What is the relationship between Jesus / modern Christianity and Judaism?

I’ve never quite had a handle on this. I understand Jesus was a Jew (King of them, no?), but modern Christianity seems to have nothing at all to do with modern Judaism.

Wha happened? Did Jesus split off to form his own religion? Was he a disgruntled Jew? How do modern Jewish folk feel about the fact that he was once on their team? Is there an official stance on the subject that is shared by both religions?

I feel really ignorant on this subject. My purpose is not to offend, but to learn.


No one who counted considered him to be the king of anything. And most Jews at the time must have felt he didn’t fulfill the very clear criteria given in the Messianic prophecies - dying for one thing. Given that, the early Christians recruited elsewhere, and, in order to win converts, loosened or did away with many of the requirements of Judaism, such as circumcision and the dietary laws.

I’ve seen speculation that one of the reasons for early anti-Semitism was that the people Jesus supposedly came for were not really interested. This could be due to Jesus not actually being the Messiah, or the wickedness of my ancestors. Clearly the church preferred the latter explanation.

So, Jews didn’t want to become Christians, because of the failure of Jesus to live up to the prophecy (if they thought about him at all) and Christians didn’t want to become Jews, because doing so was a pain in the you know what.

Are you asking about the theology or the history?

All of us except Jews for Jesus think that Jesus was a person, and was no more a son of God than in the sense that all people are children of God.

I personally think he was a person who was trying to implement some reforms to Judaism.

Meh. We really don’t care.


First, there’s not much of an “official stance” in Judaism on anything. There is no Jewish Pope, no religious authority that is recognized by all Jews. There’s a saying, “you take two Jews, you get three opinions”. This applies to Christianity, as well- there’s no central Christian authority that is recognized by all Christians.

Second, Judaism is more about practice (what you do) than it is about belief (what you think). We have 613 mitzvot (you can find various lists in various places- there is no definitive list, see above), or religious obligations. Only a tiny minority of them have anything to do with belief. The rest of them are things like “don’t eat pork” and “honor your father and mother”. Those are things you do, not things you believe. We aren’t all about getting all Jews to believe the same thing.

Theologically, nearly all Christians believe that Christ was the son of God, and that he was born Jewish (hence the bumper stickers saying “my boss is a Jewish carpenter”). They further believe that Christ “fulfilled” the prophecies and the law of the Old Testament, and that with his coming, God was making a new covenant with humanity – essentially a successor religion, worshiping the same God in a different way. I think most Christians would say that Christ saw himself not as a disgruntled Jew but as a transcendent one.

Jews, I think, share none of these theological views. I’m not necessarily in the best position to opine on their Jews, but I think most would say that Jesus, as a historical figure, was simply a preacher with some unusual views about Judaism. Muslims, I think, consider Jesus to be another in the line of prophets set forth in the OT.

From a purely historical view, it can sometimes be difficult to separate how much of Christianity comes from Christ and how much from St. Paul, his early follower who shaped the early church. Certainly, Christ left no organized church, simply a group of followers. Paul developed the Christain religion into an organization and helped found churches around the eastern Mediterranean. Paul was also responsible for the decision that Christians need not be circumcised, which removed a big obstacle to recruiting. It puttered along as a minor church within the Roman empire until Constantine adopted it as the state church, and modern Christianity began to develop as an institution from there.

Also, Frank apisa’s recent thread as to whether Christians remain subject to OT law contains some discussion of these issues. And to be fair, I think he would disagree with my characterization that Christians believe themselves to be subject to a new and different covenant with God.

Oddly enough, a weird sort of pride.

Jesus lived, practiced and taught as a Jew, and it’s unlikely that he ever thought of himself or his movement as anything but Jewish. His minsitry, as described in the Gospels, was conducted well within the norms of Rabbinic tradition for the time (including arguing with Pharisees and Sadducees. Arguing over arcana is a staple of Jewish practice from time immemorial).

It’s possible he claimed to be the Messiah. This claim, in itself, is not particulrly remarkable or offensive within Jewish tradition. It’s perfectly permissable to make the claim. The hard part is proving it. If you fulfill the expectations (restoring the kingdom of Israel, rebuilding the Temple, bringing world peace, returning all Jews to Israel, causing all the world to worship one God), then congratulations, you proved you’re the Messiah. If you haven’t done these things, then the response is not anger, but simply that you’re deluded, maybe off your meds, maybe just an idiot, but it’s not an affront to Judaism, and failed Messiahs have come and gone before without being rejected as Jews, or necessarily causing any hard feelings.

What does irreconcilably separate the Christian movement from Judiasm is the claim (whether it was made by Jesus himself, or his followers afterward) that he was God. In Judaism, people can’t be God, and God can’t be a person. Not even the Messiah is God, and Jesus wasn’t even the Messiah.

The idea that a pesron could be God was much more normal and acceptable among Gentiles, and Christianity fairly quickly became an almot exclusively Gentile movement, while contemorary Jews (if they had any knowledge of Jesus at all), just saw him, at best, as another failed Messiah. Reliable information about the eariest movement is difficult to come by, but it’s possible that he generated some excitement and built a following before he was killed, but for the vast majority of Jews (then and now) his death was a de facto refutation of his Messiahship. In Judaism, Messiahship is defined by accomplishment, not birthright. You’re not the M<essiah until you fulfill the prophecies. If you die before you fulfill them, well themn that’s the end of it. There was (and is) no tradition or expectation in Judaism that the Messiah will die and be resurrected, but if the claim is that Jesus will fullfill the prophecies after he comes back, then great, he will then be the Messiah.

The way that Jews view Jesus as a person and a Jew is variable. Obviously, the history of anti-semitic violence and oppression by Christians against Jews has made the figure of “Christ” off-putting to a lot of Jews. Some say he taught nothing new, was unremarkable as a teacher and possibly crazy. Others do feel sense of pride and ownership of him – recognize him as a product of their people and traditions and feel that it wasn’t his fault that his name and mission were appropriated in the manner they were after his death. Some rabbis have argud that Jesus should be reclaimed and recognized as a Jew – not just a Jew but the most famous Jew in history, and the most famous ethical teacher (arguments over the originality of that teaching is somewhat immaterial in this regard, because the teachings are still essentially Jewish either way).

I think an awful lot of Jews (maybe a majority) view him basically with indifference, though. Just not a historical figure they give much thought too.

I will say that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered any Jewish feelings of hosility towrads him, though. He doesn’t get blamed for Christianity.

My Hebrew School teacher, who was also our Cantor, said that Jesus could do his tricks because he had broken into the Holy of Holies and read the name of God written there, which gave you miracle doing power. (If Marvel come up with a superhero based on this theme, I want 10%). This was the only time Jesus even came up in five years. Not hostile, but not exactly adoring. I suspect religious leaders can’t cast too much doubt on the possibility of miracles, so they have to be explained.

The relationship between Jesus / modern Christianity and Judaism?

Hm. Jesus divided by modern Xtianity = Judaism? Or is it “minus”?

And yeah, Dio covered it pretty well.

This is fascinating stuff, I’m learning a lot here.

Very possibly a stupid question: was Christianity in existence before Jesus’ time? I was under the impression that he ‘invented’ it.

And why is he called ‘King of the Jews’ by some*?

*Well, by Andrew Lloyd Weber, anyway. :slight_smile:

No, it didn’t exist before Jesus. It’s unclear to what extent it was invented by Jesus, by his followers and by Paul.

That is the essential definition of the Jewish Messiah. The belief (both then and now) is that the Messiah will be a direct male desecndent of David and literally the genetic heir to David’s throne ( and therefore the literal king of the Jews). “Messiah” (Christos in Greek) means “anointed.” This is an allusion to the ceremonial anointing of ancient Jewish kings as part of their coronation.

This king is expected to be entirely human, not God or a literal “son of God” (though “son of God” was an honorific for kings, it was never intended literally).

The Christian definition of the Messiah is much different than the Jewish one.

If Christianity existed before Jesus’ time, it would be like Marxism existing before Marx’s time. There were certainly precursors of it, but it wouldn’t have been named that.

I have read of this opinion before - it seems it was published in the first couple of centuries in “anti-Christian” propaganda leaflets, but I don’t know how widely it was held.

It’s also in violation of most Jewish teachings. Miracle workers don’t perform miracles - God performs miracles through them, and He certainly can’t be compelled to do anything He doesn’t want to do.

Moses didn’t part the Red Sea, God did. All Mo did was wave his staff around.

Did Jesus actually change any Jewish laws or enact any changes to Jewish practices? His apostles stirred things up a bit after the crucifixion, but I’m pretty sure they were the first Christians, not Jesus himself.


Jesus was the inheritor of John the Baptist’s flock, and of Rabbi Hillel’s philosophy, so the two of them combined more or less make up Christianity, insofar as the pre-pauline church seems to exist. You get the Sermon on the Mount from one, and the rabble-rousing from the other.

No. This is a common misconception, that Judaism is Christianity minus Jesus. I grew up Protestant Christian and converted to Judaism, and I can tell you- they’re much more different than that.

It is. And it’s kind of fun, at least if you’re into that sort of thing.

Wow…another great thread. Second one I’ve come upon today. (Just got out of four days in the hospital for some tests, so I’ve been away.)

Diogenese summation of salient features of the OP from the Jewish perspective and Tom Tildrum’s from outside the Jewish perspective are both top drawer.

Alessen’s comment “Oddly enough, a weird sort of pride” is a beauty…and a thought the Christian side ought give constant consideration.

As Tom mentioned, I’ve pretty much summed up my take on this thing in my own thread. Just wanted to stop by and offer my compliments for some excellent reasoning and fellowship in discussion of the topic.