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Jesus the Jew the focus of rabbi’s talk

By James Buchok


WINNIPEG — There are those who believe that Jesus walked this earth, preached to the masses and performed the works described in the Gospels; they just don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus may have had a different mission from the one ascribed to him by Christians for the last 2,000 years, says a Winnipeg rabbi, who believes Jesus was more than a spiritual leader, but also a political figure “who could lead a revolt against Rome.”

Rabbi Alan Green, senior rabbi at Congregation Shaarey Zedek, presented the second in a three-part series on Jesus the Jew, March 14 at the synagogue.

“I say with the greatest respect I’m a fan of the Jesus mission on earth and I love Christian music and architecture, it’s part of the beauty we have created on earth,” said Green.

The series was presented by Winnipeg’s Bat Kol committee made up of representatives from the archdioceses of Winnipeg and St. Boniface and the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Winnipeg. Bat Kol is a training program for Christians to study the Bible, within its Jewish milieu, using Jewish sources.

“Scripture can never be read as straight information,” said Green. “It is written in a way to be grasped by many people, over generations, so there are distortions.”

For example, said Green, in some Jewish sources, the Red Sea is called the Reed Sea. Did the Jewish slaves escaping pharaoh follow Moses through a parting in a raging sea?

“Maybe those Israelites crossed a swamp,” said Green.

He spoke of Rabbi Maimonides who wrote in the 1100s of “ ‘a king who will be a great one, his name and reputation will be known and all countries will serve him.’ Not so different from the Christian view. We share a vision of the Messianic era; we all desire the same thing, peace on earth.”

Green said an important question about the life of Jesus is where did Jesus fit into a Jewish society of Pharisees, Sadducees and zealots.

“The zealots were extremists who would kill those who didn’t believe as they did,” Green said. “Sadducees were aristocrats. They were wealthy and held powerful positions. They worked hard to keep the peace by agreeing with the decisions of Rome. They thought, ‘Rome is good, we’ll all be given rewarding positions.’ ”

The Pharisees, said Green, “were the people’s party, the forerunners of rabbis. The Pharisees were held in much higher esteem by the common man than were the Sadducees. The evidence is that Jesus was a Pharisee,” but he also bitterly denounced them.

In Green’s view, Jesus was a rabbi and knew the Torah, the central reference of Judaism made up of the first five books of the Christian Old Testament, and Jesus’ teachings reflect the earliest Jewish sources.

“A central text of Rabbinic Judaism is the saying ‘plank in the eye,’ just as in Matthew 7:3,” Green said. “Some of Jesus’ most memorable teachings — the Golden Rule, loving one’s enemies, ‘look at the lilies and how they grow’ — none but a well-trained Pharisaic rabbi or a classically trained rabbinical scholar could teach that. But the Gospel writers and editors distanced themselves from Judaism.”

Green believes in Jesus’ miracles, and, he said, “the miracles Jesus performed were the same ones performed by Elijah and Elisha, two of the most well-known prophets of Israel. The Talmud is full of great rabbis raising the dead. I see Jesus in this line of prophets who had the same miraculous powers. The Jewish idea is that any one of us could have these characteristics.”

Green said a Jew can believe in Jesus, without believing Jesus is the Son of God. “Jesus said ‘no one comes to the father except through me.’ As a Jew, I believe that means ‘no one comes to the father unless they are like me.’ ”

There are Bat Kol groups around the world, including the Philippines, South Africa, India, the United States, Australia, Ireland and Brazil.

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