this eminent scholar, Jesus failed to fulfill all the conditions for Messiahship and, also, "abrogated" the commandments (pp. 138-139), and even worse, the Christians ended up worshiping either two or three gods (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Therefore, Jesus was totally incompatible with Judaism, and thus, a false prophet or Messiah. The author chronicles a list of false Messiahs who were almost successful. This book offers us several Medieval Jewish writers and their counter Christian polemics (pp. 129-132). These arguments are all matters of interpretation of Biblical texts, but not conclusive evidence--its all circumstantial. There are just too many views of what the Jewish Messianic Hope entails.
Deepak Chopra's book, THE THIRD JESUS, presents the reader with three views of Jesus: the historical, the Church and Chopra's view. For this author, Jesus is the mystical Christ, a mysterious person who achieved divine awareness. Jesus was, therefore, a visionary, a rabbi, who achieved "God--Consciousness." This new study reduces Jesus to a Jewish Buddah or Confucious.
These three books are the latest attempt to diminish or decline the image of Jesus Christ as He is understood by Christians world--wide.
Whether Jesus was misunderstood by His followers or Ms. Levine misunderstands the case for Jesus remains to be seen. She is, however, absolutely right to fight anti--Jewish hatred by Christians who want to separate Jesus from His Jewish background. But, on the question of whether Jesus fulfilled the claims of the Messianic age, that is a problem or matter of conjecture and interpretation, and not why some Jews, perhaps a minority of them in His locale, distanced themselves from His mission.
Professor Klinghoffer builds on this theme in a brilliant way. He addresses the humanizing of Jewish Law by Jesus, which Jesus had every right to do if He was God incarnate. Thus, Jesus did, indeed, modify some Jewish Laws and eliminated others, as did His apostle Paul. (Jesus was God's revelation in the flesh, not just a messenger of it.)
Klinghoffer relates a number of well known "Messiahs" who almost succeeded from Simon Bar Kocbbah to Sabbatai Zevi. (My favorite is Menachem-Schneerson of Brooklyn, New York,) They and many other hopefuls or contenders for Messiahship all had followers but, in the long run, they failed. Only Jesus of Nazareth succeeded in the Massianic quest and He now has about 2.5 billion followers. Despite the utmost efforts of some of the Jewish establishment and the Roman authorities to cast Jesus as a fraud or charlatan and troublemaker, they both failed. The problem of finding the "correct" Messiah results from the confused and convoluted description of the Messianic Hope. (Almost anyone today could also fulfill those conditions from leaders like Theodore Herzl to Golda Meir to Ariel Sharon). And, the peace the Messianic Age calls for could be a personal one not a historic event. It should also be kept in mind that only a handful of Jews were involved in the midnight affair--the arrest and trial of Jesus and, later, His execution. His large following was not there, and many Jews were far from the scene and events in
other regions and states. Klinghoffer assumes that the majority of Jews who knew Jesus in Palestine rejected Him; there are no statistics on any of this.
Both Levine and Klinghoffer mention the Quran and the Islamic faith in their works. The Quran is God's (Allah's) final, complete and perfected revelation for all mankind. It is the words of God, and it very clearly states that Jesus was the Messiah and, it refers to Him as the Word of God and a spirit of/from Him.
In their works, the two authors touch upon, very briefly, the concept of the plurality of God as the "royal plural" and then disregard that implication. In the Quran God speaks in the third person plural. Since God is the eternal God, the I before anyone or anything else, the royal plural is meaningless and unconvincing. (For Christians the plurality in the Godhead represents the united Trinity in Heaven.)
Chopra's work is more philosophical and sociological in nature. Here we have a Jesus who was a "good man" who achieved God--consciousness, but was not a divine person (the Son of God). He is a mystical spiritualist--perhaps like a Hindu Guru or Moslem Sufi Monk. He could even be seen today as a leader of the Scientologists or the Falun Gong movement, both of which imply or exhibit spirituality without faith in the One True God and lead nowhere, neither heaven nor hell.
So why did some, perhaps a small number of Jews, reject Jesus and participate in His execution. Jesus was condemned for blasphemy, His claim to divinity. For Christians, Jesus clearly put forth that claim regarding His divine nature. Unlike each and everyone of us who has his own spirit or soul, the spirit or soul within Jesus was identical to God's in heaven; He was one in being with the Lords. He demonstrated that, not by miracles or His teachings, by doing what Christians believe no one had ever done before. Jesus demonstrated the seven powers of God given in self--description by God in the Bible. He also fulfills the 77 names of God in Judaism and the 99 names of God in Islam, by fact or action. And while it is true that Jesus had the permission of God in all that He did, He had the power to achieve His work within Him. Thus, according to the Christian faith, Jesus was not just a good man, but the "resurrection and life" which only belongs to the One True God, and no other deity.
The three books under review add nothing new to our knowledge of the Christ. In fact they raise more questions than they try to answer. However, they are interesting for enlightened conversation.
By A.J. Abraham, Professor of History at John Jay College (CUNY).
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|Title Annotation:||'The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus', 'Why the Jews Rejected Jesus' and 'The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore'|
|Publication:||Journal of Third World Studies|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2009|
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