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Can a Jew believe in Jesus?

Can a Jew believe in Jesus?

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Question:

I was accosted at the beach today by a guy from Jews for Jesus. He offered me a New Testament in Yiddish and said that many Jews have been "saved" by accepting Jesus as the messiah. I just ignored him. Then I saw a big ad in the newspaper from the same people. My question: Can a Jew believe in Jesus?

Answer:

Of course a Jew can believe in Jesus. Just like a vegetarian can enjoy a rump steak, a peace activist can join a violent demonstration, and a dictator who preaches martyrdom can surrender himself to his enemies. As long as logic and clear thinking are suspended, anything makes sense!

I think your response to that missionary was the best one - to ignore him. Missionising is not a new phenomenon. Certain Christian sects believe that their messiah will only return when the Jews accept him. Throughout history Jews have been threatened with death, torture and expulsion if they don't convert. More recently, missionaries targeted the weak of our community - the elderly, new immigrants, and the underprivileged - in an attempt to exploit their vulnerability. All these attempts have had little or no success. Whether religious or not, Jews are reluctant to give up their Jewishness.

So they came up with a new ploy. Rather than demand conversion, they offered Jews to remain Jewish, and even "complete" their Jewishness by accepting Jesus. Thus Jews for Jesus was born.

This is a movement of non-Jews who pose as Jews by taking on Jewish names. They do usually have a token Jewish member, who is invariably either ignorant of Judaism at best or psychologically imbalanced at worst. They are a sham.

All religions are free to present their beliefs in the open market of ideas. But if they have to resort to slimy tactics like Jews for Jesus does, then they obviously have nothing to offer a thinking person.

Editor's Note: Visit Jews for Judaism for a comprehensive counter-missionary handbook.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (270)
October 19, 2014
Diversity of creation
"The universe is myriad, but its order is one".
So said the Chinese philosopher more than 2,000 years ago.
There are many different races, but we are all the same under the skin.
Diversity can lead to tribalism, and too much individualism to anarchy. After all, it is the same God we are all praying to.
One day, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism with unite to become one universal belief. We will all be better for it.
John Dover
Blackpool Lancs
October 6, 2014
Jim D I also think we are in an era of understanding and I personally think it is divinely ordained. It will be challenged, by political Islam for example.
Yes, Christians have done bad things in disobedience to their faith, but Western Civilisation, probably the greatest source of freedom and benefit in history, is founded in Christianity which, in turn, is founded in Judaism. I do believe Christianity, and in turn Western civilisation, is diminished without Judaism.
I come here to Chabad every day and read the various articles by the Rebbe and commentary.
Much of it is aimed squarely at Jews but much of it speaks to a wider audience. This is what I mean by Jews being confident they have something to say to everyone. It's not proselytising Judaism, it's just realising you have something spiritually unique that believing gentiles see as a source of benefit. I hope Jews will one day perceive this.
All the best.
B Beattie
UK
September 23, 2014
Another Response to B Beattie
Your musings are very much the same as mine. What would have happened with Western civilization were it not for Christianity? It's impossible to know, but most likely the Roman Empire would have disintegrated sooner, and there would have continued to be many disparate societal groups without the common Christian thread. I would think the mistletoe group, however, would have become the most populous due to all the kissing and where that leads.

Separation of powers, by the way, was a Jewish concept that was firmly established long before Jesus, in the form of the division between king and priest.

Many have suffered at the hands of Christians, particularly Jews, but we may have entered into a new epoch of increased understanding and tolerance. However, that can always change at a moment's notice -- as the recent rise in European anti-semitism has demonstrated.
Jim D.
Los Angeles
September 17, 2014
Hi Jim again.
The original question was can a Jew believe in Jesus?
I think a Jew can believe in the historically attested fact of his existence.
I think a Jew can accept that he was and died a Jew. He was not the first Christian.
I think a Jew might be able to accept that the less legalistic faith he inspired ultimately brought billions of gentiles to morals as founded in Torah.
A Jew cannot by definition believe he was the Messiah.
Consider where Europe was prior to Christianity. Pagan, Roman and Greek deities, druids and mistletoe. What would Europe look like had we not moved on from that to something monotheistic and essentially Jewish? I doubt we would have industrialised. I doubt we'd have discovered the Americas. All our modern courts and institutions were founded on the Jewish compulsion to create them. Separation of powers is a Jewish concept given to us through Jesus. Secularism was unknown to pagans. I've run out of characters....
B Beattie
France
September 16, 2014
Response to B Beattie
I agree that conservative Christianity does face similar challenges here, and this is well recognized by evangelical and other churches. Judaism seems to 'stick' more, because, as you observed, it's more than a religion. It's a family, cultural and national experience. Judaism is very much a religion, a people and a nation. There is no doubt about it. A Jew doesn't have to proclaim doctrine to be born into the tribe. But a Jew can exit the tribe in that way. There are higher barriers to doing so compared with Christian affiliation, but it can and is done regularly.

Moral truth, if not relativistic, is founded squarely on Torah. That much is obvious to you and to believing Jews, but not as obvious to Christians who embrace the replacement theology promulgated in the NT, in Paul's writings particularly. The problem -- or the truth -- is that one cannot ultimately get around Torah. Even if a Christian believes that the Law does not save, sinfulness and morality is defined there.
Jim D.
Los Angeles
September 10, 2014
By the way Jim, you may not perceive this over there in very Christian America, but Christianity faces the exact same threats you describe. I actually think Judaism, which is religion, birthright and almost a state of nationhood protects itself more effectively than Christianity, a religion which relies on proselytising and conscious acceptance.

I really do.

The march of secular materialism in Europe has been relentless and leaves a spiritual void of exactly the apathetic people you describe. Entire societies become 'post christian' in a generation. That void will be filled by something and we don't know what it will be. History suggests personality cults, consumerism, cynicism posing as rationality, cultural weakness. Whatever it is, it is unlikely to be good.

Judaism, G-d's first revealed, has something to say about this to Jews and to all of us. I firmly believe this.

Example. Rabbi Lord Sacks over in the UK is a man whose writings everybody in search of G-d should read.
B Beattie
France
September 10, 2014
Hi Jim D. My Christianity has led me to an appreciation of Judaism. And I'm not unusual. At all.
I started as an atheist and have come from that to some understanding of G-d and I don't believe G-d works in human logical ways. This is the mistake atheists make - they assume if G-d loved us G-d would do things like a human would - e.g. flick ISIL into the sea.

G-d doesn't give literally true theologies as a human would. Judaism has various branches, the Talmud etc. Each authored by men. Likewise Christianity's new testament was written by men decades after Jesus's ministry and church doctrine is the product of christian sanhedrins

What IMO you can find in a theology is a moral truth leading to G-d. People find G-d through Judaism. We have to assume that if Judaism dies people who would find God through it may be lost. Therefore we should protect it.

This outlook is not relativist, because morals remain absolute. And Christian and Jewish morals are shared.
B Beattie
France
September 9, 2014
In Response to B Beattie
You have an interesting view of things and I, for one, certainly appreciate your respect for Judaism. It seems the Judeo-Christian pot is being stirred up more and more these days, with Christians becoming increasingly interested in Judaism, Jews becoming interested in Christianity, and more intensive efforts by Christians to convert Jews. And when replacement theology meets Jewish Roots, you have blurred distinctions indeed.

Which leads me to your question as to why Judaism shies away from seeking converts. The Torah indicates that there were many converts living in ancient Israel, and subsequent times saw many converts. But that disappeared with the rise of Christian antisemitism.

Proselytism is not the key to our numbers, however. The ones we need to convert the most are Jews themselves -- the uneducated (in scripture), unaffiliated, and apathetic. They often become alienated -- or intermarry, and within three generations the 3000 year Jewish lineage ends in those families.
Jim D.
Los Angeles
September 8, 2014
yes please
Regarding the September 5 post saying "Perhaps we should leave Judaism alone." That is absolutely correct, yes please, I could not agree more! Thank you.
Anonymous
California
September 5, 2014
Fair comments below. Christian sects vary in the strength of their evangelising, but they will all accept a convert. All mainstream Christian denominations accept Judaism's divinity. Probably we should leave Judaism alone. None of us want it to die. If we come across Jews who wish to convert perhaps we should question them more on why they wish to leave their ancient and important faith. I personally never have met one though. Every Jew I've ever met has been fiercely proud.
And maybe, controversial suggestion, Judaism should push itself a bit more. I realise Judaism is based on a strict covenantal interpretation of the Torah which more or less excludes proselytising, and generally only gentiles who marry Jews convert, but there is no harm in reminding your Christian cousins that their religion is Jewish in its soul and exists because of a deep believing Jew, who died a Jew and has succeeded in making a world which could have been pagan more Jewish.
B Beattie
France
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