Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler

From Rabbis meet Jesus the Messiah – a collection of 24 biographies and testimonies of Rabbis encounters with Jesus the Messiah

© Messianic Good News.


The religious congress which was held in connection with the Chicago Fair in 1893 brought together representatives of various religious persuasions from many parts of the world, including many Rabbis from Europe and America. The congress was addressed also by Rabbi Dr. Kaufmann Kohler, regarded at that time the foremost exponent of Reform Judaism. The subject of his address was ‘The Synagogue and the Church,’ in which he was seeking to prove how close Judaism and Christianity stand to each other. The following is that portion of Dr. Kohler’s address in which he dealt with the Person of Jesus:

“Jewish scholars are making a great mistake when they compare Jesus of Nazareth with Hillel the Elder, the tolerant Tanna, or Philo, the Jewish philosopher from Alexandria. Jesus did not belong to any party. He was a man of the people. In him the Essene ideal of love and fellowship assume a new and grand expression. In contrast to John the Immerser, Jesus felt himself drawn with the power of divine love to the lowest of his fellow men. Being filled with true greatness he communed with shepherds, publicans and sinners, the very people whom the Essenes had regarded as headed for hell, with whom they had no dealings for fear of becoming tainted by contact with them. He ate and drank with them, saying: ‘I came to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel, not those who are well, but who are sick, need the physician. The heart which is filled with impure thoughts is unclean … Woe to you Pharisees, you clean the outside, but the inside you leave uncleansed and filled with evil. To you, hypocrites, are applicable the words of Isaiah:‘They approach me only with their mouth, and honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me’. These are the words of a prophet, of a fearless reformer.”

“With the same courage of genuine love with which he converted sinners, Jesus also defended the woman in whom the Essenes only saw an instrument in the hands of Satan to entice men to sin, and he shattered the forces making the woman’s lot lonely.”

“With the same freedom of his spirit, he broke the chains of the ‘Sabbath law.’ ‘The Sabbath,’ he said, ‘was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.’ We have here before us a great and profound thinker, a tremendous personality, a religious genius … The Jewish people in general, and its leaders in particular, have had no cause to hate the most noble and most exalted of all the teachers of Israel.”

“It cannot be denied that the ideal of human life as set up by the Church is unequalled in greatness and loftiness. Back of all the teachings and dogmas of the Church stands the enchanting figure of human goodness and love: a more lovely and more exalted figure than that of Jesus, mankind was not given to honour. All features of the Greek philosopher and the saintly Jew are harmoniously blended in the man who died on Calvary. No ethical system, no textbook on religion, are capable of exerting such a deep impression on us as that great personality of Jesus, standing, as none other, midway between heaven and earth, equally near to God as to man.”

“Was he the ideal representative of the Essene brotherhood? No, he was the embodiment of brotherliness of all mankind . . . Jesus, the helper of needy, the friend of sinners, the brother of all sufferers, the comforter of the unfortunate, the lover of mankind, the liberator of the woman, he won and conquered the human heart.”

“Of what possible use was the proud philosophy of the wise men, and the corrupt religion of the priests, to a world which hungered for God and thirsted for redemption from sin and cruelty. The times of Jesus were ripe for a social upheaval, for the Messianic Age, when the proud will be brought low, and the humble will be lifted up. Jesus, the most lowly of all men, the despised, beyond comparison, by the despised Jewish nation, has ascended the world’s throne to become the Great King of the whole earth.”

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