Monday, April 12, 2010

Martin Buber on Jesus

4/12/2010—Just because I don’t think the answer to the future resides in our religions, doesn’t mean that there is nothing potentially world-altering there. One such development would be the reform of Islam. Another would be the reform of Judaism through a serious consideration of Jesus’ message.

Whatever else one might say of Jesus, it seems clear that he was preaching something new in terms of Judaism. Not something so radically new that it would have been regarded as a new religion—Jesus was not a heretic. Indeed, heresy in the first century had more to do with cooperation with Rome than with religious beliefs. In any event, Jesus was popular among the generally conservative peasants of the region. He was not a Christian.

Just what Jesus’ message was is something scholars are working on now. But, a more fundamental question is whether it is legitimate to look to Jesus for future developments in Judaism. Most Jews would say no. But Martin Buber said yes.

Here is a quote from Buber that I saw today: “From my youth onwards I have found in Jesus my great brother. That Christianity has regarded and does regard him as God and Savior has always appeared to me a fact of the highest importance which, for his sake and my own, I must endeavor to understand….My own fraternally open relationship to him has grown ever stronger and clearer, and today I see him more strongly and clearly than ever before. I am more than ever certain that a great place belongs to him in Israel’s history of faith and that this place cannot be described by an of the usual categories.”

Buber knew what he was suggesting. There is something here greater than the prophets. Jesus was not some reforming preacher. He was that, of course, but he was more. Jesus was touched by the divine in some unfathomable sense. Those Jews among us, like myself, who first encountered Jesus later in life, know what a thunderbolt he was. He was Torah walking around. Why should Jews not consider that? Not with the kind of literalness that afflicts the group, Jews for Jesus, but as something quite dramatic and world changing.

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