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Maimonides (Rambam) on Jesus and Mohamed and why G-d has allowed religions they founded to spread

May 5, 2014

rambam3In his Mishneh Torah Maimonides (Rambam) delves into Jesus’ failed attempt to “fulfill the vision” as a would be messiah, speculates on what could be behind G-d’s permitting both Christianity and Islam to take over the world, in particular how G-d may be using these false religions to prepare the world for the true Jewish Messiah and the real redemption of humanity:

“Jesus of Nazareth who aspired to be the Moshiach and was executed by the court was also spoken of in Daniel’s prophecies [Daniel 11:14], “The renegades among your people shall exalt themselves in an attempt to fulfill the vision, but they shall stumble.

Can there be a greater stumbling block than [Christianity]? All the prophets spoke of Moshiach as the redeemer of Israel and their savior, who would gather their dispersed ones and strengthen their [observance of] the mitzvos. In contrast [the founder of Christianity] caused the Jews to be slain by the sword, their remnants to be scattered and humiliated, the Torah to be altered, and the majority of the world to err and serve a god other than the L-rd.

Nevertheless, the intent of the Creator of the world is not within the power of man to comprehend, for [to paraphrase Yeshayahu 55:8] His ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts. [Ultimately,] all the deeds of Jesus of Nazareth and that Ishmaelite [i.e. Mohammed] who arose after him will only serve to pave the way for the coming of Moshiach and for the improvement of the entire world, [motivating the nations] to serve G-d together, as it is written [Zephaniah 3:9], “I will make the peoples pure of speech so that they will all call upon the Name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose.

How will this come about? [meaning, in the future, not that the nations which follow these religions already serve G-d] The entire world has already become filled with talk of [the supposed] Messiah, as well as of the Torah and the mitzvos. These matters have been spread among many spiritually insensitive nations, who discuss these matters as well as the mitzvos of the Torah. Some of them [i.e. the Christians] say: “These commandments were true, but are not in force in the present age; they are not applicable for all time.” Others [i.e. the Moslems] say: “Implied in the commandments are hidden concepts that cannot be understood simply; the Messiah has already come and revealed them.”

When the true Messiah king will arise and prove successful, his [position becoming] exalted and uplifted, they will all return and realize that their ancestors endowed them with a false heritage; their prophets and ancestors cause them to err.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Steph permalink
    May 5, 2014 7:41 am

    If Jesus was a false messiah, then why is there no temple? How can you explain the rising of the Jesus body after death? How can you explain when Jesus said the temple would be destroyed, with no stone left on another (it was a pretty large building) and then the prophesy came true?

  2. May 5, 2014 9:13 am

    Dear Steph… thanks for stopping by. Let see if I can answer your questions in brief:

    1. “If Jesus was a false messiah, then why is there no temple?”

    Because Romans destroyed it. However, the prophets already foretold that there will be a long time, “many days”, when Israel will live without a Temple, until the coming of the true Messiah:

    For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods (that is, without their former idolatry.) (Hosea 3:4)

    We also know, again, from the prophets, that one day the Temple will be rebuilt and its services resumed, including sacrifices. In that Temple, the messianic era Jewish king will bring sin sacrifices.

    2. “How can you explain the rising of the Jesus body after death?”

    It never happened – it’s part of the Christian myth. Is it not convenient that according to the gospels themselves the resurrected Jesus only appeared to the close circle of his disciples? Also, NOBODY, according to the gospels themselves, witnessed the resurrection itself. Also, the book of Luke (written by a non-witness to the events decades later) tells us that when the resurrected Jesus supposedly did appear, the disciples didn’t recognize him as being the man they knew (until he “opened” their eyes) and the Gospel of John tell us that some of his disciples doubted that it was him. So much confusion! Consider how clear and not hidden Moses’ miracles were!

    This how most religions got their start – only the select few saw the “visions” and the “miracles” (look up Mormonism, for example, and consider that many Mormons, including the founder, died for their faith). Why not appear to the people who executed him, or to the rest of Israel? Why let the “in crowd” to see “proofs”, while accusing others of disbelieving? Compare it to the great miracles that Moses performed before both Israelites and the Egyptians to confirm his legitimacy.

    3. “How can you explain when Jesus said the temple would be destroyed, with no stone left on another (it was a pretty large building) and then the prophesy came true?”

    Who wrote down those words of Jesus? Certainly not Jesus. We know that all gospels were written many decades later, and not even by his immediate disciples, but anonymously. (Mark, for example, was not one of Jesus’ disciples and Luke admits that he was simply recording the stories he gathered). Matthew takes most of Mark almost verbatim and simply adds his own stuff. Most scholars agree that John was written close to the end of first century. Also, there is evidence of interpolations and later edits by the church.

    We know that Paul’s writings were written before the gospels. With that in mind, consider this example of later addition by the church scribes. Here, decades before Rome sacked Jerusalem and before the destruction of the Temple and dispersion of the Jewish people, Paul is speaking in past tense as if Jews were “already” punished by G-d for their rejection of Jesus:

    You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone.in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.(1 Thessalonians 2:14-16)

    What wrath were these Jews experiencing in Paul’s day? Paul died years before the Temple was destroyed. For this reason, many NT scholars believe that the above calumny in Thessalonians was a later addition by antisemitic church scribes.

  3. John Dietrich permalink
    September 6, 2015 12:10 pm

    I’m Pennsylvania Dutch and my next-door neighbor was Jewish. We were talking about the Messiah one day, and after I had explained the Christian teaching, he said, in his wonderful New York accent, “Look, I don’t understand the whole thing, but I can tell you this: When Moshiach comes, I am going to ask him, ‘Is this your foyst or second visit?'”
    I laughed till I had tears in my eyes.

  4. September 6, 2015 9:06 pm

    John, I think that the whole question about Messiah’s identify obscures a far more grave problem that Jews and their fellow monotheistic Gentiles have with Christianity, and that is Christianity’s worship of a mere mortal man (Jesus) as god, which is idolatry and certainly no laughing matter. The Hebrew Bible describes that shame that all the nations will feel when their idolatry is finally exposed.

  5. September 8, 2015 3:47 pm

    I’m loosing it. I feel I speak in an other language when it comes to messiah. And it’s me who sees nothing (according to my messianic friends and family). Man, supposedly I find excuses and don’t want to open my !#$@ eyes. Supposedly, Jesus was a king, gimmy a break. “My kingdom is not of this world”. But that’s not enough, he is the great Gazoo in the sky, and that’s a proof that he is the Messiah? He was born in Betlehem, was he ever a ruler? Yes, for sure, he rules over Satan in the 5th heaven or somewhere nobody can see. But again I am blind and for the unbeliever everything is impure, and that’s me! because I have demons and I am a pagan!

  6. September 8, 2015 7:57 pm

    Remi…. What does the NT say about a prophet not being accepted in his own town and by his own:)?

  7. KAVI permalink
    September 8, 2015 11:43 pm

    Indeed, Yeshua is just repeating the facts– so, including with Moses and going forward, how many prophets were not persecuted or even killed?

    Given this history of persecution, and knowing He Himself would be put to death by His own kinsmen at the hands of the Romans, why did Yeshua weep over His brethren saying,

    Ω “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes” [Luke 19:41-42]

    And earlier Luke records Yeshua likewise deeply hurt by rejection,
    Ω “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” [Luke 13:34]

    Perhaps I am missing something– but does not these words of Yeshua sound like someone who truly loves the children of Abraham?

  8. Jim D. permalink
    September 9, 2015 2:37 pm

    I like John’s story — it gave me a chuckle. His neighbor was telling him in a good humored and diplomatic way that he doesn’t believe Jesus was the messiah. That much he knew for sure, but he didn’t want to get into a protracted theological debate that would likely go on and on without resolution (like what we experience with Kavi). “Agree to disagree” is an excellent way to keep good neighborly relations.

  9. September 9, 2015 2:57 pm

    ” “Agree to disagree” is an excellent way to keep good neighborly relations.”

    Absolutely, Jim. These days, in my offline relationships I live and let be. The only time I talk to Christian neighbors and friends about theology or my Judaism is when they ask my opinion directly… which actually happens a lot, because it seems that a lot of people are fed up with BS:)

  10. Concerned Reader permalink
    September 10, 2015 8:29 am

    What grinds my gears is this. If Christians have their experiential and cultural reasons to believe in Jesus, then fine, live and let live. However, Christians really need to see that Judaism and Jews have valid and vital information to contribute to Christianity as a religion.

    Christians have no idea just how much a deeper knowledge of Judaism’s ORAL TRADITIONS could actually enrich their own traditional understanding of Jesus’ words. Why for example, did Jesus wear phylacteries (tzittzit?) Why does he rip on the Pharisees, but then also declare that “they sit on Moses’ seat?”

    How does Jesus’ proof to the Sadducees for the legitimacy of the resurrection doctrine in Mathew 22 make any sense on the basis of the Tanakh’s texts alone?

    The Sadducees use the scriptural laws of levirate marriage (Yibum) to ask, “which wife will a man be with in the ressurection?” Jesus responds with a homiletic explanation by saying, “people will not be given in marriage for they shall be like the Angels!” Where does this homiletical assumption of Jesus’ spring from based on the canonical Jewish halachic scripture alone?

    Jesus then says, “have you not seen what is written, “I am the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, G-d is therefore the G-d of the living and not of the dead.” How is this not an eisogetical reasoning on Jesus’ part?

    Any rabbi will know the source of Jesus’ homily regarding the patriarchs’ unique status as “living,” because it is almost identical to what is found in the midrashim regarding Jacob, namely, the dictum: “Jacob our father did not die.” Jesus is using the same exact style and form of rabbinic argument found in the Talmud and midrash to prove that the doctrine of the resurrection comes from G-d. Yet, the Christians are always demeaning Judaism for the oral Torah? Jesus’ entire messianic self understanding is NOT based on anything but orally derived traditional assumptions/speculations, and on how Jesus uniquely interpreted these common Pharisaic assumptions and aggadic traditions. Without Aggadah, there could be no Christian messiah. How do they miss this?

  11. Jim D. permalink
    September 10, 2015 11:47 am

    There’s a book waiting for you to write, CR..

  12. September 10, 2015 11:53 am

    CR, you believe in the “Jewish” Jesus, I believe in the European one… Blond hair, blue eyes, a halo on the head, one finger up, the pinky twisted in a weird way and laying in the bosom of his mother Mary. LOL

  13. Concerned Reader permalink
    September 10, 2015 3:27 pm

    2000 years ago (earth time ) Captain James T. Kirk aboard the star ship enterprise has witnessed a horrible accident with one of his crewmen.

    It appears that an Ashkenazi crewman, one Joshua josephson, AKA red shirt number 3, has been transformed into an infant.

    Kirk: “Oh no, not another mark on my star fleet record.” “Aha! Scotty engage the transporter.”

    Scotty “Sir, it appears the beam has missed the coordinates you set.”

    Kirk “Where did he materialize Scotty?’

    Scotty “Sir…..your not gonna believe it!”

    Kirk “What is it Scotty?”

    Scotty “It’s crewman Josephson sir, he’s, he’s….”

    Kirk “What dammit what?”

    Scotty “He’s been beamed into a woman’s womb!”

    Kirk “Oh Jeez……Crap!”

    There you go Remi ;)

  14. September 10, 2015 5:00 pm

    Look at Joe’s face… he’s obviously not buying Mary’s “story”.

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