Sunday, 1 July 2012
Glatt Kosher Jesus!
I’m trying to think of something in current parlance to describe Michael Brown’s The Real Kosher Jesus. I could say it’s cool, it kicks, it rocks or it’s awesome but instead I’ll just say it is a brilliant piece of work in every sense of the word except the writing style. It’s probably just me but I find Mike’s attempt to be really simple verges at times on being patronising. Apart from that and the inexcusably poor cover design (which is not Mike’s fault), I have nothing but praise for his response to Rabbi Shmuely Boteach’s Kosher Jesus. As a self-publicist, Rabbi Boteach can run rings round Mike but in terms of intellect, courtesy to his opponents as well as physical stature, Mike is head and shoulders above Shmuely and most other people.
Because it is so simply written and because I was aware of quite a bit of the book’s contents, I read it quickly. In had expected a kind of page-by-page, statement-by-statement to Kosher Jesus and was a little disappointed that Mike didn’t take that line. However, he does in fact do that briefly but effectively in Appendix B, after laying a rock solid foundation in the first 15 chapters.
Alone amongst those who endorse the book, Boteach attempts to damn Brown with faint praise: ‘. . . while his arguments are utterly futile against my intellectual onslaught, you have to give him credit for trying.’ The fact is that in every chapter of the book Mike Brown sets forth arguments that expose the biblical, historical, intellectual and logical fallacies and errors on which Boteach’s Kosher Jesus is constructed. ‘Shmuley has manufactured a Jesus-Yeshua that never was,’ says Brown, ‘a fictional character no closer to reality than the European, blue-eyed, blond-haired version sometimes seen in media and art.’
Though Boteach claims to have rescued Jesus from the Christians by reconstructing him as a Roman-hating, freedom fighting national hero, as Brown points out, ‘Shmuley’s depiction of Jesus as an armed freedom fighter is not only untrue, but it is also downright pathetic: Shmuley’s Jesus was totally deceived. Such a leader should be pitied, not praised. It would be like Moses really believing that God called him to challenge Pharaoh to “Let my people go,” only to find out he was wrong— dead wrong—with disastrous consequences for his people, not to mention certain execution for him. (And would we be honoring the memory of Moses if he led our nation into the Red Sea really believing that God would part the waters for them, only to watch them drown?)’
With regard to Boteach’s hatchet job on Paul in Kosher Jesus, Brown concludes: ‘The theory espoused by Maccoby and Rabbi Boteach not only strains credulity but also insults it.’
In 'Section III: From Kosher Jesus to Unkosher Christianity?' Brown deals with some of the great theological stumbling blocks that prevent Jewish people from embracing Jesus as Messiah. In Chapter 9, Brown conclusively demonstrates from Jewish sources that the concept of God becoming man is entirely consistent not only with the Hebrew Scriptures but also with mainstream Judaism.
He quotes the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Boteach’s Rebbe, who taught that the Hebrew word echad (one) in the Shema (Shema Yisroel, Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad) did not pertain to unique singularity. According to Rabbi Schneerson, ‘Chassidic teaching explains that . . . echad represents a deeper unity than yachid. Yachid is a oneness that cannot tolerate plurality—if another being or element is introduced into the equation, the yachid is no longer yachid. Echad, on the other hand, represents the fusion of diverse elements into a harmonious whole. The oneness of echad is not undermined by plurality; indeed, it employs plurality as the ingredients of unity.’
In the following two chapters, Brown deals with the concept of a suffering Messiah and reveals the long-established tradition within Judaism that the life of the righteous has the power to atone. Anyone who, after reading Chapter 11, maintains that neither Judaism nor the Bible knows of the righteous dying for the wicked has either not understood the chapter or is simply denying the facts.
In a real sense, what you will find in The Real Kosher Jesus is the essence of Brown’s 5-volume Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. If that series is too heavy or too expensive, get The Real Kosher Jesus. If the 5-volume series is Mike’s Hizzuk Emunah (Faith Strengthened), The Real Kosher Jesus is his Moreh Nevukhim (Guide for the Perplexed). Not only is it invaluable for strengthening the faith of Gentile Christians and Messianic Jews, it is ideal for giving to Jewish people who really want to know whether Jesus is the Messiah. Buy it from Amazon here.