It depends on who Yeshua* is! The New Covenant presents Him as the Jewish Messiah, (John 1:41, 45 49). If He’s not the Jewish Messiah, then no one should believe in Him. This is because Yeshua’s credentials as “Savior of the World” are based on His credentials as the “Messiah of Israel.
If He is the true Messiah, then it is correct that I believe in Him; and I would be a Jew in good standing with God, even if no one else agreed.
Rabbinical Survey Says…
But, let’s say for argument’s sake, that Yeshua is a false Messiah. In the eyes of rabbinical authority I must still be seen as a Jew. Why? Because, believing in a false Messiah does not make a Jew a non-Jew. For example, in 132 A.D./C.E., during the Jewish revolt against Rome, Rabbi Akiba (a very famous Rabbi) declared Bar Cochba to be the Messiah. Although Bar Cochba was the rebel leader of the revolt, he had none of the accepted credentials to be the Messiah! It appears to be merely Akiba’s pragmatic attempt to unite all Jews against Rome. Since that time, however, no Jewish authority has ever said, “Akiba is no longer Jewish for believing in a false Messiah.” If Akiba is still ‘a Jew in good standing,’ then a Jew who believes in Yeshua as the Messiah, cannot be considered otherwise.
I once spoke in a synagogue on Long Island, new York, regarding why I believed Yeshua is the Messiah. Following my presentation, the senior Rabbi stood up and declared “Nadler because of your belief in Jesus, you’re no longer a Jew!” “Rabbi,” I responded, “If the Bostoner Rebbe says I’m still a Jew, though a wayward Jew, and if the Encyclopedia Judaica declares I’m still a Jew, though a wayward one, then how can you say I’m not a Jew?” “Well” the Rabbi said, “perhaps I’m wrong.” “Rabbi,” I quietly responded, “Maybe you’re wrong about more than just that?” To my astonishment, the synagogue audience of more than 100 Jewish people erupted into applause. It was apparent to all who would consider the issues objectively that a Jew who believes in Yeshua is still a Jew, whether ‘the Rabbi approves’ or not.
First Century Believers
In the book of John, the early believers in Yeshua described Him as “the Messiah,” “the One spoken of in Moses and the Prophets,” “The King of Israel,” “the Son of God,” etc. Please notice as well, how these believers understood themselves. In both Acts 21:39 & 22:3, Paul declares first to the Romans, then again to his own Jewish people, “I am a Jew from Tarsus.” At this time, Paul had been a believer in Yeshua for well over twenty years. So, it isn’t that he’s confused, or that he’s trying to say one thing to the Romans and something else to the Jews. Paul, doesn’t say he “was a Jew,” or “an ex-Jew from Tarsus,” or “a former Jew,” etc. He is a present tense Jew.
In Romans 11:1, Paul reiterates his Jewish identity then he raises the rhetorical question “Has God forsaken His people (Israel)?” He answers, “God forbid! For I am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” His first “proof” that God has not forsaken Israel is himself. God chose a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phil. 3:5) so that the Gentile world would never think that God would be unfaithful to “a people he foreknew.” For if the Lord would break his promises to Israel, why should anyone else think Him trustworthy regarding the Good News of Yeshua?
Today it’s the same story. Every Jewish believer maintaining his/her present tense Jewish identity testifies: “Am Yisrael Chai b’Yeshua Hamashiach: The people of Israel live in Yeshua the Messiah!”
The Jewish New Testament
Many Jewish people (and many non-Jews) are unaware that the New Covenant does not restrict in any fashion Jewish believers from identifying themselves as Jewish, and living their lives as Jewish people. There’s nothing about Jewish life that conflicts with faith in Yeshua or with any of the New Covenant imperatives, teaching, or counsel. Rather, the New Covenant builds upon and fulfills the ethical, moral and spiritual teaching and revelation of God in Tenach (the Old Covenant). In the New Covenant we read that the Jewish believers:
- Continued attending Temple (Acts 3)
- Kept the feasts of the Lord (Acts 20:6;16; 1 Cor. 16:8)
- Circumcised their Jewish children (Acts 16: 1-3)
Kept other aspects of the Law, though not being under its yoke of authority (Matt. 11:29; Acts 15:10) but for the sake of identifying with and for a testimony towards their own people (1Cor. 9:19-20).
A Talk-Show Revelation!
There’s a lot of “stinking thinking” on the subject even among “Christians.” A few years back, I was invited to speak on a secular radio call-in show in Miami, Florida.
I received a number of “you’re-no-longer-a-Jew” calls from Jewish listeners. Suddenly a call came in from a polite gentleman: “Mister Nadler, now that you’re a believer in Jesus you’re no longer a Jew, for the Bible says ‘that in Messiah there’s neither Jew nor Greek.’”
I recognized the portion and responded over the air “Oh, do you mean Galatians 3:28, ‘There’s neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female; for all are one in Messiah Jesus?’
“Exactly,” the caller replied.
“Well,” I quickly said, “then let me ask you a question, please. Are you a believer?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
“Great. Are you married?” I asked.
“Well, yes, I’m married,” he slowly answered.
I asked again, “Is your wife a believer?”
“Yes, she’s a… believer,” he responded with a longer pause.
“Well,” I said, pausing to catch my breath. “If you’re a believer and still a male, and your wife is a believer and still a female, then I’m a believer and still a Jew. The verse in Galatians is not teaching that we lose our identities in Messiah, but that there’s only one way to God for all people.”
An extremely long pause, then:
“You mean I’m still Jewish, too?”
“If you’re were born a Jew,” I responded, “then you’re still a Jew.”
“Hallelujah!” he shouted over the airwaves, “they told me I was no longer Jewish.”
Once a Jew, Always a Jew
So, if someone says “you can’t believe in Jesus and still be Jewish,” they need to read what the Jewish Bible teaches:
Yeshua is our Messiah, and trusting in Him is the most Jewish decision you can ever make!
* ‘Yeshua’ is the Jewish way to say Jesus.Written by: Sam Nadler Word of Messiah Ministries P.O. Box 21148 Charlotte, NC 28277