Jesus was an anti-Semite, preached against the Old Testament and founded a new religion… These are typical claims uttered by those who oppose the messianic faith and Jesus. In his book, Rabbi Asor repeats the claim several times – that Jesus and his disciples were anti-Semites. But was Jesus really an anti-Semite? If so, what about the rebukes and angry prophecies by the Old Testament Prophets? Were they anti-Semites too? And what about a Jewish-Israeli reporter who criticizes Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Rentgen? Is he being anti-Semitic? Or is anyone who disagrees with the rabbis automatically labelled “anti-Semitic”?
It’s a convenient way to deal with people you want to silence, isn’t it? To accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being “anti-Semitic”. But Jesus was a Jew from the tribe of Judah, not some anti-Semitic gentile. Just like the Biblical prophets of old, Jesus criticized the religious leaders of his people, which is the exact reason that they call him an anti-Semite. The Messiah, more than any prophet before him, has the right to challenge the people of Israel and their leaders about their sins. Jesus’ opinion of the Law is clear to anyone who will bother to read the New Testament. Jesus believed that the Old Testament is nothing less than the Word of God. Jesus said about the Law: “Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35) He called the Old Testament “God’s Commandment” and “The Word of God”, and was angry with the Pharisees and Scribes, the rabbis of his time, for breaking God’s laws with their traditions that they invented and forced on the people. He said about the Law: “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Mt. 15:18) Jesus regularly based his teachings on the Old Testament, whenever he spoke with his disciples or with others. “Have you not read what was said to you by God?” (Mt. 22:31)
There are many examples in the New Testament where Jesus quoted the Old Testament. He believed in the Old Testament and trusted its reliability. Jesus never claimed that he came to cancel the Law or that the Old Testament is no longer valid. Don’t let any brainwashing affect your opinion. Read the New Testament and decide for yourself – is the truth or a lie? Both the New Testament and Jesus are so Jewish, that we, as messianic Jews, see it as a direct continuation of the Old Testament, and not as a substitute. So why do some rabbis still claim that Jesus was anti-Semitic?
There are several reasons. First of all, Jesus did preach against the rabbis, because he saw them to be hypocritical rulers, who made others do things they didn’t even do themselves. He preached against the “Oral Law” and the commandments they themselves invented, the traditions. For example: “Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.”… And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Mt. 15)
The rabbis didn’t like the fact that Jesus was jeopardizing their authority over the people, therefore they turned against him and against his teachings. They were afraid to lose their seats of honor in the Sanhedrin, and that the people would stop admiring them and kissing their hands. Therefore, they preferred to reject Jesus and to turn the people against him, exactly as they still do today.
Jesus reminds us how ‘religion’ develops: it is based on human traditions. Jesus didn’t disrespect God’s Law. He didn’t do anything, say anything or teach anything against the Law in the Bible, but he completely rejected the man-made traditions which the rabbis of his day revered. This kind of tradition produces religion, and religion takes us away from God, and towards laws made by religious leaders – the “dos” and the “don’ts”. Presently, religious Jews know the rabbinic traditions in the Talmud better than they know the Bible, and even worse, they don’t know how to differentiate between the two! Throughout history, the traditions grew and increased at the expense of God’s commandments, which have been violated again and again. And it is not only the Jewish tradition that is based on rules and fear – any religious system is much the same; Muslims and Catholics also follow a religion based on rules and traditions, and enforced by fear. This is exactly what Jesus came to fight against!
Take for example the way people pray in the synagogue, every day of the year, reading predefined prayers. Every time we go to pray with other people, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that we’re in some sort of a reading competition rather than communicating with God, and it can be quite frustrating and distracting trying to keep up with everyone else! Jesus, who was angry with the rabbis of his day, quoted the rebuke given by the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” (Is. 29:13) Isaiah warned that while the people may honor God with words, their hearts were far from Him. Jesus is showing us something that religion made us forget… that God sees the heart; He is not impressed by all the fancy movements when we read from one prayer book or another, or by how fast we manage to mumble the prayers. According to Jesus’ observation, the hearts of the religious people of his day were far from God. What they were interested in instead were man-made traditions and commandments; sophistry that had taken the place of a real relationship with God.
In this regard, you may not be surprised to hear, the situation today is not much different at all. While the rabbis today have no real relationship with God, they make the people of Israel to do all sorts of commandments that they have invented. Jesus, on the other hand, offers you a way out of the shackles of religion, a way to an embracing, loving God, full of grace and compassion. In Jesus, fear is not the motivation; God’s love is.
So, in your opinion, is Jesus really anti-Semitic, or is this just another way for the rabbis to try and stop you from listening to what he actually said?
Eitan's professional background is in "Multimedia Design and Visual Communications" working for various secular advertising agencies in Tel-Aviv.
Eitan is the producer of:
1) I MET MESSIAH (Jewish testimonials).
2) Answering Rabbinic Objections to Jesus.
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