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The artworks set the "Christian" Jesus apart from "the Jews," when, in fact they were all part on the same Semitic tribe of dedicated Jews. I then turned my attention to the crucial question, "Did the Jews kill Jesus? Taking a fresh look at the Gospels' account of Jesus' arrest, trial and the events leading up to them, I concluded that the narratives make no sense whatsoever, scripts that wouldn't pass muster for an episode of "Law and Order. It's puzzling that the true perpetrator has been overlooked or underplayed. Have you ever wondered what Jesus might say about virulent and enduring anti-Semitism?

Indeed, what would the thoroughly Jewish Jesus have said to church leaders, monarchs and others who launched murderous acts such as the Crusades, the Inquisition and genocides in his name? I tackle this question in a mock trial, in which Jesus asks these perpetrators, "How do you justify your violent acts based on my teachings and mission? But memories of unspeakable persecution over many centuries are a barrier for Jews to participate fully in the healing process. Given this new environment, I appeal to my fellow Jews to drop the "Jesus Phobia" and accept Jesus as a faithful Jew -- without having to embrace the claim that he was the Messiah.

To encourage this I point to the pantheon of false Jewish Messiahs throughout history, many of whom were destructive to Judaism, but are still revered for their teachings, while Jesus is rejected. Finally, I could not resist commenting on Dan Brown's popular novel "The Da Vinci Code," which, like classical artworks, begins with a Jewish story but promptly converts it into a Christian one. In exploring these issues and the realities of Jesus' life, I strive to shed new light on the history of anti-Semitism and on the destructive forces that have alienated Christians and Jews.

My aim is to help heal the rift between the religions and galvanize the reconciliation process.

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Black Voices. Latino Voices. Asian Voices. Judah the Pious, R. Isaac Luria, the Baal Shem Tov, and others. Another very interesting aspect of the work, from a literary perspective, is the multiplicity of versions. The dozens of manuscripts and early printing in which Toledot Yeshu has reached us present us with radically different, and at times even contradictory, renderings of the story.

This finding is tremendously important, for it enables us to see how every community—each in its own time and place, each with its particular social situation and worldview—related to the Christian world and its beliefs, and how a Jewish minority living in the midst of a dominant Christian or Muslim majority attempted to cope with this reality. Indeed, the book has the obviously polemical aim of mocking Christian dogma and scornfully spurning it. But, as with any complex work of art, it transcends its avowed intentions and succeeds in engaging with the life story of real people who are no longer treated as mere symbols and myths.

The work thus expands its narrative boundaries beyond the narrow focus of its polemical surface goals. The basic Christian myth marked as the first target for derision, toward which the barbs of Jewish criticism were aimed, was obviously the Virgin Birth. The accusation that Mary attempted to cover up her extramarital pregnancy by fabricating a story about a virgin birth is not a virgin contribution of Toledot Yeshu.

Such reports were widespread in the earliest pagan polemics against nascent Christianity, and allusions to it can be found in Talmudic literature. Unlike mere rumor, however, Toledot Yeshu creates a complete narrative episode. When Jesus was sent as a child to study in the study hall with other children, he was discovered to be a prodigy, sharper and more diligent than everyone else. As one of the earliest versions tells it, though, these qualities were of no avail to him:. It came to pass after these things that the wicked one [Jesus] played with the lads outside, as lads playing together are wont to do.

The wicked one angered the lads with his playing. You think you are the son of Johanan?

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You are not his son, but the son of Joseph Pandera, who bedded your mother in her menses and sired you, evil begotten by evil. Tell me the truth straightaway. When I was little, the children used to say that I am a bastard, son of a menstruant, but I thought it a tease. Jesus the boy, the prodigy with a bright future as a Torah scholar, tries to fit in with his peers, only to face rejection when the boys repeat obscene gossip undoubtedly heard from their parents.

This most humane depiction of a boy bullied by his cruel classmates, who runs to his mother and cries bitterly about the dark secret poisoning his life, is quite far from the stereotypical or polemical. For this life of degradation and rejection has nothing to do with him or his character traits, it is imposed upon the young child by his parents and bitter fate. And it came to pass in those days, that the court of that place would adjudicate the cases of the people, but they would pervert their judgments for bribes and out of favoritism.

This Jesus the Nazarene would sit with them and reprove them, time and again, about justice. For he has been impertinent with us. In the first piece, Jewish society rejected Jesus from birth as a result of his misfortune. This account, too, mentions the vile gossip about his origins, which the judges wring from his mother through intimidation. Unlike the previous version in which the children used it to mock him, here the judges use it to expel him from their midst, so that they may continue in their depravity without hindrance.

This description relies, in fact, upon the Gospels, which presented Jesus as fighting against the corrupt establishment in charge of the Temple, but this account much more powerfully depicts the moral chasm separating Jesus and the Jewish establishment.

Behold! The Jewish Jesus | World news | The Guardian

Used here, it establishes a causative link between the banishment of Jesus at the hands of the corrupt court and Christianity breaking away from within Judaism to eventually become its own religion. What caused the breakaway of Jesus from the Jewish people, the establishment of an alternative to the Jewish Torah, and the founding of the Christian religion, was clearly the extremely callous and degenerate behavior of Jewish society. The children, parents, and rabbinic establishment, who all harshly pushed away the atypical child and the judge who fought for truth and justice, all carry clear blame for the consequences of their actions.

This critique leads to the following troubling question about the story: Had the Jewish community not acted toward Jesus the way it did, would he not have become a Torah prodigy, would he not have become chief justice of a just court, the pride and joy of the Jewish people? Perhaps Christianity would have never come into being at all, and the terrible suffering it visited upon Jewish society would never have materialized, if only Jewish society had been more humane and merciful? If we return to the consideration of Toledot Yeshu from a literary perspective, we would see that this is precisely the narrative turning point in which the anonymous child protagonist becomes a charismatic religious figure, the private individual morphs into a national leader, and finally assumes the mantle of the messiah.

Until now, the subject of Toledot Yeshu has been the personal fate of the boy Jesus; now it focuses on his public persona. To complete this metamorphosis, however, the protagonist needs to procure the means that will grant him the power to persuade the masses of his ability to influence their lives, which is the secret of charismatic leadership. This question preoccupied, in fact, both the first Christians and their Jewish and pagan adversaries.

Toledot Yeshu , on the other hand, chooses a different path of surprising originality. It relates that the Foundation Stone upon which the world was established, which is hidden under the foundations of the Temple, is inscribed with the Ineffable Name. This Name is the most closely guarded secret of Judaism, an extremely powerful means by which someone can work miracles and harness the forces of nature.

The Rabbis worried that the Ineffable Name might be stolen and become a devastating force in the wrong hands. Therefore, they devised a way to erase the memory of anyone seeking to memorize this secret of divine holiness, and to spirit it away to some location outside the holy precincts. Jesus, upon being banished from Jewish society, decided to avenge himself. He entered the holy precincts, inscribed the Ineffable Name on parchment, made an incision in his thigh, stuck the parchment into the cut, closed the wound, and left, with no one the wiser. This way, even though he forgot the name that he had tried to memorize, upon returning home he removed the parchment from his flesh and thereby deceived the Sages of Israel.

Now, with the Ineffable Name in hand, he could use it to work the miracles that would be described in the New Testament, the ones that won him the admiration of the masses and inspired their belief that he was the messiah and Son of God.