GUEST POST: Prejudice against Jewish Believers in Jesus
In this guest post, Bobbie Ann Cole explores Mainstream Jewish prejudice against Jewish believers in Jesus.
Mainstream Jewish prejudice against Jewish believers in Jesus as Messiah goes all the way back to the 1st century. Early Messianics were effectively banned from synagogues by the introduction of a prayer which they could not recite, because it was a curse on themselves.
Judaism has not ceased to reject Jesus down through the centuries. The modern democracy that the State of Israel aspires to be rejects Him still in its policy of stripping Jewish followers of Jesus of their Judaism and rights of return to live in Israel. That does not seem to me to be democratic.
The first decades of Messianic evangelism consisted almost exclusively of Jews like Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, John Mark, Philip, and Peter himself reaching out to the network of synagogues across the Roman Empire. As we learn in the book of Acts, some accepted their message. Others did not like it. Peter was arrested in Jerusalem more than once and faced execution. Paul’s message caused riots among Jews living beyond Israel’s borders. They beat him and left him for dead.
Those Jews who accepted Yeshua as their Messiah faced expulsion from the synagogue, which translated as shunning by the whole Jewish community. This was a big deal. We find an example of it during Jesus’ lifetime, in John 9, as the Pharisees investigate the healing on the Sabbath of a man born blind.
When the man’s story was checked with his parents, they were reluctant to answer questions beyond confirming that their son was born blind. This was “because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:22).
When the previously blind man attempted to defend what Jesus had done for him, “they threw him out” (John 9:34).
The issue the Pharisees had — and mainstream Judaism still has — is summed up in an accusation synagogue leaders levelled against Paul as he evangelized: “This man,” they complained, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the Law” (Acts 18:13).
By the end of the 1st century, believers had been forced out of synagogues everywhere by the addition of a new prayer that they could not say for they would be cursing themselves. It did not mince words, but cursed the “renegades” and asked that the “arrogant Nazarenes and the minim” might “perish and be blotted out from the book of life.” The Nazarenes were those who followed Yeshua the Nazarene and the minim were most likely ma’aminim, which means “believers.”
When I told my former husband that I had accepted Jesus as my Savior, he exclaimed, “That imposter!”
You would think the traditional Jews could have found a stronger insult than “believer.” Many Jews were said to have entered concentration camp gas chambers singing “Ani ma’amin,” a reference to Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith, which says, “I believe with a full heart in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may tarry, I wait for him on any day that he may come .”
In the end it would be the Nazarene believers in Yeshua who would walk away from mainstream Judaism. This happened during the Jewish Bar Kochba Revolt of the 2nd century, which they initially supported, until leader Bar Kochba was hailed as the Messiah by the famous Rabbi Akiva.
There has been no reconciliation between traditional and Messianic Jews since. Orthodox Jews have ignored and, if all else failed, besmirched the name of Jesus. The Talmud’s few references to Him are mainly slanted and derogatory. Medieval Jewish writings, though they neither deny Jesus’ existence nor His miracles, explain them as trickery and present Him as a charlatan and a liar.
Things are not that different today. When I told my former husband that I had accepted Jesus as my Savior, he exclaimed, “That imposter!” He didn’t know the first thing about Him and was even under the impression that Jesus was a minor prophet in the Jewish Bible.
Let us never stop praying for the Messianic Jewish community, and for the day when they will be a light to their own people, leading them into the fullness of knowing Yeshua HaMashiach for themselves.
Blog posts written by by non-CMJ staff, do not necessarily portray CMJ’s official standpoint on a particular issue or interpretation of a Biblical text. We have chosen to share such info on the premise that they allow a pertinent understanding to be added to any particular on-going debate
Bobbie Ann Cole, a Messianic Jew, is a bestselling writer, teacher and speaker who has lived in Israel and worked for Messianic congregations, including CMJ. Her experiences, have inspired her latest book, “Love Triangles, Discovering Jesus the Jew in Today’s Israel”. To connect with Bobbie and receive her FREE “Pictorial Guide to the Israel Jesus Loved”, go to www.jesus-ebook.com