Page 232 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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arship. Its goal was to establish the true image o f the historical
Jesus which, it believed, had been distorted by the Church, Cath­
olic and Protestant. The noted Bible critic, Julius Wellhausen,
stated: “Jesus was not a Christian: he was a Jew. He did not
preach a new faith but taught men to do the will o f God.”4
Some nineteenth century Jewish views demonstrate the inter­
play o f d ifferen t aspects o f Jewish attitudes. Moses
Mendelssohn, who adopted a defensive position because of
Lavater’s missionary challenge in 1769, cautiously affirmed that
he felt a sense of respect for Jesus. He qualified this, however,
by saying that he would have to withdraw this respect in case
the founder (of Christianity) would be said to possess the quality
of a being sharing in God’s nature (divinity).5 The Orthodox
rabbi from Livorno, Italy, Elia Benamoseg (1822-1900), wrote
in his
Israel and Humanity,
posthumously published (Paris, 1914):
“Jesus never wanted to found a new school or religion, nor
did he have the slightest notion o f the religious movement which
came into being much later in his name.6 Rabbi Isaac Mayer
Wise (1819-1900), the noted American Reform rabbi, saw more
in Jesus and termed him a nationalistic patriot: “Jesus of
Nazareth was not the founder of Christianity. He was a Pharisaic
scribe and a Jewish patriot who was firmly resolved to free his
homeland from the claws of a bloody tyranny . . . ”7The Reform
rabbi, H.G. Enelow (1877-1934), waxed rhapsodic on the spiritual
significance of Jesus: “He has become the most fascinating figure
in history. In him is combined what is best and most mysterious
and most enchanting in Israel . . . The Jew cannot help glorying
in what Jesus thus has meant to the world . . . ”8
4. Julius Wellhausen,
Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien
(Berlin, 1905), 113,
cited in Klausner,
op. cit.,
5. Alexander Altmann,
Moses Mendelssohn, A Biographical Study
1973), 204.
6. Pinhas Lapide,
Israelis, Jews and Jesus,
(New York: Doubleday, 1979), 112.
7. I.M. Wise,
Three Lectures on the Origins of Christianity
(Cincinnati, 1883), cited
in Lapide, 114-115 ; cf. idem,
The Martyrdom ofJesus of Nazareth
8. H.G. Enelow,
A Jewish View ofJesus
(New York, 1920), 181, cited in Lapide,