Tag Archives: supersessionism

Where Will We Find the Root of David?

lion-of-judahThere is another familiar case in which adjectives may cause more confusion than clarification: the misleading labels of “Orthodox”, “Conservative”, “Reform”, “Reconstructionist”, “Unaffiliated”, “Ashkenazic”, “Sephardic”, etc. It’s important to ask whether or not these words have anything to do with who we are in our kishkas (insides)! If we were able to perform a Litmus Test on our souls – or perhaps a “Litmus Configuration” on our souls, for “Midnight Run” fans who are more familiar with the Grodin/DeNiro technique for counterfeit money inspection – would we actually expect to find any trace of these labels? Do we really think that just as there are various blood types, a litmus test would reveal various “soul types”, such as AJ (Ashkenazic Jew), OJ (Orthodox Jew), UJ (Unaffiliated Jew), etc.? Do these labels somehow exist as “spiritual-chemical” elements on some kind of “Spiriodic Table”?

It’s crucial to keep in mind that the essential soul of a Jew has no such adjectives! A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. And the more we learn to focus on our shared essence, the more we can appreciate the splendor of our true unity! May G-d grant us the wisdom to continually discern the differences between external adjectives and essential nouns!

-Jon Erlbaum
“Birthright Battles & Material Worlds”
Insights from Torah Portion Toldos

It’s unfair to characterize a uniform Jewish view on just about any topic. As soon as you start talking about different periods [in history], it’s almost impossible to answer any question unless you specify what Jews, where and when. Essentially, uniformity of Jewish thought is impossible to find.

-Alan Cooper
Provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York
as quoted by jweekly.com

Seems confusing, doesn’t it? We have Erlbaum saying that regardless of the various differences between Jews, in fact, a “Jew is a Jew is a Jew.” We also have Cooper saying that it’s “unfair to characterize a uniform Jewish view on just about any topic.” Which view of Jewish people is correct? Probably both. Is this a problem?

Nope. Well, maybe.

A large part of this blog is devoted to trying to gather some sort of understanding about the Jewish classic religious texts and, in my case, attempting to apply that knowledge and insight to the faith of one, lone Christian. Me. If anyone else finds something of value here, then I am honored to have recorded it. But given Erlbaum and Cooper, it seems as if my search for knowledge will not be an easy one. There is not one “Judaism” that exists immutable and unchangeable across time from Moses and Sinai to the twenty-first century that we can point to and say, “that’s what it means to be Jewish” or “that’s the sum of the Torah.” If that’s the case, then what am I looking for?

Hillel told a would-be convert this:

“A gentile once came to convert to Judaism, on the condition that he could learn the whole Torah while standing on one foot. He approached Shammai, who rejected him, so he went to Hillel, who taught him: “’That which you dislike don’t do to your fellow: That’s the basis of Torah. The rest is commentary; go learn!” –Shabbos 31

A generation later, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, Jesus said something similar:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” –Matthew 22:36-40

This past week on my blog, I’ve been drawing a sharp contrast between religion and faith as well as between Judaism and Christianity. It seems as if these two poles at each end of the religious spectrum keep getting in each other’s way. It’s easy to see why most Jews don’t want to even touch the New Testament and why most Christians are relieved when their Pastors tell them that the Law is dead. It’s much less confusing to believe that one religion has nothing to do with the other and that Jews and Christians can remain self-contained within their own “silos” and not wonder or worry about what’s going on elsewhere.

Of course, to do this, Jews must come to the final conclusion that Jesus could never have been the person he claimed to be and that even if he was a good Jewish teacher, Paul twisted those teachings into a very Torah-bereft religion for the Gentiles. Christians, for their part, must believe that Jesus, born of a Jewish mother and of the line of David, did a very “unJewish” thing. They must believe that he lived a life in complete contradiction to everyone around him, somehow managing to gain a large following of Jewish disciples by preaching the Gospel of freedom from the Law and nailing the Torah to the cross. That last part is especially hard to believe. It would be like Joel Osteen visiting the biggest Orthodox synagogue in Houston, Texas during a Shabbat service and expecting to gain a large following of the Jews by taking their Torah scroll and lighting it on fire.

the-teacherYou can only believe all of that if you choose to remain in your silos, both in community and in mind, and refuse to consider the alternative. You also will be unable to explain men like Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein, Chief Rabbi in the Northern District of Hungry, Rabbi Daniel Zion, Chief Rabbi of Bulgaria, Rabbi Israel Zolli, Chief Rabbi of Rome, and scores of other Jewish people (see Rabbi Joshua Brumbach’s Yinon blog for more information) who amazingly found the Jewish Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ, the man, prophet, and Messiah who neither denied the Torah nor abandoned his people, the Jews. They found that there is no inconsistency between being Jewish and discovering their Moshiach in the pages of the New Testament.

But these people are exceedingly rare among both Jews and Christians. 2,000 years of heinous persecution of the Jewish people by Christians explains why the vast majority of Jews are extremely hesitant (to put it mildly) to consider the validity of Christianity, but what makes Christians so adamant about rejecting the Judaism of Jesus?

To be perfectly blunt: I must say the Christians have robbed the Jews! And perhaps what is worse is that this thievery has been encouraged by theologians, pastors, and even Sunday School teachers, where small children are taught to sing the song, “Every promise in the book is mine, every chapter, every verse, every line.”

Every promise in Scripture in some way benefits Christians, but it is not all promised to Christians. Sometimes the thievery has been inadvertent and unintentional. It’s like thinking that the raincoat hanging in the office closet is yours for wearing home because of unexpected showers. Hopefully, you will discover the raincoat belongs to a fellow worker and you will restore it. It is not as if Christians do not have the greatest promise of God, which is 1 John 2:25: “And this is the promise that He hath promised us, even eternal life.”

-Moishe Rosen
as quoted from the Foreword of Pastor Barry E. Horner’s book
Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged

This isn’t happening in just the traditional church setting, either.

One of the consequences is that many Jews are starting to feel like the “other” in what we thought was a Jewish movement. IMO, limitations on Gentile involvement – some of which are legitimate, in my view – arise in large part from a sense of that a majority of our movement no longer feels that it is essential or even important for us to remain demographically Jewish. This isn’t just a feeling on my part: it comes from numerous conversations with Gentiles and Jews in our movement. I routinely ask, “Do you think we need a majority of Jews in the movement to legitimately call ourselves ‘Jewish’?” Apart from obnoxious Jews like myself (and a smaller number of Gentiles), the answer is almost universally “no.” The discomfort increases when the percentage is lowered: 40%? 25%? 10% – “Ten percent – a tithe. That sounds right!” How about less 5%?” It turns out that it’s very difficult for these otherwise reasonable folks to assign any bottom limit to the percentage of Jews necessary to call our movement, or a congregation, Jewish.

-Rabbi Carl Kinbar
Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council
as quoted in the comments section of
Morning Meditations

Sometimes I say to myself as a kind of joke that, “if God hadn’t replaced the Jews with the Christians, then the Christians would have done it themselves.” It’s a personal “joke”, though a very sad one, because that’s exactly what Christianity did: decide to replace the Jews in the covenant promises of God, all of them, with Christians. Small wonder that Jews don’t want to anything to do with Christianity and that attempting to convert a Jew to become a Christian is considered deeply insulting by Jews. Christians believe that in order for a Jew to come to faith in the “Jewish” (I put the word in quotes because from the church’s point of view, the “Jewishness” of Jesus was undone on the cross) Messiah, he or she must completely deconstruct their own Jewish identity and remake themselves as a Christian goy. Yeah, like Jesus, Peter, and Paul did that to themselves, right?

Supersessionism isn’t just an artifact of the past but a lived reality of the present. Many churches still comfortably believe that Judaism is a “dead religion”, that Jesus did away with the law, that God changed His infinite mind about choosing Israel, played a game of bait and switch with the Israelites, ripped the covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob away from the Jews, and devoted His love, compassion, and mercy exclusively to Christianity.

Ironically, as Rabbi Kinbar points out, a form of supersessionism also seems to have invaded the one religious movement that exists to allow a Jew to live and worship as a Jew and yet be a disciple of Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah and Savior. It’s like Gentile Christians just can’t stand the idea that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). We know from examples we read about in Acts 10 and Acts 15 that the Jewish disciples were responsible for carrying the Word of salvation to the Gentiles and administering how it was to be interpreted, but at the point where Gentiles began to outnumber Jews in the “Nazerene” faith, we also began to rewrite the rules and scriptural interpretations. We stacked the deck in our favor and loaded the dice so the Jews didn’t even have a chance. We invented a system whereby the Jews lost all control and involvement in their own Messiah and we would only let them back in if they agreed to stop being Jewish and to turn into us.

Fat chance. Why should they?

Tree of LifeWe’ve gotten it all backward. We’ve put the cart before the horse. We’ve elevated ourselves to place God never intended us to be. Romans 11:17-20 is Paul’s cautionary tale to the Gentiles about becoming arrogant with being grafted in at the expense of the natural branches. The Tanakh is replete with examples of God restoring those branches and when He does, what will become of us and our so-called “replacement” of the Jews? How will the grafted in answer for the insult to the natural branch of the vine?

More than anything, as frustrating and aggravating as it can be sometimes to struggle with the Jewish perspective on Torah and Talmud, we must look to ancient and modern Judaism if we ever expect to understand our Savior and our faith. We Gentile Christians embrace our comforting supersessionist “teddy bears” at great peril. I know Christianity is afraid of Christ’s Jewishness because we’re afraid of having to play “second fiddle” to the Jewish people and we hate the idea that not all of the promises belong to us. We hate the idea that our easy-going lives of faith and grace, with virtually no behavioral expectations of us by God, are somehow in contrast to the rich and beautiful morning prayers of Judaism, the holiness of the Shema, the Psalms of the Priests in the Temple, the night blessings at bedtime. It all seems so alien, so…Jewish.

But so is Jesus. Not “was”; “is”:

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” –Revelation 5:5

“The Lion of the Tribe of Judah” and “the Root of David”. Verse 13 of the same chapter of Revelation says “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Why do Gentile Christians have such a difficult time giving honor and glory to the Jewish “the Root of David”, or have I already answered that question?

Almost a month ago, I wrote another small article called In Search of the Jewish Voice of Jesus. If you’re a Christian who wants to find out about the Jesus no one talks about in church, you can discover him in that blog post.

oto ha’ish

tallit-prayerHowever, in the last few generations, changes took place among some Christian groups. There are those among them who no longer believe they must humiliate the Jews, and some even believe that Israel remains the Chosen People, whose purpose is to bring the Redemption.

However, they still embrace a form of idolatry, believing that ‘oto ha’ish’ [Jesus] is son of a deity and the messiah who will be resurrected to redeem the world. At the same time, they point out that he is Jewish.

The question arises: Should this position cause a complete rift between us? Every time we meet Christian supporters of Israel, must we denounce their belief in ‘oto ha’ish’?

-Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
“Judaism: The Relation of Jews to non-Jews”
Arutz Sheva News Agency

The Jerusalem Talmud may provide us with a solution. The Jerusalem Talmud’s version of the Four Sons adjusts the text to read “if that man were here, he would not be redeemed.” “oto haish,” literally “that man” is often used in the Talmud to refer to the founder of Christianity.The Wicked Son believes that redemption is to be found in Oso Ha’ish. The Talmud is completely rejecting this tenet of early Christianity, and pulling the rug out from under the Wicked Son telling him he is relying on the future redemption of someone who himself would not have been redeemed.

-Josh Waxman
“Does Oto Haish in the Haggadah (according to Yerushalmi) refer to Jesus?”

While Josh Waxman asks this question at or around Passover in 2009, Rabbi Melamed answers it in the Fall of 2011 by referring to Jesus as “that man”. Doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, does it? This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a Jewish Rabbi refer to Jesus using the circumlocution to avoid having to say or write out his name.

Both Rabbi Melamed and Mr. Waxman (and I apologize to Mr. Waxman if he is a Rabbi or has some other title, but I can’t determine this from the content on his blog) are going through some effort to avoid denigrating the followers of Jesus but they aren’t entirely successful. Waxman continues in his blog post saying:

We don’t really care about Jesus that much. He is tangential to Jewish history, even as he is central to another religion. There is no reason to bring him in here. While it may be true that “”The yerushalmi was redacted in 425 CE and witnessed the Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity and the widespread proselytization to Christianity,” which would make them care more, that does not mean we should read it into every source. And anyway, this particular source in Yerushalmi is Rabbi Chiyya, redactor of braytot, who passed away in 230 CE, much earlier than the Roman Empire’s adoption of Christianity.

For his part, Rabbi Melamed states:

Rabbi Kook also wrote a letter of congratulation (Igrot, Part 2, pg.198) to a Torah scholar who compiled a booklet called ‘Israel’s Faith’ in order to explain the Jewish religion in Japanese, however, he pointed out that the author had erred by expressing disrespect for ‘oto ha’ish’ and Mohammed. “It is impossible to offer supreme, religious content to this nation with insulting expressions concerning the founders of [other] religions, whoever they are. We must only speak about the holy and supreme advantage of God’s Torah, and negation will come by itself.”

Of course there is a certain amount of “negation” of the believers in Jesus, even as there is the suggestion that disrespect for the author of Christian faith is unacceptable. It’s important for Christianity to try to put these statements within a certain perspective. For Rabbi Melamed, the perspective is this.

In the past, except for a small minority of righteous Gentiles, the attitude of Christians towards Jews was negative. They based their beliefs on the humiliation of the Jews, which they believed proved that the Christians were intended to replace Israel as the Chosen People.

replacement-theologyPastor Barry Horner wrote his book Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged chronicling how Christian supersessionism has been extremely damaging to the Jewish people over the last 1,900 years of church history and why it continues to be a destructive theology in the world today. Both Mr. Waxman and Rabbi Melamed are living examples of the results of Christian replacement theology and antisemitism, not only historically, but as a matter of “current affairs”. Last Thursday at the G20 summit at Cannes, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had this to say to U.S. President Obama as reported at Haaretz.com:

The French president, unaware last Thursday that a mike in the meeting room at the G20 summit at Cannes was on, was heard calling Netanyahu “a liar” in what he thought was a private exchange with U.S. President Barack Obama. “I cannot bear Netanyahu, he’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama, who was also unaware that the mike had been turned on and was being monitored by reporters via the headsets used for simultaneous translations.

Obama didn’t exactly defend Netanyahu, either.

“You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you,” Obama replied, according to wire service reports.

While Sarkozy’s and Obama’s comments can’t be directly attributed to Christian supersessionism, they are certainly prime examples of how even national European and American leaders view Israel and speak of the Jewish nation (or at least its Prime Minister) when they think no one can hear.

How are we, as Christians, to receive all this? It’s not easy. There’s a tendency to get a little defensive when someone holds the Savior in such disdain that they must refer to him as “that man”, but on the other hand, how many Jews have been persecuted, tortured, and murdered in the name of Jesus? True, modern Christians aren’t directly responsible for those events, but in continuing to support any form of replacement theology, we support an environment that is latently or overtly hostile to Jews and one that supports the French and American presidents speaking poorly of the Israeli Prime Minister, essentially behind his back and behind the backs of their citizens.

If the leaders of the world and the body of Christ fail to amend their behavior and learn to truly support the Jewish nation and her people, what does democracy, liberty, and Christianity mean at this point? How can we show that, for the sake of “that man”, we love Israel if we continue to marginalize the Jewish people?

It does sting hearing Jesus referred to as “oto ha’ish”. As much as I want to be persevering and “noble” about it, I find it difficult to have others disregard my faith, my King, and me personally in absolute terms, as if I as an individual am responsible for the persecution of the Jewish people. It makes me wonder what Jews who know I’m a Christian may think of me or say about me when I’m not listening. I wonder if I’m judged as lesser or unworthy or unrighteous, not because of anything I’ve done, but simply because of who I am. But then again, Christians have been treating Jews in exactly that way for almost 2,000 years. Maybe it’s time we Christians discovered how it feels.