A series of fascinating articles was published in 2019 in the Jerusalem Post. Rabbi Shmuley writes about the content of the New Testament and the historic ill-treatment treatment of Jewish people throughout Christendom as related. Nonetheless he notes that today, Christian Evangelicals are the greatest allies of Jewish people and the State of Israel, yet the political left denigrates Christianity and have an irrational hatred of Israel.[i]
Shmuley explains this in terms of interpretation; arguing that both parties are moving away from an interpretation of Jews as an enemy of Jesus and emphasising that one can only understand Jesus in Jewish context.[ii] His friend and debating opponent Doctor Michael Brown is cognizant of how the New Testament has been used throughout the centuries to persecute Jewish people, but is of the opinion it is axiomatic that the New Testament isn’t antisemitic.[iii]
Before forming an opinion on the subject, we must first of all ask, have you read it in entirety? Let’s commence from Matthew’s Gospel, the first book in the Brit Hadasha (The New Testament).
Who is Matthew and what was he writing about and who was his audience? Matthew was a Jewish author, writing about a Jewish Messiah towards a Jewish audience.
How does Matthew begin? He writes a list of genealogies proving that Yeshua (Jesus) is descended from Abraham and David and is from the tribe of Judah. This is essential in relation to messianic credentials, otherwise anyone could make a claim to be Messiah.
How does Matthew understand messianic prophecy and link the Brit Hadasha with the Tanakh? Frequently Matthew uses the term ‘that it might be fulfilled’ or quotes directly from the prophets. In Matthew 1:22-23, he quotes Isaiah 7:14 regarding the virgin birth. In Matthew 2:6, he quotes Micah 5:2 (1) about the Ruler of Israel coming from Bethlehem Ephrathah from the tribe of Judah. In Matthew 2:15, he quotes Hosea 11:1 about coming out of Egypt. In Matthew 2:17-18 he quotes Jeremiah 31:15 about the massacre of the innocents and in Matthew 3:2, he quotes Isaiah 40:3 about Jesus being preceded by a messenger (John the Baptist).
You killed our Jesus
Sadly Matthew 27:25 has been misused over the centuries by some in Christendom (those claiming to be Christians and many of whom are not) against Jewish people, saying, “You killed our Jesus!” One of my closest friends is Jewish and he has been at the receiving end of such a malicious accusation. I have also heard and read of many similar testimonies from Jewish folk. Persecution of the Jewish people over the centuries has been relentless. It is ill-founded and goes directly against what the Bible teaches.
It was the Romans who crucified Jews though their descendants are rarely vilified for that, but maybe we’re missing the essential point. What is the essential point? Jesus said of Himself concerning His life, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father (John 10:18).”
Yeshua had to die to atone for sins and He was crucified at Passover. He is the Passover Lamb. Leviticus 17:11 tells us ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ In Hebrews 9:22 we read, ‘And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.’
In John 10:18 we also see that the command was received from the Father. Probably the most famous verse in the whole Bible is “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).”In that great messianic passage of Isaiah 53, we discover the Father’s will, ‘Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When you make His soul an offering for sin, He shall prolong His days and the pleasure of the Lord shall prolong His days (Isaiah 53:10).’
The first believers were Jewish
The New Testament is a Jewish document. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 1:59). Jesus kept the Jewish feasts. At Tabernacles (John 7:2), Yeshua said that if anyone thirsts, let Him come to Me and drink (John 7:37). He said, “I am the light of the world, He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12)”. Jesus was at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) (John 10:22). Before He was crucified Jesus had a Passover with His disciples (Matthew 26:17-25).
At the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 there was a conflict regarding whether Gentiles would have to be circumcised and it was decided that Gentile believers in Yeshua didn’t have to be circumcised though James said “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:19-20). Who did James write his epistle to? To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad (James 1:b).
All Israel will be saved
Sadly over the centuries many in Christendom have said that the church has replaced Israel and that the church is the new Israel. However this isn’t what is actually taught in the New Testament. Paul was Jewish and a Pharisee and was taught by Gamaliel and was zealous for God (Acts 22:3). Paul dealt with this very objection clearly if we care to read it!
“I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people who He foreknew (Romans 11:1-2a).” Though some Jewish people received Yeshua many did not, and Paul writes, “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles Romans 11:11.”
Paul goes onto describe Israel is like a wild olive tree in which the Gentile believers in Jesus have been grafted into the olive tree. The branches do not support the root, but the root supports the branches so therefore the Gentiles have no right to be arrogant and instead they should fear God.
How will it all end? Paul speaks of a great regathering of Jewish people who will come to believe in Yeshua as their Messiah. In 1948 there were very few Jewish believers in Israel. Just over seventy years later there are approximately 300 Messianic fellowships and approximately 30,000 Jewish believers there.
“And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins (Romans 11:26-27).”
[i] Rabbi Shmuley No holds barred: Is the New Testament antisemitic? https://www.jpost.com/opinion/no-holds-barred-is-the-new-testament-antisemitic-597774 August 5th, 2019
[iii] Dr Michael Brown Rabbi Shmuley is wrong about the New Testament and Evangelical Christians https://www.jpost.com/opinion/rabbi-shmuley-is-wrong-about-the-new-testament-and-evangelical-christians-597959 August 11th 2019