Man or Messiah: The Role of Jesus in Judaism

Man or Messiah: The Role of Jesus in Judaism

In orthodox Judaism, there is no distinct doctrinal perspective of Jesus. Monotheism, or belief in God’s absolute unity and singularity, is important to Judaism, which considers idolatry to be the worship of a person. As a result, Judaism forbids considering Jesus to be a deity. The rejection of Jesus as Messiah has never been a theological issue for Judaism because Jewish eschatology holds that the coming of the Jewish Messiah will be associated with events that did not occur at the time of Jesus, such as the rebuilding of The Temple, a Messianic Age of peace, and the re-enslavement of Jews.

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Historically, some Jewish writers and scholars saw Jesus as the most damaging “false prophet,” and traditional views of Jesus were mostly negative, even though influential Jewish scholars of the Middle Ages such as Judah Halevi and Maimonides saw Jesus as an important preparatory figure for a future universal ethical monotheism of the Messianic Age. Beginning in the 18th century with the Orthodox Jacob Emden and the reformer Moses Mendelssohn, some modern Jewish thinkers have sympathetically speculated that the historical Jesus may have been closer to Judaism than the Gospels or traditional Jewish accounts would indicate, a view that is still held by some.

Judaism has never acknowledged any of the supposed fulfillment of prophecy attributed to Jesus by Christianity.

Belief in Jesus as God, God’s Son, or a member of the Trinity is incompatible with Jewish theology. Jews think that Jesus did not satisfy messianic prophesies that established the prerequisites for the messiah’s arrival. Judaism does not recognize Jesus as a heavenly entity, a mediator between mankind and God, a messiah, or a holy being. Belief in the Trinity, like many other Christian beliefs, is considered incompatible with Judaism.

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Theology in Judaism

The concept of God as a duality or trinity is considered blasphemous in Judaism and is even rejected by some polytheists.

The Torah rules out a trinitarian God in Deuteronomy: “Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”

It is forbidden in Judaism for any man to claim to be God, a part of God, or the literal son of God. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, “if a man professes to be God, he is a liar.” 

In his book A History of the Jews, Paul Johnson outlines the separation between Jews and Christians that resulted from a deviation from this principle:

As a result, when asked if Jesus was God or man, Christians replied, “Both.” Their response became universal and increasingly emphatic around 70 AD. This made a total break from Judaism unavoidable.

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The famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides established basic ideas of Modern Judaism in the 12th century, writing “[God], the Cause of all, is one.” 

This does not imply one as in one of a pair, one as in a species (which includes many individuals), one as in an entity composed of numerous elements, or one as in a single simple thing that is infinitely divisible. God, on the other hand, is a unity, unlike any other possible unity.” According to certain Orthodox Jewish academics, Jesus used the customary poetic Jewish idiom “Our Father in Heaven” literally to refer to God as “his Heavenly Father”.

God is not a physical being.

One of Maimonides’ 13 principles of faith is that God has no body and therefore physical notions do not apply to him.

The “Yigdal” prayer, found near the opening of Jewish prayer books used in synagogues worldwide, declares, “He has no semblance of a body nor is He corporeal.” It is a key concept of Judaism that God has no bodily features; that God’s essence cannot be comprehended.

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The Jewish concept of the messiah differs significantly from the Christian concept of the Messiah. 

In orthodox Rabbinic Judaism, the messiah’s task is to usher in the Messianic Age, a once-and-for-all event, and a presumed messiah who is killed before completing the task (i.e. compelling all of Israel to walk in the way of Torah, repairing breaches in observance, fighting God’s wars, rebuilding the Temple in its place, gathering in the dispersed exiles of Israel) is not According to Maimonides,

But if he does not succeed or is slain, he is not the Moshiach foretold in the Torah… and God just selected him to test the masses.

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Jews believe that the Messiah will fulfill the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel’s messianic prophesies. According to Judaism, Isaiah 11:1 (“And there shall come forth a shoot from the stock of Jesse, and a twig from his roots.”) means that the messiah will be a patrilineal bloodline descendant of King David. He is supposed to return the Jews to their country, rebuild the Temple, reign as king, and usher in a period of peace and understanding in which “the knowledge of God” permeates the earth, causing the nations to “end up recognizing the wrongs they did Israel.” According to Ezekiel, the messiah will redeem the Jews. The fact that Jesus lived while the Second Temple was still up, rather than while the Jews were exiled, has an impact on Jewish perceptions of him. Because Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit (as the orthodox Christian faith holds), he could not be a patrilineal genetic descendant of King David. He never reigned as king, and no era of peace or great wisdom followed. Jesus died without completing or even partially completing any of the messianic responsibilities that Christians believe will be fulfilled at the Second Coming. Rather than being redeemed, the Jews were expelled from Judea, and the Temple was destroyed rather than restored years later.

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