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Looking for Jesus?
You won't find him here. This is a site about Judaism, and Jews don't believe
Jesus is simply not a part of Judaism. He is irrelevant to our religion. To ask
a Jew, "why don't you believe in Jesus?" is like asking a Christian, "why don't
you believe in Zeus?"
We don't teach anything about Jesus, because he's not part of our religion.
In your religious institutions, you study your own religion; you don't study
every other religion in the world and explain why they're wrong. We do the
same. We don't study why we don't believe in Jesus, because he's simply not a
part of our religion. When we discuss Jesus, it's usually in response to
attempts to convert Jews, which are more common and more aggressive than most
OK, so why don't Jews believe in Jesus?
The first thing you need to understand is, we do not believe in the Christian
"New Testament." It's not part of our Bible. Many Christians find this
confusing: how can you accept one part of a book without accepting another part
of the book. But the Bible is not one book; it's a collection of books. Jews,
Catholics, Protestants and Mormons each have their own idea of what books
belong in that collection. You wouldn't accept another religion's idea of what
belongs in your Bible, so you shouldn't expect Jews to accept your idea of what
belongs in our Bible.
But assuming for the sake of this discussion that the Christian scriptures have
some basis in fact: Jews had a rather clearly-formed idea of the messiah and a
messianic age long before Jesus came along, and Jesus just didn't live up to
it. Jews expected the restoration of the Davidic monarchy and a just and
peaceful society throughout the world, as foretold by the prophets during the
age of the Babylonian Exile. The Jews of the Roman Empire desperately longed
for that beautiful ideal as they suffered under Roman tyranny. They weren't
looking for an incarnated god who would die and
absolve them of their sins, because the sin and salvation aren't the core
of Judaism, the way they are in many branches of Christianity.
three of the Christian gospels say, it appears that Jesus's own followers
weren't expecting a suffering, self-sacrificing messiah. See, for example,
Matthew 16: they knew that he was the messiah (v. 16), but Jesus had to
teach them that he was going to suffer and die (v. 21), and even after he
said this, Peter couldn't believe it (v. 22). It sounds to me like Jesus's
closest followers were not aware of any Jewish teaching about the messiah
suffering and dying, and they were not ready to believe it. The same
pattern appears in Mark 8 (v. 28: they know he is messiah; v. 30: he
teaches about suffering; v. 31: Peter doesn't believe it), and similarly in
Luke 9 (v. 20: they know; v. 22: he teaches; the denial is not there); John
never talks about this incident.
Jews don't believe that Jesus is the messiah because, quite simply, he never
did any of the things that we expect the messiah to do, the things that the
prophets proclaimed the messiah would do. See Mashiach:
The Messiah. Christianity gets around this by saying that Jesus will come
back to do all of those things. From a Jewish perspective, however, the messiah
is identified by his tangible acts, and promises to finish the job in the
future aren't going to convince us.
OK, so what do Jews believe?
To see what books are included in the Jewish Bible, see
To learn more about the Jewish idea of messiah and why Jesus doesn't meet the
qualifications for the job, see Mashiach: The Messiah.
To learn more about the Jewish idea of sacrifice and why Jesus's sacrifice on
the cross doesn't fit with it, see Qorbanot: Sacrifices
To learn how Jews interpret biblical passages that Christians think are
prophecies of Jesus, see
for Judaism, a counter-missionary organization (not associated with this
Do Jewish sources say anything about Jesus?
Many liberal Jews and rabbis will routinely say something like, "he was a great
teacher but not the messiah" when a Christian asks. My impression is that these
people haven't given any serious thought to the question, haven't studied to
Jesus's teachings, and are saying this only because they don't want to offend
anyone rather than because of any deeply held conviction.
Some Jewish sources have suggested that Jesus and Christianity serve a positive
purpose by bringing gentiles closer to G-d. For example,
Rambam (1135-1204 C.E.) comments that the spread
of Christianity is a good thing, because when the messiah comes:
the world will already be filled with the idea of mashiach, Torah, and
commandments, even in far-flung islands and in closed-minded nations, where
they engage in discussions on the Torah's commandments
But though Jesus and his religion may be part of G-d's plan for the world, the
general consensus among the rabbis regarding Jesus is not favorable. On the
same page where he made the remark above, Rambam commented that Daniel 11:14
(regarding people who try to establish the vision but stumble and fall) is a
reference to Christianity, saying:
Is there a greater stumbling block than [Jesus]? All the prophets foretold that
the messiah would redeem the Jews, help them, gather in the exiles and support
their observance of the commandments. But he caused Jewry to be put to the
sword, to be scattered and to be degraded; he tampered with the Torah and its
laws; and he misled most of the world to serve something other than G-d.
What does the Talmud say about Jesus?
Does the Talmud say anything about Jesus? That is open to debate.
Nothing in the Talmud refers specifically to a supposed messiah
who was crucified by the Romans in or around the year 30 C.E. The Jewish
first century historian Josephus mentions such a person, but Josephus's
works are not part of the Talmud. In fact, Josephus is viewed with some
degree of disdain by Jewish scholars, because he was considered to be a
traitor: during a war with the Romans, he surrendered and became a favorite
of the Roman oppressors.
Rambam and many other prominent Jewish scholars believed that the stories of
Jesus are based on Yeshu ben Pandeira, also known as Yeshu ha-Notzri ("Jesus
the Branch," a reference to Isaiah 11:1, a passage about the messiah). Yeshu is
discussed in parts of the Talmud that were censored by the Catholic Church,
censored because the Church also believed they referred to Jesus and because
they are not flattering references. The Talmud claims that this Yeshu was the
son of a Jewish woman named Miriam (Mary) who was betrothed to a carpenter
(more accurately, their marriage was in the stage of kiddushin, where she is
legally his wife but not yet living with him or having sexual relations with
him; see Marriage), so she would indeed have
been a virgin. She was either raped or voluntarily slept with a Greek or Roman
soldier known as Pandeira, and Yeshu was the product of that union. Because of
the status of Miriam's marriage, Yeshu is considered to be a mamzer (usually
mistranslated as "bastard", it means the product of an adulterous or incestuous
relationship). Some say that he was also a ben-niddah (conceived through
intercourse with a woman in a state of menstrual impurity, which is also said
to leave a stain on the offspring). The Talmud describes Yeshu as a heretic who
dabbled in sorcery and lead the people astray (into idolatry). He was stoned to
death by the Sanhedrin for his crimes, and in accordance with the procedure for
heretics, his dead body was hung in a tree until nightfall after his death.
Were Jesus and Yeshu the same person? Many Jewish sages believed so. One modern
commentator recently went so far as to translate the name "Yeshu" as "Jesus of
Nazareth," even though the word "Nazareth" does not appear in the original
Hebrew (it appears in Rambam's commentary on the text). It's probably worth
noting that this commentator is selling a book about early Jewish-Christian
The main problem in identifying Yeshu with Jesus is timing: the Sanhedrin did
not have the power to impose the death penalty at the time that Christians say
Jesus died, at the time when Roman procurators like Pilate were running the
show, so if Jesus was Yeshu, then he must have died much earlier. Historian
Josephus seems to confirm that Jesus died during the time of Pilate, so the
problem cannot be resolved by simply changing the date. For this reason, some
Jews today believe that the Jesus mentioned in Josephus became confused with
the story of Yeshu ha-Notzri (the name "Yeshu" was quite common in that time)
and the melded story was the basis for Christianity.
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