Stated simply, the Jewish view of Jesus of Nazareth is that he was an ordinary Jewish man and preacher living during the Roman occupation of the Holy Land in the first century C.E. The Romans executed him - and also executed many other nationalistic and religious Jews - for speaking out against Roman authority and abuses.
Was Jesus the Messiah According to Jewish Beliefs?
After the death of Jesus, his followers - at the time a small sect of former Jews known as the Nazarenes - claimed he was the Messiah prophesied in Jewish texts and that he would soon return to fulfill the acts required of the Messiah. The majority of contemporary Jews rejected this belief and Judaism as a whole continues to do so today. Eventually, Jesus became the focal point of a small Jewish religious movement that would evolve into the Christian faith.
Jews do not believe that Jesus was divine, the Son of God, or the Messiah prophesied in Jewish scriptures. He is seen as a "false messiah," meaning someone who claimed (or whose followers claimed for him) the mantle of the Messiah but who ultimately did not meet the requirements laid out in Jewish beliefs. According to Jewish scripture and belief, the true Messiah (pronounced "moshiach" in Hebrew) must meet the following requirements. He must:
- Be an observant Jewish man descended from the house of King David
- Be an ordinary human being (as opposed to the Son of God)
- Bring peace to the world
- Gather all Jews back into Israel
- Rebuild the ancient Temple in Jerusalem
- Unite humanity in the worship of the Jewish God and Torah observance
Because Jesus did not meet these requirements, from the Jewish perspective he was not the Messiah.
Messianic Claims Associated with Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth was one of many Jews throughout history who attempted to directly or indirectly lay claim to being the Messiah. Given the difficult social climate under Roman occupation and persecution during the era in which Jesus lived, it is not hard to understand why so many Jews longed for a time of peace and freedom. The most famous of Jewish false messiahs in ancient times was Simon bar Kochba, who led the initially successful but ultimately disastrous revolt against the Romans in 132 C.E., which led to the near annihilation of Judaism in the Holy Land at the hands of the Romans. Bar Kochba claimed to be the Messiah and was even anointed by the prominent Rabbi Akiva, but after bar Kochba died in the revolt the Jews of his time rejected him as another false messiah since he did not fulfill the requirements of the true Messiah.
Jesus in Jewish History
While Christianity has had and continues to have a major impact on Jews and Judaism, Jesus is not seen as a major figure in Jewish history. Nevertheless, Jews do not actively seek to refute Christian teachings as Judaism teaches respect for all peoples and their faiths. Over the centuries, the question of why Jews did not and do not accept Jesus as divine has forced Jewish theologians to respond to Christian claims about Jesus, particularly those that use Jewish belief and the Hebrew bible (Tanach) to justify their claims.