Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jewish attitudes toward Jesus in history

Jewish Perceptions of Jesus in Religious Texts and Artistic Works
Bennett Muraskin
Jewish Currents, Spring 2010

Most of this information is new to me. Christian slanders against Jews are legendary. Jewish resentment against Christians is understandable. I never knew of any particular Jewish hostility to Jesus, though. Apparently, there's a long history of this from about half way through the second century AD through the Middle Ages. This I found absolutely hilarious:
Throughout the Middle Ages, European Jews generally continued to revile Jesus, albeit secretly. They would bring images of Jesus and Mary into their outhouses. Jesus was called Yoyzl or Yoshke Pandrek, which means “Mr. Shit.” They would treat Haman as a proxy for Jesus during Purim, hanging an effigy on a cross and burning it. Michael Wex’s acclaimed Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods (2006) provides numerous examples of Yiddish expressions that mocked Jesus and Christian beliefs well into the 20th century.
The fun had to end sometime:
However, the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskole) of the 18th and 19th centuries effected a sea change in attitudes towards the figure of Jesus among liberal and secular Jews.
The author documents praise of Jesus from Heinrich Graetz in the 19th century to Buber and Einstein in the 20th. Jewish artists like Chagall and Jacob Epstein also used the Jewish Jesus as a weapon against Christian anti-Semitism and to promote peace and justice. Several Yiddish writers capitalized on Jesus' martyrdom. Sholem Asch made a decisive impact but also caught a lot of flack with his popular Yiddish novel The Nazarene in 1939. Matthew Hoffman in Rebel to Rabbi: Reclaiming Jesus and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture (2007) judged "the Jewish reclamation of Jesus" an important contribution to secular Jewish culture.

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