Why the Jews Reject­ed Jesus: The Turn­ing Point in West­ern History

David Kling­hof­fer
  • Review
By – August 15, 2012
Jour­nal­ist and author David Kling­hof­fer offers a bold approach to an age-old dis­pu­ta­tion between Chris­tians and Jews in the form of an his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive. Some­what in reac­tion to Mel Gibson’s movie, The Pas­sion of the Christ,” but equal­ly in response to the neg­a­tive Jew­ish reac­tion to its depic­tion of Jews reject­ing Jesus and con­spir­ing in his death con­vic­tion, Kling­hof­fer seeks to set the record straight. He does so fol­low­ing a rel­a­tive­ly tra­di­tion­al line of Jew­ish argu­men­ta­tion, but adding sev­er­al new insights and seek­ing to turn upside down the usu­al judg­ments of the out­come. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the vil­lain in his sto­ry is not Jesus or his Jew­ish con­tem­po­raries, friend or foe, but Paul, who (is sup­posed to have) renounced the role of Torah and thus cre­at­ed a reli­gion that was no longer a Jew­ish sect, but one pre­pared to become the reli­gion of the mass­es in a man­ner for which Judaism was not designed, accord­ing to Kling­hof­fer. But that devel­op­ment had unfore­seen ben­e­fits. Had it remained a Jew­ish sect instead, Kling­hof­fer argues, the move­ment would have dis­ap­peared like many oth­er Jew­ish move­ments: There would be no Chris­tian­i­ty, no Chris­t­ian Europe, and no West­ern civ­i­liza­tion as we know it.” Hence, he con­cludes, the most enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly Chris­t­ian coun­try on earth and the most tol­er­ant and good­heart­ed in his­to­ry,” the Unit­ed States, is the fruit of the Jew­ish rejec­tion of Jesus.” Clever, but in my opin­ion, by advanc­ing this approach, Kling­hof­fer unin­ten­tion­al­ly attrib­ut­es to Chris­tian­i­ty norms and val­ues (such as tol­er­ance and good-heart­ed­ness in the sen­tence cit­ed!) that Judaism cham­pi­ons. Indeed, Chris­tian­i­ty express­es these norms pre­cise­ly because it was first a form of Judaism. It did not sep­a­rate from Judaism with Paul in the way Kling­hof­fer sup­pos­es to have been the case, but lat­er, and for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Well-mean­ing and well-writ­ten, this is an impor­tant book for any­one inter­est­ed in the top­ic of Chris­t­ian ori­gins and the his­to­ry of Jew­ish and Chris­t­ian rela­tions, includ­ing con­tem­po­rary devel­op­ments. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index.
Mark D. Nanos, Ph.D., Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas, is the author of Mys­tery­of Romans, win­ner of the 1996 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, Charles H. Revson­Award in Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian Relations.

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