21 de fev de 2008

Christianity vs. Judaism - How to witness to a Jew?

Author: Giselle Dantas © - copyright 2008

I. Introduction

In this paper the differences between Christianity and Judaism are explained. A summary of Judaism history, main beliefs and customs are described. The main objections of Jews towards Christianity are addressed and discussed based on the Bible and secondary sources. The purpose is to present the gospel message using as start point the Ten commandments, to open the eyes of a Jew to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, who came to earth from heaven to die on the cross paying the punishment for our sins.

II. History and Background of Judaism

i. The origin of Judaism

The historical origins of Judaism begin with the Hebrews and Abraham. The Hebrews were named after their ancestor Eber, son of Salá, who was the son Shelah, who was the son of Arphaxad, who was the son of Shem, who was the son of Noah. Abram was a descendent of Shem; God spoke to him and promised that he would be the father of a nation with descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky. And so it was, from the sons of Abram, Isaac and Jacob descended the nation of Israel. That nation was chosen by God to fulfill His purposes and give Him glory.

Because of a great famine the Hebrews migrated to Egypt where, for five generations, they were held as slaves and built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. Then God chooses Moses to speak to Pharaoh and ask him to let the Israelites go. But as Pharaoh refused to free them, God sent ten plagues to Egypt. After the last plague, which caused a great mourning in all Egypt with the death of their firstborn sons, Pharaoh permitted the Israelites’ exodus. Moses led them out of Egypt to God’s promised land of Canaan.

During the period the Israelites were walking in the desert towards Canaan, God gave them the Ten Commandments, laws of morality and righteous living, and also instructions to build a tabernacle in which God would inhabit among them and be their God, and them His set-apart people.

Once they conquered the land of Canaan, at a certain point, the elders found it necessary for them to have a king to lead them. The first king was Saul, then David, then Solomon. “After Solomon's reign the nation split into two kingdoms, Israel (in the north) and Judah (in the south). Israel was conquered by the Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser V in the 8th century BCE. The kingdom of Judah was conquered by a Babylonian army in the early 6th century BCE.” {1}.The two kingdoms stayed in exile until part of them were lead back to their homeland by Ezra and Nehemiah. From the people that returned to Jerusalem, most of them were from the kingdom of Judah; therefore, they were further referred to as the Jews from Judah, and to the present, every descendant is called a Jew. As per Judaism, it is the religion of the Jews and of those converted to it, which has taken some variations over the years, being divided into three major branches: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. But for our analysis, only the main roots and common beliefs of Judaism will be described, particularly the ones that contrast with Christianity’s beliefs.

ii. Judaism vs. Christianity beliefs

Christianity emerged from Judaism, hence the reason for some similarities between their beliefs.

The TNK (“Tanakh”), called the Jewish Bible, is composed of the Torah (the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), the Nevi’im (the Prophets’ books: Joshua, Judges, Samuel I and II, Kings I and II, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets which is one book), and the Ketuvim (the Writings books: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Chronicles I and II). All these books are also part of the Christian Bible, but Bibles similarities end there. Whereas the Christian Bible has 37 additional books, the Jews have the Talmud and the Halachach. The turning point between Judaism and Christianity is whether or not Jesus is the Messiah. “The Jewish people believe that when the Messiah comes there will be an end to world suffering.” On the other hand, “Christians recognize Jesus as Christ, the Son of God, their savior, and the Messiah.” {2} In consequence of this contradiction others flow, making clear distinction between the two religions’ beliefs in the following aspects:

God: Judaism and Christianity are monotheists, they worship only one God. The difference is that Christians believe the Trinidad: that God is made up of God the Father, God the son: Jesus and God the Holy Spirit, the three together forming one God. Judaism sees Christianity's Trinidad as a failing of the idea of God's oneness.

Salvation:Judaism does not require that a person convert to Judaism in order to achieve salvation. The only requirement for that, as understood by Jews, is to be ethical.” {3} For Jews being ethical is to obey the commandments of God. As for Christians, salvation is achieved through faith in Jesus as son of God and Savior, whose sacrificial death on the cross absorbs the sins of whoever believes in Him.

Sin: In the Jewish view people are not born essentially bad, but have both good and bad nature and free will to choose which to follow. For them sins are removed by seeking forgiveness. “Jews seek forgiveness from God for sins against God and from other people (not just God) for sins against those people. Seeking forgiveness requires a sincere sense of repenting but also seeking directly to redress the wrong done to someone. Sins are partially removed through prayer which replaced animal sacrifice as a way of relieving sins. They are also removed by correcting errors against others.” {3} Christians believe that men are born with a sinful nature and can not remove sins for themselves, but by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross they are free from sin.

Afterlife: In Judaism there are not many firm believes about Heaven and Hell, but the concern is focused in living a ethical life while in earth. Christians believe that Heaven is a place God prepared for those who believe in Jesus as their savior and accept the gift of eternal life, and Hell is a place for those who don’t.

III. Evangelizing a Jew

i. Building a relationship

The evangelization of Jews is a one by one process. Make a friend out of a Jewish coworker, classmate or neighbor is the first step. Demonstrate your care for them and appreciation for the Jewishness. Be careful in not telling Jewish people you love them; instead show them your love with actions. It will certainly have a bigger impact on them and it will set the foundation for your witness to them.

Engage in a conversation about Israel, or ask questions about a Jewish holiday, or a passage from the Old Testament to find out his opinion. Declare that you are a follower of Jesus; be honest about it from the beginning. Tell him/her your testimony. Most Jews thing that Christians were born Christians just as they were born Jews. As you tell them how you came to know Christ, how you pray and relate to God, you will stir up curiosity in them.

Share scripture and encourage your Jewish friend to read the New Testament. Many Jews came to believe Jesus as the Messiah by reading the New Testament. Be ready to answer questions and if you don’t know the answer just say you will research the information.

If you receive a rejection or negative answer don’t give up. Persist in prayer for your Jewish friend and watch out for any given opportunities. “Most Jews also think that the opposite of Jewish is Christian, and so for them to consider Jesus is problematic because it means considering losing their Jewish identity. Therefore, when witnessing to Jewish people about Jesus it is important to stress that they do not need to give up their identity as Jews in order to embrace Jesus as Messiah.” {4} Introduce him/her to a Jewish believer or give them books, literature or a website address for them to learn on their own. Be patient with your Jewish friend, helping them in every step of the way towards his/her understand and acceptance of the Gospel.

ii. Presenting the Gospel message

Ten Commandments: You may be a good person and do good works, no questions about that. But have you ever told a lie? Did you ever steal something, even something small like a paper clip? Have you ever used God's name as a curse word? Honestly. If you've done the three, you've already broken three of God's Ten Commandments, which are His standard of righteousness. If you lie what does that makes you? It makes you a liar. What are you called if you steal? You are called a thief. And if you use God’s name as a curse word you are called a blasphemer. Liar, thief and blasphemer by your own admission, and we only went over three commandments! We may try our best, but we are constantly breaking the law and making ourselves guilty before God.

Man’s sin: Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the prohibited fruit, all man is born with the “seed” of sin. Sin is everything we do, everything we say and everything we thing that does not please God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” {5}

If God were to judge you today by the Ten Commandments, would you be found innocent or guilty? Be honest. The Bible says: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."{6} On judgment day as you stand before God, would you be sent to heaven or hell? Does that concern you? It truly concerns me because I don't want to spend eternity in hell and I think neither do you.
Salvation through Jesus: Let's suppose you've broken the law and were sent to court. There, you stand before the judge, and all facts proof that you are guilty of breaking the law. The judge finds you guilty and gives you a penalty of $500,000.00, but you don't have the money. Therefore, you will be sent to jail. The guards were ready to take you, when someone you never saw before walks into the room and say: I'm paying your penalty, you're free to go. How would you feel about that person? That's Jesus.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." {7} He paid the penalty for all your sins by dieing on the cross in your place. “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” {8} If you repent from your sins, turn your back to them, and accept Jesus' sacrifice and believe in Him as your savior, you won't have to pay for all the times you've broken God's law. Instead of death and hell, He gives you eternal life and heaven.
When you pray, confessing to God that you've sinned against Him, repenting from all your wrong-doing and disposing yourself to be better from now on, declaring that you believe in Jesus sacrifice on the cross, that He died in your place. Than God will come and clean your heart, He will forget all your sins and He will live inside you and give you the gift of eternal life.

Growth and Sanctification: After you accept Jesus as your savior you are like a seed that needs to grow into a big tree and give fruits. For that to happen, read your Bible and talk to God in prayer everyday. Become a member of a church that preaches the Word of God. Share the Gospel message with people around you. Live a life that gives glory to God in everything. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.” {9}

But if you sin you must repent and ask God and your neighbor for forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” {10}

IV. Conclusion

The Jews are God's chosen nation, still they are not God's children until they accept Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for their sins, confessing Him as the Messiah. Only then they will partake of the promised new heaven and a new earth that God revealed to John. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." (Revelation 21:1-3) "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Romans 8:17)

  1. “History of Judaism” – www.religionfacts.com/judaism/history.htm
  2. “What I whish my Christians friends knew about Judaism” – Robert Schoen (page 11)
  3. “The differences between Judaism and Christianity” – www.convert.org/differ.htm
  4. “Pointers on witnessing to Jews” – www.jewsforjesus.org
  5. “Bible” – NIV – (Romans 3:23)
  6. “Bible” – NIV - (2 Corinthians 5:10)
  7. “Bible” – NIV - (Romans 6:23)
  8. “Bible” – NIV – (Hebrews 9:22)
  9. “Bible” – NIV – (I Corinthians 10:31-32)
  10. “Bible” - NIV – (I John 1:9)

Um comentário:

  1. So, the first step in converting a Jew is to pretend that you're actually interested in being their friend and not worried that they're going to be roasting for eternity, while you're knocking down a couple beers with that Jebus guy?

    1. G-d's standard, at least for His people, is not the ten commandments. It is the 613 mitzvot.

    2. Isaiah 43. This deals with G-d's forgiveness of our sins.

    3. If you believe in original sin, then what do you believe happens to the millions of babies that are aborted? According to most Christians, a baby is a human being with a human soul at conception. Yet the baby never is able to confess their love for your messiah. Meaning literally, every single baby that is aborted goes straight to hell. This really concerns me because I don't want an innocent child to burn in hell, and am surprised that you do. Original sin is a lie made to make people not accountable for their actions anymore.

    4. There is no hell. The hebrew word for hell is sheol, which means literally the grave. This hell that you speak about is never referenced in the so called "Old Testament." In fact the very concept of a hell, brings people to fear other things then G-d. It is blasphemy. Furthermore, the concept of a "Satan," who does something against the will of G-d--someone who is at constant battle with G-d, implies a religion that is not montheistic.

    5. You got the G-d's children thing wrong too. We are ALL G-d's children.

    6. Happy Pagan Day! Merry X-Mas!