In blogging Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus I hoped the rabbi’s insights would bring the two faiths a little closer with a deeper understanding of one another. If successful, it would strengthen both Christian and Jewish faiths and in turn strengthen the fabric of American culture.
Whether that happened for his readers or mine, can only be answered within each individual. Only the One that searches the hearts of men, can know the collective good.
For me personally, it opened my eyes to some harsh realities. It inadvertently answered one question I had hidden in my heart for years, “Why do so many Jews hate, or at least mistrust, Christianity and by default Christians?” I get that we part ways at the cross, but why such a deep, unbridgeable divide?
Boteach presented the answer to my question from a historical Jewish perspective. His accounts of the antisemitism instituted in the name of Christianity left me deeply saddened and more aware of the barriers that divide us beyond theology.
In Kosher Jesus Boteach lays much of the blame at feet of unnamed “editors of the New Testament” which stripped Jesus of his Jewishness, and painted him as a traitor to his people. The author declares this misrepresentation is the worst character assassination in history. While Boteach believes Jesus should not be worshiped as the Son of God who died for our sin, but rather as a devout Jew, martyred while attempting to free his people from the cruelty of Roman rule.
I can honestly say, I deeply respect his point of view and appreciate his ability to open the door for discussion of a potentially explosive topic. As a rabbi, what Boteach brought to the table is an understanding of Jesus as a Jewish man.
Where Boteach fell short, however, was his lack of understanding of Christianity beyond the level of Wikipedia.
It’s not surprising that he holds very little, if any, credibility in the New Testament. His depiction of Paul, as being intellectually dishonest at the least and a mystic opportunist with an agenda at best, leaves no common ground for Christians.
In the end, Boteach left too many unanswered questions at least for Christians. That’s why I’m introducing a new series, exploring the Gospels, as they would have known it in the early church, through messianic Jewish eyes.
About the Author
David H. Stern, born in Los Angeles in 1935, is the great-grandson of two of the city’s first twenty Jews. He earned a Ph.D. in economics at Princeton University and was a professor at UCLA. In 1972 he came to faith in Yeshua the Messiah. He then received a Master of Divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary, did graduate work at the University of Judaism, and was active in the Messianic Jewish movement. In 1979 the Stern family made aliyah (immigrated to Israel); they now live in Jerusalem.
Dr. Stern authored the “Messianic Jewish Manifesto” from which “Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel” is excerpted. His highly acclaimed English translation, the “Jewish New Testament,” restores the New Testament’s Jewishness. His “Jewish New Testament Commentary” discusses the many Jewish issues found in the New Testament. His fresh translation, the “Complete Jewish Bible”, expresses the unity of the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) and the B’rit Hadashah (“New Testament”). This outstanding, scholarly work offers Bible readers a thorough, biblically Jewish version of God’s word.
Boteach and Stern both point to the lost Jewishness of the New Testament as the root of antisemitism.
Is it possible to gain an understanding of our Jewish heritage and remove the obstacles that have stood between us for so many years?
What have we, as Christians, lost?
These are a few of the questions I hope find answers to. Join the conversation Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel.
Photo Credits Shutterstock Mordechai Meiri