More Jewish People live in America than anywhere else in the world, with the possible exception of Israel. And yet, efforts to reach the Jewish People with the Good News have not been very successful in the U.S. The Idea of Messianic Judaism, or what some call Jewish Christianity, can be confusing to Jewish People. Many Christians who have tried to share their faith with Jewish friends, co-workers, or family members have often been met with rejection.
Jewish Believer Rabbi Jonathan Bernis notes, however:
It is important to state that I believe Jewish People have not rejected Jesus. They simply haven’t heard a Gospel message they can identify with or a biblically authentic representation of their Messiah. Most have many misconceptions obscuring the true identity of Jesus—many of them derived from a 2,000-year legacy of misunderstanding about the Jewishness of Jesus.
We’re going to look at just ten of the most significant lies about Jesus and His Jewishness that separate Him from His Jewish People.
Lie #1: Jesus Only Appears in the New Testament
A common argument claims that Jesus is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures– the Old Testament and that He is a Christian or Gentile creation only mentioned in the New Testament. True, the name “Jesus” is not found in the Old Testament, as it is an anglicized version of the Greek name Ἰησοῦς (Iēsous). However, Jesus was born in Israel among a Hebrew-speaking people. His name in Hebrew is “Yeshua.” Matthew 1:21 refers to what was well understood by the Jewish People: the name Yeshua means “salvation” or “God saves.” Matthew 1:21 says, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” His Hebrew name, Yeshua, means “the LORD saves,” and this is confirmed in many Bibles that contain a footnote such as “Hebrew: Yeshua (Joshua), meaning The LORD saves.”
Biblical names commonly reveal the character, attributes, or destiny of a person. This is exactly the case with the name Yeshua. The reason for His coming to earth was for salvation, to save His People from their sins. Here are just a few examples:
- Adonai is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation” (Exodus 15:2 TLV).
- Adonai has made His salvation known” (Psalm 98:2 TLV).
- So I will give You as a light for the nations, that You should be My salvation tot the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6 TLV).
In these verses—and more than 150 times throughout the Old Testament— the word “salvation” is the Hebrew word Yeshua (ye•shu•ah). Yeshua (Jesus) existed from the beginning, and His Hebrew name is found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures in amazing prophecies.
Lie #2: The Jewish People Rejected Jesus as Their Messiah
For almost 2,000 years, both Judaism and Christianity have promulgated the lie that the Jewish People rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Bernis often tells about his upbringing in a Jewish home.
I was raised as a child in a Jewish home with the understanding that I was born a Jew, that I was to die a Jew, and anyone who wasn’t Jewish was a Christian or a Gentile. I also understood that Jewish identity meant one thing: Jews don’t believe in Jesus.
Rabbi Bernis goes on to say,
But that is a lie—the Jews have not rejected Jesus. The entire New Testament story took place in the Land of Israel— the Land of the Jews. Jesus was a Jew. He declared Himself the Messiah of Israel. All of His followers were Jews. The disciples were all Jews, as were the 120 in the Upper Room. The 3,000 that came to faith on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, or Pentecost, “grew to about 5,000,” according to Acts 4:4. So there is a record of thousands of Jewish Believers in the promised Messiah of Israel, and they took the Gospel around the world.
The Bible attests to what some refer to as a Jewish Christianity in which Jewish People believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Lie #3: The Jews Killed Jesus
There is a grievous lie that blames the Jews for killing Jesus and that God has cut them off irrevocably because of it. It is the cornerstone of deception and has caused a 2,000-year legacy of hatred, anti-Semitism, and persecution of Jewish People in the name of Christ and Christianity. This lie is the foundation of Replacement Theology, an erroneous doctrine claiming the Jews are under eternal punishment and have been replaced by the Church.
Jonathan Bernis sets the record straight:
It wasn’t the Jews as a whole who killed Jesus. There was a small group of Jewish leaders, in addition to a crowd that shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” At the same time, however, thousands of Jews were followers of the Messiah! The pinnacle of the Gospel is that Yeshua, Jesus, laid down His life for you and for me.
The Bible tells us:
- For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” —Mark 10:45 TLV
- . . . I lay down My life, so that I may take it up again. No one takes it away from Me, but I lay it down on.” —John 10:17-18 TLV
Rabbi Bernis further clarifies with this most important point:
The accusation that the Jews killed Jesus is a lie and a gross distortion of Scripture—it wasn’t the Jews; it wasn’t the Romans—it was your sin and mine. Jesus came for the purpose of dying as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He allowed Himself to be led as a lamb to the slaughter and laid down His life for our sins. Praise Him, glory to Him!
Lie #4: Jesus Christ Is the God of Christianity
The concept of a Jewish Christianity is foreign to Jewish People because most of them are raised with the notion that the Yeshua of the New Testament is only for Gentiles. Jonathan Bernis notes:
The lie that Jesus Christ is the God of Christianity is the concept I was raised with. For me, there were two groups of people in the world—Jews and Gentiles, or Christians (we generally perceived them to be the same). We had our God – the God of Israel – and Christians had their God, Jesus Christ, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Christ. And somehow this Jesus-God was a child who had become God.
I was also taught that Christians believe in three Gods: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This, too, is a deception and a stumbling block for Jews, who, even if not religious, know one thing: God is One.
“The truth is,” Jonathan continues, “Jesus Christ is not the God of Christianity. He is Yeshua HaMashiach—’ ‘Jesus the Messiah.’ Christ is not His last name, but comes from the Greek word Christos, Χριστός (khrē-sto's), meaning ‘anointed.’” The word Christ holds the same meaning as the Hebrew word Mashiach, or Messiah, and is His title.
Hundreds of years before Yeshua was born, the Old Testament (or “old covenant”) proclaimed the coming of what today is sometimes known by some as Jewish Christianity, and more accurately termed Messianic Judaism, in which Jews would receive the Christ – the Messiah. The prophet Jeremiah, in verses 31:1-14, tells of a new covenant (the “New Testament”) that would be made with the House of Israel and Judah. This covenant would be different from the Mosaic covenant. God would forgive our sins and remember them no more.
How can that happen? Forgiveness of sins comes only by the shedding of blood. The yearly sacrifice could not accomplish this type of forever forgiveness. Only the blood of a once-and-for-all sacrifice could do that. This is not the God of Christianity alone. This is a new covenant that is promised to the old covenant People, the People of Israel, and then spreads through the nations of the world for all people. This is Yeshua the Messiah of Israel foretold by the Jewish prophets. When Jewish People embrace Yeshua, they don’t convert to Christianity; they find their Messiah promised to them within their own Scriptures! They remain Jews, but have found their Messiah! While some people have called them “completed Jews,” or use such terminology as Jewish Christianity to describe this Jewish faith in Yeshua, the phrase Messianic Jews or Messianic Judaism is more common and identifies the fact that Jewish People do not need to convert to Christianity; they are Jews who have recognized Jesus as the Messiah the Jewish People have long awaited.
Lie #5: Jesus Began a New Religion Called Christianity
Another lie is the popular claim that Jesus came to earth and began a new religion, separate from Judaism. However, Yeshua’s entire earthly ministry was to His own People, the House of Israel.
We can see this in an example found in Matthew 15.
Now Yeshua left from there and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that district came out and started shouting, “have mercy on me, O Master, Ben-David! My daughter is severely tormented by a demon.” But He did not answer her a word. And when His disciples came, they were urging Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He responded, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” ¾Matthew 15:21-24 TLV
Not only was Yeshua’s earthly ministry dedicated solely to the House of Israel, but according to Matthew 10:5-6, when He sent His disciples out, He sent them only to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.
Was Yeshua bringing a new message? In Matthew 22, we find the account of Yeshua being put to the test by the Pharisees and Sadducees to see if His teaching was sound according to the Law, the Torah.
But the Pharisees, when they heard that Yeshua had silenced the Sadducees, gathered together in one place. And testing Him, one of them, a lawyer, asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?” And He said to him, “‘you shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ¾Matthew 22:36-40 TLV
In this passage, Yeshua quoted the Shema: Shema, Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad, which is: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This is the cornerstone of Jewish faith! Yeshua quoted from the Torah and in doing so affirmed the commandments. Yeshua brought the promised new covenant to the House of Israel. He did not bring a new religion known as Christianity. In fact, there was no religion known as Christianity until much later in Antioch when His disciples became known as Christians. Christ-followers were Messiah-followers, whether Jewish or Gentile. That is how the term Jewish Christianity came to describe Jewish Believers in Yeshua and the new covenant He brought.
Lie #6: Jesus Never Claimed to Be the Messiah
Many Jewish People believe that Jesus was a rabbi, a teacher, or even a prophet but that He never claimed to be the Messiah. They believe that it was His followers who deified Him and claimed He was the Messiah. This is totally false!
Let’s look directly at the Scriptures to see Yeshua’s own claims.
In John 8:58, Yeshua actually declared not only His pre-existence but also took upon Himself the name of God as revealed to Moses in the burning bush: “Amen, amen I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
And further, in Matthew 26:63-64, the High Priest directly confronted Yeshua, saying to Him, “I charge You under oath by the living God, tell us if You are Messiah Ben-Elohim!” (the Messiah Son of God). Yeshua responded: “as you have said,” thus affirming under oath that He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
In Matthew 16:15-17, Yeshua also blessed Simon Peter for recognizing that He is the Messiah and acknowledged that it was God alone who gave that revelation.
So did Yeshua claim to be the Messiah? Yes, and more! He claimed to be the Messiah, the Lord, the Anointed One, and the unique Divine Son of the Living God, pre-existent, and one with the Father!
Lie #7: Jesus Taught Against the Law of Moses
It is unfortunate that nearly two thousand years after He came, we have a Jesus who is nearly devoid of any Jewish identity and a Church that is almost completely severed from its Jewish roots. Although this was never God’s intention, it started very early in Church history. It began with a movement away from celebrating Shabbat (the Sabbath) and the other biblical Feasts and calling these observances heretical. And so today, we have a Jesus who is not recognizable to His own Jewish People as the Messiah of Israel.
Rabbi Bernis states:
This comes from the fallacy that Yeshua taught against the Law of Moses. This lie emerged largely as a result of an overemphasis of being under the Age of Grace, the Church Age. However, Jesus never taught against the Law, the Torah. He followed and taught the Law.. While Yeshua redefined the Law and taught how to rightly interpret it, He lived and died as an observant Jew in Israel.
Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17 TLV). Some believe that “fulfill” means “to bring to conclusion” or “to complete,” but this is incorrect. In this context, it is best understood by reversing the syllables of the word “fulfill.” Doing so more clearly reveals the meaning “fill full” or “bring fullness to.”
If that isn’t clear enough, Yeshua goes on to declare: “Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass” (Matthew 5:18 TLV).
This is crystal clear—Yeshua is not advocating the abrogation of even the minutest detail of the Law. Reading on in Matthew 5 verses 27 through the end, you see that He even takes the Torah commandments further. Jesus is fulfilling exactly what was prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah when He promised the new covenant: “‘But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ it is a declaration of Adonai, ‘I will put My Torah within them. Yes, I will write it on their heart’” (Jeremiah 31:33 TLV).
Yeshua is saying that we are not under an external law, because we now have the law within—written on our minds and hearts by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, He calls us to go even beyond the written Law (i.e., do not even commit adultery or murder in your heart). Does this sound like teaching against the Mosaic Law and the prophets? Absolutely not!
Lie #8: Jesus Did Not Fulfill the Messianic Prophecies Found in the Old Testament
The misconception that Jesus did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament is predominately held by Jewish People. The argument stems from several key Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-9, Isaiah 2:3-4, and Micah 4:2-3
In Isaiah 11:1-9, we see prophecies about the coming Messiah, some of which were fulfilled in Yeshua, but some have not been fulfilled yet. . We don’t yet see wolves lying down with lambs, nursing children playing at the cobra’s hole, or the earth full of the knowledge of the LORD. The verses in Micah are also clear prophecies about the coming Messiah, and they tell of a universal peace that has not yet manifested. The argument then is: if Jesus was the Messiah, why isn’t there world peace? Many Jewish People who are still waiting expectantly for the Messiah are expecting a Messiah who will bring world peace.
Yet there are many Messianic prophecies that paint a different picture of the Messiah. Isaiah 53 speaks of the Messiah coming as a suffering servant, One who is led as lamb to the slaughter and who takes our sorrows, infirmities, and punishment on Himself. This suffering Messiah is prophesied to be pierced for our transgression. This is a clear depiction of Yeshua’s crucifixion.
A significant Messianic prophecy that is often overlooked by those still waiting for the Messiah is Daniel 9:24-27. This Old Testament prophecy says that Messiah, the Anointed One, will be “cut off,” or killed, before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, which happened in 70 A.D. Clearly, Yeshua’s death fits as fulfilling this prophecy, and no Messiah yet to come could.
Bible prophecy contains portraits of both a suffering Messiah and a victorious Messiah. The suffering servant is pictured as a lamb, wounded, and cut off, but not for Himself. The triumphant Messiah comes to establish His rule of peace and righteousness over the earth.
These two seemingly contradictory prophetic descriptions are difficult to understand for Jewish People. To reconcile these two very different portrayals of the Messiah, there grew a belief among the rabbis that they were waiting for two Messiahs. One they called Mashiach ben David, and He would be the Son of King David who would rule and reign. The other they called Mashiach ben Joseph, the Son of Joseph. This Messiah ben Joseph would suffer and be rejected by his own like Joseph was rejected by his brothers. At the time of Yeshua’s coming, Israel longed for the conquering Messiah. Because of Rome’s oppression and their expectation that God would send the Deliverer, they were looking for Messiah ben David.
The truth is, it is not two Messiahs, it is one Messiah coming twice—first as the Lamb of God, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, and then as the reigning King Messiah when Yeshua returns. Yeshua’s first coming fulfilled the prophecies of the suffering servant. With Yeshua’s Second Coming, we will see the fulfillment of the victorious, reigning Messiah of Isaiah 11:1-9!
Lie #9: Jewish People Do Not Need Jesus for Salvation
Dual Covenant Theology teaches that Jewish People have a separate path to God through the Mosaic and Abrahamic Covenants. This too is false. The doctrine developed after the Holocaust when Christians thought the Jews had suffered enough and needed to be accepted and affirmed. Although well meaning, this is a very dangerous lie.
Hear the important words of Jonathan Bernis on this lie:
As I was growing up, whenever someone tried to share the Gospel with me, my first response was always, “I’m Jewish.” And then I always received an apology. By apologizing for sharing the Gospel with me, what these well-meaning, born-again, evangelical Christians were doing was reinforcing the lie that Jesus is not for the Jews.
Romans 1:16 is clear that the Gospel is not only to the Jew but to the Jew first. Paul cried out in Romans 9:1-4 that he would give up his own salvation for the sake of his brethren, the Jews.
Jesus Himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 TLV).
The declaration in Acts 4:12: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved,” makes it clear that salvation is through Yeshua alone, for all— Jew and Gentile alike.
Messianic Judaism, or the use of the term “Jewish Christianity,” is not the lie here. The lie is that Jewish People have a different way apart from faith in Yeshua. Jews who believe in Jesus remain Jews, always and forever, but the Bible presents that there is no other way to reach the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but through His Anointed Messiah, Yeshua.
Lie #10: The Jewish Identity of Jesus Is Meaningless Because He’s a Spirit
Some look at Yeshua as having transcended or finished with His earthly identity. They see Him only as spirit and believe His Jewish identity is, therefore, irrelevant. However, the Bible tells us that His work is not finished. According to Matthew 23:39, Yeshua must return, and this won’t happen until the Jews recognize Him as King, Messiah of Israel, saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
In Revelation 5, we see an amazing picture of Yeshua even before He returns. In it, He has retained His Jewish identity as He reigns in majesty in Heaven. He is proclaimed “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” “the Root of David,” and “a Lamb” (Revelation 5:5-6). In this chapter, John is looking at his heavenly vision and weeping because no one is worthy to open the scroll. The elder identifies Yeshua – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah – as the One who is worthy. Yeshua, the Jew! John looks and sees Him as the Lamb of God!
In Revelation, we not only see a recognizable connection with Yeshua’s Jewish heritage, but we also see a beautiful picture of His first coming as the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. Yeshua’s first coming calls us to receive His gift of eternal life through faith in Him so that we may be prepared for His soon return as the Lion of Judah.
These lies about Yeshua and His Jewishness have hindered many Jewish People from coming to faith in their promised Messiah. To them, a “Jewish Christianity” is not possible. Lies about Jesus have obscured the fact that He is the Jewish Messiah prophesied to them in their Hebrew Scriptures. Persecutors of Jewish People have falsely claimed the name of Jesus Christ in their evil actions, and it has left a scar on Jewish hearts throughout the ages.
Pray with us that the eyes, ears, and hearts of Jewish People the world over will open to the truth about Yeshua. He is their Messiah, and there is no other way for them to reach their God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob proclaimed that He would bring a new covenant to His People. The Messiah – Yeshua – ushered it in. Please join us in praying that these lies are dispelled and that His People will recognize Him with shouts of “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”