Pope Benedict finds this a penetrating question. "The issue that is really at the heart of the debate," he writes, "is thus finally laid bare. Jesus understands himself as the Torah--as the word of God in person." In other words, Jesus claims to speak with a divine authority. If Jesus is God, then obviously he has the right to say what the old law really means. So ultimately Jesus confronts us with the choice of accepting or rejecting his claim to divinity.
In the January issue of First Things, a Jewish writer Meir Soloveichik takes Rabbi Neusner to task for his admiring words about Jesus. Soloveichik charges that Neusner, despite his denials, seems to accept the divinity of Christ. Why? Here Soloveichik borrows a famous argument from C.S. Lewis. Lewis argued that since Christ claimed to be God, either he was speaking the truth or he was an astounding liar. Lewis insisted that Christ does not give us the option of considering him a great and wise human teacher. Rather, Christ compels us to take him at his word that he is the son of God, or rather reject him as an impostor and a fraud.
Soloveichik goes with the latter option, as indeed he says all Jews must. "If we deny Christ's divinity," he writes, "then we can respond with nothing short of shock and dismay when we read the words of a man who puts himself in the place of God." Yet Soloveichik notes that this is not Neusner's reaction. Neusner treats Christ with deep respect; yet who can have respect for a liar? Neusner writes as a friend of Christ; yet who can befriend an impostor and fraud? Soloveichik concludes that "even as Neusner argues that Jesus is mistaken about his divinity and authority, it follows from much that Neusner has written that Jesus must be God."
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