Rejection of Jesus

Posted: 8:220 4/01/08 by webmaster

Despite recording many Miracles of Jesus, particularly in Capernaum, the Gospels also record some Rejection of Jesus.

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Hometown (Nazareth) rejection

This is an event 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 and the Gospel of Thomas saying 31.

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 claimed he was the fulfilment of a prophecy at Isaiah 61:1-2, though the other synoptics make no such statement. 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 the inspiration 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, indicating the author of Luke was unfamiliar with Nazareth, and had never been there.

This incident is also recorded in the Gospel of Thomas, saying 31: "Jesus said, "No prophet is welcome on his home turf; doctors don't cure those who know them." (SV)

The negative view of Jesus' family may be related to the conflict between Paul of Tarsus and Jewish Christians, for example at the Council of Jerusalem, see also Pauline Christianity.


Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum rejection

According to Matthew 11:20-24: Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, villages in Galilee, did not respond to Jesus's teaching ("they had not changed their ways" -Matt11:20SV) even though Jesus had performed most of his miracles there, and as a result Jesus cursed them ("you'll go to Hell" -Matt11:23,Luke10:15SV).


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.


Jewish rejection

Belief in the divinity of any human being, messiah or otherwise, is incompatible with Judaism.

The accounts of Jewish rejection of Jesus and accusations of Jewish responsibility for his crucifixion are prominently featured in the New Testament. The Gospel of John in particular records a hostile attitude between Jesus and the "Jews" (the Jesus Seminar translates this as "Judeans", i.e. residents of Judea, in contrast to residents of Galilee). 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.

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 ... 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."

In the centuries that followed, antisemitic accusations of deicide and host desecration circulated throughout Europe, usually accompanied by massacres. As a part of Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Paul VI issued the document Nostra Aetate, repudiating the doctrine of Jewish guilt for the Crucifixion.

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."