How Christians forgot Jesus’ Jewishness, and why they should recover it

Print More
"The Torn Cloak--Jesus Condemned to Death by the Jews" by

"The Torn Cloak--Jesus Condemned to Death by the Jews" by

"The Torn Cloak--Jesus Condemned to Death by the Jews" by James Tissot is part of a rich tradition of Christian art furthering the idea that the Jews murdered Jesus. It is housed at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. - Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (

“The Torn Cloak–Jesus Condemned to Death by the Jews” by James Tissot is part of a rich tradition of Christian art furthering the idea that the Jews murdered Jesus. It is housed at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. – Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (

Saying “Jesus was Jewish” sounds so obvious to most Christians that it doesn’t seem worth the energy to exhale. Yet, many Christians never give the idea a second thought, which is why it needs reasserting despite its obviousness.

Christians, according to author James Carroll, have forgotten Jesus’ Jewishness. And this has has severe consequences. So the New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award winner has penned Christ, Actually: The Son of God for The Secular Age to reintroduce Christians to the Jewish Jesus. Here, Carroll discusses the negative effects of forgetting Jesus’ religious tradition and how modern Christians can recover a more accurate understanding of their Messiah.

RNS: You point out that we often overlook Jesus’ Jewishness. But Jesus in some ways bucked the Jewish law and the strictest Jewish leaders were often at odds with him. From a religious standpoint, how Jewish was he really?

JC: This is the key question. Religion is a human adaptation to the basic fact of the human condition that the Holy One is not directly accessible to finite creatures. Religion is an indirect, mediated, but real way of being connected to God. Jewish religion is a case in point. The Temple, the Law, the Tradition, the Scriptures, Sabbath observance, keeping Kosher, reciting the Shema–all of it serves the purpose of bridging the gulf that stands between creatures and their Creator.

Image courtesy of Viking

Image courtesy of Viking

The affirmation of Jesus’ divinity, which is essential to Christian faith, has often led to the conclusion that Jesus had no need of the bridging elements of Jewish religion. If Jesus engaged in these cultic practices, he was going through the motions, since his communion with God was a given of his condition. Religiously speaking, He was pretend Jew.

But that is like saying he was a pretend human being. If we start with his humanity, we affirm, with the tradition, that Jesus was like us in all ways, except sin. That means he could not foresee the future, could not defy gravity, could not avoid death. Nor could he, while alive on earth, have direct access to what’s called the beatific vision. Therefore, his need of Jewish religion was real and absolute. [tweetable]Jesus was no pretend Jew.[/tweetable] That must be the starting point of our commitment to Jesus.

If Jesus was at odds with fellow Jews over what it is to be a faithful Jew–and the tradition suggests that he was–we must understand such contention as occurring within the Jewish community, not from outside it. So he did not “buck the Jewish law;” he insisted upon it, even if he disagreed with others over its meaning and applicability at a given moment.

RNS: Early Christianity was more like an offshoot of Judaism, wasn’t it? When did this shift?

JC: All of those who first followed Jesus were Jews. When the Jesus movement began to spread across the Mediterranean, it appealed especially to that group of Gentiles who were already interested in and associated with Judaism–the so-called “God fearers.” The Jesus people understood themselves wholly within categories provided by the tradition of Israel.

The Roman War against the Jews between 68 and 135 C.E. and the destruction of the Temple traumatized the whole Jewish world, and caused a crisis of faith for every Jew–including the Jesus Jews. What is it to be a Jew without the Temple, center of the religion for a thousand years? Two groups of surviving Jews answered that question differently, and this is when the split between the Jesus people and “the Jews” began. But the split between the Synagogue and the Church did not become definitive and absolute until the early 4th century, when the Roman emperor Constantine became a Christian.

RNS: What have been some of the negative effects of Christians overlooking Jesus’ Jewishness?

James Carroll is a National Book Award winning and "New York Times" bestselling author. - Image courtesy of James Caroll

James Carroll is a National Book Award winning and “New York Times” bestselling author. – Image courtesy of James Caroll

JC: When so-called Gentiles began to dominate the Jesus movement, and when they then read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ conflict with “the Jews,” they found it possible to imagine that Jesus was one of them–a kind of Gentile, who not not really Jewish at all. They forgot, that is, not only that Jesus was fully and completely Jewish, but also that the Gospel texts about Jesus were themselves Jewish accounts, told in a Jewish way.

The most important consequence of this amnesia is that “Christians” began to regard “Jews” as enemies not only of the Church, but of God. This religious anti-Judaism morphed, over the centuries, into racial anti-semitism.  

RNS: Many American Christians prefer to think of the holocaust as a “German” thing rather than a “Christian” thing, but the truth is more complicated, isn’t it?

JC: The Holocaust was not the work of “the Church” or “Christianity” or “the West.” It was the work of Hitler and the Third Reich, and their particular responsibility must be insisted upon. But Christians must continue to reckon with the harsh fact that Hitler’s lethal anti-semitism grew out of the soil of religious anti-judaism that preceded it across the centuries–and that was put forward as God’s truth by the Church. [tweetable] Nazi anti-semitism grew out of Church doctrine, not out of pagan, “Aryan” racism.[/tweetable]

By insisting on a narrow Nazi, or even German, culpability, Christians often fail to confront the fact of their broader complicity. Only this broader complicity explains how an entire continent and culture could have assumed the role of bystander, with the Churches remaining almost complete silent as the genocide unfolded, and with even the United States insisting on barring Jewish entry during the crucial period.

RNS: How should the church–practically speaking, Sunday to Sunday–begin to recover and promote a more accurate understanding of who Jesus was?

JC: Members of the church must do three things to recover the Jewishness of Jesus:

1. Christians must learn to read their sacred texts critically. Above all, the texts must be understood as reflecting a conflict that unfolded not between Jesus and “the Jews” in the year 30 or so, but a conflict between two groups of Jews–rabbis and Jesus people.

2. Christians must measure everything they say and believe about Jesus against the fact of his full, permanent character as an Orthodox Jew. This would make anti-jewish stereotyping impossible.

3. Christians should read and hear the anti-Jewish texts of the New Testament as if they themselves are Jews.

  • Garson Abuita

    Good points, however, it’s a stretch to call Jesus an Orthodox Jew. For one thing, that “Orthodoxy” concept did not really coalesce until centuries later. The Pharisees, early members of the rabbinic movement and thus truly Orthodoxy’s ancestors, themselves were in conflict with the “official” Judaism of the Temple cult. They weren’t “orthodox” either in ~30 CE. If anything, Jesus was more akin to modern Reform Judaism in some ways. Ex: Keeping kosher is less important than other parts of the Torah.

  • Jack

    Garson, it might be more accurate to say that Jesus was an “observant Jew,” meaning that he accepted the mainstream first-century Jewish belief that the Torah, prophets, and writings were all the Word of God, and lived his life accordingly.

    He was a reformer, yes, but only in that he cast a critical eye on those rabbinic interpretations of Scripture which he deemed contradictory to the actual written words, particularly those which violated the heart of Scripture, which was to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love neighbor as self.

  • Jack

    Regarding the article’s mention of Hitler and the Holocaust, both views are correct:

    On the one hand, no Hitler = no Holocaust. It was Hitler and his specific Nazi ideology that was the driving force behind the genocide.

    But on the other hand, the Holocaust required the participation or toleration of unspeakable horrors on the part of millions of Europeans, and that would not have been possible without Europeans being conditioned for nearly 17 centuries by Christendom to hate the Jews, seeing them as being cast off by God — ironically in direct violation of Paul’s magnificent refutation of that poisonous view way back in the first century.

  • Susan

    I thought the Gospels were actually written centuries after Jesus’s death and were written by Christians. The New Testament seems to me to be early Christian polemics to prove the spiritual superiority of Christianity over Judaism.

    The biggest problem I have with Chrisitans is that they don’t understand who the Pharisees really were. They still see the Pharisees as legalistic hypocrites when most of them really were not. Their depiction in the New Testament is completely inaccurate. No one mentioned the belief that the Jews killed Jesus and therefore murdered God.

  • Shawnie5

    All of the gospels were written and in wide circulation by the turn of the first century AD. They were written by three Jewish Christians and one Gentile convert.

  • Larry

    The Holocaust was the culmination of centuries of anti-semitism coming to an industrialized head. Massacres of Jews in Europe were frequent enough that many were inured to the news of what was going on. Passing it off as just another “minor pogrom” that would be only temporary. Those ghettos which people were crowded into were designed centuries earlier to keep the Jewish populations segregated from the rest of the communities. All Hitler did was take such longstanding hate to its ultimate conclusion.

    Even the death camps were not an entirely novel idea. Concentration camps were around since the early 20th Century. They were employed in Cuba in the early 1900’s and throughout Colonial Africa. They were considered a modern touch to dealing with an unwanted population.

    Nazis relied heavily on Catholic and Protestant churches for shoring up support and garnering volunteers for atrocities. Christian religious appeals were key for recruiting collaborationist forces to act as cannon fodder against the Soviets*. The sadistic Ustasha in Croatia considered themselves defenders of Catholicism.

    *The only church in Nazi controlled Europe which openly opposed the Nazis was the Danish Lutheran Church. To their credit they were key in rescuing almost the entire Danish Jewish population from the Holocaust.

  • @Shawnie,

    “All of the gospels were written and in wide circulation by the turn of the first century AD. They were written by three Jewish Christians and one Gentile convert.”


    NONE of the gospels were ‘widely’ circulated in the first century! John’s gospel is dated at 100 C.E.! 70 years after Jesus died and well past the dawn of the ‘first’ century of the common era.
    The gospels were written by dozens of people who are lost to time – who was Mark? Nobody knows. Who was Luke? nobody knows but it is certain he plagiarized most of Mark and embellished it many years after Mark’s gospel.
    Matthew is a ridiculous gospel full of zombies, earthquakes and hallucinations.
    The letters of Paul don’t even mention these people!
    They were not in ‘wide’ circulation until the printing press many centuries later.

    Enough bullying! This stuff is primitive nonsense.

  • Jack

    Actually, Susan, all four gospels were written in the first century, including the most recent of the four, John’s Gospel. Concerning John, a manuscript fragment of it was discovered which was dated approximately 110 AD, meaning the original was almost certainly written and distributed before 100 AD, ie within the first century of the common era. John’s richly detailed and accurate depictions of the cities, towns, and villages of pre-70 AD Judea and Galilee provide further evidence of its first-century origin.

    The first generation of followers of Jesus were observant Jews who believed that their teacher was the long-awaited Messiah. Even the second generation, which was mostly Gentile, evidently believed that the Jews remained the people of God. It was in the generations that followed that theological anti-Semitism began to take serious root through replacement theology…..although Paul the apostle had the foresight to warn precisely about this happening way back in the middle of the first century when writing to the Roman Christians.

    You are, however, correct about Christian views of the Pharisees across the centuries and millennia. The Pharisees were simply teachers of the Word and most of them were dedicated people, unlike the priesthood of that time which was corrupted by the influence of Rome. In the Book of Acts, Paul describes himself as a Pharisee, even after he came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. And in the Gospels, at one point, Jesus said that the Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat and thus implicitly endorsed their authority on matters of interpretation of the Law, while reserving for himself the right to call them on misinterpretations or on attempts to elevate their interpretations over the plain meaning of the Torah.

    Part of the confusion is due to the fact that in Jesus’ time, there were two schools of the Pharisees — the school of Hillel and that of Shammai. While some of Jesus’ teachings resembled that of Shammai, such as his views on divorce, on most other matters, he was more like Hillel, who emphasized the heart of the Law, as opposed to the more legalistic Shammai.

    In the war against Rome in 66-70, while the school of Shammai endorsed the rebellion, comparing to that of the Maccabees two centuries earlier, the school of Hillel deemed it national suicide and wanted no part of it. Decades earlier, Jesus had warned his own disciples about the coming of such a war and gave similar instructions against participating. The result was that both the sect of Jesus and the school of Hillel lived well beyond 70 AD, whereas the Shammai school was destroyed by the war, with many students perishing. The school of Hillel continued at Yavneh through the efforts of Ben Zakkai, from which Orthodox Judaism derived.

  • Shawnie5

    Max, we know that the gospels were in circulation by AD 100 because that is when we begin to see them quoted by others. Even Paul, most of whose writings predate the written gospels, quoted from Luke’s gospel at least once that I recall offhand.

    And the NT tells us who Mark and Luke were. They were extremely minor characters but they are certainly not lost to time. How did you manage to “teach Sunday school” without knowing all of this? With everything you don’t know, what was left for you to teach?

  • @Shawnie,

    It is patently ridiculous to say the gospels were ‘widely’ circulated in the first century. That is nonsense.

    It is even more ridiculous to say anything conclusive about Mark or Luke. We KNOW They are not eyewitnesses to any of the events they wrote about.
    Furthermore, they are NOT apostles. They had no eyewitness knowledge of any of the events.

    MULTIPLE people contributed to all of these gospels.

    Furthermore, Matthew’s Gospel, written decades after the apostle Matthew would have been dead – is a disaster of contradictions, zombies and other unbelievable nonsense. AND IT WASN’T WRITTEN BY MATTHEW ANYWAY! He repeatedly refers to himself in the THIRD PERSON – “matthew then went…”

    Furthermore, John’s Gospel is a complete fantasy! Unhinged from the other gospels it contradicts and re-creates yet another bizarre Jesus out of thin air almost 100 years after the supposed events.

    The letters of Paul reveal absolutely no knowledge of any gospels or writers of gospels. There are no autograph copies of any of the Gospels from the first century and it is ridiculous to think any of it is believable or that it could matter.

    Bart Ehrman’s books are clear on all of this. But there are other authors who corroborate his claims that these Gospels were written by multiple people.

  • Jack,

    “The first generation of followers of Jesus were observant Jews who believed that their teacher was the long-awaited Messiah. Even the second generation, which was mostly Gentile….”

    YOU HAVE NO EVIDENCE any of this actually happened.

  • “He was a reformer, yes….”

    You are talking about a fictional character in a book – and the characterization of him according to the book.

    You HAVE NO EVIDENCE he really existed.

  • All of the gospels were written and in wide circulation by the turn of the first century AD

    How did Luke, Matthew or John get into ‘wide circulation’ by 100 AD?

    LUKE 70 C.E.
    MATTHEW 80 C.E.
    JOHN 100 C.E.

    Are you imagining some kind of pre-historic internet? LOL!

  • Shawnie5

    “We KNOW They are not eyewitnesses to any of the events they wrote about.”

    Of course. No one ever claimed that they were. They used eyewitness sources.


    There is no evidence of that. And no need for shouting — you don’t have to believe the gospel, whether Matthew wrote it or not.

    “He repeatedly refers to himself in the THIRD PERSON.”

    Ever read “Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man?” “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich?” The Little House books? Nothing unusual for an author to refer to himself in the third person. In fact, the author of John does the same thing, and only identifies himself at the end of the last chapter.

    “There are no autograph copies of any of the Gospels from the first century ”

    So what? There are no originals of ANY ancient work but this poses no particular problem for historians.

    “Bart Ehrman’s books are clear on all of this. But there are other authors who corroborate his claims that these Gospels were written by multiple people.”

    Bart Ehrman would also laugh at your claims that Jesus didn’t exist–and just about the entire academic world would “corroborate” him in so doing–but that’s not deterring you from your claims so I don’t think I’ll be deterred, either, by far less unanimous consensuses. As far as the “other authors” and the gospels go, there are all kinds of authors with all kinds of opinions on the subject so appeals to authority alone are rather lame here without some substance to go with it. Please specify your reasons and evidence for your position.

    “Unhinged from the other gospels it contradicts and re-creates yet another bizarre Jesus”

    Jphn’s gospel does not contradict, nor is it unhinged. It was written to supplement the synoptics, not rehash them.

    “How did Luke, Matthew or John get into ‘wide circulation’ by 100 AD?
    LUKE 70 C.E.
    MATTHEW 80 C.E.
    JOHN 100 C.E.”

    Good question. Obviously, they were written earlier — Luke slightly earlier (mid-60s) and Matthew considerably earlier. John was the last written but obviously earlier than you claim. There is no particularly compeliing evidence for a later date.

  • Shawnie5

    LOL! Max, go to bed. You’re fading out.

  • Susan

    Well, I knew that there were two schools of Pharisees, Hillel and Shammai. Shammai was generally stricter and more legaistic. Shammai was stricter, but even his school is not depicted accurately in the New Testament. I should add that Hillel was poor and uneducated. He married well and his wife’s family sponsered his education. Many of the Pharisees were workers as well as scholars.

  • Pingback: Christians Would Do Well to Remember the Jewishness of Jesus | BCNN1 WP()

  • Pingback: BCNN2 » Blog Archive » Christians Would Do Well to Remember the Jewishness of Jesus()

  • IIRC, Carsten Thiede’s work.

    Per Thiede, surviving fragments of papyrus feature scripts not known to have been in use after 66 AD.

  • Why is a ghastly professional polemicist subject to one of Merritt’s softball interviews?

  • Pingback: How Christians forgot Jesus’ Jewishness - Jonathan Merritt()

  • Ben in oakland

    “Of course. No one ever claimed that they were. They used eyewitness sources.”

    Maybe. But how trustworthy were those eyewitness sources? How do we know they spoke the truth? Id there are other historical confirmation that Jesus raised the dead or that zombies walked the streets? How did anyone else fial to notice this?

  • Jack

    Susan, part of the dilemma is that the respective schools are not specifically identified in the New Testament. Part of the reason is that the writers were less interested in the division between the two schools and more interested in the distinction between both schools and Jesus. This makes sense when you realize that they were claiming Him to be the Messiah, which would make His authority supreme over both schools as well as over the Saduccees or priesthood.

    Also, part of Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees involved deep irony and paradox. It would be like Jesus coming today and ripping apart respected evangelical or Catholic leaders. He went after them not because they were horrible wretches like the corrupt priesthood of the time (whom the Talmud also criticized for being robbers and virtual traitors to Rome), but because, while they were serious about faith, unlike Caiaphas and friends, many of them elevated their own teachings above that of the Torah itself. He was basically saying, “you certainly know better than that.”

    I suspect that people of that time were far more shocked by Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees than Jesus’ criticism of the Saduccees or priests.

    Put another way, Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees was from a Pharisee-like perspective — one that included a sincere reverence of the words of Scriptures as the words of God.

  • Jack

    Max, virtually every scholar in the western world will disagree with you, including Bart Ehrman, who, like you, is a former Christian.

    It puts you in almost the same category as people who deny the moon landing in 1969.

  • Jack

    Max, since scholars have had (since its discovery) a manuscript fragment of John’s Gospel dated around 110 AD, that fact alone makes it a virtual certainty that the original autograph was written and circulated well before 100 AD.

    As for the content of John’s Gospel, it exhibits a vast knowledge of the world of first-century, pre-70 AD Israel. I say pre-70 AD Israel because of the Roman destruction of the various cities and towns in the 70 AD period. The writer clearly passed through them many times, long before the destruction. Archeological findings corroborate his detailed descriptions.

    It is remarkable that anyone can read John’s Gospel and miss this fact about it. The problem may be that people are too focused on the familiar teachings and theology and not enough on the writer’s depth of knowledge of a world that was lost after 70 AD.

  • Jack

    Shawnie is correct. Paul mentions Mark in at least one of his epistles, as does the writer of the Book of Acts. I believe Shawnie is also correct that Paul does quote from Luke’s Gospel.

  • Jack

    Max’s objection to Shawnie’s depicting the gospels as being widely circulated is juvenile, because the term is obviously relative to time and place. In terms of the first century, yes, the gospels were “widely circulated” well before the close of that century. Their reach extended beyond Israel and into Rome, the most important western city of that time and the capital of the Roman empire. They also extended beyond Rome and into such areas as Asia Minor. By the late first century, their reach was great enough to ignite serious persecution from the Roman emperor.

  • Jack

    Max, if by “evidence” you mean photography, that wasn’t invented until 19 centuries later.

    But if by “evidence” you mean what satisfies mainstream historians and other scholars, then of course there is “evidence” that Jesus was real, and that his followers were observant Jews.

    Apparently, you still don’t understand the rules by which scholars determine what is history and what isn’t.

  • “Strictly speaking it is incorrect to call an ancient Israelite a “Jew” or to call a contemporary Jew an Israelite or a Hebrew.” (1980 jewish Almanac p3 Identity Crisis.”

    Jews are not Semites (Children of Shem) nor Hebrews or Israelites (Jacob’s sons).

    Ashkenazi Jews are japhethites and ergo are disqualified from being Semites.

    The Jews were never slaves in Egypt rescued by I AM whilst being guided by Moses who was also NOT a Jew by race or religion. John 8:33 “We Jews be Abraham’s seed and have never been slaves to any man.” That verse right there proves the Ashkenazim Pharisee were not Israelites or slaves to Pharoah.

    1925 Jewish Encyclopedia Vol 5 Page 41 “Edom is in modern Jewry.” Jews are the racial Children of Esau who mixed with the Canaanites Gen 36:1-3.

    This author trumps the “Jesus was a Jew card” because most Christians are ignorant of the history and migration of the Canaanite Jews.

  • Jack

    Memo to Ernest:

    Jesus was (and is) a Jew, no matter how many twists and turns you make to avoid the obvious.

  • Garson Abuita

    Are you the same guy who once was an atheist — the Pennsylvania state director of American Atheists btw — who got clocked in the face for protesting Islam, then became a Christian, and now is trying to get a Pennsylvania schoolteacher in trouble for wearing a Star of David? By all means, I implore all readers to visit your website. It’ll expose you for what you are.

  • Shawnie5

    True. That fragment of John you mentioned was found in Egypt.

  • Jack

    I just visited his web site…..It includes Holocaust revisionism. (surprise, surprise)

  • ben in oakland

    Well, Jack, you are certainly right about that. More crazy than I would have the patience to go through.

    Interesting source citation about the Khazar empire. I don’t have the patience to read it, but I’m sure it is crazy as all get out. Most people don’t even know this khazar empire of the jews ever existed.

  • Jack

    Well, Ben, you’re definitely not missing anything…’s another hate site.

    I didn’t notice the Khazar citation….calling Jews “Khazars” is a favorite tactic of neo-Nazi and other hate sites which seek to prove that Jews somehow aren’t really Jews.

    Really crazy indeed.

  • There is no REASON to accept these contradictory claims about Jesus as true.

    “why call me god?” – Jesus
    “the father and I are one” – Jesus

    Nonsense. Simply incoherent.

  • Shawnie5

    Max, please get your quotes straight.

  • Larry

    Holocaust revisionism, Ooookay (slowly walks away) That means he is a malicious liar by nature. You would think think after David Irving had his keister handed to him in court, these people would have gone away.

    The Khazars thing is so old hat among the neo-nazis that many of them started telling people to stop using it because it made them look stupider than usual.

    There is no reason to be taking Ernest seriously whatsoever. For the record, don’t blame this d-bag on atheism. He is a Christian. He is your problem now 🙂

  • Ben in oakland

    You need only look at the crazy graphics and the overuse of fonts to know what kind of mind is at work.

    I didn’t know about the Khazari slander.Silliness all around. I’ve never had much patience for the real right wing crazy. I tried to read mein kampf once and gave up. To much work for absolutely nothing resembling a reward.

    The things they come up with! Amazing how much work they put into hate, when Just a little further effort along the way of actual knowledge would be an improvement in everyone’s lives.

  • Shawnie,

    “Bart Ehrman would also laugh at your claims that Jesus didn’t exist”

    He already has – he scoffs at books such as ‘Nailed’ which raises the likelihood that Jesus was not real. That doesn’t mean I dismiss the rest of his other analysis.

    Besides, I didn’t say conclusively that Jesus didn’t exist.
    I said there is no REASON to believe that he did exist. There is certainly NO REASON to believe any real individual had the characteristics of the Jesus person written about in the discrepant bibles!

    Bart Ehrman knows he is on thin ice regarding the existence of a man named Jesus. He refers to a letter of Paul which references ‘James the brother of Jesus’

    Jesus may easily be a composite of several messiah figures of which there were many running around in ancient times.

    He rejects David Carrier, Richard Price and a growing number of scholars who present extremely compelling arguments against the existence of jesus.

    The New Testament rests on the Gospel of Mark which is an allegorical tale lining up with many other allegories of ancient history. Matthew and Luke are elaborations and conflations of the Mark story – not evidence that Mark was accurate.

    There is no reason to believe any of it is true. You might as well believe in Robin Hood.

  • Since when do you want something to be accurate?
    You make up everything else.

  • Hitler grew up in Vienna, a cosmopolitan city that was soaked in Anti-Semitism. Mayor Karl Lueger was a notorious hater of Jews.

    Centuries before, Martin Luther was viciously outspoken in his diatribes against the Jews.

    Sadly, otherwise intelligent, industrious, insightful people grew bitter in their denunciation of those who refused to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah. And their words bore bitter, deadly fruit.

    Christians dishonor Christ whenever their treatment of others is harsh and hateful. We must love each other, or perish—W.H. Auden

  • Shawnie5

    “Bart Ehrman knows he is on thin ice regarding the existence of a man named Jesus. He refers to a letter of Paul which references ‘James the brother of Jesus’”

    You think that is his only argument against Jesus mythicism? LOL! Obviously you haven’t read any of his stuff beyond his few comments in RNS’s recent Jesus myth article.

    “He rejects David Carrier, Richard Price and a growing number of scholars who present extremely compelling arguments against the existence of jesus.”

    There isn’t a “growing number” of Jesus myther scholars. There have always been a few outliers who bought into this stuff ever since it first surfaced about 150 years ago, and it’s often good for selling a few books to people of the kind who like conspiracy-type ideas. But has never been more than a fringe and never will be. As for David Carrier, if you consider his ideas about two-body resurrections and allegorical gospels and his distortions of Paul’s plain and direct language to try to make them fit an allegorical model “extremely compelling” then that goes along quite predicatably with your marked tendency to characterize up as down and down as up when it suits your agenda. Personally, I don’t even have to go that far — I can not find any professional blogger who still buys the pop myth of Christians burning the Library of Alexandria, as Carrier does, to be “extremely compelling.” That’s sort of a historical “deal-breaker” for me that removes one from the skeptic category to the propagandist one.

  • Shawnie5

    “The New Testament rests on the Gospel of Mark which is an allegorical tale lining up with many other allegories of ancient history. Matthew and Luke are elaborations and conflations of the Mark story – not evidence that Mark was accurate.”

    That’s merely one theory. It it far from proven, nor does it account for linguistic indications, as well as early patristic attestations, of earlier Aramaic sources that predate ALL the synoptics.

  • Jack

    Max, nice try at deflecting, but you’re confusing two issues — (1) was Jesus a historical person and (2) were the claims made about or by Jesus about his divine nature and identity true or not……

    As you well know, the question of Jesus’ existence deals with #1 alone.

    And on that issue, Bart Ehrman sums it up well by saying that virtually no serious scholar today denies that Jesus existed.

    Since you are neither serious nor a scholar, it is no shock that you fall into the “denier” camp.

  • Jack

    I’m not blaming that kook on anyone, Larry. He’s apparently a vile anti-Semite motivated by pure hatred and bigotry alone. He is in his own category, as are others like him. I have given up trying to categorize people like him….and so has law enforcement. One of the post-9/11 findings of people who monitored such things is that ideologically, these people are frequently all over the map. Like the radicals in Germany in the years immediately preceding Adolf, these are inherently unstable and creepy people who sound far left one moment and far right the next. Some of them were literally Marxists one day and Nazis the next.

  • Jack

    I took a peek at Mein Kampf, too, and braced myself for evidence of a totally evil and despicable genius. What I found was despicable evil in abundance, but little evidence of genius. The parts I read were drone-like…..picture a hate machine on auto-pilot. I felt like I wasn’t even reading the words of a person. The experience was more like listening to a jackhammer boring its way into the ground.

  • Jack

    Unfortunately, Luther’s diatribes and his vile recommendations on what to do with the Jews were indeed picked up by Hitler and the Nazis.

    Vienna and Austria generally weren’t Lutheran but Catholic, but that was equally as bad for Jews. Some of the worst Nazis were of Catholic background, and that .

    But to be fair, Luther went about as far as anyone can go in his venting against the Jews….farther in print than even Catholicism had gone.

    I have read excuses for Luther’s behavior, but none of them are convincing. Nobody in history wrote more profoundly than he about the grace of God, so the hypocrisy was stunning. And his lack of graciousness was not limited to the Jews.

    And no, he was not totally a product of his times. Less than a century after Luther came a whole generation of people from the Calvinist side of things (although ironically not Calvin himself) who displayed a genuine love and respect for the Jewish people.

  • Shawnie5

    Ever see any of Hitler’s artwork? Same quality.

  • Jack

    Ben wrote:

    “How trustworthy were those eyewitness sources? How do we know they spoke the truth?”

    The issue is two kinds of evidence — historical evidence regarding the actual NT writings and legal evidence regarding eyewitness sources.

    And it goes without saying that when people purport to quote eyewitnesses, there are common-sense tests for those claiming to quote them.

    Laying aside extraordinary claims like miracles, the starting point for historians and other scholars is to assume that on routine things like names, dates, and places, a document or a witness is providing accurate information until proven otherwise.

    So long as there is nothing in the document or the testimony that contradicts itself or outside assertions, the presumption on routine matters is one of veracity.

    Even if there is an apparent contradiction, responsible scholarship will make a good-faith attempt at reconciliation before leaping to conclusions.

    There are at least two reasons scholars take this approach.

    First, it does justice to the writers, who are dead and hence can’t be summoned to explain themselves or what they wrote.

    And second, it follows the way human beings normally treat each others’ daily communications.

    Imagine two people having a conversation where each of them demands proof for every sentence the other one utters.

    Person A: At about 4 PM yesterday, I was on Broadway and 72nd and saw a man riding a bicycle, singing to himself.

    Person B: Prove it. I want corroboration from someone else. I was on Rodeo Drive a week ago and saw Dustin Hoffman walk into a Volvo dealership.

    Person A: Prove it. Who else saw him?

    Picture every conversation going on this way.

    It would destroy the ability of people to communicate with each other productively.

    So in the real world, in conversations, people are presumed to be telling each other the truth on mundane matters until proven otherwise.

    We don’t need corroboration to affirm this; we need contradictions to refute this.

    And that is how scholars normally proceed when it comes to historical evidence….and how courts normally proceed when it comes to legal evidence.

  • Jack


  • @Shawnie and Jack,

    I am NOT saying Jesus didn’t exist. I’m saying it is questionable and there is no REASON to believe one way or the other.

    Further, it is not a good argument. God should have seen this!

    God rests his entire argument on ‘faith’!

    But if God is real he must know that “Faith” is proven to fail miserably. All other Gods in history have existed thanks to the same FLAWED method!
    Allah, Zeus, Aphrodite, etc.

    What does it say about your God that he leaves Faith as his only access to him?

    I mean, really – people!

    If you were God and had an infinite number of ways to reach people to get them to love you and worship you – and YET you chose the one method which has failed repeatedly, the one which is no different than the method used to validate ALL OTHER GODS, wouldn’t that make your judgement absolutely AWFUL?

    No thinking person can connect these dots!

  • Jack

    Max, the evidence that Jesus existed remains compelling to the vast majority of biblical scholars of all stripes, from atheists to fundamentalists and everything in between.

    You say that the existence of Jesus “is questionable and there is no reason to believe one way or the other,” yet the overwhelming majority of scholars say his existence is anything but “questionable” and that there is every reason to believe he did exist.

    You can believe what you wish — in a flat earth, in money growing on trees, and in intricate universes magically spinning into existence all by themselves. But most other people prefer the real world.

  • Susan

    Semites are people who speak a variety of Semitic languages. Hebrrew is a Semitic language. Therefore Jews are Semites.

  • I don’t deny Jesus existed.

    I have repeatedly stated THERE IS NO REASON to believe Jesus existed.

    I don’t deny God exists.

    I have repeatedly stated THERE IS NO REASON to believe God is real.

    You simply are a very limited capability if you cannot grasp the difference. And you have offered NO REASON why anyone else should believe Jesus existed or why God is real.

    There is NO REASON to believe in Jesus. Every good reason to NOT believe, and no price to pay for not believing in it.

  • I deny that Robin Hood is real.

    On the matter of Robin Hood I AM A DENIER!
    On the matter of Jesus I simply see no reason to believe he existed.

    If you cannot grasp the difference, I cannot help you.

  • @Jack,

    “the same category as people who deny the moon landing in 1969”


    Evidence for the moon landing is OVERWHELMING!
    We can look through a telescope and see the American flag planted on the moon in the Sea of Tranquility! I witnessed the parade in NYC and the Astronauts.

    You have no regard for honesty.

    Evidence that Jesus actually existed is not of the same caliber.
    And SINCE WE KNOW the Jesus character of the Bible cannot have existed EXACTLY as he is described anyway – there is no reason to believe any one particular person named Jesus ever existed at all.

    “Jesus” may have been a name attributed to a number of people who claimed to be the Messiah.
    “Jesus” may have been a person given the name Yasu who brought ancient ideas from the East such Buddhism and Confucianism which share many similarities.
    “Jesus” may have been a non-Jew and had nothing to do with Judaism as the Marcianites believed. Marcian Churches were scattered around Jerusalem by the hundreds before he became a “Jewish Messiah”

    Your lack of research on Jesus is the problem here.
    I agree with Bart Ehrman that some such person may have existed – but I don’t agree with Ehrman that it is definite. His arguments are simply not completely persuasive. Ehrman’s primary argument is that Paul wrote a letter referring to a visit with “James the brother of Jesus” – but there is a problem with this.
    There was a strong movement within the religion to ensure that the story would not change – that Jesus was the only son of Mary. Mary’s ‘eternal virginity’ was an important story line to many believers – so Jesus was said to be an “only” son.
    There is REASON TO BELIEVE that the letters could have been tampered with to convey a brother of Jesus existed simply because that story line belonged to a different sect of Christianity.

    The Jesus story has been completely messed with!
    Different sects over the centuries have toyed with every aspect of the Jesus story!

    Whatever really happened has been so badly tampered with that there is no REASON to agree with any particular story line about Jesus and so there is really no reason to think that the character of Jesus which the Gospels argue about (between themselves) could have existed in the way the Gospels describe!

  • John Hutchinson

    When Eisenhower’s troops went through the Nazi concentration camps, he told his soldiers to take as many photos as possible because some fools would inevitably claim down the line that the Holocaust didn’t happen. It only took a couple of generations.

    Socrates left no written works. His existence is known largely by the works of his “disciples” Plato and Xenophon. The first known philosophical skeptic, Pyrrho left no written works. His existence is known largely by the works of one immediate disciple. Most scholars and people tend not to doubt their existence.

    Christ’s existence is attested not only by his own orthodox disciples but by the gnostics and heretics, some of which you even mention. There was a religious commotion within Jewish circles that even several early 2nd Century Roman historians and politicians took note of. We have Emperor Domitian’s (81 -96 A.D) attempt to differentiate between real “Jews” and those which hitherto piggybacked on Jewish associations, namely the Christians. You, of course, have Josephus.

    And unless you are into really big conspiracy theories, cleverly arranged by fishers and other peasants, you have various notations of first generation disciples who died without fighting for earthly conquest in the conviction that their mentor was the Son of God.

    There is enough indirect evidence, of which this is only some, to suggest that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth was real.

    As to changes to Gospel accounts, you might want to read Justin Martyr’s Dialogue With Trypho or his Apologies (middle of 2nd Century), which are saturated with Scriptural quotations.

    If you are adamantly and prejudicially going to oppose Christianity, you might want to start with a more credible point of opposition.

  • Pingback: Jewishness()

  • Jeanne Richards

    If “Jesus” was to introduce himself today, saying, “Hello, I am Yeshua, and I am a Jew,” most Christians would balk at his statement. It is, however, the Jewishness of Yeshua (his native Aramaic name) that lies at the core of his teaching and his philosophy. Getting to know Yeshua for who and what he was is key to understanding him as a man, a great teacher, and an enlightened being. Thank you for posting this article. I will be sharing it on my author’s page today.
    JB Richards
    Author of “Miriamne the Magdala-The First Chapter in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series” and Content Creator for The Miriamne Page…/Miriamne-the…/206903979347028

  • Pingback: Seeing the Gospels through a Jewish lens: An interview with Amy-Jill Levine - On Faith & Culture()

  • Pingback: Reading the Gospels Through a Jewish Lens - Jonathan Merritt()

  • Jack

    Max, virtually every scholar in the western world will disagree with you, including Bart Ehrman, who, like you, is a former Christian.

    Max, that’s what I wrote above and that’s what you’re responding to — in the form of flat-out avoidance. It’s part of your pattern… whenever facts get in the way of your propaganda, you pretend they were never cited.

  • Jack

    Very good point, John Hutchinson. The only way to avoid the conclusion that Jesus existed is to resort to conspiracy theories.

  • Jack

    Actually, Jeanne, “Yeshua” is a Hebrew word and name, but your point about his Jewishness is obviously correct.

  • @Jack,

    Consensus is not evidence.
    Your ‘consensus’ argument is nonsense.

    Even according to your own story, the professional
    consensus regarding Jesus resulted in his crucifixion at the time.

    I have no respect for consensus. If you cared so much about consensus as you say you do, you would be a Muslim.

    Further, there is no reason to bother. Whether Jesus was real or not, his religion is no more true than Hercules. And I don’t care if he existed or not either.

  • Jack

    Max, what do you think the overwhelming “consensus” among scholars favoring Jesus’ existence is based upon, other than evidence? Bart Ehrman basically said, in so many words, that to deny Jesus existed, given the evidence, is bats*t crazy. And as you know, Ehrman is not a Christian, but an ex-Christian, just as you claim to bee.

  • Jack, the Stupid is strong in you.
    Jesus was not an AshkeNAZI or a Sephardi Jew by race or religion. In Genesis 10:3 the “jews” you speak of today are the descendents of the Ashkenazi. The Ashkenazi are the children of Japheth, ergo, the Ashkenazi are not Shem’s children.

    The Sephardi “Jews” are the people of Obadiah 1:20 who captured the Tribe of Judah proving in both cases that I mentioned that the Ashkenazim are not Semites and the Sephardi are not the tribe of Judah.

    Jews are the the children of Esau who married into the Canaanite tribes. Ergo, this is why the 1980 Jewish Almanac states that it is improper to label an ancient Israelite or Hebrew a “Jew” or any modern “jew” an Israelite or Hebrew.

    The 1925 Jewish Encyclopedia vol 5 page 41 states that Edom is in modern Jewry. OR the Race of Edomites are the Jews this is perfectly synonymous with Gen 36:1 Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.

    Jews are the racial children of the Edomites. King David spent 6 months in Edom killing all of the male Edomite “Jews” in Kings 11.

    Furthermore, the very first time the word “Jew” is used in the Holy Bible is in 2 Kings 16:6 and the King of Israel (Peka) is at full fledged war with the Kings of Syria and Edom. King Peka is defeated and the Tribe Of Judah is driven away whilst the Edomites move in to the Tribe Of Judah’s position. Judah is banished by Edom.

    Today’s Jews are the Edomites who married into the Canaanites Gen 36:3. Any quick reading from historical books can show you this.

    King Herod of 125 BC was an Edomite Jew and the Edomites murdered the last Saxon King of Israel, Saac’s son John Hycranus 2 who allowed the Edomites to be converted and join Judea the country as citizens. Unlike King David who in 1000 BC slaughtered all of these serpents in body form, Saxon King Hycranus allows them to convert and in 121 BC the Edomites kill Saxon Hycranus bribing the Romans to install Herod the Edomite. Herod’s dynasty lasted 3 generations.
    It was this unfortunate date that the Edomite Jews joined Judea and this was far too late to have authored any word of the Old Testament. This was 40 years after the first Saxon Hannakuh.

    The amazing thing about this race of Ashkenazim and Sephardim is that John Hopkins University and Huttersfield Medical University tested together over 4,500 Ashkenazi Jews and found out that none of the these Canaanite Jews were Semites.

    Medical Science proved the bible true and proved anyone who believes the “Jews” are Semites are complete ignorant idiots.

    Jesus was not a JEW because he was a child born of Shem from whence the Semites come from.


  • daniel

    Although,I am not an atheist,neither am I a Christian, or veen religious for that matter
    I do believe that Jesus the MAN did exist, I also believe that he wa A son of God not THE son of God. No more or no less a child of God than anyone else.