This is an article by Pinchas Stolper published in Aryeh Kaplan‘s “The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries” (1985, NCSY), which I reproduce here (with minor syntactical corrections) with NCSY’s permission (granted on December 31, 2018).

In a laconic and rational style, Rabbi Stolper lays out his arguments in the form of premises listed as items supporting the “slap in the face” viewpoint that Jesus could not have possibly been the Jewish Messiah.

In a world constantly pestered by irking missionaries who promote ludicrous fables involving gods walking on water and cooking self-fulfilling prophecies with ancient Roman flavors, Rabbi Stolper’s essay is a vademecum for everyone wishing to shun missionaries in no time and see them off as they hold the sack.

The Missionaries claim that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies pertaining to the Messiah. The truth, however, is that he did not fulfill even one of the important prophecies. All the things that he fulfilled were in reality quite trivial.

Was Jesus the Messiah? Let’s Examine the Facts

by Pinchas Stolper

If Christians merely believed that Jesus was their messiah, this belief would be of little concern to us as Jews. Their claim, however, is not that he is the Christian Messiah, but our Messiah, the Messiah of the Jews, the Messiah foretold by the Jewish Prophets. Christians then attempt to prove this belief by quoting our Bible.3

Certain Christian missionary groups have now set up a front organization called “Jews for Jesus,” through which they entice naive Jews to Christianity with an old and discredited argument. “Don’t become a Christian,” they will argue, “remain a Jew,–however, while you remain a loyal Jew, accept Jesus as your ‘Messiah’.”

In view of the confusion created by the many false claims of missionary groups, Jews must be armed with the facts to substantiate our conviction that everything Christians claim for Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is false.

The following few “items” will point out some of the glaring discrepancies and inconsistencies in the missionaries’ arguments:–

Item:
The Jewish Messiah is to be a human being born naturally to husband and wife. He is not to be a god, nor a man born of supernatural or virgin birth, as the Christians claim.

Nowhere does our Bible say that the Messiah would be a god or G-d1-like. The very idea that G-d would take on human form is repulsive to Jews because it contradicts our concept of G-d as being above and beyond the limitations of the human body and situation. Jews believe that G-d alone is to be worshiped, not a being who is His creation, be he angel, saint, or even the Messiah himself.

Nowhere does the Bible predict that the Messiah will be born to a virgin. In fact, virgins never give birth anywhere in the Bible. This idea is to be found only in pagan mythology. To the Jewish mind, the very idea that G-d would plant a seed in a woman is unnecessary and unnatural. After all,–what is accomplished by this claim? What positive purpose does it serve? The claim that Mary did not have natural relations with her husband must have made the Jews of that time suspect her of wrong-doing. The New Testament (the Christian Bible) admits as much when it says (Matthew 1,19), “Then Joseph her (Mary’s) husband, being just a man, and not willing to shame her in public, decided to divorce her quietly.” The whole idea of virgin birth serves no purpose, except to attract pagans to Christianity.

Item:

The Jewish Messiah is expected to return the Jews to their land. Jesus was born while the Jews still lived in their land, before they had gone into exile. He could not restore them to their land because they were still living in it!
Item:

The true Messiah is to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem–but Jesus lived while the Temple was still standing.
Item:

The Jewish Bible says that the Messiah will redeem Israel. In the case of Jesus, the very opposite took place. Not long after his death, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, Jerusalem was laid to waste, and the Jews went into exile to begin a 1900-year-long night of persecution,–largely at the hands of the followers of this self-styled “Messiah”!
Item:

The Prophets in the Bible foretold (Isaiah 45 and Zafania 3) that when the Messiah comes, all the nations of the world will unite to acknowledge and worship the one true G-d. “The knowledge of G-d will fill the earth. The world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the seas” (Isaiah 11,9). Nothing of this nature tool place following the death of Jesus. On the contrary, Islam developed and became the religion of the Arabs and many other nations, Christianity broke up into many conflicting sects which were constantly at war with each other, and a large part of the world is far from the worship of one G-d.
Item:

When the true Messiah comes, his influence will extend over all peoples who will worship G-d at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Prophet says, “For My House will become the House of Prayer for all the Nations.” This has obviously not yet taken place, and, therefore, the Messiah has not yet come.

Soon after the time of Jesus, ignorance of G-d and even ignorance of science and philosophy filled the earth, as the “Dark Ages” overtook the world.

Item:

During the time of the Messiah a new spirit will rule the world, and man will cease committing sins and crimes; this will especially apply to the Jews. The Torah (in Deuteronomy 30,6) says that “G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your children to love G-d.” The Prophets taught: “And your people are all righteous, they will inherit the earth forever.” (Isaiah 60,21); “In that day, I will seek the sins of Israel and there will be none.” (Jeremiah 50,20); “I will give you a new heart and a new spirit–and you will obey my laws and commandments and do them.” (Ezekiel 36,21). Soon after the time of Jesus, ignorance of G-d and even ignorance of science and philosophy filled the earth, as the “Dark Ages” overtook the world.
Item:

The true Messiah is to reign as King of the Jews. Jesus’ career as described in the New Testament lasted all of three years, at the end of which he was crucified by the Romans as a common criminal. He never functioned as anything but a wandering preacher and “faith healer;” certainly, he held no official position or exercised any rule of any kind.
Item:

During the time of the Messiah, prophecy will return to the Jewish people and the presence of G-d will dwell amongst us. (Ezekiel 37,27); “And after that I will pour my spirit on all of mankind and your sons and daughters will prophesy.” These predictions, too, are yet to be fulfilled.
Item:

One of the Messiah’s major tasks is to bring peace to the entire world. In the time of the Messiah, there are to be no more wars, and the manufacture of arms will cease. The Prophet Isaiah (2,4) says, “And they shall beat their swords into plow shares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Yet, Christian nations are very war-like, and wars have been going on almost non-stop since the time of Jesus up to and including today.
Item:

The New Testament itself claims that the prophecies concerning the Messiah were to be realized in Jesus’ own generation. Mark (13,30) clearly says, “Truthfully I say unto you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.” In Matthew 4, Jesus is quoted as saying that “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” 2,000 years have passed and still nothing has been accomplished.
Item:

Nowhere does the Jewish Bible say that the Messiah would come once, be killed, and return again in a “second coming.” The idea of a second coming is a pure rationalization of Jesus’ failure to function in any way as a messiah, or to fulfill any of the prophecies of the Torah or the Prophets. The idea is purely a Christian invention, with no foundation in the Bible.
Item:

The Bible says that the Messiah would be descended in a direct line from King David. However, if G-d was Jesus’ “father,” is it not somewhat ridiculous to claim that he is descended from King David on his father’s side?
Item:

Why do some Missionaries insist on distorting the meaning of the words of the prophets in order to substantiate their claims? (An example: the Hebrew term in Isaiah “almah” which means a “young woman” is mistranslated as “virgin.”) Honest Christian scholars now acknowledge that this is “a pious fraud” and now (see the new Protestant “Revised Standard Version” of the Bible2) translate the word correctly. This is but one of many mistranslations or forced translations.
Item:

While on the cross Jesus is quoted as saying, “Forgive them Father, for they (they Jews) know not what they do.” Why do some Christians insist on persecuting the Jews if Jesus himself gave instructions to forgive them?

But further–if his rising from the dead was so crucial to demonstrate who he was, why did this take place in secret and not in the presence of his “thousands” of devotees?

Item:

Jesus claimed that he did not intend to change the Laws of Moses,–“Think not that I have come to abolish the Law (Torah) and the Prophets, I have come not to abolish them bu to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5). Later on, he himself abrogated some of the laws, while his followers eventually abolished or changed nearly all of them.

However, the Torah itself clearly states in many places that its laws are eternal, never to be abolished. And even the Christians acknowledge that the Jewish Bible is the word of G-d. If the Torah is eternal and Jesus himself claims to have no intention of abolishing or changing it, why do the Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday when G-d clearly calls the Saturday-Sabbath an Eternal Covenant? Why do Christians eat pig when the Torah forbids it? What reason can Christians give for not celebrating Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur which are clearly spelled out in the Torah? This same argument applies to hundreds of other Torah laws that are ignored by Christians.

On the other hand, Christians and Easter are not mentioned in either the Jewish Bible or the Christian “New Testament,”–these festivals are pagan in origin, adapted for Christian use. But Pesach, Sukkos and Shavuos are clearly spoken of in the Bible. On top of which, Jesus nowhere requests that the Biblical festivals no longer be observed.

Item:

Christians teach the philosophy of “turning the other cheek” and “loving your enemy.” Do you know of any Christian nations that live by this impractical ethic, or even take it seriously?
Item:

The many Christian statements about G-d being “Love” have been borrowed from the Jewish Bible and the Jewish religion. Among many such quotations from our Torah are: “Love thy neighbor as thyself”; “Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”; “And you shall love the L-rd1 thy G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

If G-d is “Love,” how can Christians explain the silence and indifference of the Church and most Christian nations while six million Jews were being gassed and burned by the Germans? Why the stone-like silence during the Six Day War? Where was Christina love during the Spanish Inquisition and the hundreds of pogroms inspired by priests and monks?

Item:

Judaism believes that G-d is eternal, above and beyond time. G-d cannot be born, He cannot die, He cannot suffer, He cannot “become flesh”, nor can He be divided into sections. (“Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost”) These are pagan notions. Certainly no “G-d” or “Son of G-d” could have called out on the cross, as Jesus is supposed to have said, “My G-d, my G-d, why have you abandoned me?” If he was G-d’s son, he would at least have said, “My father…”
Item:

If Jesus was really the Messiah, why does the New Testament admit that all the rabbis of the time, without one exception, rejected his claim? Why was there not one man of learning, nor one prominent leader who accepted him?
Item:

If Jesus was the Messiah, why did the overwhelming majority of his own people, the Jews living at that time, reject him? Why did his followers consist of a handful of people, almost all of whom were poorly educated? Why did his own family turn against him?

Who was in a position to judge if he was or was not the Messiah–his own people, who anxiously awaited the arrival of the Messiah, or pagan peoples who had no understanding of what the concept really meant?

Item:

Jesus commanded his disciples to preach to the Jews only and not to the Gentiles (Matthew 10), yet his disciples disobeyed him and did just the opposite. He clearly thought of himself as the Messiah of the Jews and of no one else. Yet, he was accepted by foreign nations and not by the Jews.
Item:

If God has “rejected” the Jews for not “accepting Jesus” as Christians claim, why have we managed to survive 2,000 years of Christian persecution? How do Christians explain the miracle of Jewish survival? Why has G-d restored the city of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel to His “rejected” people?

How do they explain the fact that the Jewish people has re-established its national life in its ancient homeland, and is in possession of the City of Jerusalem? These are living historic facts without parallel. Must not the Christians now acknowledge that the re-emergence of a Jewish State is indeed an unfolding and realization of Bible prophecy in our day? Does this not demonstrate that the many Biblical prophecies that speak of the return of the Jew to his land refers to the Jews and not to anyone else? (The Christians often refer to themselves as the “real Jews”–the “New Israel,” i.e. G-d chose them because the Jews rejected Jesus.)

Isn’t this theological “slap in the face” the reason for the Pope’s refusal to recognize Israel, and for Christian silence during the Six Day War?

Item:

The Prophets contain many prophecies concerning the end of days and the time of the Messiah that have not yet taken place. These will all take place when the Messiah comes.

Why do we need a Messiah in the first place? In order to teach the Torah to the world and to establish “The Kingdom of G-d on Earth.” If the Christians have done away with the laws of the Torah, if they no longer regard the Torah as valid, what is left to teach mankind? Nowhere does the Torah suggest that it is to be abolished by the Messiah. On the contrary, the Torah is eternal, and the purpose of the Messiah is to bring us to the day when all of the Jewish people will observe the Torah and all of mankind will acknowledge its truths.

Item:

Nowhere does the Torah state that someone else’s death can bring forgiveness to a person’s sins. On the contrary, each man will be punished for his sins, and each man must repent for his sins alone. “The soul that sinneth it shall die”; “Sons will not be punished for the sins of their fathers.” The idea that someone else’s death 1,900 years ago can somehow bring forgiveness from G-d for my sins is absurd and unfounded. Each person must return to G-d, each sinner must change his own ways and seek G-d’s forgiveness
* * *
Jews firmly believe that the Messiah will come. We believe that man will not self-destruct, that we will not disappear in a gigantic atomic blast. Man is basically good, and G-d’s Kingdom will be established. However, it is not enough to believe in G-d. Faith alone is not adequate,–G-d demands deeds and action. G-d’s revelation on Mount Sinai demands obedience to the 613 commandments spelled out in the written and unwritten Torah. G-d wants discipline, loyalty, and practice; not pious statements and magical formulas. Jews wait for the day when “G-d will be King over all the earth and on that day He will be One and His name One.” (Zacharia 14,9).

Maimonides put our belief into words–and we firmly stand by these words, “I firmly believe, in complete faith, in the coming of the Messiah, and although he may tarry, I daily wait for his coming.” Indeed, the Messiah is coming. … we can almost hear his footsteps.

Notes

1a^b^ Traditionally, Jews write G-d or G.d (same for other names, such as L-rd for Lord) out of respect for God’s Name. See this article for the details.

2^Isaiah 7:14, as per the RSV Bible, reads: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman’u-el.”

3^ The Jewish Bible refers to three sets of Holy Books: the Torah (or Chumash, the Five Books of Moses), the Nevi’im (the Prophets), and the Khethuvim (the Scriptures), whence comes the acronym Tanakh, or the Jewish Bible.


Header photo: itheorist, snapshot of the front cover of Aryeh Kaplan’s book “The Real Messiah? The Jewish Response to Missionaries” (1985, NCSY)