I’d like to thank those at Messianic Good News (an excellent ministry) for granting permission to share portions of this message.
A Biblical Analysis of Judaism & the Modern State of Israel in Relation to the Church of Jesus Christ
There are certain Bible phrases which easily cause controversy and disagreement. For example, “…and all his household” (Acts 16:34; 18:8) has spearheaded the disagreement about baptism; the phrase “and bound him for a thousand years” (Rev.20:2) has led to division concerning the approach to the time of the end; the words “God our Saviour who desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim.2:3-4) have created controversy over the concept of universal grace; and a crassly literal understanding of the Lord Jesus’ words “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood” (Jn.6:54) has given rise to the doctrine of transubstantiation. Such phrases have divided the professing Church throughout history — not because of any lack of perspicuity on the Holy Spirit’s part, but because of the faulty herme- neutics of fallen men and women.
Another phrase which could be added to those above is “And so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom.11:25). Among evangelicals today, a common interpretation of this verse is that shortly before the end of this age there will be a global mass conversion of all living Jews according to the flesh. The existence since 1948 of the earthly nation Israel in the Middle East is therefore seen by many as part of the buildup to this phenomenon.
Correspondingly, there is an enormous interest throughout the Church in the modern nation Israel and in Jewishness in general. One could even call it an obsession. There is today a massive crusade of Judaising which is at least as pernicious as that which the Apostle Paul so forcefully opposed in his ministry. In this article, our purpose is to examine these ideas in the light of the clear teaching of Scripture. It is our firm belief that the failure to rightly divide the Word of God has led to a wrongful division of the people of God in the Gospel Age, who are called to be one flock under one Shepherd. We plead with our readers to adopt a Berean attitude (Acts 17:10-11) by checking all our Bible references and carefully weighing up our teachings against the Scriptures.
“Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Rom.4:16) “For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar — for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children — but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Gal.4:24-26)
Shortly before December 25th 1997, a huge front- page headline appeared in one of the UK’s quality national newspapers which read: “It Never Happened”. Above this headline was a portrait of the manger scene at the birth of Christ. This article, by the anti-Christian writer A.N. Wilson, set out to disprove the historicity of the Incarnation. In the wake of this conceit being pub- lished, there was no clamour from clergymen, no bellow from bishops and not a peep from the proletariat. It was a highly blasphemous statement; but it was also “politi- cally correct”.
Now imagine what would have occurred if, above that headline, “It Never Happened”, in the place of the Manger Scene, there was a portrait of Mohammed making his hegira to Medina, or of Gautama Siddhar- tha Buddha sitting under a Banyan tree in Bihar, or of Arjuna and Krishna conversing elatedly in their chariot, or of Guru Nanak plunging into the River Bain, or of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Sinai. Imagine the huge chorus of outrage that would have ensued from the assorted packs of plebeian hordes — not to mention the outcry from the massed ranks of mor- tally offended church clergymen and their multifaith bishops.
In the present climate, it is fashionable to do every- thing possible to undermine the claims of Christianity. We are now living in an era in which one may utter the foulest blasphemy against Jesus Christ, but one must never cast the slightest aspersion against any of the world’s religious movements. Such is the global agenda of political correctness in the religious field. It has now also become the agenda of the ecumenical movement. However, this same gag on exposing false religion has even spread to the heart of evangelicalism.
For example, at one time, Bible-based Christians regarded both Roman Catholicism and post-Calvary Judaism as false religions, from which people needed delivering through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, in recent years, many evangelicals have come to regard Roman Catholicism as a mere denomination in the true Church and have also become protective of the present-day religion of Judaism — even upholding that the modern anti- christian state of Israel in the Middle East is a fulfilment of Bible prophecy. Because so many professing Christians have bought into the lie of so-called “political correctness” — which is merely the institutionalised suppression of truth — non-acrimonious and open discussion of these matters is universally barred, while emotive accusations of “anti- semitism” and “racism” are hurled at anyone who dares to analyse this dire state of affairs. The stultifying, “politically correct” atmosphere being generated in the Christian scene today, quite apart from being dishonest, is most unhelpful to proper analysis and discussion on a range of issues. Even more disturbing than this is the fact that in many professing Christian circles it appears that what one believes about ‘Israel’ has come to define one’s Christianity.
Those who do not toe the party line on Israel — that is, who do not accept that the modern state of Israel is a restored biblical Israel — are likely to find themselves treated with considerable disdain and even ostracized by fellowships of professing Christians. It is for this reason that this writer believes that the present article is called for.
A startling fact about which most Christians are completely unaware is that there was an equivalent in Jewish history to the situation in which the Roman Emperor Constantine declared his empire and subjects “Christian” after his own conversion, resulting in a massive influx of pagans into the church, adulterating it and its beliefs. In 740 AD, the Emperor of Khazaria, in the steppes of Russia, declared his subjects “Jewish” after his own conversion to Judaism. Genuine rabbis were summoned from Babylonia to teach his subjects Pharisaic Judaism in the Khazar kingdom that flourished from the sixth to tenth centuries. If one wonders about the ghettos of Warsaw, Budapest and Prague being so far from Palestine, it is because their Jewish inhabitants never came from Palestine but were part of the mass conversion of the Khazar Empire. What does this imply?
That most of the Jews “returning” to Palestine never came from Palestine in the first place; that they are not even of the lineage of Shem. They are Gentile converts. This throws a massive curved ball from an eschatolgical standpoint at the idea of Jews returning to the modern State of Israel under divine sanction. In reality, upwards of 85% of today’s Jews are descended from the Khazars, according to the respected Encyclopaedia Judaica, Princeton Professor D.M. Dunlop’s The History of the Jewish Khazars, and Arthur Koestler’s The Thirteenth Tribe (Random House, N.Y., 1967). The Thirteenth Tribe was Koestler’s last book before he and his wife were found dead in an apparent suicide in their London apartment. Koestler, one of the most celebrated and brilliant Jewish writers of the 20th Century, who himself believed strongly in a Jewish state in Israel, laments in his intro- duction that;
“The story of the Khazar Empire, as it slowly emerges from the past, begins to look like the most cruel hoax which history has ever perpetrated”.
The implications of all this are staggering for those who would claim that modern Israel is a restoration of the Israelite kingdom of the Bible. Yet, this claim is being vigorously asserted today by a vast number of professing Christians who are also Zionists.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that a modern form of Judaising has gripped many branches of the professing Church and the spirit of Paul’s letter to the Galatians needs to be invoked. It seems that an unconditional love for the modern earthly nation Israel has virtually become an ‘article of faith’ among evangelicals today. As a consequence, all manner of strange and unchecked claims are being made by many untaught and often arrogant and aggressive people about Judaism and Israel. Here are some of the various claims which are being made today:
1. That the Jews as an earthly nation are still God’s chosen people today.
2. That Gentile converts to Christ are of inferior status to those converted out of Judaism.
3. That the nation-state called Israel in the Middle East today is the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and a sign of the approaching appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ — either for the Rapture or the Second Coming, depending on the belief system to which people adhere.
4. That if we encourage the Jews of the world to emigrate to Israel the return of Christ will be hastened.
5. That Gentile Christians have a God-given duty to assist the modern state of Israel in every way they can — including financially.
6. That the Jews are the real root of Christianity and should therefore be held in the highest esteem.
7. That it is only because of the “temporary” rejection of the Jews that Gentiles can be saved at all.
8. That Jews do not need to be born again because they are already God’s chosen people.
9. That Jews who come to believe in Messiah do not need to become part of the Christian Church, which is intended specifically for Gentile converts to Messiah, but instead should gather in so-called Messianic Fellowships.
10. That Jews who have “accepted Messiah” should continue with all the rituals and feasts of the Mosaic law — including a Saturday Sabbath — and even non-biblical festivals such as Hanukkah.
11. That those who say (as the Bible plainly teaches) that the Old Testament promises to Israel have now been fulfilled in Christ and His believing people are thereby guilty of a heresy which has been given the name: “Replacement Theology”.
12. That when the Lord said to Abraham “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you”, it was also meant to be applied to those who dare to say anything critical about the state of Israel today.
13. That to write articles like this represents the height of blasphemy, is racist, anti-semitic and will bring a curse down upon the writer’s head.
Obviously, no single individual will adhere to all of these claims — some of which are contradictory — but they do not represent a straw man because this writer has heard them all declared by Christian “zionists” from various quarters in recent years. It should be said here that the purpose of this analysis is not at all intended to incite any kind of animosity against Jewish people in general. On the contrary, we seek to remove division between Christians and promote the salvation of Jews through encouraging the kind of evangelism which is based on the Bible rather than a false agenda dictated by Jewish people themselves and the many theologically ignorant Christians who are dictating the agenda of the church today.
It might also be helpful to state here that the present writer—whose own Hebrew name is qj;x]yI-÷Be÷roha}’ (Aharon ben-Yitzhak) — is himself from a sephardic Jewish background and therefore understands the issue well — having a father, sisters and other living relations whom he earnestly desires to see come to faith in Christ.
We are aware that the accusation of “anti-Semitism” or “racism” may be made against us from certain Jewish and even Christian quarters. But to fall back on such charges is extremely disingenuous, manipulative, and plainly designed to stifle fruitful and honest discussion. An example of such behaviour occurred when the organisers of a Christian event designed to evangelise Jews were accused of practising “spiritual Nazism” by a Jewish Rabbi. We see this kind of emotional manipulation frequently from Jewish people. Hiding behind the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, they seek, through subjective emotionalism, to prevent people — Christians — from conducting any biblical debate about Jewish or Israeli matters.
A typical example of this occured in an article on the Internet, entitled “Antisemitism in the New Testament” by Shmuel Golding. Here Golding writes:
“Christian love for the Jew is a kind of hatred. It loves the Jew, yet hates him for being what he is. It sees him as blind and in need of being changed into a believer. When missionary efforts failed, or are fobbed, the love for the Jew quickly turns to hatred and contempt. We are not deceived by the ‘new Christians’ of today’s hand-clapping Jew-loving fundamentalists. They teach the same anti-semitic doctrines as the church of yesteryear. Their tactics are different but we know that the message is the same. Any Jew who can pay homage to the New Testament or allow himself to believe in it, is, in my opinion in the same category as a Jew who tries to justify Hitler’s Mein Kampf or, as one who covers up for the deeds of the Nazis”.
While it is true that Christians understand Jews (in common with all unbelievers) to be spiritually blind and in need of becoming believers in Jesus Christ, it is not at all true that Christians hate Jews. Christians feel the greatest compassion for all unbelievers, whether Jews or Gentiles. To compare Christians to Nazis and the New Testament to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is to indulge in the most extreme form of emotional manipulation. Sadly, many professing Christians have also fallen into the same sort of manipulative exercise, and would try to smear the present article as an example of “anti- Semitism” or “racism”. Well, we categorically refuse to be stifled by such false charges. Incidentally, it is inaccurate, to say the least, to restrict the name “Semite” to a person of the Jewish religion, for it has a far wider definition. In Merriam- Webster’s Dictionary a Semite is defined as “A member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadi- ans, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs”. So the use of the term “anti-Semitic” to mean that a person is anti-Jewish is strictly a misnomer. Secondly, there is no such thing as the “Jewish race” — a term which many mistakenly use today.
As the Encyclopedia Britannica states: “The designation ‘race’ has been applied to language groups (the Aryan race), national groups (the Scottish race), religious groups (the Jewish race), and the entire species of humans (the human race), but these usages are biologically and scientifically meaningless”.
Surely, therefore, any accusations about this article as being “anti-Semitic” or “racist” are equally meaningless. It is perfectly acceptable before God for us to open these matters up for debate. As mature Christian believers it is both good and necessary to analyse and discuss the bewildering array of claims being made today about Jewish people or Israel — especially by many in the church. Our aim here is to reassert what we believe to be the biblical view. Our plan in this paper is, first, to examine the issue of Judaism and Israel from an individual standpoint, comparing post-Calvary Judaism with the biblical view, then to consider it on a corporate level, examining the many claims about the nation Israel, comparing the Middle- Eastern nation-state of today with that of the Bible.
THE HALLMARKS OF MODERN JUDAISM
In a brief comparison between the religion and aspirations of modern Judaism and the kind of Judaism which is revealed in the Bible, we need to be clear that they are not at all the same.
Modern Judaism has certain trappings which are associated with the Old Testament religion of Israel, but in reality it bears very little relation to the true religion of the Bible. Modern Judaism is similar to the religion which was espoused by the Scribes and Pharisees, with whom the Lord Jesus took issue, and which continued to be adhered to and codified after Calvary and especially after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple in AD.70. As John rather pointedly observed on a number of occasions, “there was a division” among the Jews caused by the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn.7:43; 9:16; 10:19). And that division was not of equal proportions, but consisted on the one hand of the mass of the people who went along with the Pharisees and on the other hand of a small remnant who became His disciples and thereby the first-fruits of the Christian Church which would be made up of both former Jews and Gentiles.
After the war in Jerusalem in AD.70, both groups — unbelieving Jews and the Christian Church, made up of converted Jews and Gentiles — were scattered across Europe and the Middle-East taking their religion with them. The Church (followers of Jesus made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers) began to evangelise the world with the Gospel (in accordance with Acts 1:8) and the unbelieving Jews set about consolidating their beleaguered faith which by then had its roots in both Talmudic Pharisaism and mystical Essenism.
From that time to this — as post-Calvary Judaism was based on disbelief that the Messiah had come and a hatred of all things Christian — certain characteristics of Judaism have held sway. Principal among those characteristics is that it does not maintain the exclusive authority of Scripture, the Bible. The only authoritative source of religious information, in both doctrinal and practical matters, is the written Word of God, the Bible:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”. (2 Tim.3:16-17)
The importance of neither adding to nor taking away from the Word of God is paramount in both Old and New Testaments. We see this near the beginning of the Bible:
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it…” (Deut.4:2), in the middle of the Bible: “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Pro.30:5-6), and at the end of the Bible we find a couple of verses which plainly can be applied to more than just the Book of Revelation: “If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev.22:18-19).
So, from start to finish, the Bible — consisting of both Old and New Testaments — is complete and all that is necessary for revelation and teaching. Even the Old Testament Scriptures alone “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim.3:15). However, as post-Calvary Judaism has developed and adapted throughout the past 1900 years, the prevailing Judaism of today is drawn primarily not from the religion revealed by Jehovah on Mount Sinai, or from the authoritative sacred writings of the Bible, but from man- made writings which have a decidedly legalistic and antichristian emphasis.
There are three ways in which modern Judaism fails to uphold the authority of Scripture.
1. IT DENIES THE JURISDICTION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT – Augustine of Hippo made the statement: “In the Old Testament the New is latent; in the New Testament the Old is patent”. The “Messiah who is to come” is the principal subject of the Old Testament. The “Messiah who has come” is the principal subject of the New. The New Testament is the Divinely inspired outgrowth of the Old. The Jewish nation, with its special code of civil and ceremonial law, was instigated by the Lord as a vehicle of succession for the coming Messiah (Gal.3:19). Everything about their law pointed towards the advent of Christ (Col.2:16-17). So when He finally came, they should have received Him (Jn.1:11). And when the new revelation was given which became the New Testament, they should similarly have received that as authoritative. However, post-Calvary Judaism has never accepted the sole authority of the New Testament or its writers. Indeed, the authoritative Jewish Encyclopedia refers to Paul the Apostle as an antinomian and a Gnostic, accusing him of contaminating God’s people by preaching the Gospel to gentiles:
“While thus opening the door wide to admit the pagan world, Paul caused the influx of the entire pagan mythology in the guise of Gnostic and anti- Gnostic names and formulas. No wonder he was frequently assailed and beaten by the officials of the synagogue”.
Furthermore, the words of the Messiah Himself, as recorded in the New Testament, are judged by the authorities of modern Judaism to be derivative of the teachings of either the Pharisees or the Essenes:
“Many of Jesus’s sayings can be traced to rabbinical sayings current in the Pharasaic schools; and many sentences, if not entire chapters, have been taken over from Essene writings”.
This claim that entire chapters of the New Testament have been lifted from the writings of the Essenes is a wild claim indeed, and worthy of exposure as a misleading allegation — especially as this is also a major claim of the New Age Movement today. It is significant that the sect of the Essenes is never directly mentioned in the New Testament — unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees who feature so prominently in the four Gospels. The reason for this is most likely because they never attempted to confront Jesus directly and tended to live in secluded, secretive circumstances. However, there are many indirect references which are most instructive. The word essene is derived from the East Aramaic, hasen, meaning ‘the pious ones’ (from which the name of the orthodox Jewish Hasidim is derived). The Essene sect (2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.) was an ascetic, commune-based, Jewish monastic order which regarded itself as the true Israel. In some ways they resembled the Pharisees in terms of such elements as ritual purity and legal observances; indeed, in this respect they often out-Phariseed the Pharisees! But their rigid adherence to the Levitical code was augmented by many additional works and practices which were, at best, in transgression of Pentateuchal Law and, at worst, down- right sorcery and superstition. For example, they adored the sun and earnestly prayed to it before it rose, they used a variety of magical and esoteric books, they practised divination and developed a highly elaborate angelology and cosmogony which went far beyond the biblical teachings of Moses. Their teaching on angels was, in fact, ‘derived from the Magi’, and in many ways, as Chambers Encyclopaedia states, the Essenes ‘became the forerunners of the Gnostics and of the Jewish Kabbalists’.
This knowledge that the angelology of the Essenes was derived from the Magi becomes doubly significant when we are informed that among these Magi ‘there was a strong tradition which favoured the exercise of sacerdotal and occult powers’. Even more significant, these Magi ‘were in communication with evil spirits, and…they were well acquainted with Mesmerism and every practice of modern Spiritualism’. So the influences on the Essenes were decidedly occult. Under these circumstances, is it at all likely — as the ‘authoritative’ Jewish Encyclopedia claims — that vast tracts of the Gospels — and in particular the words of the Lord Jesus Christ — have been plagiarised from the writings of the Essenes? In truth, there are far more similarities between Essenism and the later Gnosticism than with the teachings of Jesus. As one authoritative source puts it: ‘The suggestions, occasionally made, that…Christ Himself had Essene connections, are most improbable’. Let us list some of the glaring con- trasts between Essenism and Christianity. Unlike the Essenes, Jesus did not withdraw from, nor advocate withdrawal from the world (cf. Jn.17:15,18); neither did He reject the aged and the physically handicapped (cf. Mt.12:9-13; 15:30) nor advocate hatred of His enemies, as did the Essenes. He never purified Himself before eating with sinners (Mt.9:10-13); He did not advocate or practise vegetarianism (Mt.14:19), and did not believe that defilement and uncleanness comes from unpurified food, clothing and people (Mt.15:11) — all of which were part and parcel of being an Essene. So deep was their bondage to the laws of purification that if one of their members was expelled from the community for sins committed, he would find himself unable to eat the unpurified food of the outside world and die of starvation.
The Essenes also had such a highly developed system of elitism within their sect that the more ‘advanced’ members believed that they became spiritually polluted if they came into physical contact with, or ate food prepared by, novitiates. It is also quite probable that Jesus was referring to the Essenes when He made the enigmatic statement:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy’” (Mt.5:43).
Nowhere is the idea of hating one’s enemy advocated as such by the Jewish Law in the Old Testament (cf. Lev.19:17-18). There are, however, a number of such references in the Essenic documents which were found at Qumran in 1948. Therefore, far from being an Essene Himself, the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ were diametrically opposed to Essenic doctrine. In spite of this mountain of evidence against the idea that Jesus was an Essene and that He proffered Essene teachings, the Jewish Encyclopedia asserts otherwise. There can be no other reason for this than to undermine the authority and witness of the N.T. Scriptures. Obviously, it should be of no surprise that modern Judaism fails to regard the New Testament as authoritative Scripture. But does it rely on any other authority? This brings us to the second way that Judaism does not uphold the authority of Scripture:
2. IT UPHOLDS THE TALMUD AS THE AUTHORITATIVE WRITINGS – One of the primary complaints of the Lord Jesus Christ against the Pharisees was that they maintained the authority of man-made writings rather than the Holy Scriptures, thereby bringing the people under unnecessary bondage (e.g., Mt.15:8-9; 16:11-12; 23:1-4, 23; cf. Tit.1:14; Mt.11:28-30). On one occasion, the Jewish religious leaders asked Jesus:
“Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” To which He replied “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the com- mandments of men’. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men”.
On the many occasions when the Lord Jesus had dealings with the Jewish religious authorities, there was surely more than a touch of irony when He said: “Have you never read…?” He knew very well that they most certainly had “read” over and again the Old Testament to which He was referring; and in the Scribes’ case their time was spent from morning till night copying out scrolls of Scripture to the highest degree of accuracy. They had indeed “read” the Scriptures, but they neither upheld them nor implemented them in their lives as their only rule for faith and practice, according to the commandment of God (Deut.4:2; Prov.30:5-6).
From that time onwards — but especially after such complete destruction of the Temple in AD.70 — unbelieving Judaism has continued to centre its teaching primarily on man-made written Talmudic teachings. In fact, even when the claim is made by Jews that the Old Testament is their highest authority, one generally finds the most cavalier allegorisation of the text, very much akin to that of the liberal Christian scholars who indulge in biblical criticism in university theological departments. Regardless of any Jewish claims to uphold the Old Testament as the highest example of authoritative writings, the truth is that the man-made Talmud takes precedence over the inspired Word of God for the vast majority of the Jews.
The third way that modern Judaism does not uphold the authority of Scripture is seen in the fact that
3. IT CHAMPIONS THE KABBALAH AS WHOLESOME SPIRITUAL PRACTICE – A great many Jewish people today uphold the Kabbalah as being a valid spiritual pathway. The Kabbalah is a ‘theosophical system’ which ‘has strong connections with gnosticism and also with magical practices’. It is also described as ‘the ancient esoteric Jewish mystical tradition of philosophy containing strong elements of pantheism and is akin to Neo-Platonism’. In section one above we have already noted that the Jewish sect of the Essenes ‘became the forerunners of the Gnostics and of the Jewish Kabbalists’. So the Kabbalah is a Jewish form of Gnosticism. As the Jewish Encyclopedia boasts: “Gnosticism was Jewish in character long before it became Christian”. By the time of the first century, Judaism had degenerated into occultism through the Essene cults in Israel, which had borrowed from Persian Zoroastrianism and other oriental mixtures. During the early Church period, this Jewish mysticism developed into the teachings of the Kabbalah — a complex esoteric-magical system which applies occult symbolism to the Old Testament, in much the same way as do the Freemasons. The Kabbalah subsequently became the foundation stone of such occult organisations as the Rosicrucians. The Kabbalah is now extremely popular among many Jewish groups, with radio stations devoted to its propaganda in Israel. As long ago as 1990, this writer recalls seeing a mainstream book on the Kabbalah prominently displayed in the book department of W.H. Smith in Temple Fortune near Golders Green (in London), the commendatory preface of which was written by none other than the then Prime Minister of Israel! That is an indication of how far the Kabbalah has become another arm of Jewish-Israeli nationalism.
THE HALLMARKS OF JUDAISM IN THE BIBLE
If Biblical Judaism is to be understood at all, it must be understood spiritually; and to be understood spiritu- ally, it must be understood from the information provided not only in the Old Testament but also in the New. We have already quoted Augustine of Hippo in saying: “In the Old Testament the New is latent; in the New Testament the Old is patent”. While the Old Testament Scriptures can make a person “wise for salvation” (2 Tim.3:15), they are incomplete without the vital additional divine revelation afforded in the New Testament. And in the New Testament we find that the Jewish converts to Christ, such as Saul of Tarsus (who later became Paul the Apostle) and Simon Peter, are especially eager to explain the identity of a true Jew. We have isolated four ways that a true Jew can be identified from the pages of the Bible:
1. A TRUE JEW IS A PERSON OF ANY NATION, TRIBE OR LANGUAGE WHO HAS FAITH IN CHRIST – The covenant promises made to Abraham pointed forward to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the one true Seed of Abraham in whom redemption under that covenant would find its consummation. When the Apostle states:
“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made” (Gal.3:16),
he goes to the very heart of the Abrahamic Covenant. Abraham is shown in Scripture as believing the promise of God that he would have numerous descendants. But wrapped up in that promise was the mighty fact that the blessing to all mankind would come through a special One of Abraham’s descendants. Therefore unless the covenant community of Israelites receives the Messiah, who was the highest expression of the Seed of Abraham, it will not experience the bringing to fruition of the promises made to the fathers in that covenant. The Jews had centuries of preparation for their Messiah, and the knowledge that He would be not only their Messiah but also “a light to the Gentiles” (Isa.49:6). This was what lay behind Peter’s preaching to the Jews, when he said:
“All the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”. (Acts 3:24-26)
The preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles and their entry into the kingdom was not a “Plan B” enacted as an afterthought by the Lord when the Jews did not receive Him (as is actually believed by many today). Neither is the current preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles some parenthetical sideline before the Lord once more begins again to deal with the earthly nation Israel. The ingathering of converted Gentiles, along with that of converted Jews, is the main business of the Gospel until the Second Advent of Christ to effect the Final Judgement. So we discover that the promise to Abraham finds its ultimate expression not in Jews according to the flesh but in all those who have faith in Christ. Therefore we find Abraham described as “the father of all those who believe” (Rom.4:11), plainly of both Jews and Gentiles.
“There is one God who will justify the circumcised [Jews] by faith and the uncircumcised [Gentiles] through faith” (Rom.3:30).
So then, neither circumcision [being Jewish] nor uncircumcision [being a Gentile] makes any difference to potential for salvation in this Gospel Age (Gal.5:6; 6:15). What counts instead is “faith working through love” (Gal.5:6) and being “a new creation” (Gal.6:15), which are the fruits of spiritual regeneration and not physical ancestry. As the apostle John puts it:
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, even to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood [i.e. earthly ancestry], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man [i.e. human decision], but of God” (Jn.1:11-13).
Even Abraham was an uncircumcised Gentile when he first believed, about which Paul makes a great deal of in Romans chapter 4. In fact, Abraham can more properly be called a Christian rather than a Jew (see John 8:56), as salvation in all ages has only ever been through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor.10:1-4; Rom.4:16), prospectively in the Old Testament, retrospectively in the New Testament.
Therefore we can say without reservation that a true Jew today is not a person of a particular line of descent who says “next year in Jerusalem” every Passover. A true Jew has always been a person from any nation, tribe or language who has faith in Christ, whether of Jewish or Gentile origin. So far as his Jewish credentials are concerned — being “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews”, etc. — Paul said that he counted them all as “dung” (A.V.), “rubbish” (NKJV), which are translations of the Greek word skubalon; skubalon, which literally means the dregs that you throw out to the dogs (Phil.3:4-9). A Jew after the flesh who comes to Christ has no further use for, or real interest in, these things because they have found their fulfilment in the Messiah. This is why we say that a true Jew is a person of any nation, tribe or language who has faith in Christ. For this reason, Paul said:
“So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (Gal.3:9). In other words, “If you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal.3:29). Abraham’s “seed” (descendants) today are those who have faith in Christ.
How desperately we need spiritual eyesight to understand these things!
To be continued…