If there’s anything that “everyone knows,” it’s that the Jews rejected Jesus of Nazareth (Hebrew name: Yeshua). In fact, it would be hard to find anyone – Jew, Christian, or other – to deny this. And yet, believe it or not, the Gospel texts that give the story of this man’s life tell us exactly the opposite: that Yeshua/Jesus was wildly popular among the Jews of his day, so much so that even the government was afraid to take any action against him!

People may disagree, of course, about whether the Gospels are fact, fiction, or something in between. Yet any reader of these historical texts should at the very least try to understand what story they are telling. Somehow, for almost 2,000 years, that story has been grossly distorted beyond recognition. Since people are still reading (and misreading) the Gospels, maybe we should try to set the record straight, as best we can.

The first-century accounts of the life of Yeshua/Jesus state in dozens of places that large crowds of Jews sought him out and followed him. We read that in Galilee, Judea, and elsewhere, “the crowds were amazed by his teaching” (Matt. 7:28); “they kept coming to him from everywhere” (Mark 1:45); “again crowds of people came to him” (Mark 10:1); “news about him spread through the whole countryside” (Luke 4:14); “great crowds were traveling with him” (Luke 14:25); “even many of the rulers believed in him” (John 12:42); and so forth. These are just examples; similar statements keep appearing continuously all throughout the Gospels.

Naturally, not everyone in Israel liked Yeshua/Jesus, especially some within the Roman-sponsored government. Matthew says about these ruling officials that “they wanted to seize him but feared the crowds, which viewed him as a prophet” (21:46). Later “they plotted to seize and kill him by trickery but said, ‘Not during the [Passover] feast, lest the people riot’” (26:4-5). These verses about opponents emphasize even further the extraordinary popularity of Yeshua/Jesus among the general Jewish population. Parallel reports in Mark (11:18, 12:12, 14:1-2) and Luke (19:47-48, 20:19, 21:37-22:2) say the same thing.

The group of conspirators did carry out its “plot by trickery,” arresting the teacher in the middle of the night and quickly prevailing on the Roman authorities to sentence him to crucifixion. When the Jews of Jerusalem heard what was going on, “the crowds gathered to see… and returned home beating their breasts” in misery (Luke 23:48). Luke goes on to say that the whole Jewish population of the city was devastated by what had befallen this “prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (24:18-21). So even though the supposed Jewish rejection of Jesus has long played a major role in antisemitism, the Gospels actually report that most of the Jewish people loved Yeshua/Jesus!

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108 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome explanation and truly a blessing.

    What would be a good guess/and or estimation of the number of followers Yeshua and His Talmidim feed with a few fish and some bread.

    Estimate, Men, Women and Children?

    Be Blessed
    • Thank you, Roberto! I'm not sure exactly what you are asking. Do you mean in the story given in Matthew 14? If so, I don't have any better guess than anyone else. :)
    • Dear Roberto, since Matthew 14:21 tells us that those who were fed were about five thousand men, besides women and children, I have often heard that a reasonable estimate for the whole crowd - of both sexes and all ages - would have been about three times as many, that is 15,000. If similar calculations hold good for the later Feeding of the Four Thousand, there would have been 12,000 present on the second occasion. One thing is certain: we are dealing with round numbers - probably to the nearest thousand or the nearest five hundred - for the men.
  2. While I find your article well written and mostly correct, I do have an exception to your final conclusion; that most Jews loved Yeshua. It states that Yeshua "came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him" John 1:11. I would surmise that while a lot of people were His admirers, the majority either rejected Him or were neutral. The proof is seen even today in the fact that the majority of the Jewish people still haven't accepted Him and His claims. Also the work of Jewish evangelism still poses a great challenge.
    • Thank you for the comment, James! In context, the statement in John is not referring to the Jewish people, but to the "world" or "universe" (κόσμος; kosmos) and the things and people in it. See especially verses 3 and 10 (just before 11, which you cite). Our site also has another article that explains some additional reasons why the traditional Christian interpretation of John 1:11 is mistaken: https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/jews-reject-jesus/ . As for Jewish attitudes toward Jesus and Christianity today, that is a complex topic, but certainly different from the question of what picture these first-century Jewish writings mean to paint.

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    • Maybe it was just an example of Realpolitik. 'It's nothing personal, just business,' as they say in the movies before pulling a dirty act. High priests did not hate Him but were afraid that He could cause a popular revolt ending in a catastrophe like the Bar Kobcha uprising a few decades later.

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    • I agree James. Jews were attracted to Jesus because of curiosity. Many became convinced he was the Messiah and that he would rid Israel of Rome but when Jesus didn't do that they turned on him. Jews then became the first persecutors of the Christians and they still hate Jesus.

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    • The Truth is always in the minority.
      In Yeshua's first pull where He did miracles,He had a great following which he agreed followed him bcoz of the bread,but when He came to His third pull-the opening of the Word,mysteries revealed(unless you eat my body&drink my blood...)they all left the predestined.
    • Let us not forget that from the beginning of Jesus' ministry that many Jews followed him and many more after his death. They eventually lost their Jewish identities. Their descendants are not even aware that the first Christian in their lineage was a Jew.
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  3. Shalom Dr. Gruber I thought I would let you that I am confused here. Dr. Eli also has this same title and it seems to be talking about the same thing. He has about 49 comments on his and I am your first. Sometimes it gets confusing and the titles that are by two different persons. Yes I think that they are both interesting. But it can get confusing sometimes.
    • Thanks for pointing this out, Sandra. At IBC we have a variety of different perspectives and sometimes like to write posts coming from multiple angles (even on the same topic). That said, Dr. Eli's article is not covering the same ground, but is focused on a particular passage in John. However, perhaps we should consider modifying the titles.
  4. Dr. Yeshaya, I was referring to the so called, "feeding the 5000".

    I'm showing an example of Yeshuas popularity and that He was in fact loved by many.

    Blessings
  5. I don’t know why people are so anti-Semitic. Jesus predicted that he would be crucified long before it happened because it was God’s plan all along. Otherwise people wouldn’t believe in him if it didn’t happen because they’ve never seen a resurrection before. It says in the Bible that Israel is God’s chosen people, so if you go against them , you go against God. I guarantee you won’t win.
    • Bill, the reason why people are so anti-semitic is because they've been influenced to be that way. You have to remember that the first anti-semitic group was the pagans which have been in some clash or fight with Israel before the exodus from Egypt and while it was claiming the Promised Land. History shows that's been the case ever since; to cast doubt and create a stigma against God's chosen people which has even affected Christian interpretations of the Bible. Don't forget that when the pagans first accepted and converted to Christianity, they syncretized their faith with pagan beliefs.

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    • Bill Skibinski That has repeated many times yet Re they’ve never seen a resurrection There were a large number of family and Friends who in the week previously who saw Lazarus raised after 4 days. I believe that news traveled far and fast. But not near so fast as today
    • Thank you for commenting, Jan. None of these passages contradict the article in the slightest -- although sometimes faulty translations and traditional theologies do make it seem that way. In our courses, we get into these issues in detail. Very briefly: 1) In John, the word Ἰουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi) "Judeans, Jews" only rarely refers to the Jewish people as a whole, but very frequently to the Jerusalem politico-religious elite. 2) In Revelation, the group mentioned are specifically called "not Jews," and here "synagogue" is a misleading, tendentious, inconsistent translation. Does your version have "synagogue" in James/Jacob 2:2 or Hebrews 10:25? Why (not)?
  6. The Gospels show Jesus’ great popularity, but not Jewish willingness to follow him (John 6:66). The Resurrection made that generation accountable (Matt 12:39, 16:4). That generation would either follow Jesus and receive the Promises or be judged (Acts 2:39-40, 3:19-21) as Malachi 4:5-6 said (Luke 1:17; Matt 11:14, 17:12). “Many ten thousands among the Jews have believed, and they are all zealous adherents of the law” (Act 21:20). Hebrews called Jewish believers to follow not law and tradition but Jesus. The issue was not heaven or hell for believers, but the Kingdom or the curse for that generation (Heb 2:5).
    • Thank you for commenting, Tim! I would interpret some of these passages differently. IBC courses do discuss such issues in detail. For now, please note that in John the word Ἰουδαῖοι (Ioudaioi) “Judeans, Jews” only rarely refers to the Jewish people as a whole, but very frequently to the Jerusalem politico-religious elite. You seem to view the description "zealous for the Torah/Law/Instruction" (Acts 21:20) as a negative, but it was certainly intended as highly positive praise in the original first-century context. I'm not exactly certain of the relevance of Heb. 2:5 here (?).

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    • Tim Beard.Read Acts.21:20 include Acts.15:19-20 where James said seems to say what you claim.Read vs.21 They did not say Stay away from the synagogue Matt.2"17.Think not that I am come to destroy the law:8Till heaven and earth pass, NOT one jot.1John.5:3His commandments are not burdensome Remember no law no sin.
  7. There seems to be a shift from a nation to individuals though. How do you navigate Matthew 23:37-39 and Matthew 24? Also Daniel 8:24-27 where it has the last week Messianic prophecy of Yeshua’s baptism 27AD, his death in 31AD in the middle of the week which caused the sacrifices to cease, and then 34AD with the stoning of Stephen and the gospel being spread further (Acts 7/8:1)—all completing the 70 week prophecy (day equals a year principle) warnig the nation 490 years from the final command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem in 457BC in Ezra 7:13-26 to repent.
    • Thank you for commenting, Dana! 1) Matt. 23-24 seems to support the idea of a Jerusalem politico-religious elite that tries to get rid of dissidents, no matter how popular. Note that the contemporary Essene community excoriated the "corrupt" Jerusalem elite in much harsher terms! (See also my comments in response to Jan, Tim, and Ettienne about the book of John.) 2) My article discusses the picture painted by the first-century Jewish-Greek Gospels. I think it would be too much to get into various interpretations of the earlier books of Daniel and Ezra here.
  8. Nothing could be further from the truth: "If there’s anything that 'everyone knows,' it’s that the Jews rejected Jesus of Nazareth (Hebrew name: Yeshua). In fact, it would be hard to find anyone – Jew, Christian, or other – to deny this." Any "Christian" who is biblically literate - and there are thousands (many!) - understand that "the Jews" is a writer's-description of a limited-in-size segment within the contemporary Jewish population. Using such a literary device is not helpful and creates 'windmills' for others to joust at! Respectfully.
    • Thank you for the comment, Matthew. I think you will find that the number of Christians (or Jews, or others!) who think "the Jews rejected Jesus" far, far surpasses the number who believe "the Jews did not reject Jesus." I am glad to hear that there may be thousands in the latter category; however, both subjective experience and more objective study indicate that it is rare to find them (and there are literally billions in the other category!). By using quotation marks around "everyone knows," I intend to place this statement into the category of what is generally assumed uncritically. Probably most things that "everyone knows" are false.
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