Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rabbis argue over "Kosher Jesus"

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 16:13-17 (see also Mark 8:27-29)

As the old saying goes, where there are two Jews, there are three opinions. In this case, both rabbis are wrong. As reported by Randy Boswell in the National Post, January 27, 2012:

Two of North America’s leading orthodox rabbis — including a prominent Jewish scholar in Canada — are facing off over the proper place of Jesus Christ in the teachings and traditions of Judaism.

Sparked by the publication next week of the book Kosher Jesus by the high-profile and controversial U.S. rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Immanuel Schochet of Toronto is calling it “heretical,” after apparently seeing an advance copy.

“It is forbidden for anyone to buy or read this book, or give its author a platform in any way shape or form to discuss this topic,” he said.

At the centre of the debate are questions involving Jesus’s roots as a Jew, and whether “the Jewishness of Jesus,” as Mr. Boteach puts it, should lead modern Jews to “rediscover” and celebrate the extent to which the Old Testament books of the Bible shaped the thinking of Jesus.

“It’s time these universal Jewish ideas that have so influenced the world be traced back to their original source,” he has written in defence of his book.

“It’s time that the Jewishness of Jesus be rediscovered by Christians.”

But Mr. Schochet, a strong critic of Christian evangelizing of Jews and whose writings often highlight the divide between the two religions, struck back last week. “While it is not normally my style to write letters of condemnation, having read the book, I feel it poses a tremendous risk to the Jewish community,” the emeritus professor of philosophy and religion at Toronto’s Humber College and rabbi at the Congregation Beth Joseph wrote in a posting on the Jewish news website The Algemeiner.

“I have never read a book, let alone one authored by a purported frum [religious] Jew, that does more to enhance the evangelical missionary message and agenda than the aforementioned book.”

He added: “The grossly distorted message of the book violates basic premises of original and authentic Jewish tradition, thus unavoidably must be rejected for being heretical. It is my sincerest hope that the author recognizes the error of his ways and looks to make amends by retracting the book.”

The Swiss-born Mr. Schochet, who emigrated to Canada in 1951, was not available Friday for further comment.

For his part, Mr. Boteach defended himself, also online at the Huffington Post.

While describing Mr. Schocet as “someone whose writings and lectures I have long admired,” he said, “I must retain the right to defend myself against the appalling and libelous charge of heresy.”

He said his book “goes back to the original Gospel source materials to uncover the real story of Jesus,” as he was “prior to later Christian editors significantly modifying the story to accommodate the Romans.”

March 14, 2012 update: Rabbi Boteach has announced his intention to run for the United States House of representatives in 2012. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 14, 2012:

NEW YORK (JTA) -- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the author and media personality, announced his candidacy for a New Jersey congressional seat.

In a statement Wednesday, Boteach announced that he will be seeking the Republican nomination in northern New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District. Boteach had said previously that he was considering a run.

The Democratic-leaning northern New Jersey district has a fierce redistricting-induced Democratic primary battle taking place between two incumbents, Reps. Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman.

Boteach’s stated platform includes support for school vouchers, a flat tax and making marital counseling tax deductible in order to lower the divorce rate. He has criticized what he sees as an excessive Republican focus on sexual issues such as gay marriage.

Boteach, who once was affiliated with the Chabad movement, bills himself as “America’s Rabbi.” He hosts a show on TLC called “Shalom in the Home” and is the author of several books, including “Kosher Sex,” “Kosher Adultery,” “The Kosher Sutra” and, most recently, “Kosher Jesus.”
May 12, 2012 update: Jewish Christian apologist Michael Brown has written a book rebutting the position of Rabbi Boteach. The Real Kosher Jesus (2012) is available from Chosen People Ministries.

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