The obituary — Moishe Rosen dies at 78; founder of Jews for Jesus prompts me to ask readers about something that’s long mystified and impressed me:
“Given that the divinity of Jesus is the core belief of the dominant religion in America and that, with the exception of the small number of followers of Mr. Rosen’s movement, Jews reject this belief, why do we see so little public debate over the evidence?”
Mystified because these are extremely important conclusions to have drawn over claims for a man who was, after all, himself Jewish. You’d think there’d be dozens of point-counterpoint books and regular public debates about such a central matter.
Impressed because the lack of such inter-faith engagement suggests that, for the most part, we realize such theological arguments are not only irreconcilable, but they have also historically devolved from disagreement into discord and strife.
Perhaps I’m missing a vast body of at least semi-scholarly “he is too!” “he is not!” colloquia. If so, I’d be grateful for a few links.
After the death of a famous Christian missionary to Jews, a blogger for the Chicago Tribune asks why there is so little debate from Jews about the divinity of the founder of Christianity (link). I don’t know what he is talking about. There are many books on the subject. Here are some of them. I found the first two in particular to be useful:
- The Jew and the Christian Missionary: A Jewish Response to Missionary Christianity by Gerald Sigal
- You Take Jesus, I’ll Take God: How to Refute Christian Missionaries by Samuel Levine
- The Real Messiah: A Jewish Response to Missionaries by R. Aryeh Kaplan
- Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus by Asher Norman
- Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History by David Klinghoffer
- The Jewish Response to Missionaries: Counter-Missionary Handbook by R. Bentzion Kravitz
- Their Hollow Inheritance: A Comprehensive Refutation of the New Testament and Its Missionaries by Michoel Drazin
Here are links to two organizations that put up a great fight also:
I suspect that the primary reason for the dearth of Jewish books debunking Christian beliefs in Jesus is the same reason that there are not a lot of Jewish books debunking belief in Spiderman or Superman or the Green Lantern — such beliefs are self-evidently absurd.
If a non-Jew wants to bow down to a false god, we Jews aren’t going to waste our breath trying to talk him out of it.
According to a midrash, God chose Abraham because he intuited that there was one God who created and ruled the world and Abraham acted on his belief by destroying his father’s idols. Jews have inherited this orientation. For 4,000 years, we have been denying the validity of the false gods of the goyim. We do not do this primarily through writing books against the false gods of the goyim, but by living our lives in allegiance to the one true God of the universe who chose us to be His people.
I think this iconoclastic inclination is the reason that Jews account for most of the great stand-up comics in America. (Also, Jews tend be secure in themselves and have no problem making fun of themselves — as opposed to, for instance, Muslims who are always crying about dishonor. If you’re always worrying about dishonor, you’re probably not going to make many jokes in public about your group.)
The word “Israel” means “struggle with God.” Jews since Abraham have argued with God. Jewish kids will read the Torah portion at their bar mitzvah and then spend much of their speech arguing with what they just read.
If Jews argue with God, they’re certainly not going to be easily led by some guy from Nazareth who claims to be God. Instead we’d respond, “Josh thinks he’s God. What a nut.”