One of the longstanding controversies in the realm of religious discourse is the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah and God incarnate. While it's understandable that Jews are zealous to guard their unique heritage and religious traditions, the arguments often put forth to reject Jesus need to be evaluated critically in the light of the Old and New Testaments. There are mainly two principal arguments that Jews present:
The claim that Jesus and Paul advocated for the abrogation of the Torah by replacing the Mosaic covenant with a new covenant of faith in Jesus Christ.
The Jewish objection to the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, seeing it as a violation of the monotheistic nature of God and as idolatry.
Let's delve into these points to see why these arguments are not valid.
The Torah and the New Covenant
One of the strongest contentions that Jews have against Jesus and Paul is that they claimed a new covenant was established, replacing the old covenant that God made with Israel at Sinai. This argument presupposes that the Torah is eternal and unchangeable. However, a thorough reading of the Hebrew Scriptures—our Old Testament—reveals a more nuanced picture.
First, Jeremiah 31:31-34 explicitly speaks of a 'new covenant' that God would make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. This covenant would not be like the one made at Sinai; rather, it would be a covenant written on the hearts of the people.
Second, while the Torah contains eternal principles reflecting God's nature and will, it also has a number of ceremonial laws specific to the cultural and religious context of ancient Israel. Even in the Old Testament, the core of God's law was about ethical and moral principles, rather than ritualistic practices (Micah 6:6-8).
Therefore, Jesus didn't abolish the law but fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17). Paul likewise upheld the law but clarified that it served as a 'guardian' to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The new covenant is not a rejection of the Torah but its fulfillment and expansion to include all nations.
The Divinity of Jesus and the Nature of God
The second point of contention concerns the divinity of Jesus. According to Jewish thought, viewing Jesus as divine is tantamount to idolatry and violates the monotheistic core of Judaism. However, this interpretation misunderstands the complex, yet monotheistic, concept of God revealed in both Testaments.
First, the Hebrew Scriptures contain multiple instances that hint at a plurality within the Godhead. For instance, Genesis 1:26 says, "Let us make man in our image." Additionally, Isaiah 48:16 has the Servant (presumed to be the Messiah) saying, "And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me, endowed with his Spirit." These instances at least open the door to a more nuanced understanding of God's nature.
Second, the New Testament reveals that Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14), fully God and fully man, not a separate god or a created being. This belief doesn't infringe on monotheism but rather reveals the tri-unity of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Aside from the primary points, some Jews argue against the universality of Jesus' message, believing the Messiah should focus solely on Israel. However, the Hebrew Scriptures themselves speak of the Messiah as a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6). Another objection is that Jesus didn't fulfill messianic prophecies like rebuilding the Temple or bringing world peace. However, Christian eschatology holds that these will be fulfilled in Jesus' second coming.
To sum up, the arguments presented against the Christian faith from the Jewish perspective fall short when examined closely. The new covenant doesn't negate the Torah but fulfills it, expanding its principles to a broader ethical and spiritual plane. The Christian understanding of Jesus' divinity doesn't violate monotheism but unveils the complex unity of the one true God. Therefore, the Jewish objections, although earnest, are not insurmountable, and the belief in Jesus as the Messiah and God incarnate is firmly rooted in both the Old and New Testaments.