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- The Jewish Messiah
Why Can't Jews Be For Jesus?
The question above is a typical one asked by Christian Missionaries. The answer is easy, if one understands Jewish beliefs.
Jews do not believe that the Messiah is a part of G-d, or Divine in any way, more than any other person. Jews look only to G-d for our salvation, and when the time comes for G-d to bring the anointed king, then it shall happen. Jews do not concern ourselves with the messiah's identity, for the messiah is a person and the messiah's coming does not change our relationship with G-d. Jews do not accept the notion that Scripture "foretells" that G-d would robe Himself in flesh; in fact, to Jews, this idea is idolatry, and we stand against it.
The reason why Jews do not accept Jesus as the messiah is straightforward: he did not meet the requirements in the job requisition! G-d outlined these requirements in the Bible. The key aspect of proof is in the state of the world. According to the Bible, amongst the most mission of the messiah includes returning the world to return to G-d and G-d's teachings; restoring the royal dynasty to the descendants of David; overseeing the rebuilding of Jerusalem, including the Temple; gathering the Jewish people from all over the world and bringing them home to the Land of Israel; reestablishing the Sanhedrin; restoring the sacrificial system, the Sabbatical year and Jubilee. This simply has not happened. Judaism has no notion of the messiah not doing these things on the first visit, let along needing a second visit to do these things. Whenever these things are described in the Tanakh, the description says that the messiah will come and do these things - once.
Oh you want specifics? According to the Torah, the Messiah will:
Also read about the Notzrim, who might have had a different view of the Jewish messiah than traditional Judaism.
Redefining the Roles
In Christianity, the role of the messiah was redefined in order to fit the man's career as written by his followers. As Jesus was said to have been resurrected, the Bible was examined with the purpose of finding evidence that the messiah would be killed without bringing peace to the world or redemption to Israel. There was therefore the expectation of a second coming, at which time Jesus would carry out the task expected of the messiah (because he obviously didn't do it the first time). This also required creation of an explanation for the first coming and its catastrophic end. The net result of all of this was to shift the function of the messiah from a visible level where it could be tested (as in Tanakh, what Christians call the "Old Testament") to an invisible level where it could not. As a result of this reworking, the messiah's goal the first time around was changed from the redemption of Israel to the atonement for "original sin". A reworking of Biblical themes.
There were also mistakes with respect to Jesus's death and its foretelling. Psalm 22:17 says, "Like a lion, they are at my hands and feet." The Hebrew word ki-ari (like a lion) is grammatically similar to the word "gouged." Thus Christianity reads the verse as a reference to crucifixion: "They pierced my hands and feet." Other scholars have said that Psalm 22:17 has the Hebrew word ki-asi, which would make this verse say "They bound my hands and feet". As for the events that led up to the crucifixion:
Christians also claim that Isaiah 53 refers to Jesus. Actually, Isaiah 53 directly follows the theme of chapter 52, describing the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The singular form is used because the Jews ("Israel") are regarded as one unit. In fact, Isaiah states no less than 11 times in the chapters prior to 53 that the Servant of God is Israel. When read correctly, Isaiah 53 clearly [and ironically] refers to the Jewish people being "bruised, crushed and as sheep brought to slaughter" at the hands of the nations of the world. These descriptions are used throughout Jewish scripture to graphically describe the suffering of the Jewish people (see Psalm 44). Isaiah 53 concludes that when the Jewish people are redeemed, the nations will recognize and accept responsibility for the inordinate suffering and death of the Jews.
Christians also claim that Isaiah 9:5 predicts that the Messiah would be YHWH incarnate because of the phrase "And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace". This is due to a misinterperetation of a Theophoric Name. The name "Elgibbor" means "God [is] Mighty" (the variant is Gabriel, which has the same meaning), but the English translation implies that the Messiah will literally be a "mighty god". The name Ahijah means "brother of Jah (YHWH)". There are numerous characters in the Tanakh with this name.
The same logic of theophoric names that give rise to the confusion about Isaiah 9:5-6 would also concluded that these men were the literal brother of YHWH.
Virgin Births and Greek Theology
As for the virgin birth - why did the Christians manufacture a prophecy about a virgin birth? Something that is not required of the Messiah? If not a simple mistranslation, then maybe something else. When the Jews didn't accept Jesus as the Messiah (because the many preconditions for the Messianic era had not been fulfilled), the Church faced the real threat that non-Jews would reject him too. So Paul did two things: He issued an order that said that a Christian no longer had to observe Jewish laws (Acts 15), and he introduced a few pagan myths into the new Christian religion so that it would appeal to the pagan gentiles. One such myth concerned the god Attis, who was worshiped in Western Asia (where Paul actively preached). According to The Golden Bough, by Frazier, Attis was born from a virgin. He later was mutilated and bled to death. The worship of Attis involved an effigy of him that was hung. Afterwards it would be buried in a cave, and when the tomb was reopened, the god Attis would rise from the dead and softly whisper glad tidings of salvation. In the Roman worship of Attis, an animal's blood, symbolic of the blood of Attis, would be poured on worshipers. They believed that his blood would wash away the worshipers sins. (Like Early Christians, worshipers of Attis also practiced celibacy). The two religions are so close that it cannot be a coincidence. Rather, Paul introduced these ideas into the worship of Jesus. Hence, he had to manufacture in Tanakh a prophecy that the Messiah would be immaculately conceived.
In Matthew 22:41-44, there is a reported conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning the genealogy of the Messiah. The Pharisees said that the Messiah will be the son of David, and Jesus reportedly counted: "'How then does David in the spirit call him 'Lord,' saying: 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool"? If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?' And no one was able to answer him a word, neither did any man from that day forth ask him any more questions." This conversation could not have happened! Matthew is referring to Psalm 110:1, and is based on a clear mistranslation.
The first "Lord" in the sentence is properly capitalized because it uses the four-letter Hebrew name for G-d, the Yud kay vav kay - ... YHWH. We would pronounce that in prayer as "Adonai," which means Lord and only applies to G-d. The second "Lord" is improperly capitalized because the Hebrew word used at that point is "adoni" which means "my lord" and only refers to a human. So Psalm 110:1 should read: "The Lord said unto my lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." So who is the second and lower-cased "lord"? King David. This psalm begins "LeDavid Mizmor" (A song to David as opposed to by David). Accordingly, the song is written for David and makes him the subject of the first sentence. With that knowledge, the rest of the psalm makes perfect sense, G-d is giving much needed comfort to the King of Israel. Alternatively, it can be understood as a psalm written by David to be sung by the Levite choir praising him after his death.
Certainly any Pharisee would have known the meaning of Psalm 110 and would not have been confused by "Adonai" versus "adoni". It is not so clear that a Greek-educated story teller with little or no Jewish training, and a Christian axe to grind, would have been so knowledgeable. The story in Matthew then must be made up and judged self-serving.
Yet despite the obvious mistranslation, Psalm 110:1, continues to be misused by missionaries to prove that the Messiah sits at G-d's right hand and is like G-d. Judaism, however, believes that the Messiah is a human being, not a god.
It should be noted, however, that in the LXX (the Greek version of the Tanakh used by Christians) Psalm 110 uses the Greek word for "lord" (kurios) twice instead of once.
For Jews, if the Tanakh's requirements for the messiah have not been fulfilled, then there can only be one explanation: he has not yet come. To Jews, who were often subjected to mockery and contempt when asked where their messiah was, this was a painful statement to make. But it was inescapable. As our forefather's said: Ani M'amin: "I believe with complete faith in the coming of the messiah; and though he may tarry I shall wait for him every day."
Furthermore, Christianity contradicts Jewish theology. In Christianity, the notion of "Trinity" breaks G-d into three separate beings: The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19). However, the basis of Jewish belief is captured in the Shema: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is ONE" (Deut. 6:4). Jews declare the One-ness of G-d every day, writing it on doorposts (Mezuzah), and binding it to the hand and head (Tefillin). This statement of G-d's One-ness is the first words a Jewish child is taught to say, and the last words uttered before he dies. In Jewish law, worship of a three-part G-d is considered idolatry -- one of the three cardinal sins which a Jew should rather give up his life than transgress. This explains why during the Inquisitions and throughout history, Jews gave up their lives rather than convert.
Furthermore, Christians believe that G-d came down to earth in human form, as Jesus said: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). However, in Judaism, the fundamental idea is that G-d is Incorporial, meaning G-d has no physical form. In Judaism, G-d is Eternal, above time, Infinite, beyond space. G-d cannot be born, and cannot die. Saying that G-d assumes human form makes G-d small, diminishing both G-d's Unity and Divinity. The Torah says: "G-d is not a mortal" (Numbers 23:19). Judaism says that the Messiah will be born of human parents, with normal physical attributes just like other people. He will not be a demigod, and will not possess supernatural qualities. In fact, an individual is alive in every generation with the capacity to step into the role of the Messiah. (Maimonides - Laws of Kings 11:3)
Lastly, in Christianity, the physical world is viewed as an evil to be avoided. Mary is portrayed as a virgin. Priests and nuns are celibate. Monasteries are in remote, secluded locations. In Judaism, the belief is that G-d created the physical world not to frustrate us, but for our pleasure. Jewish spirituality comes through grappling with the mundane world in a way that uplifts and elevates. Sex in the proper context is one of the holiest acts we can perform. The Talmud says if a person has the opportunity to taste a new fruit and refuses to do so, he will have to account for that in the World-to-Come. Jewish rabbinical schools teach how to live amidst the bustle of commercial activity. Jews don't retreat from life, we elevate it.
So what do Jews say about Jesus, if he wasn't the messiah. The historical Jesus (not the mangod Christianity made him into) accomplished a great deal in turning people away from idolatry and towards a more authentic knowledge of G-d. But he has no special role to Judaism, in fact, no role at all.