A Study With A Rabbi

A. Ralph Johnson


Some years ago[1] I received a phone call from a lady asking if I knew what Jews believe.  I responded that I knew very little, other than what I read.  Someday I would like to talk with a Rabbi personally and learn more.


After hanging up I thought to myself, “Someday” – will never come, until I make it today.  So, I picked up the phone book and began calling synagogues, asking if I could talk with someone to teach me about their beliefs.  I was directed to an Orthodox Rabbi, Arthur Jacobovitz, who taught classes at the University of Washington.


The Rabbi was straightforward.  He was a busy man.  However, he would give me some time if I would read some books and come with questions for discussion.  One of the first was, “Your Brother’s Blood, The Roots of Christian Anti-Semitism” by Malcom Hay.[2]  That set the tone for our discussions, which continued thereafter for several months.


The first day we met, the Rabbi laid down the ground rules.  I should not call him on Friday or Saturday.  Friday, even before it began to get dusk, he must cease all work, as called for in the Sabbath Commandment (Ex. 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15).  Talking with me on the telephone would fall under that prohibition.


As an Orthodox Rabbi, he could not come to my house or eat food that was not prepared according to their dietary requirements.  I could eat with him but his food must be “kosher” –approved.


He could not eat pork, rabbit, clams, crabs and other foods that did not fit the requirements in Deuteronomy, chapter 14.  Only animals that chew the cud and have cloven hooves are acceptable.  Birds of prey are excluded.  Fish must have scales, thus excluding bottom feeders, crabs, clams and oysters.


However, Orthodox requirements extend far beyond that.  He explained that these require four kitchens. One set of cooking utensils is exclusively for use with dairy products.  No meat can be used in them.  A second set is exclusively for meat products.  No dairy products can be used in them.  This is based on the Old Testament teaching that a kid is not to be cooked in its mother’s milk (Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 14:21).  Separate kitchens are required lest in washing dishes something of milk or meat might remain that would intermingle the two.  Indeed, there must be six hours between eating any meat and dairy products to keep them separate even in the body.    


The other two kitchens are for Passover.  In addition to having one for meat and one for milk, these must never be used for anything with yeast.  This is based on the teaching that at Passover no leaven is to be in the house (Ex. 12:15).  The strictness and extent of minute detail to which these things is carried seems strange in view of the generally liberal attitudes in some other moral areas.  My observation of the emphasis on the details of tradition left me with the feeling that it was like the Pharisees of the New Testament had been frozen and then after two-thousand years thawed out, almost identical to how they were then.


Our discussion began with the Rabbi speaking of the intense anger Jews hold towards Christians for the way they have been treated through the centuries.  He spoke of their suffering and struggles to return to their homeland expressed in their traditional parting -- “Next Year, Jerusalem.”


On the first day I was particularly intrigued by his exclamation -- “How can I believe in the god of Auschwitch?!!” It stopped me for a moment.  It was the first of many cryptic statements he would make throughout our discussions, left for me to ponder and decipher. He was expressing, the Jewish frustration at God’s failure to intervene in their slaughter by the Germans.


This became the thread that wove its way inexorably through our discussions, popping up here and there in various ways.  From the Rabbi’s perspective the responsibility lay in the teachings of Christians. They had fostered a climate of hate that ultimately culminated in the Holocaust in which millions of Jews perished. 


Based on my experience with anti-Jewish attitudes, the readiness to believe any calumny and to place blame on all for any perceived wrongs, I shudder at the thought of how much truth may be in the accusation.  I am ashamed to say that in my files are things given me by our own brethren, vilifying Jews and accusing them of a grand plot to take over the world. 


One of these is “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” purportedly a secret plan for Zionist world conquest through Jewish world government.  It was brought to our church many years ago by a preacher friend and put into our tract rack for dissemination to the congregation.  The document is entirely fraudulent, having been created by the Russian Secret Police from a satire by Maurice Joly on Napoleon III published in 1864, with no reference to the Jews.  It gained credibility in America by Henry Ford’s endorsement during vilification of Jews fostered by the Germans prior to World War II, being Hitler’s primary source to justify his purges.  It continues today to be promulgated by Muslims to fan hate against “Zionists.” 


The conspiratorial view ties together anything supposedly secret or mysterious with all of the problems and fears people hold.  It is manifested in references to the “Rothschilds” (Jewish bankers), the “Illuminati,” the “Bilderberg Group,” the “Trilateral Commission,” and others all tied up together and dumped on the doorstep of the Jews.


The afore-mentioned preacher insisted that Communism was a Jewish plot.  Karl Marx, who fathered Communism was Jewish.  Lenin who came to power in the overthrow of the Russian Czarist regime, was Jewish. Leon Trotsky, a collaborator with Lenin was Jewish.


However, Marx’s family converted to Christianity, and Marx became an atheist.  Lenin was an atheist.  Trotsky was assassinated by Stalin who purged many Jews, including his own son-in-law.  Stalin was not a Jew, having studied for the priesthood, and become an atheist.  The Soviet Union has always sided with the Arab states against Israel. 


When I pointed this out to my preacher friend, he gave me a strange look, lowered his voice and said, “You don’t understand how these Jews work.  They persecute their own people so that no one will realize they are the real ones in control.”


The Rabbi and I discussed this and many other things over those months.  He made a point of the ignorance of Christians, not only towards Jews, but in general.  He noted how we speak of “Jewish Rabbis,” when in fact there are no other types of Rabbis. 


He was quite knowledgeable of how we teach in our Sunday Schools.  He said that in Sabbath Schools they pay their teachers.  He was contemptuous of our religious educational level, perhaps generally justifiably so.


Naturally, one of the main areas of discussion focused on the importance of Scripture, versus tradition.  Jews have several sacred writings upon which they rely.  The primary source, of course, is the Old Testament books which they call the “Tanakh,” which is divided into three sections – The Law (“Torah”), the Prophets (“Nevitem”), and the Writings (“Kethuvim”).  Chief among these is the Torah, or five books of Law, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. 


However, they also have other writings, containing the Traditions.  This is called the Talmud, a body of Jewish civil and religious law, including commentaries on the Torah. The Talmud consists of the Mishnah (a codification of laws) and the Gemara (a commentary on the Mishnah).


The Rabbi contended that tradition is more important than the TorahTradition is the interpretation of the Law by the Rabbis. Without tradition the Torah cannot be understood.  Only the Rabbis have the education to understand the Torah.   


This seems somewhat circular.  The Rabbis are trained in the traditions, interpreted by the Rabbis, so that they can know what the Law means as interpreted by the Rabbis.


In contrast, it seemed to me that God has the ability to say what He means better than fallible men.  Why not go directly to the Law and accept what God said?


I questioned how one could know which Rabbi is right?  Like Christians, Jews are divided.  There are basically three major movements in the U.S. today: Reformed, Conservative and Orthodox, with a number of minor sects. 


The Rabbis have had great disputations between themselves.  At the time of Jesus there were several different Jewish sects.  The Pharisees and Sadducees’ differences are well known (Acts 23:8).  In addition there were the Essenes, a generally reclusive sect.  Two great Rabbinic schools were those of Hillel and Shammai who differed on the interpretation of such things as the basis for divorce (Matt. 19).   


So, which interpretation is right?  Rabbi Jacobovitz responded that “the senior Rabbi is always right. -- If the senior Rabbi says it is night, and you can go outside and see the sun shining – it is night.” 


I raised a question as to how that fit with a clash he had spoken of with a Rabbi back East to whom he said, “My sheepskin is just as good as your sheepskin.”  He responded that whether the Rabbi is right, is not your business.  That is between him and God. 


To him, tradition, was of utmost importance.  For example, he was scrupulously careful to not use the name of God.  Instead, he used words that suggested the idea but pronounced it differently.  This grows out of the warning not to use the name of God in vain (Ex. 20:7).  The Rabbis considered substitution of another word was protection against any accidental oversight in reverence.


Of course, we discussed Jewish Messianic concepts.  His response was that Jews hold varying views.  Some think the Messiah represents the establishment of the nation of Israel.  Others believe he is a man who is yet to come and sit on the throne of David. [3]   I asked why Jesus could not have been the Messiah.  He responded, “Because he didn’t establish his kingdom.” 


That was tantalizingly reminiscent of futurist views among Christians who, because Jesus did not set up a materialistic kingdom, discount the accomplishment of his mission and keep pushing it ahead into the future. 


 Jesus said that his kingdom was “NOT of this world” (John 18:36).


The kingdom of God does not come with observation:  21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21).


Jesus established the kingdom on Pentecost (Mark 9:1; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:6-8; 2:30-36) and rules in the hearts of His people (Col. 1:13; Eph 2:19).  In their super-literalistic views, both Jews and futurists have missed the grand spiritual fulfillment. (Compare the Old Testament typology picturing the fulfillments, as in Hebrews 9; Gal 4:22-26; Hebrews 12:18-28)


One serious problem for any claim of the Messiah being still future is Daniel 9:26-27 which placed his coming before the second destruction of Jerusalem.  That passage clearly placed the coming of the Messiah just before the destruction in 70 AD which followed the crucifixion of Jesus.


We discussed the sign of the virgin in Isaiah 7:14 which in Matthew 1:23 is cited as a prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus.  The Hebrew word is “almah” (#5959), which the Rabbi held only means a young unmarried woman. He maintained that the word for “virgin” is “bethulah” (Gen. 24:16).


However, this raises the question of why Jewish scholars, over 200 years before Christ, translated this into the Greek Septuagint (LXX) with the word, “parthenos” which indisputably means “virgin.”  This certainly was not influenced by Christians, though it was later hotly debated between them and the Jews.[4]


I questioned whether there was any place in the Bible where almah was ever used of a woman who was not a virgin.  The Rabbi said he thought so but could not say where. 


Almah is used seven times in the Old Testament (Gen 24:43; Ex 2:8; Ps 68:25; Song of Solomon 1:3; 6:8 and Isa. 7:14).  Only Song of Solomon 6:8 has been seriously pressed as evidence indicating a non-virgin.  Speaking of the women in Solomon’s harem it says, “There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins [almah] without number.”  However, this distinguishes “virgins” from both queens and concubines.  In ancient harems, virgins were taken in (as the woman described in the Song) and kept there for a period of time until they were trained and prepared for acceptance by the king.  That these were still virgins can be seen in the Song, in which the young woman is released and returns to her shepherd lover (cf. S.S. 1:7-8; 8:5, 12-14).  This would never have taken place if the king had any sexual contact with her. 


On the other hand, the word, “bethulah” is applied to a young woman who has a husband.


Joel 1:8Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.


Since there are no cases where almah was used of a woman that was not a virgin, I questioned why it could not mean “virgin”?  The rabbi simply pointed at the right side of his head and drew his finger around the back to the front – it would be taking the long way around.


I questioned about the “seed” of the woman in Gen. 3:15 that would bruise the head of the serpent.  He did not believe it was a historical event and viewed it as far too vague to have any connection to Jesus. 


The passage about the “prophet like Moses” who was to come (Deut 18:15, 18-19), was dealt with similarly, as also Isaiah 53, and Psalms 22.  Concerning Isaiah 9:6-7 he said that it was past tense, “a child has been born.”


I questioned how Jews dealt with the problem of the loss of the temple and the sacrificial system God established for dealing with sin.  He responded that apart from the temple each person still has personal access to God.  That seems reasonable, but then why, if not needed, was the temple built and the sacrifices established?  I recall no clear answer.


I asked how, since the family records were all destroyed, would the priesthood be reestablished?  Did not the priests have to be from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron?  He indicated that this could be accomplished based on their names.  Anyone with “Levi” in his name was a Levite.  Those with “Cohn” (“priest”) or other names with the same meaning, were priests.  He explained that when someone with one of those names was present in the Synagogue, they had the right to preside.  [Note: recent genetic discoveries may make it possible to trace genealogy]


One thing that was especially interesting was his concept of man’s relationship with God.  Christians rely on the sacrifice of Christ for forgiveness, and Christ as mediator.  The Rabbi seemed to discount the idea of grace based on a substitutionary sacrifice.  Man was directly responsible.  No mediator was necessary.  We are not saved by faith but by how we obey.  Our good works are simply weighed against the bad. 


Likewise he did not accept the concept of a personal devil who opposes God and tempts men.  He maintained: “The devil is unacceptable because this is an escape from responsibility and is an acceptance of dualism.”  I noted that “If there is no Devil then is not God responsible for evil?” and, “Is not our acceptance of a personal God then also an escape from responsibility?” 


We discussed many things.  However, the key issue that kept coming up was the problem of Jewish suffering.  A most interesting occasion was a dialogue between Jews and Christians, sponsored by the Church Council of Greater Seattle at Temple Beth Am on May 24, 1976.  At one point we were separated into small groups to discuss the questions of “Why should Israel have the Holy Land?” and “What should a solution to the Middle East look like?”  However, in fact, discussion ranged widely to other things.


One of these was where blame should be placed for the Holocaust.  One liberal “Christian” made a point that this was caused by teachings of conservative Christians.  I responded pointedly that Germany, where the Holocaust was masterminded, was the very center of liberal rationalism.  That ended that.


The most memorable occasion in the discussion was when a Rabbi asked whether we really believed in the resurrection of Jesus.  Knowing that I was the only conservative there, one of the leading liberals (Pastor of the University Christian Church, I believe) suggested that I first give my view.  I looked the Rabbi directly in the eyes and stated, “Rabbi, I believe that Jesus really lived, that he was crucified, and raised physically and appeared to people on the third day.”  The liberal preacher dryly responded, “You can’t prove that.”


Then the liberal gave his philosophical view of Jesus, killed by the Romans and raised in a symbolical sense.  When he finished, I commented, “That doesn’t sound much like a faith to die for.”


One significant statement by the Rabbi was, “How can a Jew believe in God?  If I am a Jew, I cannot believe in God.  If I believe in God, I cannot be a Jew!


Again, the old problem of suffering was cryptically expressed.  How can a Jew believe in a god who would permit them to suffer so?  If he believes in God how could he be a Jew since God evidently cares nothing about them?


The question was stunning.  The Jew’s soul was bared in all its agony.  Why does the Jew suffer?


I pondered this throughout our discussions and on the last day posed it directly as my last question.  “Rabbi, there is something I have been thinking about from our first day together.  You said, ‘How can I believe in the God of Auschwitch?’  And later, in a discussion group between Christians and Jews, another Rabbi said,  ‘How can a Jew believe in God?  If I am a Jew, I cannot believe in God.  If I believe in God, I cannot be a Jew!’  Why does the Jew suffer?”


There was a long pause, as the Rabbi contemplated an answer.  Then he rose from his chair and said, “Come with me.”  At his secretary’s desk he said to hold his calls.  He was going for a walk with the "Reverend."  I inwardly smiled as I recalled that when a Rabbi wants to impress an important concept, he takes the student for a walk.  This was significant.


We left the building and walked south along the busy street towards the University of Washington.  I thought how much this differed from a quiet walk along a shady lane which would have been a much more appropriate choice.   We walked for some distance before he spoke.  Then he said, “When God wishes to break up the fallow ground he needs a sharp point on his plow.  The Jew is the point of God’s plow.”


Like the Rabbi, I left a long pause before answering.  Then I responded, “But Rabbi, Does not the Torah teach that when you do good, God will bless you, and when you do evil, He will curse you? [5]  --  Why does the Jew suffer?”


Again, there was a long silence as we walked.  Finally he said, “You are right.  It was the Sadducees – they abandoned the traditions.”


Again, I walked quietly a ways before responding. “But Rabbi, that was two thousand years ago.  The Sadducees are long gone.  Why does the Jew still suffer?”


There was no answer.  We turned around and walked back to the office in silence, exchanged pleasantries and parted. 


I have always wondered just what went through the Rabbi’s mind in the days following as he struggled with that question.  He could not have escaped the weight of timing that shortly after Jesus was crucified, [6] Jerusalem was destroyed and the calamities of the Jews[7] began which have continued to our day. [8]


Throughout our study the matter of responsibility for Jewish suffering had repeatedly surfaced.  My response was, why are all Christians necessarily responsible?  Most of us had no part in the decisions to persecute.  We were not there, and in fact, many of us have resisted anti-Semitism.  


The concept of “collective responsibility” has been argued as illustrated in prayers of the prophets.


Jeremiah 3:25. We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against Jehovah our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of Jehovah our God.


However, this becomes a two-edged sword which may throw light on how God may hold the Jews accountable for their role in the crucifixion (Acts 2:36; 3:13-16; 4:10).


When I speak of “Jews” crucifying Christ, I do not view all Jews as responsible.  Jesus was a Jew, his disciples were Jews, and for years the first Christians were Jews.  Paul himself was a “Jew” (Acts 21:39; 22:3) and a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philip. 3:5 see also Rom 11:1). 


However, the New Testament makes a distinction between “Israel after the flesh” (1Cor 10:18) and Israel of the Spirit (Rom 2:28-29; 9:8).


Romans 2:28-29  28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:  29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.


Rom 9:2 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; 5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. 6 Not as though the word of God has taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall your seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.


Of course, Jewish and liberal theologians have tried to shift responsibility by blaming the Romans and claiming the early Christian writers falsely blamed the Jews.  This is a baseless charge against the New Testament writers’ integrity and motives.  The Jewish Leaders’ culpability is clearly established by the earliest New Testament documents,[9] and other historical references such as Tacitus, [10] Mara bar Serapion[11] and even the early Jewish writings themselves.


“It was taught: On the day before the Passover they hanged Jesus. A herald went before him for forty days [proclaiming], “He will be stoned, because he practiced magic and enticed Israel to go astray. Let anyone who knows anything in his favor come forward and plead for him!’ But nothing was found in his favor, and they hanged him on the day before the Passover.” (b. Sanhedrin 43a)


Jewish anger at the treatment they have received down through the centuries is understandable but it should be tempered by a little reflection on their own history.  Because the ancient people of Canaan turned away from Jehovah God and did wickedly, they were driven out and displaced by the Israelites.  


Deuteronomy 9:4-6   4 Speak not you in your heart, after that Jehovah your God has cast them out from before you, saying, For my righteousness Jehovah has brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations Jehovah doth drive them out from before you.  5 Not for your righteousness, or for the uprightness of your heart, dost you go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations Jehovah your God doth drive them out from before you, and that he may perform the word which Jehovah sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  6 Understand therefore, that Jehovah your God giveth you not this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiffnecked people.

(See also, Deut 18:9-14)


Certainly, terrible wrongs have been perpetuated in the name of Christ, and before God all those responsible will be held accountable.  The New Testament clearly warned against such conduct (Mat 13:28-30; Rom 11:18-29). 


However, it should also not be forgotten that the history of the Jews themselves was filled with violence towards others (Deut 20:16-17; 1Sam 15:3).  This came upon those people because of their sins, but it was also a warning to Israel not to turn their backs against God’s will.


Accordingly, when they did, almost 600 years before Christ, Jerusalem was first destroyed by the Babylonians.  (Jeremiah 25:8-12)


Again in, A.D. 70, long before Christians became a power, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews. 


The calamities of the Jews, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, were set forth by Josephus about 75 AD in his extensive writings. (Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 6, chapter 3)


Claire Huchet-Bishop stated in the forward of “Thy Brother’s Blood,”


“Today, we are facing a situation which at first seems not to relate to Malcom Hay’s concern regarding Christian responsibility for anti-Semitism.  For instance, could we possibly claim that China’s stance against Israel today is a product of perverse Christian conditioning?  Of course, we cannot.  However, there is this fact: the hostility of non-Jews toward Jews goes far beyond the usual antipathy toward any minority.  Moreover, it manifests itself regardless of the physical absence or presence of Jews.  Therefore, are we not left to wonder whether this antagonism, nearly universal today, is not the expression of a deeper malaise than the usual zenophobic reaction to “difference”?[12]


Indeed, the seeds of the “curse” go back to the Torah itself.  Moses said:


Deuteronomy 18:15-19

15 Jehovah your God will raise up unto you a Prophet from the midst of you, of your brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; 16 According to all that you desire of Jehovah your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of Jehovah my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. 17 And Jehovah said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. 18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto you, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.


And again,

Deut 28:15 But it shall come to pass, if you will not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day, that all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you. 16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. 17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading-trough. 18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your cattle, and the young of your flock. 19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you got out.

37 And you shall become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all the peoples where Jehovah shall lead you away.

47 Because you serve not Jehovah your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things; 48 therefore shall you serve your enemies that Jehovah shall send against you, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon your neck, until he have destroyed you. 49 Jehovah will bring a nation against you from far, from the end of the earth, as the eagle flies; a nation whose tongue you shall not understand; 50 a nation of fierce countenance, that shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young, 51 and shall eat the fruit of your cattle, and the fruit of your ground, until you be destroyed: which also shall not leave you either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of your cattle, or flocks of your sheep, until he has destroyed you.

52 And they shall besiege you in all your gates, until your high and fortified walls come down, wherein you trust, throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you in all your gates throughout all your land, which Jehovah your God has given you. 53 And you shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters, whom Jehovah your God has given you, in the siege and in the distress wherewith your enemies shall distress you.

64 And Jehovah will scatter you among all peoples, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, which you hast not known, you nor your fathers, even wood and stone. 65 And among these nations shall you find no ease, and there shall be no rest for the sole of your foot: but Jehovah will give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and pining of soul; 66 and your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall fear night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. 67 In the morning you shall say, Would it were evening! and at evening you shall say, Would it were morning! for the fear of your heart which you shall fear, and for the sight of your eyes which you shall see.


Thus, the wheels of destiny seem to have been set in motion, first in the warnings of God, and then by their repeated offenses eventually culminating in rejection of the “Prophet like Moses” – the very Messiah himself.


When Jesus would not accept their urging to make him a king, and attacked them for their wickedness, they renounced him before Pilate and declared allegiance to Caesar. (Deut. 18:18; cf. Acts 3:22; 7:37).


John 19:12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If you let this man go, you are not Caesar's friend: whosoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar. 13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! 15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.


Matt 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.


Accordingly, they were delivered into the merciless hands of Caesar and those awful words have echoed in their ears down through the halls of history as the epitaph of their own judgment, stalking their every move.   


Denial of this simply returns us to the question, “Why does the Jew then suffer?” and points back to the warnings of the Torah.  If they did right they would be blessed, and if they did evil they would be cursed. 


Deuteronomy 11:26  26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;


Jesus warned,

Matt. 23:32 Fill up then the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them you shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall you scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom you slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent unto yodu, how often would I have gatheredyour children together, even as a hen gatheres her chickens under her wings, and you would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.


Luke 21:20 And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.


Hitler’s “Final Solution to the Jewish problem” --to exterminate them, might well have succeeded, had he been victorious in his conquests, as may be suggested in the prediction of Jesus:


Mat. 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.


Indeed, it seems quite possible that the “tribulation” here may have not only been just the destruction of Jerusalem, but the whole period of affliction upon the Jews until they again took control of Jerusalem.  The Holocaust itself was named after the morning burnt offering in the temple to purge the people’s sin.


Luke 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.


Since the Torah, given by the God of the Jews himself, sets forth the “blessings and cursings” upon Israel, the source of the Jews’ suffering cannot be simply laid at the door of Christians.  Indeed, it is ironic that it has been largely through the influence of Christian-based England and America that Israel came back into existence [13] and has been protected in its struggle to exist.


Romans 11:11   11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.


The truth of this may be painful to the Jewish pride but solutions are not found in denial but in coming to grips with reality.


J. H. Hertz wrote: “Ezekiel speaks of Israel’s history as one long chain of ingratitude and sin….It is only when Israel sees that its sufferings are the just chastisement of God that its redemption and resurrection can begin.”[14]


Historically, they fell away, God repeatedly used persecution by their enemies to force them to return.  How much more the rejection of their own Messiah, sent by Him?  What then is the alternative?  Those who will not hear force their own Judgment.  Blaming their national enemies, Christians, and even God, will not solve the problem.  


Deut. 9:6 Understand therefore, that Jehovah your God giveth you not this good land to possess it for your righteousness; for you are a stiffnecked people.  7 Remember, and forget not, how you provoked Jehovah your God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that you didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against Jehovah.


Isaiah 65:1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. 2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walk in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; 3 A people that provokes me to anger continually to my face;…


Recognizing what God Himself said as to why the Jew suffers is not anti-Semitism.  Anti-Semitism is a deplorable attitude of arrogance and hatred.  God still loves the Jew and seeks their restoration. 


Romans 11:28   28 As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sake.


Why does the Jew suffer?  He suffers because he departed from God's protective care.  God still loves the Jew.  The consequences he suffers are meant to bring him back.


How should Christians respond?  Not by glorying over their fall. Instead of abuse, Christians should pray for their salvation.


Romans 10:1   Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.


Yes, the Jewish leaders crucified Christ, but in ignorance they were fulfilling the plan of God.


Acts 3:12-26    13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.  14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;  15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God has raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.  16 And his name through faith in his name has made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.  17 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he has so fulfilled.

 19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;  20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:  21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.  22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.  23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.[15]  24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.  25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in your seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.  26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities


We must not be high-minded against the Jew.  Remember that even when God used others to punish Israel, He also punished those who punished them.  (cf. Jer. 29:9-12)


Romans 11:18 Boast not against the branches. But if you boast, you bear not the root, but the root you.  19 You will say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.  20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear:  21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not you. 23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

25 For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.


In conclusion, we should keep in mind that it was not just the Jews who were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.  We all share the blame. 


Romans 3:9-13   9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one


 1 John 2:2   2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.


Isaiah 53:1 - 54:1  Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of Jehovah revealed?  2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  4 Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.  8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.  10 Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he has put him to grief: when you shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand.  11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. 


[1] 1976

[2] Thy Brother’s Blood, Malcom Hay, 1975, Hart Publishing Company, Inc. First published under the name, The Foot of Pride, 1950, in 1960 published in paperback as Europe and the Jews.

[3] Note: Daniel 9:25-26 indicates the Messiah was to come BEFORE the destruction of Jerusalem. 

[4] Justin Martyr, Debate with Trypho, the Jew, Chapter 66 and following.  Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1.

[5] Deut 11:26-28; especially chapter 28 compared with Josephus Book 6, chapter 3.

[6] Deut 18:18-19

[7] See Josephus, Book 6, chapter 3, (207)

[8] Luke 21:20-24

[9] Liberals claim the Gospels were written late, after the fall of Jerusalem, and that earlier references to Jesus contain nothing about Jewish blame.  However, Luke certainly wrote before the destruction because Acts ends with no reference to the outcome of Paul's trial at Rome.  Luke records both Peter (Acts 2:36; 4:26-27) and Paul’s (Acts 13:26-28) speeches blaming the Jews.

They deny that Paul wrote his books that blame the Jewish leaders (1Thes 2:14-15) and that Paul was not talking about the Jews in his real letters (1Cor 2:8). 

[10] Tacitus, Annuals, xv.44

[11] Mara bar Serapion, F. F. Bruce  p.31

[12] Thy Brother’s blood p.xv

[13] Balfour Declaration, issued by Britain in Nov 2, 1917 and approved by the League of Nations, July 24, 1922.

[14] Pentateuch and Haftorahs by J. H. Hertz  The Haftorah p. 494  Haftorah Zek 22:5

[15] Deut 18:18-19