I have heard from many sources that Jewish scholars think that Jesus was a great man and profit, but not the messiah—not a god. This is very strange to me, because if Jesus was not the savior of the Jews—the son of God—he was at best highly deluded.
The issue is very clear, because Jesus made a point of telling people that he was a deity. If one is a god, it is perfectly acceptable—although admittedly arrogant—to tell people about it. Of course, in Jesus’ case, there is something childish about it. Much of what he said could be said by a boastful ten-year-old, “My father’s God and when I die, I’m gonna sit right next to him in heaven and I will be the ruler of everyone!” But if you accept Jesus is who he claimed to be, this is a minor point.
On the other hand, if Jesus was not God or the son of God or whatever (Christian theology is very complicated), he was what we charitably refer to as bat-shit crazy.
It isn’t as though there weren’t always indications of Jesus’ instability. He is highly inconsistent. I think everyone knows Jesus as the “Prince of Peace” and all that stuff about turning the other cheek. But he contradicted this statement, most notably in Luke 19:27:
I know that there have been 2000 years of apologists who have worked to smooth over all of the problems with the Bible and its numerous contradictions. This is perfectly understandable and legitimate if one accepts that Jesus is a deity. But for those who do not accept this, it makes no sense to hold Jesus in high regard. He might have been an inspired theologian. He might have been a great moral teacher. None of this matters, however. If he wasn’t God, he was a nut.
Update (21 July 2013 3:43 pm)
A good response to this is that Jesus didn’t specifically say that he was the messiah. By this theory, those are all bad translations when he answered in the affirmative as to the question of his divinity. Plus: maybe Jesus just meant that we are all God’s children. That more or less invalidates all of Christianity. It becomes, “There was this prophet and we got the idea that he might be the son of God.” That is a fair characterization, but it seems the whole purpose of the Gospels is to portray him as the son of God without making him look too arrogant. I guess that Jesus could have been something other than a god or a nut; he could have been a charlatan.