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Jewish Objections Answered - You Can't Be Jewish and Believe In Jesus PDF Print E-mail

I was raised to believe that Jews can't believe in Jesus and remain Jews. The vast majority of Jewish people would call this a "no brainer!" But how did this type of thinking come about?

The historical facts of the case would actually lead to the opposite conclusion. Jesus Himself was Jewish! Also, His disciples and nearly all the writers of the New Testament were Jewish. One of the very first controversies discussed by Yeshua's followers was whether non-Jews could believe in Jesus the Messiah and be viewed as equal citizens in the kingdom of God! The answer, of course, was a heartfelt and resounding "Yes!"

As these early Jewish Jesus-followers shared the message of His death and resurrection, Gentiles began to embrace the message in far greater numbers than Jewish people. Within two centuries, the communities of Yeshua's followers lost their Jewish character, as Gentiles became the dominant force within the community. Increased polarisation on both sides fueled the belief that Jews cannot believe in Jesus and that Jewish people who did believe must abandon Jewish customs. These positions became matters of Jewish and Christian law (in the Talmud, Roman Law, and Canon Law), leading to today's status quo.

Nevertheless, some Jewish people did believe and continue to believe in Yeshua while remaining Jewish. They celebrate the Jewish holidays, identify with the Jewish past, present, and future, and keep many of the Jewish traditions that remain consistent with both the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament message. Whether we speak of rabbis like Rabbi Cohn, or politicians like British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, or Messianic Jews in Israel, North America or Australia, we find that it is indeed possible for Jewish people to believe in Jesus. There are also hundreds of Messianic Jewish congregations around the globe, and they are growing in number and vitality, without abandoning their Jewish identity.

From the New Testament until today, Jewish people have believed in Jesus while maintaining their Jewish heritage. They believe despite the pressure of a growing secular culture, where neither being Jewish nor following Jesus is very popular. When asked why they believe in the Jewish Messiah, most of today's Jewish followers of Yeshua would simply say it's because Jesus fulfills the Messianic prophecies found in the Hebrew Scriptures. And even more so, these Messianic Jews have experienced God in ways they never had before they embraced Yeshua as their Messiah. It is hard to argue with another person's experience!

 

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By Bruce Kleinberg, A Messianic Jew from Dallas, Texas

 
Jewish Objections Answered - If Jesus is the Messiah, Why Isn't There Peace in the World? PDF Print E-mail

If the Messiah snaps his fingers and, "poof," world peace is suddenly here, how long do you think it would last? Probably not too long based upon thousands of years of human experience. Ask yourself, "How quickly would the bickering start? How long would it take for wars, even small interpersonal ones, to heat up?" Clearly, humans are not naturally inclined toward maintaining shalom (peace).

What good would this finger-snapping messiah have really done in the long run? What is the point, if he had only quelled a few skirmishes, but left the human heart unchanged? As the great Jewish prophet Isaiah wrote,

"...And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war." (Isaiah 2:4)

How will this transformation happen? The only hope for sustainable world peace is to change the hearts and the spirits of individuals and communities; not by solving all of the world's political disputes in an instant, because instants are over instantaneously! This is why the idea of two comings of the Messiah makes sense. The Messiah will bring inner peace to human hearts through His death and resurrection and then will come again to bring external peace. The heart of an individual must be changed before the global community can be transformed.

The idea of two comings lines up with the biblical hope of the Messiah who comes to die for sin, rise from the dead to give power to change, and will return again to judge the nations and transform the world. True peace comes one heart at a time, and it starts with you and me.

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By Eric Mattson, a Messianic Jew from Atlanta, Georgia

 
Jewish Objections Answered - Jewish People Do Not Believe That God Could Become a Man PDF Print E-mail

A popular Bible passage that is used by our rabbis to counter the idea of God becoming a man is Numbers 23:19. It says:

"God is not a man, that he should lie; nor a son of man, that he should repent...."

However, this verse has not always prevented Jewish people from believing in the possibility that God can become a man. For example, the first-century Jewish philosopher, Philo, speaks freely about God taking the form of a man: "Why then do we any longer wonder, if God at times assumes the likeness of the angels, as he sometimes assumes even that of men, for the sake of assisting those who address their entreaties to him?... (On Dreams, 1.238)." At other times, classical Jewish sources taught about God taking the form of the Memra (Aramaic for the Word) or the Shekhinah (the Glory of God), that is, divine intermediaries that were somehow physical and divine at the same time. Consequently, it is a relatively recent innovation that Jews cannot believe in the possibility of God entering His creation in physical form.

A more reasonable interpretation of Numbers 23:19 is that God does not have the same capability as man to lie or have the need to repent like a man because He is sinless. This interpretation takes the whole verse into account and is in harmony with historical Jewish thought. Furthermore, it does not deny the possibility that God could become a man, which we believe is what happened when Yeshua prophesied, forgave sins, and rose from the dead.

On the positive side, there are actually quite a few Bible verses in the Hebrew Scriptures indicating that God could in fact become a man. For example, in Genesis 18, there is the case of three "men" visiting Abraham, immediately preceding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is described as speaking to the three men and then to one of the men whom he addresses as Lord (Adonai). A careful reading of the text shows that one of the men must have been God Himself taking the form of a man, at least temporarily.

There are many other passages indicating that God would become a man to complete His work of redemption, including some popular passages in the book of Isaiah. The prophet speaks of a future redeemer who will reign forever on the throne of His father David, and this "son" has titles that could easily be understood to mean that this person would be God in the flesh:

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"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:6-7)

We believe that Yeshua the Messiah is God "in the flesh" as described by the writer of the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament,

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power...." (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Eric Mattson

 
Jewish Objections Answered - Why Has Christianity Treated the Jewish People So Poorly? PDF Print E-mail

If Jesus Is the Jewish Messiah, Why Has Christianity Treated the Jewish People So Poorly?

Jewish New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine writes, "[Neither] Jesus, Paul nor the New Testament is anti-Semitic."[1] She's right! It's illogical to think that a movement which was comprised originally of only Jewish Jesus-followers could be antisemitic.

Historically, some followers of Jesus have combined the anti-Jewish sentiments of the times in which they lived with their understanding of religion. This was especially true during the early days of the institutional church and throughout the Middle Ages. In some cases, these instances of antisemitism were theologically driven by Christian groups who believed that the Church had replaced the Jewish people in the plan of God.

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But the Apostle Paul, a disciple of the great Jewish teacher Gamliel, said this: "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew...." (Romans 11:1-2)

Just because some of Yeshua's followers abused His teachings does not mean that Jesus Himself and His early disciples were antisemitic.

There are many Christian groups today that have repented of antisemitism and view this disparaging of the Jewish people as sin. They have recognised that the New Testament is a pro-Jewish collection of works by Jewish authors writing about the Jewish Messiah!

Jonathan Mann


[1] Amy-Jill Levine, The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus, (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2006), 87.

 
Jewish Objections Answered - Why Did God Allow the Holocaust? PDF Print E-mail

Many of us find the horror and scope of the Holocaust inconceivable, even though we know it happened. Humankind's capacity for cruelty is hard to grasp; harder still to imagine being subjected to it. Where was God? How could God allow this? Does God even exist? These are very difficult and agonising questions. But let's attempt to shine a light of clarity on this issue. If someone told you every day, "I love you," but they were forced to do this, would that be real love? No. True expressions of love come from an active choice to love. However, because we have this freedom to love, we also have the freedom and opportunity to hate and do evil, often with horrible results.

The Holocaust is a prime example of the evil humanity is capable of perpetrating. We may not know the reasons why God allowed this. Yet God shared the suffering of His chosen people. He was not distant.

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We believe that the God of Israel entered this world and experienced the most painful death imaginable, by crucifixion. Yet He also rose from the dead. Consequently, as philosopher John Lennox said, "God has not remained distant from our human suffering but has become part of it." We can trust God not only because He has experienced human anguish, but also because He gives us hope of eternal life through His resurrection.

One cannot equate the cross where Yeshua suffered for our sins with the death camps like Auschwitz. Yet the Messiah, destined to die and fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 53, understood the anguish of human suffering at a level very few of us, other than Holocaust victims, could imagine. His suffering does not make the Holocaust more palatable, but it helps us to see that God might understand our anguish a little more than we thought.

By Jonathan Mann and Bruce Kleinberg


 Additional Comments

Where was the Messiah Yeshua during the Holocaust? If He was indeed the Messiah then why did evil run rampant and why didn't He save His chosen people? These are questions that are difficult to answer, but there is one verse in the New Testament that helps us understand the relationship between Yeshua and His people. The verse is one of the shortest in the entire Bible and is as follows:

"Jesus wept." (John 11:35)

He wept because of the death of His friend Lazarus and because He loved His fellow Jewish people. But, this is not the only occasion where Jesus wept for the Jewish people.

In the Gospel of Luke, we read the following passage,

"When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it." (Luke 19:41)

This time He wept because He knew that, in the near future, the Romans would destroy the city of Jerusalem. The One so many of us claim is the promised Messiah of Israel loves His people. According to the New Testament, He will one day return to reign as King of Israel, destroy the enemies of the Jewish people, and judge those who tried to destroy the Jewish people throughout the centuries (Revelation 19:15, Zechariah 14:1-5).

This might not answer the entire question as to why He allowed the suffering of the Holocaust. Jewish people have tried for decades to figure out where God was during the Holocaust. Again, we do not fully understand the reasons why the Lord allowed His chosen people to suffer, but we do know that He loves His people and those who persecuted the Jewish people will one day be held accountable before our Jewish Messianic judge.

Dr. Mitch Glaser, A Messianic Jew from Brooklyn, New York

 
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