Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Alan Dershowitz Throws Stones at Jews for Jesus. Does He Live in a Glass House?

Alan Dershowitz wrote:
By this time, everyone knows that Jews for Jesus are not really Jews. They are Christians using the cover of their Jewish origin to fool people into coming to their proselytizing services.

Actually Alan, they use the Tanakh. It's not "Believe in Jesus. I'm Jewish." It's "Believe in Jesus. It's true. And it's a perfectly Jewish thing to do."

Now, as far as I can recall, Alan Dershowitz does not believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He does not believe in the inspiration of the prophets. Jewish believers in Jesus do.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Geoffrey it is as simple as Alan Dershowitz says. Jews for Jesus don't follow Judaism of any sort. They use Jewish symbols, from simple Magen David's to sacred Torah scrolls to dupe people into believing it is perfectly natural to "be" Jewish and believe the orthodox Christian beliefs that Jesus is God incarnate.
Not that there is anything wrong with believing that Jesus is God incarnate, but theologically, historically, and Scripturally (Tanakh, Mishnah, Talmud, or whatever Jewish recognized by the historic Jewish community as theirs) to Jews throughout history these beliefs define one as being Christian. Attaching Jewish as an ethnic designation then using that ethnic designation to peddle an untruth about what is right and natural for a Jew to do and believe is deception.

12/27/2006 12:05:00 AM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

"Jews for Jesus [doesn't] follow Judaism of any sort."

They worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and follow His promised Messiah.

Orthodox Christian beliefs are Jewish because they are based on the Jewish scriptures and the revelation of God, who set apart the Jewish people. "Christ" is from the Greek for "Messiah."

You are assuming a dichotomy between Christian and Jewish. I and Jews who believe in Jesus don't accept that. And then you use words like "dupe" because we don't share your foundational assumption.

So it is much, much more than just Jews who believe in Jesus are still ethnically Jewish. They are following the Jewish Messiah.

12/30/2006 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoffrey, thank you for posting my comment. Now to interact with your response.


"They worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and follow His promised Messiah."

Geoffrey, if it were as simple as this, the argument could be focused on whether not Jesus met the requirements for being the "promised Messiah." From a Jewish standpoint, Jesus did not fulfill the requirments of bringing peace on Earth (lamb lying with lion, etc.) or establishing Jewish autonomy over subjugators. In fact, Jesus has (wrongly) been used to keep Jewish people in subjection for millenia.

We would probably both agree that Jesus did not fulfill the peace-bringing work that Messiah is expected to bring. Jews therefore reject Jesus, or at best consider him one of many failed messiahs. Christians, on the other hand, compartmentalize these requirements and say they will be fulfilled when Jesus returns.

Other Christians use a simple equation to say Jesus did bring peace. One noted preacher explained it as, "In order to have peace in the world, we need peace in our cities. In order to have peace in our cities, we need peace in our families. In order to have peace in our families, we need peace in our hearts, and that is the peace Jesus offers." Even if we were to accept this equation as true, what kind of peace is evident in the majority of those who say they follow Jesus?

But this is all about Jesus as Messiah. The fact is that Jews for Jesus and other Christians do not "just" follow "Jesus as His promised Messiah." Are you willing to deny the divinity of Jesus? Are you willing to provide evidence that Jews for Jesus and other Christians do not worship Jesus as God incarnate, which is much, much more than Messiah?

What is the problem in simply ackowledging that Jews for Jesus are Christians with ethnic backgrounds who have aligned themselves with Orthodox Christian beliefs? What is so embarrassing about calling oneself a Christian of Jewish ethnicity? It is not a "perfectly Jewish thing to do" to believe in Jesus with all the attendant doctrines of exactly who Jesus is and what he was supposed to have done. In fact, to try to sell Jewish people on the concept that they can accept these basic Christian tenents and remain comfortably Jewish is to fool people. Why not say, "Here is what we believe to be true...If you believe this you will be rejected by the Jewish community. But you will have a new community full of loving, caring Christians to help you find spiritual solace." I think this would be healthy competition for the hearts and minds of potential converts, but to blur distinctions as a tactic is as unfair as selling a Louis Vuitton knock off purse at Orchard Street and telling the person it is authentic and a perfectly good American thing to do.

1/09/2007 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

The Tanakh assigns more roles to the Messiah than just bringing peace to the world. If he didn't come first to satisfy the demands of God's justice through his death and resurrection, then what would the Messiah bringing peace mean? The Messiah would have to wipe out sin and sinners. Since we are all sinners, that's not a good thing.

I highly recommend the following article which goes over the different roles of the Messiah and goes into rabbinic sources: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/falsechrist.html

I have no problem with recognizing that Jews for Jesus have orthodox (small 'o') Christian beliefs. Nor do I have problem affirming the divinity of Jesus the Messiah (since that is in the Tanakh as well). What I have a problem with is assuming that orthodox Christian beliefs aren't Jewish. And I guess it depends what you mean. Do they agree with most rabbis? No.

But Jews for Jesus and others would define authentic Jewish beliefs as following the revelation of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Just because they do not accept the dichotomy that Christian on one side and Jewish on another and never the twain shall meet does not mean they are deceptive or unfair. It just means that there is something there is something definitional you assumed to be true for a very long time and it is being challenged.

Counting Jewish noses doesn't solve the problem either. Otherwise dancing around a golden calf or worshiping Ba'al would have to be considered the authentic Jewish thing to do at certain points in Jewish history. Or, today, it would be to be secular.

So the question is whether Jesus is who he said he was and whether he is risen from the dead.

I would also challenge you to pick up and read the New Testament. Pay attention to the Acts of the Apostles, a book in the New Testament. The main question in that book is whether Gentiles need to become Jews in order to follow the Messiah.

1/09/2007 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger Cwhig said...

I thought there was some discussion about this, quite a while ago, between Peter and Paul, and that Paul won. The rabbinic laws were superseded, for Christians, by the atonement. Did I miss something?

1/10/2007 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

Peter, while in Antioch, was acting contrary to the truth he already knew. Paul called him on it. The situation is described in Paul's epistle to the Galatians.

Non-Christian sources have tried to describe this as a battle between Peter and Paul, but that's not how Scripture describes the event.

1/10/2007 10:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoffrey,

I am not sure it will be possible to have a meaningful conversation in which we can have a meeting of the minds. I base this on two observations: 1) your assumptions about me that I have not read the book of Acts, etc. and that in your direction to do such reading that somehow I will come to "the truth." 2) You have determined that the Christian scriptures ("New Testament") is inerrant and authoritative (forgive me if I'm wrong and you don't accept those doctrines).

Bart Ehrman and David Klinghoffer have addressed issues regarding topics that are being touched on in these posts. Ehrman helps one understand the history and development of the Christian canon. Klinghoffer delves into reasons why Jews rejected Jesus. I will grant that some Jews have accepted Jesus down through the ages, but that the religion known as Christianity was developed over the years and is a separate and distinct religion, community, etc.

Everyone is free to believe what they want. This is one of the great foundations of the USA. Wouldn't it be helpful if we all at a minimum were open about our respective starting points and engaged in civil discussion? Maybe that is at the heart of Dershowitz's complaint. Many, if not most, Jews see "Jews for Jesus" as deceitful, aggressive, and perhaps even uncivil. Appropriating Jewish culture to promote Christianity, and not being honest about this, even to the point of arguing an inherent right to these symbols, is regarded as disrespectful. How would Christians like it if Buddhist restaurant owners established shrines with pictures of Jesus, crosses, and crucifixes by the plate with the offerings?

You remarked that "we don't share your foundational assumption." Maybe we could talk about our respective foundational assumptions and both be careful in our use of language. But I expect that it will all boil down to a matter of personal choice of where we place our faith or to whom we yield our autonomy.

1/11/2007 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

I suggested reading the book of Acts because it puts Christianity squarely in a Jewish context, because it deals with Jews figuring what it means for the message of Messiah to go out to the Gentiles.

I'm familiar with Bart Ehrman and his work. I also heard an interview with him on the Issues, Etc. radio program. The host, a Lutheran, knew something about Ehrman's subject matter and got Ehrman to admit that we know the contents of the New Testament, which is pretty much the opposite of what he tries to say on NPR. I could go on critiquing Ehrman, but that's not the main point here.

I haven't read the Klinghoffer book although I have read reviews. Why certain people rejecting something is less interesting than the following question: has Jesus risen from the dead? (I believe the answer is yes- http://www.geoffrobinson.net/resurrection2.html)

Most Jews see Jews for Jesus as deceitful because they are confusing disagreement with dishonesty. You, and others, view Jewish and Christianity as oil and vinegar and take that assumption for granted. When someone comes around and challenges it, you assume they are being deceitful.

In fact, Hindus, Islam and others appropriate Jesus. Some Hindus make him a god among all their polytheistic gods. Many make him merely a nice teacher. Islam makes him a prophet. I don't think any of these folks are deceitful, even if their views of Jesus are either wrong or deficient.

And that brings me to another reason why I mentioned that you should read the book of Acts. It puts the Jesus movement squarely in a Jewish context.

1/11/2007 11:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoffrey, responding to a few of your points...

"I suggested reading the book of Acts because it puts Christianity squarely in a Jewish context"

This assumes inerrancy, etc. If one assumes early Christianity was hungry for authenticity, it needed to find a way to place itself within Jewish continuity. Rather than being a work of history in the modern sense, it is a work that can serve a purpose such as Joseph Smith's works serve for Mormons. So does Acts place early Christianity in a Jewish context? Yes. Does it prove early Christianity was an accepted Jewish movement? No. Does it have any relevance for later Christianity belonging in the stream of Judaism? I would argue, not at all.

"Most Jews see Jews for Jesus as deceitful because they are confusing disagreement with dishonesty."

On what basis can you claim to know what "most" Jews see Jews for Jesus as being? Have or others polled the Jewish population and tallied the responses? Why does Jewish missionary literature say to use "tree" instead of "cross", "Messiah" instead of "Christ", and downplay the incarnation? Why do missionary groups use Magen Davids instead of Crosses, Menorah's instead of Crosses, Scrolls instead of Crucifixes? Symbols convey meaning, and to appropriate Jewish symbols is not engaging in disagreement, it is a sleight of hand and deceitful.

"You, and others, view Jewish and Christianity as oil and vinegar and take that assumption for granted. When someone comes around and challenges it, you assume they are being deceitful."

Who views "Jewish" and "Christianity" as being in the same category? This deceitfulness is not in how one wants to flavor their Christianity. Let's take it out of a Jewish context for a moment...let's say there are missionaries to Buddhists. Would the Christian houses of worship be set up with a Buddha at the front? Would there be a movement called "Buddhists for Christ"? What would the response be amongst evangelical Christians to such efforts? Maybe if there were such efforts we could talk about the rightness of such an approach overall. Going back to efforts to convert Jews. Judaism and Christianity developed historically in contradistinction to each other. Much of the anti-Jewish polemic in the Christian scriptures can be explained as an effort for Christianity to identify itself as being different. Other early Christian literature, such as the Didache, points this out explicity. Judaism undertook its own efforts to identify separate from Christianity. Ignoring the historical developments of the two religions and blurring the distinctions, flies in the face of how both faith communities have historically seen themselves and have sought to define themselves. To go so far as to then say "the most Jewish thing a person can do is accept Jesus" is at best historically and traditionally wrong, and at worst is arrogant and deceitful. This is a matter of integrity and whether one is going to rewrite history in pursuit of the goal of conversion. This reminds me of an old cigarette commercial, "nine out of ten doctors prefer Kent" (an old brand of cigarette). This was based on Kent representatives handing out packets of free cigarettes at medical conventions. The tobacco companies used whatever tactic needed to get people to buy their product. The same is being used in efforts to sell Christianity as somehow being authentically Jewish. If someone wants to smoke, that is their business. If someone wants to incorporate Jewish symbols to enhance their worship, that is their business. But to imply that Christianity is authentically Jewish is akin to saying smoking is healthful. Jesus is supposed to have claimed to be the truth, why not be truthful in what these missionizing groups are attempting to do? Getting Jews to join the Church.

1/12/2007 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

You:
"I suggested reading the book of Acts because it puts Christianity squarely in a Jewish context"

This assumes inerrancy, etc. If one assumes early Christianity was hungry for authenticity, it needed to find a way to place itself within Jewish continuity.

Me: I don't need to assume inerrancy here. I just have to assume that Luke was a good historian, which he was. Needed to find a way to place itself within the Jewish continuity? The early Christians didn't try to place themselves within the Jewish community. They were already there.

You: Rather than being a work of history in the modern sense, it is a work that can serve a purpose such as Joseph Smith's works serve for Mormons.

Me: All historical works serve some purpose. That doesn't make Luke's reporting false. And a slight difference between Luke and Joseph Smith. Luke was with the apostles, so he could get his information from them. Also, one would notice in Acts that Luke uses "we" sometimes and not others.

You: So does Acts place early Christianity in a Jewish context? Yes. Does it prove early Christianity was an accepted Jewish movement? No.

Me: An accepted Jewish movement? What does this mean? Should I ask my Lubavitcher friend if Reconstructionist or Reformed Judaism is an accepted movements? Is there a Kosher Parve symbol I should be looking for? :)

You: Does it have any relevance for later Christianity belonging in the stream of Judaism? I would argue, not at all.

Me: It was a Jewish movement about the Jewish Messiah. That's just a fact of history. If you define Judaism as "not Christianity", you are correct, but your point wouldn't have much explanatory value to it.

You: "Most Jews see Jews for Jesus as deceitful because they are confusing disagreement with dishonesty."

On what basis can you claim to know what "most" Jews see Jews for Jesus as being? Have or others polled the Jewish population and tallied the responses?

Me: I base this (granted, not with a survey) on interacting with several Jewish people who claim they are deceitful (which you do btw) while, at the same time, knowing Messianic Jewish people. (Yes, they secretly know they aren't Jewish. They are doing it for some nefarious conspiracy involving Baptists. I have yet to figure out the details of this conspiracy. But it definitely involves Baptists and money. :) )

You: Why does Jewish missionary literature say to use "tree" instead of "cross", "Messiah" instead of "Christ", and downplay the incarnation?

Me: They want to get the message across with the meanings those words mean but without the sociological and historical and emotional baggage. Take, for example, using "Messiah" instead of "Christ". While "Christ" is derived from the Greek word for Messiah, most people hear it as Jesus's last name. Not a title and the promised one God prophesied about since Genesis 3. Tragically, Jews throughout the years were called "Christ-killers", which causes an understandable visceral reaction. If you have two words and one of the two conveys the meaning to the listener better, use the one which gets the message across.

I'm not aware of Jewish believers downplaying the incarnation or the doctrine of the Trinity.

You: Why do missionary groups use Magen Davids instead of Crosses, Menorah's instead of Crosses, Scrolls instead of Crucifixes? Symbols convey meaning, and to appropriate Jewish symbols is not engaging in disagreement, it is a sleight of hand and deceitful.

Me: How is this deceitful? You also say symbols convey meaning. If a cross is interpreted as "this place is not Jewish and this symbol was used by people to persecute Jewish people", why use it? Why cause offense? There are plenty of Jewish believers in a Messianic congregation who would be made uncomfortable by that as well. There is no command in the New Testament saying we have to put up crosses. After the Reformation, many churches were downright Spartan as a reaction to Roman Catholic iconography.

I was visiting a Gentile-dominated church last Sunday. Guess what? They had a Mogen David in a stained-glass window representing Jesus being born a Jew. (At least that's what I think it meant.)

You: "You, and others, view Jewish and Christianity as oil and vinegar and take that assumption for granted. When someone comes around and challenges it, you assume they are being deceitful."

Who views "Jewish" and "Christianity" as being in the same category?

Me: Notice I didn't say "same category". But I did mean that they weren't opposites. Christianity is a religion about the Jewish Messiah, or at the very least it is about beliefs centering around Jesus who his followers believed was the Jewish Messiah. Hence, "Christianity." Or "Someone who follows Messiah-ity" which would be a translation of the term.

I'm not going to say they aren't synonymous since I don't believe one has to follow the Messiah to be Jewish.

You: This deceitfulness is not in how one wants to flavor their Christianity. Let's take it out of a Jewish context for a moment...let's say there are missionaries to Buddhists. Would the Christian houses of worship be set up with a Buddha at the front?
Would there be a movement called "Buddhists for Christ"? What would the response be amongst evangelical Christians to such efforts? Maybe if there were such efforts we could talk about the rightness of such an approach overall.

Me: No, we would not set up a Buddha or whatever. Because Christians do not believe in Buddha or the core distinctives of his teachings. We do believe Jesus is the Messiah. Do you see how that makes a difference vis a vis Jewishness? If we believed Jesus was the Buddha or a Buddha, maybe there would be a parallel. But we don't so there isn't.

You: Going back to efforts to convert Jews. Judaism and Christianity developed historically in contradistinction to each other.

Me: That may be so, but that doesn't negate the fact that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Scriptures. Christianity has defined itself as "Jesus is the Messiah" and Judaism has defined itself as "Jesus isn't the Messiah". But Judaism, as we just defined, is different from Jewish. And I would argue that, esp. in this one crucial respect, deviates from the Tanakh.

You: Much of the anti-Jewish polemic in the Christian scriptures can be explained as an effort for Christianity to identify itself as being different.

Me: Anti-Jewish? Is calling Israel a prostitute anti-Jewish? How about a stiff-necked and obstinate people? Or giving a command for tzitzit in order to prevent idolatry because their hearts were prone to idoloatry? How about a story making Jacob a deceiver?

Has the New Testament been used for anti-Jewish ends? Unfortunately, yes. But an anti-Semite could just as easily used the Torah and the Prophets. That doesn't make the Torah or the Prophets anti-Jewish.

You: Other early Christian literature, such as the Didache, points this out explicity. Judaism undertook its own efforts to identify separate from Christianity. Ignoring the historical developments of the two religions and blurring the distinctions, flies in the face of how both faith communities have historically seen themselves and have sought to define themselves.

Me: I get your point. But I think there is a big difference between Judaism and Jewishness and Judaism and what was revealed through the Tanakh by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

You: To go so far as to then say "the most Jewish thing a person can do is accept Jesus" is at best historically and traditionally wrong, and at worst is arrogant and deceitful. This is a matter of integrity and whether one is going to rewrite history in pursuit of the goal of conversion.

Me: If following the Jewish Messiah isn't the most Jewish thing a Jew could do, I would like to know what would trump that. But I need to make the following clear to you:

I'm trying to be GOD-CENTRIC. And since God set apart and created the Jewish people, he gets the final say about what is and is not Jewish. I know and am aware of historical developments. And if you create your own covenant people (or to make it easier for you-social club) you can establish your own rules.

So here is my assumption: if our message is true, it is a Jewish message and it is a perfectly Jewish thing to follow.

You: This reminds me of an old cigarette commercial, "nine out of ten doctors prefer Kent" (an old brand of cigarette). This was based on Kent representatives handing out packets of free cigarettes at medical conventions. The tobacco companies used whatever tactic needed to get people to buy their product. The same is being used in efforts to sell Christianity as somehow being authentically Jewish. If someone wants to smoke, that is their business. If someone wants to incorporate Jewish symbols to enhance their worship, that is their business. But to imply that Christianity is authentically Jewish is akin to saying smoking is healthful. Jesus is supposed to have claimed to be the truth, why not be truthful in what these missionizing groups are attempting to do? Getting Jews to join the Church.

Me: By this point, I hope my above comments show how this is not what is going on. And this why I said disagreement is being confused with deception. Jews who believe in Jesus believe they are Jewish and that believing in Jesus is a perfectly Jewish thing to do. Misguided or wrong? I could understand that description and appellation. I would debate it, but it would make more sense. But not accepting your conception of things or your definitions doesn't equal deception.

As for joining the church, which is the body of believers both Jew and Gentile. Yes, they join the church. But Isaiah predicts Gentiles coming to faith. In Isaiah 11 you lamb and lion lying down together. I read this as a prophecy of Jew (lamb) and Gentile (lion) being knit together into one body. The Messiah's bride.

1/13/2007 03:41:00 AM  
Blogger Chad said...

Many, if not most, Jews see "Jews for Jesus" as deceitful, aggressive, and perhaps even uncivil.

This is an interesting set of adjectives. In my observation, when the charge of deceit is leveled, there is rarely an explanation of how deceit is involved. When we Jews for Jesus staff distribute literature, for example, we wear bright t-shirts that have "JEWS FOR JESUS" written on them in large letters. It's difficult to imagine that a person receiving literature from someone in a shirt like this could NOT know that it's likely to be about Jesus. Some Jewish critics insist that it's deceitful to for us believe that Jews can believe in Jesus and stay Jewish. There's no deceit there -- we believe it!

As far as "aggressive" goes ... if this is such a problem, why is it that such charges are not leveled against Chabad and the Lubavitchers, who are equally aggressive in trying to get Jews to lay tefillin, light candles on Shabbat, etc. There's a bit of a double standard there.

Finally, there is the use of the term "uncivil." Honest examination of what's actually being said out there may show a different story.I would challenge anyone who thinks that Jews for Jesus is uncivil to do a Google blog search on the term "Jews for Jesus." Visit 100 blogs that appear on the results of this search, and read the comments. See which comments are more "uncivil" -- those posted by Jewish believers in Jesus, or those posted by "traditional" Jews. Pay close attention to the use of such words as "scum" and "evil" and pay even closer attention to what the people who are using such words suggest should be done to those that these words are being applied to. Once again, pay close attention to who is saying such things -- Jewish believers in Jesus, or "traditional" Jews?

1/25/2007 08:58:00 AM  

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