Is Jesus the Messiah of Judaism?

The title of this article, “Is Jesus the Messiah of Judaism?” is also the title of the fourth of the four classes in our Gathering sessions this year. That class will be held on Wednesday, March 21, at 6:20. (The Gathering classes begin/began this week, February 29, and then continue on March 7, March 14, and end on March 21.)  Whether Jesus is the Messiah of Judaism is, in one sense, a question of history. In Jesus’ time, what were the expectations Jewish people had of a Messiah: from their Bible (roughly our Old Testament) and their interpretation of it? Did Jesus fulfill those expectations? Did he, or his followers, re-define them? If so, how? We will deal with those questions in that class. 

But the issue is not just one of history. There are contemporary ramifications to our answer. Some people believe that Jesus was the Messiah of Judaism; and that because the Jews mostly rejected Jesus as Messiah (and continue to do so today), they are not a true religion and we do not have to respect them and their religion. Some of the readings for the class will deal with that issue.
In a magazine I receive, “The Christian Century,” there is a review of a book entitled Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir. The book was written by Robert Jay Lifton, whom the reviewer, Karl Stevens, a writer and Episcopal priest, calls a psychologist of war and violence. Because I have been thinking about this class for our Gathering series, I took special note of this review, and I’d like to share just a little bit of it with you. Perhaps this excerpt will encourage some of us to read the book.
 
Near the end of his memoir, Robert Lifton writes about Victor T., a Jewish doctor who had been an inmate at Auschwitz.  While at Auschwitz he acted heroically, tending to patients in one of the camps infirmaries and often endangering his own life in order to save theirs. Yet when Lifton went to interview Dr. T. in the late 1970s, he found that he was haunted by his actions at Auschwitz, critical of himself for perceived failures and for things he did in order to survive. Lifton had witnessed this same self-criticism in an American soldier who had refused to participate in the My Lai massacre. He began to discern a link between the capacity to be self-critical and the capacity to resist evil. It was one of the more startling insights that he gained in a lifetime of studying evil and atrocity.
Lifton has spent his career interviewing people who participated in traumatic historical events and trying to understand how cultural, governmental and religious forces can manipulate and change a person over time – and how some people can resist…. Some of his essential insights from his earliest work followed him into subsequent studies of nuclear holocaust survivors in Hiroshima, Vietnam veterans, and German doctors who willingly served in concentration camps during World War II…. The Nazi doctors Lifton interviewed often lacked the ability to be self-critical, which seems to be a key component of morality. These doctors had divided themselves so they could be killers when in the camp but loving fathers and husbands when they went home on leave. When the daughter of one of those doctors asked Lifton whether a good man could do bad things, he responded simply, “Yes, but then he is no longer a good man.”  Lifton wasn’t arguing against redemption, but making a claim for moral coherence. People who are truly good strive to have the same morality in every situation and to subject themselves to the same moral scrutiny no matter the setting or circumstance.  
 
It sounds like an interesting book. Curt  
 

Posted on February 28, 2012 at 11:58 am in Featured Content.

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