Modern Judaism and Christianity


(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #1

I have just finished listening to an old episode of my favourite podcast, Unbelievable? With Justin Brierley. The episode was between a Jewish Rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, and a Messianic Jew, Michael Brown.

Listening to this podcast that was originally recorded in 2008, I must say, I was blown away by Shmuley Boteach. Listening to him talk about Christianity, one could easily make the mistake thinking he is a militant atheist! The two points that disgusted him (even though he apparently thinks highly of Christianity) were the atonement of Jesus and the aspect of hell. He couldn’t understand how someone could call a God loving if he chose to slaughter his own son,etc. I bet if Mr. Boteach read a book an atheism (for example, Chris Hitchens’ book), he would agree with a lot in it.

One thing, though, that always fascinated me about modern Judaism is that they firmly believe that there is no one way to God. In fact, the Jewish Rabbis I have heard of seem to take quite an offence to Christianity claiming we have “the only truth.”

A question that I struggle with on this topic of Modern Judaism and Modern Christianity is this: if the God of Judaism and the God of Christianity are the same (in theory), how can we show our Jewish brothers and sisters the way of Jesus? They don’t believe they need anything more because they follow the God of Judaism. The way Mr. Boteach characterized Judaism, it sounded more like a moral convenience than an actual religion. He says he doesn’t care about a heaven or anything, except living in peace and as a good steward on this earth. That’s great and all, but that is not how I see Judaism as portrayed in the Old Testament Scriptures, especially in Moses’ five books.

I really am quite ignorant when it comes to modern Judaism and its relationship with us Christians today, but Mr. Boteach sounded much more secular than religious. I would love feedback after on what your thoughts are after listening to the podcast. I would like to hear more thoughts on this intersection between Modern Judaism and us as Christians.


(SeanO) #2

@O_wretched_man There are different strands of Judaism - the Orthodox still believe the Torah came from God and attempt to keep the law. Reformed Jews still practice certain cultural traditions but are basically secular. And there are a variety of other sects of Judaism that are also secular. Reaching out to an Orthodox Jew would be very different from reaching out to someone following Reformed Judaism.

Jews for Jesus is an organization that seeks to reach out to Jews with the message of Jesus:

Look forward to hearing other thoughts.


(Stephen Wuest) #3

You need to find out what the rabbi is defining as “Judaism.” Modern Reform Jews in America, are more cultural Jews, than religious Jews.

I see 2 (sort of) symmetrical problems that accompany the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. One is that orthodox Judaism is based on the temple in Jerusalem, and animal sacrifice (for the forgiveness of sins), and there is no longer a temple.

The other problem is that many Christians haven’t grasped what Paul is saying about the continuity of God’s people from the Old Testament, through the New Testament. Paul talks about Christians being grafted into the rich root of Israel, and calls the Christian believers “the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6.16)

NIV Ephesians 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)-- 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Eph 2:11 NIV)

“citizenship in Israel” !!

Paul is very interesting, and rich in his language about the chosen people of God, and the multiple covenants of promise, that Gentiles have gotten access to. Too many times, (Gentile) Christians see Jesus as not a Jew, and not part of God’s ancient people. And Christians often fail to realize that the ancient Jews had benefits that ultimately came through Christ (1 Corinthians 9.4), even though the man Christ had not yet been born.

Modern Jews (those who lived after the destruction of the temple) have decided that prayer can take the place of animal sacrifice. But this is not a solution that comes out of the law of Moses. They would not agree that the animal sacrifices demanded in the law of Moses, drew their efficacy from pointing to the future death of the messiah.

These are much more complicated and subtle ideas about the relationship of Judaism and Christianity, than many people are willing to think about.