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Jesus dependency and being caught between Christian and Jewish worlds

March 31, 2014

jesuspeopleFor those worshipers of Jesus (either Jewish-born or Gentile) who wish to imagine themselves as part of Israel and Judaism, while embracing core teachings of Christianity, life is often full of cognitive dissonance and spiritual uncertainty. Theirs is an existence where the ever hopeful ambiguity reigns supreme. They wish to tout Jesus’ Jewishness and value of Judaic oriented teaching (as they imagined it to be, wholly filtered, of course, through the New Testament theology), but they find themselves uncomfortably caught between Christian and Jewish worlds. Such a state of being is partly fueled by their imagination and partly by their sincere hope of eventual Jewish-Christian reconciliation (which will, they believe, include full Jewish acceptance of Jesus as G-d and Messiah).  In actuality, however, these so called judeophile Christians and Messianic Jews are not anywhere near the Jewish world, as most of them are virtually cut off from the actual Jewish community.

Since those two worlds stand far apart on many core issues, trying to reconcile the irreconcilable often leads to much frustration, always on the part of those in the Christian world. Jews who became Christians may want to have the best of the both worlds, but in the end, like their Gentile brethren, they end up serving only one master – Jesus. Indeed, Jesus was right when he said that one “can’t serve two masters”. Although he was speaking about serving G-d while depending on riches, the same could (quite ironically) be applied to serving two very different gods within two very different religious frameworks.

Jesus dependency and fear in the lives of his worshipers

There’s a lot of emotional attachment to Jesus among his followers. I know this first hand. After all, those who believe him to be G-d credit to Jesus their very life, both in this world and the World to Come. They believe that through the divine man Jesus alone can their sins be forgiven and this creates total and absolute dependency. Although throughout their long and eventful history Jews did just fine with just G-d alone and always suffered greatly if they placed their hopes on someone else, Jesus taught  his disciples (if we are to trust the author of Gospel of John) that without him they “can do nothing” (John 15:5). Christians (either Gentile or Jewish-born) take those words very seriously. As a result of such a mindset,  it’s ultimately Jesus who gets the glory for just about every good thing that happens to his followers. What’s more, there’s fear – real fear experienced by Jesus-worshipers, inspired by the teachings found in New Testament, warnings constantly preached from the pulpit. Christians must be on guard to not disappoint Jesus by not living up to his exceedingly high standards, to not “trample his sacrifice”, to not fail to execute his “great commission”. However, what many followers of Jesus fear most is losing their faith in Jesus.  They fear being seduced by Satan into denying Jesus and being condemned to eternal torturous hell with other unbelievers.

Judaism for Christians – beautiful, valuable and….very dangerous?

What helped drive me back toward Judaism was, in part, my recognition of and reaction to the institutionalized anti-Judaism embedded deep within Christianity. I saw it in much of the “Messianic Judaism”, which has a great distrust of the type of Judaism that takes Torah observance seriously. Because of that, “Orthodox Judaism” is a bad word among many of them and virtually synonymous with “legalistic Pharisees” that they read about in the pages of the New Testament. The refrain in the messianic circles that “we don’t need to emulate Orthodox Judaism” is a common one, even though Orthodox Jewish values are far more aligned to those that messianics inherited from Evangelicalism.

Even to those Christians and messianics most friendly to Judaism, Judaism as a whole and the rabbis in particular are gravely mistaken about the most important issue of all – the nature of G-d and his dealing with mankind. Judaism, to them, is a system where “works of the law” (as Paul put it) can stifle the relationship with G-d. More importantly, in their minds, Judaism presents a real danger to a Christian, as it can, when fully embraced and practiced, lead him or her away from Jesus, the New Testament’s god who became a man. This is why my Jewish- and Judaism-friendly Christian friends often warn other Christians not to be “too enamored by the beauty of Judaism”. G-d forbid they desire to convert! They warn those seekers to avoid getting too deep into Jewish things, lest they lose sight of something that is supposed to have been (but Jews failed to recognize), according to them, Judaism’s ultimate aim  – worship of and reliance on Jesus.

In my opinion, this attitude toward Judaism betrays a [subconscious?] disrespect these Jewish-friendly Christians harbor toward the Jewish faith. This is because they see Judaism, at least in part, as superficial and even dangerous to the “weak”. Nurtured in Pauline teachings, these Christians do not see Judaism as Jews themselves see it – a relationship based on love for G-d as G-d Himself wants it to be expressed. To them, Judaism in very beautiful on outside. They even believe that it contains many valuable spiritual clues to understanding Jesus the Jew and even Paul, the founder of Gentile Christianity. But ultimately, for them Judaism does not lead to the “truth”, which they believe can only be revealed in Jesus and him alone.

To these Christians, the rabbis, no matter how devout and learned, no matter how knowledgeable about Jesus, about NT and the Christian theology, were and still are blind to THE “Ultimate Truth” (a.k.a. Jesus). At the same time, Christians, including those who hated Judaism and persecuted Jews, while sinning against Jews, were at least “right” about the most important thing of all – that Jesus is god, lord and savior of all mankind. As someone who has personally experienced much antisemitism growing up, this inherent anti-Jewishness of the Jesus-based religion just didn’t sit well with me and I had to get to the core of it. In my search, I realized that the anti-Judaism that pervades Christendom is not a later perversion of the once pure faith (as I so wanted to believed when I was in the Messianic Movement), but it’s deeply embedded within the pages of its sacred writings – the New Testament.

Where will we go from here?

Thousands of Gentiles today are coming to the realization that Christianity has fashioned another god. They realized that there’s something deeply flawed in a religion that while claiming fidelity to the Hebrew Bible both actively and passively sought to do away both with the Jews and suppress their stubborn monotheistic understanding of the Creator. By reading the New Testament with fresh eyes, they realized that this new god, a man-god hybrid, was primarily a product Paul and the visions he claimed. Paul’s and Pauline writings (letters written by his inner circle or those writing in his name years later) occupy almost half of the New Testament and it is they which have had the greatest effect on Christian theology. Paul saw an opportunity to capitalize on ecstatic messianic expectations promoted by a group of mostly illiterate Jews (a group that he himself was never a part of). Although he never met Jesus and did not reach out to those who actually knew him until he was already well into his quest, he found ready converts among the pagans for this new movement based on an exalted human figure. The people Paul “converted” knew next to nothing about Judaism and nothing about the Torah of the Jews, but they liked what they were hearing. They read no Hebrew and even literacy in Greek was reserved for the schooled elites. This enabled Paul to teach his own novel interpretations that were both contrary to those of Judaism and contradictory to the plain meaning of scripture. The deified mortal human being of Christianity has for the last two thousands years competed for humanity’s loyalty with the G-d of the Jews.

Today, however, we live in a world where there’s great access to competing ideas and the sacrifice for exploring them is nowhere as severe as it once was. I believe that when the claims of Judaism are honestly compared with those of Christianity, the artificial edifice of the latter crumbles. If Torah is truth, it can stand up to scrutiny. G-d’s all-apparent faithfulness to the promises He made to Israel is His signature on the ketubah (marriage contract) that is Torah, and one day all nations will acknowledge this.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Concerned Reader permalink
    May 20, 2014 4:37 am

    I was raised Christian, and the only question I ever had regarding Jews and Jesus, was why Jews didn’t accept Jesus. This is a question anyone aged 7 would ask of any group that wasn’t theirs. I off course got my answer, and my knowledge grew. I am not in the least bothered by a Jewish commitment to Halacha. I also don’t hold with Protestantism. That just because someone doesn’t accept Jesus, it means they go to hell. The justice of G-d would not allow a righteous person to be damned. As for anyone who thinks of a dichotomy between grace and The Torah, it just goes to show a real ignorance of Judaism. Anyone who has been to synagogue and experienced the kindness, the joy, and the thirst for participation in services, would not impute anything but pure heart. The tired rhetoric that “Jews earn their salvation” shows an utter ignorance of the whole context of the Torah. Would G-d free his people from Egypt to tie them to a perishable Torah? As the CB Demille film stated “there is no freedom without the law.” And it is the commandments that have held the Jewish people together in an age of relativism, and hostility from a boastful bunch of hypercritical Christians. When I went to university and got my degree in comparitive religions, I was enthralled with the history of these two great religions. I remember my first day of Judaism class well. We were reading about the birth of Moses as recorded in certain sources, Philo, and some Midrash. The text spoke of how yochebed regained the look and vigor of a maiden, and how Amram and the elders sought a get, to save the firstborn. Something clicked in my head. I asked my professor in front of the class, did Mathew use this narrative in his text? He just smiled, and I just felt blown away. That started my journey to discovering diverse theologies, a system of halachic ethics, and a whole Jewish fabric in the NT. I wasn’t so naive as to expect one to one connections, off course there were non Jewish influences. But something struck me. It was the interplay and meeting of diverse views, even contradictory ones, in the gospels. I realized then, “wow! The Christians have been doing the very thing that they accuse Judaism of doing, drashing, clarifying, molding, and sharpening their musings on scripture into a cohesive faith system. For lack of a better vocabulary, these Christians had their own Midrash, their own ethical musings, their own oral Torah with trinity, incarnation, and all. Most of the texts are based on early oral teachings. Without a doubt the DNA of these Christian sources is rooted in the very interpretive process which the church has tried to drive Jews away from. This is why I am between worlds. We don’t see our connections, because we don’t let ourselves see them. The cohesion of our own narrative takes precedence, and this has caused naught but pain. To be continued…

  2. May 20, 2014 9:43 am

    Concerned Reader, the question is – knowing what you know now about the history of Christianity, how it came to be and how it viewed Judaism and treated the Jewish people, why would you or anyone else remain a Christian, as opposed a righteous Gentile (Noahide) or, for those who feel an affection for and affinity to the Jewish people and their way of life, a Jewish convert?

  3. Concerned Reader permalink
    May 20, 2014 4:24 pm

    Because Gene, what good can I do for Jews and Judaism, if I let Christians and Christianity continue believing in the errors of replacement theology? If I am a noachide, or a convert, I could only really help pull 1 or 5 Christians a week out of Christianity, and that’s not even recommended by the rabbis. If I help Christians to see that their sources, their arguments, there very faith rests on the same foundations as that of the rabbis’ arguments and premises, I can pull the wolf’s teeth out by the hundreds. I am not threatened by Judaism, because there is only Judaism, and the diet Halacha and theology of Christianity. If one falls, both will be adversely affected. Christianity is the minut berometer for Judaism, and Judaism is the very lifeblood of a proper understanding of the Christian texts. I no longer perpetuate the myth that these two religions are so different, that the only solution is conversion, or an end. We are connected.

  4. Concerned Reader permalink
    May 20, 2014 4:32 pm

    Joining another religion puts you on a new team with a new set of assumptions, premises, and beliefs to defend. Gives you a new us and a new them. I don’t like that, because the reality is not so simple, and in the end, with a new team, not much can change. The wounds between faiths cannot ever heal with conversion, but with mutual understanding. Christians need mutual respect for Judaism, to really get it. The best way for them to get it, is to see Judaism in their very own life way. And yes, it is there.

  5. May 20, 2014 4:58 pm

    ” I no longer perpetuate the myth that these two religions are so different, that the only solution is conversion, or an end. We are connected.”

    Actually, the more I study both religions, the more I realize how different they have come to be over the last two thousand year. Certainly, Christianity has its roots in Judaism – no one disputes that. However, like Islam, it’s truly is a new if derivative religion, since Christians have re-read and re-translated the Jewish scriptures and created a whole new theology of G-d, of salvation, of chosen peoplehood, of Israel, of prophecy, of messiahship, of scripture, of the future and Messianic age, etc. Most everything has been redefined. Hence the hostility between the two religions, and this hostility is far from symmetrical, but one religion has been expressly hostile toward another, both theologically and practically.

    Now, one can attempt to deconstruct Christianity to its very foundation, before the Church councils and even before Paul, as moderns scholars try to do, to walk back to the very beginning, to Jesus’ personal inner circle. By peeling way layer after layer, naturally and quite inevitably, the only thing that can remain is Judaism. But Judaism itself has never gone away to begin with and doesn’t need to be deconstructed – it’s still here, a survivor against all odds, and against the wishes and actions of Christianity, vibrant if bruised, practiced by millions of Jews. In the end, I believe, G-d will do away with Christianity and with every other religion, with idolatry of worship a man (I know you hate to hear it, but this is the Jewish perspective and to me, a former Christian/”Messianic Jew”, a quite obvious one), and Judaism will be the only thing that will remain.

  6. Concerned Reader permalink
    May 20, 2014 5:17 pm

    I don’t hate to hear it Gene. I get that G-d is not a man, I get it. I don’t know how else to say I get it. Lol Judaism has a history of relating to G-d through various angels, saints, etc. nobody can doubt that when one examines Philos writings about Moses, or even Maimonides on Moses. Christianity just saw the contradiction in that, and so called Jesus G-d as a matter of doctrine, because only G-d can have certain attributes. If we say G-d allows angels, a shaliach, tzaddikim, etc. to perform unique roles, then we hand the baton to every religion whose conception of gods is that of natural divinity, the divinity within, etc. The intent is to avoid the dualism between G-d and nature, without identifying the two. I have explained this to you. http://lawrenceschiffman.com/the-lord-is-one-reflections-on-the-history-of-judaism-in-light-of-the-shema-text-from-halbturn-austria/

    http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/maimonides-on-mosaic-revelation-prof-lawrence-j-kaplan/

    http://jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/303/303_chinitzM.pdf

  7. May 20, 2014 5:18 pm

    “If I am a noachide, or a convert, I could only really help pull 1 or 5 Christians a week out of Christianity, and that’s not even recommended by the rabbis. If I help Christians to see that their sources, their arguments, there very faith rests on the same foundations as that of the rabbis’ arguments and premises, I can pull the wolf’s teeth out by the hundreds. ”

    Concerned Reader, perhaps this is so, only G-d knows. My own mission is primarily to Messianic Jews/Jewish Christians, to share with them what I have learned and to woo them home, back to the Jewish fold.

  8. Concerned Reader permalink
    May 20, 2014 8:02 pm

    More likely they will come back as they learn more as you yourself did. As you have noticed, it’s not hard to see Judaism in the NT once you know where to look. Ignorance is usually to blame for negative attitudes, just a lack of exposure. That’s often what happens when any worldview already possesses the “truth.”

  9. June 11, 2014 5:37 pm

    “more aligned to those that messianics” – two typos in that sentence alone. It also portrays a face of Messianic Judaism that I’ve never actually seen. Perhaps you were attending the wrong gathering of Messianics.

    “To them, Judaism in very beautiful on outside.” – here too, you have a mistake or two. Here too, I have never been exposed to that version of Christianity. You get a little bit of it reading folks like Martin Luther, but I’ve never seen it in real life.

    “was primarily a product Paul and the visions he claimed.” – something was omitted here – both grammatically and conceptually. The only force to your claim that Peter didn’t write Peter or that Matthew was written after Romans or that there was an early persecution before Paul of the followers of Yeshua is not a force at all, but a statement of faith on your part. In fact, saying that half the writings about Yeshua were fabricated is quite a wild claim – a grasping at straws – or clinging to smooth rock, so to speak.

    “the last two thousands years” – this is the last error I wish to address here. Paul was sent before he preached to the gentiles. Acts 9:26-28 tells about how he only preached in one city before he was accepted as a true convert. You will also find that Paul traveled with established ambassadors before he took charge of his own ministry.

    I can live with typos, but it’s dangerous to base your entire life theology on these things. I wouldn’t do it.

    As to the discussion that preceded my comment, I take issue with your blanket statements about Messianic Judaism, as if there’s only one brand of it – the one that you rightly rejected. It is certainly a branch of thinkers, and the folks in those pews rarely depend completely on the opinions of their local rabbi. I contend that you’re taking the rejection of Yeshua too far. Most of the claims made about him through the centuries are not true and should not be strictly believed. If you go back to the (presumably) eye-witness testimony about what was actually said and done, there’s no conflict with Judaism, apart from the oneness of G-d we discussed in the other thread. At very least, he was a very skilled orator, compassionate healer, and amazing topic of conversation. He was in no way comparable to Joseph Smith or Mohammad. His life divided time, for cryin’ out loud.

  10. June 11, 2014 5:39 pm

    Brian, I don’t have an editor to catch my typos – it’s a one man non-paid operation. But you are welcome to volunteer:)

    “His life divided time, for cryin’ out loud.”

    If you have not noticed, Jews still keep their own calendar and not the Catholic one.

    ” At very least, he was a very skilled orator, compassionate healer, and amazing topic of conversation. He was in no way comparable to Joseph Smith or Mohammad.”

    His false prophecies and exaltation to deity (most likely the work of his followers) removed him from the Jewish world.

  11. jeramiahgiehl permalink
    June 3, 2015 6:40 pm

    I can totally relate. I converted to Judaism for much the same reasons. Having been a Christian (Jehovah’s Witness then Pentecostal) all my life I tried Messianic Judaism for a while but it never sat right with me. They didn’t keep Torah, I’ve been a member of MJAA groups, UMJC Groups, Hebrew Roots bible studies. And rarely did I see any true faithfulness to Torah. Ever since I was a child at 8 – 12 I read the Torah twice the gospels once. The Torah stuck with me. I always preached it’s on going validity when I was in ministry. People said I sounded Messianic. So I tried it. Christianities doctrines divide the mind and soul, they corrupt human beings using constant guilt trips to manipulate the masses. It’s an oppressive religion based on its tenets. There are good godfearing Christians and Messianics who may have a place in Olam Ha’Ba or may not. The righteous of all peoples who follow the noachide laws have a place in the world to come. However I also know some Christians and Messianics that break the 10 commandments regularly, not keeping a sabbath or the true sabbath, lying, lusting, hating, jealous, angry, argumentative, malicious people.

    Recently, a old Christian friend started a debate because I shared one of you blog post on Facebook about Converts not being able to worship Jesus and convert to Judaism those to things are impossible. Christians who want to missionize don’t see what they do. When they can’t win on intellect, history, verifiable facts resort to name calling and character assassination. I’ve seen many try to provoke an argument then tell your you away from “G-d” because you get frustrated with them after attacking you and pushing you then they lay on a guilt trip to try and make you come back.

    My wife and son went through conversion with me. It’s been healing to ours souls. We no longer believe in “Christian dualism.” The “devil” never made anyone do anything. Christians don’t understand it’s their will to choose their Yetzer hara or yetzer hatov. They dichotomize their self and and conflicted because they also dichotomize G-d. A fog is on their mind due to theology blinding them to sound reason. They are a blind foolish people. Jews don’t need a mediator we daily as HaShem for forgiveness during the Amidah. We don’t need to be bonded to Jesus to be forgiven. All the “good” in “Christianity” came from Judaism, Love, Grace and Mercy, known differently as linguistics don’t mean the same thing.

    Going from Christianity-messianic to Judaism was good for us but it was painful how crazy “gentile rabbi’s” acted, wtf to a “gentile” being called “rabbi” who da what da? And old Christian friends. They play mind games and try to lay guilt traps.

    They have cognitive dissonance in many aspects. Their space cases.

    I

  12. Concerned Reader permalink
    June 3, 2015 10:08 pm

    All the “good” in “Christianity” came from Judaism, Love, Grace and Mercy, known differently as linguistics don’t mean the same thing.

    Amen

  13. June 4, 2015 9:09 am

    Jeremiah, I am glad that you were able to make the journey and find healing.

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