Jun 13, 1997 - 21:23 -
I have a question:
Burt, this is a bit off the topic of Jewish ritual and synagogue liturgy, but I'll have a go at it anyway.
The word "christ" is Greek, meaning "annointed". This refers to the process of pouring oil over the head of someone during an installation ceremony; either Moses installing the first Kohanim, or the Prophets installing the Kings.
If by that term you meant to refer to the man annointed by Christian tradition, the answer is that we think of that character the same way that Christians think about Lao Tzu or the Buddah. Lao Tzu is the central figure in one of the non-western religions -- I think. In other words, this fellow annointed by Christianity is a character unique to Christian thought and is not significant to us.
To the extent that there might or might not have ever been a real man whose name served as the inspiration for the Christian myth, that life is only a historical footnote. Of course, the life of the Church and its role in the history of Western Civilization is much more than a footnote.
Just as a Christian would would value, or hold worthless, the teachings of Buddism or Confucianism based on the extent to which each teaching complied with a Christian view, and just as familiarity with those teachings would be completely unecessary and irrelevant to a complete understanding and practice of Christianity, Judaism is similarly disinterested in, and unaffected by, the Church's theoretical theological teachings.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. The Church's teachings have been more than theoretical, and Jews have had to react to verbal challenges and physical attacks by Christians regularly. Since most of the high points of the persecution of Jews for the last 1,700 years have been organized in the name of the man that Christians (with the exception of Seventh Day Adventists and Unitarians) worship, many Jews have an antipathy for the Christian tradition's central figure that they do not feel for any other non-Jewish religious figures. But this effect is sociological rather than religious.
Maybe the way I should have phrased the question was: Why does J. fail the test of being the messiah?
A more relevant question would be: In what possible way could any knowledgable Jew think that he *was* the messiah? The stories presented in Christian mythology don't show him accomplishing anything at all that was expected by *us* of a messiah.
The most direct proof is simply that we are not living in a utopia. ("Is *this* a world to which the messiah has come?!?!?") The only reason that Christians can call their hero a messiah is that they re-wrote a totally new definition of "messiah".
By claiming that we didn't understand our own tradition, they assimilated our texts (in Greek translation) and claimed the authority of our covenant with God while maintaining pagan world views and values and motifs (e.g., gods living immanent within reality, dead gods ressurected, vicarious sacrifices, gods consorting with human females to produce demi-gods, miracles regarded as proof of authority, human sacrifice, etc. etc.)
Remember that the Church tradition which ultimately survived was not founded by the Jewish followers of this nationalist aescetic rabble-rouser, but by Greek-speaking pagans in Alexandria who heard the myth from Saul of Tarsus ("Saint Paul") who claimed to have discovered it in a vision he claimed to have had on the road to Damascus ten years after the death of this Jewish preacher that he never knew.
At a minimum, J. would have had to overthrow Rome and establish the sovereignty of a Jewish theocracy over Judea; bring about an end to famine and war; bring about the open revelation of Godliness throughout Creation "as the water covers the sea" rather than having it hidden within material reality; and much much more that is described in detail throughout our sources. None of which remotely describes the world we know.
For starters, see the free on-line version of chapters 11 and 12 of Hilchot Melachim (The Laws of Kings) by Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides). That is where the criteria for recognizing the messiah are most usefully collected. (The messiah is an earthly warrior-king, i.e., a political leader, not a divine personage.) Hilchot Melachim (The Laws of Kings) is a section of Rambam's Mishneh Torah, which is available in excellent English translation from Moznaim Press. Also, Chabad in Cyberspace has tons of information on the messiah (Moshiach in Hebrew).
P.S. -- This really *is* getting off-topic; and is likely to attract missionaries and other anti-semites. So I suggest anyone wanting my opinion on matters unrelated to ritual or liturgy write me privately.