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The God Squad: Non-Christian faiths can't accept Christian scripture

October 21, 2011|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Question: Do Jews believe that Jesus did not perform the miracles the Bible claims He did? On the other hand, if Jews do believe Jesus performed miracles and healed hundreds of people, why don't they believe He is the Son of God? How could someone perform miracles and not be divine? — G., via godsquadquestion@aol.com

Answer: I receive many versions of your question and they all focus on the same issues:

1. Jesus either did or did not perform miracles.

2. If he did perform miracles, Jews should become Christians.

3. If Jesus did not perform the miracles, Jesus is a liar.

4. Are you calling Jesus a liar?

The problem with this line of argument is that only the Christian Testament, and not the Hebrew Bible, makes such claims. Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others don't accept the Christian Testament as God's word. Therefore, all non-Christian religions do not accept Jesus' messianic claims.

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Islam, you should know, accepts some of the Christian claims but not the essential Christian claim of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. It should be obvious that claims within one's religion are not convincing to those outside one's religion. You cannot quote your own scripture to refute the scripture of another faith.

There's one more point that makes the dialogue between Jews and Christians somewhat asymmetrical. Christians cannot understand themselves spiritually without understanding themselves as having come from Jews and Judaism. Jesus and all his early followers were Jews. However, conversely, Jews don't need to understand themselves in relation to Christianity because Christianity came later.

The way Father Tom and I worked this out in our friendship was that we agreed to disagree about Jesus, then proceeded to try to make the common ethical teachings of Judaism and Christianity real in our broken world. When people ask me if I believe Jesus was the Son of God, I try to say in a friendly but firm way, "I don't believe he was, but after we die we will all know for sure."

I will say that if Jesus was the Messiah, you may well hear the distant echo of my voice after my death calling out from another world, "Oy vey!"

Look, we can either be friends and co-workers in fixing the world, or we can be targets for conversion. We can't be both to each other. So I remain, in friendship, Rabbi Marc Gellman. I hope that's good enough for you until the end of your days.

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