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Letters to Ya'acov

Letter 2: Mike's Reply to Ya'acov's Tape
13 May 1987

13th May 1987


Dear Ya’acov,

Many thanks for your cassette: Why the Jews rejected Jesus. You cover a great deal of material on your tape, far too much for me to tackle in one letter; therefore I will deal with some of the most important points you raise.

You say that because the Hebrew of Isaiah 53 contains no reference to a Messiah the passage is non-messianic and that it has more relevance to the Jews of the Nazi death camps than to Jesus. Until the time of Shlomo Yitzhaki and David Kimchi in the twelfth century, the rabbis unanimously regarded this passage as a reference to the Messiah. I have found invariably that whenever people read Isaiah 53 for the first time they instinctively recognise it as a reference to Jesus. In Manchester, when we distributed a pamphlet containing the passage those who received it thought a Christian missionary had written it!

You dismiss the idea of the Second Coming of Messiah. However, the rabbis had problems about the mission of Messiah. Some passages of Scripture evidently refer to the Messiah inaugurating a reign of peace while other passages in the Hebrew Scriptures predict a suffering Messiah. To relieve this tension some rabbis taught a two-messiah theory. They held that there would be a suffering Messiah (Messiah ben Joseph) and a triumphant Messiah (Messiah ben David). The question then is, which theory is correct: the rabbinic two-messiah doctrine or the Christian two-advent theology?

I believe, along with the earliest Christians, the majority of whom were Jewish, that Jesus will return. But I also believe that Messiah’s reign of peace has been inaugurated. The New Testament places great emphasis on the fact that Christ brought peace (e.g. Romans 5:1; John 14:27; 16:33; Ephesians 2:14; Philippians 4:7; Colossians 1:20 etc.). Wherever true Christianity prevails there is peace. For example, in Israel Jewish and Arab Christians embrace each other as brothers in Messiah. The peace of Messiah is not some magical force that subdues mankind against its own will. It begins in the heart of the individual and works its way outward. I am sure you would agree that an enforced peace would be less than satisfactory.

Before I became a Christian I was a pretty obnoxious character (some people would say I still am!) and found it difficult to be at peace with anyone including my parents and acquaintances. After I believed in Jesus I found I was able to care about people and was not always ready for an argument or a fight. So in my own life, at least, I have experienced peace with God which has enabled me to live at peace with others.

Although you are correct about the pagan origins of Christmas and Easter you are wrong about the origins of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The Babylonians, Egyptians and other pagan cultures certainly worshipped a triad (and more) of gods. But those triads do not even begin to resemble the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Both Jews and Christians believe that there is but one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; James 2:19) but the Hebrew Scriptures imply a plurality in the Godhead, for example: the most common tern for God is the plural Elohim, and in places God refers to himself as ‘us’ (Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:6-9; Isaiah 6:8).

The New Testament teaches that this one God is the Father of Jesus (Matthew 3:17) but that Jesus was "in the beginning ... with God, and ... was God" (John 1:1-3). Throughout the New Testament Jesus is referred to as God. For example, the disciple Thomas (John 20:19-29) confesses that Jesus is his "Lord and God", for which Jesus commends him. The New Testament also calls the Holy Spirit God (2 Corinthians 3:17). Since the entire Bible is equally inspired by God, we must hold both truths to be equally valid. We must acknowledge that Scripture teaches one God in three Persons. Jesus is not the Father; the Father is not the Spirit; nor is the Spirit the Son; yet they are all one God. Not three gods, but one God. The Babylonians corrupted the original knowledge of God (Romans 1:18-23) and, instead of the one true God, worshipped a triad of gods.

You accuse Paul of introducing paganism into Judaism to make Christianity palatable to the Gentiles. Yet the New Testament data indicates that he maintained the validity of the Mosaic Law (Romans 7:7-25) and refused to marry Christianity to Greek wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5; Acts 17)

Two of your most significant errors are your beliefs that we do not require a mediator to bring us to God and that the Bible teaches that sin can be atoned for without sacrifice. Modern Judaism may teach the non-necessity of a mediator but biblical Judaism had an elaborate sacrificial system and priesthood by which men had to approach God. Moses also was a mediator for the people. The Hebrew Scriptures teach the necessity of both the shedding of blood and repentance for the forgiveness of sin. Repentance alone and blood alone are insufficient.

I hope I have not wearied you with this lengthy reply. As I indicated I have only touched on part of your argument. Finally, your tape is not really about why the Jews rejected Jesus, but why you reject him. I am prepared to enter into further correspondence, but I think at the outset we ought to acknowledge that we are dealing with your own personal rejection of the One who said "He who believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36).

With sincere good wishes,

Mike


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