Page 233 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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KLAUSNER’S VIEW
Writing from a nationalistic point of view, Joseph Klausner,
a Zionist historian, could be both critical and enthusiastic about
Jesus. Klausner affirmed that, though Jesus was the most Jewish
of Jews, more than Hillel, his Judaism was exaggerated and
destructive o f nationalism. However, he remains for the Jewish
people a great teacher of morality and an artist in parable. In
his ethical code there is a sublimity, distinctiveness and orig­
inality in a form unparalleled in any other Hebrew ethical code.
I f the wrappings of miracles and mysticism could some day be
removed, “the Book of the Ethics of Jesus will be one of the
choicest treasures in the literature of Israel for all time.”9
Some Jews have been able to abstract, so to speak, the moral,
Jewish Jesus from the history of Christian-Jewish relations and
have held him up as a Jewish model. Others, however, have
been intellectually and emotionally unable to make that distinc­
tion because they see the image of Jesus and the Christian world
as closely intertwined and because of so much bitter experi­
ence.10 The tension between the two approaches was exempli­
fied by the well known controversy over the work of the Yiddish
(and extensively translated into English) novelist Sholem Asch
(1880-1957). He was a gifted and prolific writer who depicted
many different historical landscapes in Jewish history. When
he became interested in the relations between Jews and Chris­
tianity he wrote several novels on this theme and an apologia.
Asch was bitterly attacked by the journalist Abraham Cahan,
who demanded that he immediately stop writing
The Nazarene,
and by Chaim Lieberman, who denounced
The Nazarene
as “an
obvious missionary tract . . . a deadly crime against the Jewish
people.” Asch, to the end of his days, protested that he was
a loyal Jew, yet his admiration for Jesus was profound. He
wrote: “As a Jew, I believe with all my heart that many chapters
and parables [in the New Testament] were written in the holy
9. J . Klausner,
op. cit.,
408 -412 ; 414 . This view did not go unchallenged. One
response was that of Ephraim Deinard in his book
Herev Ladonay u ’le-Yisrael
(St. Louis, 1922/23) and another by J.D . Eisenstein. Both views are pre­
sented in the latter’s
Otsar Vikkuhim,
372-380 .
10. A combining o f the two aspects, a recognition of the Jewishness of Jesus
and a condemnation o f the anti-Semitism which led to Auschwitz is to be
found in Jules Isaac,
Jesus and Israel
(New York, Chicago and San Francisco:
1971).
WALDMAN /GLIMPSES OF JESUS IN YIDDISH AND HEBREW LITERATURE
225