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Would Jesus Have Preached, ‘Render Unto Hitler What is Hitler’s?’ Or Are We Missing Something?

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

by
Rhonda Robinson

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September 1, 2013 - 5:47 pm
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“Anti-Semitism always takes on the idiom of its day, and the forms of its day. And while before, there was a center-peripheral relationship for anti-Semitism. It even had an address for a long time, which was the Vatican. It was centered in Christian Europe and spread outward.

Now it is all over the world, flows go in every direction– there is really not a place it can’t be found. This is also due in part to digital technology…there is something today, which has never existed before. Not only in regards to anti-Semitism but with other prejudice, which is an anti-Semitic international alliance.

You have an alliance of many, many countries around the world who actually have a foreign policy to promote anti-Semitism, promote anti-Semitism at home and promote anti-Semitism abroad, but an anti-Semitic alliance against Israel primarily but also against Jews in general. This has never existed for anti-Semitism or any other kinds of prejudice.”[Emphasis mine]

 – Daniel Goldhagen author The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism  Interview with Sara Ivry, Vox Tablet hat-tip Prof. lw

In the first half of his book Kosher Jesus Rabbi Boteach went to great lengths explaining his belief that Christ should be embraced as a beloved Jewish son- an honored sage that died a martyr for his people. This view should not change the way Christians see Christ, only cast him in a light that provides more detail to the man we love and the God we serve.

However, as we delve deeper into his work, the author’s premise becomes glaringly obvious: Jesus, along with Christianity in its infancy, was ripped from the arms of Judaism then nursed at the breast of a graven Roman image.

According to Boteach, in an effort to placate Rome, the early Christian Church fathers rendered Jesus as little more than a white hooded, vitriol-spewing enemy of Judaism — a deity that would wear a swastika on his arm.

That explains a lot. But it also begs questions that must be answered.

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Top Rated Comments   
Boteach is wrong on multiple accounts. Firstly, he is obviously writing from the point of view of a Jew who will not and cannot admit who Jesus is, and who he always claimed to be: the Jewish Messiah promised to Adam, Abraham, David, Isaiah, and throughout the Scriptures (Christian Old Testament). In doing so, he ignores the evidence of his own Scriptures, as well as the evidence of the Apostles who wrote the New Testament as eyewitnesses to Jesus, his life, and his work.

Secondly, Boteach is ignorant of the times and political conditions of the early church. I highly recommend " Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels" by Kenneth E. Bailey (Jan 22, 2008). Dr Bailey, who lived and taught in Egypt, Lebanon, and Jerusalem, doesn't reinterpret but illuminates the life of Jesus by showing us the culture of the people and times. Much of what Boteach says is simply wrong even looking it as an anthropologist.

Finally, Boteach is ignorant of what Christianity itself teaches and why, as well as the historical bases for these teachings. Any suggestions that Paul, Peter, and the other Apostles taught anything other than what Jesus Himself taught as simply never read the New Testament, and certainly is ignorant of much of the commentary available on the subject, both ancient and new. While there is and always has been a large variety of error and outright heresy undermining the faith, and this must be carefully sifted out, the fundamentals of the Christian faith haven't changed. Indeed, as Paul pointed out to the Corinthians, they cannot.

But, of course, unless a commenter is willing to accept the fundamental premises of Christianity - that Jesus is the second person of the Triune God; that he came not merely to teach but as the Messiah to fulfill the Law, die in our place, and rise again; and that He will return to judge humanity, then he is bound to misinterpret what he reads and hears anyway.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (17)
All Comments   (17)
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To Render unto Caesar that which is his you have to ask FIRST "who was Caesar and what actually is his and why" Obviously Caesar was a conquering
tyrant stealing from the surrounding nations and putting them under the boot of Rome. What was his was stolen booty,
what he deserved is what he got,
murdered at the hand of relatives and friends and eventually taken over from the inside by Christianity.
Caesar owns NOTHING
God owns EVERYTHING even you. Render unto God.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yoram Hazony maintains one of the most important functions of Christianity was to bring Jewish thought to all corners of the world and Judaism owes a great debt there. Love the irony. Boteach does not appear to be the most profound thinker or well versed in history at all. It is said that the God of the Hebrews loved people who argued, but the argument must have substance - or you're toast.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm afraid I must agree that Boteach is wrong on multiple counts, and second the recommendation of Kenneth E. Bailey's book for correctives to a lot about the cultural milieu of early Christianity.

Taking on others that haven't been touched out yet, the Romans didn't do major Sun worship or solsitice celebrations. German Protestants of the 17th & 18th century were the ones who came up with the solstice/sun/Christmas link. (Which makes a sort of sense to me; they live farther north where shortening days are much more dramatic than down south in Italy or Judea.) One fellow involved was Paul Ernst Jablonski. There's an article by William Tighe that 's been on the web for years about the history within Christianity of the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus which goes into all this and more, including the fact that there is no record of the feast of Sol Invictus until Aerelian, and what small Sun worship the Romans did practice had the big festivals (for unknown qualities of 'big' - I certainly never ran across them, and I used to read a lot of Roman history. ) in August.

In early Christianity they didn't worry about what the pagans were doing, they worried about what was right for them. There's a record from John Chrysostom about how Christians had always celebrated Christmas in December, and backing it up with a reference to Rabinnical sources which pin down when Zechariah (father of John the Baptist) was serving in the Temple for the angel Gabriel's annunciatory visit to him. October. When Gabriel visit's Mary, he tells her Zechariah's wife is six month's pregnant. And THAT is why the early church celebrated the Annunciation in March and Christmas in December.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank Elaine T. I plan on following up on some of the links you recommend. Looking forward to it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Jesus was obviously not preaching "to submit to the barbarity of Rome" - the question was in regards to whether Jesus was for or against the tribute tax, which was only a single denarius (NOT total unquestioning submission).

The previous verse (Matthew 22:20, Mark 12:16, Luke 20:24) says "whose is this image and superscription?"

When Jesus said "render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" He was addressing the false premise in their question.

The coin bears the image of Caesar - therefore it belongs to Caesar. But what bears the image of God? That is what should be rendered to God (Gen 1:27).

More on this passage here: http://goo.gl/hhW7vu
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
suppose after 'render unto Caesar...' Jesus throws the coin into the dust.

This would put a very different spin on his words.

We all have the right and opportunity to understand the words of Jesus as we like.

Personally, I like both the
'store up your wealth in heaven; the gold of this world is fool's gold'
AND
throwing the coin into the dust in silent support od resistance to Rome and other authorities that sought to undermine adherence to the Bible.

Reza Aslan does have a point. There is strong support in the Gospels to suggest Jesus supported Jewish resistance to Rome; i.e Simon the Galilean as an apostle because 'galilean' can be a code word for 'zealot', a violent jewish underground of the time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Boteach is wrong on multiple accounts. Firstly, he is obviously writing from the point of view of a Jew who will not and cannot admit who Jesus is, and who he always claimed to be: the Jewish Messiah promised to Adam, Abraham, David, Isaiah, and throughout the Scriptures (Christian Old Testament). In doing so, he ignores the evidence of his own Scriptures, as well as the evidence of the Apostles who wrote the New Testament as eyewitnesses to Jesus, his life, and his work.

Secondly, Boteach is ignorant of the times and political conditions of the early church. I highly recommend " Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels" by Kenneth E. Bailey (Jan 22, 2008). Dr Bailey, who lived and taught in Egypt, Lebanon, and Jerusalem, doesn't reinterpret but illuminates the life of Jesus by showing us the culture of the people and times. Much of what Boteach says is simply wrong even looking it as an anthropologist.

Finally, Boteach is ignorant of what Christianity itself teaches and why, as well as the historical bases for these teachings. Any suggestions that Paul, Peter, and the other Apostles taught anything other than what Jesus Himself taught as simply never read the New Testament, and certainly is ignorant of much of the commentary available on the subject, both ancient and new. While there is and always has been a large variety of error and outright heresy undermining the faith, and this must be carefully sifted out, the fundamentals of the Christian faith haven't changed. Indeed, as Paul pointed out to the Corinthians, they cannot.

But, of course, unless a commenter is willing to accept the fundamental premises of Christianity - that Jesus is the second person of the Triune God; that he came not merely to teach but as the Messiah to fulfill the Law, die in our place, and rise again; and that He will return to judge humanity, then he is bound to misinterpret what he reads and hears anyway.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Render unto Caesar was not a license to participate in immoral acts committed by government. It was an direction to obey law with which you might not agree but are not immoral.

For Pete's sake, why was the Church persecuted by the Caesars for 300 years if it didn't have this tendency to speak truth to power?

BTW, between 1932 and 1939, the Vatican was about the only European institution that spoke out against Hitler -- and yes the opposition continued when the shooting started.

"Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. . . .

"Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly."
-- Albert Einstein quoted in Time magazine Dec. 23, 1940.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"For Pete's sake, why was the Church persecuted by the Caesars for 300 years if it didn't have this tendency to speak truth to power?"

I've wondered, (and waited for) Boteach to acknowledge that the Christian church was brutally persecuted. As yet, he's failed to do so. We are a little over half way through the book. It has been acclaimed by Christians, so far, I'm not totally sure why. I do see a new side, a more in depth Jewish look at Christ through Boteach's eyes. But so far, he's painted Christians as only placating Rome. If that's true. It didn't get us very far.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes. As Bonhoeffer and other Lutherans found out during WWII, and many other Christians found out before and since, this passage is difficult. All governments are instituted - or at least allowed - by God for His purposes. Sometimes this purpose is to punish a particular people, or serve some other purpose not immediately evident, sometimes God simply allows us to suffer the consequences of our own choices. In any event, so long as the government is properly doing its job and not blatantly violating the commands of God we are to obey it.

However if that government tries to order us to violate other commands of God - e.g. massacre innocent civilians - than we are bound to not obey those illegal commands. Of course making that decision - determining which commands are illegal and which are simply unwise - is not always easy. Indeed, it can be quite difficult. Bonhoeffer struggled deeply with his decision to assist in plots against Hitler.

Ultimately, however, we must also recognize what Jesus' point was in the story: that His kingdom was not of this earth (at that time), and that Christianity was and is not to be a secular authority. Remember, the Jews were looking for a political leader, a king, to lead them against the Romans; they were not looking for what Jesus actually was.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" Boteach makes the case that the gospels have been altered to placate Rome."

And here is the crux of the issue: Boteach rejects the New Testament as the inspired, inerrant revelation of God. He denies that we have an authoritative, trustworthy document that can reveal the Truth.

He must do so, of course, because he rejects the God of the New Testament, Jesus Christ. Since the NT is clear that Jesus is the Jehovah of the Old Testament, and Boteach rejects Him, he must of necessity reject the NT. The easiest way for him to do this is to adopt the silly, worn-out canard that the documents were changed.

It's a common theme with those who reject Christ. Atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Muslims have all saluted that flag, and continue to do so. This is Satan’s original point of attack, and he continues to use it: “Hath God said?”. Satan always seeks to discredit God’s Word.

But, as with Boteach's theory about the reasons for Christ's crucifixion, the facts are otherwise.

The reliability of the NT documents has been established beyond any rational doubt. We have mountains of manuscripts which far predate Constantine, and even if we had not one manuscript, we have so many quotations from the earliest church Fathers that we could reconstruct the original just from those quotations, many times over. Whole books have been written on the subject. Boteach is singing a long-discredited song.

And mark this point carefully, Rhonda: If Boteach is correct, and the documents were changed, you have no Saviour. You have no idea what Jesus actually taught, no idea what his Apostles wrote, no idea of what you must do to be saved. Worse, you have no-one who can tell you. Far worse, though, you have no-one who can save you.

Without an authoritative, trustworthy revelation from God, all you have is scholarly speculation. It might be interesting, it might be amusing, but it cannot command the conscience, change a heart, or save a soul.

Because Boteach rejects the NT, all of his ideas are wrong. He may, like a broken clock, say something true once in a while, but he is certainly not someone a Christian should be reading to gain a better understanding of the Bible. How can he be, when he rejects that very Bible?

Listen to some wisdom from the book of Proverbs, and an admonition from an Apostle:

“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge. “

“Guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge”.

You’ll find no blessing in giving credence to those to reject your Saviour.


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"And mark this point carefully, Rhonda: If Boteach is correct, and the documents were changed, you have no Saviour. You have no idea what Jesus actually taught, no idea what his Apostles wrote, no idea of what you must do to be saved. Worse, you have no-one who can tell you. Far worse, though, you have no-one who can save you."

I appreciate your words of caution.

Boteach doesn't shake my faith. He is only right as far as he can see Christ through Jewish eyes. For that, I think his insight is valuable. It is important to understand that he does not accept Christ as the Messiah, and I do. I'm not trying to argue that point. That is where Christianity and Judaism can peacefully part ways. Where we must find common ground is learning what there is to love and respect about one another. Especially if our faith is truly in the God of Abraham, then we have nothing to fear, or despise of our Jewish brethren.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"He is only right as far as he can see Christ through Jewish eyes. "

But he can't. He can't see the true Christ. He can only see a construct born of unbelief. "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Cor 2:14

His "insights" are valuable only as they reveal the thoughts of a lost person. Of what value is that? He can't tell you anything about Christ that is true.

As for common ground, you can learn the truth of that from Scripture. It's spelled out clearly enough. This is the standard. From unbelievers, whether Jewish or otherwise, we can only learn how far they deviate from the standard.


"Especially if our faith is truly in the God of Abraham, then we have nothing to fear, or despise of our Jewish brethren. "

Like Paul, "my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved."

But I can't learn anything about Christ from them, nor about how a Christian ought to live.

"As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So now Boteach stoops to the ad Hitlerum (a.k.a. Godwin's Law) in his pathetic efforts to discredit the Bible? Why is *anyone* still listening to the tired counter-historical calumnies of this bozo? There's nothing particularly credible or innovative about any of his long-refuted contentions; the Muslims were making many of the same arguments centuries ago.

For his information, yes, Jesus might very well tell people to render to Hitler what was Hitler's, as Hitler was once a legitimate ruler; likewise Caesar. "Caesar" referred not only to Julius Caesar with whom the name originated, but all the other Caesars including Nero Caesar, who began the practice of burning Christians and throwing them to lions among other cruel persecutions. Both Hitler and Nero were due certain amounts and kinds of taxes, honors, and obedience; Jesus was merely calling for us to give everyone what it was their rightful authority to require of us, such as taxes. The atrocities for which Nero and Hitler are each remembered in fact were *not* within their rightful authority, though some of us were called upon to endure them for the sake of our faith.

The obvious ad absurdum that refutes Boteach and all other spouters of ad Hitlerum fallacies is: Hitler ate food, drank water, and breathed air. Therefore, Boteach is *just like Hitler* for eating food, drinking water, and breathing air. (And oh yeah: Boteach published a book. You know *who else* published a book? That's right: Hitler! That Boteach is *just like Hitler* is therefore Q.E.D.)

If anything, I'd say it's Boteach who's done all the projecting of white hoods and swastika armbands onto Jesus here, not the Church fathers. Israel has the rightful authority to exist and to call up its military forces to defend that existence; therefore, let Israel's Christian citizens render unto Israel what is Israel's and unto God what is God's in keeping with the Bible's wholly accurate record of Christ's words. 'Tis better to meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs than Boteach analyzing the Bible.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Interesting concept, but Boteach's analogy pulls the "render unto Caesar" verse totally out of context. The verse is taken from a dialogue with the Pharisees in which they tried to trap him into making an anti-Roman statement: That the occupied Judeans shouldn't pay taxes to a Roman leader. Jesus's response was simple and profound: It's stamped with the Roman Emperor's image, so it's his. In other words, your real treasure isn't on this earth, but in heaven -- as previously stated in the teaching in Matthew 6:20.

Boteach attempts to take the statement out of financial context and define it in terms of human life. Jesus never once put a monetary value on human life (rather, quite the opposite happened in his case - harkening back to a Levitical principle) nor did he preach giving your life for the Roman empire - but he did preach giving up everything the world cherishes, the seen, for the treasures of heaven - the unseen. This concept does make me question why it is acceptable for pagan holidays to be "brought into the faith" so to speak. If gentile believers are, indeed, converted into a Jewish faith, why aren't they rendering unto the pagan what is pagan and pursuing the faith lifestyle Jesus so adamantly preached?
1 year ago
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