Jewish Perceptions of Jesus Christ

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Jewish Perceptions of Jesus Christ
Christianity and Judaism are major world religions which, though they worship the same God, have marked differences which have caused two thousand years of strife and animosity between the two religions. In his book We Jews and Jesus, Samuel Sandmel likens the link between Judaism and Christianity to a type of parent-child relationship, saying, "Early Christianity was a Judaism; within a century after the death of Jesus it was a separate religion. It was critical of its parent, and hostile to it, and elicited from its parent reciprocal criticism and hostility."1 Opposing views of Jesus Christ caused the initial rift between Judaism and Christianity and is the primary source of the tension between the two religions which has continued for the last two millennia. Therefore, in order to understand how Judaism and Christianity relate to one another, it is essential to understand the way Jesus is perceived in each religion. The way that Christians view Jesus is quite well known, but Judaism's view of him is much lesser known, so it is important to explore Judaism's perceptions of Jesus, beginning with New Testament times, and to examine the ways in which these feelings and opinions have changed over time.

Although the New Testament is the main source of information regarding Jesus' life, Jews often disregard it as a reliable source of information. It was not written until two to three generations after Jesus, hence it cannot be considered a primary source. Also, from a Jewish perspective, the aim of the Gospels is not to give an accurate account of Jesus' life and teachings; the Gospels served as missionary documents containing accounts recorded by biased evangelists. They reflect the aims of the church rather than actual facts, and their writers were more concerned with the advancement of Christianity than the transmission of factual historical information. For these reasons, it is impossible to separate the historical Jesus from the divine Christ presented in the Gospels, and Judaism regards the Gospels as unreliable and irrational.

It is not known exactly when Jesus was born, but according to the Christian calender, his birth year was circa 4 B.C. Christmas, the day of Christ's birth, is celebrated by Christians on December 25, but the actual day and month of his birth are unknown. Rachel Zurer, a follower of Judaism, points out that December 25 was celebrated as the birthday of Mithras, a Roman god, until church leaders declared the day as Jesus' birth date.2 Jewish scholars believe that contrary to Christian teaching, Jesus was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem, and the idea of the Immaculate Conception is not accepted. According to the Talmud, Jesus was actually an illegitimate child. In a passage narrated in the Tract Kallah, 1b (18b), Rabbi Akibah says to Mary, "Tell me, what kind of son is this of yours?" to which Mary responds, "The day I was married I was having menstruation, and because of this my husband left me. But an evil spirit came and slept with me and from this intercourse my son was born to me."3 The Talmud (the Babylonian Talmud in particular) refers to Jesus as "Son of Stada/Satda" and "Son of Pandera" ; these titles are not used clearly, but it is evident that both are used in reference to Jesus, and scholars have inferred their probable meanings. Sanhedrin 67a states that "The son of Stada was son of Pandera. Rab Chisa said: The husband was Stada, the lover Pandera. . . his mother was Miriam, the women's hairdresser; as they would say. . . S'tath da to her husband"; S'tath da means "she was unfaithful" or "she proved faithless," and is obviously used in reference to Mary's lack of faithfulness to her husband.4 According to this passage, Stada was Jesus' legal father (Mary's husband), and Pandera was his biological father, Mary's alleged lover. Stada is also used as a nickname for Mary, again, in reference to her alleged infidelity. According to...
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