Editor’s Note: The author is responding to a public statement issued on December 3, 2015, by Orthodox Rabbis from Israel, US and Europe. Click here to read the statement.
Speaking to Gentile Believers about the Jewish People, Romans 11: 28-29 says;
“From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
Many Philo-Semitic/Zionist Christians and Messianic Jews like the second part of that passage so much that they forget all about the first part.
This is the most common and also the most damaging error that we make, and it was on full display this week following the publication of a document modestly entitled the “Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity” (hereafter, the Statement) and signed by a number of prominent National Religious/Modern Orthodox rabbis in Israel, the US and Europe.
One Christian Zionist leader said she was “in tears” while reading the Statement because it represented such a breakthrough and the answer to so many prayers for “reconciliation” between Jews and Christians.
From the number of times the link to the Statement was posted on the Facebook walls of my many Philo-Semitic/Zionist Christian friends around the world, usually accompanied by comments indicating that they agreed that it was something very positive and encouraging, it would appear that this sentiment is widely shared.
My reaction to the Statement was a bit different.
It DID include a lot of nice words which of course sound a lot better than the traditional mantra of “Christians are idol worshippers, polytheists, etc.” But at the same time, I do not see the Statement as an effort by these rabbis to meet Christians halfway or be reconciled with us as co-laborers in the “work of Heaven” as they say it’s meant to be.
Here’s what I mean.
The crux of the Statement comes in point number three, where the authors quote the 18th Century Rabbi Jacob Emden as saying about Jesus that He “brought a double goodness to the world. On the one hand he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically… and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah. On the other hand he removed idols from the nations and obligated them in the seven commandments of Noah so that they would not behave like animals of the field, and instilled them firmly with moral traits…..Christians are congregations that work for the sake of heaven who are destined to endure, whose intent is for the sake of heaven and whose reward will not denied.”
This quote (which I’ll admit sounds very nice) characterizes Jesus as a great Rabbi and Torah sage. This is also pretty much how Rabbi Shmuely Boteach framed Him in his book “Kosher Jesus” which has been very popular among Christian Zionists.
That’s all fine and good, except for one small problem.
The “Jesus” this quote praises (along with Boteach’s “Kosher Jesus”) is not the Jesus described in the New Testament. It’s an entirely different “Jesus” that these rabbis have built in their garage with bits and pieces of Talmudic traditions they find acceptable and, by implication, denying all the aspects they don’t accept.
There are fundamental issues like His Divinity, the virgin birth, the atonement for our sins, which He purchased by His death on the Cross, and His defeat of death by His resurrection, not to mention that trifling part about how He was the prophesied Messiah and the Son of God and that He ascended into Heaven and last but not least that He’s coming back someday soon to establish His Kingdom on this earth.
What the Statement is really saying, if one reads between the lines, is that if we Christians can just lay aside all these “minor details” and join with them in admiring this fake “Jesus” they’ve cobbled together out of spare parts from their own favorite rabbis (perhaps including their own selves) then we can all be friends and join together in the work the rabbis say God wants us to do in this world (which they call “tikkun olam” and which is not found in the Bible, but that’s a subject for a different article.)
This would, necessarily, mean that we would then lay aside the work that God calls US to do, especially that part about sharing the Gospel with the Jewish People, which they specifically declare their (unsurprising) opposition to.
Many Christian Zionists, particularly those who have been working in this vineyard here in Jerusalem for many dry, lonely, difficult years, are willing to do all that in return for having even a tiny fraction of the massive amount of love and appreciation they’ve poured into the Jewish People reciprocated.
I think we can all sympathize with that, and we should be gentle and patient with our brethren who are making this mistake. But we should also be firm in refusing to make the mistake ourselves. Because, actually, it’s more than a mistake.
The proper word for this is “apostasy”.
The other problem with this quote by Rabbi Jacob Emden is that it contains a blatant lie, that Jesus encouraged non-Jews to follow the 7 Noahide Laws. That’s wrong for a couple of different reasons, not least of which is that the 7 Noahide Laws weren’t codified until centuries after Jesus walked the earth, although there’s a convenient not-found-in-the-Bible “tradition” among the rabbis that God originally gave them to Adam.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Some of you might not know exactly what the 7 Noahide Laws are.
From the Virtual Jewish Library;
The Noachide Laws are seven laws considered by rabbinic tradition as the minimal moral duties required by the Bible on all men. While Jews are obligated to observe the whole Torah – 613 commandments, every non-Jew is considered a “son of the covenant of Noah” and he who accepts these obligations is considered a righteous person who is guaranteed a place in the world to come.
The seven Noachide laws, as traditionally enumerated are:
Do Not Deny God
Do Not Blaspheme God
Do Not Murder
Do Not Engage in Incestuous, Adulterous or Homosexual Relationships.
Do Not Steal
Do Not Eat of a Live Animal
Establish Courts/Legal System to Ensure Law Obedience
Again, that sounds great right? It even sounds Biblical. But the problem is, as the opening paragraph says, these 7 laws offer non-Jews “a place in the world to come.”
In other words, the rabbis present these 7 Laws as an alternative path to Heaven, negating the need for non-Jews to accept the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and flatly denying that this is even an option for Jews.
But, again, there’s no surprises here. The rabbis who originally penned these Laws in the Talmud and those who continue to promote them into modern times are acting precisely like what Paul said they would in Romans 11:28, that is “from the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake.”
Also worth noting, Titus 1:10-15 says;
“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.”
If there was EVER a textbook example of “Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth” it’s the 7 Noahide Laws and the Rabbinic “tradition” that they make the Cross irrelevant.
Jesus would not have been teaching anyone this kind of nonsense and the Apostle Paul specifically warned Christians against it. The rabbis, on the other hand, teach it and encourage it because they are opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the New Testament. They reject these teachings themselves and they think everyone else should too, especially Jews, but Gentiles as well.
We Christian Zionists need to get this through our heads!
The rabbis might be our friends (at least some of them) and they might be our partners in building the Zionist project here in the Land of Israel (even though, for the most part, they’re doing it for entirely different reasons than we are.)
But concerning the Gospel and things pertaining to Eternity they are NOT our allies. They are NOT on our side! They are on their own side, and their side is actively and unapologetically opposed to the side of the Gospel.
Yes, we share the Old Testament. But it means something TOTALLY different to us than it does to them, and they UTTERLY REJECT the New Testament. Rejection of the New Testament is actually a CORNERSTONE of Rabbinic Judaism and this is obvious from the fact that they have built a massive body of Rabbinic Literature which is devoted to mocking, deriding and heaping scorn on the New Testament.
To truly meet us halfway, which would necessarily include an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the New Testament, is simply not possible for them if they want to stay faithful to all they profess to believe.
The rabbis, including the authors of the “Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity” do not pretend that this is not the case.
We need to stop our own self-deception about this and face reality!
The Statement contains many other bits which are DIRECT contradictions and repudiations of the teachings found in the New Testament, including the very words of Jesus Christ. I won’t enumerate them here because then this article would go on and on and no one would read it all. Maybe someone else will do that.
But, again, this should not surprise anyone because the rabbis who composed this document are simply acting as Romans 11:28 said they would, and are, and will.
In conclusion, if we truly are disciples of Jesus of Nazareth and Believers in the New Covenant we do not need, nor should we seek, the approval and acceptance of these rabbis who would like nothing better than to see us deny, ignore, compromise and rationalize the message of the New Testament and embrace their Talmudic myths and fairy tales, especially the Noahide Laws.
We need to remember why we came here in the first place and what our Lord and Savior commissioned us to do. We are to love, serve, work, bleed, laugh, cry and in some cases die alongside the Jewish People as they fulfill the plans and purposes God has for them in this Land.
But we also need to avoid getting distracted from the Main Thing. The first step in that process is to never forget that one of the primary goals these rabbis have in life is to distract us from the Main Thing.
In other words, we need to remember the first part of Romans 11:28-29 just as much as we remember the second part.
The author works for a Christian ministry based in Jerusalem which is still trying to decide how it will respond to the “Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity” and has not authorized its staff to publicly comment on it.