Jewish / Judaism : Jewish and Christian? Is Messianic Judaism Possible?, part 1 of 3

The Talmud-Megillah 13a states,
Whoever repudiates idolatry is accounted a Jew.

What is the difference between a “Jew” who believes in Jesus and a “Christian”? The difference is one of heritage. Jews are traditionally identified as those who were born to a Jewish mother (or converted). Jews are by birth, sons of Abraham of the people of Israel.

Part 1: Intro and Individual Jewish Opinion
Part 2: The Halakah-Jewish Religious Law

The Talmud-Megillah 13a states,
Whoever repudiates idolatry is accounted a Jew.

What is the difference between a “Jew” who believes in Jesus and a “Christian”? The difference is one of heritage. Jews are traditionally identified as those who were born to a Jewish mother (or converted). Jews are by birth, sons of Abraham of the people of Israel.

Part 1: Intro and Individual Jewish Opinion
Part 2: The Halakah-Jewish Religious Law
Part 3: Lawrence Epstein’s Fallacy

Jews who have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah call themselves “Messianic Jews,” “Jewish Christians,” “Jewish Believers,” “Christians,” etc. “Christ” is English for “Kristos,” which is Greek for the Hebrew “Mashiach,” which is to say “anointed one,” and is referred to as “Messiah” in English. Therefore, a Christian is a follower of Christ, the anointed Jewish Messiah.
Please do not get me wrong; some of my best friends are Gentiles. Jewish believers are not ontologically more special than they. Jewish believers in Jesus are also called “Messianic Jews” etc. to make the same exact point about their lineage, their peoplehood; they are Jews who see the New Testament as the inspired scripture which simply lays out what the life of a Jew (and gentile believers) is to be according to the new covenant, just as the Tanakh (Old Testament) laid out what the life of a Jew was to be according to the old covenant.
Contrary to popular belief, when a Jew becomes a Christian it does not mean they have converted to a Gentile-Pagan religion. It means that they believe that the Messiah has come (and will come again). I once shared my belief in Jesus’ messiahship with a Jewish person who asked me if I was going to convert. I told him that there was nothing to convert to since I am a Jew who believes that the Jewish Messiah has come in the person of the Jewish man Jesus as predicted in the Jewish Scripture.
Interestingly enough, Rabbi Saul of Tarsus (later known as Paul) rhetorically asked and answered the question, what advantage has the Jew?,

Then what advantage has the Jew? What is the value of being circumcised? Much in every way! In the first place, the Jews were entrusted with the very words of God_ (Romans 3:1-2).


Common Jewish opinion states that if a Jew believes in Jesus as the Messiah they are no longer Jewish. Ironically, a Jew who is an atheist, agnostic or secular in every way is still accepted as a Jew, no questions asked. The following quotes demonstrate the strong denunciations of Jews who would come to believe in Jesus. Towards the end of this essay I will show that despite emotionally charged arguments and personal opinions Jewish Law is clear; a Jew is a Jew even if she becomes a Christian. The very end of this essay has been devoted exclusively to Lawrence J. Epstein who wrote a book entitled “Questions and Answers on Conversion to Judaism.”
It must be understood that there are persons who have termed themselves “Anti-missionaries,” these people, many of them Rabbis, have dedicated themselves to thwarting Christian missionaries. It is sad but true to say that in order to accomplish this task many anti-missionaries are willing to go against Judaism’s own teachings in order to attempt to prove Christians wrong. This charge will be demonstrated here and in many of our essays regarding Jewish issues where I will demonstrate that anti-missionaries contradict authoritative Rabbinic writing as well as various Jewish scholars and even other Rabbis.
Individual Jewish Opinion:
The following are some thoughts on the question of who is a Jew?
Michael Asheri wrote:

The full answer is that to be Jewish you either have to be born Jewish or undergo religious conversion to Judaism_But what does “born Jewish” mean? Anyone Born of a Jewish Mother Is Jewish by Birth..it is possible to be Jewish without being religious in any accepted sense_there are atheists who are, nonetheless, Jews_the one basic condition of being Jewish: that the Jews are the chose people of God and that it is precisely to obey His commandments-all of them-that God chose them and they, in turn, chose Him_
Being a Jew is also a great privilege and there are certain obligations attached to that privilege which we are not free to reject.[fn] Michael Asheri (has always been an observant Jew and has dedicated himself to finding out as much as he could about what being Jewish is all about), Living Jewish, The Lore and Law of the Practicing Jew (Everest House Publishers, New York, 1978), pp. 3, 4, 27
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What an oddity; a person can be an atheist and still be Jewish but then we are told that to be a Jew the condition is a set of beliefs which the atheist will instantly reject including the belief in God.
Regarding “Reconstructionists” who “seem to be attempting a definition of Judaism without revelation and, finally, without God, based only on an undefined peoplehood of Israel.” Asheri goes on to write,

in spite of their denial of everything basic to Judaism, it should not for a moment be thought that these people are no longer Jews. The reason is clear and has already been pointed out: Judaism is more than a religion. The Jews are a people. And the Reconstructionists have made it clear that they have not cut themselves off… If they have not cut themselves off, we cannot cut them off. What is really significant here, to be exact, is that they have not adopted another religion in place of Judaism or, as the early Christians did, created another religion. As for those few people who, having accepted or even solicited baptism, continue to maintain that they are Jews, and, in that guise, attempt to win over faithful Jews to their religion, we should not hesitate to classify them not only as no longer Jews but as active enemies of Israel, deserving of our unceasing opposition and scorn.[fn] Ibid., p. 28
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Again, what an oddity; you can purposefully reject and actively seek to abolish everything that makes Judaism what it is, including belief in God, and you can still be a Jew. However, if you are a Jew and you believe that the Jewish Messiah has come as prophesied in the Jewish Scripture then you are not only no longer Jewish but an “enemy deserving unceasing opposition and scorn.”
Yet, this same author wrote, as quoted above, that the one basic condition of being Jewish: that the Jews are the chose people of God and that it is precisely to obey His commandments-all of them-that God chose them and they, in turn, chose Him. This is accepted and taught by Christianity and so a Jewish person who accepts Jesus as the Messiah believes all of this and is therefore, still a Jew. Conversely, how can a positive affirmation of God’s non-existence atheist be said to believe any of this?
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan wrote:

Conversion to Christianity or any other faith is an abandonment of Judaism_.Christianity negates the fundamentals of Jewish faith, and one who accepts it rejects the very essence of Judaism_A Jew who accepts Christianity might call himself a “Jewish Christian,” but he is no longer a Jew. He can no longer even be counted as part of a Jewish congregation. Conversion to another faith is an act of religious treason. It is one of the worst possible sins that a Jew can commit_The truth is that one who falls into their [the missionary’s] net is eternally cast away from before his G-d.[fn] Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, The Real Messiah? A Jewish Response to Missionaries (New York: National Conference of Synagogue Youth, 1976, New edition, 1985), pp. 2 & 21
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Rabbi Shmuel Arkush wrote,

When a Jew accepts Jesus he not only rejects the history of his people but, by adopting Christian faith he places himself outside the Jewish religion_By accepting a Christian god you commit a cardinal sin. You become a traitor to your people and cannot be counted a Jew.[fn] Rabbi Shmuel Arkush; Head of Operation Judaism, fighting missionaries nationwide, Why Jews Can’t Be For Jesus
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I cannot help but notice that these authors base their statements on Jewish views, thought, movements, community, etc. Where, I wonder, is the word of God in all this? I have yet to find a single, actual reference to the scriptures. However, they do refer to the Halakah (Jewish Law) and admit that it is still binding. As we shall see in referencing various Jewish encyclopedias and dictionaries; according to the Halakah all the above stated objections and opinion as to who is a Jew are faulty and are blatantly, as well as unapologetically, anti-Christian.
Clearly the main point is that a Jew is one who is either born to a Jewish mother or properly converted. Moreover, the idea that is clearly put forth over and over is that it is possible to be Jewish without being religious in any accepted sense. There are atheists who are, nonetheless, Jews. A Jew may even deny everything basic to Judaism.
An example of this sentiment may be seen in a publication entitled the “Jewish Bulletin of North California” which published one article on Apr. 27, 2001 which besmirched “Jews for Jesus” and then published another article on June 8, 2001 which praised a concoction of Buddhist meditation and Jewish worship.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote:

Jews have rarely taken a serious look at the teachings of Jesus. Indeed, in most Jewish households, the New Testament itself is completely taboo_The Jews will not accept Jesus as savior, but why not as sage? They will not embrace him as god, but why not as guru? After all, many Jews study the teachings of the Buddha, even while remaining faithfully loyal to Jewish observance![fn] Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Mel Gibson is closing Jewish hearts to Jesus-This whole Passion of Christ controversy is only doing a disservice to Jesus himself
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Yet, there is one single exception as to whom must be wiped off of the face of Judaism and that is the Christian. Not just Gentile Christians who see their spiritual roots as being Jewish, but the born Jew, born of a Jewish mother, descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Although Jewish-Christians have made it clear that they have not cut themselves off, the authors quoted above have no problem with, and in fact feel a righteous duty to, cut them off. Moreover, the authors state that the Jewish-Christians desire to be accepted as legitimate Jews has not been accepted, or even considered. Incredibly, though the authors state that basically a Jew can do, or not do, as she pleases and are still Jewish regardless, Asheri goes on to state that there actually are conditions for being Jewish and moreover, that there are certain obligations attached to being a Jew which Jews are not free to reject.
Emil L. Fackenheim writes,

A Jew is one obligated to the covenant that God made with Israel_It is this obligation that converts to Judaism take upon themselves voluntarily. For one born of a Jewish mother, however, it is not voluntary.[fn] Emil L. Fackenheim, What is Judaism? (Summit Books, New York, NY, 1987), p. 47
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Rabbi Doug Kahn (executive director, Jewish Community Relations Council) stated,

Logically one cannot believe that the messiah has not yet come, as traditional Jews do, and that he also has come, as Christians believe_One can be a Jew who converted to Christianity_The concern that has always existed is that [Jews for Jesus tries] to distort that fundamental impossibility that one can be both a Jew and a Christian at the same time.[fn] Jewish Bulletin of North California, Apr. 27, 2001[/fn]

On the surface, this is quite logical. Yet, on the surface level only.
It must be understood that Rabbinic Judaism means that interpretations and understanding have a potential of changing from generation to generation as the Rabbis determine Judaism’s doctrines. Maybe we cannot logically be Christians and follow the doctrines of modern Rabbinic Judaism. But we know that the religion of God as prescribed in the Tanakh points to the Messiah Jesus. Jews for Jesus does not distort the assumed impossibility that one can be both a Jew and a Christian at the same time.

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