“Let me tell you all about Jesus,” the Christian says to the Jew. “He’s the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God who came to earth and did a lot of wonderful miracles, like healing lepers and casting out demons. He then died for our sins and rose from the dead! So you no longer have to keep the old Law to be saved; instead, you have to put your faith in Jesus and believe in the Trinity in order to have eternal life.”
The Jew, not wishing a confrontation, will probably smile uncomfortably and say something along the lines of, “Well, we do believe that Jesus was a great teacher, but he wasn’t our Messiah.” What he won’t say, but may very well be thinking, is that the Christian’s Jesus sounds frighteningly similar to the very same false prophet that Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our Teacher) warned us against.
In his Bible, in Deuteronomy 13:1-6 (which corresponds to 12:32-13:5 in Christian Bibles), the Holy One warned us by Moses’ hand,
All this word which I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams – and he give thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee – saying: ‘Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them’; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God putteth you to proof, to know whether ye do love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. After the LORD your God shall ye walk, and Him shall ye fear, and His commandments shall ye keep, and unto His voice shall ye hearken, and Him shall ye serve, and unto Him shall ye cleave.
And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken perversion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of bondage, to draw thee aside out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee. (JPS version)
On virtually every single point, the uninformed Christian has told his Jewish friend that the Jesus he worships is a false prophet. Was Jesus a worker of miracles and a giver of prophecies? Yes. But is Jesus, as presented by the Christian, one who seeks to draw Jews away from the commandments the Holy One commanded us to walk in? Indeed. In fact, orthodox Christian theology, as we have seen, requires that a Jew must cease to keep “the Law” in order to enter into God’s “grace.” Yet, as we have seen, this was never the teaching of Yeshua or any of his first-generation disciples. This means that when Christianity has proclaimed this anti-Torah picture of Jesus to the Jews they were absolutely correct to reject it.
For an analogy, let us imagine that a charismatic new cult leader appears and claims to be Jesus Christ returned. Let us say that he even does public miracles that draw a great many followers to himself. However, not only does he not come “with the clouds of heaven” as Yeshua said that he would (Mat. 24:24-31), but he teaches that his followers should not marry but instead should enjoy “free sex,” commands them to worship on Wednesday, and teaches them to use tarot cards to produce prophecy. Bible-believing Christians would reject such a person’s claims, and they would be right to do so. Nobody could rightly claim that by rejecting a false christ that they had in fact rejected the true Christ, nor that they had rejected the Biblical teaching of the Second Coming. In fact, we would say that by rejecting this false messiah, especially if done under persecution by his followers, that the Christians were demonstrating their fidelity to the true God and his true Messiah.
In the same way, Jews who have rejected the anti-Torah, anti-Jewish picture of Jesus proclaimed to them by Christianity, even in the face of brutal persecution, actually demonstrated their fidelity to the God of our fathers by doing so.
Two thousand years ago, as Yeshua’s first generation of disciples struggled with the question of how to integrate so many Gentiles into their assembly, one Rabbi Sha’ul, better known to the world as the Apostle Paul, wrote a letter to the Galatians to urge them not to become Jewish through the ritual of circumcision with the thought that it would somehow make them more acceptable to the God who had already poured out His Spirit on them. He called this “good news” that one could be saved if only one became Jewish and subject to Jewish law “another gospel.” He warned of this other “gospel” of Judaizing, “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should proclaim to you any ‘good news’ other than that which we preached to you, let him be cursed” (Gal. 1:8). If telling a Gentile that he must utterly divorce himself from his family, culture, and nation in order to be saved and part of the community of the redeemed is a sin worthy of a curse,how much more so is telling a Jew that he must give up his and be “Gentilized,” forsaking that which defines Jewish family, culture, and nationality–none other than the Torah itself
It is not necessary, of course, for the Gentile followers of the King of the Jews to take upon themselves all of the Torah. Just as there are commandments that are only incumbent on the priests, others that are only for shepherds, others for farmers, others for men, still others for women, and many that are only set upon those living in the Land, there are certainly commandments that are particularly for the Jews. Judaism has absolutely no problem with that concept at all, as last post’s quote from Rabbi Emden shows; indeed, since it has been through the uniqueness of keeping the Torah as a whole that has kept the Jewish people separate and preserved, most Jews are leery at the prospect of Gentiles en masse keeping the commandments which are Jewish distinctives, such as the Feastdays or kosher. There is room for valid debate and disagreement on which specific commandments are universal for all mankind, which are universal for both Jew and Gentile while in the Land, and which are specific to the Jew, whether in or out of the Land. Indeed, this is a debate that must be undertaken–but due to the focus of this blog, we will not do so here. However, what is necessary to present the true Good News to Israel is that the Torah be exalted rather than debased and that the Jewish observance of the Torah be accepted, expected, encouraged, and even extolled!
- The Land of Israel Belongs to the Jewish People (jpfinn7.wordpress.com)
- Dear White Christian America: Jesus Wasn’t a White Surfer Dude (alternet.org)