The Table Podcast

Respectfully Engaging Judaism

In this episode, Drs. Darrell L. Bock and Mitch Glaser discuss respectfully engaging Judaism.

Respectfully Engaging World Religions
  1. Respectfully Engaging Atheism
  2. Respectfully Engaging Sikhism
  3. Respectfully Engaging Shintoism
  4. Respectfully Engaging Animism
  5. Respectfully Engaging Judaism
  6. Respectfully Engaging Hinduism
  7. Respectfully Engaging the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  8. Respectfully Engaging Islam
  9. Respectfully Engaging Jainism
  10. Respectfully Engaging Buddhism
  11. Respectfully Engaging Scientology
Timecodes
00:15
History and development of Judaism
12:00
Rituals in Judaism
18:30
Contemporary branches of Judaism
30:25
What are the major holidays of Judaism
32:55
What compels adherents to remain in Judaism?
37:50
What attracts a person to Judaism?
39:05
How does the Gospel speak into Judaism?
Transcript
Darrell Bock
Welcome to The Table where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Darrell Bock, Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary, and my guest today is Mitch Glaser, who runs Chosen People Ministries out of New York City and it’s a ministry that is about outreach to the Jews. And our topic today is part of our world religion series on Judaism. We’re gonna talk about the nature of the Jewish faith and fit it into the larger slots of all the other religions we’ve been talking about. Mitch, thank you for coming and being a part of our podcast.
Mitch Glaser
You’re welcome, shalom, Darrell.
Darrell Bock
Shalom and we’ll dive right in, and anyone who’s been following this series knows that we basically ask three questions: what is this religion about, which is actually gonna end up being more complicated than – in this case, than normal; and then what causes someone to adhere to this faith; and then how does the gospel speak into that adherence? Let’s just talk about the core faith of Judaism as it emerges out of, I’m gonna call, the Hebrew scriptures, what we call the Old Testament. And what’s basic about the Jewish commitment, and then we’ll branch out from there.
Mitch Glaser
I like to say that Judaism is not a religion of the book, Darrell. It’s a religion of the books. The reason for the plural is that the Bible does provide some foundation for Judaism and Jewish people have always interacted with the Bible, the Old Testament or the – we call it the Tanakh, the Hebrew scriptures. But it goes far beyond that and a lot of this has to do with the history of the Jewish people. The Jewish people of course ended up Babylon in 586 BCE and then there was a brief return from Babylon of about 50,000, basically under Ezra and Nehemiah. And then over the years, that population in Israel grew and it again became the focus of Jewish life and development, but Babylon – Jewish people became very entrenched. And what was important about Babylon is that the Jewish people developed a religious faith without having a temple.
Darrell Bock
And without being in the land.
Mitch Glaser
And without being in the land, and so many of the laws in the Torah, in the five books of Moses, apply to the land, the year of Jubilee and so many other agriculturally based laws. And so we like to think that Judaism developed in Babylon and then after the temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans, the Jewish people were scattered. There was a re-gathering and then a really severe scattering in 132 AD. And Judaism, for the most part, really developed in Babylon and the document that was produced – there were many documents that were produced, but the main document that everybody knows is the Babylonia Talmud. And the Talmud is made up of two different core documents as you know: the Mishnah, which means to repeat and those are comments on the five books of Moses, and then the Gemara really are comments on the comments and on the text. And it includes a very important aspect of Judaism called the Aggadah, which is basically stories. And so they’re moral – stories that teach morality, teach spirituality. And so the Bible is the foundation, but the Talmud, the Mishnah, and the Gemara basically developed outside of Israel, mostly developed in Babylon. Although there was a Jerusalem Talmud as well, but this was really the primary one and it’s still the primary one.
Darrell Bock
And this is something that happened after the time of Jesus, so we’re talking – Mishnah, we’re talking late second century and Talmud is fifth and sixth century. We’re down the road from the New Testament time.
Mitch Glaser
The codification is later and so – but we know that the traditions and the thinking –
Darrell Bock
Are older.
Mitch Glaser
– are much older.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, exactly.
Mitch Glaser
And so the Mishnah was – and the Talmud is usually viewed as being finished by the fifth century.
Darrell Bock
Because the view is that what happened is that you took the oral tradition as it was, which was dealing with issues, to some degree, that the Bible didn’t directly address.
Mitch Glaser
The application of the laws.
Darrell Bock
The application of the laws in new settings and in new contexts that weren’t directly addressed by the Hebrew scriptures.
Mitch Glaser
Yes, and then you had, over the years, many different commentaries on the Bible and on the Mishnah and on the Gemara.
Darrell Bock
Called Midrashim.
Mitch Glaser
Well, there were Midrashim and then there were – yeah and many – there’s response literature, which basically was –
Darrell Bock
In homilies, there’s a whole –
Mitch Glaser
Questions came to the rabbis and the rabbis sent out their apostles. Shlichim, sent ones, that’s a Hebrew word. They sent out the emissaries to the – around – all around the diaspora, Babylon and Asia Minor and all sorts of places. And they were able to give people guidance on how to live. Secondly, along with all of this, was a development of the synagogue. And so the synagogue was also critical and so the synagogue, many people think, developed after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and that’s false. We know that there were synagogues in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus and there were synagogues before, and there synagogues in Babylon and there were synagogues throughout Asia minor. The apostle Paul grew up in Tarsus. There was obviously synagogues all over Asia Minor and if you follow Paul on his missionary journeys, where was the first place he went to? The synagogues. Paul wrote before the destruction of the temple and so obviously there were synagogues at that time.
Darrell Bock
Just to drive the point home, if you go to northern part of Israel today and go to a place called Gamla where you can see the breach of the wall, where the Romans entered the city in 67 before the destruction of the temple, one of the first sights you encounter on the other side of that breach is the synagogue in Gamla. So they were in existence, but they were designed to be places where people can gather and worship and be centers of activity. And it’s natural that they would develop outside the land because of Jews needed a place to gather and worship.
Mitch Glaser
Jews were outside the land, yeah, and they were also centers of vocation. For example, the Jewish occupations were broken up into various guilds that helped order the society and the guilds were based in the synagogue. People came to the synagogue to study. People came to the synagogue to encounter other Jewish people, particularly in the Diaspora, and people also came to the synagogue to worship obviously. Not just on Friday and Saturday, but also on the Jewish holidays as well. Some went up to Jerusalem when the temple was standing and then afterwards of course, everything was synagogue based. The synagogue is the Judaism that survived the destruction of the temple.
Darrell Bock
Because otherwise Judaism would’ve struggled.
Mitch Glaser
Right. Now everybody knows that at the time of Jesus, there were two major forms of Judaism. There were – Josephus mentions 24 different kinds of Judaisms that was there at the time of Christ.
Darrell Bock
And highlights four of them.
Mitch Glaser
Right and so the two biggies probably were the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and they were very different, but there’s the story that I think is so fascinating. The Sadducees were basically attached to the temple. The leaders were Levites. They survived on the temple tax. The Pharisees were more attached to the synagogue and they were more attached to studying the Torah. The Sadducees were more attached to the temple and to sacrifice and worship in that way. And so with the destruction of the temple came the destruction of the Sadducees and the dominance of the Pharisees. So really what we can say is that Judaism branched off after the destruction of the temple and basically Pharisaic Judaism won the war and was last man standing. Now there were of course the Essenes and the Dead Sea scrolls, but number one, they were wiped out and number two, they would’ve wiped themselves out because they didn’t marry.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, they were separatists.
Mitch Glaser
And they were separatists and many were celibate, and so that movement wasn’t going to go anywhere. Then there were the zealots. Well, the zealots, they were killed.
Darrell Bock
They lost [laughs].
Mitch Glaser
There goes that and so if you read the Mishnah and you read Talmudic literature, you actually see that the Sadducees were portrayed by the victorious Pharisees in now what became Pharisaic edited literature, religious literature. The Sadducees are portrayed as well, let’s just not say – not a very good portrayal. And so the Judaism that continued past the destruction of the temple, there were only two forms that were left really. One was Pharisaism and the other was another branch that followed Yeshua, messianic Judaism. One of my professors at seminary would always mention this, that the church was a combination of first century Judaism and Pentecost. And so really you have two branches: messianic Judaism, which basically didn’t last a whole lot more than three centuries because of the rising dominance of the gentile church, the legalization of Christianity and all these other things with Constantine and beyond. But Pharisaic Judaism, because it was rooted in the synagogues in the diaspora, kept growing and growing.
Darrell Bock
That’s an overview of the history and the point, just to pull that altogether, is to say that most people think of Judaism as being about the Old Testament. It’s about far more.
Mitch Glaser
Yes, the religion of the books, not the religion of the book and ritual, non-temple ritual. So what developed then was personal ritual, ritual and corporate ritual. For example, one of the most important individual personal rituals that has a slight corporate element to it that is seen all the time. I live in the holy land, Brooklyn. And so we have almost a million Jewish people in my one borough of five boroughs in New York City, and probably a third at least are very orthodox Jews. And so the orthodox Jews –and I was raised this – that way to some degree – the orthodox Jews, everybody thinks wow, they must be very religious. They go to synagogue Friday night and Saturday. That’s nothing.

Real religious orthodox Jews always pray three times a day and they’re the times – the same time as when we offered sacrifices. It’s actually a – it’s a ritual temple replacement. They gather with other men. I’m just going to say this from an orthodox perspective and so – and they meet everywhere. They meet in the back of someone’s store. They meet in a yeshiva, a Jewish parochial school. They may meet in a synagogue, but probably not always. And so they meet everywhere. They might meet in a home and you need ten men to form a prayer meeting. And so the ten men or however many will pray usually for close to a half an hour and we would put on our phylacteries, what we called tefillin, tefilah, from the word prayer. And you put one on your arm and then you put one on your head, and it reminds us of the role of the law in our lives. It should be placed on the front of our head. And so we wear these – this garb and then we pray together, and we do it three times a day in – again, in remembrance of the temple that was destroyed. We don’t view these sacrifices, but it’s just those were the times of worship.

Darrell Bock
I’m gonna wanna shift here in a second to talk about contemporary Judaism, which is something very different or at least is more complex, but when you think about it, part of what made Judaism Judaism is one, it was monotheistic in a polytheistic world. It had a single temple as opposed to many temples. There was a calendar that was associated to it of special fees that celebrated certain aspects of what made the community the community. And there were certain practices that separated out Israel from diet, for example, issues a purity and impurity that made it distinct from the other religious activity around them.
Mitch Glaser
Yes, that’s correct. And again, these are all biblically based, but they are interpreted and applied to –
Darrell Bock
And expanded.
Mitch Glaser
And expanded to the various cultures where – which Jewish – where Jewish people led. Now I do think it’s important to understand at least one more thing ‘cause what we’re describing here is classical Judaism.
Darrell Bock
Right.
Mitch Glaser
And we’ll get to the contemporary part, but in classical Judaism, the rabbis developed a defense for the authority of the Talmud and what we call oral law, Torah she-be-`al peh, the Torah that comes from spoken. And so according to the – and it’s a very circular argument because according to the Talmud, which is trying to find the authority, according to the rabbis and the Talmud, when God gave the law in Mt. Sinai, he also gave Moses an oral law on how to apply the law. And if you asked a very religious Jewish person which is more important, the oral law that tells you how to apply it or the written law which tells you what it is, and they would say ah, do you think that God would not tell us how to apply the law he gave us?
Darrell Bock
They’d look at you cross eyed.
Mitch Glaser
And so that law, the interpretation of the law, the oral law, went to Moses and then Moses to the Levites, and then on and on through – it had a priestly succession.
Darrell Bock
I think there’s a tradition if I remember correctly in a boat that goes through this lime of communication that supposedly extends from Moses all the way to the present writing in effect.
Mitch Glaser
Yeah, it depends and of course it’s like that old Baptist – the crimson thread that runs through the scripture. Even in apostate medieval churches, some questions find it. And because that was the important thing and so al lot of modern Jewish sects want to bolster their own importance of their own view of Judaism. And so they create their own history and – but it’s very important. And so somebody says what’s more important to a Jewish person, the Talmud and the rabbinic writings and the commentaries or the Bible? And the answer to that question is yes. Now where does the religious ritual come from? To some degree, from the Bible, but it couldn’t really from the Bible ‘cause again, we’re not in the land and so many of the rituals that are temple based are impossible to fulfill. And so the rabbis have constantly – it’s a dynamic. The rabbis have constantly adapted what was in the Bible for all the reasons you just mentioned: purity, calendar, everything else. They adapted it to – so that everyday Jewish people could, at least in our minds, obey God and fulfill the Torah.
Darrell Bock
The interesting thing is that many of the religions that we’ve been looking at have this kind of way of dealing with change and new contexts and the reality that’s around them that impacts and produces the differences that we now see when we come into a more contemporary environment. The next question is let’s talk about contemporary Judaism and I think the way to ask this question to get our way in – and we’re gonna be – we’re probably gonna run into a break before we get all the way through this – is Judaism, for most Jews today, a religion, a set of ethnic practices, or something else?
Mitch Glaser
Now did you say ethnic or ethical?
Darrell Bock
Ethnic and/or ethical. You can add that dimension to the question.
Mitch Glaser
They’re both. The answer to that question is yes, of course. It’s everything. You start pulling the religious string, all of the sudden, the nationalistic or Zionistic or the cultural, even the foods we eat. You start pulling on one thing, everything starts unraveling.
Darrell Bock
You can meet a Jewish person who may or may not be all that religious about going to synagogue, for example.
Mitch Glaser
That would be – at least probably outside the orthodox, that would be over 80 percent.
Darrell Bock
That’s a significant group and yet they would still engage in many of the practices that are associated with being Jewish.
Mitch Glaser
This is really important. Yeah, so if I drew a circle and in that circle, I put the things that were important to the formation of a Jewish world view, no matter what kind of Jew you were, I would put in the religion. I would put in – which would include the Bible and all of the religious elements that come through the Talmud and so on, and all the other books. I would also put nationalism, which is an identification with Israel. I would put in ethics because often times, Jewish people have Jewish ethics that originally came from the Bible and through Jewish literature, but they are – but the divine element of ethics, like so many other faiths today, is removed and the ethics remain. Philanthropy, Jewish philanthropy, Jewish home values. There’s so many wonderful things about Jewish culture and Jewish values that come from the religion and come from the Bible, and most Jews don’t even realize it.

And then you have community. Community is incredibly important and then you have – like in so many faiths, you have a shared sociology. You have a shared history and so there are many elements that go into the Jewish worldview. Now in the Jewish religion, there are really only two major parts to it. It’s actually simple. One is belief and the other is practice. Now for a lot of evangelicals, a lot of Christians, belief is always the most important thing. And when we think about practice, we think about living out the gospel in the way that we treat one another, the way we treat the poor, the way we are stewards of our stuff, and et cetera. Jewish people, that’s not exactly what Jewish people mean by practice. You have belief, which has to do with your view of God, man, the future, the Bible, everything else, but most Jewish people done spend a lot of time on that. It’s not emphasized really in Judaism.

Most Jewish people spend a lot of time on practice. When do you follow the holidays? How do you follow the holidays? Do you keep the Sabbath? What do you do on the Sabbath? What are your daily rituals? And so there’s a lot of important thing and I will tell you just – I know we’ll need to go to a break soon, but one of the important things that Christians need to understand is that the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people is rarely religiously driven. It’s most often driven from the Jewish worldview, but not on those religious elements, but mostly on history, community, and some of these elements. There are theological reasons that some of the more theologically astute Jewish people will throw back on you the trinity, the God becoming man, and so on. But most of the rejection of Jesus has to do with the ingrained sociology and worldview of the Jewish people that’s not necessarily religious, and most Christians don’t understand it.

Darrell Bock
There’s something you mentioned, that you grew up as an orthodox Jew in an orthodox home, but there actually are different kinds of Judaism. The three that I’m most aware of orthodox, which has its own variation and spectrum, then conservative, and then reformed. Let’s start there because when you say Jewish person, it can come in all shapes and sizes.
Mitch Glaser
Right, and remember we’re speaking about those who would identify religiously because most Jewish people today probably would not self describe as orthodox, conservative, reform as they did 30 years ago.
Darrell Bock
They’d just say I’m Jewish.
Mitch Glaser
They would say I’m Jewish or they might even say I’m religious or I’m not religious. And so – but the traditional categories are still very helpful and they’re the dominant religious forms. The orthodox Jews are the most traditional both in belief and practice, how the belief and practice helps us. And so if you tell me that you know somebody who is a practicing orthodox Jew and they don’t wear a yarmulke, I’m gonna tell you they’re not orthodox because whatever they believe, their practice is going to tip you off as to who they really are.
Darrell Bock
By that, you mean a yarmulke or a covering at – no matter where they are, right? Not just in the synagogue.
Mitch Glaser
Oh, yeah, they would wear it all the time and remember the head covering reminds us that we’re submitted to God and so there’s a – it’s not biblical of course. People say – like to say why is there – is the yarmulke in the Bible? Well, no, it’s not in the Bible, but it’s Jewish tradition. So orthodox are the most conservative, most traditional. They are the inheritors of the Pharisaic tradition and most conservative on belief and practice. Then you have conservative Jews who are not very conservative.
Darrell Bock
That’s right [laughs].
Mitch Glaser
We even have a word for those who are more conservative. We call them conserve-odox. And so – ‘cause everything’s on a continuum. The conservative Jews would be fairly traditional in belief and fairly traditional in practice, but when it comes to cultural morays, they would be far less traditional than the orthodox. You would never have a woman rabbi among the orthodox. I think they made one woman a cantor who chants the prayers and that was probably and oddball eccentric marginalized orthodox. But in the conservative movement and Jewish theological seminaries, the main place that trains them in New York City, whereas the orthodox, Yeshiva University, transmodern Orthodox, but they would be all over the board. But the conservative movement would probably be – would have greater respect and reverence for the Bible. They would definitely study the Bible, but they would not fervently believe every word like we do, who hold to an errancy or the orthodox, who basically hold to a Jewish view of an errancy.

And when it comes to practice, conservative Jews would also again be scaled down unless they were more conserve-odox and so they would go to – they would still have synagogue services Friday night and Saturday morning. They would celebrate all the festivals. They would do home rituals if they were really adherent to conservative Judaism, but one of the ways they really differ from the orthodox Jewish movement today is sociologically and culturally. And so you can have female rabbis. You can also – they are ordaining gay rabbis and so these are major changes because there – according to ___ most recent study of the Jewish faith, there’s been a significant drift from those who are orthodox to those who are now conservative. And part of that drift really has to do with the role of women and gender issues and some of these other cultural questions that they’re having.

Then you have reformed Jews. Reform Jews actually began before conservative Jews. If orthodox Jews are the historical flow Judaism, although it was not named orthodox until somewhere in the early 18th century after the enlightenment period in Judaism in Europe. And so reform Jews, that’s pretty early. That’s in the 18th century, too, and they were a combination of German rationalism and Judaism and a real reaction against the – what they felt was the cold irrelevant austerity of orthodoxy, services in Hebrew when they really should’ve been in German or in the vernacular. And so reform Jews would be more like liberal protestants in their theology, only Jewish style and their practice. The rabbis of course would wear a yarmulke and so on, and they would also have Friday night and Saturday services, but they would be, again, much more scaled down, particularly on these – they wouldn’t necessarily pray three times a day and all of that. Hebrew school to study for your bar mitzvah might be one day a week instead of the orthodox, which is four days a week. Everything flows down.

Darrell Bock
A little less intensity.
Mitch Glaser
But the cultural morays and the sociology would even be further than the conservative and so there would be – they were ordaining women many years ago and there are a lot of gay reform synagogues and ordaining of gay rabbis. And so they would be much more that way and politically the orthodox Jews would definitely swing to the right. Conservative would be eh. Reform would definitely swing left political.
Darrell Bock
And we haven’t even talked about just the secular Jew who basically just lives his life.
Mitch Glaser
A secular Jew is interesting. We use the word secular Jew or cultural Jew. I would say the secular Jew who practices nothing is rare. I would say they are definitely there, but the more common person, and I’m talking about more traditional Jewish centers like New York, like Los Angeles, like Chicago, like Boston, and that it might even be true of Dallas and Houston where there are quite a few Jewish people. A secular Jew would not necessarily celebrate the holidays, whereas even those who are nonreligious would say I’m religious for a few days of the year. And for example, celebrating Passover where synagogue attendance is below 20 percent, celebration of Passover, according to most Jewish surveys, is well over 80 percent. Celebration of Hanukkah is between 70 and 80 percent. Even though some of the secular Jews and even some of the cultural Jews, depending on whether or not they’re intermarried, might celebrate Christmas, too. But there’s – the cultural Jews definitely have a Jewish sociology. They would remember the worldview. They would have a stronger Jewish worldview based upon community, sociology, and history. And they would have – still have very Jewish values and definitely a taste for Jewish food.
Darrell Bock
The one thing that we haven’t talked about besides diet is the role of Sabbath and I take it that if you ran the Sabbath through that spectrum, you would see similar kinds of differences in terms of adherence and concern to follow through.
Mitch Glaser
Yes, you would. The lowest on the totem pole are probably the Sabbath and keeping kosher, not eating pork or shellfish. And according to rabbinic Judaism, separating by a few hours your eating milk and meat, and the more religious homes having even separate kitchens, separate sinks in order to make that distinction. Those are the more extreme, but to balance that, even the most secular Jewish person will usually fast on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It’s just something about it and they would – and many of cultural Jews will go to synagogue on the specific Jewish high holidays. And almost every one of their families will have a bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah, depending on who they are, for their kids.
Darrell Bock
Interesting. Would the two major holidays be – well, I guess there would be – would there be three? Atonement, Passover, and Yom Kippur. Would those be the top three?
Mitch Glaser
It would be Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, the new year, and Passover. And tabernacles of course in the orthodox community where I live in Brooklyn, it’s huge.
Darrell Bock
It’s a big deal, yeah, absolutely.
Mitch Glaser
But among average Jews, here’s the way you tell it. Do you take off work on Yom Kippur? The answer almost across the board for even the most secular cultural Jews is yes. Rosh Hashanah, a little less maybe. On the first day of Passover, probably no, but they’ll go to a Seder at least – the Seders are usually on the first two nights. They’ll usually go at least on one of the nights, but even though the orthodox Jewish community shuts down for Hanukah and for a number of other festivals, for Purim, the feast of Esther. The cultural and secular Jewish people and even reformed Jewish people might take a little time off, but not a lot.
Darrell Bock
Okay, so that gives you a feel for the variety of and the variety of things in Judaism. Let’s turn our attention to – so adherence. What is the attraction of a faith? And obviously there’s a variety here because you’ve got a variety of levels of adherence.
Mitch Glaser
Yeah, the one other group I should mention just if we’re talking about adherence are the Hassidic Jews. The Hassidic Jews were a warm, fervent, warmhearted fervent adoption of Judaism when they felt that European orthodoxy was cold and austere. And so you have a lot of joy. You have a lot of dancing, men with men, women with women, and you have – Hassidic Judaism is a little more dynastic and so we expect the son of the rabbi to be the next rabbi. They have more authority than the rabbi in orthodox Judaism and so I would say adherence among the Hassidic Jewish people are – is total. They adhere to everything they could possibly adhere to, but the motivation for adherence is – they would say is because God said to do it and we love to do what God wants us to do. So it’s an adherence with joy, with abandon.

And even the way Hassidic Jews pray, very active physically. That’s the Hebrew word daven and the reason we do that is to involve the body, mind, and soul in prayer. There’s a Hebrew word for prayer, avodah, which is also one of the Hebrew words for work. And so prayer is work, but it’s a joyful work, but you really work hard at prayer. And I would say the orthodox are very similar. If I can make a point on adherence, one of the aspects of adherence is – that is not part of adherence is personal salvation. Jews don’t do anything to get personal salvation. Number one, there’s no concept in Judaism at all of original sin. Jewish people do not believe they are incapable in themselves of pleasing God. Jewish people do believe in grace. They believe in God’s covenant loyalty to the Jewish people, but Jewish people do not do the law to get saved. And the reason for that is they don’t care about getting saved.

Darrell Bock
They’re already the people of God.
Mitch Glaser
Yes, that’s true, but that’s a corporate sense, Darrell. The question is how do they feel personally. Even though we are part of the people of God, if they’re adherent to the Jewish religion in some form, you don’t think about that as much. You don’t think about your personal relationship with God and you think about your corporate relationship with God. But Jewish people do not believe we need to get saved because there’s nothing wrong with our being born the first time. It sounds like a little bit of John 3 there and so this is really critical. A lot of Christians have a completely missed understanding of why Jewish people keep the law. Jewish people do not keep the law to get saved. Jewish people keep the law out of joy and out of a desire to simply be obedient.
Darrell Bock
Honor God.
Mitch Glaser
It’s part of the covenants just honoring God and – but Jewish people are concerned about forgiveness, which is different. Jewish people do observe Yom Kippur and I watch even the most secular Jewish person repent and fast on Yom Kippur, even if they don’t believe in God just to play it safe. And there are ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur where we believe the books of life and death open, and we have ten days to make things right between ourselves and between man and God – ourselves and our fellow man, but that’s to get forgiveness. And you even have the understanding you’re gonna get forgiven for things you didn’t get forgiven of before, but it’s not for personal salvation. The adherence either comes from joyful obedience to your role in the covenant or it comes because your mother wants you to or your father wants you to or somehow you were raised. And adherence, for those kind of people who are maybe not orthodox, maybe definitely not Hassidic, adherence is spotty. You choose what to be adherent to.
Darrell Bock
The interesting thing about that is – and the variation of the adherence question is of course the – what makes this attractive. And the thing that I’ve found in being around Jewish people that is very, very attractive is the deep sense of community and connection that people have with one another.
Mitch Glaser
Absolutely. In fact, when the Chabad Lubavitch, who are a Hassidic – the largest Hassidic group or the most modern, the most active, they have almost 8,000 missionaries, Darrell, in countries all over the globe trying to get Jews to be Hassidic Jews or at least better Jews. When they want to evangelize, they don’t start giving you information. They invite you to their home for a Sabbath meal. The path to evangelism for them, and I think Christians can learn a lot from this one, is to come be part of the community. Taste what it’s like to be part of a real Jewish family that is adherent to the Torah and see the joy that it gives to you. I think you’re right on that one. I think community is a driving force and it’s what makes a lot of people enjoy Judaism.
Darrell Bock
Now let’s turn our attention to how the gospel speaks into this and you’ve already talked about what I would regard as a hurdle, which is one of the things also we’ve been discovering as we’ve been moving through various religions is that the way the religion is setup is open to certain things, but is also closed to certain things. The most obvious hurdle is the person of Jesus, what’s said about him from a Jewish point of view and how that’s a challenge to Jewish faith. But the second hurdle is this whole idea of no original sin, so no need for the cross. You really have a double hit, if I can say it this way. You’ve got the person of Jesus who’s exalted to a level in Christianity that Judaism struggles to perceive and receive, but then you’ve got his work which also doesn’t make any sense or much sense to a Jew in some ways.
Mitch Glaser
Theologically.
Darrell Bock
Theologically. Put that together for us. How does the gospel step into Judaism? And maybe the way to think about this question is in two parts. Now I’ve complicated it, which is bad, but I’ll take a shot. You’ve got these hurdles on the one hand, but how do you step into a Jewish mind? What might draw them from where they are to Christianity?
Mitch Glaser
It’s not complicated. It’s a very good way of putting it. I would add one more overarching major objection to even hearing things that they can object to and that is Jewish people are convinced that Christians have persecuted Jews.
Darrell Bock
And just to underscore the point, to the extent that the holocaust is, for many people, something that Christians were responsible for and attempt to annihilate Jews.
Mitch Glaser
Yeah, as were the crusades, as were the pogroms.
Darrell Bock
So the history is an issue.
Mitch Glaser
I’d say the history is part of a shaping of our identity and so we identify as not Christian even if we don’t adhere to much of the Jewish religion. And part of that is because we are a persecuted group of people. I think the devil had an amazing strategy and – because if you can make the Jewish people the people that the gospels to the Jew first, it’s salvation is of the Jews. Jesus is Jewish. The Bible is Jewish. The end time repentance of the Jewish people brings about the second coming of Christ. If you could make the Jewish people think that Jesus is enemy number one, the chief persecutor and inspirer of persecution of the Jewish people, then if I was – the devil won a great victory. It’s a terrific strategy. Unfortunately, it’s worked well and so Christianity is viewed as foreign and hostile, and – but there’s ways to break through that. I would say the socio historical objection, whereby if a Jew accepts Jesus, they stop being Jewish and go to the side of the enemy, I think that’s a major, major hurdle. And the way –
Darrell Bock
Along with all the community and family pressure that comes with that.
Mitch Glaser
Right, because the community and family pressure comes because you’ve broken a taboo and you’re being punished. So punishment is part of any culture and so you break a taboo, you pay the price. The worst price is you’re out of the community or marginalized or not allowed to marry someone’s daughter or you’re cut out of the will or you lose your job ‘cause it’s a family business. There’s just a lot of levels of punishment and then you have the theological issues. And so on the theological issues, again, why do I need to get saved if there’s nothing wrong with my nature. And then – but also Jewish people have died because they would not believe that God could become a man. And so Jewish people view that as idolatry. That’s a big hurdle to get over once people have some theological objections.

Secondly, you have the trinity, the triune nature of God. Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ecḥad. Hero Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one, which is interpreted in Judaism as singular even though the word Echad does not mean that. It can mean a composite one. The Hebrew word Yachid is singular, but most Jewish people don’t know enough Hebrew to make that distinction. This is a rallying cry of the Jewish people. God is one. You can have an incarnation. You can’t have a trinity. You don’t have salvation because you don’t need it because your nature is not fallen. Then there’s a real kicker and that is Jewish people do not believe that the messiah would die. Why would he die for our sins, first of all, if we’re not sinners?

Darrell Bock
And he’s a bringer of peace
Mitch Glaser
Yes, so if the messiah is only gonna come once, then all of the prophecies that Christians view as happening in the second coming are the ones Jewish people view as happening in the first – the only coming. Therefore, how could Jesus be the messiah if obviously the world is not at peace?
Darrell Bock
Believe it or not, our time is running down. We don’t have any way to –
Mitch Glaser
The answer to that is love always wins. Build relationships, trust, love, show respect for Jewish people. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. If you are a gentile Christian, Jewish people will respect you more if you are fervent and devout about your faith.
Darrell Bock
They get that.
Mitch Glaser
If you talk about God, even if they don’t, if you talk about God, if you talk about the Bible, they will respect you more, not less. The only thing you shouldn’t do is say and you must believe that, too, which most normal evangelicals are not gonna say. What you wanna do is make it so attractive. Don’t hide it. Don’t put your light under a bushel. Jewish people aren’t gonna respect that, but let Jewish people see who you are in Jesus and let them want it. In Romans 11:11, Paul said, “Provoke them or make them jealous.: Just be yourself as a Jesus loving gentile believer or Jewish believer, and I believe with all my heart that will have impact on the life of your Jewish friends.
Darrell Bock
Mitch, we thank you for coming in and talking to us about Judaism and Jewish faith and help us with this section of our world religion discussion. And having a parse out how varied Jews are on the one hand and what the obstacles are in thinking about faith, and then the exhortation to just get in relationships and love ‘em, love ‘em, love ‘em towards the cross.
Mitch Glaser
And a little bit of Isaiah 53 wouldn’t hurt.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
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