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Saturday, 21 October 2017
Yom Shabbat, 1 Heshvan 5778

 



 







Starting January 2012, In the Rabbis Dust will be posted here in audio format. Look out for it soon!

 

 

 

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“Jews don’t believe in the Trinity. We believe in one God, not three.”

Answer: “Just as Messianic Jews probably misunderstand some of the things you believe, I think you misunderstand some of the things I believe. We do not in any way believe in three gods. My God is one, and his name is the LORD (or, Yahweh, known to Orthodox Jews as HaShem). He revealed himself to us through his Son, the Messiah, who is the very image and reflection of God. And he touches us and speaks to us by his Spirit. These are deep, spiritual truths. Later theologians labeled this relationship the Trinity   God as a triune One. But the word ‘Trinity’ is not found anywhere in the New Testament and it may confuse the issues for you.”

 

 “If you claim that Jesus is God then you are guilty of making God into a man. You are an idol worshiper!”

Answer: “We believe that the eternally preexistent Son of God, through whom the universe was made, came forth from God his Father and was clothed with human flesh, making himself known to us as Yeshua the Messiah. He lived on this earth, died, rose from the dead, and returned to his Father. He now sits enthroned in heaven next to God. We understand that Jesus, the Son of God, is the very image of God, the one in whom God caused his fullness to dwell, the one through whom he revealed himself completely to mankind. Since the Son came forth from the Father and shares his divine nature, in one sense it is quite correct to say that Jesus is God (or, divine, or deity), always bearing in mind that the overwhelming testimony of the New Testament writings is that Jesus is the Son of God. I can show you from the Hebrew Scriptures that there is absolutely nothing idolatrous about what I believe. God has always revealed himself to his people. He did it most permanently and most fully through Jesus his Son.”

 

 “God doesn’t have a son.”

Answer: “It all depends on what you mean by the word son. In the Hebrew Bible, Israel was called God’s son, the king was called God’s son, and the angels were called God’s sons. Is it any wonder that the Messiah, the ideal representative of Israel, the king of all earthly kings, and the one more highly exalted than the angels, should be called God’s Son? More than anyone else who has walked this earth, Jesus the Messiah is uniquely entitled to be called the Son of God.”

 

 “According to the Law (Deuteronomy 13), Jesus was a false prophet because he taught us to follow other gods (namely, the Trinity, including the god Jesus), gods our fathers have never known or worshiped. This makes all his miracles utterly meaningless.”

Answer: “Have you ever read what Jesus and his followers taught? They emphasized, ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Follow him. Obey him!’ Jesus pointed everyone to God his Heavenly Father by his miracles, by his message, and by his life. He lived, died, and rose again for the glory of his Father. Thus Jesus was a faithful and true prophet.”

 

 “According to the Law (Deuteronomy 13), Jesus was a false prophet because he taught us to follow other gods (namely, the Trinity, including the god Jesus), gods our fathers have never known or worshiped. This makes all his miracles utterly meaningless.”

Answer: “Have you ever read what Jesus and his followers taught? They emphasized, ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Follow him. Obey him!’ Jesus pointed everyone to God his Heavenly Father by his miracles, by his message, and by his life. He lived, died, and rose again for the glory of his Father. Thus Jesus was a faithful and true prophet.”

 

 “The Holy Spirit is not the so-called third person of the Trinity.”

Answer: “Rather than discuss the Trinity again (see 3.1, above), let’s focus on one question: Is the Holy Spirit only a ‘what’ or are there dimensions in which the Spirit is a ‘who’? From the Scriptures, it can be demonstrated that God’s Spirit is more than just an abstract power. The Holy Spirit is part of God’s very essence and clearly has personality. The New Testament simply expands on these established, biblical truths, which, interestingly enough, are treated in a similar way in some later Rabbinic traditions.”

 

 “According to Isaiah 43:11, God alone is our Savior. We don’t need or recognize any other saviors.”

Answer: “Isaiah 43:11 is written with reference to other ‘gods’ and it teaches emphatically that the Jewish people will not be saved by any other so-called god or deliverer. This is clear. It is also clear that God saves through whom he wills to save whether it be earthly deliverers (such as kings or warriors), angelic messengers, or the Messiah.”

 

“We are righteous by what we do, not by what we believe. Christianity is the religion of the creed, Judaism the religion of the deed.”

Answer: “The New Testament clearly teaches that faith without works is dead. But it also teaches that without faith, there can be no meaningful works, and the first thing God wants from us is our total trust and dependence. That is called faith, and it is foundational to the Hebrew Scriptures as well. Our forefathers died in the wilderness because of their unbelief, and being pronounced righteous by God begins with absolute faith in him. So, right living is the result of right believing. As a Jew, you should also remember that ‘the creed’ is important in traditional Judaism too.”

 

“The Scriptures clearly tells us that, ‘To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice’ (Prov. 21:3).”

Answer: “Amen! Who would argue with Scripture? Elsewhere the Bible teaches that obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:23). But these passages do not denigrate the importance of sacrifices, as some anti-missionaries would claim. Rather, throughout the Bible God opposes religious hypocrisy and formal, outward observance of religious rites. He would rather have our simple obedience than our lengthy prayers or costly sacrifices if our hearts are not right with him. And he would prefer that we just do what he says rather than that we sin, repent, and bring a sacrifice for our sins. The sad fact is that we all sin grievously and we all need atonement for our sins, a subject that Scripture clearly affirms and teaches.”

 

 “The prophets indicated clearly that God did not care for blood sacrifices. In fact, they practically repudiated the entire sacrificial system, teaching that repentance and prayer were sufficient. The Talmudic rabbis simply affirmed this biblical truth.”

Answer: “Some later rabbis may have taught this, but the prophets certainly did not. Everything the prophets did, they did out of allegiance to the Torah and to reinforce what was written there. There is no possible way that they would have repudiated the God-given, God-ordained, God-sanctioned system of atonement as laid out in the Torah especially with the Temple standing. The prophets would not have contradicted Moses. What the prophets repudiated was hypocritical religion. In other words, they rejected the performance of sacred rites and the keeping of special days when those practicing them had polluted hearts. They were perfectly clear on this. It’s also interesting to note that every traditional Jew around the world prays daily for the restoration of the Temple and the sacrificial system. If sacrifices were really unnecessary and unimportant, and if the prophets utterly repudiated them, why pray daily for their restoration?”

 

 “Even if I accept your premise that blood sacrifices are of great importance in the Torah, the fact is that our Hebrew Bible including the Torah itself offer other means of atonement, not just the shedding of blood.”

Answer: “There can be no question that blood atonement is the central and most important form of atonement in the Bible. The blood is essential, foundational, and irreplaceable. Because blood sacrifices form the heart and soul of the biblical system of atonement, both the New Testament and numerous authoritative Rabbinic traditions state that without shedding of blood, there is no atonement. Take away the blood, and the whole biblical system of atonement collapses.”

 

“According to Proverbs 16:6, love and good deeds make atonement. So who needs sacrifices?”

Answer: “If I were to follow your logic, I just could as easily say, According to Proverbs 16:6, love and good deeds make atonement, so who needs Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)? That is to say, if atonement can be made between man and God through doing good, then there is no need for suffering and chastisement, no need for prayers and confession, no need even for the Day of Atonement. What Bible-believing Jew would hold to such a view? This points us to the real meaning of this verse, namely, ‘Through loving kindness and truth, sin is wiped away.’ In other words, on a practical, person to person level, being loyal, loving, and truthful will overcome and eradicate the prior effects of sin. But the verse is not directly related to issues of atonement, purification, and forgiveness in the sight of God, nor is it reasonable to think that the Lord would overthrow countless verses in the Torah with one phrase in Proverbs.”

 

 “It’s clear that you misunderstand the whole sacrificial system. Sacrifices were for unintentional sins only. Repentance was the only remedy for intentional sins.”

Answer: “We all know that there were different functions for the sacrifices, including ritual purification, thanksgiving, personal consecration, and making of vows, along with atonement for unintentional sins. But the sacrifices on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) provided atonement for both intentional and unintentional sins, something taught emphatically in the Talmud and Law Codes. The Scriptures are clear on this, and Jewish tradition never questioned it. There was also one particular sacrifice (namely the ’asham the guilt offering, or reparation offering) that, in conjunction with repentance, served as atonement for intentional sins (called ‘transgressions’ in the Bible). We should point out too that according to some Rabbinic traditions, repentance could ‘convert’ intentional sins to unintentional, hence paving the way for atonement through sacrifice.”

 

 “Even if I accept your arguments about the centrality of blood sacrifices, it only holds true while the Temple is standing. The book of Daniel teaches us that if the Temple has been destroyed and is not functional, prayer replaces sacrifice. The book of Ezekiel is even more explicit, telling Jews living in the exile and therefore without any access to the Temple, even if it were standing that repentance and good works are all God requires.”

Answer: “You are obviously referring to is Ezekiel 18 and 33, where we learn that a wicked man who repents is accepted by God with no mention of sacrifices along with Daniel 6:10, where it tells us that Daniel, living in exile, prayed toward the Temple (i.e., facing Jerusalem) three times a day. But the idea that prayer replaces sacrifice is simply not taught in the passages you refer to, nor is it in harmony with other important passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. I also find it interesting that the exiles couldn’t wait to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and offer sacrifices again. They knew how important this was. Further, it is significant that, to this day, many Orthodox Jews kill a rooster or chicken on the Day of Atonement and offer it as an atoning, substitutionary sacrifice on their behalf. Despite the Rabbinic teaching that prayer has replaced sacrifice, they still feel the need to offer a blood sacrifice on Yom Kippur.”


 “The book of Jonah totally shoots down all your arguments about sacrifice and atonement, especially with reference to Gentiles. You see, when Jonah preached, the people repented and God forgave them no sacrifice, no blood offering.”

Answer: “Did you know that traditional Judaism, based on the Torah, teaches that the Temple sacrifices made atonement for the Gentile world? This was part of Israel’s call as a priestly nation, and it was Israel’s Temple offerings that helped make Gentile repentance acceptable to God.”

 

 “Even if I admit that we need blood atonement, I still won’t believe in Jesus. God wanted the blood of a goat or a lamb, not a person. He doesn’t want human sacrifice!”

Answer: “All of us know that God is not interested in human sacrifice. But are you aware that the Hebrew Scriptures, the Talmud, as well as the New Testament teach clearly that the death of the righteous has atoning power? When the Messiah, the totally righteous one, laid down his life, it was the ultimate act of atonement in human history.”

 

“I can’t believe that the death of Jesus paid for my sins is that the Torah teaches that for the blood to be effectual, it had to be poured out on the altar in a specific way. This obviously does not refer to Jesus!”

Answer: “The specific laws in the Torah regarding the sprinkling of the blood on the altar had to do with the sacrifices offered on that altar. In those cases, specific regulations applied. At other times in the Hebrew Scriptures, blood and sacrifices were offered in different ways and in different places. More importantly, there is obviously no connection between the laws for offering animal sacrifices on the altar and the Jewish teaching that ‘the death of the righteous atones.’ Therefore the blood of those righteous martyrs did not have to be poured out on the altar of Jerusalem.”

 

 “If the death of Jesus fulfilled the image of the sacrificial system, why do the prophets anticipate sacrifices when the Third Temple is built?”

Answer: “I’m actually glad that you raised this objection, since it has the merit of acknowledging the importance of sacrifices and offerings in the prophetic books (which is the exact opposite of the premise of objection 3.9, above). However, from our current vantage point, it is difficult for us to know exactly what God was speaking through the prophets concerning a future Temple with restored sacrifices. Was the language merely symbolic, with the Temple speaking of God’s presence among his people and sacrifices speaking of their worshipful response? Or will the prophecies be literally, not symbolically, fulfilled? In that case, were the prophets speaking of a Temple to be built by the Messiah in the age to come? If so, then we could cite the Rabbinic tradition that in the age to come all sacrifices and offerings will be abolished except for thanksgiving offerings. These sacrifices would then be of a non-atoning character, and therefore would have nothing to do with the once-and-for-all atonement purchased for us by the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah.. In any case, we should use caution in our discussion here, as did the Talmudic rabbis, realizing how difficult it is to clearly interpret some of the key, relevant chapters in the Tanakh.”

 

 “The Christian concept of salvation is contrary to the Hebrew Bible and Jewish tradition. Jews don’t need saving!”

Answer: “It seems to me that you misunderstand the biblical concept of salvation, be it ‘Christian’ or ‘Jewish.’ You probably think of salvation in the Hebrew Bible in terms of earthly deliverance and preservation, whereas you understand salvation in the New Testament in totally spiritual terms, referring only to the salvation of the soul. Actually, the concept of salvation in the Tanakh and in the New Covenant Scriptures is comprehensive, dealing with spirit, soul, and body, both in this world and the world to come; in other words, salvation from sin and its effects. In that sense, all human beings, sinful as we are, need saving.”

 

“Jewish people don’t need a middleman.”

Answer: “It all depends on what you mean by ‘middleman.’ If you mean no Jew could ever pray to God without a go-between acting on their behalf, I agree with you: We don’t need a middleman. If you mean that any individual Jew (or, the entire nation) could come into God’s presence at any time, without a divinely ordained agent first going to God on his or her behalf, I disagree with you. When God gave us the Torah, he told us in no uncertain terms that only the descendants of Aaron (i.e., the priests) could enter the Most Holy Place or perform the annual atonement rituals. We were completely dependent on them, along with the Levites who assisted them in their work. So, in a general sense, any Jew can cry out to God at any time and plead for mercy; in a specific sense, without priestly atonement and intercession, no Jew has direct access to God."

 

 “Judaism does not believe in original sin or a fall of man. We do not believe that the human race is totally sinful.”

Answer: “There may be some confusion with our terms. Messianic Jews and Christians believe that we have fallen from the ideal state in which we were created, and now moral corruption is an inescapable part of our nature. We do not believe that people are totally and completely sinful, incapable of doing or choosing anything good. Rather, we believe that by nature we are hopelessly prone to sin and thoroughly entangled with sin. It is because Adam fell and we must remember that Adam is the father of the human race according to the Torah that there are murders, rapes, thefts, and criminal acts committed every moment of every day. Because of Adam’s fall, we kill one another in war, imprison and torture one another for our own cruel purposes, and even commit genocide. We spend millions of dollars annually on every type of sexual perversion including pedophilia while we waste millions more on addictive and destructive drugs. And even the best of us admit to our moral failures, doing things we wish we wouldn’t do in fact, we judge others for doing these very things and being ashamed of our thoughts, words, or deeds. We are, tragically, a fallen race.”

 

“Jews don’t need to repent.”

Answer: “On the contrary, repentance is one of Judaism’s foundations! That’s why our own traditional literature from the Talmud to the Prayerbook to Maimonides to contemporary Jewish thinkers is filled with teaching on repentance and prayers of repentance. Jews sin like everybody else, and therefore Jews just like other human beings need to repent. That’s why our traditional literature puts such an emphasis on repentance.”

 

 “Jews doesn’t believe in a divine Messiah.”

Answer: “Judaism has never had one, official, universally accepted set of beliefs concerning the Messiah, but it is true that traditional Jewish teaching does not speak unequivocally of a divine Messiah. However, Jewish tradition often describes a highly exalted Messiah as well as a preexistent Messiah, so much so that Jewish scholars have sometimes spoken of the ‘semi-divine’ or ‘quasi-divine’ nature of the Messiah according to these traditions. More importantly, the Hebrew Bible itself speaks of the Messiah’s divine nature, and that must be the deciding factor in what we as Jews do and do not believe.”

 

 “Judaism doesn’t believe in a suffering Messiah.”

Answer: “That is not true. From the Talmud until our own day, important Jewish traditions have acknowledged the Messiah’s suffering. In addition, many Jews believe in two messiahs, a triumphant reigning king called Messiah ben David, and a suffering warrior called Messiah ben Joseph. More importantly, the Hebrew Scriptures speak clearly of the Messiah’s sufferings. In fact, it is because our Bible describes the Messiah as a priest as well as a king that he had to suffer on our behalf, fulfilling his priestly role. To miss this is to miss an essential part of the Messiah’s work.”

 

“Jews don’t believe that the Messiah will come twice.”

 

Answer: “Judaism actually has many different traditions about the coming of the Messiah, including beliefs that there are two messiahs who will each come once, as well as beliefs that there is a potential Messiah present in each generation. Scriptures and history teach us that there will be one Messiah who will come twice.”

 

 

 “Judaism is a healthy religion. Jews don’t see the world as intrinsically evil, or denounce marriage or call for self-renunciation. Christianity, on the other hand, see the world as evil, advocate celibacy, and say: ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross, and suffer.’”

Answer: “This is an exaggerated and inaccurate statement. Traditional Jews see this world as the corridor to the world to come but stresses the importance of life in this world. As for Christians, while stressing the importance of the world to come, they have been responsible for the building of more hospitals, the feeding of more hungry people, and the establishment of more educational institutions than all other religions of the world combined. The difference between the two is not one of substance but of emphasis. So, the real question is, Which emphasis makes more sense? If this life is only a passing shadow, (as Psalm 90 teaches), and if we are only pilgrims and strangers here (as Jacob and David said), isn’t it logical to live out our few days here in the light of eternity? If we are on this earth for 70 or 80 years and then we enter eternity either under God’s favor or God’s judgment doesn’t it make sense to give serious thought to the world to come, making sure we are ready to enter our eternal home? Also, both Judaism and Christianity recognize the sinful tendencies of the human race; Christianity just puts greater emphasis on subduing those tendencies, calling on its adherents to ‘put to death the harmful desires of the sinful nature.’ Finally, Jesus emphasized that we are not here primarily for ourselves but for God and for others, not to be served but to serve. God’s kingdom is advanced through suffering and sacrifice, and that too is part of our calling as mature followers of the Messiah.”

 

 “Christianity calls on its followers to exhibit unnatural emotions and feelings, such as love for their enemies. This is contrary to Torah as well as contrary to human nature.”

Answer: “Could it be that what you call ‘unnatural emotions and feelings’ are actually lower, more base human attitudes, while the ethical behavior that Jesus requires from his followers actually reflects higher, more lofty, spiritual attitudes? Maybe not everything that is ‘natural’ is good and not everything that is ‘unnatural’ is bad! Could it be that the Messiah calls us to a higher and better life? Could it be that, through his gracious help, he enables us to put to death our earthly, carnal tendencies and more fully reflect the divine image in which we were created? I would suggest to you that this represents a decided step up for the human race, a fruit of the Messiah’s work on our behalf.”

 

“The only thing that keeps a lot of people in the Christian faith including Jews is the fear of hell.”

Answer: “Of the multiplied thousands of followers of Jesus that I know around the world both Jews and Gentiles I can not think of one who continues to follow Jesus primarily because of the fear of hell, let alone only because of the fear of hell. We follow him because we love him and we recognize him to be our Messiah. Having said this, there is no question that, from a biblical perspective (i.e., Torah, Prophets, Writings, New Testament), a healthy fear of the Lord and a recognition that he is the ultimate Judge provides an added incentive to holy living. So, our primary motivation for following the Lord is love; a second motivation is to spend eternity with him in his kingdom; a third motivation is to escape the judgment of hell.” 

 

 “I find much beauty in the teachings of Jesus, and I think that there are some good arguments in favor of Christianity. But I find it impossible to believe in a religion that damns all people to hell including many moral, good, kind, and sensitive people, not to mention countless millions of religious Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, - simply because they don’t believe in Jesus. I can’t follow a religion whose God will torture people in flames forever for not believing in someone they never even heard of.”

Answer:  “To be equally honest with you, I don’t follow that religion either, nor would I be able to put my trust in a God like that. Only one thing really matters: Is there a place called hell, and is there a judgment after death? If so, what is hell like, and who deserves to go there? What about you? Do you deserve heaven or hell? Also, we can argue endlessly about the afterlife, something which neither of us has experienced firsthand. But does your view of sin, judgment, and God agree with the current state of the world, a world filled with suffering and tragedy, and does it line up with the historical experience of our people? What followers of Jesus believe is this: All of us have sinned and broken God’s commandments, resulting in untold tragedy for the human race. In his mercy, God sent his Son, the Messiah, into the world to take our place and pay for our sins. He is our hope and our salvation. If we reject him, we remain lost in this world and we will be lost in the world to come. As to the exact nature of the sufferings of hell, the Scripture do not speak with scientific precision, but the Tanakh, the New Testament, and even the Rabbinic literature give us some frightful descriptions. As for those who never heard about Jesus, God will be their Judge, not you and not me.”