Thursday, April 21, 2005

(Not so) Great Moments in (Jewish) Apologetics

I chanced upon the website Jews for Judaism, which is a response to the success of organizations like Jews for Jesus in converting Jews to Christianity by preserving a locus of Jewish cultural identity within the church. I've never understood the wide split between Christianity and Judaism. The apostolic period was a Jewish milieu, and all of its leaders were Jewish. Christianity is incomprehensible apart from its Jewish foundations. Edith Schaeffer's book Christianity is Jewish does a wonderful job of exploring this.

Jews for Judaism has a little FAQ laying out out their case that Jesus is not the Messiah. As I started to read it, I was overcome by laughter and incredulity at the first point:

Jesus cannot be the Messiah because he did not have a Jewish biological father.

Pursuing this line of thought creates a bit of a dilemma for our Jewish apologists. On the one hand, if one rejects the virgin birth, then Jesus was the biological son of Mary's fianceƩ Joseph, and the objection dissolves. On the other hand, if one embraces the virgin birth (which they seem to have done, at least hypothetically), then one is put in the impious position of rejecting a miracle from God (sorry, G-d) on the grounds of some fastidious interpretation of genealogical laws.

A further objection to Jesus is in the notion that God would never be incarnate as a man, which they claim even during exegesis of passages like Isaiah 7 (with its controversial "virgin birth" prophecy and Immanuel -- "God with us" -- figure). Then, they maintain that the Messiah must rebuild the Jerusalem temple, because in Ezekiel 37, God says that his "sanctuary" will be with His people forever. So, their rejection of an imminent God is coupled with an insistence on a very present material sanctuary (a spiritual God cannot have a spiritual sanctuary?). Their G-d may be distant, but their temple must be right here.


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