A TEXT OUT OF CONTEXT… IS JUST A PRETEXT
Why Jews Cannot Accept the New Testament
For centuries, Christians have asked why Jews don’t accept the authenticity of the New Testament. Let’s explore in depth one of the many reasons, namely contradictions and inconsistencies.
Judaism believes that the Jewish Scriptures, often referred to as the Old Testament, are the inspired word of God. If passages appear to contradict one another, it is our responsibility to delve deeply and uncover a correct understanding. Unfortunately, some Christians believe that the end justifies the means and often use the following New Testament passage to justify their approach. “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed…” [Philippians 1:18]
Additionally, Judaism encourages full disclosure and an honest examination of the Bible. Therefore, when passages within Jewish Scriptures appear to contradict one another, our sages never ignored them. Instead, they always sought an understanding consistent with the entire Torah.
I begin by presenting one of many examples that substantiate the Jewish approach. In 1 Chronicles 21:1, it states, “Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.”
However, another passage in the Jewish Bible, 2 Samuel 24:1, states that God caused King David to count the Jewish people. “The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He incited David against them to say, ‘Go number Israel…’”
So, who made David number Israel – Satan or God? The confusion is based on a misunderstanding of the word, “Satan.”
Unlike Christianity, Jewish Scriptures do not teach that Satan is a “fallen and rebellious angel.” In fact, the first time that Satan appears in the Jewish Bible, the word refers to an angel sent by God to prevent Balaam, the non-Jewish prophet, from cursing the Jewish people. In fact, Balaam winds up blessing them. Definitely not a mission for an evil Satan!
The Jewish Bible states, “God was very angry when he (Balaam) went, and the angel (מאלך) of the Lord stood in the road to oppose (לשטן) him…” [Numbers 22:22] In this verse, the Hebrew word for “oppose” is “l’satan” and it is clearly not referring to an angel who is rebelling against God’s will. Rather, it refers to a messenger designated to carry out His will. The literal meaning of the Hebrew word “malach – מאלך” is “messenger” although it is usually translated as “angel.”
This interpretation is also consistent with the biblical account of Satan found in the book of Job. There we see that Satan has no free will of his own and is given permission by God to torment Job to test his loyalty to Him.
Thus, we see that Satan is a force, an angel, used by God to test mankind. Furthermore, we can understand the purpose of evil in this world and why the Jewish prophet Isaiah 45:7 states that God, “makes peace and creates evil (רע).” Contrary to Christianity’s viewpoint, which is similar to the one inherent in Greek mythology, Judaism does not regard Satan as a separate force that exists to oppose God.
These explanations, combined with a careful scrutiny of the original Hebrew, clarify the apparent contradiction in the passages cited above from Chronicles and Samuel – and they also demonstrate that there is no contradiction at all because Satan is an emissary sent by God who created him solely for His use in testing mankind.
Contradictions in the New Testament are different. How so?
Because the New Testament claims that “All Scripture is inspired by God…” [2 Timothy 3:16], and thereby places the New Testament and the Old Testament on an equal standing of divine inspiration. Consequently, the two should never contradict one another in any way. However, when contradictions do arise, we must discover a valid explanation – and if we cannot find one, then we have encountered a true contradiction.
Christianity must acknowledge that only the Old Testament – and not the New – maintains its status as inspired by God. Why? Because the New Testament was written after the creation of the Old and, in fact, uses the Old to prove its validity. In other words, when the New Testament contradicts the divinely inspirited Old Testament it bases itself upon, it cannot maintain its own claim of being divinely inspired and infallible.
The Contradictions and Inconsistencies between the Two Books
The New Testament states, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” [Luke 14:26]
When we read this verse as an isolated passage, it appears to say that a person must hate his/her family in order to be considered a disciple of Jesus. However, this statement clearly contradicts the Old Testament biblical command to honor one’s parents as found in the Ten Commandments. “Honor your father and your mother…” [Exodus 20:12], and the commandment to “Love your fellow as yourself…” [Leviticus 19:1]
Some Christians reply that the Luke 14:26 passage should not be taken literally. Furthermore, they assert that this passage is taken out of context and is an inaccurate translation. Ironically, their arguments confirm the Jewish teaching of not accepting passages on surface value without first applying careful examination of context and translation to obtain a correct understanding.
While we are discussing the importance of reading passages correctly, I present another glaring example of a passage that is regularly mistranslated and read out of context. Many Christians like to quote the following verse from the book of Psalms to claim a prophetic reference to the crucifixion of Jesus. “For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and feet.” [Psalms 22:16] Although this passage appears this way in almost every Christian translation of the book of Psalms, nevertheless we have a blatant case of mistranslation and lack of context designed to create an inaccurate impression.
The first mistake is the translation of the original Hebrew word (k’ari – כארי) as “pierced.” The word actually means “like a lion” and the verse should read, “…they encompassed my hands and feet like a lion.” This original Hebrew translation is totally consistent with many other verses, such as Isaiah 38:13 which states, “I wait for morning; like a lion (כארי), even so he breaks all my bones…”
In context, King David, author of Psalms, is referring to the fear he experiences when pursued by his enemies, the army of King Saul. Earlier in Psalms, David uses terminology that unmistakably parallels Psalm 22. “Hide me under the shadow of thy wings, from the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about… They dog our footsteps; they encompass us: they set their eyes to tread us down to the earth; he is like a lion greedy for its prey.” [Psalms 17:8‑12]
In Psalms 22 and 17, David compares his enemies to dogs and lions that surround and encompass him. The Hebrew word for “like a lion” appears in both of them. Therefore, we can conclude that this Christian mistranslation was a disingenuous attempt to paint the crucifixion into the Old Testament.
Although some Christians admit that the original Hebrew does state “like a lion”, nevertheless others attempt to discredit this translation by fabricating the claim that the Hebrew text contains a scribal error. Furthermore, they claim that the ancient Greek Septuagint supports their “pierced” translation. Both of their arguments do not stand up to scrutiny, especially the Septuagint claim. 
In the New Testament, we are told that Jesus performed miracles, such as healing the sick. When the rabbis question his holiness and his claims that he is from God, they are asked how is it possible for someone to perform miracles if they are not from God. The New Testament account ends with the rabbis offering no response. “But others were saying, ‘How can a man who is sinner perform such miracles?’ And there was a division among them.” [John 9:16]
Even for people with just a basic familiarity with the Jewish bible, this story is unbelievable and instantly raises a red flag. Any child, no less the rabbis of that time period, knows that an answer to this question appears in Deuteronomy 13. The Jewish bible clearly teaches that a false prophet may perform miracles – not as an act of holiness but rather, as a demonstration that serves to test our loyalty to God.
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying ‘Let us go after other gods whom you have not known and let us serve them’, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul… But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death.” [Deut. 13:1‑5]
The rabbis could have responded with yet another Old Testament example of unholy people performing miracles. “…the magicians of Egypt did (miracles) in a like manner with their secret arts.” [Exodus 7:11] There are also numerous contradictions in the New Testament book of Acts. In chapter 7:51, we are told that the disciple Stephen is “full of the Holy Spirit.”  However, when recounting basic Jewish history, this spirit is non-existent because he contradicts well-known, undisputed facts clearly stated in the Old Testament.
Every child who reads a Passover Haggadah knows that the Jews went down to Egypt as a group comprised of 70 people and subsequently became a great nation. This statement appears in the Old Testament in three places. “Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all.” [Deuteronomy 10:22, Exodus 1:5, Genesis 46:27]
It is inconceivable that Stephen, a person described as “full of the Holy Spirit”, would mistakenly state, “…and Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy‑five persons in all.” [Act 7:14] Moreover, Stephen continues to recount incorrect biblical facts when he states that “Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died. From there they were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.” [Acts 7:16]
Jacob was not buried in Shechem in a cave purchased by Abraham from Hamor. In truth, Jacob was buried in Hebron in a cave bought by Abraham from Ephron. “For his sons carried him (Jacob) into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah,  the field that Abraham bought as a burial plot from Ephron…” [Genesis 50:13]
Once again, we see that Stephen was obviously not filled with divine inspiration when he got his basic facts confused. In fact, it was Joseph who was buried in Shechem [Joshua 24:32] in a field purchased by Jacob from Emmor. [Genesis 33:19]
We find another contradiction in the book of Matthew 2:23 where we are told that “Jesus came and resided in a city called Nazareth that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” This statement does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament. In fact, at the time of the writing of the Old Testament, the city of Nazareth did not even exist!
In addition, many Christian bibles incorrectly attribute this quote of the disciple Matthew to the Old Testament book of Judges 16:17, a passage that refers to Samson who was Nazarite. A Nazarite is someone who takes an oath to abstain from wine and hair cutting. A Nazarene, on the other hand, is a person from the city Nazareth. These words may sound alike but in Hebrew, they are spelled differently and are totally dissimilar – one contains the Hebrew letter zayen (נזר), while the other has the Hebrew letter tzadik (נצר).
Another major contradiction is found in the New Testament book of Romans. In an attempt to promote the belief that the redeemer (messiah) will come from Zion and remove the sins of man, the New Testament inaccurately quotes a passage from Isaiah. Classic Christian belief claims that only by believing in the messiah, can people be totally forgiven for their sins. Romans states that “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” [Romans 11:26] However, the original verse from Jewish scriptures states that the redeemer will come to Zion and to those who turn away (repent) from sin. These two diametrically opposed statements represent a critical theological difference between Judaism and Christianity. As Isaiah states, “A redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression.” [Isaiah 59:20]
To continue this discussion about atonement of sin, the New Testament incorrectly quotes Psalms to make it appear that the body of the messiah (offered on the cross) is more desired than sacrifices. “Sacrifices and offering thou hast not desired, but a body Thou hast prepared for Me.” [Hebrews 10:5] In truth, the correct translation of this passage is, “Sacrifices and meal offerings Thou hast not desired; My ears Thou hast opened.” [Psalms 40:6]
Another verse from the Jewish bible confirms the Jewish understanding of Psalm 40:6 by stating that God wants obedience more than sacrifices. “…Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” [1 Samuel 15:22] Additionally, sin offerings were meant for unintentional sins only (see Leviticus 4) and served to motivate repentance. In the Jewish bible, the animal blood sacrifice was not the main ingredient in removing sin. Even a perfect sacrifice not accompanied with sincere repentance could never achieve atonement for the individual.
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” [Proverbs 15:8]
How do we attain atonement for sins, today, when we no longer offer sacrifices in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem? The Jewish prophet Hosea (Chapter 14) taught us that when there is no Temple, our prayers replace sacrifices as the act to arouse our authentic feelings of remorse and repentance. “Offer your lips (of prayer) in place of the bulls (of sacrifices).” [Hosea 14:2] Although the context substantiates the correct understanding, Christian translations avoid the association of sacrifices and prayers. Instead, they often delete the reference to the sacrificial bulls by mistranslating the verse as “Offer the fruit of our lips”, as found in the Christian King James Bible and New American Standard editions.
Another passage that clearly instructs the Jews to replace sacrifices with prayer is found in the Old Testament, book of Kings, chapter 8. “When Your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way You shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city which You have chosen and the house which I have built for Your name, then hear in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.” [1 Kings 8:44-45]
Some Christians attempt to validate their claim for the essential need of blood sacrifices by claiming that the Old Testament, Leviticus 17:11 states, “There is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood.” But this statement does not appear anywhere in Jewish Scriptures! In fact, Leviticus 17:11 reads, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”
Although this verse states that blood serves as a tool to attain atonement for sin, it does not say that blood is only way to achieve this. In truth, the Jewish bible contains several examples of achieving atonement through various means without blood, such as “Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them.” [Numbers 16:47]
The closest reference to Christianity’s fabricated version of the Leviticus 17:11 passage concerning blood and atonement actually appears in the New Testament. Amazingly, this passage actually substantiates the Jewish understanding and significantly contradicts the Christian argument. How so? Because it states that a person can almost claim that blood makes atonement. “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness…” [Hebrews 9:22]
One of the most shocking contradictions in the New Testament appears in Hebrews where the Jewish prophet Jeremiah is deliberately misquoted. Why did this happen? Christians want to give the impression that God has rejected or no longer cares for the Jewish people. “For they did not continue in My covenant and I did not care for them…” [Hebrews 8:9] But Jeremiah’s words were totally different! He taught that although the Jewish people may have behaved like an unfaithful wife, God remains a faithful husband and will not break His covenant with them. The verse actually states, “My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them…” [Jeremiah 31:32]
God also stated that He would never break His covenant with the Jewish people. “I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them…” [Leviticus 26:44] Throughout the New Testament, there are countless more contradictions and inconsistencies rooted in blatant mistranslations.
To prove the virgin birth, Matthew incorrectly quotes the prophet Isaiah and states, “Behold a virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son and they shall call His name Immanuel.” [Matthew 1:23] But Isaiah actually wrote, “Behold the young woman is with a child and shall bear a son and she will call His name Immanuel.” [Isaiah 7:14]
The Old Testament original is in the present tense (is with child) and speaks about a specific (the) “young woman” (not “a virgin”) who is pregnant during his lifetime. Furthermore, chapter 8 of Isaiah clearly identifies the woman as Isaiah’s own wife and the child as their own! For those who want to explore this passage in greater depth, I have written an extensive explanation that is available upon request.
Yet another contradiction appears in the New Testament when Matthew tries to prove that an Old Testament prophesy was fulfilled when the infant Jesus returned from Egypt. Matthew incorrectly quotes Hosea as saying, “…out of Egypt did I call my Son.” [Matthew 2:15] The verse in Jewish scriptures actually says, “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” [Hosea 11:1]
In addition, in the Old Testament, the people of Israel are referred to in the singular as being God’s son. “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn.’” [Exodus 4:22] This verse also highlights the Christian misinterpretation of the identity of the suffering Servant of God described in Isaiah 53. Christians claim the suffering Servant refers to Jesus, but it actually refers to the people Jewish as a single group suffering because of the nations of the world. For centuries, Christians have used yet another shocking contradiction. They claim that the Jews are blind to a proper understanding of their own scriptures, especially those that point to Jesus.
The New Testament book of Corinthians states that the Jews have a veil over their hearts that blocks their ability to read and understand the teachings of Moses. The Christian argument continues to assert that when the Jews turn to Jesus, their veil will be removed and they will be able to see the truth. This assertion is mind-boggling!
“But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart. But whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” [2 Corinthians 3:12‑16] As absurd as this Christian argument may be, it becomes even more outrageous by the intentional mistranslation of a passage from Exodus. In Chapter 34, we are told that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was beaming with rays of light. This light was so intense that the Jews could not look at him.
Therefore, when Moses stopped speaking to the Jews and finished teaching them the Torah, he would cover his face with a veil. “When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.” [Exodus 34:34] The Hebrew word for “had finished” is the same as the word used in Genesis 2:1 where we are told that God had finished (vayechulu – וַיְכֻלּ֛וּ) the creation. For centuries, traditional Jews have understood and recited this word every Friday night when they sanctified the Sabbath with wine.
The authors of these Christian translations, including the King James Bible, have contradicted the original Hebrew and intentionally mistranslated the verse in Exodus to make it consistent with the verse in Corinthians. “And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.” [Christian translation]
Their incorrect version deliberately implies that until Moses was finished speaking to the Jews, he had a veil over his face. Therefore, he transmitted only a veiled understanding of the meaning of his words!
Furthermore, there are other major contradictions and inconsistencies within the New Testament itself! I present just two of many.
The Synoptic Gospels state that the Last Supper was on Passover (Matthew 26:1-19, Mark 14:12-23 and Luke 22:7-20). However, the disciple John claims that Jesus was crucified before Passover started.
“Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover… and they crucified him.” [John 19:14-18]
Disciples Matthew and Luke present genealogical records to demonstrate that Jesus is a direct descendant of King David and therefore, a rightful heir to the Messianic throne. Jewish Scriptures emphatically state that the messiah must meet several specific criteria and genealogy is definitely one of them. The messiah must be:
1. A Male, Son-After-Son, Descendant from the Biblical Tribe of Judah
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh (Messiah) comes.” [Genesis 49:10] Tribal affiliation is patrilineal, transmitted only from father to son. “Then they registered their ancestry in their families by their fathers’ household.” [Numbers 1:18]
2. A Descendant of King David
“I shall raise up for David a righteous branch and he will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.” [Jeremiah 23:5] “David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel. [Jeremiah 33:17] “I will raise up your descendant after you (David), who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me.” [2 Samuel 7:12‑16].
3. A Descendant of King Solomon
“His name shall be Solomon… he shall build a house for My name and I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.” [1 Chronicles 22:9‑10] However, a careful examination of the two New Testament genealogies presents serious problems. The first concerns the birth of Jesus.
By claiming that Jesus was born of a virgin birth, he would obviously not have a physical father and would be disqualified immediately as a member of the tribe of Judah or David. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.” [Matthew 1:18]
Furthermore, the disciple Paul claims that Jesus is the messiah based on his physical genealogy. “Concerning his Son, who was born a descendant of David according to the flesh.” [Romans 1:3] “For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah.” [Hebrews 7:14] By stating that Jesus was the physical descendant of Judah and David, Paul validates the biblical criteria of biological ancestry and at the same time, contradicts the mistaken genealogical claims found in the Gospels.
Additionally, the genealogy of Matthew is inconsistent with Luke’s! Matthew lists Joseph’s father as Jacob, and Luke lists Joseph’s father as Eli. “And to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus.” [Matthew 1:16] “Jesus was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli.” [Luke 3:23]
Matthew also lists Jesus as being a descendant of King Jeconiah whose descendants were disqualified from ever being Kings of Israel. “To Josiah were born Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.” [Matthew 1:11] This is problematic because it also says, “Write this man (Jeconiah) down childless… for no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.” [Jeremiah 22:24]
Furthermore, Luke’s genealogy record lists 14 more generations than Matthew’s, and he lists Jesus as being a descendant of King David through his son Nathan and not his son Solomon, as required by biblical mandate. “… the son of Nathan the son of David.” [Luke 3:31] Some Christians try to resolve this discrepancy by claiming that Luke is actually listing Mary’s genealogy. This far-fetched and desperate theory is highly problematic for several reasons.
1. The Greek text does not substantiate this argument.
2. Mary’s affiliation to the tribe of Judah would not be transmitted to her children because tribal affiliation is patrilineal.
3. This genealogy does not include Solomon.
Possibly, these obvious contradictions compelled the disciple Paul to write the following dramatic statement to his disciple Timothy. “… nor pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than further the administration of God which is by faith.” [1Timothy 1:4] For those who seek to discover the truth, it is evident that all of these countless attempts by Christians to prove that Jesus is a divine Messiah are based on inaccurate quotes and distortions of the original Hebrew Bible.
To conclude, the examples that I have presented here represent only a fraction of the contradictions and inconsistencies we encounter whenever we make a careful examination of the New versus the Old Testament.
This article is written out of deep love for God and respect for the authority of the Jewish Scriptures. I hope you appreciate that this is why Jews can never accept Jesus as the Messiah, and why Jews must reject claims that the New Testament is infallible and divinely inspired.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz is the founder, Jews for Judaism, International.
© 2012 Jews for Judaism International.
NOTES Wherever the term “Old Testament” appears, it is for comparative purposes with the term “New Testament.” The correct terminology for “Old Testament” is either the Jewish Bible or Jewish Scriptures.  The fallen angel concept is based on a mistranslation of Isaiah 14:12 – first introduced by Saint Jerome in his Latin Vulgate – where the words “morning star” (Venus) are mistranslated to “Lucifer” (the devil). The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar was associated with the deity Ishtar/Venus and he was metaphorically thrown from heaven for his evil role in destroying Jerusalem. The word Lucifer is related to the words “lucent” and “lux” which mean shining light.  It is out of an unwavering reverence for the Old Testament that Judaism cannot accept the New Testament as divinely inspired scripture.  The scholarly Christian New English Bible Oxford Study Edition corrects this common mistake.  Both the Jewish and Greek traditions (see Babylonian Talmud Megila 9a and Aristeas’ letter to King Ptolemy) state that the Septuagint translation, attributed to 70 inspired Rabbis, was exclusively the Five Books of Moses and did not include the Prophets and the Holy writings. Later Greek translations of the entire Jewish Scriptures were most probably the work of Hellenized assimilated Jews.  In Luke 12:11-12 the disciples are promised that when they are questioned by the Synagogue authorities (as Stephen is here), the Holy Spirit will tell them what to say. Acts 6 also repeats numerous times that Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit.  The field of Machpelah is in Hebron, see Genesis 23:19.  Leviticus chapter 5 gives examples of non-blood sacrifices offered by individuals who could not afford an animal.  Most Christian translations say, “disregarded them”, whereas others incorrectly say, “rejected.”  Michelangelo was most probably influenced by another mistranslation of this verse (horns of flesh rather than rays of light) to craft his famous statue of Moses (c. 1513–1515) with actual horns coming out of his head.  Some Christian missionaries respond that the curse was removed and the kingship returned to Jeconiah’s son Zerubavel. Zerubavel’s name means “child of Babylon” and indicates his birth took place while Jeconiah was imprisoned there. Sometimes missionaries quote a rabbinic teaching that Jeconiah repented in the Babylonian prison and was rewarded by having the curse removed. However, this poses another problem for them because it demonstrates that a person is able to repent of a sin without the need to offer a blood sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple.