6. Only the unified, indivisible, unseeable God is Divine.

Articulating the Jewish position concerning Jesus is undoubtedly one of the most sensitive areas that Jewish CPE students encounter.  Many non-Jews take offense when Jews say that Jesus has no theological standing for Jews. For Jews, the historical Jesus was a Jewish man and a child of God in the same way that each of us is a child of God. But, Jesus was no more than that.  For Jews, Jesus, was not, and is not, Divinity.

This is an important point because while some Jews occasionally debate among themselves who “really” is a Jew, there are a few points which all Jews across the denominational spectrum accept as true: “God” always means the totally unified, indivisible, unseeable God who possesses absolute sovereignty and is supreme over the entire world. Individual Jews may differ in how they understand God’s attributes or God’s Presence - and some may even choose to deny God’s existence - but all Jews agree that God has never walked the earth in human form and that we are still waiting for the Messiah to come – the first time. Individuals who label themselves “Jews for Jesus”, “fulfilled Jews”, “Messianic Jews”, “Hebrew Jews” or similar terms are mixing religious systems; they are engaged in syncretism. Just because they call themselves “Jews”, does not make them Jewish. We wonder how many Christians would accept as “Christian”, individuals who called themselves “Christians against Christ.” By accepting Jesus as the Christ/Savior, one is, by Jewish definition, a Christian.

Sometimes, non-Jewish CPE supervisors or peers offer Moses as a parallel figure to Jesus, and akin to Buddha or Muhammad.   We understand that - as the founders of their respective faiths, Jesus-as-Christ is central to Christianity, Buddha is central to Buddhism, and Muhammad is central to Islam. Without Jesus-as-Christ, there would be no Christianity, without Buddha, there would be no Buddhism, and without Muhammad, there would be no Islam. However, without Moses, there still would be Judaism!  Moses is not the parallel figure to Jesus, Buddha or Muhammad.  Certainly, Moses was a teacher and prophet par-excellence, but Judaism would have existed and would continue to flourish even if we could prove that Moses never actually existed.

Another important reality for Jews is the difference between Jesus, the “historical man” and Jesus the “name”.  We accept that Jesus the “historical man” was benevolent and holy. However, for nearly two thousand years, Jews have been persecuted, martyred, and murdered in the “name” of Jesus. So, it is hard for many Jews to see representations of Jesus (or other emblems of Christianity) and not associate it - consciously or sub-consciously - with Jewish crisis and tragedy. This is driven home when we continually hear: ‘Jesus loves you’ but you will be damned if you do not accept Jesus as your savior.”

The issue may be further compounded because even if the CPE supervisor understands - or accepts - the significant differences in how Jewish students relate to profound Christian symbols, too many CPE peers do not understand it and/or are offended by it.  Too often, it creates a tension that exists as an unspoken and unresolved interfaith issue that divides the peers from one another.

© 2004 , Bonita E Taylor & David J. Zucker

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