"Jews don't believe in Jesus." (Starts 1:03)
There have always been Jews who have believed in Jesus. The first believers—all Jewish—found it hard to imagine that Gentiles might be called to join them (see Acts 15). Since then, in every generation there has been a faithful remnant of Jews following Jesus the Messiah. Right now, there are nearly 200,000 Jewish believers in Jesus throughout the world in various nations, many of whom are highly educated, and their numbers continue to grow.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, p. 3.
"I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew!" (Starts 4:20)
I won’t argue with you there – if you were born a Jew, you will always be a Jew; however, you might need to rethink what it means to be a Jew, at least in the fullest sense of the term. Is it really enough to define it simply in terms of ethnicity, religion, ethics, or even a particular relationship to the State of Israel? What do you think constitutes true Jewishness from God’s perspective? As you formulate your own answer to these questions, you’ll need to determine on what basis you feel capable of judging whether others are Jews or not; no double standards are allowed!
When I try to determine if someone is a Jew, I look for signs of faithfulness to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to his Word; I consider a person’s worship, prayer, study, and lifestyle. Does your life reflect a determination to love the Lord with all your heart and soul? Can you simply dismiss others as non-Jews, or even “apostate Jews,” when they are striving to make the God of Israel known to the nations?
It’s far more important to determine whether Jesus is indeed the Messiah promised by Moses and the prophets than it is to worry about whether those who follow Jesus are Jews. How could someone who rejects (or ignores) the Jewish Messiah still be Jewish? Our purpose as a people is to serve as a nation of priests (kohanim) by introducing the God of Israel to the world. Both Exodus 19:4-6 and Psalm 96:1-4 remind us that our calling as Jews is to glorify God and to help all people come to know and honor him.
What is our purpose, our mission as a people? Could it be that Jesus is the key to our people’s priestly vocation to bring the light of God to the nations? Could it be that true Jewishness is directly linked to knowing and following him?
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 3-6.
"One is either Jewish or Christian. I'm Jewish." (Starts 6:35)
It actually doesn’t matter whether you’re born into a Jewish or a Gentile household, since your true identity is determined not by ethnicity or religion, but by whether you have placed your faith in Jesus as Messiah and are committed to following him. In other words, what is most important is whether you have been “born anew” and are “of the Messiah.” Christianity (or Messianic Judaism) is not based on ethnicity, but on the living relationship between God and his people, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 6-7.
"Belief in Jesus and Jewishness in any form are incompatible." (Starts 9:06)
“Doesn’t belief in Jesus mean that you’re no longer Jewish? As I understand it, belief in Jesus and Jewishness in any form are incompatible.“
Ironically, you’ve accepted one of the lies of the Inquisition, i.e. that Jews had to renounce their Jewishness to become Christians; however, belief in Jesus and Jewishness are wholly compatible. In fact, it doesn’t get any more Jewish than to place your faith in the Jewish Messiah!
The first thing you need to do is to stop thinking about Christianity as a religion for Gentiles and focus instead on Jesus himself. He is the one promised in the Hebrew Bible.When he entered the world in order to save it and restore all people to right relationship with God, he came first to his own Jewish people. When we rejected him as a nation, his message was taken to the Gentiles, and belief in Jesus spread among them so rapidly that they quickly outnumbered the initial group of Jewish believers and many forgot the Jewish roots from which their faith had sprung. The Rabbinic community distanced itself from this rapidly growing movement, and those Jews who had placed their faith in Jesus found themselves without a place to call home. The traditional Jews welcomed them only if they renounced their ties to Jesus, and the Gentile Christians expected them to renounce their Jewishness in order to join the church. Even though it had been Jewish apostles who introduced the Jewish Messiah to the Gentiles, the Gentiles insisted that any Jews who wanted to join their ranks had to stop being Jewish. What a terrible, tragic twisting of the truth!
Messianic Jews have not fared much better at the hands of traditional Jews. There is a custom in some circles of religious Jews of cursing believers in Yeshua three times daily, a practice that can be traced to the end of the first century. This is not surprising since Jesus himself warned us that this would happen, yet in spite of all these challenges, there have always been Jews who have known that their belief in Jesus was wholly compatible with true (though not necessarily traditional) Jewishness. It is sad that these Jews have often felt the need to go underground, either with their Jewishness or their faith in Jesus.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 7-9.
"Messianic Judaism is deceptive." (Starts 11:39)
“This whole Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Christianity thing is just one big deception, designed to lure unsuspecting Jews into Christianity. Half of the people involved aren’t even Jewish. Those that are Jewish were mostly Christian ministers who changed their names to sound more authentic.”
Maybe you’re simply repeating what you’ve heard elsewhere and forming judgments before checking your facts, or perhaps you’ve had some troubling encounters with people who are actually exceptions to the rule. Whatever the case, I want to reassure you that the last thing Messianic Jews want to do is participate in dishonest activities or deceive people, especially our own people. When we refer to ourselves as Messianic Jews (or Hebrew Jews, or Jewish Christians, or Jews for Jesus) we’re not trying to trick unsuspecting Jews into becoming Christians, rather we’re simply reiterating that faith in Jesus and Jewishness are wholly compatible (see 1.4). In fact, our belief in Yeshua has made us even more deeply aware of our Jewishness, and we want to celebrate that. If you too came to discover that Jesus was the Messiah, you wouldn’t dream of discarding your Jewishness, because that would be a complete contradiction of your experience and new-found knowledge. In fact, you would believe that you have really come to your Jewish roots by believing in the Messiah.
Perhaps your objection is not to the movement generally, but is related to specific “Messianic Jewish” practices. If this is the case, I want to address those as openly and honestly as I can. First, let me tell you that it is because we are Jews attempting to be loyal to God (and not as part of some strategy to “lure” Jews to our side) that topics such as Sabbath observation, dietary laws (kashrut), using rabbinic liturgies in worship, etc. are constantly being discussed within the Messianic Jewish community itself.
- When we use the terms “Messiah” or “Yeshua,” instead of “Christ” or “Jesus,” this is because we know the latter often have negative connotations for Jews. It’s because of our attempt to clarify things, to help Jews think about the real Jesus, that we use the Hebrew terminology. After all, Jesus was a Jew, and he fulfilled the Hebrew Scriptures.
- Hebrew songs and prayers taken directly from the Bible are often used in Messianic Jewish services because they help us remember that our faith is a continuation of that of our ancestors; we enjoy singing them in Hebrew just as Christians enjoy singing them in their own languages.
- Some Messianic Jews use some Rabbinic prayers in their worship since they agree with their content. They believe that it is important to continue the traditions of their ancestors which are compatible with faith in Yeshua. Some also continue to wear tefillin (phylacteries), the tallit (prayer shawl), and yarmulke (kipa, or skull cap) for the same reason.
- Messianic Jews continue to follow the Jewish calendar, just as Jews all over the world do, and some follow the same Torah reading schedule as do traditional Jews; they simply add a reading from the New Covenant Scriptures.
- Messianic Jews are aware that misconceptions could arise when using the title “Rabbi” and so those who use this title preface it with “Messianic” so that people know that the leader is from a congregation that believes Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Many Messianic Jews use the term synagogue (meaning “place of assembly”) to denote their meeting place since the New Testament uses this term.
- Some Messianic Jewish Bible colleges or seminaries refer to themselves as yeshivas to indicate their connection to Jewish studies; however,since many acknowledge that this might lead to confusion with those of Orthodox Jews, they often intentionally use another name.
- Yes, some Messianic Jews change their names, but this is not with the hope of deceiving others. Through their faith in Yeshua the Messiah, they have renewed the connection they have with their Jewish roots, and it is precisely this they wish to convey by changing their names.
The things that we do, or wear, or call ourselves are not as important as what we believe.
It’s easy to judge a whole group by the bad examples of a few. I certainly have met some strange, and even dishonest Orthodox or even ultra-Orthodox Jews, but I won’t judge all of them accordingly. I hope you’ll return the favor and not judge the rest of us by a bad encounter with a Messianic Jew or Gentile Christian posing as a Messianic Jew.
There are some who believe that even in the earliest days of the church, there were some Christians who advocated deceitful missionary practices. These people often cite 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 as an example of such practices; however, if you read carefully, it’s not difficult to see that what is being advocated is a culturally sensitive approach to introducing others to the God of Israel and to Jesus the Jewish Messiah. We try to adopt these principles too in our conversations with others.
One thing I want to make absolutely clear (and will clarify even more below, see 2.4-2.8) in responding to this objection: We Messianic Jews seek to completely distance ourselves from and renounce any form of “Christian” anti-Semitism; we want to reclaim our Jewishness. It is not deceptive for us to declare that we are still Jews and that we are not part of that church, and to emphasize solidarity with our people.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 9-15.
"Jesus is for the Gentiles. We Jews have the Torah." (Starts 15:29)
“You have your religion and I have mine. Jesus is for the Gentiles, and if he helps them, great. In fact, Judaism teaches that the righteous of all nations have a place in the world to come. But for us, the Jewish people, we have the Torah. That is our portion.”
If Jesus is not the Jewish Messiah, then he is of no real use to the Gentiles either. It’s not only spiritually, but also historically inaccurate to relegate Jesus to the Gentiles. In the first decade after Jesus was resurrected from the dead, his followers were Jewish and only told other Jews about their discovery that the promised Messiah had come. The big surprise for them was that their Messiah didn’t come only for Jews, but wanted to save Gentiles too. Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah who came to save the whole world, Jews and Gentiles alike.
You argue that there is a place for the Gentile righteous in the world to come. You’re right that the Bible, from which the seven laws of Noah are derived (see Genesis 9:1-6), suggests a standard against which the righteousness of the Gentiles will be judged. It is pretty clear, however, that very few human beings manage to uphold even these basic standards. Claiming that the righteous Gentiles will have a place in the world to come is of no consequence when hardly anyone keeps all of these laws. In fact, it is because all of us fall short of God’s standard that we are in need of the Messiah; he is the only hope for both Jews and Gentiles to become righteous in the eyes of God.
Yes, the Torah remains our portion, but it is only through the Messiah that the fullness of the Torah is realized; the Messiah therefore also belongs to us. As Jews, we have a unique relationship to the Torah and the Messiah, but not an exclusive relationship, since God has opened the doors to the Gentiles. Though each of us sinners needs the redemption Jesus brings, Jew and Gentile alike, we have our own special callings and gifts. In the end, there will be one God, one Messiah, one family. Who could object to that?
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 15-18.
"Your ‘proofs” from the Bible are meaningless." (Starts 19:06)
“You don’t seem to get the point. The fundamental problem with Christianity is that it is not Judaism. Therefore all your so-called ‘proofs’ from the Hebrew Scriptures are meaningless. They are simply your interpretation, not ours.”
You seem to assume that Judaism has no need of questioning whether it is actually the true, biblical faith, whether it is right in the sight of God. Of course, there have been a lot of people and movements through the centuries that have been called “Christian” without being worthy of the name; however, there is also an authentic, biblical expression of “Christianity,” which is amazingly “Jewish.” It’s much more helpful to think of how much Judaism and Christianity have in common than it is to think in terms of two separate religions; in fact, it’s more accurate to think in terms of two different expressions of the same Jewish faith. Rather than choosing between two religions, you’re trying to determine which have found the correct path: the Jewish followers of the Messiah or the Jewish followers of the traditional rabbis?
What you need to decide is whether the rabbinic (traditional Judaism) interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures has remained faithful to its biblical roots. If it has then you need to follow it, but if it has made a mistake in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah then you need to turn away from those traditions and turn toward the Word of God, the God of the Word, and the Messiah sent by God and foretold in the Word.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 18-20.
"If Jesus is the Messiah, why don’t more Jews believe in him?" (Starts 19:50)
There have been tens of thousands of Jews who have believed in Jesus, from the earliest of days to the present. The problem is that many Jews do not really bother to find out about the real Jesus. Now, let me put the question directly to you: Why don’t you believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah? Have you really done enough rigorous investigating to warrant dismissing him?
Consider the following:
- Many Jews who decide to find out more about Jesus are surprised by what they learn—their honest investigations have a way of changing their world.
- Usually what is taught to religious Jews about Jesus is biased, inaccurate and negative, and this typically keeps them from wanting to learn more about him.
- The fact that many so-called Christians have committed some horrendous atrocities in the name of Jesus has ended up driving Jews away from their own Messiah. (See 2.7 for more on this, and my book Our Hands are Stained with Blood.)
- These same Christians have helped create a picture of Jesus that is hard to reconcile with the “real” Jesus.
- Some religious Jews who come to believe in Jesus cannot handle the pressure and loneliness that they would face as a result of proclaiming him openly, so they deny what they know to be true.
- Traditional Jewish teaching paints a different picture of what the Messiah should be and do, with the result that many Jews overlook or dismiss Jesus.
- Jewish scholars can ruin their reputation and their careers if they profess their belief in Jesus. Because of revisionist history, it’s almost as if Jewish believers in Jesus cease to exist altogether.
- Hard as this may be to hear, our people have been judged by God for rejecting Jesus as Messiah and so our hearts have been hardened to him. However, the hardening of our hearts is only partial, only temporary, and one day our people will flock to Jesus on a national scale.
Let me ask you one more question: If more Jews, including your own rabbi, believed in Jesus, would you? Just because more people believe doesn’t change the truth one way or the other, but it does help build confidence in others and encourages them to go public with their own beliefs. You might be surprised at the number of Jews who already believe, but are afraid to tell anyone.
Often as we grow up and mature, we discover that beliefs and opinions we’ve been taught need to be changed when we acquire new information and experience. What you have been taught about Jesus needs to be investigated further since almost everything you’ve been taught about him is a lie. You need to find out for yourself who he is. Are you up to the challenge?
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 21-24.
"I won’t forsake the faith of my fathers!" (Starts 22:00)
“I won’t betray my ancestors! I won’t forsake the faith of my fathers!“
You are to be commended for wanting to honor the memory of your ancestors and God appreciates your desire to do this; however, honoring your family must never replace your primary devotion to God. It is, after all, to God that we will give account for the choices we make.
The Hebrew Bible has plenty of stories about people who deviated from the patterns of their ancestors in order to live out their faithfulness to God. Jeremiah (12:6), Moses and the Levites (Exod. 32 and Deut. 13), Josiah (2 Chron. 34:2), and Joshua (24:2, 14-15) provide biblical examples of those who stood firm even though they were being pressured to follow in the footsteps of their fathers, and they are the ones we honor today. There are also biblical stories that condemn certain characters such as King Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:52) for following the same path as their fathers when those paths led them away from the Lord.
History also shows us that sometimes the faithfulness of certain people is not immediately recognized as such. The Baal Shem Tov’s new expression of Judaism known as Hasidism provides a prime example of this. Once deeply scorned, his followers now number in the hundreds of thousands, and he is respected as a great Jewish leader. Other examples include Theodor Herzl and Eliezer Ben Yehudah.
Perhaps it’s not difficult for you to comprehend that if your ancestors did not follow God’s ways—maybe they were atheists or criminals or involved in some kind of strange religion—then God expects you to take a different path. However, let’s say your parents or grandparents were good, law-abiding, deeply devoted people—maybe even religious, practicing Jews—how can you think about breaking from their beliefs? Well, consider the possibility that you have different insights than they did—maybe a better understanding of Jesus, or a better vision of the church. It could be that if they had had the same insights, they might have changed their ways. Don’t you think your ancestors would want you to deviate from their path if you believed you were being faithful to God?
Okay, you say, but what about those ancestors that died in the Holocaust? How can I even contemplate dishonoring their memory? Well, I ask you: Should those horrible, tragic days of darkness stop you from embracing the light? Should yesterday’s sorrows and pains hold you back from walking in today’s blessings? Is it right to carry on rejecting the Messiah today, simply because your ancestors died without knowing him?
It is you who will one day have to stand before God, defending your loyalties. Do you have the courage to step out and embrace a new expression of Judaism? Are you willing to be faithful to God no matter the cost? When you find yourself saying, “I can’t forsake the faith of my fathers,” remember that Abraham did.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 24-28.
"My Jewish grandmother never hurt anyone. Is she in hell?" (Starts 1:06)
“What happens to Jews who do not believe in Jesus—especially those who never heard about him? What happened to my wonderful Jewish grandmother who never hurt anyone in her entire life? Is she in hell?“
Well, I don’t know your grandmother, and I’m certainly not qualified to be her judge, but know that anything I say in response to your question pertains to my grandmother as well. This is not a matter to take lightly and it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t tell you the truth and warn you in advance to consider your own standing before God. God has high standards for human beings, and most of us, whether Jew or Gentile, have not lived up to those standards. God is compassionate and merciful, but God is also righteous and cannot simply dismiss our failure to keep his commandments. God has given us a means of atoning and if we reject this gift, we are lost.
The Torah tells us that Jews are blessed or cursed during this lifetime according to whether they’ve kept the commandments or not, which might leave some thinking that suffering for sins is only for this world and not the next. There’s no biblical warrant for that stance however, and it’s risky to assume that the suffering we experience here is all there is. If you take a look back, you can see that God followed through on those warnings found in the Torah and the prophets to punish us for our sins. Scripture tells us clearly that there will be a future judgment and punishment (see Lam. 2:21, Deut. 28:54-61, Dan. 12:2).
By God’s standards, most people—even our grandmothers—are unrighteous. All of us, no matter how kindly or devout, fall short of God’s expectations for us and we shouldn’t try to sentimentalize or deny that. It is God who will be our judge, and when we stand before him, he will either declare us righteous or not. Based on his judgment, we will either be resurrected to life or resurrected to damnation. I want to drive home the point that things don’t look all that rosy for our people in the world to come when you consider our track record in this world.
Of course, God will judge people according to the knowledge they have of him. Jesus told a parable to the effect that those who are aware of what their master wants but don’t do it will face greater punishment than those who have no clue and disobey him.
And that’s where Jesus fits into the picture. That’s why it’s so important that you acknowledge him as the Jewish Messiah. All of us are sinners, guilty of breaking God’s laws. We need help if our relationship with God is to be restored. We need a savior, and Yeshua is the savior we need. He can clear us of guilt and enable us to live rightly before God again. It’s not just a matter of repeating a magic formula, but of finding a way to change our lives through repentance and faith in Jesus, who is the only means of escape from hell (Hebrew gêhinom) since he has paid for our sins.
What about those (Jews and Gentiles) who have never heard about the Messiah? Though there may be a few exceptions, we should think of them as in a fallen, lost state in need of salvation. We can trust that God will be fair—of course he will! He has been fair in the past (his judgments were a proper response to the disobedience) and he will be fair in the future. But it is better to be safe than sorry and go with what we know for sure—that God expects us to live in obedience to his commandments and that Jesus has been sent to save us from our failure to do so.
Denying hell won’t change the reality of its existence. I certainly hope that our parents and grandparents somehow lived and died in good standing with the Lord, and that they managed to receive mercy and atonement from him. However, that is out of our hands. The best thing for you to do is to keep asking yourself: How do I measure up? Am I ready to meet the Lord and give account for my life? You can’t do anything about your grandmother, but you can change the course of your own life. And really, don’t you think that if your grandmother could speak to you from beyond death, she would try to warn you away from damnation and keep you from rejecting the only way to salvation? Yeshua is the way, and belief in him really is a matter of life and death.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp.28-35.
"Can a Nazi murderer be forgiven and go to heaven?" (Starts 5:27)
“What would happen to a Nazi murderer who believed in Jesus before he died? Would he go to heaven, while the Jewish men, women and children he killed, many of whom were God-fearing people, would go to hell?“
Questions regarding the Holocaust can get highly emotional, so let’s proceed as carefully and rationally as possible. The first part of your question leads us to consider whether a wicked person can truly repent and whether God will accept that repentance. The stories of Ahab, king of Israel, and Manasseh, king of Judah, both of whom committed horrendous acts of evil, and both of whom eventually repented of their sins and turned back to God (see 1 Kings 21:25-29, 2 Chron. 33:6, 9-13), are highly instructive. We are told that God showed mercy on these sinners and accepted their repentance even though they committed horrible acts. Ezekiel says very plainly that God will forgive a wicked man if he truly turns from his wicked ways (33:11-16). The Hebrew Bible tells us that the Lord can accept and forgive even the worst of sinners, so it is possible that even a Nazi murderer could be forgiven by God.
Now, maybe you can accept that possibility based on your Jewish spirituality, but you find it difficult to make the connection between repentance and belief in Jesus, since it seems that faith is all that matters to Christians. It is no surprise that you have come to believe this, but if you examine the New Testament, you’ll see that repentance is actually the first thing mentioned when the gospel is proclaimed. Both John the Immerser and Jesus himself commanded those around them to repent, and when Jesus sent out his followers to share the good news, he emphasized that a call to repentance and forgiveness of sins formed the core of his message (see Matt. 3:2, 4:17; Mark 6:12; Luke 24:47). Paul also emphasized the need for repentance, to turn back to God and his ways,when he summoned others to faith in Jesus.
Paul maintained that Jesus had given himself as atonement for the sins of all (Jews and Gentiles). This concept of representative sacrifice for sins should not be foreign to you; the Torah sets forth the sacrificial system for atonement, and the prophets emphasize repentance. Faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin, just as belief and obedience cannot be separated. This is as true for the New Testament teaching on faith, as it is for that of the Hebrew Scriptures. In other words, salvation is not achieved merely by repeating any particular prayer or formula, but by acknowledging and repenting of sin and trusting that in Jesus atonement for sin is made available. Being freed from the burden of that sin allows a person to start off on a new way of life marked by obedience to God.
In light of the above, if the hypothetical Nazi murderer of your objection simply repeated some formula about believing in Jesus instead of sincerely repenting, then he would still be condemned to hell. But if he was truly repentant of his wickedness and trusted that Jesus could cleanse him from guilt and sin, if he was asking for mercy and pardon from God, turning from evil with the full intention of doing good, then he would be forgiven. He might not have time before his death to demonstrate the fruits of his repentance and forgiveness, but God would know what was in his heart and would judge and reward him accordingly. Death-bed repentance can happen and it may be helpful to know that this possibility does exist. However, I would heartily recommend preparing yourself to face the Lord before you get to that point!
What about the Jews killed by that Nazi? There are a few things to remember at this point. First of all, God alone is our judge; we cannot determine the final destiny of any person. Secondly, the Nazis didn’t care whether our people were religious or atheists—they exterminated them indiscriminately because of their ethnic background. The fact that Jews suffered terribly in the Holocaust does not automatically make them saints. In fact, many actually lost their faith or became even more hostile to God as a result of the Holocaust. I ask you, does simply dying because one is a Jew—especially when that one would have gladly ceased to be Jewish—atone for one’s godless life up to that moment? And if so, do traditional Jews believe that the Jewish Christians who died in the Holocaust are guaranteed a place in heaven—in spite of their so-called idolatry?
Some Jews (both traditional and Messianic) believe that the Holocaust had at least some elements of divine judgment in it. In other words, our terrible corporate suffering was partly due to corporate sin (similar to the destruction of Jerusalem in the years 586 BCE and 70 CE). Just as the people who suffered those tragedies were not automatically martyred, but were called to repentance, we should at least consider the same for those who were caught up by the Holocaust. And we should keep in mind that a similar fate could befall us again if we as a people do not repent of our apostasy!
As for those faithful Jews who died in the Holocaust, I would refer you to objection 1.10 above. We cannot sit in judgment of those who have gone before; we can only trust that God will accept those who come to him according to his terms—and we might be surprised to see some of those whom he accepts and some of those whom he rejects.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 35-42.
No religious or educated Jew would ever believe in Jesus. (Starts 13:34)
This objection is simply false. There are plenty of examples of Jews, both from religious households and secular, highly-educated backgrounds, who have believed in Jesus.
Daniel Zion was the chief rabbi of Bulgaria who, because of a vision attributed to Jesus, persuaded King Boris not to give in to Nazi demands to hand over the Jews, thereby saving hundreds of them from the Holocaust. After the war, Zion settled in Israel and was so respected that he was asked in 1954 to serve as judge in Jerusalem’s Rabbinic court. He refused to hide his faith in Yeshua, however, and presented the evidence for his belief to the leading rabbis of the day. As a result, his title of “rabbi” was taken away (even though he was still considered a rabbi by the Bulgarian Jews in the Yeffet Street Synagogue in Jaffa until October 6, 1973). He was a firm believer in Jesus until his dying day (at the age of 96), though he never considered himself a “Christian,” and maintained a traditional Jewish lifestyle for his whole life.
Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky was a highly educated Orthodox Jew who became Christian. What? You’ve never heard of him, you say? Well, there’s good reason for that. During his study of the New Testament, this excellent Talmudic scholar, raised in an Orthodox home in Lithuania, became convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. He kept this belief a secret until he had graduated from Breslau University. He ended up going to China so that he could translate the Bible into Mandarin and Wenli. Schereschewskycould have become a famous rabbi, but because he dedicated his life to introducing Gentiles to the God of Israel, serving as a light to the nations (as we Jews are all meant to do), his name has slipped into oblivion in Jewish circles.
The background of Auguste Neander (born David Mendel) was less observant than Zion’s and Schereschewsky’s. His parents hoped that he would become a lawyer with the secular education he received. Neander became a believer in Jesus as a teenager under the influence of two of his friends. After his secular education, Neander continued his studies and became a very distinguished scholar, lecturer, and author,serving as professor of early Christian history at the universities of Berlin and Halle during the nineteenth century. In this capacity, he fought against theological rationalism. He was respected not just for his wisdom and insight, but also for his sacrificial lifestyle. In addition to his erudition, he was known for giving away most of his income to those in need.
There are many religious and highly educated Jews who have believed in Jesus. It’s not education and learning that stop people from believing in Jesus, but rather ignorance as to who he really is and what our Scriptures really say about him.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 42-45.
"Jews converted to Christianity for monetary gain." (Starts 14:25)
“Those educated or religious Jews in the past who did convert to Christianity did so for monetary gain or because of social pressure. It had nothing whatsoever to do with intellectual arguments or honest theological convictions.“
This statement smacks of anti-Semitism since it implies that Jews will do anything for money! Okay, I won’t deny that throughout the centuries (especially during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) there have been some Jews who had ulterior motives such as monetary gain or social status when they “converted” to Christianity, but the same thing could be said about certain secular Jews becoming Orthodox. To admit that there have been some false conversions along the way is not to deny that there have been plenty of others who not only didn’t gain anything by believing in Jesus, but actually suffered for it, and sometimes horrifically. And still they refused to deny their Messiah. Let me prove the falsity of your objection by offering you a couple of examples:
Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina, Romanian Jews, refused to give up their faith in Jesus even when they were subject to imprisonment and extreme torture at the hands of communists. Despite the brutality Wurmbrand experienced at the hands of his torturers, he never took the easy way out by renouncing his faith in Jesus. His reward for declaring his faith in Jesus? Years in prison, four broken vertebrae, eighteen holes burned and cut into his body, and the experiences of being nearly frozen to death, burned with red-hot irons, and placed in an upright casket with spikes. After his release from prison, Pastor Wurmbrand and Sabina served the Lord without a break; they didn’t even have a day of vacation. They did not own their own home, and even though Wurmbrand was a prolific author, he never took a dime from the sales of his books so that the money could be spent to help the families of martyrs around the world. Does that sound mercenary to you? You should be honored to know that Richard Wurmbrand is “one of us.”
And then there’s Haham Ephraim, the son of a Tiberias rabbi, who seemed to have everything going for him, spiritually, socially, and economically. Although he initially had a strong aversion to Christianity, his study of the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible (in conversation with the local Church of Scotland minister, and after much soul searching and spending hours asking questions of his fellow rabbis) led him to believe that Jesus is our Messiah. What did he gain from this discovery? Well, he did gain a deep and lasting peace in his new relationship with God, but he also suffered greatly at the hands of his own people, being beaten, falsely accused, imprisoned, flogged, starved, and finally relocated to a Jewish colony on Lake Huleh where he worked long hours doing manual labor in the fields. When he finally returned to Tiberias, his wife and children were taken from him. Does that sound like he’s only in it for the money or status? Hardly!
I was once asked by an Orthodox man: “Why believe in Jesus? It’s hard enough just being a Jew in this world with all the problems we have. Why ask for more trouble by believing in Jesus too?” But I can do no other. I know that Yeshua is our Messiah and I must follow him and be loyal to our God regardless of the consequences.
What about you? Are you willing to wrestle with the fact of the Messiahship of Jesus—even if it costs you everything?
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 45-50.
"Religious Jews who believed in Jesus always had the tendency to stray." (Starts 17:12)
“Those religious Jews who did become followers of Jesus always had the tendency to stray. If you’ll study it out, you’ll see that most of them threw out their traditional values and beliefs before they ever considered nonsense like Christianity.”
That’s a pretty sweeping generalization, and I think if you spoke to some of those people you’re so quickly dismissing, you’ll find that your claim just isn’t true. Many religious Jews were happily living their traditional lives and were caught off guard when they discovered for themselves that Jesus is the Messiah.
However, even if some of those were already questioning their traditions, what’s wrong with that? Not every tradition is true. It is necessary to ask questions about what you believe and to get to the bottom of the truth. Are you afraid that traditional Jewish faith might not stand up to scrutiny? Is the Talmud so weak and the New Testament so strong?
There is a difference between educating children with the goal of protecting them from sinful, polluting influences, and keeping them so wrapped up and hidden away that they aren’t allowed to read the New Testament lest they receive no inheritance in the afterlife. Many traditional Jews who have come to believe in Jesus simply followed up on questions that were inadequately answered by their teachers. They sought the answers for themselves by inquiring into the original sources (i.e. the New Testament) rather than accepting hearsay.
Our ministry isn’t afraid of a good debate with others. We publish those debates unedited, so that people can hear both sides and make up their own minds. We have no doubt that if Jews honestly question and search for the truth about God they will not be disappointed.
What do you think? Shouldn’t people be allowed to pursue truth wherever it may be found?
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 50-52.
"Missionaries like you always target the uninformed." (Starts 19:02)
“Missionaries like you target the sick, the elderly, the ignorant, and the young and uninformed.”
This is a very prevalent rumor that gets spread by anti-missionaries about Jews who believe in Jesus, so let me address these untruths, point by point:
- We do not target specific groups. Believers in Jesus come from a variety of backgrounds. We do not all belong to one particular, organized group and we do not have any single systematized program of evangelization.
- We are excited about what we believe, so we tend to share it with others. The primary way we do that is with those we most naturally come into contact with—students with students, businessmen with businessmen, etc.
- Yes, we can be found on college campuses, but we take our place next to a number of other religious groups, including the traditional Hillel organization and representatives from the Lubavitcher Hasidim. Students are asking questions and thinking through major issues at this time in their lives, and we have just as much a right to be there as the other groups.
- As for the elderly, I challenge you to try to change their minds, if they don’t want to be changed! But those who are nearing the end tend to think more deeply and earnestly about the purpose of life and the meaning of death. And what kind of children would we be if we allowed our parents to die without trying to help them find their way out of darkness and damnation by encouraging them not to reject Jesus as Messiah? If Catholic priests and Orthodox rabbis can visit elderly people, why can’t our ministers?
- Do we specifically target the young and uninformed? This accusation is ironic, given the tendency of traditional Jewish groups to target this particular population—especially those who have been raised in non-observant households.
One might argue that traditional Jewish groups target uneducated young people (students) and vulnerable women, since those are the populations most likely to return to Judaism, but this is exaggerated stereotyping. People are more malleable and pliable in their younger years, so it is natural that the largest group of converts to traditional Judaism and Messianic Judaism would be the young, and there are good sociological reasons that explain why there is a higher percentage of women converts. We simply do not target specific populations.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 52-55.
"I am a good person! (I am a good person!" (Starts 21:18)
“I’m not a very religious person, but I’m certainly not a bad person. I’m basically a normal, middle of the road, good person.”
Are you aware that the Hebrew Bible doesn’t ever mention your category of “normal, middle of the road, good person?” There are wicked people and there are righteous people, but there are none in between. There are those raised to everlasting life and those raised to everlasting shame (heaven or hell). All of those who don’t take God’s Word seriously (i.e. “non-religious” people), are referred to as sinners. We get used to the standard of comparing ourselves to someone “worse” than us, so that we end up looking basically good, but the standard by which we will be judged by God is his own. It is God—not you—who will act as your judge. How do you think you would fare if God were doing the appraising? I encourage you to find out where forgiveness of sin is to be found and how to live the life God expects.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 55-56.
"If Jesus is the Messiah, why are there so many objections?" (Starts 23:18)
The number of objections has little to do with the truth of the matter, and there are good answers to every one of those objections. There are so many arguments in favor of the Messiahship of Jesus that it would take hundreds of books to explain them all! However, I don’t think it’s just Jesus that is a stumbling block for contemporary Jews; many Jews also have difficulty taking the Ten Commandments seriously, accepting the divine origin of the Torah, and believing that the Hebrew Scriptures are the literal Word of God.The main problem for most Jews is not that they do not believe in Jesus, but that they do not believe in the Word of God.
Our people have a tendency to stray from God’s path. The Bible is full of stories about this perpetual problem. Read again the accounts of what happened to the generation taken out of Egypt—how many actually made it to the Promised Land? Also consider 2 Kings 17:13-20, which rather starkly describes the subsequent centuries of disobedience and rebellion. Given this track record, does it really surprise you that we rejected the Messiah when he came and that we continue to do so to this day? The prophets (e.g. Ezek. 3:4-7) rightly anticipated that the Gentiles would more readily embrace the Jewish Messiah than the Jews themselves, which in itself is another argument in favor of Jesus being Israel’s Messiah.
No matter who you are, you need to ask yourself if you take God’s Word seriously. If you are a religious Jew, you should consider whether sometimes God’s Word in the Scriptures is obstructed by the Rabbinic, oral traditions, beautiful as they may be. Do the objections against Jesus with which you were raised make it difficult for you to take a good look at the evidence and weigh it honestly?
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 56-59.
"Christianity doesn't produce what it promises." (Starts 1:12)
“Christianity simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t produce what it promises. Deep down, you know what I’m saying is true.”
The new life I have found in Jesus has been an indescribable blessing. Christianity does “work”; faith in Jesus brings a deep and lasting peace, assurance of forgiveness of sins, joy and comfort. It enables an intimacy with God, a delightful fellowship with him that is missing in other forms of religious life. It makes us zealous to follow Jesus, to please God, and to obey his commandments out of love, rather than a sense of duty.
To back up these statements, I’ll give you just a few examples of faithful, traditional Jews I’ve spoken with who either knew something was lacking in their relationship with God, or couldn’t get what I was trying to describe to them when I explained how my faith in Jesus transformed my life with the Lord.
Aaron, a yeshiva student, was a ba’alteshuva (a Jew who had become religious later in life). He became observant because he wanted to be assured of a place in the world to come, and because he wanted to have a relationship with God. Years had gone by and he’d diligently studied the Talmud, but he hadn’t quite found the assurance he’d hoped to find. According to his studies, one either had to be super-righteous, like Moses, to be assured of a place in the world to come, or one had to depend so utterly on God’s mercy that it didn’t seem to matter what one does with one’s life. Prayer seemed totally arbitrary to Aaron, since answers seemed to be given to the observant and non-observant alike. What saddened me most about Aaron was that this highly diligent student didn’t have a living, joyful fellowship with God.
I’ve had conversations with Lubavitch Jews who communicated a similar lack of intimacy with God and an inability to understand what I meant when I described my own spiritual life and faith in Jesus. Although they were sincere, they did not seem to experience the love relationship of a bride with her groom, even though this is how the ancient rabbis described Israel’s relationship with her God; they did not have the intimate knowledge of the Lord as described by the prophet Jeremiah (9:23-24).
I’ve had similar conversations with Hasidic Jews, all very pleasant and learned men. With one I discussed the issue of atonement and asked whether he experienced a sense of assurance of forgiveness after Yom Kippur each year. He honestly admitted that he couldn’t be sure he had been forgiven, or that he had fully repented and was completely sincere about not wanting to commit the same sins again—there were always a few lingering doubts. I found it very sad that the fellow didn’t know the blessing of assurance of which the psalmist spoke (see Ps. 32:1-2).
Then there was the encounter with an ultra-Orthodox Jew, who was a Gentile convert to Judaism. He had become convinced of the truth of Judaism and had devoted much time to yeshiva study, but he still felt there was something missing in his spiritual life. His wife had been raised in a Jewish Christian family, but had turned away from her Christian roots after experiencing the peace of a traditional Sabbath. Nonetheless, she, too, admitted that there had been something brighter and more vibrant about her experience with God before she had become a traditional Jew; she too felt there was something missing. I tried to reassure her that it wasn’t an either-or, she could have both—a traditional Sabbath celebration and Yeshua, who is Lord of the Sabbath.
Granted, you will be able to find exceptional traditional Jews who have wonderful relationships with God, just as you’ll be able to find some disgruntled Messianic Jews. But I tell you without any exaggeration or hype: Knowing Jesus the Messiah and having God as my Father is the most wonderful thing I could ever imagine—in this world, or in the world to come.
But don’t just take my word for it; find a few Jews who have become believers in Jesus and ask them about their experiences and how their lives have been transformed by knowing him; you’ll have trouble restraining their enthusiasm!
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, pp. 59-65.
"You missionaries always use the same arguments and proofs." (Starts 3:23)
“You missionaries always use the same old arguments and proofs. Your faith can’t be very deep!“
Well, I’m bored with the typical tactics of the anti-missionaries. The arguments used in setting out our beliefs for why Yeshua is the Messiah don’t need to be novel; they just need to be true.
I think you’ve been given some real food for thought here and I encourage you to examine the evidence for yourself. Jesus said: “If you continue in my word, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). I hope you will experience that freedom for yourself.
For the full answer, see Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 1, p. 65.