Skip to comments.Are the Torah and the Gospel mutually exclusive?
Posted on 07/26/2012 11:34:14 AM PDT by Teófilo
Brethren: Peace and Good to all of you.
I've been reading lately several works on textual, form, literary, and historical criticism of the Bible, as well as the relationship between both Testaments, and as corollary, the relationship between the Church and the Jewish people. Today I reached the millenary impasse: for the Jews to accept Jesus as their Messiah would entail, in their view, a rejection of the Torah; for us Christians to reconcile with them would entail the rejection of the core of Christianity - without a necessary conversion to Judaism which they don't see as necessary for "righteous Gentiles" to reach "the world to come". At least in the view of those Jews who still believe in "a world to come."
Testing my diamond
During my investigation, I found a letter to Yemeni Jews by the Jewish medieval sage Moses Maimonides to be upsetting. The quote is as follows:
Ever since the time of Revelation, every despot or slave that has attained to power, be he violent or ignoble, has made it his first aim and his final purpose to destroy our law, and to vitiate our religion, by means of the sword, by violence, or by brute force, such as Amalek, Sisera, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Titus, Hadrian, may their bones be ground to dust, and others like them. This is one of the two classes which attempt to foil the Divine will.
The second class consists of the most intelligent and educated among the nations, such as the Syrians, Persians, and Greeks. These also endeavor to demolish our law and to vitiate it by means of arguments which they invent, and by means of controversies which they institute....
After that there arose a new sect which combined the two methods, namely, conquest and controversy, into one, because it believed that this procedure would be more effective in wiping out every trace of the Jewish nation and religion. It, therefore, resolved to lay claim to prophecy and to found a new faith, contrary to our Divine religion, and to contend that it was equally God-given.
Thereby it hoped to raise doubts and to create confusion, since one is opposed to the other and both supposedly emanate from a Divine source, which would lead to the destruction of both religions. For such is the remarkable plan contrived by a man who is envious and querulous. He will strive to kill his enemy and to save his own life, but when he finds it impossible to attain his objective, he will devise a scheme whereby they both will be slain.
The first one to have adopted this plan was Jesus the Nazarene, may his bones be ground to dust. He was a Jew because his mother was a Jewess although his father was a Gentile. For in accordance with the principles of our law, a child born of a Jewess and a Gentile, or of a Jewess and a slave, is legitimate. (Yebamot 45a). Jesus is only figuratively termed an illegitimate child. He impelled people to believe that he was a prophet sent by God to clarify perplexities in the Torah, and that he was the Messiah that was predicted by each and every seer. He interpreted the Torah and its precepts in such a fashion as to lead to their total annulment, to the abolition of all its commandments and to the violation of its prohibitions. The sages, of blessed memory, having become aware of his plans before his reputation spread among our people, meted out fitting punishment to him.
Daniel had already alluded to him when he presaged the downfall of a wicked one and a heretic among the Jews who would endeavor to destroy the Law, claim prophecy for himself, make pretenses to miracles, and allege that he is the Messiah, as it is written, "Also the children of the impudent among thy people shall make bold to claim prophecy, but they shall fall." (Daniel 11:14). The allegation that Jesus had "a Gentile father" notwithstanding - based on a Talmudic passage alleging that Jesus was the product of a Roman soldier's rape - I took the text of the letter at face value for analysis and asked myself C.S. Lewis' famous questions: Jesus was either evil, a madman, or who he said he was, the Messiah, Son of God. Maimonides, along with post-Second Temple Judaism denied the third option. Therefore, we're left with defining Jesus within an spectrum of possibilities located anywhere between two extremes: he was either crazy as a loon or as evil as the devil.
The history of the relationship between Israel and Christendom is drenched with blood and tears. It is a history of mistrust and hostility, but also thank God a history marked again and again by attempts at forgiveness, understanding and mutual acceptance. After Auschwitz, the mission of reconciliation and acceptance permits no deferral.Read the whole essay here.
Even if we know that Auschwitz is the gruesome expression of an ideology that not only wanted to destroy Judaism but also hated and sought to eradicate from Christianity its Jewish heritage, the question remains, What could be the reason for so much historical hostility between those who actually must belong together because of their faith in the one God and commitment to his will?
Does this hostility result from something in the very faith of Christians? Is it something in the "essence of Christianity," such that one would have to prescind from Christianity's core, deny Christianity its heart, in order to come to real reconciliation? This is an assumption that some Christian thinkers have in fact made in the last few decades in reaction to the horrors of history. Do confession of Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of the living God and faith in the cross as the redemption of mankind contain an implicit condemnation of the Jews as stubborn and blind, as guilty of the death of the Son of God? Could it be that the core of the faith of Christians themselves compels them to intolerance, even to hostility toward the Jews, and conversely, that the self-esteem of Jews and the defense of their historic dignity and deepest convictions oblige them to demand that Christians abandon the heart of their faith and so require Jews similarly to forsake tolerance? Is the conflict programmed in the heart of religion and only to be overcome through its repudiation?
In this heightened framing of the question, the problem confronting us today reaches far beyond an academic interreligious dialogue into the fundamental decisions of this historic hour. One sees more frequent attempts to mollify the issue by representing Jesus as a Jewish teacher who in principle did not go beyond what was possible in Jewish tradition. His execution is understood to result from the political tensions between Jews and Romans. In point of fact, he was executed by the Roman authority in the way political rebels were punished. His elevation to Son of God is accordingly understood to have occurred after the fact, in a Hellenistic climate; at the same time, in view of the given political circumstances, the blame for the crucifixion is transferred from the Romans to the Jews. As a challenge to exegesis, such interpretations can further an acute listening to the text and perhaps produce something useful. However, they do not speak of the Jesus of the historic sources, but instead construct a new and different Jesus, relegating the historical faith in the Christ of the church to mythology. Christ appears as a product of Greek religiosity and political opportunism in the Roman Empire. One does not do justice to the gravity of the question with such a view; indeed one retreats from it.
Thus the question remains: Can Christian faith, left in its inner power and dignity, not only tolerate Judaism but accept it in its historic mission? Or can it not? Can there be true reconciliation without abandoning the faith, or is reconciliation tied to such abandonment? In reply to this question which concerns us most deeply, I shall not present simply my own views. Rather, I wish to show what the Catechism of the Catholic Church released in 1992 has to say. This work has been published by the magisterium of the Catholic Church as an authentic expression of her faith. In recognition of the significance of Auschwitz and from the mission of the Second Vatican Council, the matter of reconciliation has been inscribed in the catechism as an object of faith. Let us see then how the catechism sounds in relation to our question in terms of its definition of its own mission.
God does answer prayer and comes to the rescue at the precise moment when one is looking down the chasm on the point of vertigo.
A torn, seamless garment
In words repeated by the scholar - and frequent advisor to the US Catholic Bishops - Amy-Jill Levine, I feel a "holy envy" towards Judaism, more so because without Judaism, Christianity would be unintellgible. I study Judaism just before, during, and after the New Testament era with utter seriousness, respect, and many times, admiration.
Yet, my readings have led me to believe that after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD, Judaism resembled - if you allow me the analogy - a seamless garment ripped and torn at the bottom. I think that the Jewish remnant in the Holy Land also saw the discontinuity because, starting with the sucessors of the Pharisees at Jamnia and through the Talmudic age, the Jewish sages applied themselves to "hem" the jagged edges, cut, tie, and add new tzitzits to the torn, seamless garment, sometimes without paying attention to the discontinuities their repairs created.
As a consequence, Judaism became self-contained, unique, standard, and logically impervious to Christian evangelism and apologetics. This is, for the most part, the Talmudists greatest achievement which in turn guaranteed the survival of Jewish identity throughout the centuries.
These centuries were not not good for the Jewish people as they endured persecution by Christians in East and West which in turn cemented in the emotions of the Jewish people what they had previously held intellectually: that any claim of Jesus as the unique Jewish Messiah was a non-sequitur, to be rejected a priori at all times, and at all places. For, "how can this man ever be considered as God's supreme intervention when his followers kill, persecute, and often disposses and disenfranchise us." It is a fair question and the answer should encourage in us a deep self-reflection.
Nevertheless, and setting momentarily aside the Jewish people's sorrowful history. as a Catholic Christian I can see that the "ripped garment" missing piece is precisely Jesus of Nazareth, his life, teachings, and redemptive mission. Every fiber, every shape of the missing part fits perfectly to its ripped counterpart to the last thread. That many Jews understood this explain why so many of them accepted Jesus as Messiah - and a crucified one at that - shortly after his reported death. For these Jews - and not all of them were yokels from the boondocks - the Christ-event made sense in the light of Israel's election, the Torah, and the designs of a universal God who wanted to draw every single human being toward himself. If Jesus made sense to these Jews, then there was something to Jesus that can invalidate Maimonides' the harsh evaluation he made of Jesus.
This is so, in my view, because as then Cardinal Ratzinger said, Israel's vocation was oriented toward universality. Judaism after Jesus placed its universal vocation in the back fire, at times because survival was of the essence and other times, well, what's the point? Since God will admit righteous Gentiles into his Kingdom, Jews are free to be themselves while leaving to God the fulfillment of Israel's universal vocation.
Yet, this very vocation uniquely seems to have been fulfilled in a single Israelite, Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, and based upon then Cardinal Ratzinger's solution, I can conclude that not only there is no mutual exclusivity between the Torah and the Gospel, but that their ultimate intelligibility depends on their mutual dependence. Only in this way Israel's universal vocation can be realized, as the God of Israel is made known to all peoples. This is why so many Jews accepted Jesus as Messiah, this is why Christianity is intelligible in Jewish terms.
Love is the key
Yes, I know that most of my Jewish brethren, conditioned as they are to deny any thought of Jesus as Messiah (and for the reasons we have discussed) will reject my conclusion. Alas, I can't do more.
The rift between Jews and Christians will not be healed in my lifetime, I don't think. However, I do think that the claims of Jesus, as preserved and proclaimed by the Church, make sense even withing the Jewish crucible from which Christianity surged. My faith and my reason are secured, but the problem remains: how do I take the Gospel in an affirmative fashion to my Jewish brethren while preserving both our identities? The only personal solution I can find at the moment is by loving them as Jesus loves them, and as we love ourselves. Once we love with this intensity, the remainder will resolve itself through mutual forgiveness before the God who loves, forgive, and judge us all.
 Halkin, Abraham S., ed., and Cohen, Boaz, trans. Moses Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen: The Arabic Original and the Three Hebrew Versions, American Academy for Jewish Research, 1952, pp. iii-iv. as quoted in the Wikipedia.
I have no problem with that.
However, I assume you are aware Christians believe Jesus to be the Word of God and that you do indeed reject Him as such.
There are, of course, three logical possibilities for settling this contretemps.
Christians are right and Jews are wrong.
Jews are right and Christians are wrong.
Both Jews and Christians are wrong.
What is not a logical possibility is that both Christians and Jews are right. Christ cannot both be and not be the Messiah and Savior of the whole world.
I hope you realize I meant no insult. I was trying to define positions. Jews have every right to believe as they do, and so do I. While I am not offended by Jewish beliefs that Jesus is not the Son of God, a good many Jews do appear to be offended by my belief that faith in Him in necessary to salvation.
I do not understand why this is so. Presumably in the next life (if any) we will find out which of us (or both) was wrong.
‘You’ are a small and shrinking ‘we’
If one shares religious beliefs with a billion others, one should re-examine his theology.
6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.
Didn’t you receive from the Religion Moderator to not make it personal?
We are only offended when Christians try to convert us and tell us that we are damned to hell without Jesus.
“If one shares religious beliefs with a billion others, one should re-examine his theology.
6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
7 The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.”
You are joking, right? If not, this is exegesis turned on its head and then its head buried in the ground. Do Genesis 15:5 and the dozens of similar verses to be found throughout the rest of the Old Testament from then on count for nothing?
Maybe you should re-examine your theology.
Didn’t you receive the message from the Religion Moderator to not make it personal?
But why does that offend you?
I'm not offended by the Muslim who believes exactly the same of me, at least as long as he isn't trying to cut my head off. I'm not offended by the atheist who tells me my belief system is no different from belief in a Great Flying Spaghetti Monster. Amused, and sometimes perhaps slightly annoyed, but not offended.
Why are you offended by the belief system of someone who you believe is wrong, and whose belief has absolutely no effect on you or your life?
I'm not trying to be facetious, I'm really curious why so many Jews seem to be offended by this stuff.
You honestly don’t understand why this offends us?
Christianity claims to be the ONLY way to G-d and that everyone else is damned to an eternal hell.
Since when is Christianity the only “true” religion?
Since Jesus bluntly stated, "No man comes to the Father except through me."
This was either true or false. If it was false, then Christianity is based on a lie and is a false religion.
If it was true, then Christianity by definition is the only true religion. Nobody CAN come to the Father except through him. This means that for you to cease being offended, I would have to stop being a Christian.
IMHO the easy way so popular in today's world, that Christianity is one of many paths to God, is by definition profoundly unchristian. I am very sorry you and others are offended because I believe Jesus to be the Savior.
Are you equally offended by those who believe submission to Allah is the only way to salvation, that Christians are idolators and that Jews are the descendants of monkeys and pigs?
Also, why do you care what others believe about your fate after death? They're either right, in which case you are screwed, or they're wrong. In neither case does their belief, in and of itself, make the slightest difference to your life. So why expend the energy necessary to feel offence?
I am not offended by your disbelief in Christ, so why are you offended by my belief?
I ask these questions in the greatest sincerity. I believe many non or ex-Christians believe they should be offended by the "exclusive" nature of Christian belief, without ever giving much thought to why.
Make what personal?
See post 148.
Sounds like a personal jab to me.
You are free to believe what you believe but there is a line between belief and getting in people's faces and condemning them to hell.
There are Christians who are bent on telling non-Christians that they are doomed without Jesus.
Am I offended by Islam? Yes. Am I offended by Christianity? No. Just the “we're right and you're wrong” Christians who make every attempt under the sun to convert Jews to Christianity. And Thank G-d these attempts haven't been very successful.When a Jew abandons Judaism he/she has committed a terrible sin. At least Judaism doesn't claim to be the only truth. Ours is not the only way to G-d. All the righteous have a place in the World to Come.
So I gather you are offended not so much by what these people believe, but rather by the rude way in which they present their beliefs. That makes good sense.
FWIW, most of these people are at least equally rude when talking to other Christians, condemning them to hell for rather minor differences in doctrine.
My personal belief, and I hope you don't find it offensive, is that the vast majority of people will in the fullness of time be saved by Christ. I don't claim to have any idea how this will be accomplished, but I believe that only those who stubbornly refuse to accept the obvious truth when presented to them will remain eternally isolated from God.
IOW, it's their rejection of God, not His rejection of them, that dooms them to hell.
You mileage, of course, may vary.
You hit the nail on the head. The only thing that bothers me is the rude tactics that some people use.
I’m a convert to Judaism;the rest of my family is Christian.(Lutheran,to be exact).
I was baptized and raised as a Lutheran until my conversion in 2003.
I feel a stronger connection to G-d than I ever did before.
Tell that to the folks ringing my doorbell that it is, I say it is for all people
You are free to believe that but Jews do not and will not adhere to the Christian Bible,otherwise known as the New Testament.
It would be a horrendous mistake for a Jew to abandon Torah.
“Im a convert to Judaism;the rest of my family is Christian.(Lutheran,to be exact).
I was baptized and raised as a Lutheran until my conversion in 2003.”
Interesting. I know a couple of people whose stories are very similar to yours. It is my observation - you can disagree, of course - that, in the case of the people I know, they were incompletely instructed to begin with. They did not realize that questions such as you have raised have been asked and answered many times, although, unfortunately, in languages other than in English: German, Norwegian, Danish (not much different from Norwegian), Swedish, Latin. Among Christians - real OT and NT believing Christians! - there is an enormous respect for the descendants of Abraham.
I myself took graduate level classes in Talmud and Rabbinic studies at a large midwestern state university. I took them out of simple respect for history, the people whose heritage we benefit from, and a desire to understand. I learned much.
But, in your case, for example, take the case of (Friedrich) Carl Paul Caspari, who born into a Jewish family in Germany, and later became a university professor in Norway (on this question, check the net). He became a Christian and went on to teach many future Lutheran - Norwegian! - pastors who came to America. He was utterly convinced that the OT Scriptures spoke of the Christ who was to come.
Take a breath. Read. Contemplate.
Well,there’s no going back to Christianity. Once a person converts to Judaism they are Jewish for life. And I have no desire to go back.
I made a commitment to Judaism and to the Jewish people and I can’t go back on that.
It saddens and troubles me that this professor left Judaism and abandoned the Torah.
There is nothing for me to contemplate.
Then later I heard the same number and story from a well-known Torah teacher from a very different kind of Torah school of thought.
It still agitates my mind.
That is NOT the ekklesia that Yah'shua was speaking about.
The Roman "church" would prefer if everyone forgot history. shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua HaMashiach
That is NOT the ekklesia that Yah'shua was speaking about.
Do you consider yourself to be all of Judah?
That’s what it would take to make it personal.
What are you talking about?
I see. Well, it is a free country. You are entitled to your choices.
Of course, your statement, “Once a person converts to Judaism they are Jewish for life,” is nonsense. It does not comport to the world we, or anyone else, lives in or ever has lived in. Nor does it comport to what the OT Scriptures say. Whether you see that now or later is inconsequential. And, while it may sadden and trouble you, it did not sadden and trouble him, as his entire lifetime thereafter testifies. And, as to whether you or he is in a position of greater knowledge, I will admit that I don’t know you at all. Him I do. I doubt you are of greater knowledge. I doubt it severely ... and I doubt it again ... and again ... and again. And I doubt even more sincerely that he thought he was abandoning the Torah - which he knew better in Hebrew than in German, Latin, or Norwegian, none of which, I dare say, I think you know.
So, contemplate nothing, if you will. That is your choice.
It is not a choice I would make.
Good day to you, sir.
First of all,I’m a Ma’am and second,I never claimed to be an expert. I have a lot to learn,as all Jews do. It’s a lifetime learning process.
But you don’t understand Judaism. Once you become Jewish you will always be Jewish. There is nothing that can undo it. It’s not nonsense.
If you understood Judaism you would know that acceptance of Jesus is the abandonment of Torah. You would see that it is a sin and a grave mistake.
It doesn’t matter what he learned. He abandoned Judaism and the Torah when he accepted Jesus. This,according to Torah and G-d,is a sin. A very big sin.
You don’t understand this because you are not Jewish. You are not seeing it through a Jew’s eyes and as such you cannot make a judgement.
This would be akin to telling a Catholic that he or she is wrong in their beliefs,when it is not my place to tell Catholics anything about Catholicism. I would not blame them if they became angry and offended.
What do I have to contemplate? Going back to Christianity? It won’t happen. I made a committment to Judaism,Torah and my fellow Jews. I cannot turn my back on it.
My apologies for addressing you as “sir.”
As I said before, I know of a couple of cases very similar to yours ... one of which is a woman.
“If you understood Judaism ...” Ahhh, of course, I don’t. How could I? There is no way. So, whatever you say, you are the expert. Foolish me. How little I know, even compared to one who by her own admission “has a lot to learn.”
One caveat. The zeal of the new convert, while great, is often outweighed by his - or her! - lack of understanding of how much others may know. I am sure, though, in your case this is not true. I am bested, and will leave the field of battle to you, the clear victor.
Rest comfortably this night in your superior knowledge.
On the other hand: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)
But, on still another hand, who is Jesus to say anything of the kind, even though many called Him the Christ? Surely you know better.
The usual response to the who-is-jew question is one born to a Jewish mother or converted according to halacha.
But there is a deeper answer. A Jew is one with a Jewish soul, regardless of circumstances. Esau leapt in the womb when his mother neared a place of idol worship. Jacob leapt near a House of Study. The Jewish soul cannot comprehend and is even repulsed by the lust for idol worship that Esau can’t resist.
This statement manifests one neither understands Christianity nor conversion.
Nobody is able to convert to Christianity on their own. If they do, it isn't Christianity. Even Jesus Christ Himself is unable to convert a human to Christianity. Only one person is empowered to convert an unbeliever to a believer and that is God the Holy Spirit. God the Father elects, God the Son provides the Sacrifice and Word, and God the Holy Spirit regenerates the human spirit in the new man.
Once God the Holy Spirit regenerates the human spirit, the believer becomes Christian with everlasting life, a member of His Royal Family.
Even if a Christian falls away from faith, and rejects the Son later, in rebellion to God's Plan, this doesn't remove him from that family any more than divorcing oneself from one's parents removes one's parents could remove one's genetic familial ties.
It might place one out of fellowship with God, but God still indwells the believer, not by the volition of the believer, but by the volition of God, also known as His Sovereignty.
The stories and academic elaborations of the Law by the Midrash do not trump His Word, though they may provide academic study. It provides academic analysis of His Word, but fails to provide education or a method of thinking provided by God. The Torah and the New Testament are consistent and parts of His Word. Both are true. Both are provided for us to think through faith in Him.
For guidance on who is a true Jew, study Romans (Chapter 2) with emphasis on the significance of circumcision.
For guidance on why Israel is blind to Christ, study Romans, Chapter 11:25-36, although it was scribed by the Apostle to the Gentiles.
No one has or should ask Jews to abandon the Torah, it is a fundamental component of the Christian Bible. Jesus reinforced that in his teachings
On the other hand, the promised “Messiah” of the Old Testament (including the books of the Torah) to non Jews was talking about the birth of Christ and his time on earth. If you do not believe him then that is your right and you are awaiting yet another Messiah to appear.
This battle of semantics and terminology prove nothing other than trying to parse who is right or wrong, and I will not go there with you or anyone. This is a journey each of us must take, and I will not tell another what path they must follow.
Whether Torah, New or Old testament God tells all of us Judgement is his, not ours. I will stand on that and you have no right nor does anyone to judge another on their faith and decisions.
Believe what YOU want and leave others to theirs
Err... to us Christians the Bible is not a meaningless book. But if you want to believe that it’s your choice. How’s the Koran in comparison? I say it is rot. Apologies if that hurts...
Read the article instead of jumping to any conclusion based on the title. The conclusions jumped to in your post are wrong.
Sheesh, Moslems will believe anything...
As usual exaggeration on the numbers. Of course, that would probably not mention the (admittedly) small events on the other side like the King of Yemen etc.
Really! . . . and what conclusions might those be?
your statement in post 18 “Another assertion masquerading as a question.” —> some see the Torah and the NT as not being mutually exclusive, some don’t. It’s a valid question, not an assertion, definitely not so in the article. Did you read the entire article?
Assertion, noun, a confident and forceful statement of fact or belief.
Heres an assertion (from you): The conclusions jumped to in your post are wrong.
Heres a question (from me): what conclusions might those be?
Heres your response: . . .
So, to repeat . . . what conclusions might those be that I have jumped to?
the conclusion you jumped to was your statement “Another assertion masquerading as a question. —> understood? Your conclusion is incorrect.
What is my conclusion? How is it incorrect?
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