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Question 17.3:
Countering the Question: Why Don't Jews Believe in Jesus as the Messiah?

Answer:

The question above is a typical one asked by Christian Missionaries. The answer is easy, if one understands Jewish beliefs.

Jews do not believe that the Messiah is a part of G-d, or Divine in any way, more than any other person. Jews look only to G-d for our salvation, and when the time comes for G-d to bring the anointed king, then it shall happen. Jews do not concern ourselves with the messiah’s identity, for the messiah is a person and the messiah's coming does not change our relationship with G-d. Jews do not accept the notion that Scripture “foretells” that G-d would robe Himself in flesh; in fact, to Jews, this idea is idolatry, and we stand against it.

The reason why Jews do not accept Jesus as the messiah is straightforward: he did not meet the requirements in the job requisition! G-d outlined these requirements in the Bible. The key aspect of proof is in the state of the world.According to the Bible, amongst the most mission of the messiah includes returning the world to return to G-d and G-d's teachings; restoring the royal dynasty to the descendants of David; overseeing the rebuilding of Jerusalem, including the Temple; gathering the Jewish people from all over the world and bringing them home to the Land of Israel; reestablishing the Sanhedrin; restoring the sacrificial system, the Sabbatical year and Jubilee. This simply has not happened. Judaism has no notion of the messiah not doing these things on the first visit, let along needing a second visit to do these things. Whenever these things are described in the Tanach, the description says that the messiah will come and do these things—once.

Oh, you want specifics? According to Torah, the Messiah will:

  1. Ezekiel 37:26-28: Build the Third Temple

  2. Isaiah 43:5-6: Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel

  3. Isaiah 2:4: Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore."

  4. Zechariah 14:9: Spread universal knowledge of the G-d of Israel - uniting the entire human race as one: "G-d will be King over all the world—on that day, G-d will be One and His Name will be One"

Jesus fulfilled none of these messianic prophecies. Additionally:

In Christianity, the role of the messiah was redefined in order to fit the man’s career as written by his followers. As Jesus was said to have been resurrected, the Bible was examined with the purpose of finding evidence that the messiah would be killed without bringing peace to the world or redemption to Israel. There was therefore the expectation of a second coming, at which time Jesus would carry out the task expected of the messiah (because he obviously didn't do it the first time). This also required creation of an explanation for the first coming and its catastrophic end. The net result of all of this was to shift the function of the messiah from a visible level where it could be tested (as in Tanach, what Christians call the "Old Testament") to an invisible level where it could not. As a result of this reworking, the messiah’s goal the first time around was changed from the redemption of Israel to the atonement for "original sin". A reworking of Biblical themes.

There were also mistakes with respect to Jesus's death and its foretelling. Psalms 22:17 says, "Like a lion, they are at my hands and feet." The Hebrew word ki-ari (like a lion) is grammatically similar to the word "gouged." Thus Christianity reads the verse as a reference to crucifixion: "They pierced my hands and feet." Christians also claim that Isaiah 53 refers to Jesus. Actually, Isaiah 53 directly follows the theme of chapter 52, describing the exile and redemption of the Jewish people. The singular form is used because the Jews ("Israel") are regarded as one unit (this occurs elsewhere in Torah).

For Jews, if the Tanach's requirements for the messiah have not been fulfilled, then there can only be one explanation: he has not yet come. To Jews, who were often subjected to mockery and contempt when asked where their messiah was, this was a painful statement to make. But it was inescapable. As our forefather's said: Ani M'amin: I believe with complete faith in the coming of the messiah; and though he may tarry I shall wait for him every day.”

Furthermore, Christianity contradicts Jewish theology. In Christianity, the notion of "Trinity" breaks G-d into three separate beings: The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19). However, the basis of Jewish belief is captured in the Shema: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is ONE" (Deut. 6:4). Jews declare the One-ness of G-d every day, writing it on doorposts (Mezuzah), and binding it to the hand and head (Tefillin). This statement of G-d's One-ness is the first words a Jewish child is taught to say, and the last words uttered before he dies. In Jewish law, worship of a three-part G-d is considered idolatry -- one of the three cardinal sins which a Jew should rather give up his life than transgress. This explains why during the Inquisitions and throughout history, Jews gave up their lives rather than convert.

Furthermore, Christians believe that G-d came down to earth in human form, as Jesus said: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). However, in Judaism, the fundamental idea is that G-d is Incorporial, meaning G-d has no physical form. In Judaism, G-d is Eternal, above time, Infinite, beyond space. G-d cannot be born, and cannot die. Saying that G-d assumes human form makes G-d small, diminishing both G-d's Unity and Divinity. The Torah says: "G-d is not a mortal" (Numbers 23:19). Judaism says that the Messiah will be born of human parents, with normal physical attributes just like other people. He will not be a demigod, and will not possess supernatural qualities. In fact, an individual is alive in every generation with the capacity to step into the role of the Messiah. (Maimonides - Laws of Kings 11:3)

In Christian belief, prayer must be directed through an intermediary. Jesus himself is an intermediary, as Jesus said: "No man cometh unto the Father but by me." In Judaism, prayer is a totally private matter, between each individual and G-d. Torah says, "G-d is near to all who call unto Him" (Psalms 145:18). Further, the Ten Commandments state: "You shall have no other gods before me," meaning that it is forbidden to set up a mediator between G-d and man. (Maimonides - Laws of Idolatry ch. 1)

Lastly, in Christianity, the physical world is viewed as an evil to be avoided. Mary is portrayed as a virgin. Priests and nuns are celibate. Monasteries are in remote, secluded locations. In Judaism, the belief is that G-d created the physical world not to frustrate us, but for our pleasure. Jewish spirituality comes through grappling with the mundane world in a way that uplifts and elevates. Sex in the proper context is one of the holiest acts we can perform. The Talmud says if a person has the opportunity to taste a new fruit and refuses to do so, he will have to account for that in the World-to-Come. Jewish rabbinical schools teach how to live amidst the bustle of commercial activity. Jews don't retreat from life, we elevate it.

So what do Jews say about Jesus, if he wasn't the messiah. The historical Jesus (not the mangod Christianity made him into) accomplished a great deal in turning people away from idolatry and towards a more authentic knowledge of G-d. But he has no special role to Judaism, in fact, no role at all.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at maintainer@scjfaq.org.

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