Jews, Gentiles and the Gospel

Questions and objections about Jesus the Messiah:

For 2000 years now, both Jews and gentiles and been confronted with the truth claims of Jesus Christ. Some of course have received it and some have rejected it. All Christians at all times are called to help fulfill the Great Commission by telling one and all the good news about what Jesus did so that we might be made right with God.

As a long-standing Christian, I have of course shared the gospel message with many, as well as engaged in the work of Christian apologetics (answering questions about the faith and dispelling misunderstandings about it). While sometimes that has involved dealing with Jewish folks, I am no expert in that field.

I am not a Messianic Jew for example (someone from a Jewish background who has converted to Christianity). Jewish people who have honest questions about Jesus and Christianity are best placed to engage with those sorts of believers, but I try my best when called upon to do so.

There are many of these Jewish converts to Christianity. I know a number of them personally. One is Michael Brown from America. He has written a number of important volumes on this, including the five-volume set, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus (Baker, 2000, 2000, 2003, 2007, and Purple Pomegranate Productions, 2010).

That set (amounting to almost 1600 pages) is among the most detailed and most helpful works on dealing with almost all the major objections and questions Jews can have about Jesus and Christianity. Two further very helpful volumes are: 60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices (Chosen Books, 2007, 2011), and The Real Kosher Jesus (Front Line, 2012).

It is people like Brown and others, and organisations like Jews for Jesus, that the serious Jewish inquirer is urged to follow up on. I make no claim to the sort of expertise that these individuals and groups have. But I try to study and read as much as I can about some of these matters.

Image of Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections, Vol. 1
Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections, Vol. 1 by Michael L. Brown (Author) Amazon logo

With all that in mind, the other day I penned a piece on why Jewish evangelism is important and biblical. That led to a number of comments coming in from various folks. It was not always clear if they were Jews or not, but I tried my best to respond to them.

Here I offer those discussions. I assume if someone is happy to go public with their comments on my site, they will not mind if they are shared a bit more widely. Because comments may not get as wide a reading as proper articles, it sometimes pays to present them in this way so more folks might benefit from both the comments and my replies.

Here then are four such exchanges that might be of some help to my readers:

Comment 1

There’s a fundamental problem here. Practicing Jews will tell you that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because he was not of the Davidic royal male line. There are very different geneologies between Matthew and Luke, and even different identities for Joseph’s father. Various Christian apologists have attempted to explain these anomalies but the arguments aren’t too convincing.

I’m a Christian because of my upbringing, although I have studied some theology. But if I was a serious student of Scripture I might have some questions about whether I’m on the right track. Jews take Scripture much more seriously than most Christians, even evangelicals.

In summary, I don’t think Jews are convertable.

My reply

Thanks ****. But the actual fundamental problem is whether we agree with God and go along with the record of history. Um, Saul/Paul was certainly convertible. Peter was convertible. The 12 were convertible. Most of the early Christians were of course converted Jews! There were thousands upon thousands of converted Jews in the early church. And I mentioned contemporary Jews like Michael Brown who were also fully convertible, by God’s grace.

As to the objection about genealogies, that is easily enough answered, and it has been answered quite often, along with hundreds of other objections. As I say, those wanting detailed discussions of these things can start with the 5 volumes by Brown.

And it is exactly because most Jews have NOT really taken their own scriptures seriously enough that they missed their promised Messiah. As Jesus told the Jews of his day in John 5:39-40, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

Comment 2

Mention “virgin birth” to a Jew and they’ll laugh at you.

My reply

Thanks ****. Sure, and they will laugh at you if you say Jesus is the Messiah, and so on. In the same way, Joe Pagan will laugh at you if you say he is a sinner who needs to repent, or that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, and so on. But so what? Christians already know that all sinners trapped in their unbelief and selfishness will find the entire gospel message to be foolish and off-putting. The Apostle Paul even told us that 2000 years ago, as in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”

So there is nothing new here – it’s been happening for 2000 years now! But caring Christians will keep prayerfully proclaiming the good news about Jesus to a needy world, whether folks like it or not, or think it to be laughable. If a neighbour has his house on fire, but he does not know it or cannot see it, he will laugh at those who seek to warn him about it. The most loving thing to do is keep sounding the alarm until he finally becomes aware of his precarious situation.

[This reminds me of being in LA some years ago with the family to see Disneyland and other sites. One evening we went out to the hotel pool. My wife took the boys back in, and then a few nearly-middle aged blondes in bikinis came to the pool. I thought, ‘Well, this IS California.’ We chatted for a bit and then one of them said, “Have you been to the Holocaust Museum yet?” She was quite keen on it. I said I had not. Shows that folks may not always be what they might seem. And as this video shows, there are some who care about Israel, even in deepest darkest LA: ]

Comment 3

The disciples were mostly simple fishermen who couldn’t read. The modern educated Jew is well read in the Scriptures. Much more difficult to convert, and the arguments they make against Jesus being the Messiah are confoundingly difficult to counter with logic. In practice, it is not as simple as claiming the Scriptural problems are easily dismissed.

My reply

Thanks ****. But your namesake the Apostle Paul was one of the smartest and most highly educated Jews around, and most of the others had sufficient learning and reading skills. They quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures all the time. And many ‘modern educated Jews are NOT so well read in the Scriptures,’ often being secular and unfamiliar with their own Bible. I have talked to some of them myself, having to inform them of what their Scriptures in fact say. This is basically true of most Westerners who know little of the New Testament Scriptures as well.

But your main error here is twofold: you have left God out of the picture altogether, and you suppose that Christianity is just another philosophy or ideology that can simply be argued for. You seem to think that if we have enough logic and great debating skills, we might win some of them over. While the Christian faith certainly is logical and rational, it is much more than just that. It is the power of God unto salvation. Consider just three passages from the Apostle Paul on these very issues:

Romans 1:1 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 – And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Philippians 1:3-11 – For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

And that is what makes it all the more remarkable. These men (uneducated slobs as you seem to think) could turn the world upside down, and leave a lasting legacy for 2000 years now. Not bad for a bunch of “fishermen.” So the biblical Christian seeks to reach ALL people with the help of good apologetics and so on, but primarily with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is God who ultimately saves people, not us and our lofty arguments or great learning.

Comment 4

Bill, the genealogy issue might be “easily answered” by Christian apologists for a Christian audience, but Jews treat Scripture very differently. This is a huge issue for them and indeed might be described as the fundamental reason why Judaism still exists. For Jews, Jesus Christ cannot possibly be the promised Messiah, because he didn’t meet the criteria in Scripture. This objection cannot simply be dismissed in a cavalier fashion.

My reply

Thanks ****. But it is not as if only Jewish folks have questions, objections, and problems with the Christian faith. EVERYONE does. Non-Jews ask just as many hard questions, raise just as many objections, and make just as many claims about Christianity being irrational, contradictory, full of mistakes and errors, and just plain unbelievable as Jews do.

And of course Christian apologists do NOT write just to a Christian audience. They write to one and all. While some Jews might think the world is divided up between Jews and non-Jews (gentiles, or Christians), and Muslims might think the world is divided up between Muslims and non-Muslims (Christians and Jews), the reality is this: the world is really divided up between true Christians and all the rest. All people are sinners in need of salvation, be they Jews, Muslims or secular Westerners. So the real Christian is one who has said no to sin and self and said yes to Christ as the one who can make us right with God – not just someone who happens to have been born in the West who is not a Jew or a Muslim.

But the Christian contends that whoever we are speaking to and sharing the gospel with, the real problem is NOT really intellectual. It is not as if there is no evidence. It is not as if the Christian faith is illogical or lacking in intellectual substance and coherence. The real problem is moral. Both Testaments make this quite clear. People do not want to come to God because they prefer their sinful and selfish lifestyles, and they do not want to bow down to a god other than themselves. Those who are really seeking God and truth will find ample answers – and intellectually satisfying answers. Those who just want to keep living as they are will be convinced by nothing – not even if Jesus died and rose from the dead.

As to Messiah, there are some main views or criteria in the Hebrew Scriptures of what he would be like: a conquering king who would kick Roman butt (and that of other gentile rulers), and a suffering servant. Most Jews latched on to the first while ignoring the second. That became a stumbling block for them. ‘God hanging on a tree? – No way!’ And the dozens of Hebrew scriptures perfectly fulfilled in the life and work of Jesus is part of how we see his Messianic credentials being established.

But as I keep saying, there are many great resources out there for people who wish to explore this much further – if they are not just asking rhetorical questions, but are seriously seeking. But thanks for your thoughts.

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One Reply to “Jews, Gentiles and the Gospel”

  1. At the moment, the number of Jewish believers in Israel is very low at 20 – 30,000 (less than many megachurches). But as there were only 1,000 believers in the late 80’s, and almost none when Jerusalem was liberated in 1967, that’s exponential growth!

    But Paul says there will come a time when “all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:25-27). And the New Covenant itself, which God made “with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah”, includes the promise that “they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Heb 8:8,11).

    Zechariah 12 hints how this will happen in the future. There will be a conflict that’s much more serious than today’s one with Gaza:

    “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves … On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem” (v2-3,9).

    Then notice what in the very next verse:

    “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him” (v10).

    God will give them “a spirit of grace” that will let them see “the one they have pierced”, leading to their repentance – and forgiveness:

    “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (13:1)

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