Differences Between Jesus' Statements And Jewish Beliefs

Shlomoh and Howard Karten
October, 2008

On Sunday, October 19, 2008, I received the following email question from an Internet acquaintance of mine

From: "Howard Karten"
To: "Shlomoh Sherman"  
Re: Differences Between Jesus' Statements And Jewish Beliefs

Howard Karten wrote:

As someone familiar with both Jewish thought and Xian thought, what do you think are the 10 most important differences in Jewus' statements or beliefs, and Jewish beliefs, *re interpersonal behavior*?

And I replied:

I find very little differences between what Jesus taught and what evolved Judaism teaches. Now remember, we only have the Gospels to rely on regarding his teachings. As far as the New Testament is concerned, from Acts of the Apostles on to Revelation, Jesus is not quoted. And the Tarsian founder of Christianity makes his own pronouncements which seem to be at variance with what Jesus says in the Gospels.  I do think that much of what Jesus DOES say in the Gospels is historical but I have no proof of that. Serious New Testament scholars believe that the words of Jesus were written down very early after his death and collected into a document which is now called Q - for QUELLE - the German word for "source".  Material from Q wound up in the various gsopels but the Gospel according to Matthew is probably the most reliable for Jesus' teachings. Again, this is my own opinion.

The only real point of difference between Jesus' teachings and Judaism is his stand on divorce. Jesus said that the only Jewish ground for divorce is adultery. But that was also the opinion of the school of the great Rabbi Shamai.  Modern Judaism does not follow this opinion simply because rabbis thought that it was too harsh a judgment - so they allow divorce for many other reasons. However, as a matter of fact, Jesus' opinion on divorce is closer to the original TORAH position than modern Judaism's. The TORAH says that a man should divorce his wife if he discovers within her ERVAT DAVAR. That Hebrew phrase is defintely sexual in nature and can only mean "she fooled around". Our rabbis stretched the meaning to include bad behavior to her husband in general.

Jesus does differ with our rabbis on certain other points. But even these points can be found to have a parallel in Judaism. Jesus said that his disciples must love him more than they love their parents. An ultra Orthodox rabbi will tell you that his followers' first loyalty is to the rabbi - above that of the father. Jesus told his disciples that they should sell what they have and give to the poor. That degree of charity is not incumbent on Jews - but Jesus belived that the world was coming to an end in his lifetime - so what did personal possessions mean anyway? Jesus taught that if a woman married more than one man in her lifetime, in the messianic world, she would not belong to any of them because there would be no marriage in that world.  Judaism says in that world, a woman will be her husband's foot stool, but if she married more than one man, I guess she has to share the foot stool privileges :).  

Jesus' ESSENTIAL teaching is the essential teaching of Judaism. That is, that since Jews await the kingdom of God, they should act as though they are messengers of the king and do what is necessary to hasten the coming of the kingdom. Jesus called his followers the Salt of the Earth - which means they make the world KOSHER or holy - but if they don't act the part then they are useless salt. Judaism says that a Jew's bad behavior detracts from God's kingship. This amounts to the same thing.

Jesus' teaching on morality - really is quite Jewish. Jesus' prayer paradigm, Our Father Which Is In Heaven echoes our prayer, the KADDISH. The ideas in both prayers are identical.Namely, God's name is holy, May the kingdom come speedily, God's will should be done by people as is done by the angels in heaven.

Jesus is not recognized as a rabbi but his teachings were influenced by rabbis, and he told his disciples to follow the teachings of the rabbis. The reason that most people today do not see the similarities of what Jesus taught and what the rabbis teach is that very few people read. The people who read the Jewish holy books don't read the NT. Those who read the NT know nothing about the Jewish holy writings. So most uncritical people know nothing deep about either teaching, and all they see are differences.  But the differences that they see are between evolved Judaism and evolved Christianity.  Evolved Christianity is not the Jewish teachings of Jesus. It is the teachings of Paul the Apostate.  The teachings of Jesus are ignored by many, but not all, so-called religious Christians and Jesus is given a bad rap by Jews because they don't know who he was. They only know what churches SAY he was. I hope this answer is satisfactory.

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