Should Jews be "Targeted" for conversion? or Sharing one's faith with a Jewish person
To begin this section, I must start with a controversial opinion:
It is not the appointed task of Christianity to proselytize Jews away from Judaism!
I submit the proof of that statement can be found in the fact that there have been very few true Jewish conversions to Christianity over the centuries, and instead Jews have wound up facing persecution and anti-Semitism at the hands of false Christian movements or leaders who, once their efforts at proselytizing failed, took it upon themselves to persecute the Jews for their rejection of the Gospel. Even the great Martin Luther, father of the Reformation, drifted into anti-Semitism when the Jews of Germany failed to embrace Christianity. As he turned against them the fruits of the Reformation began to spoil and Luther died an embittered man, having lost control of the movement he had started.
The Scripture is clear--the Jews are to be left in peace, and God will persecute those who persecute them. If the Jews need correction, it is God Himself who will deal with them, and if He chooses to punish them for their actions, He will discipline them as a father disciplines the son that he loves. It has never been for the Christian church to take Gods place in this and harass the Jews in hope of coercing them into conversion as has happened throughout the centuries.
While Christians certainly desire to see the Jewish people reach a point of accepting Jesus Christ as Messiah, it is only God who can open the heart of a Jew to the Gospel in His own way, in His own time, for His own sovereign purposes. When we take it upon ourselves to thrust the Gospel upon them and target Jews for conversion using tactics that in some cases are underhanded, we bring reproach upon the Gospel.
Unfortunately, some well-meaning Christian outreach organizations take a different tack and instead focus on the proselytizing of Jews through means that are at times deceptive (for instance, inviting a Jewish person to a Passover seder in such a manner that the Jew does not realize he is actually being invited to a Christian worship service.)
Using trickery to advance the Gospel defeats the very message we seek to deliver: that the Gospel is a message of truth! Fooling someone into hearing the Gospel message automatically limits the ability of the Holy Spirit to open that persons heart to Christ because the means by which Christ is presented to the unbeliever is based on deception, and deception is a tool of the Devil, not a tool of Christ.
Am I therefore saying that we should reach out to other people with the Good News we, ourselves, have found in Christ but exclude the Jews? No. My point is that both our religions trace themselves back to the same original root, and that God, in the Scriptures, has specifically said that He will lead Israel, and that as we near the end of this age, God Himself will direct the Jews to their Messiah as the time of the Gentiles draws to a close. He does not need our help in doing so by means which are against His principles.
One reason we Christians should approach Jews differently than we might a Gentile is that the Jews (the sincerely religious ones, anyway) are already in covenant with God while the Gentile sinner down the street is not! Even so, while the Jews are in covenant with God, our faith holds that they have rejected the most important part of that covenant: the Messiah.
Because of this fact of being in covenant with God but yet resisting the One we believe is Messiah, the Jews, according to the writers of the New Testament, are in a unique place, spiritually, that no other group is in.
Paul states it this way:.
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
--2 Cor. 3:14.
From a Christian perspective, then, the Orthodox Jew who sincerely follows the teachings of rabinnic Judaism is simultaneously in partial covenant with God while rejecting what the New Testament reveals is the full covenant with God. This results in a person who has an almost perfect understanding of the way God wants he and his community to live--so far as lifestyle goes--but who, at the same time, is hindered by what the New Testament would assert are flawed teachings on the subjects of sin, Messiah, Atonement and Justification.
This is why an unbelieving Jewish person requires the intervention of the Holy Spirit to open his understanding of the Gospel in a way differing from what the unbelieving Gentile or Agnostic needs. Many in the latter groups need to be reached on an elementary basis of conviction over sin and the need of repentance lest they face the judgment of God.
The Orthodox Jew, on the other hand, is--from a human perspective--already walking uprightly and is not in the position of an unrepentant sinner, though he needs forgiveness and atonement for his faults just as the Gentile does. Because of this, his unbelief with respect to the Gospel differs from that of the sinner. The sinners unbelief is one that usually--though not always--traces itself to a lack of knowledge about sin, righteousness and the judgment of God. The rabinnic Jew is already familiar with these concepts and respects them. His error is that he rejects the notion that the sacrifice of the Messiah was necessary for God to fully forgive all the consequences of what sins he does commit over his life.
Thus, the religious but unbelieving Jew is in a position where he has accepted part of Gods truth while rejecting another part of it. His unbelief therefore stems not so much from a lack of knowledge as much as it does from a rejection of the knowledge he is already aware of.
This is why an attempt to reach an intelligent rabinnic Jew on an intellectual basis with the truths of the Gospel is usually doomed to failure. Two thousand years of brilliant Jewish minds have made a science out of proving Jesus cannot be the Messiah, and a rabinnic Jew, who has an agenda to resist conversion, can easily find an intellectual argument to counter any claim made by a Christian.
On an intellectual basis, Christians and Jews look at the same words of Scripture and thus give them totally different meanings, causing whats black and white to Christianity to be white and black to Judaism. The best example of this is the great passage of Isaiah 53. To Christians, those verses are obviously is talking about Jesus Christ, the Messiah. To Jews, it is just as obviously talking about the Jewish people, and the Jews of today treat as incredible anyone seeing that passage referring to anything but the Jews as a people. (Never mind the fact that some sources in ancient Judaism, such as the prayer from 900 AD of Eliezer HaKalir for the Day of Atonement, in which Isaiah 53 is specifically applied to the Messiah and his suffering to atone for Israel, agrees that passage refers to a suffering Messiah.)
Faced with such a circumstance, it is often fruitless to attempt to intellectually convince a religious Jew to abandon rabinnic Judaism for the Christian faith.
Whats left, then?
Only the ability of the Holy Spirit to open that persons eyes to see what the actual truth is. Thats why, if someone desires to see a Jewish person embrace the Gospel, his best bet is not to offend the person by targeting him--it is to pray for him and hope that God will aid the man to perceive the truth.
So if I know a Jewish person, should Christ be a forbidden subject between us?
No. We are all called to share the Gospel, but the Gospel can be shared in different ways. As noted, Jews are turned off by most Christians well intentioned attempts to show from the Old Testament how Jesus is the Messiah. Theyve heard the arguments for 2000 years and they dont accept them--especially as the history between Christians and Jews is primarily one of the Christians persecuting the Jews.
Jews respect what a person does, not what a person says. The best way to share the true Gospel of Christ to a Jewish person is to show the sincere love of Christ in visible operation in ones life. If by seeing in a Christian acquaintance a light that draws him or her to inquire about their faith, ones legitimate testimony about the power of the Messiah theyve found speaks more to the reality of the Gospel than any theological point he could possibly make.
However, Jewish Christians are likewise in a different position than Gentile Christians when it comes to relating to others in the Jewish community. While all Christians can rejoice in the fact that more Jews have come to embrace Christ as Messiah in this century than probably have in the last 2000 years, depending on how religious a Jewish persons family is, conversion can be a major step in his life with major negative repercussions. (I know more than one Messianic Jew who has been disowned by his family for converting, as an example.)
In some cases, then, it may be that a Jewish convert to Christianity will become embroiled in circumstances where he should defend his new beliefs on a theological basis to a Jewish relative or friend.
This is entirely different from proselytizing! So, to assist a Jewish Christian who may find himself having to explain why he holds a position so contrary to what his background has taught him, I will outline a few examples illustrating some of Judaisms regular criticisms of Christian theology and show how we arrive at a different understanding of the Scriptures than they do. The arguments, of course, will not convince a Jew indoctrinated and comfortable with a Rabinnic understanding of Scripture to convert to Christianity, but they can be used to show the reasoning behind the Christian world view of the Messiah.
Criticism: There is only one God, and accepting Christianity is accepting polytheism if one believes that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.
Messianic response: This issue is the biggest stumbling block to rabinnic Jews in accepting the Christian religion. It was also a stumbling block to Jews in the 1st century when they heard Christ proclaim things like, Before Abraham was, I AM. But as important as the issue is, the New Testament nowhere asserts that one is denied salvation unless he consciously has an understanding of the Godhead in the same terminology modern Evangelicals have adopted to explain it (Now its one What and three Whos, with the personalities formed on the basis of relationships within the Godhead, etc.).
What the New Testament does clearly proclaim is necessary for salvation is that one accepts the atonement of Christ for his sins. After that, the doctrine of the Trinity was the best way some fallible human beings had of explaining concepts that are derived from an overview of the Scriptures.
When we get to Heaven, we will understand perfectly the relationship of the Father to the Son, and I suspect well see how overly simplistic our doctrine on this issue actually was. In any event, the point should be made that Trinitarianism, despite the spin some people want to place on it, is a monotheistic doctrine, not a polytheistic doctrine. That aside for a moment, even if we totally divorce ourselves from the traditional Gentile Christian understanding of the nature of Christ, we can note that writers of the New testament used Jewish concepts in their development of who and what Christ was.
The Book of Hebrews, for instance, refers to the Divinity of Jesus compared to the Father in a completely Jewish manner when it speaks of Him in these words: ...Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person...
In ancient Jewish thought, no one ever saw God personally. In the Old Testament passages where Moses and the elders ate with God, or where God somehow visibly manifested Himself, what they are believed to have seen was the shekhina of God taking form upon the earth. The writer of Hebrews seems to have accepted that notion when he dubs Christ the brightness of his glory. This is almost certainly a phrase meant to call to mind the shekhina of God, and to this writer, Jesus Christ was the earthly manifestation of God similarly to the way the shekhina manifested in the Old Testament.
John the Apostle builds on this as well when he says:
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Even the targum of Pseudo Jonathan, in its account of Genesis, proclaims that Adam heard not God, but the word of God* walking in the garden, just as John uses the same term about Christ in the opening of his Gospel.
* Though John uses a Greek word with a Hellenistic connotation, his intent is to equate Jesus with the Hebrew concept and word Memre, which also means word.
The point is, the Jewish writers of the New testament understood Christ to be a part of God and a visible representation of God, in a notion that built upon the oral traditions the Jews already knew. Christians eventually developed that notion into what we call the Trinity today, but whether one does or does not see the nature of God in the precise way Trinitarians do, the fact remains that the notion of God being manifested upon the earth and interacting with men, while still being enthroned in Heaven, is entirely Scriptural and in accordance with Jewish thought and tradition.
Now lets deal with Judaisms own flirtation with polytheism for a moment. Kabbalistic writings studied in Chassidic Judaism, for instance, have a concept of the 10 Sephiroth, or Divine Emanations from God which, if a person wished to interpret them as such, could be construed as attributing inappropriate polytheistic qualities to God.
The Zohar, for example, one of the most important Kabbalistic books, even has a section that sounds as if a Trinitarian could have written it!
Come and see the mystery of the word YHWH: there are three steps, each existing by itself: nevertheless they are One, and so united that one cannot be separated from the other. The Ancient Holy One is revealed with three heads, which are united into one, and that head is three exalted. The Ancient One is described as being three: because the other lights emanating from him are included in the three. But how can three names be one? Are they really one because we call them one? How three can be one can only be known through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. (Zohar, Vol III, 288; Vol II, 43, Hebrew edition. See also Sonclno Press, Vol III, 134.)
That sounds pretty darn Trinitarian to me!
If we turn to the Old Testament itself, we see some problematic passages in the Scripture which also call into question the supposedly clear teaching that God is one to the exclusion of being tripartite. These verses, in the Jewish Scriptures, are part of the basis for deriving the notion that while God is one, He reveals Himself as something more than that based on the text as written:
Gen. 16: Hagar speaks to the Angel of the Lord, and this angel promises to multiply her seed, yet the text calls this angel the Lord (YHWH).
Exodus 3: Shows it was the Angel of the Lord in the bush, yet again, the Lord is the one who dialogues with Moses.
Judges 2: The Angel of the Lord claims to be the one who delivered the Hebrews from Egypt, when we know it was God who accomplished the act.
We could go on, but the point is, one can argue that the Jewish Scriptures themselves present as much polytheistic language and problems as the New Testament which Judaism rejects! Yet the truth is, neither faith believes in polytheism; it is the erroneous conclusions by those outside looking in that get touted as polytheism, and the great difference is in how we view those problematic verses. Mainstream Christianity, of course, solves the problem by concluding God is a tripartite Being. Judaism rejects that and comes up with its own theology, such as claiming the Angel of the Lord is possibly the Archangel Metatron speaking a message from God, a position which cannot be derived from Scripture but only from extra-Biblical Jewish writings and speculation.
Judaism thereafter labels Trinitarianism as polytheism despite its being a monotheistic doctrine which simply differs from Judaism by its conclusion of a triune nature of one supernatural being who cannot fully be explained by finite human words and wisdom in the first place, instead of relying on the creation of imaginary angels to explain away problematic verses and language.
Criticism: Jesus didnt fulfill many of the Messianic prophecies, so clearly he isnt the Messiah. The idea that Jesus is a true Messiah who will some day return and fulfill what he failed to do the first time is inconsistent with Jewish beliefs.
Messianic response: As everyone is aware, Christianity teaches that Jesus is one Messiah who came first as a suffering Messiah to deal with the subject of sin, and who will come a second time as a kingly Messiah to establish the Messianic kingdom Judaism waits for. While its true that no one in the time of Christ was looking for one Messiah to come twice, there were enough contradictory prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah that some Jewish movements believed that two separate Messiahs were coming: one a suffering Messiah, the other a conquering Messiah. The concept of one Messiah coming twice is thus a slight modification of a belief that was perfectly orthodox in the 1st century. Only later did Judaism dogmatically pronounce that one Messiah was coming one time, reconciling things like the contradiction between the notion that the Messiah would triumphantly ride into Jerusalem on a white horse and a prophecy of Zechariah that he would arrive meek and lowly on a donkey by concluding if the people were righteous the Messiah would arrive on the horse but if unrighteous, on the donkey.
Such is how far rabinnic Judaism will stretch to create a rationale to deny Christian teachings.
(By the way, even today, the idea of one Messiah coming twice is not out of the question to some in conservative Judaism, for a few of the more fanatical followers of the great rebbe, Menachem Shneerson, claim that he came first as the Messiah ben Joseph, and that God will resurrect and return him as the conquering Messiah ben David. One Orthodox Jew I know was even in a conversation with a follower of Shneersons a while back, and made the comment that if you had substituted the words Jesus Christ for those of the Rebbe in the conversation, you would have thought it was an Evangelical speaking of the second coming of Christ! )
Even if we again distance ourselves from normal Christian doctrine on this issue, there is a quick, sound answer as to why Jesus didnt fulfill the Messianic prophecies...
The Jewish leaders rejected His rulership and had Him crucified!
Just as happened repeatedly in Old Testament times, the man of God came to call the people to repentance and to follow Gods way for them. The elders didnt like the message or the messenger and had him killed. Then they foolishly declared that since the man hadnt fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies, that was proof he must not be the Messiah!
Well, the sad truth is, Jesus the Messiah arrived to do all that the first time but for the fact that the Jewish leaders had Him crucified, so it was their fault--not Christs--that they did not receive what theyd been promised!
God didn't enact the good He wished to do for the people when they rejected and slew the Old Testament prophets, so by what logic could any Jew think that God would do the good He'd promised to do through the Messiah if the people to whom the Messiah is sent have Him crucified? Just read Jeremiah and see what good things God promised to do if the people would repent. They didn't, so they didn't get the good God had promised. That was their fault and only their fault they missed out!
Take the Hebrews to whom Moses was sent with a promise that God would give them rest in the Promised Land. Did God keep that promise? No! He had to constantly be talked out of destroying the Jews by Moses, and in the end, the very people whod been given the promise of a good land were consigned to death in the wilderness. It was their children who got the promise.
Did that make God a liar? Did that mean God wasnt really God because He didnt fulfill the promise as Hed stated it?
No--it revealed the people disqualified themselves from the promise by their actions, and the promise was put off for a whole generation of time.
So we see an entire generation whod been promised things by God fail to receive the very thing theyd been promised! So, too, Messianic prophecies were forfeited when the leaders of the Jews refused the Messiah Himself! They will still happen, yes, just as the children of the Hebrews received the promise--but the fulfillment of those promises has been delayed until Israel repents. Once they do, according to Paul they will have what they want. In fact, they will actually get a much greater gift from God--that of being adopted directly as sons and daughters on an individual sense rather than a coporate sense as a people.
Even the Messianic Age that will be ushered in will be greater than the one originally promised, for the entire earth will be under the rulership and blessing of Messiah, and the worship of God will be perfected in a way that it never could have been under the Mosaic Covenant and the limitations therein that caused a natural separation between God and man and Jew and Gentile because of sin.
Criticism: The idea of Gods employing a human sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind is a direct violation of the Torah, which specifically forbids human sacrifice of any sort! Even if that were not true, one man cannot atone for the sins of another; each man must atone for his own sins!
Messianic response: The foretelling and legitimizing of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is indeed proscribed for in the Torah in Leviticus 27:29. Jesus, by John the Baptists own proclamation, was the "lamb of God", whom God Himself had proscribed as a sin offering--thus, Jesus had to die according to Leviticus, and this was entirely lawful for God to institute even if it was unlawful for the Jews themselves otherwise. (Recall Jephtahs daughter who had to be sacrificed because she was proscribed as a sacrifice by Jephtahs foolish outburst. She had to be sacrificed specifically because Lev. 27:29 mandates she could not be redeemed!)
Now while Judaism, faced with an uncomfortable verse, would try and assert that this portion of Scripture is either talking about heathens the Israelites were told to kill as they entered the Promised Land, or that it speaks about condemned criminals, the text of the entire chapter makes it clear that it is speaking about sacrifices vowed or devoted to God, which is what Jesus ultimately was! This is why Jephtah was stuck and could not get out of his vow.
In contradiction to rabinnic thoughts on the matter, we also see later, in 2nd Samuel 21, when David executes Michal's innocent sons for Saul's sin, their human deaths were accepted by God as atonement for the sins of their grandfather, thus ending a Divine famine, a direct contradiction to what the rabbis claim is possible!
Elsewhere in the Tanakh, Job was required to intercede for his friends to avert Gods wrath against them (Job 42:8), and earlier than that, (Job 1:5) he had offered up sacrifices to atone for his children in the event they had sinned. Moses likewise (Exodus 32:30) offered to make atonement for the sins of Israel.
Further, during the festival of Sukkhot, 70 bullocks were sacrificed for the sins of the (obviously unrepentant) Gentile nations. We thus can clearly establish both in Scripture and the Talmud that the death of one or more innocent human men can indeed be accepted by God as atonement for the sins of their others, and/or that a man can offer atonement for the sins of someone other than himself. Since Christians believe that Jesus was the agent of Mankinds creation, how much more appropriate would His own sacrifice be to atone for the sins of the children He had fathered than Jobs!
Even rabinnic Judaism occasionally lets slip some notions of the death of the righteous atoning for the sins of others despite its usual denial of the concept. Solomon Schechter in Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, for instance, points out that ...The death of the righteous atones just as well as certain sacrifices....'.
Thus, while Judaism may make a dogmatic claim that no one can atone for anothers sin, and that God could never accept as atonement the blood of a human being, the Scripture absolutely shows otherwise!
Criticism: The notion the Jesus could take sin upon himself and atone for it is ridiculous. No one can take another person's sins on himself.
Messianic response: Again, the Scripture (Lev. 10:17) quickly shows how false this notion is, for the sons of Aaron were rebuked for not eating the sin offering and thus taking the sins of the people upon themselves to make atonement for them! Elsewhere in the Tanakh, we know that the Azazel goat used in the Yom Kippur ceremony had the sins of the people transferred to it when the High Priest laid hands on the animal and transferred those sins to it. The goat was then taken out and cast into an abyss, taking the sins of the people with it.
Clearly, then, the principle of a person or animal having the sins of the people transferred to it in some manner is again Scriptural.
Criticism: The New Testament, especially the writings of Paul, teach the false notion that we need a Savior because we cannot keep the Torah. God Himself (Deut 30:12) disagrees and says that we can indeed keep His Torah--and we do! Thus, Christianity is based on an unbiblical premise that contradicts the words of the Tanakh, and must be rejected because it is actually very simple to keep the Commandments of God.
Messianic response: I love this one! On the occasions Ive gotten into a discussion with a rabinnic Jew on this issue, the conversation usually goes something like this:
Me: The ease of keeping the Torah is why the history of the Tanakh is a chronicle of the Jews faithfully keeping that Torah and walking with God, right?
RJ: No, but as the Scriptures say, we can indeed follow His Commandments if we love Him.
Me: So you personally do keep the Torah, even though the New Testament says that you do not?
Me: You are without sin, then?
RJ: Well, no.
Me: Can you name me any Jews who have never failed in keeping the Torah and were thus sinless?
RJ: Undoubtedly some of the great sages and Prophets.
Me: You mean like David, who said If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? (Psalm 130:3); or Isaiah who said, Woe is me! For I am undone because I am a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5)?
RJ: Look, no ones perfect and God doesnt expect perfection! Thats where you Christians miss it!
Me: So you admit that you do sometimes violate the Torah, then?
RJ: Okay, on rare occasions, being human, I have failed in some minor way to perfectly keep the Torah--but its always unintentional, and when I become aware of it I immediately repent and seek forgiveness.
Bingo! There is the fatal flaw. Even the most pious Jew, unless hes hopelessly deceived, will admit he has broken the Torah, in one way or another, at some point in his life. And, even if the violation is entirely innocent and unintentional, Lev. 5:17 shows that God requires the person to bear the iniquity of that unintentional violation of the Commandments! Thus, as James points out (James 2:10), if you keep all of the Torah but fail in one point, you have broken the Torah--period! Thus, no man will ever stand before God and say I have kept your Torah. He may say I tried to keep your Torah or I kept your Torah most of the time, but the fact is, every human being capable of rational thought willfully violates the Commandments of God at some point because of his own selfish will or his human weakness, and he requires Gods forgiveness. The debate, from that point, is on precisely how God can grant that forgiveness.
Judaism, having lost its temple and the priesthood in the 1st century, had to come to grips with the fact that the proscribed sin offerings of the people were now impossible to perform. This created a problem for them. But rather than accept Christ, who had prophesied the destruction of the temple and the fact that the Jews would die in their sins if they rejected Him, they turned to the teachings of Jochanan ben Zakkai, who asserted that Divine forgiveness is based on repentance, prayer and giving alms. To support this, they looked at a variety of Scriptural instances when God forgave the Jews because of their repentant hearts rather than through some form of blood sacrifice. Thus, blood sacrifice and a temple were not necessary for God to forgive, in their view.
Although that teaching is partially true on some levels, the problem is that God has established one ultimate means of forgiveness of sin for humanity as a whole to be reconciled to Him, and if a person willfully rejects the method God has put in place in favor of a substitute system. his sins cannot be forgiven no matter how sincere that person may be. While a good deed or some sort of temporal repentance on their or our part for wrongdoing may avert Gods temporal punishment for sin (1 Cor. 11:31), the eternal consequences follow after, and those consequences can only be muted by the blood atonement of Messiah. Judaism itself comes close to understanding this concept when it acknowledges that an evil man may do a mitzvah and stave off Gods punishment for some of his sins, but the man still dies, having his name written in the Book of the Unrighteous, because he is an evil man!
The Old Testament also shows, starting from Cain and Abel, and going on through the time the sons of Aaron perished when they offered an unapproved sacrifice before the Lord, that God wants people to respond in the manner He has proscribed. Jesus Christ is the legal means of atonement God has provided that permits Him to forgive sin when asked, but the sad fact is, if any person rejects the vehicle for atonement that God has given in favor of another way that sounds good to them--their sins remain even if they ask for forgiveness (remember Lev. 5:17--even if the error of rejecting Gods true atonement is unintentional, the sin remains!).
Again, as Jesus warned, I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins (John 8:24).
Its akin to prisoners inside a jail who are offered a blanket Pardon if theyll agree to accept it. Some of the prisoners accept it and are freed; others reject the pardon on moral grounds but trust to the goodness of the authorities to release them from prison anyway because they are sincerely sorry for the wrongs they did which sent them there. The first group, no matter how much worse they may have broken the law, are freed because they were willing to accept the legal Pardon; the second group must stay in jail because they absolutely refused the Pardon but hoped for mercy anyway.
The Christian position regarding the legal means by which God can forgive sin is, of course, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Whether in Old Testament times or New, there was never any other way; it was always Gods looking forward or looking backward to the ultimate atoning sacrifice that He would accept and grant mercy because of. (Rabinnic Judaism, as you know, denies Gods need for a legal justification to forgive sin, relying on the notion that God is sovereign and will simply forgive because He can.)
So, with this philosophical difference between us, is there any other proof outside of Scripture that we can offer to support the Christian notion?"
Not that would convince Judaism, but even their own Talmud (Yoma 39b) records that red wool tied to the Yom Kippur goat, which would turn white to signify the sins of the people had been forgiven--never turned white again after 30 AD! Apparently, Judaism did something in 30 AD which from that point on caused God to retain the sins of the Jews as a people. The only significant event of 30 AD was the crucifixion of Christ!
.Conclusions: 1--no one truly keeps the Torah. 2--everyone needs Gods forgiveness. 3--one must accept forgiveness on the basis God offers it or he doesnt get the benefits of it.
Criticism: Jesus was not sinless; he clearly violated the command not to harvest on the Sabbath, and He healed non-life-threatening diseases on the Sabbath. He also refused to follow the commandments of the Elders and was in rebellion to the established religious authorities.
Messianic response: The point about harvesting on the Sabbath is dealt with in the commentary on Matthew, where I point out that Jesus disciples, not Jesus Himself, were doing the harvesting, and that harvesting was in accord with the halakha of Gallilean sage Judah bar Illai anyway. As to healing on the Sabbath, the miracles of healing were done under the power of God, not by Jesus own intrinsic power, and God Himself thus gives His stamp of approval to healing a sick person of non-life-threatening disease on the Sabbath since the Torah does not specifically forbid it.
As to rejecting the authority of the elders, Jesus was no more bound to submit to the authority of the Pharisees or the Sanhedrin than Moses was. The Sanhedrin claimed to trace its origin to the elders appointed by Moses, and since the Messiah is the prophet like unto Moses that the people were required to hear lest they come under judgment (Deut. 18:15-19), the Messiah obviously holds Moses own authority and, like Moses, has the right to approve, modify or reject any ruling by the elders subordinate to him. No Jew I know of would hold that Moses was helplessly bound to accept the rulings of his subordinate elders even if he disagreed with them. Jesus thus was perfectly within His right to put aside the takkanot and gezeirah of the elders He disagreed with. From a Christian perspective, at the point the Sanhedrin formally rejected the Messiah, its authority over the people was abrogated anyway and thus the Jews were and are not required to submit to its authority if the rulings from that body contradict the teachings of the Messiah.
Criticism: Christianity teaches anti-Semitism and the rejection of the Torah which God clearly gave to the Jews as a perpetual covenant. How could any Jew convert to such a religion and still call himself a Jew?
Messianic response: It is not Christianity itself, but the ignorance of some within Christianity that teaches anti-Semitism. In other sections of this site I go over the background of how Gentile Christianity has lost touch with the original system in place during the 1st century, which roughly parallels the beliefs of Judaism to this day: the Jewish Christians remained Torah observant (Acts 21:20) while Gentiles were allowed to worship God and keep a lesser set of commandments (Acts 15). The misunderstanding on the part of both Christianity and Judaism traces itself to Pauls apparent de-emphasis of keeping the Torah in his writings. Even though Paul specifically says that observant Jews who accept Christ should remain Torah observant (1 Cor. 7:18), and that Gentiles should not try to mimic Jews in keeping a Torah one must really be brought up in from childhood to understand properly, a misunderstanding has developed that presumes Paul was teaching that the Torah was now fulfilled and passed away and that no one should keep it.
The fact is, there was an important segment in Judaism of the time which consciously believed a person obtained eternal life only by keeping the Torah, which is the idea Paul was constantly fighting against. In contrast to what most Christians think based on their misunderstanding of the Gospels, Jews today do not believe they earn the right of salvation because they keep the Torah. Jews believe, similarly to Christians, that eternal life is the gift of a loving God to His children, and that we walk in His commandments because we love Him--not necessarily because we earn righteousness and eternal life by obeying those commandments.
In the time of Christ, however, the dominant influence in Judaism were Pharisees from the school of Shammai, which held a far more rigid view, believing that one obtained covenant with God by keeping the Torah, whereas their counterparts in the school of Hillel believed one was born into the covenant and then only maintained that covenant by keeping the Torah. The Shammaiites died out as they propagated two major revolts against Rome, leaving their more reasonable counterparts in charge of Judaism. Christian Gentiles, as they began outnumbering the Jews in the faith, however, were ignorant of the background history of all this and thus they imposed their incorrect conclusions on Apostolic writings and came to presume that the Jews of later centuries believed the same things that the Shammaiites of the 1st century believed. The Jews thus faced persecution at the hands of historically illiterate Gentiles who disobeyed the teachings of Christ and committed murder in Christs name thinking they were doing God a service.
On a philosophical basis, while Judaism on one hand claims that the Torah of Moses is to be in existence and in force perpetually, here and there the sages themselves speculated that the Torah would be altered or restricted in various ways during the Messianic Age. Maimonides, the Tosafists, Rav Yoseph, and the Shulchan Aruch, for example, all speculate that the commandments will be modified or even nullified in the Messianic Age or after the Resurrection (see Tosafists on Niddah 61b).
Wasserman illustrates the notion that the Torah itself exempts the dead, including those resurrected, from keeping the commandments (R. Elchanan Wasserman, Kovetz Shiurim, vol. 2, ch. 29). This may be akin to what Paul may have concluded about an aspect of Christian baptism--that the death, burial and resurrection symbolized therein, in some sense freed one from the mandated requirement to keep the Torah to be accepted by God now that the kernel of the Messianic Age had sprung forth (see Romans 6:4-14). Thus, what has passed away is not the Torah itself, but the keeping of the Torah as the forensic basis upon which God accepts a man as righteous. What remains is a set of commandments which play no direct role in salvation but which permit the Jews to retain a cultural identity. There is thus no reason for Gentiles to keep the Jewish Torah save for the moral aspects which are universal to Jew and Gentile alike.
Converted Jews brought up in an observant lifestyle--who may be so indoctrinated in it that they would literally believe themselves to be sinning if they violate it--may thus retain Torah observance despite the fact God does not accept them on that basis. This isn't necessarily hypocrisy; it can be a question of remaining faithful to one's tradition and culture, despite some incorrect theological beliefs on the part of either the Jews or their non-Christian brothers, and/or potentially avoiding violating one's conscience. Twenty years after the Crucifixion, for instance, James was still keeping the Torah despite the fact it played no role in his being adopted by God as a son. Until 135 AD, the believers in Jerusalem did likewise. If they had no problem with it, no Jewish believer of today who also wants to live in the manner in which he was raised should feel prohibited from doing likewise, nor should he be called a hypocrite, lest we have to call James and the first 13 Christian bishops of Jerusalem hypocrites as well. The error is to deny that the Law has been fulfilled in Christ and teach one is obligated to keep it in order to be in right standing with God. (And even so, much of the Mishpatim--specifically, the moral commandments of the Law in it--still apply in every generation, for God has implanted knowledge of those sorts of commandments in the heart of every man as Paul indicates in Romans 1 and 2.)
And so the Torah--as a binding covenant, based on keeping hundreds of extraneous points of minutiae--has, as Christianity teaches, been fulfilled by the Messiah for us, and there is no absolute obligation for a Jew, or anyone else, to follow it, just as most modern Jews today, who are less observant than their ultra-Orthodox brethren, would affirm there is no absolute duty to keep all the same commandments their ancestors kept hundreds or thousands of years ago.
Justin Martyr perhaps summed it up best by his response to Trypho the Jew, who asked if a convert could be a true Christian and yet keep the observances and institution of Moses: ...such a one will be saved if he does not strive in every way to persuade (Gentiles) ...to observe the same things as himself, telling them that they will not be saved unless they do....
Criticism: Jesus disobeyed the commandment to be fruitful and multiply by not taking a wife, so He was in rebellion to what God commands for men.
Messianic response: This is one of the weakest arguments, but one Ive heard more than once. I might point out that its recorded that "If a person cleaves to the study of the Torah like Simeon Ben Azzai,his refusal to marry can be condoned" (Skulkan Arukh EH 1:4).
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