The Christian Claim for Recognition as Legal Heirs to the Legacy of Israel
Some Christians recognize the vital nature of the legacy of the Jewish nation. These people recognize that if there is no authenticity to the legacy of the Jewish nation, then scripture itself has no validity. These Christians do not submit to the legacy of our nation, instead they attempt to usurp the authority of our national inheritance. The argument that these people put forth posits that the early Jewish Christians are the true remnant of loyal Israel, and that Christendom is their legal heir. This doctrine sees the first Jewish Christians as the Jews who remained loyal to God, while the rest of the nation strayed from the true faith by rejecting Christianity.
This line of argumentation is untenable for four separate reasons. First and foremost, the mere fact that God allowed this Jewish Christian community to be eradicated (by the gentile Church – their supposed heirs), tells us that this was not the covenant community. God promised the Jewish people that the Sabbath will stand as an eternal sign for His covenant with the Jewish people (Exodus 31;16). From the time that the Jewish Christian community was destroyed by the Roman Bishops, this sign was not to be found in that community – for that community ceased to exist. The sign of the Sabbath was borne by those who rejected Christianity’s claims, and not by those who accepted them. Since this group disappeared as a recognizable Jewish entity, we can be confident that it was they who were cut off from the midst of their people and it wasn’t the Jewish people who were cut off from them.
A second reason why the Christian argument cannot be considered is because we have no way of knowing what it is the fist Jewish Christians believed. The only records that we possess, were preserved and edited by the very people who planted the seeds of their destruction. All of the original Aramaic and Hebrew documents are gone. Unless we trust the canon of the Gentile Church, there is no way we can know what the early Jewish Christians believed. For all we know, they would more readily identify with the Jewish position on the key theological issues rather than with the Christian position. (It is in place to note here, that many scholars recognize that a deep theological divide separated the early Jewish Christian community from the Gentile Christian community.)
Thirdly, we must consider the available evidence. The Samaritans, the Sadducees and the Pharisees all agreed on the issues which stand between Judaism and Christendom. All of these Second Temple communities recognized that the deification of a human is a violation of the Jewish perception of God. All of these communities acknowledged the efficacy of repentance for achieving God’s forgiveness, and they all agreed on the foundational role that observance of the Law plays in our nation’s relationship with God. These principles of our legacy were never open to question or dispute. If the early Jewish Christian community truly rejected these tenets of our legacy, we cannot assume that they were following a more accurate tradition than the vast majority of the nation. If their version of our legacy has any veracity to it, we would expect it to be reflected in the earlier records of our nation’s traditions. The fact that every record of our nation’s legacy unequivocally renounces the doctrines of Christianity does not allow us to consider this Christian argument.
Finally and most simply. The early Christians never put forth the claim that they were following a true tradition. They claimed to follow a new teaching which was unknown to them before they heard it from the founders of Christianity. There is simply no historical basis for the modern claim – generated by polemical pressure – that these doctrines were inherited from a previous generation of loyal Jews.
Another variation of Christian respect for the legacy of our nation has some modern day Jewish Christians following the precepts and practices of Rabbinical law in many areas of life. These people recognize that the legacy of the Jewish nation is the authority upon which scripture stands. They have also noticed that it was through Rabbinic Judaism that God preserved His covenant with His chosen people. These Christians have come to the unavoidable conclusion that Rabbinical Judaism is the only valid context from within which the Law of Moses can be observed. This Christian community discovered that Rabbinical Judaism allows for and even encourages disagreement and diversity within the proscribed boundaries of observance. These Christians propose to combine Christian theology with observance of the Law and expect this crossbreed to be tolerated as a valid opinion within the parameters of Rabbinical Judaism.
The error of this Christian community lies in the fact that they have never looked into the heart of Judaism and the Jew. All of Rabbinical Judaism’s observance of the Law is only an expression of her relationship with the God of Israel. Following the observances of Rabbinical Judaism in worship of an entity other than the One towards whom Rabbinical Judaism identifies as the God of Israel, is not only a misunderstanding of Judaism, it is the absolute antithesis of Judaism.
Furthermore, if there is one issue about which scripture is most explicitly clear in confirming the authority of our national legacy – it would be the issue of identifying God. Scripture records that it was God Himself who taught the nation this important lesson long before the first books of scripture were put into writing (Exodus 20:2,3,19,20). The Sinai revelation is spoken of by scripture as the defining teaching that gave the Jewish people to understand who it is they are to worship (Deuteronomy 4:15,35,39). To accept the definitions of our national legacy as they relate to the Rabbinical observance of Channuka, while rejecting the same legacy as it defines our relationship with God – is the height of absurdity.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal