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Jews for Jesus

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach claims Jesus was a Jew who never meant to create a new religion. He tests his theory on Harvard scholar Noah Feldman.

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Adi Nes, Christ, 2009. (Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)
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Shmuley Boteach wants the government to extend blue laws and subsidize marriage counseling—and he’s running for Congress as a Republican

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach made a huge splash with his 1999 book, Kosher Sex. The book, along with works including Kosher Sutra and Kosher Adultery, flouts taboos against discussing physical intimacy, desire, and other basic elements of the human experience. Now he’s at it again, taking on perhaps the biggest taboo of all: Jesus. In Kosher Jesus, Boteach argues that Jesus, a faithful adherent and proponent of Judaism, never intended to create a new religion. That turn of events was a corruption of Jesus’ reputation by his followers, argues Boteach, and getting to a place where Jews and Christians alike recognize his Jewishness can only help achieve greater understanding between peoples of different faiths today.

Boteach joins Vox Tablet, hosted by Tablet’s Bari Weiss, to talk about his new book. With him on the podcast is Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University and a longtime friend of Boteach’s, who has his own ideas about the potentials and limits of Jewish arguments about Jesus. In addition, Boteach solicits Feldman’s opinion on another pressing matter: Should Boteach run for Congress? Boteach has been weighing a candidacy and is expected to announce his final decision this week. (More on that here.) [Running time: 31:24] 

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This conversation would have been better served with an actual scholar of Jewish-Christian relations rather than a shameless self-promoter and now Congressional candidate hoping for Evangelical Christian support for a trip to Washington, like Rabbi Boteach. While it may be true that the Gospels “de-Judaized” Jesus, the Rabbis of the Mishnah ignored him, so what’s his historical point? Given Chabad’s worship of its last Rebbe, it oughtn’t surprise us that it’s greatest Rebel Son has gone public with his love affair with the Christian Rebbe Jesus. Weis asks what was the goal of the book. Shmuley says, “The goal was to teach the world about the Jewishness of Jesus.” The world hadn’t known that? This guy is deluded.

At this point, Boteach is an even bigger idiot than I thought possible. If it wasn’t for Nathan Rabin’s hilarious review of his Michael Jackson book he’d be completely worthless instead of just insufferable.

Mikel Clifford says:

Marcello Craveri’s The Life of Jesus (1967) comes to the same conclusion. His research led him to believe Jesus’ goal was to be a Good Jew.

Dr. Michael Stone says:

I am truly shocked that this idea has not been stated earlier. For decades now, this is exactly how I have thought of Jesus…not the Son Of God, a great Jewish Rabbi, minor Prophet, who had absolutely no intention of starting a new religion, but was dramatically trying to change Jewish thought. Basically changing the thought that God was an angry, vengeful God, to an all loving and forgiving God.

Did anyone read “The Passover Plot”?
Anyway, what does this one suggest? No matter WHAT Boteach preaches, it won’t make a bit of difference to Christians.

This is a theme scholars have explored in the past decades.

Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish scholar of the Christian Bible, has written a number of quite good scholarly and popular works on this; The Jewish Annotated New Testament and The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus are two of her more recent works.

p.s. what’s behind this? how does Boteach KNOW what Jesus was thinking…

Mildred Bilt says:

Schmuley ia s rabbi like I’m the Queen of England. I think he’s a superb candidate for Congress. He’ll be the capstone of the idiocy of the US voter. As Aristotle said “Democracy is the best form of government. The problem is that it doesn’t work”. The democratic government didn’t work in Greece either.
So-anybody have any ideas? Please leave out any mind melds with Jesus.

kiefman says:

HE IS WRONG, ISN’T ABLE TO KNOW THE TRUTH. This Rabbi lacks the true knowledge about a Jew by name JESUS. Shamefully for him, Shmuley Boteach, he is like digging in a grave where all previous crazy christian diggers searched and found their finally dead and graves. In the buttom of Hell… He seems to be the one among the stupid ones, not of Jews, but of Israelis stock. WHY IT IS SO, you may ask? Well, the truth is simple as it appears in the very one sentence he, this one stupd rabbi said:

Jesus was a Jew who never meant to create a new religion…

Because, yes, the one most important Jew of his time, JESUS, created the only one possible trend of truth available, only possible and faithfully worth as a belief worth to be alive as fundamentally most truthfully accepted historical facts of things to happen just as they are at any true time.

Being a Jew myself I dare to say that this Rabbi isn’t worth to be listen to or to be believed in what he says about this most precious of all Jewish cases. He doesn’t know what he is talking about. Secrets are still well hidden and yet to be found and discovered. YES, this one poor in truthful knowledge Rabbi Shmuley Boteach looks like a true parody of his own simple faith. He is the mirrowed picture of all fantastic fatally believers when are dreaming of totally possible things to happen..


M. $embler says:

Noah Feldman is not a “scholar” but a law professor.

Going back to the fuss he created at the NYT magazine, claiming his photo was snipped out of a yeshiva picture because he did not marry Jewish, Feldman, although much brighter than Boteach, is every bit as much a self-promoter- just less obvious about it.

Hector Francisco Godinez A. says:

I’m with Mr. Boteach about the idea, not very original, that Jesus hadn’t the intention to create a new religion, but that means also that the holy scriptures weren’t inspired for God but for men, and that the worthful assets of the Bible is because it was written for men even in a time when the slavery, the cruelty and the impiety were ordinary conducts of the human being.

George says:

This is old news. Biblical historian Hugh Schonfield wrote a marvelous book in 1965 called ‘The Passover Plot’ which meticulously laid out the evidence that Jesus was a deeply religious Jew. Christianity was the invention of Paul.

Jon Sneddon says:

I find it disturbing whenever Jews take the actual existence of the historical Jesus as a given — and then apologetically spinning the story.

Given the multitude of contradictions within the Christian bible, the lack of any chain of witnesses who had contact with a physical contact with said “Jesus” (the authors wrote of the gospels “according to” Matthew, John, Luke, Peter — over a hundred years after the non-fact), and the tales of supernatural — the Christian “testament” should not be given any credibility as to personage or events.

The fact that a billion people passionately believe that the personage and events in this story were true doesn’t add any weight to the story’s lack of veracity.

Rabbi Boteach should stick with Judaism, and making our narrative relevant for ourselves and humanity — and not create another spin on the fictional story of the messiah who never was.

Alter says:

There is a book published in 2010 that explores the evidence for the Jewish education of Jesus–it doesn’t have to speculate about “goals”. It is David Rosenberg’s “An Educated Man: A Dual Biography of Moses and Jesus” (Counterpoint).

Dr. Denis MacEoin says:

One of the most scholarly works on this subject is Geza Vermes’s ‘Jesus the Jew’. Boteach has uncovered nothing new. But perhaps he writes in a popular style and makes this theory accessible to the public; in that case, the venture would be worthwhile.

Yehudit says:

I was not aware this notion was new, much less in doubt; I taught it to my Humanities students–in almost the exact same words–for years.

Kol Limud says:

Great discussion on bringing Jewish values to universal questions. A Chabad rabbi breaks into the mainstream with very challenging ideas; this is a terrific opportunity to hear intelligent discussion about important matters.

Check out the audio podcast which begins with the Jewish Jesus and goes from there to a values discussion in America.

Julian Williams says:

The very big question in all of this is that this Jesus may not have even existed. People act as if this person existed when there is great doubt about that by anyone who can think. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus had a lot to say about King Herod but almost nothing to say about Jesus. Why is that?
He was an upper-class priest from Jerusalem who was born only four years after the death of Jesus. If such a person as Jesus ever existed, people like Josephus would have a lot to say about him.

George says:

He was an upper-class priest from Jerusalem who was born only four years after the death of Jesus. If such a person as Jesus ever existed, people like Josephus would have a lot to say about him.’

Not necessarily. Assuming he existed, he certainly was not, while he lived and died, the ‘superstar’ christianity turned him into. He was just one more rebellious Jew of the time who ran afoul of the authorities and was put to death. Remember, the ‘details’ of his life and accomplishments were written many years after his death.

jacob c says:

It is not accurate to say that John’s Jesus is different (emphasis on Deity) than the synoptic gospels. When Jesus called himself “the son of man” for example it was a referance to Daniel chapter 7 vss 13ff. Matthew recounts how the high priest (jewish high priest) tore his robe concluding that Jesus was calling himself Deity. Matthew 26:63-68 3 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if yu are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered. 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”

jacob c says:

It is facinating that these two honorable men begin the conversation stating that Jesus is the most famous Jew in the world. The interesting fact about this is that Isaiah’s verses about the messiah states (52:13) “he will be high, lifted up, and greatly exhalted. ” What Jew in the world is lifted up more than Jesus? In all of history! He is lifted up higher than Moses, David, Abraham or Daniel.

Arandi Oreno says:

Jesus was a Black Jew..Enough Said

Larry says:

I can never understand how the Jews are blamed for the death of Jesus.
It was an Italian (Roman) that sentenced him to be crucified. It was Italian (Roman) soldiers that beat and crucified him It was an Italian (Roman) soldier that stabbed him with a lance while Jesus was on the cross. I do believe the Romans came from Italy and that does make them Italian. Yet nobody blames the Italians for killing Jesus, only the Jews get the blames. How come.

Jesus was a Black Jew..Enough Said’

Black people need to be proud of their own history without trying to raise their self-esteem by making ridiculous claims on other peoples’ history. Much like the claims that the ancient Egyptians were black Africans which have also been disproven by experts in the history.

well, the ignorance is amazing. The Messiah Yeshua came to do exactly what He did, that is to atone for the sins of not only believing Jews but Gentiles. All of Tanakh points to this “Great Transaction”, that is the atonement of Jesus. For ex. The story of Isaac, the story of Joseph, Moses the deliverer, Joshua, who took the sons of Israel into the promised land by faith! Jonah, who was 3 days in the belly of a whale. In fact, Yeshua mentioned the sign of Jonah specifially concerning His death and resurrection. Lets not try to rewrite history. For it is indeed His Story! May the sons of Israel find peace with G-d and forgiveness of sins through their Messiah, by faith in Him and His finished work on our behalf.

Hersh Ostropoler says:

If Jesus was a Jew, how come he didn’t sell tickets to the last supper?

Discussions regarding Jesus “Jewishness,” his “mission,” etc. assume that there ever was a man as described in Christian scripture. That rabbis debate such an issue skirts the more fundamental issue and makes one wonder if that issue simply too “delicate” to even be broached? Since the reality of the figure around whom Christianity is based provides insight into the psychology of the religion, and its theological anti-Judaism feeding antisemitism, this question is not one to ignored or, if ignored, at least Jews, rabbinical and lay historians, should not accept and thereby provide a “false-historical” justification for 2,000 years of scripture-inspired persecution (eg. Matthew, 27:25: “His blood be upon us and our children,” etc,) justifying eternal retribution for our fictitious “crime.” One scholar suggests that minus that persecution Jews today number equal to the total population of the British Isles. Another estimates that more that ten million Jews died BEFORE 1932. Horrific consequences for an ignored question. And what lies in the future if this was our past?

Perhaps we should leave the problem of Jesus historicity to the more than two hundred year Christian theological Quest, view it as a third rail to be avoided. But certainly we should reinforce a myth with such dangerous consequences to our very existence!

For the Editor: Hiding responses behind an hyperlink does not promote discussion. Forward, Slatest and Beast might serve a better model. Also, providing a “Reply” option would also encourage dialogue.

David says:

1) a big LOL to Hersh! Thank you.

2) if people of any faith want to defend the existence of their patriarchs, matriarchs, gods, demigods, etc via supporting literature … good luck! If Jesus didn’t exist because the NT was written a hundred years after his death and no contemporary historians recorded the details of his life, then what about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Moses?! Prove their existence through secondary sources; prove their existence through textual dating in relation to Sinai.


Now I’m off to make reservations for seder ($70!).

dmark49389 says:

As other respondents have pointed out, it is very old news whether Jesus meant to start a new religion. In Jewish terms, he was a radical messianic Pharisee, himself doubting whether he was supposed to be Messiah, until his vision in the Garden of Gethsemane. I direct readers to the classic, Rabbi Samuel Sandmel’s, “A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament.” Prior to his arrival on the stage of history, the Jews were doing well at attracting converts, except for two obstacles: observance of Shabbat, which was difficult, and brit milah, which was painful. Paul eliminated both of these, as well as kashrut. Jesus was also fortunate in having the 12 Apostles, the world’s first public relations firm, which spread the gospel (“good news”). Christianity took off like a bullet, leaving the “mother church” (Judaism) in the dust.

He is right! Jesus had no intentions to start a new religion, he had a  spiritual gift that made people heal, and had a gift of gab, in this time of his life that it had many uneducated people who’s life information depended on religious  leaders  so when so coaled  some religious leaders used his gift and manipulated unsuspected people with a story’s that he was a Messiah all in the name of greed for power, and unfortunately it spread, this would never happen in this world due to education and many people like him who are spiritual  healers and that doesn’t make them messiahs as there would be thousands of them.Now this manipulates are couled saints and apostles ))) what a irony, They are the one’s who sold Jesus to Romans to be killed not Jews, beckose Jesus didn’t like it what they using him for so they killed him and made him a God! what a lot of bull.


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Jews for Jesus

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach claims Jesus was a Jew who never meant to create a new religion. He tests his theory on Harvard scholar Noah Feldman.

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