Yeshua: Judaism’s Heretic?

Folks in the Messianic movement like to fancy ourselves as a Judaism, distinguishing ourselves from Christianity.

I sometimes question that approach, and it was questioned again today:

Daniel at Christian4Moses asked his readers,

What branch of Judaism would the Messiah belong to were he here today?

Anachronistic and all, sure, but it got me thinking: Yeshua himself was a kind of heretic within Judaism. Messiah operated within Judaism, but was considered a heretic by the major sects of his time.

Yet more interesting still is the kind of dual thrusts of Yeshua’s actions: he was a force against the religious authorities of his time, and yet, a strengthener of the very commandments those religious authorities based themselves on.

Consider this:

Is there any form of Judaism today that rejects the heavy yoke of the ultra religious leadership, chiding them for missing the weightier matters of the commandments, while at the same time, lifting up the commandments, strengthening, applying them inwardly?

It’s a peculiar thing: Both chiding the religious establishment for their heavy yoke and their missing-the-point-of-it-all, but strengthening and amplifying the commandments themselves. Yeshua did that.

On one hand, that’s Reform Judaism — rebelling against the harsh, stringent religious establishment. On the other hand, that’s ultra-religious: strengthening and amplifying the commandments.

I don’t think there is any kind of Judaism today that practices this staple of Yeshua.

I don’t think Yeshua would be a member of any branches of Judaism were he here today. The religious establishment would throw him out, and if he shook things up enough, they’d conspire against him. Church or synagogue, same difference.

What do you think? Would Yeshua practice Judaism? Christianity? Obviously some paradoxes here, but it’s an interesting question nonetheless.


  1. Nice post Judah. Religion is 99% about forming a community where you feel comfortable with other people worshipping who respect your way of life, I can't imagine Yeshua making religion comfortable for anyone!

    Yeshua transcends religion, identity, life, death, law, and everything else, we can't possibly pin him down within any structure.

    I particularly find it uncomfortable when Yeshua's portrayed as a rebbe or likened to a tzaddik, these ideas come straight out of 18th-century kabbalistic Hasidism and not even from the Bible, it seems so anachronistic...

    and if he were a rebbe, he'd just get a herem against him from other rebbes for teaching against gilgul hanefesh and lurianic kabbalah.

  2. My thoughts exactly, Judah! You have a knack for nailing it.

  3. If Yeshua came today, instead of 2000 years ago, Yeshua would have been an Orthodox Jew born into a very religious Orthodox family. We know that his parents were very devout Jews, so obviously they wouldn't have been "Reform" and they wouldn't have been secular, and he wouldn't have been a Baptist. He would have not be Karaite, because Karaites have little to no significance or voice in Israel today and we know that Yeshua himself practiced many extra-biblical traditions.

    Yeshua would have worked within Judaism of his people, so that he could challenge his own people from the inside, just as he did when he came to Israel in the first century. In fact, he would be so accepted as a devout traditional Jew and so respected for his holiness and obedience to Torah, that even the strictest of ultra Orthodox Jews would have welcomed him into their homes just to hear him expound the great mysteries of Torah (as Pharisees once did). His message would resonate with many of devout Jews and touch many of the secular Jews as well.

    He would have his throngs of disciples following him around, a perhaps a Yeshiva would be established, as common today, with him at the helm. He would go from one synagogue to another, visiting even Reform synagogues (he would get a lot of flack for that from the Orthodox). He would be considered a wise sage, a Rebbe (by modern definition). There would be talk that he's the Messiah. There will also be scorn.

    Many Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, many Jewish leaders of all stripes, as well as the Reform and the seculars would have placed their faith in him, just as many priests, levites, Sadducees, Pharisees, and common Jews did when he first came.

    Of course, Yeshua would have many critics, both Jews and Gentiles would scorn and he would be accused, falsely, of rejecting Torah or traditions. Many would also reject him as the Messiah - as also happened, but even more would run to him and his salvation.

  4. Nobody should challenge that Yeshua and His Disciples were First Century Jews, who communicated and taught via means that were familiar to their fellow Jews.

    Yet, because of how Yeshua's and the Apostles' ministry so directly challenged much of the social sterotypes in their day--reaching out to the disenfranchised, tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor, Zealots, and even just women in general--I find it difficult to think that if were Yeshua and the Apostles among us today they would be squarely a part of either Orthodox Judaism, the Chabad, or one of the more highly conservative branches of the Synagogue. These Jewish groups tend to stay off to themselves more than others.

    This is not to say that Yeshua and the Apostles would be liberal, Reform Jews. I think they would find a natural base of disciples and followers probably among the more Centrist branches of Judaism, which hold the Torah and Jewish tradition in high regard, but are quite active in the community and in humanitarian works.

    And, Yeshua and the Apostles would definitely challenge much of the sterility seen in today's mainline Christian denominations as well. I would venture to say that a natural or main base for disciples among today's Christianity would be found in places were helping one's neighbor via acts of good service--those for whom "church" is far more than just some 1 hour service every week.

  5. "I find it difficult to think that if were Yeshua and the Apostles among us today they would be squarely a part of either Orthodox Judaism, the Chabad, or one of the more highly conservative branches of the Synagogue. These Jewish groups tend to stay off to themselves more than others."

    Pharasees of Yeshua's day also formed their own group. There were also other groupings who stuck to themselves. However, I find it hard to believe that Yeshua would have not been allowed to teach in Orthodox synagogues - considering that he taught in just about every synagogue of every town he visited. For a Jew to be invited or allowed to TEACH in an Orthodox Synagogue he'd have to be Orthodox himself, and respected by many in all of the Jewish communities. If he was a complete outsider to the contemporary Judaism of his day, he wouldn't have been allowed to mingle with Jews of so many different backgrounds as he clearly did.

  6. I can't imagine Yeshua being on earth. If so, things would definitely change completely.

  7. Gene, please notice that I said "squarely a part," which would imply an exclusivity toward Orthodox Judaism.

    The problem is, as Judah pointed out in his blog, is that we are speculating on the unknowable. We are trying to *guess* what the Lord would do were He among us today.

  8. Of the Judaisms of his day, wasn't Yeshua's understanding of Torah closest (but not identical) to the Pharisees?

    That said, suspect that when Messiah returns, he'll rebuke all of us (all the Judaisms and Christianities) for creating a yoke too heavy for their followers (and our followers) to withstand.

    I don't believe the Messianic movement will be exempt. No one has a perfect understanding of the Bible and we all tend to interpret the Word of God through our personal and theological "filters". I think that Yeshua, when he returns, will do in part what he did the first time; straighten us all out about how to understand and live God's preferred lifestyle for the redeemed community.

    Instead of trying to put Yeshua in one of our theological "boxes", our job should be to put aside our preconceptions and biases as best we can, and to attempt to understand what God has been trying to say to us all along...and then live it.

  9. I tend to agree with James, I think we all got it wrong, and the way we defend it, shows how unsure we are. Shoot I always think, his own disiples who ate, walked, and talked with him, didn't get it, how can we think we do?

  10. We have to remember that he did miracles as well. That would have given him an "in" into any group. All would have been curious as to who this was and what is he up to.



  11. I was hesitant to vote in Daniel's survey, probably because of the reason so effectively illustrated by recently by Scot McKnight in his recent article on historical Jesus studies:

    On the opening day of my class on Jesus of Nazareth, I give a standardized psychological test divided into two parts. The results are nothing short of astounding.

    The first part is about Jesus. It asks students to imagine Jesus' personality, with questions such as, "Does he prefer to go his own way rather than act by the rules?" and "Is he a worrier?" The second part asks the same questions of the students, but instead of "Is he a worrier?" it asks, "Are you a worrier?" The test is not about right or wrong answers, nor is it designed to help students understand Jesus. Instead, if given to enough people, the test will reveal that we all think Jesus is like us. Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and, on the basis of the same questions, extroverts think Jesus is extroverted.

    Spiritual formation experts would love to hear that students in my Jesus class are becoming like Jesus, but the test actually reveals the reverse: Students are fashioning Jesus to be more like themselves. If the test were given to a random sample of adults, the results would be measurably similar. To one degree or another, we all conform Jesus to our own image.

    On the other hand, what Dr. McKnight observes is unavoidable, isn't it? In order to become like someone, you first have to identify what they are like...right?

  12. I think you overestimate the degree to which Yeshua was in conflict with the religious mainstream of his day. He definitely had opponents--the Temple establishment, the perushim (who I don't view as proto-rabbis or as particularly mainstream)--but Judaism of this period was remarkably diverse and he was no more outside of it than other groups.

    I pretty much concur with Gene's description. I think he would share a certain, measured degree of commonality with Shlomo Carlebach: very Orthodox background, committed to reaching the most estranged Jews even at the expense of getting flak from the Orthodox establishment, and emphasizing the spiritual aspects of Jewish life.

  13. I pretty much concur with Gene's description. I think he would share a certain, measured degree of commonality with Shlomo Carlebach: very Orthodox background, committed to reaching the most estranged Jews even at the expense of getting flak from the Orthodox establishment, and emphasizing the spiritual aspects of Jewish life.

    Carlebach was a sexual predator:

  14. Simply, The Messiah has His portion with New Covenant Israel and would have naught to do with the theo'ry'logical systems of religion, all of which are of this wicked, evil world.......

    What of The NEW Covenant, and The New Covenant "Jew"(Brethren of The Messiah)?
    Jer 31:31-37 "Behold, the days come, says YHWH, that I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: NOT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT THAT I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS IN THE TIME THAT I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO BRING THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT FOR THEY BROKE THAT COVENANT, although I was an husband unto them, says YHWH: (Thankfully no longer natural "fathers" but YHWH, "Our Father" in "the NEWness of The Spirit not the letter")

    But this shall be the NEW covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says YHWH, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts(not in stone, but in their heart consciousness); and I will be their Elohim, and they shall be MY people. ("Come Out of her, MY people"! Come out of this world and it's systems of religion)

    And every man shall no longer teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know YHWH", for they shall all know ME, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says YHWH: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

    Thus says YHWH, which gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divides the sea when the waves thereof roar; YHWH of hosts is HIS name:

    If those ordinances depart from before ME, says YHWH, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before ME for ever.

    Thus says YHWH; If Heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says YHWH."

    The NEW Covenant established The Truth that, "he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, whose circumcision is that of the flesh, he is a Jew who is one inwardly, whose circumcision is of the heart" as he was immersed in, of, by and through The Holy, Set Apart Spirit that is of The ONE and Only True G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL. And all gentile NEW Covenant Believers are "grafted into The Good olive tree", they are of The NEW Covenant Jews.......

    And The NEW Covenant Israel?

    "A Holy nation".......

    Heavenly and Spiritual, not earthly or of the wicked worldly nations!

    "A nation of kings and priests" indeed and Truth, and all New Covenant Believers are "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" whose "citizenship (Life) is in Heaven".......

    They are not of this wicked, evil world and it's systems of religion because they have taken heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D, Father (Creator) of ALL to "Come out of her, MY people".......

  15. The NEW Covenant Believers are those who follow The Messiah for they have taken heed unto The Call to "Come Out" of this wicked world, and they have have "set their affections on things above, Heavenly things"....... No longer are they of those "whose god is their bellies, and whose glory is in their shame, because they mind earthly things". They are no longer of those who "love this world and their own life in, and of it".......

    Sadly, there are multitudes who profess a belief in The Messiah with their mouth only for they are "friends of this world" because they "love this world and it's things" ;-( And so it is that they "love their own life in and of the world" ;-( Such is not The Will of "Our Father" .......

    And those who do not seek and desire to do The Will of "Our Father" and "Come Out" of this world(babylon) will hear those woe filled words, "Depart from Me all you workers of iniquity" because "the WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth.......

    Thankfully The NEW Covenant Believers, The Brethren of The Messiah, have their "citizenship(Life) in Heaven" for they are "A Holy nation" of "kings and priests", all of whom are thankful that, that which was "decaying and waxing old" DID "vanish away" with the destruction of the natural, earthly kingdom centered in jerusalem. The old covenant did indeed vanish away, The NEW Covenant WAS, IS and always WILL BE!

    At the time the old covenant vanished away "THY Kingdom" DID "Come" and IS, for The Messiah delivered up The Kingdom unto His G-D and Father(Creator), and The Kingdom of The Only True G-D in Heaven WAS, IS, and ALWAYS WILL BE.......

    No longer old, natural, earthly and temporal, The Kingdom of The Only True G-D WAS, IS, and ALWAYS WILL BE NEW, Spiritual, Heavenly and Eternal.......

    And so it is that yesterday, today, and if there be a tomorrow, that "the chosen ones", "the elect", The NEW Covenant Believer, the Spiritual Jew, "The Brethren of The Messiah", continue to "fight the good fight of Faith" as they but seek and desire that which is NEW, Spiritual, Heavenly and Eternal.......

    So it is they "forsake all" and "suffer the loss of all things".......

    Father Help! and HE does.......

    So The Brethren of The Messiah rejoice!

    Giving All Thanks, Praise and Glory Unto The ONE and Only True Living G-D, Father (Creator) of ALL.......

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(lies) that is of this wicked world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth....... francis

  16. He would find greatest affinity with the Orthodox community. That is not to say that He would be accepted by them - but in the fantasy realm we are considering, He would be in their (our) midst to reform those closest to Him.

    The first believers were known for the piety (the Pharisees speaking against James' martyrdom for example), and hence He would be most identified with those most obedient to the Torah.

  17. Joseph...

    About Carlbach...

    Personally, I am not into this man's music, style or some of his approaches. However, he did appear to have genuine love for all Jews. At one time, however, I too was going to use that accusation you posted here (that I stumbled upon on the same site you gave a link to) to prove a point for someone in a conversation I had. Than, I thought to myself as I investigated this man further - this man was never convicted or even legally accused/charged with any wrongdoing, none of his victims ever came forward during his lifetime, and the accusers who publish this info against him are rabid feminists with an agenda. These accusations of sexual impropriety came long after this man's death, when he was in no position to defend himself. So, Joseph - just stay quiet this time with you lashon hara, there may be some skeletons in your own closet.

  18. Joseph,
    There are accusations, and you have to live under a rock not to know about them. Many of my friends in the Renewal world continue to struggle with them. I made my comments anyway.

    I'm not a big fan of most of his music, the Renewal movement he and Zalman spawned, or "Carlebach-style" davening (for the most part). I was just giving a famous example of the general idea.

  19. that's a really good question, and my first reaction was: neither. he would practice the commandments, and live in right relationships - to G-d and to humanity, teaching us to do the same.

    then, i thought that i would see him much like a Chabad or Bretzlover - reaching out to all Jews, adding joy to the mix; putting a strong emphasis on ethics. that's anachronistic, i know - but the whole question is. i don't think he'd mind extra-biblical things as long as they don't go against the Bible, against the essential, the most important commandment.

    would he be here, we'd be surprised, all of us! and i dare hope that he'd even accept someone like me coming from the dark side as an Bretzlover friend said) - Reform.

  20. >> "To one degree or another, we all conform Jesus to our own image."

    Amusing observation, Yahnatan! I think there's some of that very thing going down in these comments.

  21. However, he did appear to have genuine love for all Jews.

    I'm not sure if his victims considered it "love".

    Than, I thought to myself as I investigated this man further - this man was never convicted or even legally accused/charged with any wrongdoing

    Did you read all the evidence at the Awareness Centre?

  22. Good post Judah.

    If Yeshua came today and took on disciples, I think it would end up the same way. His disciples back then were Pharisees, Essenes, Zeolots, and others. His teachings seemed to agree with many teachings of the various sects. Yet, no one group was safe from his surgical cuts to their theology deviations from Torah.

    When I first started my Messianic walk, I was critical of the different Christian denominations because not only would the first century Yeshua not fit in, he would have been persecuted. I have now come to realize that this theological hegemony is not limited to Christians. Messianic organizations are just as quick to remove anyone who does not agree completely with their viewpoints.

    If the Rabbi Yeshua were to make his disciples today, he would be branded a "heretic" by almost every group just like he was then. Isn't it a shame that our "religion" is often what separates us from God.


  23. There is hope that there would be those reading this who have "seen" organized 'religion' for what it is, and not what it pretends to be, and have realized, not just read, that "the natural man does not receive the things that are of The Spirit of G-D, for they are foolishness unto him and he can not know them, for the things that are of The Spirit of G-D need to be Spiritually discerned".......

    As for "Pure And Undefiled Religion".......

    "Pure religion and undefiled before G-D The Father is this, to visit the fatherless (those children who know not their Father, HE WHO is The Only True G-D, Father{Creator} of ALL) and widows(those who are not joined together as One with The Messiah, His Brethren and Our Father) in their affliction and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world."(James1:27)

    Simply, all other religion is impure and defiled.......

    And notice that "pure and undefiled" religion is "oneself(individual)", The Brethren of The Messiah doing The Will of Our Father, as they are led by The Holy, Set Apart, Spirit.......

    Simply, corporate "religion" is pagan and of this wicked world ;-(

    "Brethren" is not "religion", for what are The Brethren of The Messiah and sons of Our Father if not Family?

    And would not The Family of The Only True G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL, "The Body of The Messiah", be much closer than a natural, fleshly family?

    And so it is that most of those who have chosen to follow The Messiah on "The Narrow Way" have had to "forsake their natural father, mother, brothers, sisters" and all others who will not follow The Messiah because they "love this wicked world and their own life in and of it".......

    The Brethren of The Messiah have "forsaken all for The Kingdom of Heaven's sake".......

    They are truly "strangers and pilgrims while on the earth".......

    Father Help! and HE does.......

    What is declared to be "religion" today is the 'd'evil's playground indeed.......

    Simply, Faith will not create a system of religion.......

    Hope is there would be those who take heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D to "Come Out of her, MY people"!

    For they will "Come Out" of this wicked world(babylon) and it's systems of religion, and enter into "the glorious Liberty of The Children of The Only True G-D".

    And so it is that they will no longer be of those who are destroying the earth(air, water, land, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Truth, Life, Love, Peace, Hope, Faith, Mercy, Grace, Miracles,,, All that is Truly Good).......

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" (1John5:19) indeed and Truth.......

    Thankfully Truth IS, that which is of a lie is not.......

    Abide in The Truth....... francis

  24. ElderChild/francis...

    Do us all a favor - STOP POLLUTING the cyberspace with your copy/paste garbage! Nobody reads it anyway, so save your keyboard some ware and tear.

    Have a wonderful day:)

  25. Judah,

    Good Post! You are right the Nazerene sect was called so as it was concidered heritical. He was not accepted by the Pharisees or by the the Sadducees, most of the religious wanted him gone. In fact the Talmud tells us that Miryam (Mary), was raped by a Roman soldier, and that's how Jesus came to be. Of course, this is certainly not what is written in the New Covenant. The Rabbis obviously made that up. Why? It was designed to keep Jews from checking out the claims of Yeshua being the Messiah because once a Jew hears that Yeshua was conceived illegitimately, they would know that he couldn't be Messiah. There are other tales of how Yeshua was conceived. In the Talmud, Sanhedrin 102a, it maligns Miryam saying that she was a whore. In Shabat 104b, in note 2 (Soncino Edition), it says that she had sex with many men. These lies are designed to show that Yeshua couldn't be the Jewish Messiah. They were lying to keep other men from something that they could not handle, the truth.


  26. "There are other tales of how Yeshua was conceived. In the Talmud, Sanhedrin 102a, it maligns Miryam saying that she was a whore. In Shabat 104b, in note 2 (Soncino Edition), it says that she had sex with many men."

    C.F. did you come up with that yourself, or did you simply copy this claim verbatim from the anti-rabbinic site without reading the actual Talmud text yourself? Can you give us a link to the actual text so that we may verify this for ourselves? I can't stand when people perpetuate this antisemitic stuff without actually verifying a thing, just copying of others said.

  27. It seems there's some debate among scholars as to whether these passages, and others, refer to Yeshua.

    I see according to this Wikipedia article, "Many modern critical scholars view at least some of them as references to Jesus, albeit spurious references.".

  28. One has to always remember that the Rabbinical literature is wide as broad the same way as early Christian literature is wide and broad. You will find things that you can appreciate, and things that you do not appreciate.

    Today's Messianic community is generally quite deficient when it refers to "the Sages" or "the Church Fathers" or even to "the Greeks"--and then fails to offer specific references to the relevant materials.

  29. Judah,

    I agree with Wikipedia, most scholars tend to agree that these passages refer to Yeshua. I also have to agree with Gene, I was quoting quotes, but ones that were researched. There are, in my opinion, favorable comments as well as unfavorable comments within the Talmud. Just as you would have as we debate these subjects today. But weather quoting the Talmud or quoting a quote from the Talmud we are re-iterating men's opinions.


  30. When did Wikipedia become a reliable source for religious information?

  31. Wikipedia is not the source. It is a citation of another study:

    Thiessen and Merz draw on Dalman (1893), Maier (1982), and Thoma (1990) in reaching this conclusion. Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition). p. 74-76.

    While many folks like to denigrate Wikipedia -- and to be sure it's not authoritative -- it is humanity's best attempt at aggregating the world's information, mixed quality and all.

  32. I dunno, Judah. A lot of your analysis sounds over-simplified.

    I'd be the first to agree that Yeshua's biggest mark on halakhah in his time was his emphasis on "the weightier matters." But I don't get the impression from the 4 Gospels that this was what got him into trouble. To the contrary, the texts say repeatedly that those who heard his teachings on justice, righteousness, and mercy were "amazed."

    Isn't that how we feel in the 21st century when a rabbi or pastor effectively calls us to task on our self-righteous swagger?

    (One important question to ask is whether there even WAS a "religious establishment," given that the Jewish people were living under occupation by a foreign government, which was meddling enough to install its own illegitimate high priest in the Temple!)

    I also think that your analysis of Reform and Orthodox communities and their contributions to halakhah could be better informed. You don't give the impression that you spend much time within the mainstream Jewish community or cultivate friendships there, so it's hard to swallow your assessment of it.

  33. Monique,

    If "religious establishment" is offensive to you, read "religious leadership". My readers knew well what I meant by this statement, and I suspect you do too. You're choosing the worst possible interpretation of my words. Don't do that.

    Are you doing this because you're still sore that I called you out on your worship/liturgy post? If so, I apologize sincerely for causing offense there. Peace.

  34. No, Judah, I'm not "sore" about our liturgy discussion. Which happened, what? 8 months ago? As I recall, I was the one who offered an apology in that context, so it wasn't my feelings that were offended.

    This is about more than semantics. I challenged more than your word choice because it suggested that the lens through which you approach the 4 Gospels is clouded by generalizations/assumptions made about Second Temple Judaism.

    That, in turn, has colored your perception of 21st century Judaism.

    It's an all too frequent pitfall of theologians and biblical scholars, and it deserves correction where it is demonstrated. I'm not questioning your intentions here, which I'm sure are thoroughly upright. It's the implications that matter more to me.

    Given that the content of this blog post was an analysis of Second Temple & 21st century Judaism (and Yeshua's purported place/role/position within it), my comment was not out of place.

    Theology has real implications for real people. So it's not just words.

  35. Monique, your criticism is that my analysis of Reform and Orthodox Judaisms could be better informed.

    My response is: my "analysis" was a single sentence generalizing both. It shouldn't be understood as a in-depth analysis of 21st century Judaism.

    Moving on.

  36. Judah,

    > Moving on.

    Not so fast, please! I tend to agree with Monique here. Calling Reform Judaism "a rebellion against the harsh, stringent religious establishment of Orthodox Judaism" is not a generalization lacking nuance--it's a mischaracterization.

    Same goes for your analysis of Second Temple Judaism--it's inaccurate to speak casually of a "religious establishment" as if the Pharisees, Sadducees, temple leaders, etc were all on the same page. They weren't.

    In order to have heresy, you have to have orthodoxy. Historians of Second Temple Judaism have undermined the belief that there was a clearly established "orthodoxy" at that point. No orthodoxy = no heretics. (Just sharp disagreements.)

    Derek Leman's Yeshua in Context podcast covers this kind of stuff in detail, with abundant quotations straight from recognized scholarship. If you're a YiC listener, then I might be preaching to the choir--but in that case, I encourage you not to generalize inaccurately. Truth doesn't require wordiness, just careful precision.

    None of this, of course, invalidates your opinion that Yeshua wouldn't fit into any of today's streams of Judaism. But since you wrote about why you think so, we good readers feel justified in pushing back when your reasoning contains inaccuracies.


  37. Sigh. Tell me how you'd like me to phrase it, and I'll change the post.

  38. Sigh. Tell me how you'd like me to phrase it, and I'll change the post.

    Thanks for the gracious response. I'm not really interested in editing your post. To review: you said "Yeshua was a heretic within Judaism"--without really attempting to substantiate this claim. Various commenters called you out on this assertion.

    If you (or your readers) are interested in further blog posts substantiating the claim that Yeshua was a heretic within Judaism, go for it. I'll read with interest. (Perhaps a good start would be to interact with Derek's Yeshua in Context podcasts--perhaps "Common Judaism and Yeshua" or the two episodes featuring the Pharisees?)

    As for Reform Judaism: the Reform movement in Judaism started in the 19th century, not simply as an attempt to correct overbearing religious leaders, but rather as an attempt to radically re-conceive Judaism through the eyes of Enlightenment critiques of religion, philosophy, and history. Traditional doctrines about Torah, Temple, and Land were laid aside in favor of something more modern--which aided Jews in becoming more integrated members of German and North American society.

    I really don't know much beyond this (and I'm open to correction if I'm getting it wrong here). Obviously doing the above implied that Jewish Reformists were in a sense "rebelling" against the existing Jewish leadership, but hopefully you see why summing Reform Judaism up as a movement to correct heavy yokes of overbearing religious leaders is misleading IMO.

    Now it's confession time: until a couple years ago, I probably wouldn't have blinked at your summary of Reform Judaism. (In fact, growing up I thought the Conservative movement happened before the Reform movement--I pictured it as a gradual liberalizing process within Judaism whereby people became less and less "Orthodox".)

    Where did I learn this? Either I made it up myself (entirely possible!) or I was taught it (either explicitly or implicitly) in the Messianic circles I grew up in. My question to you is the same question I would ask myself: where did we learn that Reform Judaism was a rebellion against the ultra-Orthodox?

    And (just as important): if we have this wrong, then what else might we have wrong about Judaism?

  39. The more I think about this, the more I realize I have no need to apologize or edit my post. :-)

    Last time I checked, heretics were the ones that were persecuted (and killed) by religious leaders. That alone is evidence enough! Religious leaders tried to kill Yeshua for making what they deemed blasphemous statements. That's heretic stuff, not just "sharp disagreements".

    And my one-sentence description of Reform Judaism -- that it has thrown off the stringent yoke of the Orthodox -- is an accurate one: Reform deems the Torah "as a set of general guidelines rather than as a list of restrictions whose literal observance is required of all Jews." I realize that doesn't tell the whole story, but that's beside the point.

    I'm now left wondering why I should update the post at all, seeing as how my description of Reform is an accurate one, and my point that Yeshua was a Judaism-heretic also stands.

  40. Judah,

    There's seriously no personal vendetta here. And no one has asked you to re-write your post or apologize for it. What I posed is simply a challenge to the strength of your assertions.

    You made a number of assertions that I felt were unsupportable.

    In lawyer world, when I say "Your Honor, opposing counsel's reliance on Smith v. Jones is inapposite to this case," the judge turns to him and says "Counsel, would you like an opportunity to clarify your argument here or cite additional authorities?" The responses that go over best are

    a) I'd like to revise my remarks in one important regard;


    b) Smith v. Jones does apply here for x, y, and z reasons, and additionally, I'll draw the court's attention to Jane v. Joe ...

    Now there's no judge in bloggoworld, but the process can remain just as cordial.

    I really like Y's suggestions of further engagement with Derek's podcasts, and also recommend Amy Jill Levine's book "The Misunderstood Jew."

    Levine is Jewish in a Conservadoxy way, and she's a notable New Testament scholar. Her analysis of Yeshua and his teachings within the context of Second Temple Judaism is absolutely worth reading. Her analysis is lacking in a few places, and she admits a limited bias, but isn't that present in any piece of scholarship?

    At any rate, do with that what you will.

  41. Judah,

    >> Reform deems the Torah "as a set of general guidelines rather than as a list of restrictions whose literal observance is required of all Jews."<<

    See, the thing is, if you polled five different Reform rabbis about their views on the validity and role of Torah in relation to the 21st century Jew, I'd bet than NONE of them would agree with that statement.

    Some would say that the ritual mitvot cannot be followed in the absence of the Temple, but the ethical/moral commandments remain binding.

    Others would say that it's ALL still binding, but we're more willing than the Orthodox to allow modernity (expressed through science, medicine, philosophy, anthropology, etc) to inject iself into our discourse on halakhah.

    And then you might find a Reform rabbi who dismisses the weight of Torah as a spiritual matter, but follows it out of a desire to preserve the Jewish "civilization," but that would make him/her more like a closet Reconstructionist, and even THAT is up for debate.

    But you'd be hard pressed to find more than a handful of Reform rabbis willing to take the casual stance of "general guidelines" that you've attributed to the Reform movement.

    And similar diversity exists within Orthodox streams of Judaism. Put one each of a MoDox, Litvish, Satmar, Breslov, and Lubavitch rabbi in the same room and ask them "what's your view of Torah?" then set your watch, because you're in for a centuries-long argument.

    And really, is this any different than the fractured (ahem ... diverse) state of Messianic Judaism?

    So if it's this complicated today, imagine the chorus of argument going on in Yeshua's time when most of world Jewry was living in and around Jerusalem!

  42. Judah,

    Persecution or execution doesn't prove that someone was a heretic.
    The blasphemer in Leviticus 24 wasn't a heretic--he was a sinner. Naboth wasn't a heretic either--he was executed by Ahab and Jezebel on false charges.

    One passage in the gospels (John 11) suggests that Israel's leaders didn't execute Yeshua because of heresy--they executed him because they were afraid he would arouse the people to revolt and Rome would come take away their city. Further accounts of the trial record that people were summoned to bring false charges against Yeshua--no heresy there either. True, they seized on a charge of blasphemy at a key point...but then afterward returned to accusing him of treason against the emperor again (before Pilate).

    Perhaps linking CMP's timely post on heresy from Parchment and Pen ( will help to underscore what I'm about to repeate: in order for someone to be a heretic, there has to be an established orthodoxy from which they've departed. To show that Yeshua was considered a heretic within the Judaism(s) of his day, you'd also have to demonstrate that there was "orthodoxy" at that point and that he was outside of it.

    To create a silly example: if this disagreement made me so frustrated that I determined to get back at you, so that I came to your house and put pink flamingos on your lawn in the middle of the night: even though our disagreement was religious in nature, that still wouldn't make you a heretic.

    I'm now left wondering why I should update the post at all, seeing as how my description of Reform is an accurate one, and my point that Yeshua was a Judaism-heretic also stands.

    I'm not trying to get you to change your post (that's censorship)...I'm trying to get you to change your mind! :-D If I can't do that, I'll settle for putting down in words why your assertions don't stand for me.

  43. My one-sentence description of Reform Judaism...I realize that doesn't tell the whole story, but that's beside the point.

    For the record, you may have a point here. I ever so slightly put words in your mouth (you said "Reform Judaism is...rebelling..." but I quoted "Reform Judaism is...a rebellion"), transforming your assertion of a simple fact into something more definitive (and then calling you out for it). Sorry.

    As for the need for telling the whole story--you're right that people shouldn't be expected to tell the whole story every time they mention long as they make sure to tell the whole story at some point. My frustration is that many people don't know the whole story.

  44. Judah's post title:
    Yeshua: Judaism's Heretic?

    Yahnatan's post title:
    Yeshua: Judaism's outcast person who would have been a heretic provided an orthodoxy was present but can't be called a heretic because there was complicated religious system at the time involving Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel Pharisees, a different group of Sadducees, oh and these crazy guys in the desert called Essenes, and a corrupt Temple priesthood, many of whom hated Yeshua but some loved him and it was a mess, but in the end they killed him?

    Judah's one-liner on Yeshua being in Reform Judaism:
    Would Yeshua find a home in Reform Judaism, throwing off the heavy yoke of the Orthodox?

    Monique's one-liner on Yeshua being in Reform Judaism:
    Would Yeshua find a home in Reform Judaism, where some believe the Torah is binding, while most believe it's a the ethical matters only, and are more willing than other more stringent sects to allow for modern sciences to affect our view of Torah, while some others still simply dismiss the Torah altogether as a spiritual matter.

    Bottom line: I do not wish to debate sematics or specializations. While I acknowledge and recognize intricacies, generalities are generally useful. :-) (Especially for short, to-the-point blog posts!)

  45. Where would Yeshua fit in today's Jewish world? One thing often overlooked is that unlike every other Rabbi of his day, he did not surround himself with like-minded disciples. In fact it could be argued that his disciples included Pharisees (both Hillel and Shamai), Essenes, Zealots (including Sicarii), Levites and other lesser sects and God-fearers.

    If he were here today, I believe he would still be surrounded by men of character, which appeared to be more important than affiliation. Maybe we could learn something from him on this.

  46. Great observation, MW.

    Which begs the question - does this reveal an intentional choice on Yeshua's part? What if he cultivated deep and intimate relationships with all kinds of Jewish people because he sought to influence all of Judaism? He wouldn't be the Jewish Messiah if he'd confined his influence to a single sect/stream/movement, would he?

    And if that's true, then we can assume that his approach to 21st century Judaism (in all its diversity and complexity) would be the same.