In 1483, Tomas de Torquemada was appointed as “Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition.” Jews of Spain had been forced to convert to Christianity, and the Inquisition was designed to uncover those who were continuing to practice their Judaism in secret (called Conversos or Marranos). Those who never confessed were burned at the stake; those who did confess were strangled first. Torquemada believed that as long as the Jews remained in Spain, they might influence the tens of thousands of Jews who had converted to Christianity. It was on his recommendation that the remainder of the Jewish community — 200,000 people — was expelled from Spain in 1492. An estimated 32,000 were burned at the stake, and Torquemada’s name became a byword for cruelty and fanaticism in the service of religion. The order of expulsion was not officially voided by the government of Spain until 1968.
Today in Jewish History
This will be short but not sweet. There are some Christians who say that it was a sin for Jews to refuse to convert to Christianity across the last two-thousand years of history. Yes, these are Christians living today in my little corner of the world. I’ve brought this issue up to them. Is it right for Christians to torture Jews into “conversion?”
They say the torture part was wrong, but that the Jews should have studied scripture and discovered the truth of Jesus for themselves. I’m also told that Christians who resorted to torturing Jews in order to gain their conversions were not “true Christians.”
Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, they represented the normative Church of their day and as far as I can tell, there were no opposing bodies in the Church crying out against the torture and murder of the Jewish people.
I think forcing anyone to convert to Christianity on pain of torture and death is wrong. Period. I don’t think such conversions would be valid in any case. You can torture a person’s body and you can make them speak the words, you can even make someone afraid to think thoughts of refusing Christianity, but you can’t control the spirit, and God knows the truth.
And yet, there are Christians today that say that the Jews under Tomas de Torquemada and those like him should have converted when requested to. I disagree. I think men such as this one are reprehensible villains and should be reviled. The only reason to keep their names in our history books is so that their bad example will never be repeated. I think the Jewish people who resisted this monster are heroes and the ones who “converted” should be pitied.
If any person, Jewish or Gentile, of their own free will, chooses to accept Jesus as the Messiah, that’s between them and God. The minute a so-called “Christian” takes up any manner of coercion against another human being to trick or force them to convert, both that “Christian” and their victim lose.
59 thoughts on “Conversion At Any Cost?”
James…You have demonstrated the word ‘Courage’!! When Yeshua prayed, ‘Forgive them, they know not what they do” .. I can’t help but wonder if His prayer included ‘stuff yet to come’ such as the mistreatments metered out by ‘The Church’ on all kinds of people in addition to the Jews. How many people died in the conflict between Rome and Protestantism?
I think I feel more outrage than courage when thinking about all this. I just can’t imagine anyone of good conscience can think forced conversion is a good thing. We either come to God willingly or not at all.
I will do a ‘further’ then leave you alone. (Ha) And Further… I imagine and even dare use the word, ‘most’ Christians don’t even know the History of the Church and that these events took place. I have talked to young Christians about Messianic Judaism and have been met with a ‘so what’ attitude punctuated by complete indifference to what I was trying to say about the Bible being a Jewish Book and that the Jews have a history of importance with G-d. Our Chavurah group has invited many young people who are not at all interested in learning anything of the past and are conflicted about their future…..(in reference to their Faith).
That’s not only sad, it’s tragic. It’s when you start forgetting who you are and where you come from that God rather abruptly chooses to remind you.
I’ve had a similar conversation with several friends on occasions. Most will claim that those who murdered, tortured and persecuted Jews were not true Christians. But as the article states, for that time, this was normative Christianity, and any who thought different would be the outliers. This is an unpleasant truth. Its hard for them to wrap their mind around. But we have to understand that in the Christian world at that time, only the elite were literate and the clergy were the only class that could even read the Latin Bible, must less understand its teaching. There wasn’t exactly a competing viewpoint.
This is occurring now with Muslims offering their victims the choice of conversion or death. There are extreme Jewish groups, such as Yad L’achim, Lev L’achim and others who have no problem with kidnapping and forcibly holding persons so they can indoctrinate them into their brand of Judaism. They beat people up, threaten them, and get them fired from their jobs or evicted from their homes. Jack Teitel, who planted the bomb that injured 15-year-old Ami Ortiz, was a member of Yad L-achim. Aish is supportive of these groups, so they are hypocritical just like everyone else. I knew an Iranian Jewish guy, who after he became a believer in Yeshua, his father came to the US and took him to a Yeshiva in New York and left him without any money and just the clothes on his back (to be deprogrammed.) He was able to escape to phone friends, who sent him a ticket to return to where he was attending school in Colorado.
Not wanting to be contrary…but I do not understand how being illiterate can be an excuse for not seeing what was happening to those round-about you. No matter what one’s Faith includes or excludes, I cannot fathom standing at the foot of a wooden stake watching someone, anyone, being burned to death just because the Larger religious community said so! Sort of like the excuses applied for not knowing what was going on in Germany during that awful period of time.
And, while there ARE extremist Jewish groups Jack Teitel did end up in prison. I doubt that any of those who FORCED conversions were sent to prison! (Teitel being an American Jew )
I think the attitude of many Christians is not, in this day and age, simply hypocritical…there is a disconnect from the past to the present.
It amazes me that anyone who has a passing familiarity with scripture could believe that the God who has given us free choice to the point that He needed to die on a cross, would honor a forced conversion. Or would honor those who did the converting.
But fanatics know no bounds. And here I am preaching to the choir.
Unfortunately for me, the same Lord who has given me the free choice to be an idiot, has given the same power to others. It’s scary actually. Yet somehow, God is bigger than all of this. I’m pretty sure though, that if someone were to love the truth, but was completely turned off by what they’ve seen “christians” do, God would provide a way for them to know Him in spite of the rest of us.
@James: When you write “The minute a so-called “Christian” takes up any manner of coercion against another human being to trick or force them to convert, both that “Christian” and their victim lose.” I’m sorry to tell, but all I can think of is when someone ask people to raise their hand and repeat a prayer…
I would think the average person did not have any information that was not provided by the clergy. You would think that there would be within everyone a sense of revulsion at violence and evil, but this seems to not be the case. I suppose historians with sub-specialty areas of interest might pour over evidence to extract clues as to the mindset of the people of that time.
Real church history is not taught; although scholars certainly have a great deal of documentation. If you get a chance, Netflix an Israeli film, “The Flat.” It is about an Israeli man who discovers documents after his grandmother’s death that she was friendly with the man who hired Eichman into the German agency that dealt with Jews. They resumed their friendship following the war, even though his great-grandmother died in a concentration camp. He meets the man’s daughter in Germany, and she had been told that her father left the army prior to the war, but she didn’t look to hard to discover the truth.
Dree, there are some (allegedly christian”) theological traditions that deny we have free choice. Effectively those who come to faith do so because God has directed their will. One of (if not THE) creators of that idea was Augustine who endorsed the idea of forced conversion. Augustine’s theology was later adopted and promoted by John Calvin and is still one of the most commonly held belief systems in the church today.
Please explain. If a person has no free will, and is either destined to heaven or hell, then what would be the use of forced conversion? I am aware that Calvin forced church attendance and quashed questions. So, was he ensuring salvation, or just forcing the elect to toe the line? Calvinists in the new world didn’t allow Jews to live in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
That’s the illogical nature of that Augustinian based theology. The same (but less extreme) logic that allows them to see less aggressive evangelism as still being necessary.
Why the need when the eternal destiny of everyone is believed to have been preordained even before creation?
I know. pre-destination and forced conversion is an odd mix. The whole topic makes me sick. I’ve been pondering it since I published this post and I have to say that I’d rather have a Jewish person maintain a Jewish faith without Jesus than see them forced into it, especially by physical coercion. The period of history when the Church was doing this was certainly the darkest in our long history. How Messiah must have disdained us when he saw the Gentile “believers” monstrously torturing and murdering his brothers and sisters, the Jewish people.
Alfredo, you bring up an interesting point. Is peer pressure a “forced conversion?” Probably not as such. I mean, you can intimidate someone to raise their hand in response to a call to “declare Jesus,” but that raised hand doesn’t mean anything. A person can come to faith without it, and I suspect that most people find their faith in Messiah when they are all alone praying, not in some public venue.
The Jesus they believed in was not the one who walked the earth 2,000 years ago. And for many, the image hasn’t changed much.
However the history played out Chaya, it’s what we do now as who we are that matters. Modern Christians don’t have to follow the path that came before them. They can change and many have. It’s our job to convince them that the Jewish Messiah would never want the non-Jewish disciples to harm the Jewish people. It would be crazy.
@James: You are right. That’s what happened to me… I found Him alone, when I was praying. You would not believe where I was at that precious moment : At a catholic church, in front of what they call the Eucharistic body of Jesus. Once I knew Who was revealing to me, I never went back to such place… I spent 3 years at a Pentecostal church, receiving the gift of tongues which I still have, when I found the Shabbat… now here I am, after 2 and a half more years…
All I can say is that raising a hand does not make me a real follower of Yeshua. Only if I truly repent and turn around from my evil ways and follow the Master by loving others as much as I love myself and try to do as He says, only then I could start thinking that I’m doing something worthy in the eyes of my Master. After all, when He comes back, He will not ask me if I knew such and such theology matter, of if I belonged to such and such church, denomination or movement. I only hope to hear this words from Him: “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; Naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”…
According to those who argue that Christians who persecuted Jews, or stood by as others did, down through the centuries were not “real Christians,” we might consider the the 20th century setting in Christian Europe at the time of the Holocaust as fertile ground for testing such a claim.
According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum: “The population of Germany in 1933 was around 60 million. Almost all Germans were Christian, belonging either to the Roman Catholic (ca. 20 million members) or the Protestant (ca. 40 million members) churches. The Jewish community in Germany in 1933 was less than 1% of the total population of the country.” There were more Protestant than Catholic Germans at the time. As for the “spiritual status” of European Christians who both participated in the Nazi Final Solution or were bystanders to it, were there no “born-again Christians” alive in Europe at the time of the Holocaust? Of course, there were. There must have been. To think not is ludicrous. And yet, we know of very few Christians of any spiritual status who lived out the tenets of loving your neighbor or of being a good Samaritan during that time. Corrie Ten Boom is one who comes immediately to mind. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on the other hand, believed in Replacement Theology – that the Church had long replaced Israel – and, as some scholars see it, likely confronted Nazism more from a “Christian moralist” point of view than for any feelings of spiritual connection to the Jewish people. I write about this in two installments of “Jacob’s Relief” back in September 2010, the year of Bonhoeffer’s centenary. Likewise with Pastor André Trocmé, the spiritual leader of the Protestant congregation in the village of Le Chambon sur Lignon in France, a Huguenot-related community in France that saved some 5,000 Jews from Vichy deportment to killing centers.
Research cites a plethora of reasons why rescuers rescued and, to my knowledge, few claim their Christian faith as the reason, much less feelings of any relationship with the Jewish people. No doubt there were more faith-motivated Christian rescuers than we know of and yet, there are no documented large-scale resistance efforts, protests or rescue operations undertaken by Christian individuals or groups that I know of.
What causes such blindness/paralysis of heart and mind that otherwise “good” Christians can and will behave as perpetrators or bystanders when the Jewish people, in particular, are targeted for persecution or extinction?
Could it be because the connection with the Jewish people… and to some degree unrelated to salvation, its Messiah… has so long been severed and yet the Christian body still feels the “phantom pain” of the amputated appendage, so to speak, as if the limb were still there; not realizing that it is hobbling on one leg, not two? Just asking the question… no spirit of Christian- or Church-bashing here… And thank you for bringing this difficult subject to light, James.
I think that most evangelical Christians do not DO as Yeshua says (Hebrew mindset), they just BELIEVE in Jesus (Greek mindset). So, doing good deeds is not in their DNA… maybe that is also an issue to be considered when evaluating their behavior during the time of the Holocaust.
That’s very sobering, Dan. Any Christian is only a heartbeat away from finding out just how much they’d be willing to sacrifice to save a Jewish person because of their faith in the Jewish Messiah.
I believe that every person, and perhaps people, is given an opportunity to revisit where they have failed. So, the churches will get another chance. There was one group that refused to capitulate to the Nazis. Anyone want to take a guess? I’ll tell you if you can’t figure it out.
Just read something at The Rosh Pina Project that seems relevant to the current conversation.
James, I read the article in the Times that they speak of. It is my sense that until the Christian Church has a “Davidic experience of repentance” as per Nathan in the Bathsheba-Uriah incident, the Church will not be “blessed” to the extent that it might be blessed were it to humble itself and soften its heart, not “just” toward the Jewish people, but also toward the p.o.v. that the mitzvot are a legitimate means of expression for all who are grafted into Israel. I sense a Christian hard-heartedness toward the Torah that is expressive of a latent anti-Jewishness, not “just” Christian theology, the mask of anti-Jewish feeling. I see the theological principles that disqualify the mitzvot as the [well-armored] mask of anti-Jewishness that has been in existence in the hearts of the Church Fathers since the first century. I do not see formalized Christian theology as being that which directly hardens the Christian heart toward things Jewish, it is the seed of anti-Jewishness that conceived of the formalized anti_Jewish theology which continues to run through the stream of conscious Christianity, hardening the Christian heart today. Until Christians begin to understand this stream of anti-Jewishness that runs through its collective consciousness, the Jewish people will continue to “see” it and “feel” the “aura,” if you will, of this latent adversus Judaeous predisposition with the eyes and ears of their hearts and hold Christians away for lack of trust. I consider a theory in which the mistrust that they, the Jewish people, sense in their hearts is deeper than is commonly spoken of, running deep below the surface of Christian self-knowledge where even the Christian does not detect its presence. It occurs to me it can be be exposed and taught, brought out into the open. The dear Christians that I know and so many that I do not know deserve to uncover this silent disease that lives within them, be treated and healed. Only when that occurs can trust be resituated. There is more going on here than meets the eye and all we can do is work toward addressing it, praying that Aveinu Melcheynu, our Father, our King, will open up the eyes and hearts needing to be freed from this deeply hidden condition blocking heartfelt recognition of the Messiah from access by the Jewish people. Worst-case scenario: Christians become humble and willing to be informed about the darkness of Christianity’s past which ought to only lead to deeper humility. With humility comes insight and wisdom. That’s a good thing. .
Marko, you got it! The JW’s believe that patriotism, serving in the military, saying pledges and slogans is wrong. During the early years of Nazism, the JW’s children refused to join in the Nazi songs, salutes, slogans, etc. They were beaten up by other kids, kicked out of schools, and sometimes taken from their families to be raised as, “good Germans.” Many were hauled off to concentration camps, and at that point, the leadership caved somewhat, and issued a conciliatory sort of statement. But they still refused to change their behavior. I am not saying anyone should join JW’s, because they are an authoritarian, controlling cult. But at least they acted on what they believed. I read that JW’s in Singapore go to jail because they refuse to serve in any military, and Singapore does not have a process of conscientious objector status.
Dan, I would agree that this residual anti-Jewish sentiment is prevalent in most of Western Christianity. Especially in modern times, the nation of Israel and the success of the Jewish people messes with their theology. From my understanding of the Hebrew, the Gen. 12:3 curse does not only apply to those who hate Israel and the Jewish people, but those who treat this group as insignificant. It would be fair to say that many are unaware of these confused thoughts and feelings.
I remember my grandmother said, “Scratch the surface of any gentile and you will find an antisemite there hiding.” I don’t believe she was exactly accurate, as her experiences with antisemitism certainly colored her thinking. But she was not completely wrong either.
For example, evangelicals think very highly of themselves. When was the last time an evangelical won a Nobel prize, or authored a great work of literature, or wrote an award-winning script or other contribution to the arts, or made a major scientific or medical discovery?
You are correct. How can one correct a problem that is not even acknowledged to exist?
The revival of the nation of Israel is evidence that almost two thousand years of theology has been wrong. Some find it easier to dismiss the evidence than to change ingrained beliefs.
I recently came across these two quotes in a book. While in context they were addressing a totally different situation, I think they are equally applicable to a lot of Christian theology.
“…if someone believes something to be true, and all of the evidence suggests that it isn’t true, then, rather than restarting their life with a new set of beliefs, they will often cling more fervently to the old ones, generating new explanations for the conflict in their reality.”
“The believers don’t want to know the truth, they only want to have their pre-existing beliefs confirmed and elaborated upon.”
Many do not demonstrate wisdom when they are confronted with a choice between the truth and their desired beliefs.
My first Passover seder was in the early eighties in NYC with a Jewish female coworker from Chemical Bank at her parents’ home. I remember two foods most distinctly: gefilte fish and Dr. Brown’s Celery Soda. The conversation was cordial, the food was fine, but most of what I remember was feeling a very powerful sense of connection with something larger; something important, significant and timeless with people somehow mysteriously connected to something unique in the universe. This was not a “romantic” experience. I’ve had those. This was something real, tangible, invisible; hard to put your finger on the pulse of. I was a leftist humanist-feminist and card-carrying Marxist at the time. When I later came to know the Lord, it all began to come together. The Passover and the people observing it were both “connected.” The Passover was like a copy or duplication of something else occurring somewhere else. Later, after coming to know the God of Israel through His Son and Messiah, and after attending a Messianic congregation for four years, and as I began organizing large-group seders, I gradually began to perceive the feeling of connectedness as being to the Israelites who suffered in Egypt and beyond – to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. I was drawn into something parallel and real and knew it. Then I had the experience of the bomb threat at the Simon Wiesenthal Center while in the company of a Holocaust survivor and got first wind of the consuming rage of antisemitism- also a connection, a dark and evil connection, to something much larger, much stormier – and the Jewish view of Christian history while taking up formal and informal study of the Holocaust over the past twenty years. The Jewish people are actually wise, I sometimes think, to hold Christian Zionists at arm’s length at this time, I think, until the time when the Holy Spirit sweeps the dust from within its partially darkened collective soul. Christianity is, I fear, not well-held-together at this point in time, fractured, weakened… the work of the Spirit less prevalent than it could be due to the condition of the houses’ interior, so to speak. When and if a major work of purging and cleansing takes place through repentance and taking accountability for the past, the Jewish people will sense it, look up and see Messiah…. as when Joseph’s brothers finally recognized him, finally seeing through the cultural masking of Gentile Egypt.
And I agree, Chaya, with regard to the Genesis 12:3 “curse,” through the lens of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel’s statement that: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.” Evangelical Christianity treats Judaism as if it had nothing legitimate to offer anyone; as if it had nothing to do with Jesus. This is more than the affect of mere theology. Something so intimate to HaTzaddik, Jesus the Messiah, should not be so easily pushed aside or worse, excoriated. Something that He authored and loved is a part of Him as much as a book is a part of the one who wrote it. It is not the “hatred” of Christianity that should be feared today, but the indifference of Christianity; its original antipathy has transmogrified or morphed into a kind of triumphalistic, theology-cloaked and treated indifference. As you say, “those who treat this group as insignificant.” This is why I fear, so to speak, for my Christian friends and siblings, not so much that harm awaits them, but the obverse side of that: the non-realization of the intimate fullness they might have had with Messiah and His love for His people… ahavot Yisrael… but may never realize unless someone brings it to them and firmly but lovingly persuades them to do what is necessary to experience it.
And yes, the goyim cannot compete with Abraham’s descendents in terms of per capita Nobel prizes, etc…. For instance, three Jewish professors — two of them Israeli — just won the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry. An article in the Times of Israel said that “of the 23 chemistry Nobels awarded in the past decade, 11 of the winners were Jewish and six of them were Israelis.. Go figure.
And we are warned that those who do not receive the love of the truth will believe the lie. Onesimus, that also explains the polemics that appear only because their worldview is challenged. I don’t see this issue at all in the mostly Japanese group I am a part of. Perhaps it is because they also have a painful history of being hauled away to internment camps with no one standing up for them. I need to ask what they think of the fact that no Christians stood up for the Japanese, even the Japanese Christians, as they were being dragged away and their property confiscated. The church put on a play about a fictional family that was caught up in this. According to my pastor, the situation is much the same as it is with holocaust surviving families: they don’t talk about it, and have put it behind them. And I would guess that the majority of Christians didn’t just stand aside, just as in Nazi Germany, they actively supported this. American Christians, for the most part, also sought to prevent fleeing European Jews from receiving asylum in America.
I think this should be food for thought: that we are awfully complacent in our citizenship, when rights we have taken for granted may be swept aside at any time, and no one will speak up for us.
I think it’s very important to differentiate between genuine believers in Jesus and cultural christians. Many may even call Him Lord, and yet He will say He never knew them. Actions show where faith really is.
““…if someone believes something to be true, and all of the evidence suggests that it isn’t true, then, rather than restarting their life with a new set of beliefs, they will often cling more fervently to the old ones, generating new explanations for the conflict in their reality.”
“The believers don’t want to know the truth, they only want to have their pre-existing beliefs confirmed and elaborated upon.”
An old error is always more popular than a new truth….
And that is where polemics comes in; they just dig a bigger trench. One aspect of the curse is, I believe, spiritual blindness. Currently we are seeing the Israel haters and ignorers turning Emergent, which a doorway to the Beast system. I bet Rick Warren is one of the first to take the mark.
I think it’s very important to differentiate between genuine believers in Jesus and cultural christians. Many may even call Him Lord, and yet He will say He never knew them. Actions show where faith really is.
This is probably the key statement of the conversation and maybe the point of the blog post (and more). It also probably applies not only to Christians but anyone professing a faith. There are people filling churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship and many are there for “cultural” reasons. How many we don’t know for sure, but I suspect that if the people present because of a true and abiding faith and love were the only ones we could see, we’d be shocked by how few of them were in the room.
That may account for the lack of justice we’ve seen historically in the church, relative to the above examples, and the lack of justice we see in the world today.
It does not seem that Christianity, or any other “religion’ based upon the “Old Testament,” can be fully “grounded” or “stable” when it is not in synch with Jesus’ attitude and approach to Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. A correct, primary attitude toward the Torah is necessary to move in concert with the full revelation. Blindness and the accompanying disorientation can be self-inflicted, and when it comes to this matter of Christianity’s behavior, past and present,it attempts to finds God’s way with a compromised terrain map. The needle points to Jesus but is not oriented properly to the map. Such misdirection can cause much hurt and pain and worse.
Overcoming inertia in order to change long held viewpoints is no small task, Dan. Traditions are the glue that holds experience together for many people and feeling those traditions starting to change can be a “dangerous” experience for some.
James, perhaps the majority of those with a true and abiding faith and love choose to no longer darken the doors of organized religion. I had a thought and would like to derail the conversation a bit.
Do you recall the recent Hobby Lobby flap, spurred on by these famous words, “We don’t cater to you people?” Perhaps that is both descriptive and prophetic. They don’t cater to us. They disdain, if not despise, us. I remember the argument many years ago between the Neo-Calvinist Pope John MacArthur and Arnold Fructenbaum. MacArthur railed against Messianic Congregations with, “Why can’t you (Jews) just worship in the Christian manner?” Fructenbaum replied with, “What, according to scripture, do you see as the “Christian,” manner of worship? Would you say the form of worship that takes place at GCC is biblical Christian worship?” As you can imagine, there was no reply from the MacArthur camp. They don’t cater to us. And we ask questions they don’t want to hear, much less answer. And perhaps just our existence is a threat to them.
Yes, I read about the whole Hobby Lobby thing.
I think a lot of Christians have learned to “fit in” to the larger culture and they want everyone else to do the same. Observant Jews don’t “fit in” to either the culture’s expectations or the Evangelical Christian’s. When you fit it, you disappear. No one has to think about you. No one has to worry. So when they drag such “invisible” groups away to the camps, the rest of the world (including the Christian world) doesn’t have to notice or care.
I suppose I’m now being unfair to the many Christians who do support Jewish people and Israel in their distinctiveness. MacArthur, as a fundamentalist, is bound to take a hard line on Messianic Judaism and not see that Jews in Messiah are worshiping in a manner required by God. My blog post on Monday is on this topic.
MacArthur does not support replacement theology like many of his Neo-Calvinist (Calvinista) brethren, but he seems to lean toward what some atheists call, “Christian privilege.” Many who whine now about losing their “rights,” to freedom of speech and religion didn’t steward these gifts well when they had them. The dominionist fight is not for their Jesus; it is an attempt to retake Christian privilege. And like Bar Kochba’s rebellion, it will fail miserably. I am in no way a pacifist, but I believe you only go to battle when you hear the sound of the shofar. I certainly won’t fight for the Christian cause or the American one; these aren’t my people.
Which post are you talking about James?
Which post are you talking about James?
One that won’t be published until next Monday. My Pastor counters my belief that Jewish people in Messiah are obligated to perform the mitzvot with saying (quoting James 2:10) that if someone breaks even the smallest of the mitzvot, he has broken the entire Torah. He says that since Jewish people can’t keep the Torah perfectly, they don’t keep the Torah at all, no matter how hard they try. My blog post for next Monday is a response to that opinion.
My what strange logic to think that Jews do not keep Torah merely because breaking even the smallest of precepts produces just as much legal forensic guilt as if breaking them all. That is not the same thing as actually breaking them all. The fact that HaShem never expected Torah to be kept perfectly is clearly indicated in his stipulations about the sacrifice system. Nonetheless He commanded it to be kept, including the presentation of its required sacrifices. And in the absence of a Temple in which to offer those sacrifices, authority was given to appointed Torah interpreters to request that an alternative which could be presented might be accepted, as in Hosea’s request about the “fruit of our lips” representing the supplications and meditations of our repentant hearts in prayer might be acceptable. Distorting James 2:10 is no justification for saying Jews do not keep Torah.
But perhaps you intend to cover this in your Monday meditation.
Ya’acov (James) never said torah was too hard or not to keep it. He was reiterating what Yeshua said, that the one who breaks even the least of the commandments or teaches others is least in the kingdom of heaven. I believe he was saying that no mitzvah is small or inconsequential, and that would argue with the idea of the moral law vs. the ceremonial law.
Some of this is ridiculous. Well, I can’t raise my kids perfectly, so maybe I should just give up?
Whereas I concur that the Jewish people are called to follow torah, the instructions of the divine bridegroom to prepare for his arrival, I don’t interpret that as a doctrinal requirement that one lays on a person because they are Jewish, and especially when one from on high pimps their brand of halacha for their own purposes – drawing disciples off after themselves.
Just think, unlike most brides, or bridezillas of today, where all the focus is on the bride, the marriage supper of the lamb is different. The groom is providing the dress, and the groom is bringing the wine. The role of the bride is to make herself ready, and to be without spot or blemish. Do we have to keep Shabbat? Shabbat is the betrothal ring of the Holy One. Do you have to wear his ring? Why wouldn’t you want to?
I think we all will in the end, but it is still my firm conviction that the Torah is applied differently to Jewish believers than to Gentile believers.
@James. You say “Torah is applied differently to Jewish believers than to Gentile believers”. I wonder… How are we gentiles supposed to provoke Jewish people to jealousy? “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” (Romans 11:11) I would hardly believe, at this moment in time, that any Jewish people is jealous of any Christian… What could possibly do a True Christian, in order to provoke to jealousy to a Jewish person? Performing mitzvot the way Yeshua taught us, perhaps? On the other hand, shouldn’t we, as disciples, try to be as our Master? “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” (Luke 6:40)
Thanks for that, PL. I agree. But the “strange logic” is fundamentalist Christian logic. Welcome to my world.
Yes, hopefully I’ll do an adequate job of covering all of the relevant points on Monday’s “morning meditation.”
Breaking the smallest part of the law may be like breaking the whole law, but God provided a means of overcoming that – in the establishment of sin sacrifices, performed to remove the account of sin. The ultimate sacrifice of course being that of Jesus.
God provided a way to deal with man’s failings, not by making the law redundant, but by adding a way WITHIN the law for man’s failings to be forgiven.
@Alfredo: You might want to read my write up on Provoking Zealousness for the answer to your question. I seriously doubt a bunch of Gentiles wearing kippot and tallitot are going to provoke Jewish people who aren’t very observant to become more observant. From first hand observation, I can tell you that Jews seeing Gentiles “dressing up” as Jews consider it some sort of Evangelical Jewish Cosplay. It’s not that much of the Torah doesn’t apply to Gentiles, just not the parts that uniquely identify a person as Jewish.
@Onesimus: I agree that Messiah removed the penalties for not observing the mitzvot perfectly in his own sacrifice. Jewish people in Messiah now have all of the blessings that come from performing the mitzvot but do not suffer the curses. Those portions of Torah that apply to Gentiles in Messiah experience blessings as well.
Thanks James… but I’m not talking about wearing kippot and tallitot. Sure those are mitzvot, but there are many other things that Yeshua taught. (Actually, in the Apostolic Writings, neither wearing kippot nor tallitot are mentioned as mitzvot to be considered) I guess those are not the weightier issues that Yeshua was concerned with… besides, all Jewish people around Yeshua would certainly wore tzitzit !
James, even before the coming of Jesus, the sin sacrifices were part of the law, so anyone’s inability to fulfil all of the law was taken care of by the law itself. Therefore any idea that the law could be (or become) redundant because of an inability to fulfil it is wrong. God made provision within the law for man’s weakness and failure.
The real issue is not so much can the law be kept, but what do we do when we break it. Do we stubbornly resist God’s way of obtaining forgiveness and cleansing and therefore retain the guilt, or do we submit to His way of obtaining forgiveness and cleansing?
This was no different before the coming of Jesus – the only change is in the sacrifice required. Prior to Jesus animals were sacrificed almost continuously – with Jesus ONE sacrifice was made that remains effective for all time.
Can’t really argue with anything you’re saying. Not quite sure about how PL will respond since he said:
That doesn’t presuppose faith in Messiah as a requirement for forgiveness which, for Christians and Messianics, brings up a few “issues.”
We know that the lamb was slain before the foundation of the earth. Maybe we need to look beyond the constraints of time. The korban in the mikdash were just a copy (shadow) of what was already going on in heaven. We are told many times of when the Holy One was not pleased with the offerings, celebrations or rituals, due to the lack of right heart intent of the persons involved. I think we are still doing the Greek thing of needing to understand and categorize everything.
You want to know why Jewish people do not want to keep torah? Well, especially in Israel, the Orthodox control religion, and shut everyone else out. It is a very corrupt system, and people decide to just not be a part of it, rather than swimming against the tide to try to change things. My Orthodox relatives are a pain in the toochis with their arrogance and pettiness. I see things changing for the better though, at least in some ways.
But I would never want to be a part of an Orthodox community. Perhaps I could be part of a Jewish Renewal group? I am very much a individualist nonconformist, and I think there is something in me that gets a kick out of provoking the legalistic rigid types, who have something stuck you know where. No way would I conform to dress codes, let someone rule over every detail of my life or associate with anything like this. My brother and his wife attend a small Orthodox shul near their house. You know that if you are shomer Shabbat, you can’t pick which shul you like best the way you could pick a church. My sil is Sephardic, and follows their traditions. I am sure she would prefer to attend a Sephardic congregation, but there is not one within walking distance, although there is one in the same area. When they told me it was a really small group, around 12 families, I said, “Oh, that must be nice; you can get to know people better.” She said, “No, they shun her because of her Sephardic traditions, such as she doesn’t follow their weird dress code; she wears pants, shorts, a bathing suit at the beach, and doesn’t wear a sheitl, and she doesn’t take her dishes to the mikvah (which I never heard of.) I can’t imagine going somewhere and the people look at you as not good enough?
Though I do not keep all the ritualistic mitzvot as an observant Jewish person might, I acknowledge the mo’edim, light the candles on Shabbat, etc. in my home. I look at this, as a Gentile believer, as a benefit to me and my family, a gradual movement toward greater intimacy with God through His Messiah, Yeshua. I also see them as an ongoing “witness” to the believing Christian world, of the authentic alternative that is available to them.
My understanding is that HaShem never expected a righteous Jew to keep the mitzvot perfectly, save one, Yeshua, as demonstrated by His giving Moses the directions for building the Tent of Meeting at the same time He gave him the mitzvot: the mitzvot to be kept and the means of sacrificing for failing to keep them, all at once. He is a God of great knowledge and mercy.
Alfredo said: but I’m not talking about wearing kippot and tallitot. Sure those are mitzvot, but there are many other things that Yeshua taught.
It doesn’t take a lot of thought to consider the basics of what we should do in “observing Torah” as non-Jewish disciples of Messiah. Feed the hungry, visit the sick, have compassion for those who are suffering. If we were to do those things, we’d be on the right track.
Chaya said: You want to know why Jewish people do not want to keep torah? Well, especially in Israel, the Orthodox control religion, and shut everyone else out…But I would never want to be a part of an Orthodox community. Perhaps I could be part of a Jewish Renewal group?
This is part of what my Pastor and I discuss. Just what is “observing the mitzvot?” Which path do you choose? Which one is right. Unfortunately, the minute people get their hands on God’s gifts, they start messing them up. I’ve heard many stories about the “dark side” of the Orthodox and especially the Chabad in Crown Heights. I’ve also heard many “uncomplimentary” (that’s an understatement) things about the Haredi in Israel. While I must acknowledge that God left the leaders of the Jewish communities with the authority to establish binding halakhah, I also believe that authority has been abused. In Matthew 23, Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees for abusing their authority while at the same time confirming that they indeed had the authority to make halakhah. It’s the same today. When Messiah returns, part of what he’ll do is what he did the first time…correct the errors and show how to truly observe Torah. Until then, each Jewish person must negotiate their faith in the best way they can, perhaps as you said, by choosing which tradition to follow. It isn’t perfect, but then nothing is…yet.
Dan H. said: Though I do not keep all the ritualistic mitzvot as an observant Jewish person might, I acknowledge the mo’edim, light the candles on Shabbat, etc. in my home. I look at this, as a Gentile believer, as a benefit to me and my family, a gradual movement toward greater intimacy with God through His Messiah, Yeshua
I also don’t believe Gentile disciples are meant to observe all of the mitzvot in the manner of Jewish people. Yet there is great beauty in the lighting of the Shabbos candles and I thoroughly enjoy the Torah service, especially at Beth Immanuel. Many of the prayers are inspiring, and listening to the men daven Shacharit in Hebrew is beautiful and uplifting.
But the greatest mitzvot, is what Messiah said, to love God with all our being and to love other human beings as we love ourselves. Within this, all of the other mitzvot are contained. That means living a life of continual repentance and seeking God.
A note about those haredim …. Most of the criticism comes from those who are not themselves orthodox or haredi, so their criticism is somewhat suspect for its accuracy or appropriateness. Admittedly, there exist a few horror stories, and there are certainly elements that may merit criticism. But that is true of virtually any community of human beings. So I say: “Don’t knock it if you hain’t done been there yerself.”
Further, on the subject of mitzvot for non-Jews, I can cite one you might not have considered so obvious. Some folks have noted prophetic passages describing the return of Jews to the land from exile, many of whom are in failing condition, blind, lame, pregnant, and the like. It is noted also that the kings of the nations shall bring these sons and daughters from afar, even to the point of carrying them. Some have inferred from these passages a non-Jewish mitzvah of assisting Jewish aliyah. Other passages (such as the “dry bones” prophecy) suggest that this physical return must precede a spiritual one. Hence I will suggest, in addition to other ways of supporting Israel and Jewish aliyah, that Christians might do well to band together to buy up as much Israeli land as they possibly can afford, provided that such land is currently held by Palestinian Arabs. Imagine if they could buy out the city of Bethlehem! They will then be in a position to make the land available to Jewish immigrants (and existing Israeli citizens who have returned already) on terms ranging across options such as ordinary re-sale, outright grant, and even reasonable rental. Palestinian Arabs are inhibited and often prohibited from selling land to Jews, sometimes in fear of their lives, but often they can get away with selling to non-Jewish foreigners.
Just a suggestion….
“Don’t knock it if you hain’t done been there yerself.”
Of course, I’m not in much of a position to “try it out,” so to speak. In my defense, I will say that the criticism I cite is from Jewish and not Gentile sources. The best I can say to agree that no community is perfect, especially when it’s made up of human beings.
I agree that one of the mitzvot for the Gentile is to assist in the Jewish return to a spiritual connection to God as well as a physical return to the land. I don’t think that my wife would appreciate me using our retirement fund to buy portions of Israel, so I don’t have the means to follow that particular suggestion. Perhaps larger pro-Israel Evangelical organizations and even Messianic groups could raise funds for such an effort.
One final thought: while I do support Jewish observance of Torah, I have to somewhat agree with Chaya in that there are so many different expressions of how to do that. Either God accepts all of the different streams of Judaism and all of their halakot (plural of halakhah?), or there is one, right, objective set of standards that Messiah will teach upon his return. I do think it’s possible that some of the traditions that have been forged have gone too far.
James: I know that you are talking about Judaism, but all I can think of when you say “I do think it’s possible that some of the traditions that have been forged have gone too far.” go tell the Vatican… Ha Ha Ha…
Well, them too, Alfredo.
In Israel about 97% of the land belongs to the government. You can buy a house, but you don’t own the land it sits on. There was this scam where some evangelical guy bought a small parcel of land from an Arab, and then offered one square inch parcels (you even got a deed and the location) for sale, I think for $100? I guess you could sell real estate on the moon to some people.
PL, actually, much of the criticism of the Haredi and other Orthodox groups like Chabad is from those who grew up in those communities, and either left or were forced out, usually due to refusal to remain silent about abuse. This is not a few bad apples; the abuse is rife, as is common in all closed systems. I understand that those who have left the various Christian camps, would like to see the Jewish camps as free from the same sin, but they will be disappointed. I had two close friends who grew up Orthodox (not modern Orthodox) and one was molested by her grandfather the rabbi, and the other was molested by her Hebrew teacher. I suppose they like to keep it in the family.
I understand that in Judaism, one is expected to find a teacher or a group, and one is told that it is not possible to just interpret halacha according to your own conscience. Now, I understand that no man is an island, but I look at others, both living and deceased, as people to learn from, not to emulate to the extent of minutiae. Although the Karaites claim to not follow the oral law and other extra-biblical tradition, they have their own (often Muslim-inspired) oral laws and traditions. For example, the Karaite synagogues will not allow a woman to attend services if she is having her period. I suppose they link this to the mitzvah regarding the temple, but a synagogue is not the temple.
@chaya — Shavua Tov! The one-square-inch parcels were not a scam, but rather a symbolic method of contributing to someone’s evangelical/humanitarian effort. However, the suggestion I presented would be redeeming portions of land not currently considered to be owned by the Israeli government.
I did acknowledge that ultra-orthodox horror stories exist, of various kinds of abuse. But these must not be taken as characteristic of the entire community any more than comparable horror stories from any other human community. Likewise, not all orthodox communities are alike. Obviously, stories of abuses represent egregious departures from Torah behavior that would not be condoned by Torah authorities or other communities.
Now, there is a tendency toward authoritarianism in communities modeled on eastern European behavior that was codified before either the haskalah or the formulation of American-style liberties and individual independence. This is why modern orthodoxy in the style of HaRav Kook is so vitally important. It is in this structure that the constraints of the Galut can be repaired in the modern State of Israel. I have no personal experience with Karaite or neo-Karaite synagogues or communities, so I can’t really comment on any constraints that they may place on the niddah with respect to the sanctuaries of their worship venues, but their extreme minority condition really makes any reference to them irrelevant for the sake of this discussion.