In Kosher Jesus, author Shmuley Boteach writes to both Jews and Christians alike. However, as I mentioned before in What Has Christianity Lost?, his complete dismissal of the New Testament (while understandable) leaves his argument for unity of the faiths a bit one-sided and more than a little disheartening. At least, it does on the Christian side of the family tree.
In our new series Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message For Christians, the author David H. Stern, Ph.D is Jewish. He is also a follower of Christ or a Messianic Jew. If your first thought to that statement is, “Doesn’t that make him a Christian?” you might find his book a worthwhile read as we explore this, and many other aspects of our Judeo-Christian heritage.
It’s important to emphasize Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message For Christians is intended, as the name implies, primarily for non-Jewish Christians and for Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus). The author begins with three presuppositions:
- Christianity is Jewish
- Antisemitism is un-Christian
- Refusing or neglecting to evangelize Jews is antisemitic
The author further assumes,”Yeshua is indeed Israel’s Messiah, and that the New Testament and the Tanakh (Old Testament) constitute God’s word to humanity.”
“Yeshua’s “Great Commission” to the Church was to make disciples from every nation. But as soon as the early Messianic Jews began reaching out to Gentiles, it was necessary to separate the Gospel from its cultural context, so that its essential message would not be encumbered with cultural baggage unnecessary for salvation.
Learning that the New Covenant did not require Gentiles to become Jews in order to be saved was a traumatic process for the Jewish believers in Yeshua.”
Paul spent much of his ministry bringing Gentile believers into the faith, without compelling them to adopt Jewish culture. Doesn’t it seem odd, or just plain wrong, that now that we Gentile believers/Christians are the majority within the church, that we have insisted that Jewish believers do the very same that Paul preached against–adopting Christian culture and leaving Judaism as a condition of salvation?
No wonder, it doesn’t look like God’s plan to either side.
So what is?
That all of Israel be saved.
Completely rejecting “Replacement” and “Dispensational” theology, Dr. Stern sets the “Olive Tree theology” as presented by Paul in Romans 11:16-26 (NASB)
If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
You will say then “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery-so that you will not be wise in your own estimation-that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;
and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
“THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION,
HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.
The olive tree which, God cultivated Sterns explains, is Israel with its roots in the Patriarchs–Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Gentiles, the wild olive tree, and Christians are the branches grafted in.
The author points to the fact that once again, there is now a Messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem. But even more than that, there are signs that the “fullness of the Gentiles” could be at hand.
From Israel Today:
“A few months before Kaduri died at the age of 108, he surprised his followers when he told them that he met the Messiah. Kaduri gave a message in his synagogue on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, teaching how to recognize the Messiah. He also mentioned that the Messiah would appear to Israel after Ariel Sharon’s death. (The former prime minister is still in a coma after suffering a massive stroke more than a year ago.) Other rabbis predict the same, including Rabbi Haim Cohen, kabbalist Nir Ben Artzi and the wife of Rabbi Haim Kneiveskzy.
Kaduri’s grandson, Rabbi Yosef Kaduri, said his grandfather spoke many times during his last days about the coming of the Messiah and redemption through the Messiah. His spiritual portrayals of the Messiah—reminiscent of New Testament accounts—were published on the websites Kaduri.net and Nfc:
“It is hard for many good people in the society to understand the person of the Messiah. The leadership and order of a Messiah of flesh and blood is hard to accept for many in the nation. As leader, the Messiah will not hold any office, but will be among the people and use the media to communicate. His reign will be pure and without personal or political desire. During his dominion, only righteousness and truth will reign.
“Will all believe in the Messiah right away? No, in the beginning some of us will believe in him and some not. It will be easier for non-religious people to follow the Messiah than for Orthodox people.
“The revelation of the Messiah will be fulfilled in two stages: First, he will actively confirm his position as Messiah without knowing himself that he is the Messiah. Then he will reveal himself to some Jews, not necessarily to wise Torah scholars. It can be even simple people. Only then he will reveal himself to the whole nation. The people will wonder and say: ‘What, that’s the Messiah?’ Many have known his name but have not believed that he is the Messiah.”
In a note the rabbi wrote the name of the messiah. He requested that it not be revealed until one year after his death.
When the note was unsealed, it revealed what many have known for centuries: Yehoshua, or Yeshua (Jesus), is the Messiah.
With the biblical name of Jesus, the Rabbi and kabbalist described the Messiah using six words and hinting that the initial letters form the name of the Messiah. The secret note said:
Concerning the letter abbreviation of the Messiah’s name, He will lift the people and prove that his word and law are valid.
This I have signed in the month of mercy,
As Christians look for the second coming of Christ, and Israel awaits the promised Messiah; Paul’s Olive Tree allegory becomes even more relevant today than ever before.
Join the conversation get Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospels here.