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The New Testament records some rejection of Jesus in the course of his ministry. According to Alister McGrath, it seems that the only thing that distinguished Jewish Christians from 1st century Judaism was the additional belief that Jesus was the messiah[1]. For a comparison of the religions as they exist today, see Judaism and Christianity. Other non-canonical primary sources also record rejection of Jesus by many people.

Hometown (Nazareth) rejection

This is an event recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, Mark 6:1-6, Matthew 13:54-58, Luke 4:16-30, where Jesus is strongly rejected by the people of his hometown, which Luke specifies as Nazareth. The core saying is also mentioned in John 4:44.

According to the Synoptics, shortly after Jesus has given his first set of teachings (and before John the Baptist is killed), Jesus returns to his hometown. On the sabbath, he is described as entering a synagogue and teaching. Luke states that Jesus performed a reading of scripture, then claimed he was the fulfilment of a prophecy at Isaiah 61:1-2, though the other synoptics do not provide this detail. All the synoptics describe the crowd as negatively questioning the origin of his teachings (see also Mark 3), and criticising him for being a lowly carpenter's son (Matthew) or himself a carpenter (Mark). In Matthew and Mark the crowd are also described as referring to Jesus as being the brother of James, Simon, Joseph, and Judas (in Mark they also mention but do not name Jesus's sisters), in a manner suggesting that the crowd regards them as just ordinary people, and criticising Jesus' quite different behaviour.

Jesus though is described as rebuking them (in variations of the same wording between each gospel)

a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house - Matthew 13:57

Matthew states that Jesus didn't do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. Though this can be interpreted as Jesus being disheartened, or punishing them, it can also be interpreted as implying that the miracles of Jesus were more so possible when the crowd believed. This also opens the possibility that the miracles were illusions, or allegory, which by definition could only work if the crowd believed. In a similar passage Mark says that Jesus was not able to do any miracles there except for healing a few sick people. This passage in Luke 4 is a source of the saying Physician, heal thyself.

Luke, however, deviates from the other synoptics, and instead states that Jesus recounted a story about how during the time of Elijah only a Sidonian woman was saved, and how during the time of Elisha a Syrian was healed. This, according to Luke, causes the people to attack Jesus, and chase him to the top of a hill in order to try to throw Jesus off, though Jesus slips away. The historicity of Luke's version is easily questionable, since there is no "cliff face" in Nazareth[2], indicating the author of Luke was unfamiliar with Nazareth, and had never been there.

The negative view of Jesus' family may be related to the conflict between Paul of Tarsus and Jewish Christians:

"Wilson (1992)[3] has hypothesized that the negative relationship between Jesus and his family was placed in the Gospels (especially in the Gospel of Mark) to dissuade early Christians from following the Jesus cult that was administered by Jesus’ family. Wilson says: “…it would not be surprising if other parts of the church, particularly the Gentiles, liked telling stories about Jesus as a man who had no sympathy or support from his family (p. 86).” Butz (2005)[4] is more succinct: “…by the time Mark was writing in the late 60s, the Gentile churches outside of Israel were beginning to resent the authority wielded by Jerusalem where James and the apostles were leaders, thus providing the motive for Mark’s antifamily stance… (p. 44).” Other prominent scholars agree (e.g., Crosson, 1973;[5] Mack, 1988;[6] Painter. 1999)."[7][8]

See also Pauline Christianity and Paul of Tarsus and Judaism.

Rejection of the cornerstone

Matthew 21:42, Acts 4:11 and Mark 12:10 talk of Jesus as the stone which the builders (or husbandmen) rejected. 1Peter 2:7 discusses this rejection of Jesus. Theologians suggest that rejection does not diminish Jesus but rather diminishes those who reject him [9]. Rejection of the cornerstone is also referenced in Psalms 118:22 which has similar wording and is referenced by Supersessionism.

Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum

According to The Gospel of Matthew and The Gospel of Luke, the Galilean villages of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum did not repent in response to Jesus's teaching, and as a result Jesus cursed them to hell (Matthew 11:23, Luke 10:13-15).

Many disciples leave

John 6:60-6:66 records "many disciples" leaving Jesus after he said that those who eat his body and drink his blood will remain in him and have eternal life (John 6:48-59, for interpretations of this passage, see Real Presence). In John 6:67-71 Jesus asks the Twelve if they also want to leave, but St. Peter responds that they have become believers.

Sanhedrin trial

After the incident in the Temple, Jesus was arrested and sent to the Sanhedrin who rejected his appeal and sent him to Pontius Pilate for final disposition. See also Responsibility for the death of Jesus.

Jewish rejection

Jesus was and continues to be rejected by many Jewish people as a failed Jewish Messiah claimant: Messianic Jews and other converts are the exceptions. Belief in the divinity of any human being, messiah or otherwise, is incompatible with Rabbinic Judaism:

  • "The point is this: that the whole Christology of the Church - the whole complex of doctrines about the Son of God who died on the Cross to save humanity from sin and death - is incompatible with Judaism, and indeed in discontinuity with the Hebraism that preceded it."[10]
  • "Aside from its belief in Jesus as the Messiah, Christianity has altered many of the most fundamental concepts of Judaism." (Kaplan, Aryeh)[11]
  • "...the doctrine of Christ was and will remain alien to Jewish religious thought."[12]
  • "For two thousand years, Jews rejected the claim that Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Bible, as well as the dogmatic claims about him made by the church fathers - that he was born of a virgin, the son of God, part of a divine Trinity, and was resurrected after his death. ... For two thousand years, a central wish of Christianity was to be the object of desire by Jews, whose conversion would demonstrate their acceptance that Jesus has fulfilled their own biblical prophecies."[13]
  • "No Jew accepts Jesus as the Messiah. When someone makes that faith commitment, they become Christian. It is not possible for someone to be both Christian and Jewish."[14]

The accounts of Jewish rejection of Jesus are prominently featured in the New Testament, especially John's gospel. For example, in 7:1-9 Jesus moves around in Galilee but avoids Judea, because "the Jews/Judeans" were looking for a chance to kill him. In 7:12-13 some said "he is a good man" whereas others said he deceives the people, but these were all "whispers", no one would speak publicly for "fear of the Jews/Judeans". Jewish rejection is also recorded in 7:45-52, 8:39-59, 10:22-42, and 12:36-43. 12:42 says many did believe, but they kept it private, for fear the Pharisees would exclude them from the Synagogue, see also Council of Jamnia.

An illustration from a medieval manuscript. Top: Jews (identifiable by rouelle) reject Jesus. Bottom: Jews are being burned at stake.

According to Jeremy Cohen,

"[e]ven before the Gospels appeared, the apostle Paul (or, more probably, one of his disciples) portrayed the Jews as Christ's killers[15] ... But though the New Testament clearly looks to the Jews as responsible for the death of Jesus, Paul and the evangelists did not yet condemn all Jews, by the very fact of their Jewishness, as murderers of God and his messiah. That condemnation, however, was soon to come."[16]

Emil Fackenheim wrote in 1987:

"... Except in relations with Christians, the Christ of Christianity is not a Jewish issue. There simply can be no dialogue worthy of the name unless Christians accept—nay, treasure—the fact that Jews through the two millennia of Christianity have had an agenda of their own. There can be no Jewish-Christian dialogue worthy of the name unless one Christian activity is abandoned, missions to the Jews. It must be abandoned, moreover, not as a temporary strategy but in principle, as a bimillennial theological mistake. The cost of that mistake in Christian love and Jewish blood one hesitates to contemplate."[17]

See also


Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Rejection of Jesus. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

  1. McGrath, Alister E., Christianity: An Introduction, Blackwell Publishing,(2006), ISBN 1405108991, Page 174: "In effect, they [Jewish Christians] seemed to regard Christianity as an affirmation of every aspect of contemporary Judaism, with the addition of one extra belief — that Jesus was the Messiah. Unless males were circumcised, they could not be saved (Acts 15:1)."
  2. The Complete Gospels, Robert J. Miller editor, 1992, page 126, translation note to Luke 4:29: "Nazareth is not built on or near a cliff face. Luke generally seems poorly informed about Palestinian geography. Aspects of his geography may therefore be fictive."
  3. Wilson, A.N. Jesus: A life. 1992. New York: Norton & Co.
  4. Butz, Jeffrey. The brother of Jesus and the lost teachings of Christianity. 2005. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions.
  5. Crosson, John Dominic. “Mark and the relatives of Jesus”. Novum Testamentum, 15, 1973
  6. Mack, Burton. A myth of innocence: Mark and Christian origins. 1988. Philadelphia: Fortress
  7. Painter, John. Just James: The brother of Jesus in history and tradition. 1999. Minneapolis: Fortress Press
  8. Jesus' Family Was Not Supportive
  9. Achtemeier, P, J.; James Mays, editor (1988). Harper Collins Bible Comentary. Harper Collins. pp. 1170. ISBN 0-06-065548-8. 
  10. Rayner, John D. A Jewish Understanding of the World, Berghahn Books, 1998, p. 187. ISBN 1-57181-974-6
  11. The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology: Volume 1, Illuminating Expositions on Jewish Thought and Practice, Mesorah Publication, 1991, p. 264. ISBN 0-89906-866-9
  12. Wylen, Stephen M. Settings of Silver: An Introduction to Judaism, Paulist Press, 2000, p. 75. ISBN 0-8091-3960-X
  13. (Jewish Views of Jesus by Susannah Heschel, in Jesus In The World's Faiths: Leading Thinkers From Five Faiths Reflect On His Meaning by Gregory A. Barker, editor. Orbis Books, 2005 ISBN 1-57075-573-6. p.149
  14. Why don't Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah? by Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
  15. "... the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets." (I Thessalonians 2:14-15)
  16. Jeremy Cohen (2007): Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen. Oxford University Press. p.55 ISBN 0195178416
  17. Fackenheim, Emil (1987). What is Judaism? An Interpretation for the Present Age. Summit Books. p. 249. ISBN 0-671-46243-1. 
Hometown Rejection of Jesus
Life of Jesus: Ministry
Preceded by
Samaritan Woman at the Well
  First Rejection at Nazareth
Matthew 4:13-16 & Luke 4:16-31
Followed by
Calling of Matthew
Preceded by
Daughter of Jairus
  Second Rejection at Nazareth
Matthew 13:54-58 & Mark 6:1-6
Followed by
John the Baptist Beheaded