1st Century Christians and Jews: Fractured Relations

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Pull up a chair!  We’re gathering at the virtual study table to follow up on yesterday’s foundational discussion about early Jewish-Christian relations, and God’s call of the Apostle Paul as a missionary to the Gentiles.  If you missed yesterday’s discussion, scroll back to it for a good foundation for today’s topic.

We have established that early relations between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus were tenuous because of the differing backgrounds and traditions each brought to Christianity.  For the most part, Gentiles had pagan, idol-worshiping backgrounds, while Jews had temple worship and sacrifices.  Once Jesus came on the scene and Jews and Gentiles became believers, they faced obstacles.

However, another highly significant event, the destruction of the temple, occurred in 70 AD.  Keep in mind, Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection happened around 32-33 AD and the book of Acts was written in the late-30’s or early-40’s.  There were a few decades of Jewish-Christian history prior to the destruction of the temple, and it wasn’t a smooth ride! (Keep in mind, “Christians” included Jews who followed Jesus!)

For example, there was evidence of persecution against Christians.  Birkat HaManim (“blessings”) were added to weekday Amidah (Jewish prayer liturgy) to invoke curses on followers of Jesus.  Therefore, Jews who followed Jesus and were unwilling to recite the Birkat HaManim were excommunicated.  Jesus followers were conflicted!  Wanting to continue with their traditional prayers, but resisting the new Birkat HaManim!

Then it happened!  In 70 AD, the Temple was destroyed and it turned the Jewish world upside down.  Even Jewish Christ followers still observed the feasts and many of the Jewish traditions that God had set forth for them in the Mosaic Covenant.  What were practicing Jews to do now that there was no longer a place to worship or offer sacrifices?

Not only did they not have a temple in which to worship or sacrifice, but the Romans siege scattered the Jewish people to the four corners of the earth following the destruction of the temple!  It was hopeless for practicing Jews!

It was at this point in history that Rabbinic Judaism arose.  This Pharisaic, law-imposing form of Judaism was birthed out of a Rabbinic Counsel meeting at Yavnah.  Because temple worship and sacrifices were no longer possible, these three things became the primary tenets of Judaism:

  1. Prayer (even today, observant Jews faithfully go to the Western Wall to pray)
  2. Good deeds (the idea of Tikkun Olam became woven into their DNA)
  3. Fasting on Yom Kippur (retaining an emphasis on repentance)

Thus, Judaic “religion” would now be based upon the interpretation of rabbinic laws by rabbis.

Consider, however, that the Jewish people were still seeking the messiah.  They did not recognize Jesus as Messiah, so they remained anxious for the one who would deliver them from Roman oppression.  Thus, in 132 AD when a man named Shimon Bar Kochba was declared to be the messiah, Jewish believers in Jesus were faced with still another dilemma.

A revolt of the few Jews still left in Israel was taking place, and Bar Kochba was seen by many to be their salvation.  Yet, by this time, Jewish believers were well aware of the New Testament warnings against false messiahs, so now they were faced with controversy among their kinsmen.  Gentile believers wanted nothing to do with it, so they distanced themselves from their Jewish believing brethren and, therefore, from their Jewish roots.

In the Gentile Christian sphere, there was little concern for anything Jewish and, in fact, the church became:

  • Less Jewish (little regard for Jewish roots), then
  • Non-Jewish (separation of Jewish/Gentile believers), then
  • Anti-Jewish (animosity toward Jews)

As a result, through the years, historical events such as these occurred in the name of Christianity:

  • Middle Ages – chastisement of Jews for killing Jesus
  • Crusades – Jews killed by European Christians in attempts to conquer Jerusalem
  • Spanish Inquisition – Roman Catholic attempts to force conversion of Jews
  • Renaissance/Reformation – continued forced conversion of Jews
  • Holocaust – attempt at the hands of European Christians to exterminate the Jewish people

Now, think back to last week’s focus.  What we see in today’s lesson is such a far cry from the Romans 9-11 blueprint of Jewish-Christian relations that we studied last week.  Furthermore, put that into context of our time frame: the Church Age.

Is it any wonder a dramatic split occurred, lasting into the 20th century?  As a Jewish person, what would be your perception of Christians and Christianity?

Food for thought….until we meet again tomorrow.  See you then.

Can a Jew Believe in Jesus?

That’s a good question.  But one that has very different answers, depending upon who you ask!  If the question is posed to  Jewish rabbi, you might get an answer such as: “A Jew can believe in Jesus, in the same way that a vegetarian can enjoy a steak” 

But, as we have studied this past week, salvation is from the Jews and it requires belief (faith) in Jesus the Messiah!

So, to remain on the theme of our study this week, I commend One for Israel’s article:

We Can’t be a Jew and Believe in Jesus?  Oh Really!?!

Enjoy…and shabbat shalom!

Faith Brings Salvation!

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What glorious truths are found in Romans 9-11!  It’s like a treasure hunt, and the golden nuggets are invaluable!  I hope you are enjoying this week’s study as we examine the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.  We’re headed into Romans 10 today, but if you missed the previous two posts, I recommend you back up and catch them so that you get the fullness of today’s lesson.

Paul opens Chapter 10 driving home the idea that righteousness and salvation are attained by faith alone, not by works.  Then, he cuts straight to the chase in verses 9-10:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;  for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

That’s as plain and simple as it gets!  In fact, if you are following this study (or you simply stumbled upon this post) and you have tried to gain God’s acceptance through anything but simple faith, it is not a coincident that you are here!  He is speaking to you this very moment!  Our Lord longs for relationship with you and you can do nothing to earn it.  Salvation truly is simple: confess and believe!  (Click here for more guidance about how to be saved.)

Salvation is the same for everyone…Jews or Gentiles.  Paul goes on to explain that in verses 12-13 of Romans:

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

However, verses 14-21 allude to the difficulty of the Jewish people in understanding and trusting in faith alone.  To call upon God, they must believe.  To believe, they must they must hear.  To hear, there must be a preacher. Preachers must be sent.

Well, throughout history, God sent “preachers.”  They were called prophets in the Old Testament!  Men such as Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and others foretold of Christ the Messiah who would come to the Jews.  The preachers came…and the Jewish people heard.  Yet, they did not simply believe by faith.  Instead, they tried to keep the law of Moses.

Verse 15 talks about the beautiful feet of those who bring good news (the Gospel).  The Gospel is all about faith and nothing more.  I want beautiful feet, how about you?  I want to share the good news with others (including Jews).  May we all yearn for beautiful feet!

Allow me to divert for a moment.  Sadly, there are very large Christian organizations (such as Christians United for Israel [John Hagee, who denies Jesus as Messiah] and International Fellowship of Christians and Jews [Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein]) who wholeheartedly love Israel and care for the Jewish people, but WILL NOT “preach the Gospel” to them.  (I’m not suggesting obnoxious “in your face” evangelism that is unnecessarily offensive, but about intentionally taking the opportunities God gives to share the love of Christ both in word and deed.)  How sad that the very key thing Paul teaches about regarding Jewish-Christian relations is not innocently overlooked, but intentionally set aside.  (You can find out about Jewish-related ministries and their sometimes veiled objectives here.)

Romans 10:19 compels us to be a nation (people group) willing to show the love of Messiah, in order to make the Jewish people jealous.  Let’s practice what God’s Word commands!

We’re headed for Romans 11 tomorrow, and it gets REALLY good at that point!  So, here’s your homework: go read that chapter, then join us here again tomorrow as we launch into that chapter!

UPDATE: Friends, I just watched a video that corresponds so closely with our study this week about Christian-Jewish relations.  Tune into an interview with Eitan Shishkoff, an American-born “hippie Jew,” who now lives and ministers in Israel.  He has incredible insight into Jewish-Christian relations.  Catch the interview at the 1:19:50 mark here:

Christ Revealed – Episode 9

(Christ Revealed is a 9-part documentary, with a single episode released each day.  This was Day 9, and I believe the video is available only until 6:00pm Pacific time today.)

When Jew-Hating Muslims Come to Messiah

Happy Lord’s Day, dear friends!  I want to share a short, heartwarming article with you today.  It is a story about a once-radical-jihadist coming to Messiah and meeting a Messianic Jewish person.  It is a powerful story of how God can change a hateful heart into one of Christian love.  Enjoy!

What Happens when a Muslim who Hated Jews Comes to Faith in Jesus?