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Who IS - Who is NOT a Jew?

Recent Debate among Jews



THE CONFLICT WITHIN JUDAISM: WHO IS, AND WHO IS NOT
A JEW?


By Pastor JORY STEVEN BROOKS, CBIA


     The Israeli Knesset has introduced and passed a new bill
that has caused anger and confusion in the Jewish nation, and
"could tear apart the Jewish people," according to Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu. (Jewish News, July 22, 2010) In order to
become law, the bill must pass three readings in the Knesset, and
some Jewish lawmakers are threatening to deliberately stall the
process in a desperate attempt to defeat it.
     The bill was pushed by David Rotem, the chairman of the
Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. "This bill
will pass, no doubt," Rotem declared. This new law would put the
Orthodox rabbinate, a minority of Israelis, in charge of
determining who may be considered a Jewish citizen. "This bill
disenfranchises the vast majority of Jews both in Israel and
around the world who are not ultra-Orthodox," according to Rabbi
Aaron Bergman.
     The concern is that within a context of a rapidly de-
clining Jewish population, large numbers of Jews could lose their
Israeli citizenship and right to be considered Jewish. Current
estimates are that only about seven percent of Jews in the world
today consider themselves to be Orthodox, which could mean that
large numbers of Jews would be threatened with disenfranchise-
ment.
     Such a conflict within Judaism has been brewing for decades,
in which Orthodox rabbis have continually disparaged the
religious beliefs, rituals, and customs of other large, more
liberal, mainstream Jewish sects.
     A similar disenfranchisement has taken place for centuries,
as Jews who converted to belief in Christ have been stripped of
their right to be considered Jewish. Since Judaism steadfastly
refuses to consider Christianity as a legitimate offspring,
Christian Jews are denied Jewish citizenship. Will a similar
situation result in non-Orthodox Jews also losing their right to
be Jewish?
     Many Jewish leaders consider a Jew to be a religious term,
not a racial designation. In fact, the Encyclopedia of Myth and
Magic (article: Lost Ten Tribes) speaks of Jewishness as a
religious designation limited to a spiritual sense: Abraham is
their spiritual father because they inherit his beliefs and
rituals, they claim.
     In stark contrast to this, most Christian leaders instead
consider the word, Jew, to be a racial designation for those who
are physically descended from Abraham, an "Jewishness" to be
determined only by blood relation. Quite incorrectly, they also
say that virtually no Jews have ever converted to Christianity, a
claim that is plainly contradicted by the Biblical book of Acts.
An excellent analysis of this, "Did Israel Reject Christ?" by
this author is found on the web at www.israelite.info
Noted theologian R.T. France does not see prophecy fulfilled in a
non-Christian Jewish state, according to his monograph, "Old
Testament Prophecy and the Future Of Israel." (Tyndale Bulletin
26) He states, "In fact, the New Testament writers never suggest
that Old Testament prophecy is to be fulfilled in a political
restoration of the Jewish nation. When Paul asserts that the
'hardened' part of Israel will one day be reintegrated into the
true people of God, and so 'all Israel will be saved', he gives
no hint that he is thinking of anything other than their
spiritual conversion." (p.77)
     This confusion within Christianity concerning the role of
the modern Jews in the plan of God is nothing new. Dr. Mark
Bonnington, in his commentary on Galatians (1999), says, "...it
is clear that earliest Christianity grew up on a social context
where Jewish identity was fundamentally and antagonistically
contested: gentile outsider perceptions were frequently both
stereotyped and derogatory." (p.151)
     While Jewish stereotypes are no longer derogatory in
mainstream Christian literature, there is no question that a
pervasive stereotypical mythology still exists. Related to this
is the typecast that says Western Christians have no Israelite
ancestry whatsoever, and stridently opposes any evidence to the
contrary. One can only wonder what the famous professor Dr.
Albert Schweitzer knew when he stated that most Christian
prophecy teaching is "an embarrassment resting on a mistake."
This is a good definition of a large percentage of the Christian
prophecy books, steeped in dispensational futurism, that are
published today.

     Yet if being Jewish is related to their acceptance of the
God of the Bible as well as the rituals of the Old Testament,
what of the secular Jews who reject all religion? Profe Yamauchi
stated, "The defection [from Judaism] of such as Sigmund Freud
... was intellectual reasons." Bulletin 29, p.167) A very large
and growing number Jews today are non-relious.

     The  growing  battle within Judaism over who is a Jew is
reminiscent of a similar bitter struggle that took place during
the first century between the Pharisee and Sadducee sects. The
Sadducees were the liberals of their era. They were indifferent
to the Torah (Mosaic laws), and rejected the biblical ideas of
angels, resurrection, and literal belief in the Scriptures. The
Pharisees were not only conservative champions of the law, but
added their own proscriptions that went far beyond the commands
of Scripture. In reading the New Testament, it appears that these
two highly antagonistic groups seemed to agree on almost nothing
other than their hatred of Christ! Their modern ideological
counterparts may be seen today as we witness the vitriol between
the Orthodox and other more liberal sects within Judaism.
     Christians today are largely unaware of the earlier first
century religious fight and how it finally ended by means of a
legal disenfranchisement of the Sadducees.
     Historian Victor Eppstein explained, "...the Sadducees were
effectively eliminated circa 60/61 C.E. by the simple expedem on
the part of the hakhamin establishment and scribes] of making it
impossible for any Jew believing in Sadducee-halakhah [rituals
and customs] to enter the temple without incurring the dreaded
penalty of extirpation." JBL-85, p.214) The Sadducees were
effectively legislated out of existence!

     Will a similar legal proscription from the Israeli Knesset
sound the death-knell for modern liberal Judaism? What does the
future hold for the Jewish people? To paraphrase an expression by
Dr. J. Moltmann, in "Theology and Hope" (1967), the Jewish people
have only one real problem, "the problem of the future."
......

From "Thy Kingdom Come" - September 2010 - a publication of The
Association of the Covenant People, Burnaby, B.C. Canada.



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