The New Testament is extremely clear about one thing – Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. He is the one promised by God and foretold by Abraham, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zecharia, and all the others. The King of the Jews and the Messiah of Israel.
This means that if you believe in him in any kind of way – you adhere to a Jewish faith. Doesn’t matter if you are Evangelical, Lutheran, Catholic or Orthodox, or even if you belong to the fringe movements like LDS or JW. If you believe in Jesus – your faith is, at its core, Jewish.
“But wait,” you might say. “Christianity is universal. It’s for everyone!” Some of you might even point to some verses in the Old Testament to prove that God’s salvation was intended for all mankind from start.
And you’d be 100% right. There are many verses supporting this, but my favorite is in Isaiah 49:6, where God the father tells the servant (the son): “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
The Jewish people have also been aware of this since the Old Testament time. Even today, the end-times belief of Orthodox Judaism includes the gentiles flocking to Judaism once the Messiah comes. Not to become Jews, but to believe in the God of Israel, without being Jews. Too bad they haven’t noticed that it’s already been happening for 2,000 years.
So you may say “this was universal from the start, so it’s not a Jewish faith.” Really? Let’s look at one of these verses about the Gentiles flocking to God:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’ ”
So… are you saying that the arrival of the Messiah and the flocking of Gentiles to believe in him effectively turned it all into a non-Jewish faith? I don’t think so. By the looks of this verse, it’s the opposite.
Many Christians who are anti-Semitic or who believe in replacement theology don’t like to hear this. They have made up excuses for thousands of years about why their faith isn’t Jewish anymore. They need an excuse to attack the Jews, but deep down they must know that within that crowd of “repugnant” Jews is their own Messiah. In medieval times, some Christians bowed down to statues of Jews, and then went to attack and kill the kinsmen of that very person they recently revered.
As I detailed in another post, Christianity was not considered a separate religion until hundreds of years after the events of the New Testament. After 70 AD, the Romans forced the “Jew-tax” both on ethnic Jews and on Gentiles who believed in any form of Judaism, including Christianity. The Christian Jews kept going to the synagogues until they were expelled around 100 AD.
Over 100 years ago, my great-great-grandfather, Saweli M. Perlman, spoke to an old Chinese man who, for the first time, heard about Judaism and Christianity. He was surprised and appalled by why the Christians would persecute the Jews over the killing of Jesus. “He was Jewish, one of them! Even if it was a mistake to execute him, why do these outsiders feel they have any right to get involved? It’s as if we Chinese start to love and respect Socrates and revere his teachings as divine. Would we then start persecuting the Greeks because they executed Socrates? That’s ridiculous!” (Paraphrased by me from memory, from his book “haSinim“, “The Chinese,” written in Hebrew and published in London in 1911).
Some replacement theologians even create an unnecessary separation which doesn’t exist between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. How often have you heard someone make a difference between the “God of vengeance” in the Old Testament and the “God of love” in the New Testament? “An eye for an eye” in the Old Testament vs “Love thy neighbor” in the New Testament. Maybe they didn’t notice that both verses are from the Torah… (Exodus 21:24 and Leviticus 19:18).
The only way to teach in that manner is to read the Bible in an extremely selective way. You need to disregard the many expressions for love and compassion in the Old Testament, and ignore the many warnings in the New Testament about the Last Days, and vengeance against sinners. Most of those who teach in this way are probably doing it out of good will, and not because of antisemitism, but it’s the exact type of teaching which has been used by anti-Semites throughout the centuries.
No matter how much the historic churches have “grown apart” from the synagogue culturally, it’s still not biblically possible to make a case for Christianity being anything but a Jewish faith. You are followers of a Jewish Rabbi, for crying out loud! Think again about what that Chinese man said – if there was a religion revering Socrates, would its adherents try to be as culturally Greek as possible, or would they be vehemently anti-Greek? I think you know the answer.
Faith in Jesus is Jewish. Christianity is faith in the God of Israel. God is the same in the Old and New Testament. The prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament. Salvation comes from the Jews (said by Jesus himself). The New Testament is a Jewish book.
You may say the Jews rejected Jesus. True. They also rejected Moses and the prophets. Did that make God turn his back to them? On the contrary, in Jeremiah 31, he says that he is done with the Jews only when the sun stops shining. Last time I checked, the sun was still there.
If you ask a Jewish Israeli to read the New Testament with Jewish eyes, without biases and preconditions, they will often see that it is a Jewish book. I would encourage all Christians to try reading the Bible in the same way, and you will see the truth. Your faith is Jewish, no matter how non-Jewish you think you are. Romans 11 tells us that the root is Jewish and Gentile Christians are grafted in. That’s how God created it, and it’s not up to us to question.
This article originally appeared on Tuvia’s blog, August 11, 2021, and reposted with permission.