Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jews for Jesus (Part 1)

There have always been tensions between followers of Jesus and Jewish people going back to the Book of Acts in the New Testament. Sadly, these tensions still exist, as we saw when Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” came out a few years ago and a number of Jews were upset about the movie. I saw this tension again in a recent blog posted by Michael Medved (05/27/2010) on his website. The subject of that post was the recent passing of Moishe Rosen, the founder of the Jews for Jesus organization, which is dedicated to converting Jewish people to Christianity. I would like to focus on one quote from that post: “[H]is life’s message denied respect for Judaism as a serious, ancient faith.”

I admire Medved very much, and I admit I don’t know much about Moishe Rosen. However, I believe Medved’s post may have betrayed a misunderstanding of several aspects of Christianity as it relates to Jews. In the hope of providing a better understanding of where Christians are coming from, let me point out some things from the New Testament. I’m not looking for agreement or affirmation, just understanding so that Jews don’t think wrongly of Christians.

Having said that, Christians are as diverse as Jews when it comes to beliefs (well, maybe not quite, but almost). Therefore, I’m not saying every Christian believes or even knows some of the things I’m about to mention. I’m going to present what I believe to be the generally accepted interpretation of the Bible based on the traditional orthodox understanding of it from earliest times. However, some will disagree with me on this interpretation, and there are other interpretations out there.

Part 2 will get into some detail about what the New Testament says about Judaism. Below is Michael Medved’s post in its entirety.

Thursday, May 27, 2010
Religious Identity Involves More than Ethnicity
Posted by: Michael Medved at 2:25 PM

The recent death of Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, occasioned little mourning in the Jewish community because his life’s message denied respect for Judaism as a serious, ancient faith. Ordained a Baptist pastor at age 25, he lived his life as a devoted Christian, so his public insistence that he was still fully Jewish emphasized Jewish identity as merely ethnic—denying the religious component important to most Jews.

In fact, some 10% of American Jews today are converts to the faith with no Jewish ethnic background. Moreover, Rosen distinguished his movement from the larger Christian community based on ancestry, disregarding classic Christian doctrine that faith matters more than parentage. In the end, by defining Jewish identity as exclusively genetic or cultural, and not religious, Rosen unwittingly echoed the militant secularists who show contempt for religious Jews and Christians alike.

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