Commentary by Jack Kelley
I was recently asked to respond to seven reasons why Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah. These seven reasons have been featured on a Jewish “anti-missionary” website as part of their effort to discourage Jewish conversions to Christianity. In part one I responded to the first four of these reasons, so we’ll now conclude with my response to the remaining three.
5) Christianity Contradicts Jewish Theology
a. God as three?
Claim: The idea of the Trinity breaks God into three separate beings: The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19).
Contrast this to the Shema, the basis of Jewish belief: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE” (Deut. 6:4). Jews declare the Shema every day, while writing it on doorposts (Mezuzah), and binding it to the hand and head (Tefillin). This statement of God’s One-ness is the first words a Jewish child is taught to say, and the last words uttered before a Jew dies.
In Jewish law, worship of a three-part god is considered idolatry—one of the three cardinal sins that a Jew should rather give up his life than transgress. This explains why during the Inquisitions and throughout history, Jews gave up their lives rather than convert.
Response: This has always been a huge stumbling block in Jewish circles. But a careful examination of the Old Testament shows it shouldn’t be. Isaiah 9:6 says, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This prophecy was 750 years old when the Lord was born. It speaks of a child being born and a son being given who would be called, among other things, Mighty God, and Everlasting Father. These are titles that belong to God alone. Here we have a Son who would be called by the same names as His Father.
In Psalm 2 David wrote of God’s anointed one (the Messiah) being His King, who God would call His Son, and to whom He would give the Earth as a possession. He said everyone who takes refuge in the Son will be blessed. Certainly David was not describing a mere man, because God never spoke of a man this way.
In addition to the Son, the Holy Spirit, or Ruach haElohim, is also mentioned separately from God, beginning with the Genesis creation account. In Genesis 1:1 God is mentioned. Then in verse 2 it’s the Spirit of God, and in verse 3 it’s God again. The Spirit of God is independently mentioned 14 times in the Old Testament. So the Old Testament shows Father, Son and Holy Spirit all mentioned separately, while maintaining there is only one God. Whether in the Old Testament or the New, the Bible speaks of One God in three persons.
b. God as man?
Claim: Christians believe that God came down to earth in human form, as Jesus said: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Maimonides devotes most of the “Guide for the Perplexed” to the fundamental idea that God is incorporeal, meaning that He assumes no physical form. God is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born, and cannot die. Saying that God assumes human form makes God small, diminishing both His unity and His divinity. As the Torah says: “God is not a mortal” (Numbers 23:19).
Judaism says that the Messiah will be born of human parents, and possess normal physical attributes like other people. He will not be a demi-god, and will not possess supernatural qualities. In fact, an individual is alive in every generation with the capacity to step into the role of the Messiah. (see Maimonides – Laws of Kings 11:3)
Response: This is a case where most of this claim consists of those who don’t believe Jesus is God explaining why Jesus can’t be God. Jews and Christians alike believe that God is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born, and cannot die.
But instead of quoting non-biblical sources, let’s see what the Bible says, or in some cases doesn’t say. For instance, does the Bible say the Messiah will be born of human parents? No. In part one we saw that the Bible says the Messiah would be born of a woman and God Himself would call Him Son. Does it say the Messiah will not possess supernatural qualities? No. Again, in part one we saw numerous Old Testament prophecies that speak of His miraculous powers; healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and causing the lame to walk. Has there been someone in every generation who can meet these requirements? No. There has only been One.
Micah 5:2 was written about the same time as Isaiah. It tells us the Messiah King would be born in Bethlehem but that His origins were from days of eternity past.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
The Hebrew words in this passage indicate that while He would be born into the world at a point in time, He has actually existed from before time and will exist perpetually. That cannot be said of any man from any generation.
Let’s take a moment to discuss why God had to become a man. God could have easily reversed the effect of the serpent’s actions in the garden and preserved mankind’s immortality. But had He done so, He would have violated His own law, something a just God cannot do. His laws of redemption (Leviticus 25) indicate that it takes a man to redeem what men have lost, whether it be their property or their freedom. (Adam and Eve had lost both.) In some cases a next of kin is required.
And so the idea of a Kinsman Redeemer emerged. This is why God told the serpent an offspring of Eve’s would defeat Him. This theme runs throughout the Old Testament progressively narrowing the field of candidates to an Israelite from the tribe of Judah and the family of King David. But although He would be a Jewish man He wouldn’t just redeem the Jewish people. He would bring God’s salvation to the ends of the Earth (Isaiah 49:6).
In the meantime, God ordained that a substitute would suffice to temporarily set aside the sins of the people. The substitute He selected was a lamb, but it had to be a perfect specimen, without any spot or blemish. That’s because the substitute was a model or type of the real thing. It tells us the Redeemer had to be as innocent (sin free) as a lamb and a perfect specimen of mankind.
This created a problem because after Adam sinned, all of mankind was infected with a sin nature, thereby disqualifying every descendant of Adam’s from redeeming us. Man was no longer innocent and no longer a perfect specimen. The only solution was for God Himself to become a man to save mankind. So He sent His Spirit to Mary and she became pregnant with His Son. Nine months later the child was born and the Son was given in fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6. He was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world (John 1:29). By living the life of an ordinary man, yet remaining free of sin, He qualified to be our kinsman redeemer, and gave His life so God could spare ours.
c. intermediary for prayer?
Claim: Jesus makes himself an intermediary, as He said: “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
In Judaism, prayer is a totally private matter, between each individual and God. As the Bible says: “God is near to all who call unto Him” (Psalms 145:18). Further, the Ten Commandments state: “You shall have no other gods BEFORE ME,” meaning that it is forbidden to set up a mediator between God and man.
Response: The context of John 14:6 is salvation, not prayer. Jesus was saying that the only way to be saved from the penalty of our sins and spend eternity in the presence of God is to believe that Jesus paid that penalty with His life.
Christians are free to pray to the Father and can add emphasis to their prayers by invoking the name of the Son, but either way we’re praying to the same God that Jewish people pray to. There is no other god before (between) us. Also the commandment cited above doesn’t mean we can’t allow Jesus to intercede for us. In the first place, the commandment does not say it’s forbidden to set up a mediator between God and man, it says we shall have no other gods. And in the second place, Jesus is not another god.
d. involvement in the physical world
Claim: Christian doctrine often treats the physical world as an evil to be avoided.
By contrast, Judaism believes that God created the physical world not to frustrate us, but for our pleasure. Jewish spirituality comes through grappling with the mundane world in a way that uplifts and elevates. Sex in the proper context is one of the holiest acts we can perform.
The Talmud says if a person has the opportunity to taste a new fruit and refuses to do so, he will have to account for that in the World to Come. Jewish rabbinical schools teach how to live amidst the bustle of commercial activity. Jews don’t retreat from life, they elevate it.
Response: I don’t understand how any Jewish person with a knowledge of Jewish history can conclude that the physical world is anything but evil, or fail to see that there is a malevolent force in this world that seems determined to eliminate the Jewish people by any means possible.
I agree that among those whose efforts have made this world a better place there is a disproportionate number of Jewish people, and I see this as evidence that the relationship they had with God in Old testament times is still bearing fruit.
I also agree that God did not create the physical world to frustrate mankind. But to me Genesis 3:17-19 is a very clear description of how God’s perfect creation became a frustrating physical environment due to sin coming into the world.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
6) Jews and Gentiles
Claim: Judaism does not demand that everyone convert to the religion. The Torah of Moses is a truth for all humanity, whether Jewish or not. King Solomon asked God to heed the prayers of non-Jews who come to the Holy Temple (Kings I 8:41-43). The prophet Isaiah refers to the Temple as a “House for all nations.”
The Temple service during Sukkot featured 70 bull offerings, corresponding to the 70 nations of the world. The Talmud says that if the Romans would have realized how much benefit they were getting from the Temple, they’d never have destroyed it.
Response: This is a subtle attempt to discredit Christian missionaries, in effect saying, “We don’t demand that everyone convert to Judaism, why do you demand that we convert to Christianity?”
But the historical facts do not support this “live and let live” attitude. For example King Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:41-43 was only meant for non-Jews who came to worship the God of Israel.
And by the Lord’s own command, the “house of prayer for all nations” was only open to those foreigners who bound themselves to the God of Israel, obeyed His covenant, kept His sabbaths and offered sacrifices on His altar (Isaiah 56:6-8). This was because it was correctly believed that the salvation of Gentiles was only possible through the God of Israel. Foreigners in Israel received all the benefits of life among God’s people but were also accountable for keeping His laws.
But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things (Lev. 18:26),
Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household (Deut 26:11).
You might say that in their day, the Jewish people were as zealous for the Lord as we Christians are in ours. And there’s only one reason Christians want others to convert. It’s because that’s the only way to inherit eternal life.
7) Bringing the Messiah
Claim: Maimonides stated that the popularity of both Christianity and Islam is part of God’s plan to spread the ideals of Torah throughout the world. This moves society closer to a perfected state of morality and toward a greater understanding of God. All this is in preparation for the Messianic age.
Indeed, the world is in desperate need of Messianic redemption. War and pollution threaten our planet; ego and confusion erode family life. To the extent we are aware of the problems of society, is the extent we will yearn for redemption. As the Talmud says, one of the first questions a Jew is asked on Judgment Day is: “Did you yearn for the arrival of the Messiah?”
Response: What a difference 500 years can make in our perspective. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone today sees Islam as part of God’s plan to elevate the Torah, or that society is being moved toward a perfected state of morality and a greater understanding of God.
But on the on the issue of the world being in desperate need of Messianic redemption, we are in total agreement. And Isaiah 2:1-5 tells us that that when He comes, the Messiah will teach the world His ways, that they may walk in His path. The Law (Torah) will go out from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Between now and then the worst time the world ever has or ever will see will come and go, and Israel will be right in the thick of it. And toward the end when it will seem like all is lost, the Lord will pour out a Spirit of Grace and supplication on His people Israel, and they will look on Him who they pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son (Zechariah 12:10).
And they will say, “Come let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us. He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us and on the third day He will restore us that we may live in His presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord, let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises He will appear. He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth (Hosea 6:1-3).
How will the Lord respond to this?
“Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their blood guilt which I have not pardoned I will pardon.” The Lord dwells in Zion. (Joel 3:20-21) You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 09-13-14