Role of Jesus in Judaism

by Jason Cristiano Ramon

In "The Jewish Jesus," historian and author Peter Schafer describes Judaism and Christianity as two "sister religions." In its earliest stages, Christianity was a sect within Judaism, and according to Schafer, both religions mutually influenced each other during the rise of Christianity as an organized religion. However, despite the fact that Christianity has Jewish roots, it also remains a distinct religion. Although Jews recognize that Jesus Christ was Jewish, they do not view him as the "moshiach" (messiah or "anointed one"), and today, he plays no role within Reformed or Orthodox Judaism.

Jesus' Jewish Roots

Jews do not believe that Jesus Christ's birth resulted from an immaculate conception, and they also see inconsistencies in Jesus' relation to King David's lineage. According to Judaic tradition, the moshiach, or messiah, will come from King David's genealogical line; however, different family lines are articulated within the New Testament (Matthew 1 and Luke 3). Instead, for Jews, Jesus Christ was a Jewish man who was heavily influenced and impacted by Jewish eschatology -- a study that focuses on last matters and concerns, such as resurrection and the end of time. Jesus Christ was impacted by Judaic traditions and laws, which were also enfolded into his own teachings. For example, his choosing of 12 original disciples represented the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and he believed in the worship of one God, which was unique to Judaism at that time.

Interpretation of the Law

The first five books of the Hebrew Bible are collectively referred to as the Torah, and the Torah articulates the laws by which Jews should live. During Jesus' time, several different Jewish parties existed, including the Pharisees. The Pharisees believed in resurrection, were knowledgeable legal experts of their time and followed the legal precedents set through the "traditions of the fathers," rather than the Hebrew Bible. According to the Gospels, the Pharisees regularly disagreed with Jesus Christ, and although Jesus was Jewish and followed some of the laws set by the Torah, he also acted autonomously and broke religious laws. For example, he allowed his followers to partake in various activities on the day of Sabbath, such as the gathering of corn.

Jesus as Messiah

Jews deny that Jesus was the moshiach, or messiah. Although Christian doctrine states that Jesus Christ is the "Son of God" and the second essence of the trinity -- the concept that the godhead is composed of three beings -- Jews believe that the moshiach will be a human leader and not God himself. Judaic tradition also does not view the messiah as a savior, as mankind does not need deliverance from "original sin." Original sin is a Christian theological concept that humans inherited sin through Adam, who committed mankind's first sin by eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Jesus and Messianic Judaism

Today, some Judeo-Christian sects combine both Judaic traditions and Christian beliefs; they are referred to as "Messianic Jews." For Messianic Jews, both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are holy scripture. They believe Jesus was the messiah, and that he was born within the Davidic lineage. The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations states: "Messianic Judaism [is] a movement of Jewish congregations and groups committed to Yeshua the Messiah that embrace the convenantal responsibility of Jewish Life and identity rooted in Torah, expressed in tradition, and renewed and applied in the context of the New Covenant." Messianic Judaic sects also include non-Jewish people. However, Messianic Jews are not considered a valid Jewish sect by Jewish denominations.

About the Author

Jason Cristiano Ramon holds a doctorate in political science and a master's degree in philosophy. He has taught political science in China.

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