Jesus is the Issue
Last Thursday the Jerusalem Post published book review by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Why the Jews Rejected Jesus by David Klinghoffer. So we can be clear about things, both Klinghoffer and Boteach are practicing Jews and I haven't read the book. In fact, I hadn't heard of it until I read Boteach's review. Klinghoffer believes the the Jewish rejection of Jesus led to the birth of Western Civilization. If the Jews had accepted Jesus, Christianity would have remained a "sect" of Judaism, and thus would never have become a great world religion. Boteach deals with (and rejects) this historical assertion. He believes Judaism failed to take God's truth and spread it to the world. By being insular, the Jews "left a gigantic void that Christianity, with its emphasis on salvation through faith rather than righteousness, filled and drew hundreds of millions of adherents thirsting for a heavenly connection."
At several points Boteach touches on the theological differences that separate Jews and Christians. Actually there is really only one point of contention: Who is Jesus? He puts the matter this way:
"For Jews it comes down to the fact that Jesus claimed to be a deity, which is anathema to Judaism, he did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies about the end of war and the resurrection of the dead, and his followers abrogated the Torah."
"Indeed, even today in communities throughout the United States, some Christians are returning to the Noachide covenant, with its strict prohibition of deifying anyone other than G-d, and rejecting the divinity of Jesus."
"(F)or the Jews the very essence of Christianity remains a heresy, namely, that a man is G-d."
"Ultimately, the Jewish distaste for Christianity is because Jesus's followers insisted that he was divine. Period. Every other objection pales into insignificance."
"But what the Jews could not, dare not, and indeed never will, accept is that Jesus was anything more than a mortal man. For the Jews, the Christian belief that Jesus was god is a pagan idea that has survived into the modern world and is no different to the Greek belief that the god Zeus came down to earth in bodily form, or that the Roman deification of their emperor, or the Japanese insistence that Hirohito was the descendant of the sun god."
That last quote may seem harsh, and perhaps Rabbi Boteach included it for shock value. But that's only one side of the story. Those who have read his columns know that while he truly believes what he wrote in that paragraph, he is also a strong friend to evangelical Christians because we strongly support Israel's right to exist as a nation.
In these days of theological confusion, it is good to encounter a man who plainly states that Jesus is the issue that divides Christians and Jews. We believe Jesus is not only the Son of God, he is also God the Son. This is what the New Testament plainly teaches. As Boteach lucidly explains, this is the real reason that Jews today don't accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Frankly, I find that sort of honesty refreshing and even invigorating. After wading through so much ecumenical mush, it's good to hear a man stand up and say (in this case) what he doesn't believe. It's easier to have a conversation with someone like that than to talk to someone who tries to reduce all religions to "Let's be nice."
It's good to be nice. It's even better to know the truth. The birth of Jesus means that God became a man. God bless Rabbi Boteach for understanding that Jesus is the real issue. Always has been, always will be. One can only hope that one day he will come to same conclusion as his fellow Jews, John and Peter, did in the first century:
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
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