not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
—Galatians 2:15-16 This conflict continued for the first few
hundred years after Yeshua, as a number of sects of Jewish believers flourished and then faded. Among these were the Ebionites, who rejected Yeshua’s divinity, but accepted Him as a prophet and teacher, believing that He encouraged His followers to faithful observance of the Law of Moses. They also rejected the doctrines of the virgin birth and the resurrection, and considered Paul to be a heretic.
Then there were the Nazarenes. These
Jewish survivors of the destruction of Jeru- salem were active in Syria to the end of the fourth century. Author Philip Schaff, in his book, The History of the Christian Church, Volume 2, says:
They united the observance of the Mosaic ritual law with their belief in the Messiahship and divinity of Jesus, used the gospel of Matthew in Hebrew . . . But they indulged no antipathy to the apostle Paul. They were, therefore, not heretics, but stunted separatist Christians . . . [W]ishing to be Jews and Christians alike, they were nei- ther one nor the other.
Many other groups in Judaism acknowl- edged in some way the superiority of Yesh- ua’s life and teachings, although most of these have long since disappeared. But nev- er has there been a time of no Jewish believ- ers. In Romans 11:5, Paul writes about the “remnant chosen by grace.” This “remnant” is larger today than ever before, and it is growing rapidly.
Division Deepens By the end of the first century after Yesh-
ua’s birth, the relationship between Jewish people who accepted Him as Messiah and those who rejected Him continued to worsen. One of the chief problems for the latter was that Yeshua’s followers welcomed Gentiles into their ranks and treated them as equals. This was not something a pious Jew of the first or second century could easily tolerate.
By 125 A.D., the liturgy recited in the
synagogue each Shabbat was amended to contain the following prayer: “For the rene- gades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Nazarenes and the minim perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed.” In his book Y’shua, Moishe Rosen sug-
gests that minim is most likely a corruption of “ma’aminum,” which means “believers” and refers to Jewish followers of Yeshua. Rosen writes, “A Jewish Christian could hardly be expected to recite a prayer against himself.” He adds that the new prayer was therefore “an effective tool to dissociate Jewish believers from the synagogue. It was not that they decided to leave—they were forced out by the leadership.” Rosen explains further that the final break in the relationship between Jewish people who accepted Yeshua and those who rejected Him occurred during the revolt against the Emperor Hadrian, early in the second century. The uprising was prompted by the emperor’s edict banning circumci- sion. At first believing Jews joined in the battle, fighting side by side with their non- believing countrymen. But that changed when Rabbi Akiba declared that the Messi- ah had come in the person of Simon Bar Kochba, the leader of the Jewish forces. Rosen says, “At that point, the Jewish Christians could no longer support the war carried on under the auspices of ‘Messiah’ Bar Kochba. So they once again pulled out. This time it led to the decisive break.” It also led to an almost complete anni- hilation of the Jewish people. The nation of Israel was effectively destroyed. Jerusalem was declared off-limits to Jews. Any who dared to enter their holy city were at risk of being put to death by the Roman authori- ties. Many Jews were sold into slavery throughout the Roman Empire. Many thou- sands of others fled to escape persecution. The Church in Jerusalem suffered along with the nation at large. Jews who believed in Jesus were still Jews as far as the Romans were concerned, and like all Jews they were banned from the city at penalty of death. By the middle of the second century, the bal- ance of power in the Church had shifted. Gentiles now began to dominate the believ- ing community, and they began to treat unbelieving Jews as enemies of their Lord. Anti-Jewish teaching began to emerge,
which led to the removal of all things Jew- ish from the community of believers. The stage had been set for the years of adversity and animosity that would follow. I want to be perfectly clear that the con-
flict between the Church and Synagogue has nothing to do with Yeshua (Jesus) or His teachings. Rather, the division came about due to a gross misinterpretation of the New Testament. At its root, it is a demonic strategy to twist the truth and keep the Gospel from reaching those for whom it was originally intended.
During His earthly ministry, Yeshua stated numerous times that His ministry was to His own people—the people of Isra- el. Nothing that He taught or did was in any way anti-Semitic or against His own people. He came for His own, and although many did follow Him, it is true for the most part that His own did not receive Him (see John 1:10-11). Yeshua is the expression of God’s will in human form, and Jesus wept over Jerusa- lem because He loved His land and His people. His heart was an expression of God’s love for the Jewish people, for they are “the apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8). God’s heart for His Chosen People, Israel, is expressed in the heart of Yeshua, and vice versa.
Those who have persecuted the Jewish
people over the centuries in Yeshua’s name are not following the teachings of the New Testament in any way, shape or form. Many of them were not Christians at all, but believers who need to understand that most Jewish people do not know the difference between those who have a real relationship with Yeshua, i.e., those who have Messiah within them, and those who are merely Christians by name. Sadly, most Jewish people have come to equate Jesus with the actions of those who claim to be His followers. As we share Yeshua with our friends, some of whom may be Jewish, it is absolutely vital that we understand their perspective so we can deal sensitively with this issue. Excerpted from A Rabbi Looks at Jesus of
Nazareth by Jonathan Bernis, © Chosen Books, Bloomington, MN, 2011. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or dis- tributed in any printed or electronic form with- out written permission from Baker Publishing Group. (See page 2 for order information.)
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