Rabbi and Messianic Jew Debate: Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic?

As a result of poor historical Church behavior, Jews have wrongly interpreted the New Testament as antisemitic

Rabbi and Messianic Jew Debate
Jack Bentley/FLASH90

Chosen People Ministries is sponsoring a debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in New York City on August 8. The debate will take place from 7:30-9:30 PM (NY time) and will be streamed live on YouTube. 

According to Chosen People Ministries, a 125-year-old mission to the Jewish people, one of the most repeated accusations from the Jewish community against Messianic Judaism is that the New Testament contains blatant antisemitic statements. Those who believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah disagree. The debate is between two of the most famous Jewish personalities in their respective circles of influence. (Read Israel Today’s “To Be Christian and Jewish” on the history of one of the oldest ongoing missions to the Jewish people.)

The idea that the New Testament is antisemitic is a controversy that goes back to the beginnings of Christianity and the dreadful Church doctrine that the Jews killed Christ, the Son of God, and are therefore accursed and to be punished. These beliefs have been at the forefront of Christianity’s violent antisemitism from Inquisitions to a Holocaust and lie at the core of Judaism’s fear and loathing of historical Christianity. 

Today, modern scholarship has concluded that the New Testament writings are not antisemitic, but windows into a conflict and debate between the Jewish people among themselves. Heated public debates, including name calling between the competing sects of Judaism such as Pharisees, Sadducees and Messianics, was common when the New Testament was written, as are religious and political arguments today. It is wrong to interpret difficult texts as antisemitic as they simply reflect an argument between members of the same family. Furthermore, there are many verses in the New Testament that refer to God’s eternal love for the Jewish people, His chosen nation.

Over the past two millennia, Jewish scholars and Christian theologians have debated on numerous topics. Historically the Jews have not fared well in these rhetorical bouts, as David Israel reminds us writing about the upcoming debate on antisemitism in the New Testament. “For one thing, (in the past) it was near impossible to debate Church officials who didn’t read Hebrew, and so their points were based on mistaken translations; and then, it didn’t really matter who won the debate – it was usually followed by burning Jewish books, synagogues, and just Jews,” Israel correctly points out in his piece in TheJewishPress.com.

Times have changed, however, and no one is going to burn books after the debate, though some may cancel their YouTube subscription. Furthermore, Dr. Brown is well versed in the Hebrew texts of the scriptures, and should be able to hold his own in a discussion on their ancient biblical meanings.  Both men will surely come prepared to argue, loaded with verses in the New Testament Greek.

Israel also thinks that debating a Messianic Jew is not wise (he calls Brown a “Jew for Yoshka,” which is a kind of the Yiddish pet name for Jesus allowing Jews not to mention the “forbidden name”). “The Talmud discourages a voluntary religious debate with gentiles, citing Chagiga 13a: ‘Rabbi Ami said, one does not communicate Torah to a gentile, as is said (Psalms 147:20) “He has not done this for any gentile, and they do not know His laws, hallelujah,”‘” Israel writes. Calling Dr. Brown a “gentile” who does not know Torah will not be a particularly good coaching strategy for Boteach if the rabbi wants to hold his own at the debate. Brown is a Jewish believer in Jesus, not a Gentile, and well-known for his knowledge of the Torah and his public debating skills. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who is also a great debater, will surely come prepared.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach served as Rabbi at Oxford University in England for 11 years. He authored 30 best-selling books on Judaism, including “Kosher Jesus,” and is host to The Shmuley Show, named the most listened-to radio show in America, and The Rabbi Shmuley Show on the Oprah and Friends Radio Network. 

Dr. Michael Brown hosts the nationally-syndicated radio broadcast Line of Fire. He has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and has served as a professor of Bible and Jewish studies at several leading seminaries. Brown is the author of 27 books, including the highly-acclaimed five-volume series “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.” He is widely considered to be one of the world’s foremost apologists for Messianic Jewish beliefs.

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