Why a Jew cannot accept Jesus
Christians can agree that there was an authentic God-given teaching available before Jesus was born. What was that teaching? Both Jews and Christians admit that the Jewish scriptures were a significant part of that teaching. Let us focus on the Jewish scriptures. We must cast our mind back to the time before Jesus was born. We must ask ourselves how a Jew would have read the scriptures before the advent of Christianity. What was the total world-view that the Jewish scriptures imparted to the Jewish people? What would have been the perspective of the Jew who accepted the totality of the Jewish scriptures concerning the major theological issues that stand between Judaism and Christianity?
The Jewish scriptures provide the Jewish people with clear and direct guidance on the major issues that separate Judaism from Christianity. For the purpose of illustration we will focus on the issues of idolatry, atonement and the Messianic era.
In order to establish His relationship with the Jewish people God introduced Himself to the nation as a whole with the words “I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:2). This revelation gave the people to understand that there is no power aside from God (Deuteronomy 4:35). This revelation was God’s way of teaching us whom to worship, and through the process of elimination – who we cannot worship. If the entity in question was not present at Sinai, then it does not deserve our devotion (Exodus 20:19, Deuteronomy 4:15). Scripture consistently refers to idols as “gods that neither you nor your fathers have known” (Deuteronomy 11:28, 13:3,7,14, 28:65, 29:25, 32:17, Jeremiah 7:9, 19:4) – or “that which I have not commanded” (Deuteronomy 17:3). The clear message of scripture precludes worship of an entity that was not revealed to us at Sinai. It is on this basis that the Jewish people cannot accept a teaching which deifies a human being.
On the issue of atonement, the message of scripture rings loud and clear. Ezekiel 33:10 gives expression to the feeling of hopelessness that overtakes the sinner – “our sins and transgressions are upon us, and we melt away in them, how then shall we live?” The next verse gives us God’s response – “Tell them – as I live says the Lord I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn away from his sins and live”. The passage goes on to assure the penitent sinner “none of the sins that he committed will be remembered against him” (Ezekiel 33:16). Here the scriptures directly address the feelings of guilt and hopelessness that overwhelm the sinner. God’s answer is repentance. The primary and direct purpose of this passage is to address the issue of getting out of the trap of sin and achieving God’s forgiveness. The teaching of scripture on this issue is – repentance. There are quite a number of passages in scripture which directly address the question of the sinner’s hope and the answer is always repentance. (Deuteronomy 4:29,30; 30:1-3, – addressing the nation as a collective unit, Isaiah 1:16,17, 55:7, Ezekiel 18:21,22,23, Micah 6:6-8 and the entirety of the book of Jonah all give us clear and direct guidance on the issue of atonement. See also Jeremiah 36:3, Zechariah 1:3, and Job 22:23.) It is on the basis of God’s explicit word that the Jewish people reject the theology which denies the efficacy of repentance.
On the issue of the Messiah, scripture is also clear and unambiguous. Contrary to Dr. Brown and Lee Strobel’s assertions that “Messianic prophecies are not clearly identified as such” or “scholars must pore over the context of various passages to determine which ones deal with the coming of the Messiah” – there are quite a number of passages in Jewish scripture which are open and unequivocally direct in their description of the Messianic era. The future hope for God’s nation is amply described by Moses (Deuteronomy 30:1-10), by Isaiah (2:1-4, 11:1 – 12:6, 60:1 – 63:6, 66:12 – 24), by Jeremiah (23:4 -8, 30:1 – 31:39, 33:4 -16), Ezekiel (34:23 – 30, 36:1 – 38, 37:15 – 28), Hosea (2:18 – 22), Joel (3:1 – 4:21), Obadiah (1:15 – 21), Micah(4:1 – 4), Zephaniah (3:8 – 20), Zechariah (14:1 – 21), and Daniel (7:27). One does not need to be a scholar to recognize that these passages are God’s promise for Israel’s glorious future. God had granted the Jewish people a clear and unambiguous portrait of the Messianic era – a portrait that was all put into writing long before Jesus’ grandparents saw the light of day. Loyalty to God’s word demands that the Jewish people reject the doctrine which contradicts what God had taught them.
The Christian missionaries will be quick to point out that there are certain passages in scripture which seem to support their contentions. We will shortly demonstrate how those passages do not in fact support the Christian position, and in most cases turn out to be the strongest refutations to Christianity. But it is not necessary to actually refute the missionary arguments in order to recognize their irrelevance. The passages that support the Jewish position tower above the missionary proof-texts in four different ways.
a) Comprehensive: The scriptural passages that we have quoted in support of the Jewish position are comprehensive. They provide a complete and thorough teaching on the issue in question. The missionary quotations never give a full teaching on the issue in question. There is no verse in scripture which can be twisted to read as a commandment to worship a human incarnation of the divine. There is not one passage in the Jewish scriptures which teaches that atonement is achieved through belief in the Messiah. Neither does scripture tell us that the Messiah offers eternal salvation for those who accept his claims. The best the missionary can do is to find a passage which seems to support a fragment or a detail of the Christian doctrine. These fragments pale into insignificance when they are contrasted with the broad and comprehensive sweep of the general message of scripture.
b) Clear: The scriptural passages that we have quoted in support of the Jewish position are clear and unambiguous. There is no question as to what these passages mean. The passages that the missionaries quote in support of Christian doctrine are generally vague and ambiguous. In many cases, even Christian scholars question the validity of the missionary interpretations. There is no way that these questionable quotations can challenge the open and explicit message of scripture.
c) Consistent: The doctrines of Judaism stand on the basis of a scriptural message that is emphatically repeated in a consistent manner. Many of the doctrines of Christianity stand on the tenuous interpretation of a single verse. It is irresponsible to establish doctrine on the basis of these anomalous passages. Sober biblical scholarship demands that these passages be interpreted in light of the consistent message of the totality of scripture.
d) Direct: The scriptural passages that we have quoted in support of the Jewish position are direct. The primary purpose of these passages is to present a teaching on the doctrine in question. Deuteronomy 4:9-20 was written with the express purpose of teaching us who we are to worship. Ezekiel 33:10-20 directly address the question as to how we can achieve forgiveness for our sins. The scriptural passages quoted by the missionary, were not written for the direct purpose of teaching the Christian doctrine, this, even according to the missionary interpretation. Each of these passages has a primary and direct message which has nothing to do with Christianity. The broad sweep of the Jewish scriptures provided the Jew with a clear and complete theology. The theology that emerges from the Jewish scriptures does not allow the Jew to accept Christianity. As one former missionary (whose path to the God of Israel went through the pages of the Jewish scripture) put it – the Bible is the most powerful counter-missionary book ever published.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
Hi. Can you please answer this question then…If all one has to do is repent and all your sins are forgiven and remembered no more, what was the purpose of the animal sacrifices that the Jewish people had to do? My understanding was that through the shedding of the blood of those innocent animals, the sins of the nation of Israel were forgiven. It was the High priests role to stand in the gap and offer the sacrifices on the behalf of the nation of Israel and through this process, Adonai forgave their sins. If the nation of Israel had the option to just repent and all was well, why then did Adonai require these sacrifices? Also, where in the Torah does Adonai say that these sacrifices are no longer required or can be substituted with “Good Works”?
You realize that your questions are directed at the explicit passages that are quoted in my article. Your argument is not with me but with the Author of Scripture.
My understanding is that the purpose of the sacrifices is to allow us to give expression to our repentant hearts. We do not believe that the sacrifices were replaced. We believe God’s promise to restore the Temple together with the animal sacrifices. But nowhere does God say in His Scripture that there is no atonement without blood.
Sacrifices were only one way to atone for some sins (either accidental sins, aka mistakes, or a few very specific things like entering the Temple without being ritually pure). There are many ways to atone for sin. I like to use the spaghetti analogy. Spaghetti is a type of food — but it isn’t the only food. Would you say that only spaghetti can sustain you as fuel?
Would it surprise you to know that here was no blood sacrifice for individual intentional sins?
Check out these Biblical references for yourself to see that repentance, kindness, prayer and more atones for sin — and for far more serious sins than the sin sacrifices ever did. . .
repentance (II Samuel 12:13-14, Jonah 3:10, Lev. 26:40-42, Ezek. 18:21-32, 33:11-16)
kindness (Prov. 16:6, Daniel 4:24)
prayer (Hos. 14:2-3,I Kings 8:46-50, Daniel 9:19)
removal of idolatry (Is. 27:9)
punishment (Is. 40:1, Lam. 4:22),
death (Is. 22:14)
flour offerings (Lev. 5:11-13)
money (Ex. 30:15)
jewelry (Num. 31:50)
and incense (Num. 17:11-12).
I seem to remember a story that is told each year during the Passover. It’s the story of how God commanded the nation of Israel to apply blood to the doorposts of their home so that the angel of death would pass over them. If a family whether Jew or Egyptian did not place the blood of the innocent lamb on their doorpost, then their first born son WOULD die. When Adam and Eve sinned, the first thing that Elohim did was to kill an innocent lamb. The blood atoned for their sin and the skins were used to cover them. (Because they now knew they were naked) Whenever God deals with his people and he deals with sin, blood is used for atonement.
The Torah says in Leviticus 16 that ALL the iniquities, transgression and sins of Israel were dealt with by the death and shed blood.These include ALL intentional as well as ALL unintentional. Notice one goat died on the altar for the sin, and its blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat. The second goat became the vicarious carrier of ALL the sin of Israel , again ALL. A person cannot be righteousness with God apart from Leviticus 16 being fulfilled. Leviticus 17:11 ties directly back to what happened on the Day of Atonement.
IN addition, Leviticus 6 gives very clear examples of deliberately committed sins that were atoned for by the daily sacrifices. The sins that were specifically committed were: lying, stealing, violence, swearing falsely and deceit. The remedy for these sins was repentance, restitution and sacrificing a ram. It is very clear that deliberate sins were atoned for on a regular basis.
Leviticus 6:2 “If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour; (3) Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:
(4) Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, (5) Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.
(6) And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: (7) And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for anything of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.
If we could just do good deeds ourselves for our sins to be committed, then what purpose did the animal sacrifices even hold? There is no need for an innocent animal to die in our place if we can just do it ourselves.
You have some questions and you came up with your answer. But according to you why does the Bible never come out straight and say “there is no atonement for sin without blood” – why does God say through Ezekiel that repentance brings about forgiveness for sin? Your questions cannot turn over the plain meaning of the Bible.
Leviticus 16 that ALL the iniquities, transgression and sins of Israel were dealt with by the day itself — not any of the sacrifices. The sins of Israel were sent away on a LIVE goat — not one that was sacrificed. “The goat that has the lot for Azazel shall remain alive before G-d, so that [Aaron] will [later] be able to make atonement on it and send it to Azazel in the desert.. . . Aaron shall press both his hands on the live goat’s head, and he shall confess on it all the Israelites’ sins, rebellious acts and inadvertent misdeeds. When he has thus placed them on the goat’s head, he shall send it to the desert with a specially prepared man. The goat will thus carry all the sins away to a desolate area when it is sent to the desert.” Levitics 16:10 and 16:21-22.
It wasn’t sacrificed.
The other goat (the one that was sacrificed) was a sacrifice for the unintentional sins of the average Jew. Aaron also sacrificed a young bull for the unintentional sins of his household and himself.
There are no sacrifices for “big” sins. This is also true in Leviticus 6 in yor bible (5 in a Jewish bible). Read it in context — Leviticus 5 (6) is speaking abot the asham (guilt offer) which could be brought if you weren’t sure you had sinned (was it a cheit or not?) — or if you had taken something that belonged to the Temple. If you knew you had sinned you would have brought a chatat (sin offer). That is “it.”
You asked “If we could just do good deeds ourselves for our sins to be committed, then what purpose did the animal sacrifices even hold?” Most were to thank G-d (they had nothing to do with sins). The purpose of sacrifices are to give something of value to G-d and to realize that we owe everything to Him. The Hebrew word for sacrifice actually means drawing near to HaShem.
One last thing — you asked: “Also, where in the Torah does G-d say that these sacrifices are no longer required or can be substituted with “Good Works”?” The Torah tells us in Deuteronomy 12:13-14 “Be careful not to offer your burnt offerings in any place that you may see fit. It must be done only in the place that G-d shall choose in [the territory of] one of your tribes. Only there shall you sacrifice burnt offerings, and only there shall you prepare all [the offerings] that I am prescribing to you.” The last place G-d chose was the Temple — without a Temple there we follow His mitzvot and do what He tells us to do — which means not to bring the sacrifices for now.