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Book Excerpt from Jehiel Lichtenstein's Hebrew Commentary on the New Testament by One of His Students

(in German; Leipzig, 1895). Out of print, but available at some large libraries or through inter-library loan.

One of the most intriguing eras in Messianic Jewish history is the 19th century, and one of its more fascinating characters was Jehiel Lichtenstein (1827-1912), author of perhaps the most unusual commentary ever written on the New Testament.

Lichtenstein's surname by birth was Hirschensohn. Sometime in the 1850's, he was confronted with the Gospel message and came to faith. Shortly afterwards, he baptized himself in a river near his home town of Jassy, Romania. (He was later baptized by another person in London.) Thereafter, Lichtenstein embarked on an amazing career. He tried to begin a messianic congregation; he served as a missionary in Poland; and he taught at the famous Institutum Judaicum in Germany, a training school for missionaries to the Jews headed by Franz Delitzsch, who among other things is known for his widely-used translation of the New Testament into Hebrew. Apparently Lichtenstein's writings had a measure of effect: the Encyclopedia Judaica has memorialized him as an apostate and missionary" (in the article, "Hirschensohn-Lichtenstein, Jehiel Zevi Hermann").

Lichtenstein lived in an age when it was common for Jewish believers to try and show the truth of the New Testament from the rabbinic writings and even from the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). Lichtenstein was no exception, and he wrote a commentary on the New Testament, complete with his own translation of the Greek into Hebrew. The commentary is full of references to the Talmud, Rashi, and other Jewish sources. There is a reason for that. Then as now, opposition to the Gospel came from many in the Jewish community. In fact, one counter-missionary book, Faith Strengthened (in Hebrew, Hizzuk Emunah) by Isaac Troki, was circulated widely then as well as today. Many of Lichtenstein's remarks in his commentary are designed to counter what Troki had written (even though Troki was a Karaite, a sect of Jews that did not recognize the authority of the rabbinic writings).

Lichtenstein wrote in a rabbinic style, which means that it was terse—even to the point of being cryptic to a modern reader unfamiliar with rabbinic literature. Fortunately, we not only have the commentary in Hebrew but an excerpt in German which adds explanations to clarify what Lichtenstein wrote.

The following are two extracts translated from the German version. The "student" of the title is one Pastor Z÷ckler. In these extracts, Lichtenstein discusses Matthew 1:3-6 and 5:43. Notice how freely he makes reference to the writings of the rabbis, assuming that his reader will be familiar with these materials.

Matthew 1:3-6

Verse 3: Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Cf. verse 5: whose mother was Rahab…whose mother was Ruth. Verse 6: whose mother had been Uriah's wife.

In emphasizing these four women, Matthew wants to show that in no way did the line of David have a blameless pedigree. How little reason is there therefore to find the virgin birth of the Messiah a problem. One should find it much more surprising that he was descended from a house that was cursed with as many blemishes as the Davidic line was!

However, the scholar of Old Testament prophecy will certainly understand why the Messiah came from such a house. In Isaiah 53:2 we read: "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground, etc." From this one learns that the Messiah had to be born from a line which had a blemished history. Many also point to Micah 5:1: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small (despised) among the clans of Judah, out of you will come etc."

With this [the passage in the Talmud] Yebamoth 76b should be compared, according to which Doeg the Edomite pronounced David to be illegitimate on account of his descent from the Moabite Ruth. Similarly, according to Pesikta Rabbati 6 there was a generally held rumor about Solomon: "Is he not the son of Bath-sheba [and consequently illegitimate]?" Also very noteworthy is Yoma 22b, where Rabbi Yehuda says in the name of Samuel: "The dynasty of Saul, to which was attached not the slightest blemish in regard to genealogy, did not last. But the line of David (in which the kingdom lasted), carried around a whole basket full of reptiles on its back [figurative expression for the genealogical blemishes attached to this dynasty]."

Matthew 5:43

Jesus…says in each individual instance: "You have heard that such-and-such is said," i.e., they have heard it that way from the mouth of the Pharisees, who explain and teach the Torah.…

Another legal teaching which the disciples had heard from the mouth of the Pharisees was that the passages Exod. 21:23f. and Lev. 24:19f. are to be explained according to the plain literal sense, that each person may avenge himself. Compare Mo'ed Katan 17a, Baba Bathra 99b, where the conclusion of the discussion is: "A man takes the law into his own hands." And in Yoma 23a, the passage Lev. 19:18, "You shall not avenge yourself, nor keep your anger" is narrowed down, so that revenge is only prohibited if one has suffered property damage through the agency of another person—whereas it is allowed in the case of bodily injury. Jesus, however, recognizes the sense of the law (Lev. 24:19f.) to be that only the court authorized by God may take revenge on evildoers, but the individual person may not—as it stands written in Lamentations 3:30, "He gives his cheek to the one striking him," and Prov. 20:22, "You should not say, I will repay evil. Wait for the Lord, he will help you!" If, however, David is speaking of revenge on his enemies, it is God's enemies who are meant, who as such are also David's enemies. He can say of them: "But you, Lord, be merciful to me and come to my aid, thus will I repay them" (Psalm 41:11).

Now the difficult passage in verse 43 becomes understandable: "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy," which isn't found anywhere in the Torah of Moses. Nevertheless, the disciples had learned it as a genuine teaching of the Torah from the mouth of the Pharisees. Rashi lets us know the source of this basic scriptural interpretation in his commentary to Prov. 3:30: "Do not quarrel with anyone without cause, if he has done no harm to you." Rashi remarks on this passage: "But if he has done harm to you, he has transgressed the commandment, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' He is consequently an evildoer (an enemy of God), and for that reason you may hate him." So is it enjoined in the Talmud, Pesahim 113b: "Whoever commits a transgression, to hate that person is a meritorious work (mitzvah)." In Gittin 7a on the occasion of the quarrel of Geniba with Mar Ukba…: "There will soon be an end of them." Taanith 7b: "One may call every impudent person a scoundrel and hate him." According to Jesus' view of the Old Testament law, one should—to the contrary—love both one's personal enemies and evil people, and should pray for their good (verse 45). In the passage cited, Prov. 3:30, the meaning is rather that in case someone else has done evil, one may certainly remonstrate with him and call him to account, but one may not hate him…

The above extract gives a taste of this remarkable work by a 19th century Messianic Jewish believer. Z÷ckler himself wrote that the commentary has "a practical and apologetical value. The main intention of the author is the same as in his earlier writing, that of convincing his Jewish brothers of the Messiahship of Jesus and refuting the usual Jewish objections to Christianity, especially those raised by the most famous challenger Isaac Troki in his Hizzuk Emunah. The chief attempt of the author in his apologetic is always to show the complete submission of the Messiah Jesus to the Law and the complete correspondence of what occurred with the picture of what was prophesied."

How exciting to know that over a hundred years ago there were Jewish believers knowledgeable both in the Scriptures and in the world of the Talmud. How comforting to contemplate that in another time and another place, Messianic Jews experienced the same misunderstandings and accusations from their own people that we do today. And how wonderful to think that some of them answered these accusations by penning commentaries on the New Testament in the Hebrew language! We have an amazing heritage in those who have come before us in the faith.

In the future, we may hope to see commentaries like Lichtenstein's translated into English. Meanwhile, readers of this publication should look for an upcoming feature article on "Jewish New Testaments" and Jewish commentaries on the New Testament. Jehiel Lichtenstein's may have been one of the first, but it was certainly not the last!

"

Yartzheit for the Cardinal

Jean-Marie Lustiger walked nervously up to the dais to preside over his first mass. The church was packed and the silence palpable. Just as the young priest was about to speak, someone from the crowd yelled, “Get the Jews out!” Lustiger’s reply broke the stunned silence, “All right, if the Jews must leave, that means the guy on the cross and his mother behind me will have to go as well!”

The account may not be reliable; nonetheless, it is the most popular unofficial story about Lustiger in France. Most everyone has heard about the priest who became a cardinal who called himself a Jew. How does the larger Jewish community* feel about this? How should we feel as individuals about this? How Jewish was Jean-Marie Lustiger, anyway?

The Jewish community had mixed feelings about the cardinal. After his nomination as archbishop, Jewish-Catholic relations in France improved dramatically. Ironically, Lustiger worked tirelessly to bring the church to its knees regarding its treatment of the Jewish people. He was the unrelenting motor behind the church’s recognition of the “sins of the past”; he influenced the pope to that end. In 1995 he accompanied a group of French rabbis to hear Catholic authorities apologize for the French church’s passivity toward the Vichy government’s collaboration with Nazi Germany. He made advances in Jewish-Christian dialogue, transforming it into a less formal, more “shmoozy” discussion. Lustiger communicated something that others before him could not. He never said it, but it showed: he felt comfortable among Jews. At times, the Jewish community seemed to feel pride in the cardinal. It was a sort of “local boy done good.” One of our own had become, as he was often called, a “Prince of the Church.” Notwithstanding, the Jewish community wasn’t about to nominate him for a “man of the year” award. Isi Leiber, a prolific writer on Jewish affairs, in writing for Israel’s newsmagazine, Israel Insider, said this of Lustiger in March 2005:

. . . the most disconcerting aspect of the WJC (World Jewish Congress) relationship with the Catholics is the prominent role accorded to the Cardinal of Paris, Jean Marie Lustiger, who until his recent retirement was regarded as a possible candidate to become the next pope. Over the past two years, Cardinal Lustiger, a Jew who converted to Catholicism, has become a virtual World Jewish Congress icon. He was a major speaker at Governing Board and Executive meetings and, even more surprisingly, was selected to be the keynote speaker for the WJC Plenary Assembly held earlier this year in Brussels.

There is no doubt that Lustiger is sincerely committed to combating anti-Semitism in the Church and obviously enjoys representing the Church at Jewish and Jewish related activities. The pope is clearly happy to use him in this capacity and even appointed him to be his personal representative at the 60th commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz in Warsaw.

However it is difficult to understand how an international Jewish body headed by an orthodox Jew using a rabbinical mantle, repeatedly invites Cardinal Lustiger to participate at gatherings of international Jewish leaders, ignoring the fact that Cardinal Lustiger is not just an enlightened Catholic prelate opposed to anti Semitism. He is an apostate, a Jew converted to Catholicism. More than that, Lustiger who speaks Yiddish, continues to describe himself as a Jew, albeit a “fulfilled Jew. ”i

The Jewish community questions continued, “How could he? How could he don the garb of those who preached the Crusades in centuries past, in Europe, of all places? Why did he insist, as he often did, that he was a ‘Cardinal, a Jew and the son of an immigrant.’”ii Why didn’t he understand what his friend Elie Wiesel tried to communicate to him: “Where I come from and from where I stand, one cannot be Jew and Christian at the same time. Jesus was Jewish, but those who claim allegiance to him today are not. In no way does this mean that Jews are better or worse than Christians, but simply that each of us has the right, if not the duty, to be what we are.”iii Yet Lustiger respectfully disagreed. He told Wiesel, “I feel Jewish. I refuse to renounce my roots, my Jewishness. How could I betray my mother’s memory? It would be cowardly and humiliating.”iv

Born Aaron Lustiger in 1926 in Paris, his parents, Charles and Gis?le, non-practicing Ashkenazi Jews from Poland, had moved there around World War I. Aaron and his sister, Arlette, grew up in the 12th arrondissement (borough), the heart of the Jewish community. His family lived on the Rue Marcadet, well-known center of the poor Polish-born Jewish community and far from the Sephardic bessere menschen (better people). Lustiger in Yiddish means “joyful one,” and he lived up to his name. No childish misdeed was too mischievous, if it could afford a laugh.

Before the cardinal died, one of the most popular jokes in the Paris Jewish community went along these lines: What is the difference between the chief rabbi and the cardinal of Paris? The cardinal speaks Yiddish. Indeed, Lustiger bathed in the mama loshen (mother tongue). He learned early on, however, that speaking Yiddish and living in the Ashkenazi immigrant district wasn’t all that Jewishness was about. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, he reflected on this: “As a child, my Jewishness meant being persecuted, historically and personally, from which I have no desire to escape for one instant.”v

He never did. Lustiger showed intellectual promise early on, and his parents sent him to one of Paris’ most prestigious schools, the Lyc?e Montaigne. He excelled in literature and languages. But a young Polish Jew stood out and his schoolmates would not let him forget it. They often pummeled him in traditional European custom. In 1937 he visited an anti-Nazi Protestant family in Germany whose son was in the Hitler Youth (all German teenagers were compelled to join). The son, believing Lustiger was a Gentile, showed him his dagger and confided that the Hitler Youth will kill “all the Jews in Germany during the summer solstice.”vi But it was also around this time that the young Lustiger came across a Protestant Bible and was inexplicably attracted to it.vii

He never lost his sense of humor or his chutzpah. During the Nazi occupation of Paris, he met a Gestapo officer on more than one occasion. At one such encounter, the officer was impressed that he answered in German, and asked him suspiciously how he learned such good German. To which the 14-year-old Lustiger replied, putting a little more French accent into his German, “Here, in France, we have very good German teachers!”viii Of course, anyone who knows the history of these two countries knows that the French have never learned or taught the German language well at that age level!

In 1940, in response to the Nazi occupation, his parents sent him and Arlette to live with a Catholic family in Orleans, 80 miles south of Paris. Suzanne Combes, a member of that family, was finishing her doctorate in French literature at the time. Interviewed later in life, she recalled Lustiger asking questions about Christianity. But it is clear in her accounts of the young Lustiger children’s education that she was more worried about piano lessons, homework and keeping Aaron from reading comic books than converting him to Christianity!

With the world falling apart around him, Lustiger was searching for meaning in the chaos. His unconformity and inquisitiveness pushed him to ask deep questions about Judaism and Christianity. His separation from the Jewish world caused him to crave contact with other Jews. He found it in one of the most unlikely places: the New Testament. For when he read the New Testament he discovered a familiar Jewish world from which he had been cut off. He found conversations that he had heard before and themes that concern his people—the Shabbat, Brit Milah (circumcision) and Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws). Lustiger found the answers to his probing questions and asked his protectors to have him baptized. For Aaron had discovered, through his readings and his prayers in hiding, that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

However, Suzanne Combes refused to allow Lustiger to be baptized unless his parents gave express permission. Lustiger remembers this moment as one of the most difficult in his life: “It was an unbearably painful scene when he told his parents. He explained that he was not abandoning being a Jew but discovering its real meaning. His parents did not understand and he suffered greatly from their pain. He took the step only because he felt it was absolutely necessary for his soul.”ix Although Lustiger’s parents initially denied his request, shortly thereafter they asked Suzanne and the local priest to baptize both children in an attempt to save them from the coming nightmare. Lustiger kept Aaron as his first name, and added the name Jean-Marie at his baptism in August 1940.

His mother, however, did not escape the horrors of the Holocaust. On February 13, 1943, Gis?le Lustiger died at Auschwitz after having been deported from Drancy, the infamous French detention camp. After the war, Aaron’s cousin, Arno Lustiger, who survived Auschwitz, discovered that an employee of the Lustiger family’s hat and drapery shop denounced Gis?le to the French militia in charge of deportations. The woman had long coveted the Lustiger apartment and took it for herself. Lustiger’s father had left Paris to look for another home for his family, thereby escaping the fate of his wife.x

After the war, Lustiger’s father along with the Chief Rabbi of Paris confronted his son about his faith. Together they all visited the bishop in charge of reversing baptisms. Everyone wanted Aaron to recant, claiming he had been baptized only for practical reasons, to escape the Nazis. Aaron vigorously denied that argument and refused to recant.xi Why did he refuse? It became increasingly apparent over the years that Lustiger truly believed.

When interviewed about his experience during the war, Lustiger was asked what he remembered most about occupied France. “To see a country collapse, that everything comes crashing down, that those vested with the truth become liars, those vested with courage become cowards, those vested with justice become traitors, those entrusted with the public good abandon the people,” he recalls. “I saw all of this with my own eyes and it is probably what most traumatized me.”xii Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger decided that this would not happen to him. He would not deny the truth or his own convictions.

Those convictions simply stated were that one, he was a Jew, and two, Jesus was the promised one for Israel. What touched him most when he began to read the New Testament was its connection with the Hebrew Scriptures: “For me, it dealt with the same spiritual subject, the same benediction, the same stakes: the salvation of men, the love of God, the knowledge of God. . . . The identification between the suffering Messiah and persecuted Israel [the Jewish people] was something intuitive and immediate for me.”xiii

Jesus, the Jew, knew suffering. As the prophet Isaiah says of the Messiah: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. . . . He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”xiv

Lustiger gained a deep appreciation for the Jewishness of his new faith because of his love for his people and his Messiah. It was like the old comedy album entitled, When You’re in Love the Whole World is Jewish. That phrase captured the way Lustiger saw his world. He now saw the connection between the Passover lamb and the seders he took part in as a child with Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”xv He saw the continuity of the Old and New Covenants, and in his Jewishness he saw his life’s calling. “I was born Jewish and so I remain,” he said, “even if that’s unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That’s my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.xvi When appointed Archbishop of Paris in 1981, he said, “For me, this nomination was as if all of a sudden the crucifix began to wear a yellow star.”xvii

Lustiger remembered his father telling him as a child that they were Levi’im and that they had a responsibility. Lustiger believed he belonged to a priesthood greater than that of the Catholic Church. In his interview with Yediot Aharonot he said, “What is a Jew, if not a man with a calling for his fellow man? For this reason he is rejected and persecuted and killed! How could I wish to cease being Jewish? It is not man’s prerogative to decide what he should be, but first to God . . . I have never desired to not be Jewish.”xviii As he tried to explain to his parents, “I am not leaving you. I am not passing into the enemy camp. I’m becoming what I am. I am not stopping being a Jew—just the opposite. I’m discovering a way of living it.”xix

He did live it. And he was never ashamed to proclaim it. Two days after he was named Archbishop of Paris, Lustiger told a reporter for a Jewish news service, “I’ve always considered myself a Jew, even if that’s not the opinion of some rabbis.”xx Nor did the cleric nicknamed “the bulldozer” hesitate to confront. He was asked to be the keynote speaker at a major Catholic conference in Germany. He really did not want to go, but accepted on condition that he be invited to speak a week before on one of the national radio stations. On the air, he said, “I will come in my capacity as bishop to the conference, but I will say to you who I am: I am a Jew whose mother you executed. That is what you have done.”xxi

He stood for his Jewish people at every opportunity. To the Jews he was a Catholic and to the Catholics he was a Jew. Cardinal Monsignor P?zeril said of him, “To know him is a grace and a trial, because he is not like us.”xxii His Jewish identity was central to his faith and what he saw as his Levitical calling.

How should we regard his Jewish identity? His life and his death provide the answer. He was born a Jew and he made sure he would die a Jew. In attending to all the details of his funeral, he made it clear that the Jewish rites would be done with at least as much prominence as the Catholic rites.

Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger was the first Jew to be buried at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in its 1100-year history. Even in his death, the archbishop welcomed everyone. The coffin was carried by six cardinals and placed with care in the court in front of the cathedral and under a flag with a Magen David (Star of David) representing those deported to concentration camps. The president of France followed in silence and took a single seat in front of the coffin.

The Archbishop of Paris said a word of introduction for a younger Lustiger, his nephew Jonas Moses, who poured earth from the land of Israel on the coffin of the good cardinal in the presence of the French President. This earth was gathered, in accordance with Lustiger’s will, from Jericho and the western side of the Mount of Olives, from which a generous view of Jerusalem could be enjoyed. Before being brought to France, this earth was placed before the Kotel (Western Wall). His nephew then read, in Hebrew, Psalm 135 that begins the great Hallel: “Praise ye the Lord.” Then his beloved cousin and long-time companion, Arno Lustiger, led the Mourner’s Kaddish in front of that ancient cathedral where representatives of the Jewish community joined in among 5,000 mourners. The plaque that, at his request, was placed in the Cathedral of Notre Dame above the funerary crypt, reads: “I was born Jewish. I received the name of my paternal grandfather [a Yiddish-speaking rabbi in Silicia], Aaron. Having become Christian by faith and baptism, I have remained Jewish. As did the Apostles.”xxiii

* When referring to the Jewish community in this article, we generally mean the French Jewish community.

ENDNOTES

  1. http://web.israelinsider.com/views/5174.htm
  2. Joanna Sugden, “Cardinal Lustiger in his own Words,” http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article2215865.ece (August 7, 2007).
  3. Elie Wiesel,Memoirs, p. 271, as quoted in Daniel R. Schwarz, “The Ethics of Reading Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night,’” Style (Summer 1998), http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2342/is_2_32/ai_54637193/ pg_17.
  4. Paul Heinrichs, “Is the Pope a Catholic? Not Always,” http://www.theage.com.au/news/World/Is-the-pope-a-Catholic-Notalways/2005/04/16/1113509968076.html.
  5. Yediot Aharonot interview by Y. Ben Porat and D. Judakowski, Jan 1982 and reprinted by Le D?bat, May 1982.
  6. “Cardinal Lustiger,” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/07/db0701.xml (August 7, 2007).
  7. “Cardinal Lustiger Funeral on Friday,” http://www.radio-orla.com/content/view/1917/2/ (August 8, 2007).
  8. Robert Serrou, Lustiger (Paris, France: Perrin, 1996) p. 64.
  9. Ronda Chervin, Bread from Heaven (New Hope, Kentucky: Remnant of Israel, 1994) p. 54.
  10. Fr. Tommy Lane, “Homily for the Twentieth Sunday Year C,” http://www.frtommylane.com/homilies/year_c/20-2.htm
  11. “Cardinal Lustiger,” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/07/db0701.xml (August 7, 2007).
  12. Le Lampadaire, weekly journal championing the cause of charity, volumes 38, 39, 40.
  13. Lustiger, Jean-Marie, Choosing God–Chosen by God: Conversations with Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991) p. 28.
  14. Isaiah 53:3, 7.
  15. John 1:29.
  16. op. cit.
  17. Ibid.
  18. op. cit..
  19. Martin Weil, “Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger; Former Archbishop of Paris,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/05/R2007080501472.html (August 6, 2007).
  20. Ibid.
  21. Serrou, Lustiger, p. 24.
  22. Ibid.
  23. “Cardinal Lustiger,” The Economist, http://www.economist.com/obituary/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9644717 (August 16, 2007).

 

Christians Persecute Jews

Persecution in the name of Jesus is the most emotionally charged strand of the net of objections. More than anything else, many people point to Christian anti-Semitism" as a reason to dismiss Jesus. When Jewish people find themselves questioning whether Jesus might be the Messiah, thoughts of the Crusades and the Holocaust quickly rush to mind, setting off a warning signal-Jews who believe join the same league as those who hate our people. When Jewish people allow that signal to block any further contemplation of Jesus, they base their decisions not upon who Jesus is, but rather upon who they do not want to be (namely, among those who persecute Jews).

How can a Jewish believer respond to the accusation that we have joined the persecutors? Anti-Semitism is a fact that should never be minimized or pushed out of mind. Nor can we avoid the fact that many people have used the name of Jesus as a justification for their anti-Semitic crimes. Yet we need to ask questions. For example, can we truly blame our sufferings on Jesus and the things he taught? Can those who have wrongly used the name of Jesus make it wrong for us to believe and trust in him? Can the evil committed in Y'shua's name free us from the responsibility of considering his true identity? These are important questions, because if the answer is no and we continue to allow anti-Semitism to prevent us from considering Jesus, we allow anti-Semites to keep us in the dark about the greatest Jew who ever lived--which produces an even greater injustice against us.

It is important to remember that Jesus never taught hatred of Jewish people, nor did that hatred begin with the church. Persecution was a fact of Jewish existence in the days of Pharaoh and Haman. People justify their hatred in various ways, and some of the worst sins committed are cloaked in false piety. It is human nature to justify ourselves, no matter how ugly our actions. To claim loyalty to a noble person or cause is the perfect justification for the worst possible crimes. Such associations (however false) enable people to deceive themselves into believing that their wicked deeds are righteous.

The French Revolution was a bloodbath in the name of liberty, fraternity and equality. But who would say that liberty, fraternity and equality are ideals to be despised because of that bloodshed? People have committed terrible acts in the name of freedom and justice, but that doesn't make freedom and justice wrong. Nor do we label everyone who advocates freedom and justice as murderers, even though so many criminals have attempted to justify their terrible deeds in the name of those noble causes.

Jesus and his teachings have no connection to crimes committed in his name.

How can we blame Jesus for those who claim to follow his teachings but do not? We might say that if he had never existed, no one could misuse his name, but that is like burying our heads in the sand. Jesus is not to blame for the misuse of his name. In the same way, how are those who wish to explain his teachings to be blamed for those who have distorted them? If (as some have done) we blame all believers in Jesus for killing people they never knew, we become guilty of the same thing our persecutors do when they wrongly blame all Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus.

What a frightening (but not unnatural) phenomenon it is when the wrongly judged and hated turn around and wrongly judge and hate others. It takes tremendous determination for those who have been persecuted not to persecute others in turn. We must remember not to do to others what we hate having done to ourselves. As Jesus put it, "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise"(Luke 6:31).


This article originally appeared in The Y'shua Challenge booklet.

The Jewishness of The New Testament

Why a rabbi who considered the New Testament to be anti-Semitic changed his mind.

Read More »

Christian Anti-Semitism?

Anti-Semitism is both illogical and irrational. Its bitter fruit stems from psychological, political, and religious roots. Whatever the causes, this scourge has plagued humanity for centuries. Although the term anti-Semitism was only recently coined in 1879 by the German agitator, Wilhelm Marr, it was soon applied to all forms of hostility toward Jews throughout history.1 Its genesis and genealogy go back hundreds of years before the common era. So-called Christian anti-Semitism is antedated by hatred of Jews among ancients. One authoritative Jewish source accurately reflects these anti-Semitic beginnings, Anti-Jewish prejudice appeared in antiquity mainly in countries which later became part of the Roman Empire. Refusal by the Jews to accept the imperially sanctioned cult in any form was regarded by Rome as a refusal to recognize the authority of the state, and the rejection of rules then universally held sacred."2 The Jewish people could only allow themselves to worship the one, true, invisible God. And the Romans refused to recognize their fidelity to their God. Caesar was lord—no other was tolerated, especially an unseen One. The first recorded outbreaks of anti-Semitism as a national policy date back to around 1550 B.C. Interestingly, the Bible records the historical incident. The first chapter of the Book of Exodus credits the Egyptians with the infamous distinction of beginning national anti-Semitism. Their irrational fear that our people would outgrow and eventually outnumber them led them to the conclusion that the Hebrews would take over their mighty empire. This ancient episode has a very modern ring to it!

Who is Really Responsible?

Although anti-Semitism goes back to ancient history, its greatest impetus came as a result of the accusation that the Jews committed deicide, the killing of God by the crucifixion of Christ. It was vehemently asserted that the sole guilt for the death of Jesus Christ must lie with the Jews. Maintaining the guilt of the Jews, the church, primarily composed of Gentiles by this time, sought to "repay" the guilty party, a "repayment" enacted in the name of Christ and for the glory of God. But is it really true that our people bear the sole guilt for the death of Jesus? Have the stinging cries of "Christ-killer" been justified down through the centuries? The New Testament portion of the Bible is our major source of information for the events surrounding the death of Jesus. Where does the New Testament actually place the burden of guilt? Who is really responsible for the death of Jesus Christ…?

The following followers of Jesus recorded the names of those parties who God holds responsible for the death of the Messiah:

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy Servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.

Acts 4:27-28

It is obvious that the Jews alone were not responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. The Roman government, through the decisions of her governing authorities, Herod and Pontius Pilate, bears a portion of the guilt. It is worthy to note that the Roman historian, Tacitus, writing in his Roman Annals (written between A.D. 115 and 117), mentions that Christ "was executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius" (Annals, XV. 44). He does not mention Jewish responsibility for the death of Christ. The historical account in Acts also states that the Gentiles share in the guilt of Jesus' death. And "the peoples of Israel" as well. The first century Jewish historian, Josephus, also records a more balanced responsibility between Pilate and the Jews of the first century (Antiquities of the Jews, XVIII.3). Peter, one of the early Jewish believers, says that the first century Jews crucified Jesus "in ignorance" (Acts 3:17).

But without removing human responsibility, it is obvious that God Himself determined that the Messiah must die. Whatever the Romans, the Gentiles, or the peoples of Israel did in the first century, they fulfilled whatever the hand and purpose of God predestined (Acts 4:28). It was divine imperative, the Messiah of Israel must die in order to become the Savior of the world. Isaiah, the prince of our Jewish prophets, predicted such a voluntary death some 700 years before the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Isa.52:13-53:12). It was the Lord who "caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Isa. 53:6). It pleased the Lord "to crush Him, putting Him to grief" (Isa. 53:10). Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would go to His death willingly, "like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so he did not open His mouth" (Isa. 53:7).

Jesus Himself made this quite clear when He said, "I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but l lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again" (John 10:17-18). The death of Jesus was not the helpless, morbid charade of a demented first century Jewish carpenter. It was God's greatest display of mercy and grace for a guilty human race. Jesus died voluntarily for humanity and it is all humanity that must bear the collective guilt for that death. But this guilt is removed from anyone, Jew or Gentile, when he receives the Messiah and His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

While admitting that some of those who professed Christ were responsible for the wholesale persecution of the Jewish people, it does not necessarily follow that they were consistent with biblical teaching on this point. In fact, they demonstrated utter inconsistency with that which they supposedly professed. This can be seen in at least three major areas.

Forgiveness not Revenge!

First, anti-Semitism is totally inconsistent with the stated attitude of Jesus toward the Jews. To believe that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ and then not reflect His attitude toward the Jewish people is the height of hypocrisy, let alone a fallacious inconsistency. Jesus was born a Jew, He lived as a Jew, and He died a Jew, by His choice. Even His resurrection was molded after Jewish expectation. He lived in the midst of His Jewish people and He loved them with a love unparalleled in the annals of Jewish history. Even when it became apparent that a large number of His people had rejected His Messianic claims, Jesus wept over a city that not only missed His arrival, but also a city that would come under the Roman destruction in the very near future. Jerusalem, the golden, would become Jerusalem the ruin (Luke 19:37-44).

Even in His hour of death, He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). His dying heart desired forgiveness, not revenge! Is it any wonder that Jesus told His disciples that love would be the one undeniable evidence that they had been with Him (John 13:34-35)? He commanded them, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). One can argue against a doctrine and fight against a cause, but when love is felt, the message is heard! The early Jewish believers were known for many things, but none more forcibly than their undying love for their Messiah and their Jewish kinsmen. It is utterly inconsistent to despise those who are so dearly loved by Jesus Himself. Prejudice must fade in the dawn of His love.

Second, anti-Semitism is absolutely inconsistent with the attitude and teaching of the Apostles, the early Jewish leaders of the Christian Church. They were not only loyal Jews who had come to believe that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, but they also wrote the documents of the New Testament. They knew Jesus personally and willingly died as martyrs rather than renounce Him. The Apostle Paul, more than any other, carried the good news of the Jewish Messiah to the farthest corners of the earth. And yet, wherever he traveled, he never bypassed the Jews; he always went to them first. God's program begins with the Jews (Romans 1:16). Paul's greatest sorrow was that many of his kinsmen had rejected their Messiah. This great Apostle's love for his Jewish people was so intense that he was willing, if it were possible, to surrender his own salvation and suffer the eternal judgment of God, if they would only come back to Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. "I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from the Messiah for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:2-3). His prayers were constantly rising before the throne of God on their behalf: "My heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is their salvation" (Romans 10:1).

Paul realized that Israel's future was anchored in her great heritage. The Jewish people "are beloved for the sake of the fathers" (Romans 11:28). God's covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not broken and irretrievably cast aside. The promises stand firm and secure. Like Jesus before him, Paul foresaw a day in the distant future when Israel would experience all of the Messianic blessings, that glorious day when the nation would turn to Jesus as the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world (Romans 11:25-29). The Apostles would have been appalled at the centuries of anti-Semitic hatred. It is absolutely inconsistent with not only their love and concern for the Jews, but also with their hope for Israel and her future.

Third, anti-Semitism is utterly inconsistent with the Old Testament portion of the Bible, the only authoritative book of the earliest church. The Jewish Scriptures formed the basis for the early Christian community. Deny these Scriptures, and the foundation of their Christian faith disintegrates. Even when the New Testament documents were completed, the believers still embraced the Jewish Scriptures alongside of them, totally equal in authority and teachings.

A Clause Against Anti-Semitism

One of the most significant passages in the Jewish Scriptures, a passage to which the early church undoubtedly adhered (see Galatians 3:8), is Genesis 12:1-3. God called Abraham to follow Him to a place that He would show him. He gaveto Abraham certain personal, national, and universal promises. One of these promises contained a clause against anti-Semitism. God said to Abraham, "And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse" (Genesis 12:3). God committed Himself without reservation to preserving Abraham and his posterity. And His intention to preserve and bless them is expressed in this phrase. The way an individual or a nation treated Abraham and his people would determine the way God would treat them. Blessing the Jews brought God's blessing and cursing them brought God's condemnation.

This stipulation against anti-Semitism has proved out through both biblical and secular history to this very day. All the great powers, individual or corporate, who attempted to exterminate the Jews, fell sooner or later by the same divine stroke of justice, whether it was Assyria or Babylon of the ancient world or Spain or Germany of the modern world. The divine promise stood secure and inviolate, for God Himself had declared it.

And this same principle still stands secure and inviolate today, as it always will. The promise reflects the character and nature of the promise-giver, who is truthful and unchanging. To believe in Christ is to believe in Christ's Bible. And to believe in His Bible is to believe in God's covenant with Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people. Any attack on God's covenant people is an attack on the God of the covenant, which is antithetical to belief in Christ. For He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:34-40). Those guilty of such an attack show by their fruits that they don't follow Christ at all.

Why the Bicycle Riders?

Believing in Christ does not produce anti-Semitism. It may have been the convenient scapegoat for some, perhaps for many. For prejudice runs deep in the core of men's experience. But belief in Christ is not the cause of anti-Semitism. In fact, one Jewish source claims that modern anti-Semitism is not religiously motivated at all, "Modern anti-Semitism is thus built on racial, not religious foundations and the adoption of the prevailing faith no longer provides an escape route for persecuted Jews."3 For a professing Christian to side with the anti-Semite is to side not only against the Jewish Apostles who penned the Christian New Testament, and against the Jewish Messiah who inspired the Christian New Testament, but it also invites the sternest judgment from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To court God's judgment doesn't seem very rational or logical. But then foolishly blaming all of our troubles on the bicycle riders doesn't either!


  1. Geoffrey Wigoder, ed., "Anti-Semitism," Encyclopedic Dictionary of Judaica (New York: Leon Amiel Publishers, 1974), p. 33.
  2. Ibid., pp. 33-34.
  3. R.J. Werblosky, and Geoffrey Wigoder, eds., "Anti-Semitism," The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1965), p. 34.

Hate Is Not That Complicated

On the eve of Yom HaShoah, an American Jew writes about his family’s fate in the Holocaust.

Read More »

For Such a Time as Purim 2015



Anti-Semitism seems to be at a high right now.  After the horrific Paris attacks and the general anti-Jewish sentiment throughout Europe, perhaps Israel’s Prime Minister (his country has the largest Jewish population in the world) has concerns that are warranted.  Iran (Persia of old) has a long history of looking to get rid of Jews.  Tomorrow is the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates the events that took place in ancient Persia in the 4th century BC.  What do Hassan Rouhani and Haman have in common?  Underestimating the God of Israel who has promised to preserve the Jewish people as a testimony to His faithfulness.  Want to chat?

Issues and Answers

An Open Letter to the Issues Readership

Dear Reader:

This may be the first edition of Issues you've ever received, or you may be a long-time reader of this publication.

To date, Issues has printed a number of articles representing Jewish Christian viewpoints on topics relevant to Jewish people. Perhaps you share our beliefs, or perhaps you've been reading the magazine just out of curiosity and still have some unanswered questions: What do Jewish Christians really believe? How can they be Jewish and believe in Jesus? The editors of Issues would like to take this opportunity to give a clear answer to these questions. The following is a profile of the opinions of several authors who have contributed to Issues since its inception.

The Jewish Christian Dilemma

They are Jews, and they are Christians. To many, this sounds preposterous, but to Jewish believers in Jesus, it is the most natural thing in the world. It was not always this way, however. Many of these people went through great personal strife before publicly acknowledging their belief.

Amy Rabinovitz, in her article, "A Yom Kippur Prayer," noted:

I couldn't honestly say that I was willing to pay the price to achieve what God demanded, but I wanted to…even if it meant believing in Jesus.

Ellen Covett, another Jewish Christian, wrestled with similar feelings:

What would they say if they thought I was nibbling at the forbidden fruit? Would I be betraying my family and heritage if I believed in Jesus? Even so, part of me wanted to know the truth, even if it meant that the truth was Jesus.

"Not Even a Minyon"

There is a deep-rooted resentment and bitterness towards Christianity in the Jewish experience, and the Jewish Christians are not immune to it. They, too, are Jews.

As they struggled with the thought of believing in Jesus, the arguments of the ages continually surfaced. Much of the role of Christianity in Jewish history, needless to say, has been that of a tyrant. Christianity is viewed by Jews as a pagan religion—an idol-worshipping faith. Jewish martyrs marched to their deaths rather than accept the sign of the Cross. Is it any wonder that the deeds of the historical Church presented such an obstacle to many of those who would believe?

The rampant anti-Semitism displayed by the Church was one of the most crucial issues to be grappled with. How could Jewish Christians separate themselves from the Jewish people and be aligned with the opposition? Barry Leventhal, in his article entitled "Christian Anti-Semitism," notes that the greatest impetus of anti-Semitism was the accusation that the Jews committed deicide—the killing of God by the crucifixion of Christ. But these proponents demonstrated inconsistency with what they professed. Jesus' own attitude towards Jews was one of love, and those who claim a belief in Jesus ought to share this attitude. Christianity might have been a convenient vehicle for the venting of anti-Jewish feelings, but belief in Christ is not the cause of anti-Semitism. On the contrary, many true believers in Christ have loudly protested the atrocities committed by the so-called "Christian" Church. Those who truly practice Christ's teaching are not the opposition, but rather are the true friends of the Jewish people.

Have those Jews who have turned to Christ, then, become traitors to their Jewish faith? Some would say yes—they have joined the ranks of the persecutors. But have they? According to Al Brickner in "The Jewishness of the New Testament," the basic theme of Christianity is a Jewish one: the fulfillment of the Messianic Hope. Those Jews who have been prompted to investigate the New Testament carefully have come to recognize its basically Jewish character. Stuart Dauermann, in his article, "What Happened When I Read a Forbidden Book," commented:

I saw in these "forbidden pages" how those who so loved Jesus found a new beauty and strength of life and an intimacy with God; an intimacy that reminded me of Abraham, Isaac and the Prophets. Soon I was no longer able to discount the New Testament as "someone else's religion, " for it spoke directly to the dry and barren areas of need in my life. Through a Jewish book, I had found Him of whom Moses and the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews!

But don't Jewish believers in Jesus eventually assimilate and become lost in the Christian church? Yes, perhaps this has been so in the past, when the Church required all ties with the Jewish faith to be broken. But today, when worldwide Jewish assimilation is such a threat, Jewish identity and its preservation are foremost on the Jewish believer's mind. Not only individual Jews, but entire families are striving to maintain their Jewish heritage. In some cases, Jewish Christian families have retained this Jewish heritage over many years.

The Brickners are one such Jewish Christian family which now spans five generations. Lois Brickner, in her article, "My Jewish Family Album," comments:

Some have said that believing in Jesus cuts one off from the Jewish people and erases identification with them. I have only to look at my own children to realize that this need not be true. They represent the fifth generation of our family who have believed in Messiah Jesus. Rather than showing any inclination to assimilate and lose their Jewish identity, they have shown a readiness to identify themselves as Jews.

Her daughter, Martha, was recently married to another Jewish Christian, in a traditional Jewish ceremony.

Ruth Rosen, daughter of Jewish Christian parents, had this interesting quip:

"People tell me that if I marry and have children, they won't be Jewish,…from Jews you get Jews, even if they do believe in Jesus."

Apple Trees and Jews for Jesus

The sense of Jewish identity is not lost in fact, it is at times affirmed by a personal faith in the Messiah of Israel. Tuvya Zaretsky expressed it well in his article, "First Impressions of Israel":

It is now, through Jesus, that I can identify with our people, our land, and our God. I know in my heart and from God's own word, the Bible, that I am part of a people, God's chosen people, and a land, Israel, God's promise to my ancestor Abraham…It is my hope that more of my people have an opportunity to know the One who provides identity and purpose.

But how can the Jewish Christians claim to have discovered that which is still hidden from our sages? Can our rabbis be mistaken? As harsh as it may sound, the Jewish Christians say yes. In their desire to protect their people from the corruption of institutionalized Christianity, the rabbis avoided and forbade any mention of Jesus Christ. Throughout history, Jesus was represented as the head of a pagan religion; and of this, the rabbis wanted no part. Few rabbis ever entertained the thought of considering Jesus, the man, as the Messiah.

Yet Judaism has never held the words of the rabbis to be infallible. Is it possible, then, for even the rabbis to stray from the truth? Over and over in the Scriptures, we see the Jewish people turning their backs on God (not just Jewish people, but all people are guilty of this). After seeing the power of God revealed at Sinai, did our people not reject Him? The Golden Calf forever remains a symbol of our error. In the centuries to follow, the prophets of Israel ceaselessly admonished the Jewish teachers for leading the people astray. Yet the people ought not to have followed them blindly:

My people have been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away…

Jeremiah 50:6

Are our people still being led astray? In those ancient times, there was always a small remnant who remained faithful to God. If Jesus was the Messiah, then could His Jewish followers be that remnant? Jewish Christians are indeed effervescent in their zeal for the God of Israel. Such zeal is difficult to find among our own Jewish people. It is a zeal based on a firm conviction that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still lives and has fulfilled the Messianic promises He gave.

But how can they be sure that Jesus is indeed the Messiah? It is difficult to be sure of anything, but Jewish believers claim that the Messianic prophecies can be substantiated. If the evidence is strong, then the case bears considering.

The Case for Belief in Jesus

The nature of the Messiah has been variously interpreted by Jewish authorities. We find that Jewish views of the role of the Messiah evolved through the centuries. From a supernatural character who was to come down out of the heavens, the idea of the Messiah was progressively weakened, until to some contemporary rabbis, there remains no more than a vague Messianic era of peace and human equality to come. Yet the Scriptures tell us much about the nature of the Messiah. Isaiah applies to Him titles that can otherwise only be used of God Himself.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Messiah will have the nature and qualities of God. He is called the Eternal One, the Everlasting Father. Indeed, He will be God Himself. Is anything too difficult for a God who can part the Red Sea, and spare Elijah from the grave? Can we not believe it a possibility that a child would be born and carry His very Name?

Taken individually, the prophecies may be cast aside as "mere coincidences," but as they are considered together, they begin to form the case for the Messiahship of Jesus. Biblical prophecies are given in great detail. The exact birthplace and time of Messiah's coming can be found in the pages of the Bible. The prophet Micah speaks of One who would come, whose origins were from everlasting, and whose birthplace would be Bethlehem the city of David.

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Micah 5:2

Daniel tells the time of Messiah's coming, pinpointing it to a period of 490 years from a specific point in Jewish history.

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah, the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times…

Daniel 9:25

Barry Rubin comments on this passage in his article, "When the Messiah Comes":

The only decree to go out was by Artaxerxes in 444 B.C.E. My computations were fairly simple, but the answer I got was difficult to accept. This anointed one was to die in 32 C.E., the year Christ was crucified. I could not call this a coincidence. It would be like saying two plus two equals five.

The Torah: God's Indestructible Book

If we believe in the integrity of the Scriptures, this alone should be sufficient to raise the question: If Jesus was not the Messiah, who was?

But if Jesus was the Messiah, and possessed qualities ascribed to God, why didn't He bring peace? Some believe that He did:

Peace, lasting peace, transcends the situations and flaws of our own personal lives because it doesn't come from us. It comes from God. We are not in a position to attain peace ourselves. Yet, God promises all the qualities of shalom: wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety to those who will look to Him.

"The Shalom of God" by Susan Perlman

It would have been possible for Jesus to bring peace to the entire world, but this would have been in violation of man's right to freedom of choice. God would no more impose a desire for peace in a man than He would impose a belief in Himself. Man is free to choose, and unfortunately, some men do not desire peace. Their own greed and selfish ambition cause them to be in constant strife and competition with others. No, the change could not be imposed upon man from without. Rather, it had to arise from within through a supernatural purification of the human heart.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way…

Isaiah 53:6

All of us have at one time or another turned away from God. There is no exception. Yet the Bible tells us:

…but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of ow peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53: 5,6

Rachmiel Frydland has commented on this passage in his article, "The Rabbi's Dilemma: A Look at Isaiah 53":

Our ancient commentators with one accord noted that the context clearly speaks of God's Anointed One, the Messiah.

Because all men have turned from God, there is none righteous enough to fulfill His requirements. Only the Messiah could suffer thus—and in his pain, bear away our transgressions. Those who believe in Jesus claim that He has cleansed them and enabled them to have a personal relationship with a loving God. It is by this change wrought in men's hearts that Messiah has brought peace in the world.

We see, then, that in order for Messiah's life to accomplish its purpose it had to end in death:

…he was cut off out of the land of the living…for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

Isaiah 53:8

Why would God be so cruel as to require death from His Anointed One? It was not God who was cruel. Man, because of his sin, required a punishment. A righteous judge cannot wink at blatant violations of the law. Neither can God allow His people to break His commandments and go unpunished. Although the punishment for sin is death, or separation from the Giver of Life, God has provided a substitute. In Old Testament times, the Lord required the blood of an animal to be shed in place of the blood of man. Yet the animal sacrifice did not really pay the price of the sin, it merely illustrated to man the graveness and seriousness of his acts. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a time when the ultimate sacrifice would be made: there would come a man, a righteous man, who would die for the sins of his people. The Messiah alone was righteous enough to accomplish this.

The manner of his death is graphically portrayed by the Psalmist:

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet…They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

Psalm 22:14-16,18

The passage resembles to the detail a Roman crucifixion, although it was written centuries before this torture was put into practice. The Psalmist may have seen prophetically the manner in which Messiah was to suffer: a cruel and painful death at the hands of his enemies.

Yet the Scripture has words of hope. They do not speak to us of Messiah's death and leave us there, in mourning. Instead, they carry the work on to its conclusion. Yes, Messiah must die, but death will not rule over Him he will be resurrected. Resurrection has long been a tenet in the Jewish religion, and the Bible speaks specifically of the resurrection of the Messiah:

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither will thou suffer shine Holy One to see corruption.

Psalm 16:10

Bob Friedman, in his article, "Life after Life," noted:

Jesus not only confirmed the resurrection of the dead in word, but also in deed …He did not merely claim to be a prophet of great insight and compassion; rather, He claimed to be the Messiah, the unique Son of God, and He proved it.

The belief in Jesus does not stand or fall on these prophecies alone. These are but a sampling—space does not allow for a complete account. Such an account may be found in books such as Y'shua: The Jewish Way to Say Jesus, What the Bible Teaches About the Promised Messiah, or What the Rabbis Know About the Messiah. There, the case for Jesus' Messiahship is presented in a much fuller scope. (Some of these titles are available through our online Purple Pomegranate catalog.

What, then, do Jewish Christians stand for?

They themselves at one time asked the very same questions they are now accused with. They grappled with the same prejudices and struggled with similar problems. Yet because of Scriptural evidence for Jesus' Messiahship, they have risked community and family ties and have declared their belief in Jesus.

Have they then ceased being Jewish? That may depend on one's definition of the term. If Jewishness denotes a descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then yes, they are Jews. If it denotes observance of Jewish religious customs, the spectrum is varied. Being a cross-section of the general Jewish population, it is not surprising that they have such a diversity in religious expression. Some are very zealous in their keeping of Jewish traditions, while others are more casual. Each must make his own decision. Yet the majority of Jewish Christians affirm that their Jewish background has become all the more meaningful to them since they found the Messiah of Israel. Martha Brickner Jacobs, in her article, "What Happens to the Children of Jews for Jesus?" stated:

"My parents, like most Jewish Christians I know, took great pride in their heritage and wanted their children to know their Jewish roots as well as them…I was 15 years old when I accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and something happened to me! My Jewishness was no longer an accident of birth but rather a gift from God to embrace and in it, a purpose to be fulfilled. I wanted to identify with my people, the way my parents had really wanted me to."

Many Jewish Christians seek to maintain close ties with the Jewish community and its traditions. In the past two centuries, several "Messianic Synagogues" have sprung up throughout the United States and Europe. In these congregations, a Messianic Jewish liturgy is developing for regular weekly services as well as for holy days, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other special occasions.

Although observance of Jewish traditions varies among Jewish Christians, there is one denominator common to most: the desire to support the state of Israel. Jewish Christians stand firm in their belief that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob gave the land to their descendants. They actively stand by the nation in its struggle to retain its freedom.

For some, it was this bond to the land of Israel that began the process that led them to belief in Jesus:

"As I look back upon my life and how God has shaped it, I realize that my trip to Israel and my experience at the Western Wall played a part in my becoming a believer in Jesus. Seeing and experiencing something concrete that represented God's promise reinforced my belief in a God who I wasn't sure existed. After searching, I not only came to know the He was there, but that He cared. I have finally been able to put my religious and nationalistic feelings together. Israel is not only a place but a people that God has set apart for His own purposes."

Jhan Moskowitz, "If I Forget You O Jerusalem"

Jewish Christians have been accused of being no longer Jewish. Yet they grapple with the same questions, observe the same traditions, and share the same hope as all Jews everywhere: the hope that Messiah will soon return and establish His kingdom on earth. Jewish Christians eagerly await the coming again of their Messiah. It is their hope that the people of Israel will look unto Him and find that Jesus, indeed, was He. For there still remains an unfulfilled prophecy:

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

Zechariah 12:10

"Jesus is not for us Jews." That is what has been taught. And many accept this statement without ever investigating for themselves the claims of this One who changed the course of human history. Are you open-minded enough to consider His claims and make your own decisions?

If Jesus is the Messiah

Why all the suffering in the world? Why isn't there real and lasting peace? Why all the persecutions in the name of Jesus? Why don't rabbis believe in him? Why doesn't he say so?

There is an answer for each of these questions, if you are interested. Of course, if you're only looking to disprove Jesus' claims, no answer will satisfy. But if you're a seeker of truth, willing to accept the truth where it is found (even if it is Jesus), won't you read on?

Why all the suffering in the world?

Why not? We live in a cause-and-effect world, and sin (wrongdoing) causes suffering. If sin hadn't been introduced into the world at the very beginning, there would be no disease or hunger, and pain would be unknown. To put an end to suffering, the sin problem has to be resolved—and that is why Yeshua (Jesus) came. Concerning suffering, Jesus said, "In the world there will be tribulation but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Why isn't there real and lasting peace?

The peace that Jesus offers is available now to any Jew or Gentile who accepts him. It's a peace for your heart. Sure, most people are for world peace, but lasting peace starts within people, one at a time. Jesus says, "My shalom I give you… do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).

Why all the persecution in the name of Jesus?

Persecution against individuals and groups of people has been carried out under many banners: the banner of justice and morality, the banner of freedom, the banner of a better world. That it is also carried out under the banner of Messiah Jesus is only another indicator of how people justify their unjustifiable acts.

Why don't rabbis believe in him?

A few do. But their status in the Jewish community ceases at that point and they are no longer rabbis. The vast majority of rabbis do not believe in Jesus for the same reason you don't. To consider Jesus' claims means risking important relationships as well as admitting that all your knowledge, noble deeds and good intentions are not enough to make a relationship with the Creator possible.

Why doesn't he say so?

Despite what you may have heard, he did. You can read Yeshua's own words in the New Testament. See Matthew 16:15-57, John 4:25-26 and John 11:25-27. We hope you will check it out for yourself.

If you find these answers unsettling, please know that isn't our intention. We understand that the truth is not always comfortable or convenient—but it is, well… the truth.

So if these answers speak to you, we invite you to speak to God. Because if Jesus is the Messiah, don't you owe it to yourself to find out? Read more about Yeshua at jewsforjesus.org/howtoknowgod.

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Questions and Answers from Jews for Jesus

We have compiled a dozen frequently asked spiritual questions for Jewish seekers. Number 5, "What proof do you have that Jesus was the messiah," has some of the highest traffic from our whole website. What questions you might like to see included or answered in the next version of this compilation? Check out the whole booklet and leave a comment for us here to let us know!

Here is what the current set addresses:

  1. Introduction
  2. Exactly what is Jews for Jesus?
  3. How can you believe in Jesus and still call yourselves Jews? Why don't you just call yourselves Christians for Jesus?
  4. Don't Christians believe in three gods?
  5. What proof do you have that Jesus was the Messiah?
  6. If Jesus was the Messiah, why isn't there peace on earth? Look at all the persecutions in the name of Jesus.
  7. How can you believe in God, let alone in Jesus, after the horrors of the Holocaust?
  8. How can you believe in the New Testament? Isn't is full of anti-Semitism and lies?
  9. So if you're still Jewish, do you carry out the Law of Moses?
  10. Jews don't believe in proselytizing, so why do you try and convert everyone to your way of thinking?
  11. I'm basically a good person and I'm very happy with my own religion, so why should I believe in Jesus?
  12. If Jesus was the Messiah, why don't the rabbis believe in him?
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