Jew and Gentile

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Illustration by Elhanan ben-Avraham

‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ – Galatians 3:28

‘Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.‘ – 1 Corinthians 7

A Gentile can never know fully what it is like to be a Jew, just as a woman cannot know what it is to be a man, and vice versa, though even they be one in marriage. The Jew is born inheriting a unique identity, and a long collective cultural memory going back some four thousand years. Whether the religion was passed down to the Jew or not, he is aware of the basic and central eternal Biblical message given to and and carried by the Jew: YHVH is one, and no other gods are to be set before YHVH.

For my generation, born in the 1940’s, our earliest memories are that of the Holocaust, pictures burned into our minds of murderous horrors imposed on the millions of Jewish people of Europe by German Lutherans. There are still aged living witnesses of the extermination camps with numbers tattooed on their arms, and nightmarish memories they must live with. Most Jews are also aware of a long history of Christian persecution and anti-Semitism brewed in church councils manifesting as the Catholic Inquisitions and Crusader rampages in Jewish communities, the expulsions from Spain and England, the pogroms by the Russian Orthodox Christians, the personal accusations of being ‘Christ killers’ and mocked for our separateness, and more recently of being called ‘wicked Zionists’. There has been a long consorted effort from generation to generation to eliminate the tiny population of Jewish people from history, which has thus far failed, though the threats continue.

For those reasons many Jews have done everything in their power to distance themselves from their heritage and identity. Many, like Karl Marx, converted to Christianity only to be accepted into society and institutions of education, and to own businesses and property to earn a living that was previously denied them in many Gentile nations.

It is this sad background that shapes the Jew’s attitude to Jesus and Christianity. Two millennia of persecutions by the church and the early church fathers* have left the Jew to declare, ”If that is the Good News, then what is the bad news?” The still current but ancient doctrine of ‘Replacement Theology,’ which holds that the Church has now replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people, and the Sabbath changed to Sunday, is seen as yet another attempt to destroy the Jewish people and their heritage. It is a doctrine that also declares that the Jews have no right to their Biblical promised Land of Israel. And those Jews who have come to believe in Jesus are considered traitors, converts to another religion away from the Jewish fold, meshumadim (destroyed ones).

It is against this long history that the Messianic Jew who has found the Jewish Messiah must stand. Our challenge is to maintain our calling and our destiny and identity as Jews against great odds, fulfilling the words of Isaiah the Prophet,  “Build up, build up, clear the way. Remove the stumbling blocks out of the way of My people,” and, “Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people” (Isaiah 57:14; 62:10).

The 12 gates of the New Jerusalem are each named for the 12 tribes of Israel (the 12 sons of Jacob), and the wall’s foundation the names of the 12 Jewish apostles of Yeshua, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Folks who don’t like Jews are going to feel quite uncomfortable there, I would reckon.

*see Martin Luther’s “The Jews and Their Lies,” and the anti-Jewish sermons of Chrysostom and others.