To My Jewish Friends

I am a Gentile, and it may seem presumptuous for any Gentile to try to tell a Jew about God.  If so, please forgive me.  My defense is that I write not to tell you about another religion, nor to encourage you to go to church.  Rather, I write to tell you about the most outstanding Jew I’ve ever known.  If you already know Him yourself, there’s no need for you to read any further.  My sole purpose is to draw attention to the Messiah of Israel who is the Savior of the world.

Everything I know about God comes from the Jews.  The New Testament, of course, was as much a product of ancient Israel as was the Old Testament.  I am a Gentile who, by the grace of God, has been called to share in the inheritance of Israel.  It is a calling that has gone out not just to me, but to every human being.

I am grateful to God for His gift of the Jews to the world.  Most of all, I am grateful to God for Him who has been the most exquisite expression of Israel to the world: Joshua of Nazareth, Son of David, Son of Abraham. 

If you don’t read anything on this blog, please read Introduction or  True Christianity.  If those interest you, you might also be interested in Churchless Christians or Don’t Tell Don’t Tell Anyone You’re a Christian Right Away.  

Only God will know if you have ever read any of this blog so there is no need to be afraid.

10 Replies to “To My Jewish Friends”

  1. Hi Steve,

    I read some of your comments on the Slacktivist blog. I’m intrigued by some of your comments, particularly those that discuss Jews and Judaism. If you don’t mind I will provide feedback from a Jewish perspective on the respective comment threads.

    In Judaism we don’t refer to the set of 39 books in our scripture as the Old Testament. It’s THE Bible to us. We may call it the Hebrew Bible or the Jewish Bible to avoid confusion with the Christian Bible. It’s also known as the Tanakh, which is an acronym for Torah-Nevi’im-Ketuvim, the Hebrew names for the three sections (Torah, Prophets, Writings) that the books are grouped in the Hebrew Bible.

  2. aunursa,

    You addressed your comment to “Steve,” but I presume you meant “Mike” so I will answer.

    I have a Tanakh (published by the JPS) on my bookshelf, along with the Jewish Study Bible (based on the JPS text and published by Oxford). I also have the Jewish Annotated New Testament (also published by Oxford).

    I would say that the most overlooked yet important biblical fact of all is that whenever the New Testament refers to the Scriptures it is almost always referring to the Old Testament (that is, the Hebrew Bible) and not to the New Testament.

    Jesus was thoroughly Jewish, and the New Testament is every bit as Jewish as the Hebrew Bible.

    Even common New Testament terms like “Son of God” cannot be properly understood if removed from their original utterly Hebrew context (2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2:7).

    Of all the great things that the Jews have given the world, none are as great as Messiah. In fact, all those great things put together are not as great as Messiah. He is the answer to the most important questions of all.

  3. Mike,

    I’m sorry. I got you confused with another commenter who has been defending Christian principles on a different Slacktivist thread.

    You’re right that the NT authors frequently cited and quoted from the OT. Frequent disagreements between Christian and Jewish theologians revolve around whether the quotes are accurate translations and maintain the context of the original passage. If the quotes are accurate and in context, then that would bolster the NT’s claim to be based on the OT. If they are inaccurate and out of context, then that would suggest that the NT authors took liberties — the same liberties that a Christian would not accept if it were done to a NT passage to advance a different agenda.

    If you like I would be happy for us to review a couple of OT passages and see how they are portrayed in the NT.

  4. aunursa,

    That would be fine.

    In the meantime, I will state the central thesis of all the New Testament documents: that Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and risen from the dead, is the fulfillment of what God was promising throughout the Old Testament documents.

  5. Mike,

    Isaiah 7:14 — לָכֵן יִתֵּן אדני הוּא לָכֶם אוֹת הִנֵּה הָעַלְמָה
    הָרָה וְיֹלֶדֶת בֵּן וְקָרָאת שְׁ מוֹ עִמָּנוּאֵל

    JPT (Jewish) translation: Therefore, the Lord, of His own, shall give you a sign; behold, the young woman is with child, and she shall bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel.

    KJV (Christian) translation: Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

    As you can see, there are key differences in the translations. In the JPT translation, a young woman (with no implication of her marital or sexual status) is already pregnant. The use of the definite article “the” suggests that the identify of the woman is known to the speaker and the listener. According to the KJV translation, a virgin will become pregnant at some point in the future. The use of the indefinite article “a” suggests that her identity was unknown at the time that the prophecy was issued.

    Let’s set aside for the moment the question of whether or not הָעַלְמָה [almah] implies virginity. The author of Matthew cited the miraculous birth of Jesus as fulfillment of this passage, and I assume that you would agree with him. But what is the context of the 7th Chapter of Isaiah? And how does the birth of Jesus fit the rest of the prophecy? These are questions that are not considered in the 1st chapter of Matthew. Nor are they considered by most Christians, who can recite Isaiah 7:14 from memory verbatim, but (without looking it up) have no idea what is said in Isaiah 1-13, or in verses 15-16.

    Does the context matter in determining the meaning of a verse? What do you think?

  6. aunursa,

    You are quite right that Isaiah 7 had a meaning for Isaiah and his contemporaries which is separate from the use to which Matthew later put the 14th verse. This is because so much of the Hebrew Bible was written not just for the people of its time, but to foreshadow even greater things that God would do in the future.

    You can see this dynamic already at work even in the Torah. Consider that many parts of the Torah were foreshadowed in its first book: Genesis. For example, consider that the Feast of Unleavened Bread first partaken at the Exodus on the eve of judgment against Egypt (Exodus 12) was foreshadowed in the preparation of unleavened bread on the eve of the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). Another example would be that the plagues that came on Egypt (Exodus 7-11) were foreshadowed by the plagues that had earlier come on Pharaoh’s house because of Sarai, Abraham’s wife (Genesis 12:17) – Sarai being a type of Israel. Of course, I could mention more (and here is a list), but I think you get the idea.

    This dynamic of foreshadowing is magnified in the New Testament, when the entirety of the Hebrew Bible – through such foreshadowings as well as direct prophecy – is brought to bear in explaining the life, death and resurrection of Messiah.

    1. Mike,

      Are you saying that Isaiah 7:14 is a foreshadowing of the miraculous birth of Jesus? Or a direct prophecy of the birth of Jesus?

  7. Mike,

    I have twice tried to leave a reply on the “Jesus did things by the book” thread, and it appears to my frustration that my comment is not posting.

    1. aunursa,

      I am sorry for your frustration. I don’t know what might be causing the problem. Another user made a simliar complain last week. Other than that, I’ve had no similar complaints for the last four years.

      Was there anything unusual in the comments? Did it contain hyperlinks?

      Please give it another try. But first post a short comment just as a test so that you don’t have to waste so much typing time.

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