Questions & Answers
Jesus as the Messiah?
by Rabbi Eliezer Gevirtz
Question: Why do Jews not accept Jesus as a god or a messiah? —Jonas
Answer: Almost since the inception of Christianity, some Christians have made it their life’s work to convert others, including Jews. At times, these missionaries have used torture and other coercions to gain their goal, such as during the Spanish Inquisition. More recently, Christian missionaries have employed different techniques-using friendly arguments and slick propaganda-for the same purpose. Missionaries have aggressively confronted Jews with misleading arguments and incorrect Biblical quotes. Lately, they have even resorted to using Jewish names and Hebrew songs to mislead Jews into thinking that they, too, are Jewish. Thus, we have the rise of the “Jewish Christians” who claim that the only “fulfilled” Jew is the one who believes in JC (called by them, “Yeshua”).
Judaism respects the right of Christians to worship as they please. It, however, condemns those who try to impose Christianity on Jews through deceit or any other way. The missionaries show a dangerous degree of intolerance towards Judaism, implying that it is a false religion. Jews should therefore be ready to defend their religious beliefs, and to counteract missionary propaganda. Jews must know that missionary arguments can readily be answered, for they are misleading and based on false premises. Jews cannot sit idly by watching missionaries misleading their fellow religionists. There are too few Jews in the world today for us to afford defections to Christianity.
Missionaries say that JC is both the son of G-d and the long-awaited Messiah. Jews reject both claims, for the following reasons:
a) No Man Can Be a G-d. The Torah makes it clear that there is only one omnipotent, indivisible G-d: “The L-rd He is G-d; there is none else besides him” (Deuteronomy 4:35).” G-d is unique unto Himself, and does not consist of a trinity: “The L-rd He is G-d in heaven above and upon the earth below; there is none else” (Deuteronomy 4:39). JC himself accepted G-d’s uniqueness: “And he (JC) said unto him, ‘Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, G-d.” (Matthew 19:17). How, then, could a mortal man-one who was born and who died on a cross-be a segment of an immortal, indivisible G-d? There is no concept of infinity possible if G-d is a man or a Trinity. The Torah states clearly: “G-d is not a man” (Numbers 23:19).
b) JC did not accomplish the tasks of the Messiah. If JC had indeed been the Messiah, he would have fulfilled the Messianic prophecies mentioned in Tanach. For instance, the Moshiach (Messiah) will bring about universal peace and tranquility: “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). The Moshiach will bring about universal respect for G-d, and lead all people to follow His ways: “The knowledge of G-d will fill the earth. The world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the water covers the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). He will cause an ingathering of the Jewish exiles: “Then the residue of his brethren shall return with the children of Israel” (Micha 5:2) and will bring about the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdosh:. “In that day will I raise up the Tabernacles of David that is fallen” (Amos 9:11). He will also bring physical cure to all who are sick: “Then the eye of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame man will leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb will sing” (Isaiah 35:5-6). Furthermore, he will accomplish these tasks within his own lifetime: “He shall not fail or be crushed until he has set the right in the earth” (Isaiah 42:4).
The clear-cut fact is that JC did not fulfill any of these tasks. The Beis Hamikdosh has not been rebuilt, and the Jews are still in exile. (Incidentally, it is hard to see how JC could rebuild the Beis Hamikdosh or return the Jews to Israel when the Beis Hamikdosh was still in existence and the Jews were still in Israel during his lifetime.) Suffering and pain still abound, and the world is certainly less religiously-inc lined today than it was during JC’s day. Immorality, corruption, and crime are definitely in evidence to this very day, and the past 2,000 years have seen one war after another.
If the Messiah has already come, why is the world in such a sad state?
Christian theology has come up with the explanation that JC will reappear during a Second Coming, when he will finally fulfill the Messianic prophecies. But there is no reference to such a delayed second coming of the same Messiah anywhere in the Torah. JC himself promised his followers that he would succeed in his own era: “Verily I say to you that there be some of them who stand here, which shall not taste of death until they have seen the kingdom of G-d come with power” (Mark 9:1); “Verily I say to you that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done” (Mark 13:30). But the things were not done, and JC was instead killed.
c) JC did not keep Jewish law. The Moshiach is expected to keep all the laws of the Torah, and to inspire others to do likewise. (See Deuteronomy 13). However, at times JC considered himself to be above the law: “For the Son of Man is master even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). He broke the laws of the Sabbath part of the Ten Commandments-and reviled the Rabbis, who are accorded great respect by the Torah. JC did not even always espouse peace: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Can one who denies G-d’s sacred law be His Messiah?
d) Lack of Jewish support. JC lived at the time of Roman suppression of the Jews. The Jewish people eagerly looked forward to the arrival of the Moshiach. They were certainly well-versed in the requirements to be filled by the true Moshiach, and would definitely have accepted the Moshiach if it was clear that he had appeared. Yet the Jews of that time—and especially the learned Sages—rejected JC’ claims to be the Messiah. They knew and saw JC in the flesh, and found him wanting; on the other hand, Paul of Tarsus, who established the Christian religion, never knew JC personally. If JC were indeed the Messiah, why did his fellow Jews, who had every reason to want a Messiah, almost unanimously reject him?
Missionaries often say that they have Biblical proof of JC’ divinity or Messianic role. However, these arguments often rely on misquotes and faulty reasoning.
One such “proof” comes from Isaiah 7:14, which they translate as follows: “Behold the virgin is with child, and she will bear a son, and his name will be called Immanuel.” The unsuspecting individual might think that this is a prophecy of the New Testament’s account of JC’ birth. However, one who studies the verse in its original Hebrew will note that the term used is “almah”, which means “young woman”, not “virgin”. (The Hebrew word for virgin is “besulah”, as mentioned in Leviticus 21:3). In any case, the verse refers to the birth of King Chezkiah, and has nothing at all to do with the Moshiach.
Another supposed “proof” is the verse in Micha 5:1: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrasah, which are little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of you shall come forth ‘ onto Me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose going forth are from old, from ancient days.”
Missionaries claim that this refers to JC, who they say was born in Bethlehem. But the verse really refers to the fact that the Moshiach will come from the lineage of King David, who was born in Bethlehem. And Christians cannot claim that JC came from King David, for the lineage follows the father, and they say that JC had no earthly father.
Finally, there is the so-called “proof” from Isaiah 53, which refers to a “Suffering Servant”. Missionaries will say that this means JC, who suffered on the cross. But the term “servant”, when used elsewhere in Isaiah, refers to the Jewish nation, whose members are G-d’s dedicated servants. They have certainly suffered throughout the years-yet they have survived for a long time, unlike JC, who died childless at the age of 33, and the verse refers to the servant’s prolonged days and “seed” (children).
There are other such arguments, with accurate and concise Jewish responses to each. All Jews must be aware that missionary claims should not be taken at face value, and that the Jewish rejection of the Messiahship of JC has a sound Biblical basis.
Reprinted from L’hovin U’lhaskil – A Guide to Torah Hashkofoh by Rabbi Eliezer Gevirtz (Feldheim 1988)