Claim #3: Spiritual Salvation and a personal relationship with God can only come through Jesus
Missionaries claim that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G-d” (Romans 2:23), and that there is no salvation from sin or any possibility of a personal relationship with G-d without belief in Jesus. Specifically with regard to Jews, their argument is that Jews have always needed animal blood sacrifices to rid themselves of sin. Since sacrifices were abolished after the destruction of the Temple in Israel, they claim that today Jews can find salvation from sin only by believing in Jesus, who “died on the cross and shed his blood as the final sacrifice.”
The Jewish Response
The notion that we are born condemned, and that without the practice of animal sacrifices Jews cannot atone for their sins, represents a blatant misinterpretation of the Jewish Bible.
First of all, the Bible teaches that sin is an act, not a state of being. Mankind was created with an inclination to do evil (Genesis 8:21), and the ability to master this inclination (Genesis 4:7) and choose good over evil (Psalm 37:27). Second, G-d gave us a way to remove our sins. When sacrifices were required they were intended only for unintentional sins (Leviticus 4:1) and served as a means of motivating individuals to true repentance. Numerous passages, including Hosea 14, I Kings 8:44-52 and Jeremiah 29:12-14, inform us that today, without a Temple or sacrifices, our prayers take the place of sacrifices. In addition, we read, “The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) and “I desire kindness and not sacrifices, the knowledge of G-d more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). The Torah teaches that through repentance, prayer, fasting, and doing what is right, everyone has the ability to return to G-d directly.
This concept is beautifully illustrated in the books of Jonah and Esther, where both Jews and non-Jews repented, prayed to G-d and were forgiven for their sins without having offered any sacrifices.
Missionaries often misinterpret the Jewish tradition that “the suffering of the righteous is a form of atonement.” Jewish sources are clear that this concept pertains only to the alleviation of Divine punishment that was decreed upon the Jewish people as a whole. It does not pertain to the removal of an individual’s sin. Every person has the responsibility to repent directly to G-d for his own transgressions. (Ezekiel 18:20)
The Hebrew word for repentance is teshuvah–vcua,, and liter-ally means to “return to G-d.” Our personal relationship with G-d allows us to turn directly to Him at any time, as it says in Malachi 3:7, “Return to Me and I shall return to you,” and in Ezekiel 18:27, “When the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” Additionally, G-d is extremely compassionate and forgiving as is indicated in Daniel 9:18, “We do not present our supplications before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your abundant mercy.”
Contrary to the New Testament (Romans 4:15-16) portrayal of the commandments as a curse and stumbling block, King David says in Psalm 19:7 that “the Law of G-d is perfect, restoring the soul.”
King Solomon said that the main purpose of humanity is to believe in G-d and keep his commandments as is stated in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14: “The end of the matter, when all is said and done: Be in awe of G-d and keep his commandments, for that is the whole person.”
Deuteronomy 30:11-14 teaches that this path to G-d is unquestionably within our grasp. Isaiah 42:6 teaches that it is the role of Judaism and the Jewish nation to show the world this path by serving as a “light to the nations.”