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Theological Objections (continued 2)

Walking walking in dirt

“Jews don’t need to repent.”

Answer: “On the contrary, repentance is one of Judaism’s foundations! That’s why our own traditional literature from the Talmud to the Prayerbook to Maimonides to contemporary Jewish thinkers is filled with teaching on repentance and prayers of repentance. Jews sin like everybody else, and therefore Jews just like other human beings need to repent. That’s why our traditional literature puts such an emphasis on repentance.” (See Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 2, pp. 208-210.)

“Jews doesn’t believe in a divine Messiah.”

Answer: “Judaism has never had one, official, universally accepted set of beliefs concerning the Messiah, but it is true that traditional Jewish teaching does not speak unequivocally of a divine Messiah. However, Jewish tradition often describes a highly exalted Messiah as well as a preexistent Messiah, so much so that Jewish scholars have sometimes spoken of the ‘semi-divine’ or ‘quasi-divine’ nature of the Messiah according to these traditions. More importantly, the Hebrew Bible itself speaks of the Messiah’s divine nature, and that must be the deciding factor in what we as Jews do and do not believe.” (See Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 2, pp. 210-220.)

“Judaism doesn’t believe in a suffering Messiah.”

Answer: “That is not true. From the Talmud until our own day, important Jewish traditions have acknowledged the Messiah’s suffering. In addition, many Jews believe in two messiahs, a triumphant reigning king called Messiah ben David, and a suffering warrior called Messiah ben Joseph. More importantly, the Hebrew Scriptures speak clearly of the Messiah’s sufferings. In fact, it is because our Bible describes the Messiah as a priest as well as a king that he had to suffer on our behalf, fulfilling his priestly role. To miss this is to miss an essential part of the Messiah’s work.” (See Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 2, pp. 220-231.)

“Jews don’t believe that the Messiah will come twice.”

Answer: “Judaism actually has many different traditions about the coming of the Messiah, including beliefs that there are two messiahs who will each come once, as well as beliefs that there is a potential Messiah present in each generation. Scriptures and history teach us that there will be one Messiah who will come twice.” (See Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 2, pp. 232-235.)

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“Judaism is a healthy religion. Jews don’t see the world as intrinsically evil, or denounce marriage or call for self-renunciation. Christianity, on the other hand, see the world as evil, advocate celibacy, and say: ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross, and suffer.’”

Answer: “This is an exaggerated and inaccurate statement. Traditional Jews see this world as the corridor to the world to come but stresses the importance of life in this world. As for Christians, while stressing the importance of the world to come, they have been responsible for the building of more hospitals, the feeding of more hungry people, and the establishment of more educational institutions than all other religions of the world combined. The difference between the two is not one of substance but of emphasis. So, the real question is, Which emphasis makes more sense? If this life is only a passing shadow, (as Psalm 90 teaches), and if we are only pilgrims and strangers here (as Jacob and David said), isn’t it logical to live out our few days here in the light of eternity? If we are on this earth for 70 or 80 years and then we enter eternity either under God’s favor or God’s judgment doesn’t it make sense to give serious thought to the world to come, making sure we are ready to enter our eternal home? Also, both Judaism and Christianity recognize the sinful tendencies of the human race; Christianity just puts greater emphasis on subduing those tendencies, calling on its adherents to ‘put to death the harmful desires of the sinful nature.’ Finally, Jesus emphasized that we are not here primarily for ourselves but for God and for others, not to be served but to serve. God’s kingdom is advanced through suffering and sacrifice, and that too is part of our calling as mature followers of the Messiah.” (See Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 2, pp. 235-248.)

“Christianity calls on its followers to exhibit unnatural emotions and feelings, such as love for their enemies. This is contrary to Torah as well as contrary to human nature.”

Answer: “Could it be that what you call ‘unnatural emotions and feelings’ are actually lower, more base human attitudes, while the ethical behavior that Jesus requires from his followers actually reflects higher, more lofty, spiritual attitudes? Maybe not everything that is ‘natural’ is good and not everything that is ‘unnatural’ is bad! Could it be that the Messiah calls us to a higher and better life? Could it be that, through his gracious help, he enables us to put to death our earthly, carnal tendencies and more fully reflect the divine image in which we were created? I would suggest to you that this represents a decided step up for the human race, a fruit of the Messiah’s work on our behalf.” (See Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 2, pp. 248-252.)

“The only thing that keeps a lot of people in the Christian faith including Jews is the fear of hell.”

Answer: “Of the multiplied thousands of followers of Jesus that I know around the world both Jews and Gentiles I cannot think of one who continues to follow Jesus primarily because of the fear of hell, let alone only because of the fear of hell. We follow him because we love him and we recognize him to be our Messiah. Having said this, there is no question that, from a biblical perspective (i.e., Torah, Prophets, Writings, New Testament), a healthy fear of the Lord and a recognition that he is the ultimate Judge provides an added incentive to holy living. So, our primary motivation for following the Lord is love; a second motivation is to spend eternity with him in his kingdom; a third motivation is to escape the judgment of hell.” (See Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 2, pp. 252-256.)

“I find much beauty in the teachings of Jesus, and I think that there are some good arguments in favor of Christianity. But I find it impossible to believe in a religion that damns all people to hell including many moral, good, kind, and sensitive people, not to mention countless millions of religious Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, - simply because they don’t believe in Jesus. I can’t follow a religion whose God will torture people in flames forever for not believing in someone they never even heard of.”

Answer: “To be equally honest with you, I don’t follow that religion either, nor would I be able to put my trust in a God like that. Only one thing really matters: Is there a place called hell, and is there a judgment after death? If so, what is hell like, and who deserves to go there? What about you? Do you deserve heaven or hell? Also, we can argue endlessly about the afterlife, something which neither of us has experienced firsthand. But does your view of sin, judgment, and God agree with the current state of the world, a world filled with suffering and tragedy, and does it line up with the historical experience of our people? What followers of Jesus believe is this: All of us have sinned and broken God’s commandments, resulting in untold tragedy for the human race. In his mercy, God sent his Son, the Messiah, into the world to take our place and pay for our sins. He is our hope and our salvation. If we reject him, we remain lost in this world and we will be lost in the world to come. As to the exact nature of the sufferings of hell, the Scripture do not speak with scientific precision, but the Tanakh, the New Testament, and even the Rabbinic literature give us some frightful descriptions. As for those who never heard about Jesus, God will be their Judge, not you and not me.” (See Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, vol. 2, pp. 256-263.)

This material is reprinted with permission. Adapted from Dr. Michael L. Brown’s book series Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.

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