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