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My referencing the Rav’s classic article serves merely as a fundamental ideological approach that cannot be ignored when discussing this issue. At the core of the article is the necessity of respectively maintaining a distance between the two faith communities, not trying to merge them. And this was written in the context of the American Jewish experience, where Jew and gentile shared commmunal concerns. In Eretz Yisroel, we have biblical prohibitions which make many of the points of the article less relevant or perhaps irrelevant, since the halachah clearly defines which gentiles may even enter the land.

Point # 9 Medad: He insists “there is no definitive evidence that a specific historical Jesus existed… based upon two different figures in the Gemara” but as we know from the booklet חסרונות הש”ס and from any good historical research as “Jesus in the Talmud” by Peter Schäfer; Scattered throughout the Talmud can be found quite a few references to Jesus. The Talmudic stories make fun of Jesus’ birth from a virgin, fervently contest his claim to be the Messiah and Son of God, and maintain that he was rightfully executed as a blasphemer and idolater. They subvert the Christian idea of Jesus’ resurrection and insist he got the punishment he deserved in hell–and that a similar fate awaits his followers. Schäfer contends that these stories betray a remarkable familiarity with the Gospels–especially Matthew and John.


My response: I don’t really understand his point. Despite Schafer’s assertions, this is a historical debate that is also addressed by Jewish authorities. Believing in an historical Jesus is not a fundamental tenet of Judaism. Medad almost seems offended.

In 26 Reasons Jews Don’t believe in Jesus, Asher Norman notes the following:

“The works of 41 historians who lived during the first century and early second century and wrote about Judea and Rome have survived. Significantly, none of them mentioned Jesus, his alleged disciples, his apostles,or any of the so-called “miraculous” events described in the gospels. It is difficult to understand how this is possible, if the gospel stories about Jesus described historical events.” (page 182)

In addressing the alleged two “Josephus” sources in the xtian edited “Antiquities of the Jews,” Norman explains that scholars widely believe that these alleged references were put in later by christians. His reasons are as follows:

the passage doesn’t fit into the context of the surrounding text

the perspective appears to be from a Christian viewpoint, despite the fact that Josephus is the writer. Norman notes that “it speaks naively and devotionally of Jesus, and declares him to have been the christ.” This seems a fair charge, since whatever Josephus may have been (traitor, opportunist, Romanized), he would surely not have touted Jesus as the messiah.

the church father Origen, despite having referenced “Antiquities of the Jews,” did not cite these two sources. (183-4).

Talmud: Despite common perception, the talmud never references “Jesus of Nazareth.” The Tosefta and Baraita reference two different men that people mistakenly associate with Jesus.

Yeishu Ben Pandira-Problem:

He was never crucified, but was stoned to death for sorcery and then hung from a tree.

This occurred one hundred years before Jesus during Alexander Jannaeus’s reign in Jerusalem.

Yeshu Ben Stada-Problem:

Lived one hundred years after Jesus.

While his manner of death and subsequent hanging for sorcery on the eve of Passover are the same, he was killed in the town of Lydda.

Critical Points:

Two different personalities.

Neither of these men were killed by Romans.

Different towns of execution.

Neither were crucified.

Their dates don’t correspond to the dates of Jesus that christians accept.

Did Jesus exist according to Rabbinical sources? Here we have a machloket (halachic disagreement.) Rabbi Jehiel ben Joseph said that the Yeshu referenced in rabbinic literature was a disciple of Joshua Ben Perachai, and NOT Jesus the Nazarene. Nachmanides rejected the notion that the Talmud references Jesus. Maimonides maintained that it did. (Norman, 186-187). Ultimately, the historicity of Jesus is irrelevant for the believing Jew.

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Donny Fuchs made aliyah in 2006 from Long Island to the Negev, where he resides with his family. He has a keen passion for the flora and fauna of Israel and enjoys hiking the Negev desert. His religious perspective is deeply grounded in the Rambam's rational approach to Judaism.