Jonathan Bernis has written a clear, detailed and fairly straightforward answer to the question “Who is Jesus of Nazareth”, and I recommend this as a book that everyone should read.
Bernis’ most telling contribution is to show that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews, foretold in the Old Testament. He does this by systematic reference to the Old Testament prophets – including the suffering servant described by Isaiah (Isaiah Chapters 7, 50 and 53), and Zechariah‘s prophecies about events leading up to Jesus’ death (Zechariah Chapters 9 and 11). The references are wide and convincing. He also mentions Daniel and the Psalms, as well as the history of Israel. Bernis emphasises again and again the nature of the chosen people, set apart as God’s representatives on earth, and the significance of Jesus as the embodiment of Israel. He reminds the reader of God’s love for Israel, and for the world. He shows how Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the passover lamb, a final and perfect sacrifice for our sins.
The book opens with a reference to CS Lewis Mere Christianity, another rational discussion of Christian belief that I can recommend. Bernis gives a strongly personal and passionate account, which looks at some aspects of the history of the relationship between the Christian church and Judaism, considering the ways in which each developed separate identities over time. There are elements which are specifically Jewish in emphasis – such as the Talmud in relation to Jesus, a consideration of other Jews who claimed to be the Messiah, and a review of the lives of some Jews who, like Bernis, became Christians. Finally Bernis looks more specifically at some Christian beliefs – in particular the resurrection. In all cases his arguments are convincing and his knowledge impressive.