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Scholar to Address "Jewishness of Jesus"

(Remnant News Watch March 15, 2010)

by Mark Alessio


(www.RemnantNewspaper.com Posted 1/18/10) Should Jews who are committed to their faith be interested in Jesus? Would Christians who believe in the divinity of Christ want to know about Jesus the Jew? “James Tabor, a scholar of early Christianity, says he will pose these ‘deliberately provocative’ questions in his talk ‘What Kind of Jew Was Jesus?’ … at UNC Asheville's [University of North Carolina-Asheville] Reuter Center,” writes Arnold Wengrow in the Asheville Citizen-Times (Feb. 7, 2010):


 “Next to Moses, Jesus was the most famous Jew on the planet,” Tabor said in a telephone interview from his office at UNC Charlotte, where he chairs the religious studies department. “If he was a faithful Jew in his own world,” he said, “there's a sense, as (Jewish philosopher) Martin Buber said, that Jews can reclaim him. Not as what the church made him, but as he was” …. Asheville resident Jay Jacoby, who chairs the advisory board of the Center for Jewish Studies, agrees that Christians and Jews need to understand better how Jesus lived his entire life as a Jew. Tabor, he said, “is redefining what we know about first-century Judaism because it's the same historical context as early Christianity.”

According to Baptist minister Mark Mullinax, learning about “Jesus the Jew” is an antidote to the idea that Jesus “only wants to save us for heaven”:

“If we emphasize the Christ that only wants to save us for heaven,” he said, “then citizenship is only for the next world.” Mullinax calls that “purchasing heaven at the price of earth.” If the emphasis is only on Christ and one's salvation, he said, “that's only half the Gospel. I think Christians can do very well to get back in touch with the full range of the teachings and life of Jesus the Jew.”

Comment: James Tabor gives the game away when he states that Jews can reclaim Jesus “not as what the church made him, but as he was.” Therein lies the true agenda of those who claim to present the “historical Jesus.” They posit a threefold view of Christ: (1) He was merely another itinerant teacher or rabbi who courted controversy; (2) After his death, unscrupulous disciples created a false cult of divinity around him; (3) The Catholic Church, aided by the Gospels (which are mostly composed of mythological fantasies and fables), has propagated and profited from the superstitious cult of the Divine Jesus for centuries, fooling billions of people over the centuries in the process.

The Chairman of the advisory board of the Center for Jewish Studies says “Christians and Jews need to understand better how Jesus lived his entire life as a Jew.” A Baptist minister says “Christians can do very well to get back in touch with the full range of the teachings and life of Jesus the Jew.” In effect, we are to take Jesus Christ – God-made-man, the Redeemer of the human race – and compress Him into a tiny box labeled “Jesus the Jew.” It is not His miracles, His Resurrection, His Ascension that are important here. It is His “Jewishness.” Imagine looking back at the life of Michelangelo and saying, “It was not his art, not the Sistine Chapel, that was of import – it was his ‘Italian-ness’.” 

There is another point to mention here, and that is the condescension shown to Catholics by those who claim to know the “historical” Jesus. They approach us wide-eyed, like eager kindergarten teachers, and say, “Did YOU know that Jesus was Jewish, boys and girls?” And we are supposed to gasp in amazement, as though we had never heard the like.

Well, guess what? It is none other than The Jewish Encyclopedia that notes, regarding the early Church Fathers:

The most important of the fathers lived and worked in a period when Christianity still had many points of contact with Judaism, and they found that the latter was a splendid support in the contest against paganism, although it had to be combated in the development of Christian doctrine. So the Fathers of the Church are seen at one time holding to a Jewish conception of the universe and making use of Jewish arguments, at another rejecting a part of such teaching and formulating a new one. In the contest of Christianity against paganism the Church Fathers employ the language of the Hellenistic literature as found in Philo, Josephus, the Apocrypha, and the Sibylline Books, all of which draw upon the Prophets of the Old Testament. Thus, practically, only the polemic features in the activity of the Church Fathers directed against Judaism can be considered as new and original. But in order to wage successful war against paganism, they, as well as Christians in general, had to acquaint themselves with the religious documents of Judaism; and this was possible only if they entered into personal relations with the Jews: through these personal relations the Church Fathers become of signal importance to Judaism.

Catholic scholars have always understood the relationship of Catholicism to Judaism. Through the Old Testament readings at Mass, Catholic laypeople have always been exposed to this Jewish “connection.” But, this connection was always seen correctly in the context of the Plan of Salvation and the Salvific Mission of Jesus Christ. This will sound mean-spirited to tender modern ears, but it is this context alone that gives Judaism its meaning for Catholics – and the world.

Jesus proclaimed on the banks of the Jordan: “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of penance; and do not begin to say, We have Abraham for our father. For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” And St. Paul, writing to the Galatians, said: “For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The fact that Jesus was born to a Jewish woman and raised as a faithful Jew is important, not in a merely racial or nationalist sense. It is important because “salvation is of the Jews (Jn. 4:22),” because the Redeemer and Savior of the World would come from the lineage of David. Isaias wrote, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from it.” The root is the House of David; the rod coming from the root is the Virgin Mary; the blossom is Jesus Christ.

Writer and broadcaster Howard Jacobson of the BBC has provided us with one of the more egregious examples of the true agenda of the “historical” Jesus crowd. In his article, “Behold! The Jewish Jesus” (The Guardian – Jan. 9, 2009), Jacobson states:

Messiah does not mean son of God. Nor did Jesus ever claim to be the son of God. The idea would have been nonsense to him. The God of the Jews is indivisible, capable of refulgence – a shekhina, a shining presence – but not incarnation …. Remove the slippery metaphor of personal salvation and the blasphemy of his being the Son of God – with neither of which concept Jesus himself had the slightest bit to do – and there is nothing that he is reported to have said or performed that would have raised the ire of his fellow Jews sufficiently for them to chant for his death. In so far as we can separate his actual words from later theological interpretations of them – the historical Jesus from the person Christians writing after the event needed him to be – the voice we hear is that of an unequivocally Jewish healer and teacher …. Ours is not a peaceable world, but it would go a way to restoring harmony in some parts of it were Christianity to acknowledge responsibility for the anti-Jewish crimes committed in its name. Admitting the consequences of its falsification of the Jew Jesus would be a place to start.

Got it? If we Catholics want to restore “harmony” in the world, all we have to do is deny the Divinity of Christ. That’s all. Do men like Jacobson care one whit for their “historical” Jesus, or does it just make for a convenient club with which to bash those “blasphemous” Catholics over the head? Jesus did not regard Himself as the “Son of God?” Just how stupid does Jacobson think his audience is? Jesus proclaimed:

And no man hath ascended into heaven, but He that descended from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish; but may have life everlasting. For God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting …. Before Abraham was, I AM …. I and the Father are One.”

After Jesus read from the Prophet Isaias in the synagogue at Nazareth, He proclaimed, “This day is fulfilled this scripture in your ears.” As a result, “All they in the synagogue, hearing these things, were filled with anger. And they rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they brought Him to the brow of the hill, whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong.” THIS is what the “historical Jesus” people are doing today, in words if not in actions. Their aim is simple: the eradication of the Divine Jesus (and His replacement by a harmless “teacher”).

And what is James Tabor’s motive? Tabor is the author of the 2007 book, “The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity.” The book is a desperate attempt to attribute an earthly father for Jesus. Among the theories put forth by Tabor (who clings to the unscholarly apocryphal concept that Joseph was an old man when he married Mary), was that Joseph died without children by Mary, so, according to the practice of “Levirate Marriage,” Clophas or Alphaeus married his widow, Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Seriously, how much faith can you put in a Biblical “scholar” who mistakes St. James for the “Beloved Disciple,” believes that James was the physical half-brother of Jesus, and makes the preposterous claim that “no one in the early church even imagined” the doctrine of Mary’s Perpetual Virginity? It is no wonder that Dr. Donald Carson, an expert in New Testament history from Trinity University in Illinois and a critic of Tabor’s book, stated, “What Dr. Tabor has done is assumed that the whole thing cannot be. It is a sham and therefore the evidence has to be jiggered, it has to be selectively appealed to in order to take away the evidence of God actually doing something in space, time, history.  At that point, no amount of evidence will ever convince him unless he's open to the possibility that Dr. Tabor himself is wrong.”

No, we Catholics will NOT pretend that the Redemption of the human race was a fairy tale. We will not pretend that Jesus Christ was just an ancient “Walter Mitty,” or yet another ambitious reformer who got too big for his sandals. Unlike those “scholars” who would rewrite the History of Salvation, we will continue to proclaim, along with St. Paul:

For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep: For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:16-22)



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