To many, Jews for Jesus seems to represent an impossible oxymoron, an inherent contradiction.
“That’s like vegetarians for meat.”
We hear the familiar joke daily—likening Jews for Jesus to “warlords for peace,” “PETA for leather,” or some such contradiction (which would be way funnier if each jester didn’t believe themselves to be the first to have such a stroke of comic genius).
We hear variations of this argument on a daily basis. Here are several responses.
1. “Jewish people don’t consider you Jewish.”
According to a recent Pew survey, 68% of Jewish people polled consider the atheist among them to be Jewish, regardless of their belief. The same poll indicated that 60% think you stop being Jewish when you believe Jesus is the Messiah. These numbers indicate two things:
- The criteria for Jewishness are obviously not clearly delineated or agreed upon by an overwhelming number of its members. Jewishness is expressed in a variety of ways. The Talumud argues that, “Even though [the people] have sinned, they are still [called] ‘Israel’” and “A myrtle, though it stands among reeds, is still a myrtle, and it is so called.” (Sanhedrin 44a) This passage argues that even a Jew who claims belief in another religion remains an Israelite.
- There is an evident dichotomy at play. After all, how can one argue that a Jewish person can completely deny the God on which their entire heritage is based and still be Jewish, whilst maintaining that those who recognize Jesus as the Jewish Messiah have lost their Judaism?
2. “When you believe in Jesus, you stop being Jewish”
How can one stop being Jewish, exactly?
You can change your last name, get a nose job, eat bacon, and never step foot in a synagogue. But you’ll still be Jewish. One can’t change their birthright any more than they could change where they were born. Or who their biological parents are. Or the makeup of their DNA.
Jewishness is complicated. It’s a race, an ethnicity, and a religion. It is obtained by birth or conversion. Either way, once it’s acquired, it sticks for life (for example, a Jewish-born Buddhist wouldn’t undergo a conversion process were he to decide to follow Judaism once more).
If you’re born Jewish, whether you’d like to or not, there is nothing you can do to stop being Jewish.
3. “The Tanach proves Jesus is not the Messiah.”
The Tanach is riddled with mentions of a coming messiah. Moses, Isaiah, David, Micah, Zechariah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Daniel and more all wrote about Him (here’s a few hundred prophecies). It is our duty as the Jewish people, ingrained within our own Scriptures, to await a savior.
So why instantly discredit those of our brothers who believe they have found what it is our own Scriptures prophesy, when it is the very calling of Judaism to seek such a man?
Especially when the Messiah in question is a devout, Torah-following Jew—born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, who kept the Sabbath and taught the Scriptures in a way that stumped the greatest minds of His time. All of His first followers (who were all also Jewish) recognized Him as the man whom the prophets foretold: the Messiah. So what is so un-Jewish about believing in Jesus?
4. “Aren’t you just a Christian now? How are you still Jewish?”
Christian means “follower of Christ,” not “Gentile.” Yes, we are Christians. But we’re still Jewish.
We are all in need of a Savior. We’re broken. We’re faulted. And many of us are hurting—Jew and Gentile alike.
Fortunately, the Jewish Scriptures foretold One who would change all of this and bridge the gap between our imperfect selves and our perfect Creator. This man, Jesus, came to His own Jewish people to fulfill what had been written, to offer us hope, peace, and new life. Not a new religion. Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
Now, as believers in Jesus, we have found atonement for our sins—something no sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem could ever do on a lasting, permanent basis. Our Scriptures now have even more abundant meaning and significance.
We can now live as Jews who have found the Messiah whom the Tanach foretold.
Have more questions? Confused? It’s cool. Send us a message—we’d love to chat.