19 September, 2007

Quick Book Review: Why the Jews Rejected Jesus

I don't know exactly what I expected when I bought this book, but I bought it twice. I saw it, and thought it looked fascinating so I picked it up. When I got home, I found that I had already reached that same conclusion some time in the past, because I had another copy already waiting on me.

Any book I buy twice, I figure I'd better read.

It was a Jewish perspective on why the Jews universally reject Jesus, and I found it fascinating.

The author would kick my butt in a debate, and he would make me feel pretty good about myself while he was doing it. He is well read in Christianity and Judaism both. Most Jews frankly don't know any more about their faith than most Christians do about theirs. Not so with David Klinghoffer. He knows his subject deeply enough to impress me to no end. That doesn't prove much, but I learned a LOT reading his perspective on Judaism throughout all history.

Talmud, Midrash, Minim, and a few more terms really mean something to me now, and I appreciate that fact immensely. I now know why Rabbi's have a couple of completely unrelated names, too. Their names are 4 words long so often that the turn them into acronyms, and just say the acronym instead. Who knew. :-)

The first half of the book reads like a synagogue must have sounded a couple months after running Paul out of town when the nicest guy gets up to speak. Paul doesn't get a real chance to answer for himself in this book, and Klinghoffer compiles every single argument against him and presents it with kindness and certainty. I really have a completely different feel for what Paul's arguments with the Jews must have sounded like.

And his arguments are compelling.

I make no bones about it. If he could also convince me that Jesus did not rise from the dead I would convert.

He really pulls together the whole atheistic melange of arguments against Christ being God and combines them with a common sensical, context driven commentary on the old testament prophecies the new testament puts forward to prove Jesus is the Messiah. He paints a vivid picture of Jesus as a normal rabbi with super-normal insights, but who failed in His final deluded attempt to prove He was a Messiah. He shoots down every commonly used prophecy, including all those quoted in the new testament (since he considers it twisted history).

When he gets to Paul, he irenically eviscerates his cunning plan to gut Judaism while verbally protesting his good intentions.

The second half of the book is medeival history, and pretty interesting.

The last bit of the book is where he uncorks his secret. He believes that God is actually using Christianity to pave the way for the Jewish Messiah to return, and credits Judaism's rejection of Christ with the success of Christianity. He is, of course, correct about that last bit. So, Klinghoffer wants to see an ever warming union between Christianity and Judaism as we move closer to seeing the truth of what Messiah ought to be.

I recommend this book to people who want to really feel the passion and see the reason of the Jewish rejection of Christ. It was an easy read except for the objectively, even kindly, rendered insults to our Lord. Be warned, though, this book could convert you.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating review! This is a book I will definitely read. I really enjoyed Paul Johnson's "A History of the Jews", so this is a subject that I very much enjoy reading about. Thank you!

Tari said...

Oops! anonymous was me. :)

Lynne said...

LOL! I thought I was the only person to ever buy books twice!

pearlie said...

I had another copy already waiting on me.
I thought I was the only person to ever buy books twice!

Reading these is such a relief :) :) I really thought I was the only one.

pearlie said...

Anyways, I just did it over the weekend. Two of the same commentary on Mark sitting on my shelf right now!

Weekend Fisher said...

I read that book awhile back; it's still on my shelf. However, I was mighty familiar with some of his arguments. Many of them are blow smoke, misleading, or factually inaccurate on key points.

Though you remind me ... I have been meaning to write the "brief rebuttal to ..." ever since, pointing out his biggest whoppers.

codepoke said...

Enjoy, AnonyTari. :-)

Lynne, the thing that hurt is that it was a $25 book, and I got it (for a limited time only, I'm sure) at fool price. I can't even claim a sale as an excuse!

And, Pearlie, I'm not sure - with your prodigious library - whether having bought the same book twice counts as odd for you. To purchase as many books as you do, and never purchase any twice WOULD be amazing! :-D

WF, we both know how much more well-versed you are in these things than I. I agree that many of his arguments were spurious, lazy or otherwise silly to insert. But I didn't find all of them so easily dismissed.

The arguments that carried the most weight with me were the ones I've wondered about all my Christian life - the de-interpretation of the Messianic prophecies. Countless times I've looked up some prophecy Matthew or Paul or someone quotes and thought, "Huh? This is a prophecy of Jesus? I never would have guessed that." Klinghoffer, doesn't accept the new testament as God-breathed, so he lets those prophecies stand on their own two feet. Without the authority of the new testament to buttress them, they all fall flat pretty quickly.

As I thought about writing a rebuttal to his work, I came to the conclusion that I simply couldn't do it. His interpretation of those prophecies sounds really solid if I deny myself the authority of the new testament to interpret them. I also realized that neither Paul nor Jesus were able to do it convincingly, and therefore didn't feel quite so bad.

It seems to me the key again is the death and resurrection of a Man Who claimed to be God. Because Klinghoffer two-steps around the resurrection so quickly, it's obviously the point to press. For pages and pages he talks about Christ's death, then dismisses the resurrection in 2 pages as meaningless unless you already hold to the twisted prophecies. He never addresses the point of whether Christ actually rose again, and what it might mean if He did.

If the resurrection means what we say it means, then Jesus' own interpretation of the prophecies becomes paramount, and that of His followers rises in importance very quickly. If He is still dead and eaten by dogs somewhere, though, then waiting on a Messiah of a significantly more kingly appearance makes ultimate sense. The cross either destroyed the law - anathema to Klinghoffer and the people he represents - or it broke a deluded man.

I'm not the guy to take the veil from his eyes, but I was mesmerized to read the Jewish take on the whole argument. It was money well spent - once anyway.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey Poke

That's kind of you.

And your general take, "You don't argue with someone who rose from the dead," works. I've used that argument when pressed for time myself. But if you want more thorough ...

And if the prophecies are the one that concerned you, I actually hear that one often enough that I'd written a rebuttal to that ages ago. It's one of the times where that particular fellow was playing false with his own tradition. There's even a place in his book where he gives a (very veiled) nod to that fact, admitting that his forebears or the people of the time or whatnot took a much more open-ended approach to it. He says that like it was illegitimate ... his forebears thought differently and thought that the closed-ended approach was the illegitimate one.

This particular link is a republish, since I did the first one back when I was blogging at the CADRE site. Hope it's helpful.


Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

codepoke said...

That's a good overview, WF. I have to ask (knowing you) whether you wrote any series on various prophecies, rebutting the specific interpretations leveled against them?

Weekend Fisher said...

No, I haven't, but it sounds like a fun series (according to my idea of fun). If I were to consider a thing like that, which ones would be best to include? FAQ's as it were.

codepoke said...

On pages 160-168, Klinghoffer goes through ten or so prophecies. Those
would be the most focused targets. Of those, the Isaiah 52-53 passage is certainly the most important.

Mic 5:1 passage about Bethlehem
Is 7:4 on the maiden birth
Jer 31:31-34 on the kingdom and the covenant is dicey, because of differing views on the millenium.
Is 11:9 and 2:4 fit in the same category.
Ps 22 gets big mention, too.

Later on pages 201-210 several of the same passages are reevaluated along with interesting points from Zech 12:10 and Daniel 9:24.

I won't say I found all those indisputable, but his arguments do sound solid to me.

Weekend Fisher said...

You know, some of those I might, but on most of those I'd be re-inventing the wheel. Joe Hinman (Metacrock) has already done huge amounts of research on those. His dyslexia makes reading his things a teensy bit challenging sometimes, but well worth the trouble.

His main links page for that kind of thing is here:


pearlie said...

I must let you know that I went looking for this book in the store last week - "nope, we don't import books from this publisher, sorry".
I have to look harder :/