FAQ for Christians
These are answers from Christians to Christians. Jews are welcomed to eavesdrop - it might help Jews to understand how some Christians think.
1. Did Jesus reject the Law/ Torah and establish a new era for Grace?
The New Testament clearly outlines Jesus teaching his followers that the Law/Torah would remain relevant to the last letter until the fulfillment of all things.
[Mat 5:17-19 NIV] 17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Yet His apostles deemed it right to not require gentiles coming to the faith to submit to the strict traditions and observances commanded to Israel. Paul never abandoned his self image of being a Pharisee and assisted Timothy in fulfilling Jewish ritual and custom. Thus it can be well argued that the Law/Torah is still relevant to us today even as there is freedom for gentiles from the strictures of the Mosaic covenant.
2. Why do Jewish people not assume(accept) that Jesus is The Messiah?
In studying the Bible the Jewish people looked and longed for their messiah
Ani Ma’amin (I Believe)
I believe with complete faith In the Coming of the Messiah, I believe----And even though he may tarry.
Nonetheless I will wait for him. I will wait every day for him to come.
Maimonides 12th Principle of Faith
The Jewish people are looking for the prophetic vision to be fulfilled as described in the Bible. From their perspective Jesus did not fulfill this vision. One of the most consistently repeated promises is that the messiah will bring back the exiles of Israel to their homeland e.g Ezek 36: 24-30, Jer 23:5,6. The messiah will also establish God’s Kingdom on the earth with Jerusalem at its center, and bring an age of peace, prosperity and justice, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 59. He will bring all the Gentiles to worship the one true G-d of Israel Zech 8:23, 9:9,10, Daniel 7:13-15
Instead of seeing this vision come to pass the Jews were dispersed and the Holy City and much of the Land were destroyed. Instead of the nations worshiping the God of Israel they created what seems to Jewish people as another religion.
Our concept of the messiah has to include the eternal covenant with Israel in which these promises are fulfilled. As we study the Hebrew Bible(Tanakh)) together we may find that we share much common ground.
3. Why do Jews feel threatened by Christian theology?
The Gentiles who, in the first century came to believe in the G-d of Israel, over time developed a new theological perspective, that of Replacement Theology. This idea is still embedded in Christian theology, and still taught at many theological institutions. Hence the leaders of churches are taught subtle negations of many fundamental Jewish concepts, which Jewish leaders have derived from their careful study of the scriptures for thousands of years.
These Jewish values include; Torah, people of Israel, the Land of Israel and the immutability of their covenantal relationship with God. For example;
● Instead of the centrality of the Torah as God’s revelation to the world, some churches teach that “The Torah has no value”,
● Instead of seeing Israel as G-d’s priestly nation called to bring light into the world some say that the nation of Israel is no longer relevant and has been replaced with the church as the new Israel. In this view, the Christians become the new people of God. Because the message of the New Testament is universal and not national, some believe that here is no longer any need for Jewish people as a distinct nation.
● The land in scripture ceases to be a physical place and becomes a spiritual entity. Thus there is no more need to build up the physical land of Israel or value it above any other place on earth.
● Because of Israel's rejection of Jesus, the eternal covenant that God had with Israel no longer applies.
● The oneness and uniqueness of Israel’s God is replaced by the uniqueness and exclusivity of the claims of Jesus.
Our view is that Hashem(G-d) has a unique role for both the Jews and The Nations. The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) says that at the end of days the nations will come and worship the G-d of Israel along with the Jewish people and seek to learn from them. (Zechariah 8:23). In this relationship we will each find our calling in G-d’s Kingdom.
4. Who are the Chosen People today; National Israel or “Inward” Jews of all nations who claim the faith of Abraham?
Perhaps this question is best answered by the Apostle Paul:
[Rom 11:28-29 NIV] 28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
It is quite fair to say Paul taught early believers in Jesus to regard National Israel as fully elected as per the writings of the Hebrew Bible(Tanakh). Moreover he explicitly warns them not to fall prey to self deluding conceit. But clearly the concept of election can have multiple meanings and requires context. Paul also uses some terms in a broader sense. The following passage argues that a Israelites spiritual transformation of the heart is what includes them into a higher spiritual concept of Jewishness beyond a simple label of being called a Jew.
[Rom 2:28-29 NIV] 28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person's praise is not from other people, but from God.
Arguably, many traditional and observant Jews today would agree with this concept as well!
5. Shouldn’t a Christians #1 mission be to share Jesus with Jewish people?
We encourage respectful and meaningful dialog. Talking about Jesus in a respectful and relevant way when the audience is willing is not a problem. Being sensitive to the context within which you are sharing is very important. Insisting on arguing with people about things they are not interested in is, simply put, rude and discouraged.
It may be enlightening to reverse this question and ask: “Should it be a Jew’s #1 mission to cure Christians of their bad theology?” Most Christians would not appreciate a relationship that is primarily driven by this motive. It would most likely make them angry and fearful. Seeing this reflection should highlight a Christians need to be sincere and sensitive when they share anything that can be uncomfortable or controversial with others.
Christians must also contend with the historical pattern of Christian efforts to eradicate Judaism, Torah observance, and distinctive Jewish identity for over a thousand years. Many Christians don’t fully grasp the negative impacts of evangelization within Jewish communities.
6. Do gentiles need to keep traditional Sabbath or Jewish holidays such as Passover? If they are encouraged to do this are they being "Judaized"?
The e-Noam events to date have not pushed Jewish tradition or custom on anyone. However we have spent time learning about the sabbath and feast day traditions. We have sought deeper biblical understanding as to their roots and spiritual relevance. For Christians the New Testament scriptures are quite clear on being judgemental about this topic:
[Col 2:16 NIV] 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regards to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
It is worth noting that Christians who choose to observe a more Hebraic expression of Sabbath, biblical festivals/feasts, or New Moon celebrations are more likely to be harshly criticized by other Christians. This is a sad reality given that the passage quoted above instructs us not to judge one another on this basis. There is freedom to enjoy the Sabbath, the biblical feasts, and new moon celebrations if you so choose. Just don’t impose your views on others.
7. What value is there for me to study the Bible with traditional Jews if the emphasis isn’t discussing the gospel of Jesus Christ?
The humility to share and discuss Biblical texts without attempting to enforce Christian doctrines on your conversation partner is an important value in eNoam. Traditional Christians have a lot to gain from learning about the Torah, the Prophets, and the Poetic texts of the Bible from some traditional Jewish perspectives. Often the New testament quotes Torah and even states that it was written down for those whom the fulfillment of the ages has come (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). Often in the context of the study, Christians can gain a profound understanding of their New Testament better. The Jewish perspective enables Christians to obtain a deeper understanding of their gospel message. Moreover, the gospel message expands to include the return and restoration of Israel that leads to world redemption. The good news of the gospel reveals over time through bible study together that we have much more in common than we have realized. Over time, our capacity to experience God’s love grows.
8. Should we study the Talmud and other Jewish writings?
They are not Biblical. This is a deeply personal decision. Many traditional Jewish texts can help Christians gain deeper biblical insight. They may also provide valuable understanding of Jewish beliefs and practices. It is also true that some Jewish writings may expose Christians to ideas and opinions that contradict or offend Christian doctrines. One person may rightly choose to refrain from such exposure. Another may see it as enlightening and educational.