Kosher Jesus

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Kosher Jesus
Cover of the book "Kosher Jesus" by Shmuley Boteach
AuthorShmuley Boteach
PublisherGefen Publishing House
Publication date
February 1, 2012
Media typeHardcover, eBook

Kosher Jesus is a book by the Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, focusing on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. Originally published in 2012, the book purports to examine the origins of the teachings of Jesus within the context of Second Temple Judaism in the 1st century, and compares scholarly views on the historical figure of Jesus with the theological ideals expressed by the Jewish writers of early rabbinic literature.[nb 1]


Kosher Jesus aims to present what Boteach considers the rabbinic origins of the teachings of Jesus, and holds to the belief that Jesus never claimed personal divinity or any status as the Jewish Messiah.[1][2] In an interview with the magazine Publishers Weekly, Boteach stated that the book "traces the teachings of Jesus to their original sources: the Torah, the Talmud and rabbinic literature",[3] and went on to identify an encounter with a Christian evangelist as an important event that led him to write the book:

"It started when I was a young student rabbi on campus giving out Purim presents to students when this 30-year-old guy came over smiling, and drew a crowd as he made a scene about his joy for Purim. Then he subtly took out his New Testament and Hebrew Bible and confronted me about why I didn’t believe in Jesus. He was a Christian missionary, and in front of all these students he told me I would burn in hell without Jesus. I was gob smacked at my inability to respond. From that day I started reading the New Testament and memorizing large portions of it as well as of the Hebrew Bible."[3]


In the book, Boteach draws on past work by Hyam Maccoby, a British Jewish scholar who wrote on the topic of Judaism and Christianity, and espoused the view that Paul the Apostle was the true founder of Christianity, while Jesus was a mainstream Jewish teacher of the first century whose teachings were later distorted to form the basis of a mythic tradition.[4]

In the introduction to Kosher Jesus, Boteach sets forth his argument, that Jesus was, "a wise and learned rabbi who despised the Romans for their cruelty, ... who fought the Romans courageously and was ultimately murdered for trying to throw off the Roman yoke of oppression[,] ... who worked to rekindle Jewish ritual observance of every aspect of the Torah and to counter the brutal Roman occupation of his people's land."[5]


Following its release, Kosher Jesus received mixed reactions from rabbis and other leaders in the Jewish community, as well as from Christian and secular reviewers.[2][6] A review in Publishers Weekly described the book as an "informed and cogent primer on Jesus of Nazareth" that "will certainly reopen intrafaith and interfaith dialogue."[7]

Jacob Immanuel Schochet, a prominent rabbi of the Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement, was fiercely critical, deeming the book to be heretical and stating that it "poses a tremendous risk to the Jewish community," and that it "does more to enhance the evangelical missionary message" than any other book.[8]

Reviewer Jeremy Rosen of The Algemeiner Journal notes that Boteach "wants Christians to understand Jesus was not God but a nice loyal Jewish boy... And he wants Jews to stop thinking of him as a heretic and the founder of a religion that persecuted them for two thousand years." Rosen goes on to compare Kosher Jesus to Sigmund Freud's book Moses and Monotheism, a work which espouses the idea that Moses was an Egyptian, a theory that is generally regarded as lacking in historical basis by mainstream historians.[4]


  1. ^ Scholarly views of a similar approach were presented in the past by Professor Emeritus (Oxford) of Jewish Studies Géza Vermes in his various publications, int. al., Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels (1973), Jesus and the World of Judaism (1983), The Changing Faces of Jesus (2001), Jesus in his Jewish Context (2003), etc. Prof. Vermes is himself a Jew.


  1. ^ Boteach, Shmuley (2012). Kosher Jesus. Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing House. p. 47. ISBN 978-9652295781.
  2. ^ a b Gregerman, Adam (February 9, 2012). "It's 'Kosher' To Accept Real Jesus?". Jewish Daily Forward.
  3. ^ a b Mayefsky, Chana (January 25, 2012). "Shmuley Boteach: Was Jesus Kosher?". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Rosen, Jeremy (December 22, 2011). "Book Review: Kosher Jesus". The Algemeiner. Retrieved April 28, 2013.
  5. ^ Boteach (2012), p. xvii
  6. ^ Landsberg, Mitchell (February 5, 2012). "Rabbi's 'Kosher Jesus' book is denounced as heresy". LA Times.
  7. ^ "Religion review". Publishers Weekly. January 1, 2009. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  8. ^ Boswell, Randy (January 30, 2012). "'Kosher Jesus' book ignites skirmish between Jewish scholars". Retrieved September 26, 2012.