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Under Whose Law Did Jesus’ Crimes Require Crucifixion?

Continuing to delve deeper into Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's Kosher Jesus.

by
Rhonda Robinson

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August 25, 2013 - 5:00 pm
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“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

CS Lewis Mere Christianity 

In Kosher Jesus, Rabbi Boteach agrees with Lewis. At least in part: Anyone claiming to be God, would have been considered a lunatic. However, by claiming to be the Messiah, Boteach explains, Jesus was making a political statement more than a religious one.

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All Comments   (18)
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To Riprake and Prof LW
I believe in free will as much as anyone. It's true that I don't understand why we have it, but then I don't pretend to understand why we have a Universe or a place in it at all.
On the topic of Jesus' death, and under whose law it was necessary, I stand by my opening: that, according to Christian teaching, the death of Jesus was required by God. If I'm wrong about what Christians have taught for around 2,000 years, then so are a lot of Christians. And my concern about how we understand God remains strong; I completely believe God would have sacrificed Himself in flesh for all of us, I just don't see why He would do so -- except, as I said, because some people would only believe in forgiveness by payment of debt rather than by grace.
I am glad both of you engaged my thinking rather than simply believing I am either foolish or lazy. I came by my doubts the old-fashioned way: I earned them. I scorn nothing of what either of you say here, nor will I scorn anyone who truly seeks to understand God and God's Will. I'm pretty sure none of us have it pegged, though.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Pharisees and Herodians tried to "catch him in his words," and failed spectacularly.
I've always thought that the Pharisees were especially upset that Jesus had been claiming the authority to forgive sin - which I am sure must have cut into some of their temple/sacrifice revenues. Quite unfortunate for them that their temple was destroyed and Jesus is still making headlines today.

http://goo.gl/hhW7vu
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Alas, days have passed and I was elsewhere. That means that my reply to MT Geoff may never be read as the article by My Robinson willl soon disappear into history. Mr. Geoff has formulated a sort of a theodicy criticism of Christianity, indeed also of Judaism (rendering whatever interpretation of Jesus and his suffering as irrelevant). Mr. Geoff ends his understandable doubts re suffering with the words: "I cannot believe that (God) created us for torment". This does not exclude Mr. Geoff's confession "that I can believe that He loves us us and all of His creation". Here I sense the snake that bites its own tail, i.e., Mr. Geoff throws anathemas at Judeo-Christian beliefs and fails to apply the profoundity of his thesis to himself and his "loving" God. I will do so, as I did in a comment below, find some professional counterwitnesses in the arts, specifically in German literature.

An unsual literary talent, Georg Büchner (1813-1837), entered the world of German culture anticipating literature movements decades later. Büchner is seen as a political agitator, early socialist, revolutionary mentality (pre-1848 revolt in Frankfurt, surpressed by the Prussians). That is all true. But what bothered Büchner most was suffering, suffering and more SUFFERING! (Charlies Martin's Buddha would not have relieved Büchner.) In one work, Büchner writes (and I translate freely from memory): "One drop of suffering (pain), and it rips the curtain of existence from top to bottom". This was a critique of the Enligtenement theodicy (particularly of Leibniz) that we live in the best of all possible worlds -- a world that does not exclude suffering, but is arranged for the best possible (= Geoff's "loving" God). One drop of suffering in one person for one second (extrapolating here) rips any theodicy (including Geoff's) to pieces as that "suffering" is not redeemable! If a person has solidarity with ALL individuals, then that damnable drop of suffering ruins things. It simply forces us either to distance ourselves from that single person flooded to death by that ONE drop (and that happens in the "best of all possible worlds") or to fall into dispairing madness as that drop is not redeemed. Whatéver philosophy or religion or ideology that promotes the "BEST of all possible worlds" fails to redeem (and makes a Camus into a prophet of truth). "Best" here entails Geoff's God who loves us but will not torment us, although human life is full of torment. Before returning to Büchner, let me while some time with "torment".

Consult the 30 Years War (1618-1648) in Germany in which probably 1/3 of the German population parished under the most miiserable of conditions. Read Christoffel von Grimmelhausen's (1625-1676) "Simplicissimus" and devel through literature into the "torment" of the times. The magnificient Andreas Chryphius (1616-1654) summed it up in his poem "Menschliches Elend", viz., "Human Misery" with the words "What am I saying, we all pass away like smoke in a strong wind".The Baroque period in German lit. is one in which"torment" was thematized over and over, yet Christianity flourished as it seemed to give an answer to "suffering". In what possible way?

Now back to Büchner: In 1837, this literarity (and scientific) genius caught typhus and died. His friends dispaired. How could one so young, talented and caring, simply DIE, and in such suffering? But on his death bed, shortly before "passing away", Büchner in a moment of clarity confronted that "drop of suffering" that tormented him by saying (and I only quote a few words from memory). "We suffer NOT enough, for it is through suffering that we come unto God". This God is not the "nice guy" of Mr. Geoff, but one who redeems the zillions of drops of suffering through divine suffering (in Christianity this means Jesus the Christ). Büchner found his way home. Torment was redeemed. (Check out Mother Theresa sometime as she seems to have shared Büchner's view.) I thank Mr. Geoff for his thoughtfull doubts.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Under whose law did Jesus' crimes require crucifixion? According to the most traditional Christian teaching, Jesus never committed any crime and His crucifixion was required by God. The comment by MoonBaseAllpha follows essentially this teaching.
It remains my greatest obstacle in Christianity.
I can't embrace a loving God who sent us to this life knowing that all of us were doomed to eternal punishment, Who manifested Himself in flesh in order to die in His own person to satisfy His own law. I can imagine humans thinking such a thing was necessary but I can't imagine God actually requiring it.
I also can't embrace a loving God who has hidden Himself from most of the world's population over something like 70,000 years - for across history, only a small number of people have been Jews and Christians. Even now, a majority of people are neither Jew nor Christian.
Looking at the roots of Christianity in Judaism, I can't embrace that God ordered the destruction of Israel's enemies down to the babies and the cattle.
There are other Scriptural elements that I can't reconcile with a loving God , "...Creator of heaven and earth, and all that is seen and unseen..."
I can believe that God is more than I understand and more than any human understands. I can believe that He does love us and all of His creation, which may extend to tentacled scientists on planets we've yet to observe. I can believe that He intervenes, though I can't prove it. The Ten Commandments and much else found in Scripture are wise and compassionate.
But I can't believe He created us for torment, then sent Himself to die in our place to placate Himself.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
This whole "I can't believe a loving God would..." argument of yours is something I hear quite often. What it amounts to, viewed from my end, however, is "I can't believe a loving God would allow people the free will to do evil, corrupt themselves and each other, foul their nests and contaminate whole families and nations, and march proudly down the road to death and damnation."

God did not create us with free will for our torment, but rather so that we would worship *freely* rather than as automatons. The price of such freedom is that people are also free *not* to worship, and to embrace all kinds of folly and ignorance. Neither did God hide from anyone, nor have humans even been around for 70,000 years! (Evolution and the Old Earth are themselves pagan fantasies arising from the falsehood of a cyclical worldview.) Atheism preceded polytheism; cultural rejection of God preceded the ignorance and idolatry of those cultures which, incidentally, preceded the existence of Israel itself.

Blaming God for the consequences of people's free choices is one of Satan's favorite tactics, rather like the abusers who tell their victims "See what you made me do!" Hell is a rather touchy subject these days, as people ask how God could send people there. Take a look at those Scriptures, though, and you may notice that while Jesus spoke extensively of Hell, and particularly of the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" there and the flames that never go out, at no point does he mention any repentance or reform. From all glimpses into Hell he provides, I'd say the implication is that not only did people freely choose to go there, but their choice was and is final: much as they might wish to leave their torment, they'd rather suffer than repent. That teeth-gnashing is an expression of eternal rage and hatred against God, which is all that is left to them in the absence of worship.

Indeed, from a certain well-intentioned yet foolish point of view, giving people such a double-edged blessing as free will does seem awfully cruel, which is why those who reject God inevitably reject free will as well. In the old days, this took the form of worshiping the King as God and enforcing his decrees as well-nigh infallible moral laws that should control his subjects' every action. Cruel and tyrannical as such god-kings could be and were, a majority of the ancients preferred this tyranny to the anarchy that otherwise prevailed in the wake of rejecting God.

In our time, we still have such worship of government, but with the added totalitarian intent not only to control our every act, but to control our every thought. Aurthur C. Clarke, for just one example, posited as a *good thing* in one of his science fiction novels a future in which special caps would suppress all our religious impulses. In real life, meanwhile, many an allegedly atheistic government has been experimenting with everything from drugs and brainwashing to parapsychology and ESP in various efforts to be like God in its control over the minds of its subjects.

From our extremely limited perspective, some of God's directives are rather difficult and maybe even impossible to understand. On the other hand, the alternatives to these directives are all quite unworkable. What should God do differently? Force everybody to believe He exists? The Israelites in Exodus had little choice but to believe in God's existence, given His physical manifestations they regularly witnessed, but you'll notice they hardly behaved themselves any better for believing. Force everybody to be righteous? Then why bother creating free will in the first place? Why not just stop with the animals, and have them mindlessly shout his praises on command?

Should God just miraculously fix all our problems? Yet if God did that, what point would there be to free will, as we'd have no goals in life to pursue? Should God give each of us a perfect individualized schedule to dictate our every thought and deed? Yet as Doestoevsky pointed out, if *anyone* handed us such a schedule, our free will would drive us to disobey it with some thoroughly nihilistic and self-destructive act just to keep from being reduced to doorstops and piano keys.

You're free to reject Scripture and go looking for God elsewhere, but I'm telling you right now you won't find Him anywhere else. Also, everything you hope to avoid by rejecting Scripture will certainly find its way to you in one form or another. My belief is that Heaven and Hell as defined in Scripture are merely the effects of having whatever consumed you during your life continue to consume you in the afterlife. The choice is yours... all the way into eternity.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
C.S. Lewis sets up some lovely straw men. Perhaps it's time to set them on fire.

"Anyone claiming to be God would have been labeled a lunatic — not a heretic. "

"Might have been" is true, "would have been" is not.

It looks as though things were set in motion during the Babylonian exile centuries before, and that one faction was those whose ancestors had not been exiled; a Galilean like Jesus probably would have belonged, or at least had sympathy for that faction.

As we know from the Bible, there was a lot of trouble with things that looked like, or even were, polytheistic and even idolatrous. This thinking wasn't extirpated; we know that too.

Look at the various doctrines about the nature of the Trinity that took Christianity centuries to hash out, and still provoked riots in Byzantium long after Nicea.

The important question for Boteach is: Was some form of duality and some form of divine/human combination (including some manner of divine incarnation into a human being, someone having a dual divine/human nature, and so on) current belief by Jews in and around Judaea in the century or two preceding and following the birth of Jesus?

There seems to be adequate documentary evidence that there was, and that Jesus satisfied all of some sets of textually derived expectations for what he Messiah would be and do, some of other sets, and little or none of yet others.

47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem with Rabbi Boteach's theory is one that has often plagued the most elegant theories, in all scientific and scholarly disciplines: The facts are otherwise.

In a number of encounters with the Jewish rulers (both Pharisees and Sadducees), Jesus is accused of blasphemy for claiming to be God. See Matthew 26, for example:

Then the high priest said to Him, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!”

64 “You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Look, now you’ve heard the blasphemy! "

See also John 8, 10, and others.

Jesus claimed to be God, the Jews understood His claim, and they called it blasphemy.

If His claim had not been true, it would have been worthy of death, however, the Romans did not permit the Jews to carry out capital punishment. In fits of rage, on several occasions, they came close to stoning Jesus in spite of Roman law, but in the end, they took Him to Pilate in order to have Him executed.

Under Roman law, Jesus had not committed any crime worthy of death. Pilate said so.


These are the facts recorded in the New Testament, and all of Rabbi Boteach's scholarly arguments and theories cannot change them.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
True, though you can expect Boteach's eager believers on here to call you "misanthropic" for daring to point out facts in place of their fantasies.

Had Jesus not been God, his claims would indeed have been awfully blasphemous. Under the anti-Semitic Sejanus, however, Pilate had been compelled to take away the priests' authority to execute anyone. Hence the pass-the-buck sequence in the Gospels with the transformation of the blasphemy charge into a Roman maiestas (high treason) charge and the references to Jesus being "King of the Jews" along with the "you're no Amicus Caesaris (Friend of Caesar)" threat.

By Roman standards, claiming to be a *spiritual* King of the Jews would indeed be pretty thin gruel on which to hang a charge of capital treason, but such are the miracles of politics: an angry mob, a paranoid Emperor, and a frightened politician caught in the middle were most adept at the alchemy of turning blasphemy into a capital offense against Rome. Pilate's final insistence "What I have written, I have written" concerning the sign saying Jesus was "Rex Judeam (King of the Jews)" was almost certainly a statement of exasperation, but may also been his parting shot at them for their rank hypocrisy in twisting the laws and pretending extreme loyalty to Rome just to get Jesus crucified.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Pilate's final insistence "What I have written, I have written" concerning the sign saying Jesus was "Rex Judeam (King of the Jews)" was almost certainly a statement of exasperation, "

I don't agree on this point. I think Pilate, a calculating politician, found himself backed into a corner he didn't like. He did not want to crucify an innocent man (as he had proclaimed Jesus to be), but he had to keep the peace or lose his position (and possibly his head). The Jewish leadership had gotten the people pretty riled up, and Pilate was left with two undesirable choices - free Jesus and risk a riot (which would not have looked good for him in Rome's eyes), or crucify an innocent man.

Well, faced with crucifying an innocent man, or looking bad in Rome's eyes, that was an easy decision for a man like Pilate.

And, being the consummate politician, he saw a way to turn the tables on the troublesome Jewish leaders. His question, "Shall I crucify your king?" wasn't exasperation, it was a coldly cunning trap. The response of these rebellious Jews was exactly what he wanted: A repudiation of their national sovereignty, and a declaration of loyalty to Caesar. He HAD them. He manipulated their anger and masterfully wrapped them up in Roman chains by their own declaration.

When he responded, "What I have written, I have written.", he was telling them, "Don't you remember? You have no king but Caesar. Caesar has crucified your king." I'm sure he said it quite coldly, and they got the message.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am relative to the thesis of this article an interpretive coward. I will let another speak for me, another who has given an interpretation of Jesus, the Sadducees and the Romans different from your mentor Boteach. Before I introduce the 6 hours plus long interpretative witness, I will fall back upon my philosophical proclivities expressing my scepticism re arguments that rest on an either/or, i.e., "it cannot be anyother way, as all alternatives have been presented". You, Ms Roibinson, following the argumentation of Boteach, have presented the reader with a DISjunctive (an either/or and no more), whereas I suggest that at least, theoretically speaking, there is a TRIjuntive alternative that dissolves your disjunctive argument. Your Boteachean thesis is: "Anyone claiming to be God would have been labeled a lunatic - not a heretic". Since the Temple priests, the Sadducees, would only legally condemn Jesus as a "heretic" if and only if he claimed divine equallity (being a lunatic is not legal reason. The claiming to be the (or a) Messiah is given a political and indeed military meaning by Boteach (in a sense a Liberation Theology). So, the conclusion is that the legal grounds for the execution of Jesuis are naught but Roman, not Jewish.

At this point I introduce my interpretative witness, namely the film producer Franco Zeffirelli who in the 1970s produced the 6:20:18 long film "Jesus of Nazareth" (carried over weeks as a series on US tv). Unlike a scholarly examination with its historical generalizations, Zeffirelli present us viewers with a most beautiful concrete interpretation evincing a TRIjunctive alternative. I must squeeze the argumenation into a few fragments to be assembled for thought. (I urgently suggest to the reader to view my filmic witness in internet.)

Boteach is correct in that claims of being the Messiah plays no decisive role in the reactions of the Sadducees of the film, particularly in the person of Kajaphas (German spelling as I have no Bible in English). At 4:34:01 (give or take a nano second) Jesus enrages the crowd when he states "I and the Father are one and the same". No one, no Jew or priest standing around held Jesus for a "lunatic", rather for a blashphemer (= heretic) and, the film makes it look so plausible. That ends Boteach's disjuntive. Finally, at 5:15:31 through 5:16:30 Jesus answers in the affirmative Kajaphas's question whether he, Jesus, is "the Messiah, the Son of God". At that point Kajaphas rends his robe asunder overcome by a very understandable horror at such blasphemy. At that point Jewish law in the mind of that chief priest demands legal action against Jesus -certainly a heretic- which the Romans for their own legal reasons carry out. This means that the disjunctive of "God/lunatic" is replaced with a trijunctive "God/Messiah/heretic". Zeffirelli is my witness and his case weakens greatly the historical generalizations of Boteach.

In no way whatsoever does my Zeffirelli interpretation imply that THE Jews killed Jesus the Christ. That is a calumny that has had horrible effects. My interpretation finds its legal source in a combination of Jewish and Roman legal interessts that coincided in the execution of Jesus. Well, having said a few words, this coward will now sneak away in Kierkegaardian "fear and trembling".

47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
"the person of Kajaphas (German spelling ..."

I think you are referring to the High Priest? That would be "Caiaphas", in the English. (So the Authorized Version, and sound modern translations.)


Thank you for your comments.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Under G-d's righteous Laws a penalty must be paid for breaking those laws. Just as Jews use to sacrifice a perfect lamb for sin, the lamb of G-d paid the ultimate price for human sin. The last day of passover is testament to that fact.

G-d so loved his human creation, he paid the price for our sin, as it requires a perfect sacrifice to do so. G-d gives all the free will to accept his love, or accept being weighed by the law. Anyone not perfect will perish under the law. Good works will not help you.

Old Knob's New Age BS is that G-d's laws are not just. That they keep one form ascending to a higher creation. Jesus Christ, the word of G-d made flesh, proved the above to be not true. G-d does not force anyone to adhere to G-d's laws.

The world system, and it's BS New Age agenda has but a short time.

47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, good works will not earn salvation, but Christians are called to good works, and to obedience to Christ. As He said, "Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?"

One of those things that He said was this: "Let no corrupt communication come out of your mouth." Another place He told us that corrupt things which come out of a man defile him.

All that to say, I see you take care to avoid profaning God's name, yet in the same post you use foul language, or at least the well-known initials for a particular obscene expression. Twice.

Do you not see any contradiction in that?
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
God wrote this story...it is His...it will conclude just as He has designed.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
This may seem off topic, but it is not. There are 4543 words in our original Constitution, including the signatures but not the certificate on the interlineations. There have be more interpretations of the Constitution rendered by government lawyers in the last 100 years than there are LETTERS in the words of the Constitution. Heck, there have even been "penumbras formed by emanations" of those words. Jesus didn't have a chance.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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