Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History (英語) ハードカバー – 2005/3/15
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Why did the Jews reject Jesus? Was he really the son of God? Were the Jews culpable in his death? These ancient questions have been debated for almost two thousand years, most recently with the release of Mel Gibson’s explosive The Passion of the Christ. The controversy was never merely academic. The legal status and security of Jews—often their very lives—depended on the answer.
In WHY THE JEWS REJECTED JESUS, David Klinghoffer reveals that the Jews since ancient times accepted not only the historical existence of Jesus but the role of certain Jews in bringing about his crucifixion and death. But he also argues that they had every reason to be skeptical of claims for his divinity.
For one thing, Palestine under Roman occupation had numerous charismatic would-be messiahs, so Jesus would not have been unique, nor was his following the largest of its kind. For another, the biblical prophecies about the coming of the Messiah were never fulfilled by Jesus, including an ingathering of exiles, the rise of a Davidic king who would defeat Israel’s enemies, the building of a new Temple, and recognition of God by the gentiles. Above all, the Jews understood their biblically commanded way of life, from which Jesus’s followers sought to “free” them, as precious, immutable, and eternal.
Jews have long been blamed for Jesus’s death and stigmatized for rejecting him. But Jesus lived and died a relatively obscure figure at the margins of Jewish society. Indeed, it is difficult to argue that “the Jews” of his day rejected Jesus at all, since most Jews had never heard of him. The figure they really rejected, often violently, was Paul, who convinced the Jerusalem church led by Jesus’s brother to jettison the observance of Jewish law. Paul thus founded a new religion. If not for him, Christianity would likely have remained a Jewish movement, and the course of history itself would have been changed. Had the Jews accepted Jesus, Klinghoffer speculates, Christianity would not have conquered Europe, and there would be no Western civilization as we know it.
WHY THE JEWS REJECTED JESUS tells the story of this long, acrimonious, and occasionally deadly debate between Christians and Jews. It is thoroughly engaging, lucidly written, and in many ways highly original. Though written from a Jewish point of view, it is also profoundly respectful of Christian sensibilities. Coming at a time when Christians and Jews are in some ways moving closer than ever before, this thoughtful and provocative book represents a genuine effort to heal the ancient rift between these two great faith traditions.
“David Klinghoffer has brought his elegant prose and acute analysis to perhaps the greatest theological controversy in human history. In so doing, he takes today's readers on a compelling and provocative journey back into the Judea of Jesus's time, and the arguments he presents will change the way any reader thinks about Jews and the man who either was or was not the Messiah.” —Samuel G. Freedman, author of Jew vs. Jew and Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church
“This is not another skeptic’s attack on the Christ story. It is a fascinating work of faith by a deeply religious Jew who respectfully explores many unusual aspects of New Testament history. Having explained why some Jews rejected Jesus (others, of course, accepted him and most knew nothing of him), David Klinghoffer reaches the remarkable conclusion that had Jesus been embraced as the promised Jewish messiah, Christianity might have remained an entirely Jewish movement and Western Civilization, as we know it, would not have happened.” —Rodney Stark, University Professor of the Social Sciences, Baylor University and author of The Rise of Christianity and For the Glory of God
“David Klinghoffer distills in this well-written volume a great deal of wisdom concerning one of the oldest questions that divides Christians from Jews. Few will agree with all that he writes, but anyone who wants to understand why Jews rejected Jesus and why it matters 2000 years later should start with this book.” —Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University, and author of American Judaism: A History
There are some continuing themes, notably the different interpretations of the messianic prophecies. For the most part, he shows how the Jewish responses in each era are reactions to the Christian approach to proselytism. For example, philosophical disputation (arguments over the logic of the Trinity or the incarnation) don't appear until the middle ages, when Christians work out a systematic philosophical basis for the Christian faith.
He claims that the primary reason Jews reject Jesus is found in Sinai. Paul's description of the law as an onerous requirement that Jews should be ready to shed is, in his perspective, alien to the Jewish mind. They see the law as their special bond to God, not as some kind of punishment preparing for the messiah.
I think he does this well. The arguments he presents are consistent with what I know about Jews, and they make sense. I can see how, in broad strokes, they represent the Jewish opinion.
His second point is what knocks this from four to three stars. He tries to make the claim that the only reason for modern liberal democracy (or for modern scientific advances) is because Jews rejected Jesus and Paul, thus forcing Paul to turn to Gentiles and create a universal, rather than a Jewish, movement. I don't think he makes the point at all.