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Jesus Christ: Born a Jew, Died a HereticAuthor of this text: Bernard Katz
some of them leading Jewish scholars like J. Klausner, author of Jesus
Nazareth, have written highly sympathetic books to extol the
Jesus. In this they are very much mistaken. The truth is that In spite
„fact" that he was born a Jew, Jesus died a heretic.
It is seldom realized that the
Gospel Jesus was infinitely more Zoroastrian, Buddhist, and Pythagorean
Judaic. The beliefs in Heaven, Hell and the Devil, a Last Judgment,
resurrection, and an ongoing war in Heaven all originate with the
Persian prophet Zoroastra, who lived around 628-551 BCE.
Gautama, who became the
„enlightened one"-the Buddha-lived in the sixth century BCE. In just
hundred years, Buddhist missionaries had not only spread to central
also had penetrated and proselytized Syria and Egypt before the time of
Buddhist elements in the Christian Gospel were the substitution of a communism
of beggars for communities that were self-supporting; the emphasis of
importance of charity to support these mendicant communists; and
charity to the
poor, whose rights and virtues were always emphasized. The Gospel also
Buddhism the spreading of the message to heal the sick, the lame and
and to establish a universal kingdom in which private wealth, poverty,
exploitation would be abolished forever. It is also indebted to
the renunciation of labor, property, and sex-both procreational and
recreational-thereby renouncing the family as the only practical means
to escape such eternal suffering.
The input of Pythagoreanism to
the Gospel is also important, for by the time of Jesus it had
itself into the Essene community-with the startling conclusion by some
scholars that Jesus was a renegade member of that Jewish revolutionary
Pythagoras (about 582-507 BCE) was a pre-Socratic philosopher who
founded a secret, mystical brotherhood in Italy. Like the primitive Christians of
Gospel, they held all possessions in common. And like Jesus' advice in
Gospels, the Essene community also encouraged celibacy. Their practice
purification through ritual immersion was a significant influence on
of baptism in the early church. The Essenes believed in the immortality
soul, another vital strand of the Gospel. They also forbade the taking
oaths, just as stated in the Gospels. The Essenes believed in several
another major influence in the development of Christianity.
In this cultural environment of
high religious tensions, we find several Jewish groups jockeying for
two foremost parties were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The
its long history as the most conservative of Jewry, were in charge of
Temple, believed only in the law of Moses, opposed the oral law of the
Pharisees, engaged in the traditional rituals and sacrifices, recruited
especially from the priesthood, and were backed by the aristocracy and
landowners. Many were members of the Sanhedrin, the governing body of
Jesus criticized the Sadducees for not believing in the resurrection,
the same reason the Pharisees also regarded them as heretics.
Their opposition, the Pharisees,
replaced the Temple with the synagogue-for the Romans had destroyed the
in 70 CE-ousted the priesthood for the rabbi, and substituted
ceremony with the prayer service. They emphasized
the study of the Torah, the growing need for
the restoration of their Promised Land, and the preparation for the
come. They and Jesus clashed because what he was doing and saying were
considered heretical to Pharisaic theology.
Another Jewish group vying for
power was the Zealots, a fanatical, terrorist, political and religious
openly resisted Roman rule. Some authorities trace them to a religious
from the Maccabean period. They were most influential in Galilee, an
familiar to Jesus and his band of disciples and women camp followers.
Finally, among other splinter
sects was a very small group of off-shoot Jews living east of Jerusalem
near the Dead Sea. They were the above-mentioned Essenes.
So here we have a melee of
religious conflict into which Jesus was born as a Jew. The sole sources
Jesus' childhood are the Gospels, for whatever outside information we
been recognized as myths and legends-much as the four Gospels are
be, for they are not history but theological tracts written by
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in 6
or 7 BCE, lived in the northern province of Galilee, and was crucified
Jerusalem by the Romans between 30 and 33 CE. His mother Mary was
genealogy in the Gospels supposedly „proves" that he was descended from
Jewish royal dynasty of king David, although the prophet Jeremiah
states otherwise; like all Jewish boys, he was circumcised on the
he went to synagogue as a child.
In spite of his reverence for
Moses and the prophets, you can see that Jesus had little in common
basic ideology. Since no nation with a well-developed culture will
speculative doctrines which contradict those it already holds, there
reasons why the Jews could never embrace the Gospel Jesus. Note the
1. The idea of any actual sonship to
God, even if only mystical, violated the Jewish fundamental concept of
spirituality, unity, and universality.
2. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth,
which came later, and which had many counterparts among Greeks,
Persians, was an abomination to the Jews since, for them, it reduced
into a vulgar and polytheistic concept.
3. The pagan doctrine of the Eucharist,
according to which the literal body and blood of the deity were eaten,
repugnant to the Jews. To boot, Zoroastrian baptism was nearly as
flagrant a violation of Mosaic ideals.
4. After the Persian influence receded
among the Pharisees, the Jews as a whole rejected the Zoroastrian
of Jesus in toto and re-embraced that of Moses and the
knew nothing of hell or heaven, of rewards, punishment, or judgment
5. The universalism of Jesus called for
the merging of the Jews among Gentiles around them and the consequent
destruction of the old, exclusive Judaism. No offense could have been
than this. One of Jesus' strategies to achieve this was to declare that
Jewish dietary food laws were now void.
6. No one could have been more different from
Messiah expected by orthodox Jews than was Jesus. Neither the disciples
other early Christians expected a Messiah of moral judgment during the
following the crucifixion. No ordinary Jew could accept the Greek
mystery-concept of a savior-god. The Jews expected a militant Messiah
expel the hated Romans from their Holy Land-not a self- promoted
declared that his kingdom was not of this world. When the Jews asked
for a sign, he answered them with abuse and denunciation, providing no shred
acceptable evidence to support his messianic claims.
7. Jesus' repudiation of family and marriage
extremely repugnant to the Jews. And his mandate that those who could
practice celibacy without desire should castrate themselves must have
as insanity, especially to a people who believed they must increase and
multiply as God told them to do so no less than seven times in Genesis
8. The ethical teachings of Jesus, which
required all persons with property to sell it and give the money to the
were simply unrealistic. And he made it a cardinal sin to enjoy any
luxury not equally enjoyed by all. Such ethics were incomprehensible to
Jews, who considered them completely subversive.
9. When Jesus repudiated the Jewish
Sabbath, the Temple sacrifices, the dietary laws and other ceremonials,
became a criminal and heretic in the eyes of all pious Jews.
Thus those who maintain that
Jesus was Jewish to the core have been and are mistaken. Although Jesus
born a Jew, he certainly died a heretic!
be published in the 2004 March/April issue of the American Rationalist Š
« The American Rationalist (Published: 16-03-2004 Last change: 11-05-2011)
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