| Did He or didn't He? Jewish views of the Resurrection of Jesus |
Did He Or Didn't He? Jewish Views of the Resurrection of Jesus
by David M. (Jews for Jesus Article)
Jewish scholars have paid more attention to the person of Y'shua (Jesus) in the last hundred years than they have in the previous nineteen hundred. None deny his Jewishness. After all, Jesus was born to a Jewish mother, lived in Israel and taught a group of Jewish disciples. He also celebrated Jewish holidays. Modern Jewish theologian and rabbi, Pinchas Lapide, notes:
The love of Jesus and the academic interest in him and his impact were implanted in me by Jewish teachers like Joseph Klausner, for whom Jesus was the most Jewish of all Jews," Martin Buber, who perceived him as "his great brother," and Leo Baeck, the last luminary of the German school of rabbis, who in the year 1938 at the time of the Nazi Kristallnacht managed to write of him: "We see before us a man who according to all the signs of his personality discloses the Jewish character, in whom the purity and worth of Judaism is so specially and so clearly revealed.1
The main areas of debate and speculation among Jewish scholars about Jesus concern his words. Which did he actually say and which, if any, were added later by other writers who wanted to put forth their own versions of his message?
Did Jesus live? No dispute. Did he die? Absolutely. Yet one issue which is rarely examined by Jewish scholars is the historical event upon which his message stands or falls: his resurrection from the dead. It is the belief in this event which his first century followers took to heart and boldly proclaimed to the rest of the world. It is the central claim of the New Testament. One of his followers, Paul, put it this way:
If we hoped in Messiah in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
1 Corinthians 15: 19-20
Until recently, most Orthodox Jews could reject the resurrection of Y'shua, on the basis that they do not accept the idea of a Messiah who dies and is then resurrected. However, in the summer of 1996 a curious situation developed in the Orthodox community. The Lubavitch Chasidim were hailing their rebbe, the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, as King Messiah. He had died two years earlier, yet they were expecting him to rise from his grave. Other Orthodox Jews found this notion to be an embarrassment. Then, the membership of the of the Rabbinical Council of America (1,000 Orthodox rabbis) passed a resolution stating,
There is not and has never been a place in Judaism for the belief that Mashiach ben David will bring his Messianic mission only to experience death, burial and resurrection before completing it.2
In response to this, noted Orthodox rabbi, Ahron Soloveitchik (Yeshiva University dean and head of Brisk Yeshiva in Chicago) offered his own comments. While he stated that he did not believe Menachem Schneerson to be the Messiah, he said that the idea of a Messiah who dies and is later resurrected "cannot be dismissed as a belief that is outside the pale of orthodoxy."3
This quote fueled the controversy even more, as Lubavitch rabbis were quick to embrace his words and non-Lubavitch rabbis were just as quick to explain how Soloveitchik's words were taken out of context.
Today, as some Lubavitch still fervently believe in Schneerson's return, the debate over the concept of a dead and resurrected Messiah continues.
In light of the renewed interest in the Jewish community concerning the death and resurrection of Messiah, it is time for another look at the resurrection claims of Y'shua. This kind of inquiry may be too threatening to many Jews. For the Lubavitchers who now believe in the death and resurrection of Messiah, considering Jesus' claims would cast doubt on their own convictions regarding Menachem Schneerson. Despite this open debate among the Orthodox concerning resurrection, Y'shua remains a non-candidate for the position of Messiah.
For most non-Orthodox Jews, however, there is a variety of other reasons to reject the resurrection of Y'shua. The Jewish atheist, for example, will categorically deny the supernatural. Along with the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of manna in the wilderness, and the sun standing still, resurrection is not a possibility.
The Jewish agnostic believes that since we can't know one way or the other, the issue is irrelevant to pursue. "How can we judge," the agnostic postures, "nearly two thousand years later, the veracity of supposed 'eye-witness accounts.'"
Others are more pragmatic and espouse that since they have never seen anyone rise from the dead, it is simply not logical to believe in such a thing.
Finally, there is a cultural response from the Jewish community which often makes the issue a moot point long before it is ever taken seriously. Namely, "We Jews don't believe that Jesus rose from the dead because Jesus is not for us Jews to consider--period."
But whether or not the rabbis or the secularists or agnostics give us permission to believe, that does not make it true or false. The resurrection of Y'shua, as with any historical event, must be explored and examined on the weight of the evidence. It is not logical to say that it is okay for Gentiles to believe in the resurrection but it is not acceptable for Jews to believe. Either it happened or it didn't. As Maimonides once declared,
A truth, once it is established by proof, neither gains additional force from its acceptance by all scholars, nor loses any force if all reject it...4
So, exactly what evidence is there to support the claim that Y'shua rose from the dead?
Evidence from the New Testament
Some people will automatically question the documents of the New Testament when attempting to uncover the "historical Jesus." The assumption is that these writers were biased, attempting to interject their own agenda rather than recording what actually happened. But this attitude often stems more from our modern age of cynicism than from any familiarity with the New Testament itself. It is amazing that so many people who have little direct knowledge of the New Testament have dogmatic ideas about its contradictions or its historical inaccuracy. A familiarity with the New Testament should be the starting point of any discussion about Y'shua, if only to know what is the traditional view.
The first four books of the New Testament are called the gospels, the biographies of the life of Y'shua. Each one gives the account from the writer's own vantage point and all four mention the resurrection. When Y'shua was on the cross, his followers were defeated and faithless as they did not understand the necessity for his death. After the resurrection, Y'shua physically appeared to them and from then on, we see changed behavior in their lives. No longer were they cowardly and bumbling, but rather they were transformed into bold proclaimers of the message of the resurrection.
Following the gospel accounts is the book of Acts, which records the history of the first generation of Jewish followers who began to take this message around the world. Their message focused on the empty tomb. The remainder of the books in the New Testament (with one exception) consist of instructional letters, in which the resurrection is mentioned repeatedly as the basis for this faith.
History, it is said, is written by the winners. But at the time of the writing of the New Testament, the followers of Y'shua were a small, persecuted minority. They were hardly the group in power, able to say whatever they pleased. And as for their agenda, they felt compelled to promote the belief that Y'shua rose from the dead. Why else would the New Testament contain such embarrassingly truthful events of the fear, faithlessness and sin of the very community which was promoting this message?
The best way to recognize that the New Testament is actually an historical document is to read it. It is hard to come up with any other conclusion. One of the most famous Jews of this century did just that and discovered something quite remarkable. In a 1929 interview in the Saturday Evening Post, Albert Einstein was asked if he believed in the historical Jesus and he replied:
Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.5
The same documents which tell us that Y'shua lived also mention that he died and rose again. While no serious scholar doubts that Y'shua walked among us, skeptics (both Jewish and gentile) frequently attempt to extract the real history from these documents and throw away what they believe to be myth. Each year a new set of scholars steps up to the plate in an attempt to knock down the traditional life of Y'shua. These new positions are then readily embraced by those who are looking for reasons not to believe. Yet, by the following year a whole new school of thought emerges, taking exception with the previous year's scholarship and going off in a new direction. The Jesus Seminar is one popular example of this phenomenon.
We are left with the question: Were these first century Jewish believers in Jesus the most brilliant deceivers in history, able to interweave truth and fiction in a way that has not been reproduced or uncovered by centuries of challengers, or were they simply sharing the historical events as they happened when they described the resurrection of Y'shua? Until a compelling and lasting alternative is produced, the New Testament must be taken seriously when discussing the resurrection of Y'shua.
Evidence from Counter-Theories
What are some of the alternative explanations to these historical events? And what degree of faith does it take to believe these counter-theories?
1. Stolen by the Disciples
One popular theory about the resurrection, which is even mentioned in the New Testament itself as a charge by Jesus' detractors, is that the disciples stole the body. This provides a convenient excuse not to pursue the issue further, but it ignores the facts.
Fact one: Had the body been stolen by his followers, all that would be needed to disprove the disciples' claim would be to produce the body. No body has ever been produced.
Fact two: There were Roman guards at the site of the tomb. How, then could any of Jesus' followers have stolen his body?
Fact three: There was a giant stone covering the tomb, which would have taken several people to move. The guards could not have overlooked such an operation.
Fact four: Historically, we know that the early followers of Y'shua were persecuted for their belief. They were offered two options: renounce their belief in the resurrection or die. It seems unlikely that, were the disciples to have stolen the body, they would have all been ready to die rather than confess their deeds. It is true that people die everyday for beliefs which are not true. But these are lies which they fully believe to be true. How often do people die for what they know to be a fabrication?
Fact five: Whatever else can be said about the original followers of Y'shua, they themselves certainly believed that Y'shua rose from the dead. They did not steal the body.
2. Swoon Theory
This position states that Y'shua went to the cross and that his hands and feet were pierced, but that he did not actually die. Rather, he merely fainted. Then, after being placed in a damp tomb-bleeding and without food or water for three days-- Y'shua was revived and was healed. He then somehow rolled away the stone, got past the guards and went on to tell others that he had indeed risen from the dead.
One offshoot of this theory came from the late Hugh Schoenfeld in his best selling book, The Passover Plot. Schoenfeld believed that it was Y'shua's plan to pretend to be the Messiah and that he attempted to fake his death by being given a drug (which would have made him swoon, giving the appearance of death). This plan was thwarted when a Roman soldier struck a spear into his side, which caused his death. The body was then hidden and when Y'shua's followers saw "an unknown young man," they mistook him for their risen Messiah.
Schoenfeld gave no reason as to why he accepted much of the New Testament as true and why he regarded some portions as suspect. Perhaps he would have been better off denying that Y'shua ever existed. At least then he would not have been promoting a theory which takes more of a leap of faith than the New Testament account itself. But he knew, as all skeptics do, that the New Testament cannot be dismissed lightly. It is a cohesive, coherent and convincing book.
3. One of Many Resurrections
While Hugh Schoenfeld accepted most of the New Testament as reliable history, only to take a detour around the resurrection, another modern Jewish scholar presents an equally interesting hypothesis. Pinchas Lapide is an orthodox Jewish scholar who has a very unorthodox view of the resurrection of Y'shua. He went so far as to declare,
I accept the resurrection of Easter Sunday not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as an historical event.6
Lapide examined the New Testament and concluded that the recorded events are too rooted in history for there to be any major revisions or deceptions involved in the writing. He believes that Y'shua physically rose from the dead. Amazingly, Lapide falls short of recognizing the implications of this truth for his own life. In his book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Lapide regards Y'shua as a type of role model for gentiles to prepare them for the coming of the Jewish Messiah. To reach this viewpoint, Lapide had to reject the very same documents which were the basis for his belief in Y'shua's resurrection in the first place. Indeed, the New Testament mentions on virtually every page the fact that Y'shua is the promised Messiah, the one whose coming was foretold by Moses and the Jewish prophets. There is no consistency or logic in Lapide's argument.
Evidence from Changed Lives
One response to all these "theories" is to say, "Who's to say what is true? It's all a matter of speculation." After all, one can reason, even in this century we are presented with mysteries to which we probably won't get answers--What ever happened to Amelia Earhardt? Who killed Kennedy? Was there a conspiracy in the death of Martin Luther King?
To some people, the controversy over these events is proof that we cannot possibly know for sure what happened concerning an incident which occurred almost two millennia ago.
However, the evidence for the resurrection of Y'shua goes far beyond the discussion of source documents and historical records. In fact, evidence is still being presented today as individuals are experiencing the changed life which is the result of that resurrection.
Y'shua was not a mere victim of a mob. Nor was his death an accident. It was the very purpose of his mission. He gave up his life as an atonement for sin. His words mean nothing apart from this final action. The "good news" is that the Messiah willingly stood in our place and, by dying, took the penalty which rightfully belongs to each one of us. But he didn't stay dead. By rising from the grave he defeated the power of sin and death and enables individuals to have a new relationship with God. And it is this power-- the power of the resurrection--which is available to anyone who believes. This power has been changing lives (of both Jews and gentiles) since the first century.
One Jewish man who knew of this life-changing experience was Alfred Edersheim, the British scholar and author of the last century. His book, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, was originally published in the 1880's and is still considered one of the most authoritative sources on the subject. His Jewish view of Y'shua pre-dated the more recent wave of Jewish scholars who have been increasingly curious about the New Testament. To conclude his chapter on the resurrection he writes,
The importance of all this can not be adequately expressed in words. A dead Christ might have been a Teacher and Wonder-worker, and remembered and loved as such. But only a risen and Living Christ could be the Saviour, the Life, and the Life-Giver--and as such preached to all men. And of this most blessed truth we have the fullest and most unquestionable evidence. 7
There is only one reason why a Jew should believe in Y'shua. It is the same reason why a gentile should believe. It has nothing to do with convenience or social standing. Nor does it have anything to do with Y'shua's good moral teachings. The only reason anyone should be for Y'shua is because of who he is and what he has done:
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Messiah Y'shua came into the world to save sinners.
1 Timothy 1:15
The claims of Y'shua stand alone, even when compared with the sayings of other religious leaders. And to punctuate his claims there is an historical event which stands as a challenge. The New Testament does not present the resurrection of Y'shua as merely part of a creed that must be followed by insiders. It is presented to all people as an historical fact, and there are only two possible responses to it. Either it happened or it didn't.
What do you think? Will your conclusion be determined by the reflex of tradition? Will you dismiss the issue because of twentieth century pre-suppositions? Or will you choose to explore an ancient tomb--where all too few have dared to look.
| 2016/3/27 9:23||Profile|
| Re: Did He or didn't He? Jewish views of the Resurrection of Jesus |
thank you and God bless you David Winter.
personally, I never "joined" Jews for Jesus, nor did I ever join the Assemblies of God, much the same way I never attended yeshiva, nor a seminary.
too much "head thought". I don't need "evidence", I didn't need it, when I was 7, and walked into the synagogue, willingly , and was hit by a soft Blast, God is real, Baruch Hashem! I didn't need evidence when God was pleased to crush me on a lonely horse ranch in May 2002, and revealed His Son to me and in me. No human man spoke a word to me in either instance.
My curiosity NOW, dear brother, is what this ill-willed gaggle of "replacement theologists" who seem to have latched themselves onto this forum, like a deer tick would when one goes out to cut firewood, as they go about spewing their doctrine of demons.
or maybe they'll just let your posting alone to recede into the forum.
after all, satan is crafty and cunning, and full of guile.
But, bless you for this read, on this Day, God love you, gentle man, neil
| 2016/3/27 10:30|
| Re: |
Good article, David. Did you write it?
Thanks for posting it.
"There is only one reason why a Jew should believe in Y'shua. It is the same reason why a gentile should believe. It has nothing to do with convenience or social standing. Nor does it have anything to do with Y'shua's good moral teachings. The only reason anyone should be for Y'shua is because of who he is and what he has done:
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Messiah Y'shua came into the world to save sinners.
| 2016/3/27 10:44|
| Re: |
You have your answer, satan does not sleep but God will continue to deal
with the deceitful workers that frequent (and I do mean frequent) this place. Cunning and crafty false professors of religion are not just in the catholic
Anyway can we please get back to bashing the money preachers for mutual edification?
| 2016/3/27 11:24|
| Carmine |
Anyway can we please get back to bashing the money preachers for mutual edification?
Paisan, I get no edification from any of this, it grieves me, breaks my heart, puts me on my back weeping....and that GFA fellow, one that loves and worships gold? leave him alone, he faces the justice system, which is good, the courts, law and justice, which opine that a man is innocent until proven guilty...in a court of law. sometimes justice is subverted, but a Higher Court will eventually come to play, and that is the Judgement Seat of God, which if you have run afoul, and run amok on EARTH?......oh, shudder and quake, coz NO MAN can subvert the Judgement of God, woe be to the fleshling that had tried to "game" God whilst on earth.
The LORD GOD, Who can fling the devil and the beast into the lake of fire with His Mighty Arm?...and man is so foolish to think he can outwit the Master of the Universe?...or these poor "total depravity" souls that in their confusion hide underneath the pews, to "hide" from God, as they try and out do one another, as to see who is the most lowest of low?
or this one below here?....so "smart and slick"? he might be able to fool some of the saints all of the time, or all of the saints some of the time, but he's not fooling God, and one awful Day, he might hear the Voice of Messiah, say those dreadful Words....."I NEVER KNEW YOU"...just the thought of that DREAD, makes me weep.
No....a Simple faith is best, like a child. I can still see my now 20 year old son, at 4, running with reckless love and abandon into my open arms, hugging and kissing him, such is the Way with us and God.....and Praise His Name, even though we don't run towards each other, we still embrace with hugs and kisses, because he is my son, and this one or that one is a Child of God....run into His Arms with reckless abandon and Love, this is the Way. amen.
God love you, my paisan or as we say, "be good", neil
| 2016/3/27 12:04|
| Re: Carmine |
Thank you for your kind admonishment. And not just because you are Jewish
and Italian either. (although that helps)
Lord bless you always!
| 2016/3/27 12:35|
| Re: neilgin1: Sincere thoughts|
/My curiosity NOW, dear brother, is what this ill-willed gaggle of "replacement theologists" who seem to have latched themselves onto this forum, like a deer tick would when one goes out to cut firewood, as they go about spewing their doctrine of demons.
or maybe they'll just let your posting alone to recede into the forum.
after all, satan is crafty and cunning, and full of guile. (END)
Speaking as truly and sincerely as I can, have you ever considered that on a forum this large and broad and varied that it is logical that there would be believers who hold the view you oppose. I don't believe in this view myself yet there are large segments of the church who do so isn't it somewhat logical that this view also would be represented on a broad and varied forum such as this? Some are undoubtedly pre-trib on this forum and some aren't. It's inevitable this would be since a large part of the church are pre-trib rapture in their views. The moderators have set up no rules to bar those of differing opinions if they are believers within a reasonable scope of orthodox belief when to comes to Christianity and doctrine (Christ's deity, one atonement for all time etc.). What has struck me is the INSTANT NASTINESS AT THE DROP OF A HAT that has of late accompanied the debate and discussions on what is better known as "replacement theology." It's gone on for months now. In my opinion, this low level of diatribe and the many barbed and, from my view point, unnecessary personal insults and accusations that have accompanied it have been detrimental to the whole argument and the spirit the forum wants to maintain as people dialog with one another. How can there not be divergent views on this subject in a forum so wide and composed of so many believers? Those with a different view are not necessarily and automatically enemies in Christ I don't think and respectful dialog can go a long way in helping us see what the other person really means when they say certain things. Many times when a dialog has begun in the area we are speaking of it has quickly been derailed by the most carnal and untrue accusations being hurled and for all practical purposes well meaning threads have been ruined before they really even get off of the ground. I would rather speak openly and respectfully with those who disagree with me than automatically alienating them from the start. Then nothing is accomplished. I'm not pointing the finger directly at you per say since everyone could likely ratchet things up a notch. I didn't plan on writing this much so I'll try and end here pretty quickly. Honestly speaking though, the answers and comments from those who believe in replacement theology have been more respectful and civil than many of those from the other point of view. It has been detrimental and we can all do better. I guess this has been building in me for a while so bear with me I pray. But when one thread devolves into unsavory personal insults and malicious accusations made in the heat of the moment it has an effect on the whole forum and this has to be taken into consideration also. I can almost guarantee that many on the forum who have not taken part in the discussions have been disgusted and revolted and these good folks need to be given all due consideration. This forum is not a few but many and is big and varied in its make up so opposing views are not really a sign of weakness but are inevitable since the church at large is presently so big and varied. I personally for one think a more Christian like level of self moderation and foresight of comments can be employed and I lobby strongly in behalf of this.
I remain your brother I hope and remain one who believes that as prophecy itself is literally worked out in a visible manner in the world that that in itself will be a tangible answer to many eschatological views and I remain one who believes that the risen Christ who ascended from Israel will once again return to Israel at His second advent.
| 2016/3/28 8:58||Profile|
| brother David|
I am NOT ducking your post and concerns, I want to with all my heart address what you so thoughtfully wrote, but I have this second, and incredible amount of admin and physical chores to do, and I am such a slow typist (and take ten minutes to ponder the most simple of thoughts) I have to get moving...quick.....and I need to do you justice in explaining why I might seem intemperate, or divisive......and let me just write one thing, in light of 1700 years of "church" history, I can draw a straight line from "replacement theology".....to accusations of "deicide"/forced conversions/inquisitions/outright murder and rape, ie pogroms/land confiscation/the most hideous writing about us Jews from what would be considered "church fathers", etc.....going then into lets say, "British-Israelism"...into its deviant American form, "Christian Identity"...and all of it, just rank demonically inspired hatred of the Jews...which is rather odd,considering the Vine....and i'll post this again, but what really amped my ire, was this Frontline, entitled "Netanyahu At War"....its worth the watch, because I always knew President Obama was no friend of Israel, but I didn't know the depth of his hatred, this documentary is well worth your time, and NO ONE can accuse Frontline (PBS) of being "pro-Israel"
bless you for your forbearance, neil
| 2016/3/28 9:54|
| Re: About those chores|
I just cleaned the droppings out of the chicken roosts and gathered the eggs. So I know about doing chores as of late. I've been house sitting for a couple from my local church who live in the countryside here while they have been in Israel for six weeks witnessing and ministering. Thety are due back this very day after these six weeks and I look forward to seeing their faces and hearing their reports. But carry on with those chores brother, no problem. Take your time, there is no rush for anything by way of reply.
| 2016/3/28 10:16||Profile|
| Re: |
Your post pretty much nails it!
Basically what Neil is telling you is that he practices "guilt by association" and he is going to continue to. So, if someone believes a certain way about future events, the Kingdom of God, end times events, Revelation, etc, they will be stomped on mercilessly with no let up because they are no better than these other historical people he mentioned. He basically has become just like the enemy he hates, turning into a hater himself towards people that he knows nothing about. The way he has talked to me and others in this forum, I would not put it past him to shoot me if I was standing in front of him, because he kills with his words, what would stop him from consummating his evil speech?
Your response below should also be directed to Rev_Enue and Notdarkyet. It is a noble thing you are doing but I think it will fall on empty ears. These three are like the "mafia" enforcers in this forum and those who say nothing, when they unjustly accuse and slander good brothers, seem to be employing them. I hope I am wrong. Maybe others are just scare of their roar. Why do others stand back and let these guys defame and slander men? It's is hard not to be disappointed with many in this forum. Only you have had the courage to say anything and then when you do they shrink back and make nice-nice when you say anything. But, their "sweetness" to those they love will be short lived as their heart is once again revealed when someone espouses a different view. They don't want to have any conversations and don't want anyone else to have any conversation on alternate Christian beliefs regarding the Kingdom of God, future events, and basically spiritual things in general. And you are right, there are many good Christians that have alternate beliefs about future events who wish no men any harm and never espouse harm to any men.
They are jumping to conclusions before they even hear the matter and have pretty much shut everyone else down with their bully tactics. The forum has allowed that to happen. I am truly sorry for all those in this forum that have to bear with their poisonous attitudes. I walk in forgiveness, so I have no bitterness and am willing and ready to be their brother. I just wish they would hear the matter before answering it. What does Appolas often say, "Play the ball not the man"?
Sorry your thread/subject has been lost. They run a lot of interference (rudeness), tag teaming and high fiving each other not on a good post, but only when someone has been attacked in a matter that pleases them. Then the high-fives come out. So sad. They don't even know what they are defending because they don't wait to hear the matter.
This is one of the very, very few times I defend myself and others, but it also will prove pointless and fruitless. Sure am glad the Bereans did not run Paul out of town. The Judaizers certainly did not have ears to ear and always sought to shut him down and even kill him.
How will someone else be treated regarding a different subject that these 3 bouncers don't agree with? One can only guess.
| 2016/3/28 11:17|