I never expected to be in the middle of a public dispute between three Orthodox Jewish rabbis, a dispute that involves the banning of a book about Jesus, and one that is being played out in the Huffington Post. The Post, on its part, chose not to publish my column that corrected some of the misinformation written about me. So much for journalist ethics.
Rabbi #1. Over the last decade, I have developed a close friendship with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the man hailed by Newsweek as “America’s most famous rabbi.” What makes the friendship unique is that the friendship has been developed in the midst of more than twenty intense debates we have had on whether Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, from the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan to a famous lecture hall in Oxford, England.
Obviously, I have taken the “yes” position and Rabbi Shmuley the “no” position, and, in keeping with our differing viewpoints, Shmuley insists on referring to me as a “Jew who converted to Christianity,” a description that I reject to the core of my Jewish soul. (Simply stated, if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, believing in him does not constitute converting to a different religion.)
Here is where the plot thickens. Partly inspired by our debates, Shmuley wrote a book entitled Kosher Jesus, and it has caused a firestorm of controversy in the traditional Jewish community, as a number of prominent rabbis have expressed their concern that it will encourage Jews to read the New Testament and find out more about Jesus. For traditional Jews, that is not a happy proposition, especially given the 1,500 year history of the sometimes bloody, “Christian” persecution of Jews.
As expected, I am frequently targeted by Shmuley in his book, albeit in a friendly and respectful manner. At his request, I wrote an endorsement for Kosher Jesus while at the same time expressing my profound disagreements with it, finding the book far more offensive for traditional Christians than for traditional Jews. Interestingly, I have already read posts by other rabbis saying that if I’m endorsing the book, it must not be good for Jews!
Rabbi #2. Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet is a world class scholar of Jewish mysticism and philosophy, a famed opponent of Jewish believers in Jesus, and a member of the Lubavitch Hasidic Jewish community, one with which Shmuley has close ties.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.