Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Jews for Jesus Hits the New York Times

The New York City Behold Your God campaign has taken the notice of the New York Times, which did a very good and fair job of presenting Jews for Jesus' views and those of their opponents.

There was actually a lot to chew on in a relatively short article.

First, the New York Times confirms that the Messiah is not just for Jews, but he is also for Gentiles:
Most of the people who pray with Jews for Jesus missionaries to accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior are, in fact, non-Jews, according to the organization's statistics. But the group, which sends its monthly newsletter to 100,000 households, is most interested in engaging Jews with the Gospel.

As Isaiah wrote about the Messiah, Israel, and Goyim (that's Hebrew for "Gentiles"):
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations (goyim), that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Craig Miller, of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, says Jews for Jesus is deceptive, which is a frequent charge, so it deserves a quick rebuttal here. "It's about deception pure and simple. The groups that are coming are bringing a deceptive message that one can be both Christian and part of the Jewish community."

Mr. Miller, it is only deceptive if my friends at Jews for Jesus don't believe what they are saying. And I can assure you that isn't the case unless you have access to information I don't. Deceptive would be "Jews for Somebody Who Isn't Jesus But Secretly We're For Jesus".

The article continues:
At the heart of the debate between Jewish leaders and members of Jews for Jesus is what it means to be Jewish, which involves not only faith but also ethnicity and culture.

Many Jewish leaders argue that because members of Jews for Jesus have adopted the central tenet of another faith, they have become apostates and are no longer members of the community. "We don't believe you can be a carnivorous vegetarian," said Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis.

But Mr. Brickner of Jews for Jesus said a Jew is defined in the Bible and in society by being born of Jewish parents. Jews today have a variety of views toward religion, including not believing in God, he said, yet are considered Jewish. "You may become a bad Jew, but you can't become a non-Jew," he said.

Now, the first part is almost right. Whether you can be Jewish and believe in Y'shua is an important question to ask. But the real debate is over whether Y'shua is the Messiah and whether the Tanakh supports his claims. And was he really resurrected from the dead?

If that's the case, the answer to the question is a slam dunk.

Now, notice Mr. Brickner's rebuttal. Assume for the sake of argument that Jesus isn't the Messiah. You can't become a non-Jew.

Who does the Talmud back? David Brickner or Rabbi Potasnik? David Brickner. Read from Sanhedrin 44a:
Israel hath sinned. R. Abba b. Zabda said: Even though [the people] have sinned, they are still [called] 'Israel'. R. Abba said: Thus people say, A myrtle, though it stands among reeds, is still a myrtle, and it is so called.

An unnamed Jewish person asks a good question:
"I don't understand how you become a Jew for Jesus," said a Jewish man in a skullcap in Herald Square on Thursday afternoon, furrowing his brow in disdain at Jeffrey B. Cohen, 47, a vice president of marketing at a major pharmaceutical company in Atlanta, who was distributing literature for the group. "How does that happen?"

That's a question that has an unique answer for each person, but still a good question. Soon, I will publish one such answer.


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