Rabbi Shmuley is wrong about the New Testament and Evangelical Christians
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“The Jews,” they claimed, were Christ-killers. The Jews as a whole were guilty of deicide. The Jews as a whole were worthy of expulsion and even death.
In a recent column for The Jerusalem Post, my good friend and frequent debating opponent Rabbi Shmuley Boteach claimed that the New Testament is inherently antisemitic. He also argued that the reason Evangelical Christians have become “the foremost allies of the Jewish people in general and the State of Israel in particular” is because they are moving away from a literal interpretation of New Testament writings. He also alleged that as a Jewish believer in Jesus, I am a “dinosaur” among Christians for wanting to see my fellow Jews embrace Jesus as Messiah. Is he correct?There is no denying that professing Christians through the centuries have used the New Testament to justify their antisemitism, most recently in the tragic synagogue shooting in Poway, California. They have demonized and dehumanized our people, and taken deadly action against us with New Testament verses on their lips.“The Jews,” they claimed, were Christ-killers. The Jews as a whole were guilty of deicide. The Jews as a whole were worthy of expulsion and even death.No one denies this blood history. In fact, my most-translated book documents this very history so that Christians today can feel the pain and shame of what some of their ancestors did in Jesus’s name.
But as I have traveled around the world sharing these things (now on more than 200 trips outside the United States), my Christian hearers are shocked. “How could a Christian hate the Jews?” they ask incredulously. “Jesus himself is Jewish, the New Testament is Jewish, and God loves the Jewish people to this day.”When they hear I’m debating Rabbi Shmuley on the subject of, “Is the New Testament Antisemitic?” they respond, “What’s there to debate? Of course it isn’t!”That’s why, for almost 48 years now, in country after country (as well as right here in the US), the vast majority of Evangelicals I have met are philosemites. This is not despite the New Testament but because of it.They don’t blame “the Jews” for the death of Jesus. Instead, they quote scriptures stating that God so loved the world He sent His son to die for us; that Jesus laid down his life willingly; and that it was our sins that nailed him to the cross.And yet, contrary to Shmuley’s claim that these Evangelicals are moving away from a literal interpretation of the New Testament, they are famous for their literal reading of the Bible. That’s why they are Christian Zionists. They believe that God has literally kept His promises to His literal, physical people – as reinforced in the New Testament writings – and restored them to their land. As for Shmuley’s claim that the New Testament is inherently antisemitic because it indicts Jewish leaders for handing Jesus over to the Romans for crucifixion, he must surely know that this is precisely what the Talmud and Maimonides state.The Rambam speaks of “Jesus of Nazareth who aspired to be the Messiah and was executed by the court” – meaning the Jewish court, otherwise known as the Sanhedrin. As explained by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger, “The Jews did not actually carry out the execution, for crucifixion is not one of the Torah’s methods of execution. Rather, after condemning him to death, the Sanhedrin handed him over to the Roman authorities who executed him as a rebel against Roman rule.”THE TALMUD states, “On the eve of Passover they hanged Jesus the Nazarene. And a herald went out before him for 40 days, saying, ‘He is going to be stoned, because he practiced sorcery and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in his favor, let him come and plead in his behalf.’ But, not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover” (Sanhedrin 43a; Sanhedrin 10:11; Sanhedrin 7:16, 67a). Why is it antisemitic for the New Testament to state the historical facts, namely that Jewish leaders turned Jesus over to the Romans for death, but not antisemitic for the Talmud and Maimonides to make similar claims?My friend Shmuley takes umbrage at the words of Jesus found in the Gospels which accuse our leadership of killing prophets in previous generations. He says, “The Jews are accused of being something like serial killers.” But Jesus is simply recounting what is written in the Old Testament, as well as affirmed in rabbinic literature. See, for example, Pesikta Rabbati 26:13, where young Jeremiah hesitates when called to prophesy against Israel, saying, “I cannot prophesy about them; what prophet went out to them whom they did not seek to kill?”Jesus is simply standing in the line of the great prophets to Israel as the preeminent prophet. As noted by Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, “Like the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, Jesus can be seen as the conscience of Israel... In his confrontation with the leaders of the nation, Jesus echoed the words of the prophets by denouncing hypocrisy and injustice... As a prophetic figure, this image of Jesus should be recognizable to all Jews.”And it is here that we come to the strangest part of Rabbi Shmuley’s article. He writes, “Today, there is a global movement on the part of our Christian brothers to discover the Jewishness of Jesus, and we in the Jewish community should be leading the way. And I say to my friend Mike Brown, respectfully, that his ongoing desire to convert Jews to a belief in Jesus makes him a dinosaur in the Christian community.”Of course he is absolutely right that tens (if not hundreds) of millions of Christians worldwide are rediscovering the Jewishness of Jesus. But this only reinforces to them that this Jesus, whom many of them know as Yeshua, is the Jewish Messiah. In fact, they now understand that the only reason Jesus is the Christian savior is because he is the Jewish Messiah.This is the universal testimony of the New Testament writings, as I laid out in my book The Real Kosher Jesus, because of which, hundreds of millions of Christians remain zealous to see our Jewish people embrace Jesus as Messiah.In fact, the Christians who are the greatest supporters of Israel and the greatest lovers of our people are the ones who most fervently pray for us to Yeshua as our Messiah.This means that my friend Shmuley could not be more wrong about me being a dinosaur among Christians. To the contrary, in increasing measure they embrace my message of unconditional love for our people. And they embrace my message that Jesus-Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel and the savior of the world.The writer is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He is the author of more than 35 books, including Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the ‘Church’ and the Jewish People. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.