First of all, for those of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a merry one. For those who celebrated Chanukah, I pray you had a great one. And for those who practice no religion, a wonderful season’s greeting to you.
May we all celebrate surrounded by family, by love and friendship, and may we remember to celebrate our gratitude for being alive.
Now, the Insight:
Do you all realize that Jesus was a Jew? In his era and for two hundred years thereafter, there were no Christians. Those who believed in him as the messiah (savior) were Jews. Peter was Jewish. So was Paul. So were all the Apostles.
It was not a rare phenomenon in the history of Judaism to believe that a messiah would come. Two hundred years after Jesus’ death, some Jews believed Bar Kokhba was the messiah. Fifteen hundred years later, thousands of Jews believed that Sabbatai Zevi was the messiah. And today, as I am writing this Insight, there are thousands of Hassidim, very religious Jews called the Lubavitch, or Chabad, movement, who believe that their rabbi, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, is the messiah.
The fact that they believe in a messiah does not make them non-Jews. They consider themselves very Jewish.
Jesus was in fact a practicing Jew – very much so, if he felt himself to be the son of God. Not only was he one of the chosen people but, as God’s son, he would have been the chosen among the chosen. Being the messiah required absolute compliance with God’s laws, so Jesus must have been a very religious Jew. He must have been circumcised; he must have celebrated his bar mitzvah. And he must have covered his head. All those painters and sculptors who have depicted Jesus for the past two thousand years should go back to the drawing board, make him look more Jewish (if there is such a thing as a Jewish look), and cover his head.
Jesus had a Jewish mother. And a Jewish father.
For two hundred years, all those who worshiped Jesus were Jews, and when non-Jews joined that group, they were actually joining the Jewish people, the Jewish religion. It was not until Bar Kokhba was pronounced the messiah that those who worshiped Jesus split from the Jewish people and founded the Christian religion.
When I was a student at Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, I worked as a tour guide. It was always an amazing experience to guide religious Christians. Just imagine how they reacted when I took them to the room where, according to the tradition, Jesus had his last supper. Or when we walked the same path along which Jesus endured the twelve stations.
I lived about hundred yards from the valley from which, according to tradition, the tree was cut to produce the cross on which he was crucified. And I used to take my tourists to a hill called the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount and then walked on water in the Sea of Galilee. We also visited the cave in Nazareth where Jesus is believed to have lived as a child.
My point is that Jesus, all his life, was a member of the Jewish tribe and lived as a Jew among Jews.
But I never gave much thought to this fact until recently, after I saw a CNN program about the early Christians.
Merry Christmas to you all, again and again!
With all my love,
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes