Israel is Ground Zero for missionary activity targeting Jews for conversion; no wonder they are broadcasting the Gospel into Israeli homes on Israeli cable TV.
On a trip to Israel, my wife and I rented an apartment in Jerusalem. One evening we took a walk and encountered an Israeli who had accepted Christianity. He asserted that he was still Jewish and then asked me, “what’s wrong with believing in the Jewish messiah?” I have heard this setup question before because missionaries are trained to ask it.
I explained that based on the New Testament, Jesus is disqualified from being the messiah, who must be a member of the tribe of Judah, as it says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah” (Genesis 49:10). This week’s Torah portion Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1–4:20) states that membership in a specific tribe was passed on son to son as an inheritance exclusively from his father (Numbers 1:2).
Reminiscent of Greek myths, the New Testament claims that Jesus did not have a physical father. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. If Jesus did not have a physical father, he could not be from the tribe of Judah, and it would be wrong to believe he was the messiah.
I told this Israeli missionary that his statement that Jesus is the ‘Jewish messiah’ avoids a critical issue. Christians and 'Messianic Jews’ do not believe Jesus is only the messiah; they believe he is God. All denominations of Judaism agree that this is an idolatrous belief for Jews, and this explains why historically Jews were willing to reject Jesus to the point of giving up their lives.
The idolatry issue is so damaging to the messianic argument that missionaries, like the one I met in Jerusalem, intentionally avoid mentioning that they believe Jesus is God on initial contact.
The founder of Jews for Jesus recommended this tactic in his book “Sharing the New Life With A Jew,” and Messianic Jews wholeheartedly accepted his advice.
Once Jesus’s divinity is brought up in the conversation, missionaries try to circumvent this obstacle by distorting biblical and rabbinic texts to prove their point. One messianic group went so far as to fabricate a quote from the Zohar to prove the trinity is Jewish.
The belief in the trinity and the bodily incarnation of God predate Christianity and are common in Greek and Roman paganism.
I explained that God transcends the limitations of time and space (Isaiah 44:6). Therefore, His essence cannot be divided into parts or take on physical form, as it says, “you saw no form of any kind on the day the LORD spoke to you out of the fire at Horeb” (Deuteronomy 4:15).
My words made an impression on this Israeli, and we continued our conversation via Zoom for many months. As I respectfully and methodically refuted his ‘proof-texts,’ he recognized his mistake, as King Solomon said, “the first to bring an argument sounds right until someone examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). He eventually returned to Judaism with a newfound appreciation that fulfilled his spiritual longing.
May we be blessed that the spiritual beauty of Judaism always fills our lives.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz
P.S. Jews for Judaism has added a Hebrew area on our www,JewsforJudaism.org website as a resource for Israelis who are being targeted for conversion.