The Jewishness of Jesus

A biographical story of what happens when people
actually READ the New Testament

He was a prominent rabbi teaching at a school when he noticed a friend reading a book in German. “What are you reading,” he asked. When the book was passed to him, he leafed casually through the pages until his gaze fell upon the name “Jesus”. Feeling the need to read no further, and with rising anger, he took the book and flung it across the room. It fell behind some other books on a shelf and lay unread and forgotten for almost 30 years.

An outbreak of anti-semitism rose in Rabbi Lichtenstein’s native Hungary. Pograms started and the now aging Rabbi was stunned to find that the writings of men, Christian men, scholars, who were speaking out and sternly denouncing the anit-Semites and defending the suffering Jews. Among them was the biblical scholar Franz Delitzsch, a professor at the University of Leipzig. Delitzsch, in his defense of the Jews, spoke up and said that the message of Christ was one of love and life for all people, especially the Jews.

About the same time, according to the sovereign hand of God, the tiny forgotten, despised copy of the New Testament was found and the Rabbi opened the hated book and began to read it. Later, Rabbi Lichtenstein wrote a short work describing his experience at finally reading the New Testament (“Two Letter: or What I Really Wish”).

The Rabbi’s Words

“I had thought the New Testament to be impure, a source of pride, of overweening selfishness, of hatred, of the worst kind of violence, but as I opened it, I felt myself peculiarly and wonderfully taken possession of. A sudden glory, a light, flashed through my soul. I looked for thorns and gathered roses; I discovered pearls instead of pebbles; instead of hatred, love; instead of vengeance, forgivenss; instead of bondage, freedom; instead of pride, humility; instead of enmity, conciliation; instead of death, life, salvation, resurrection, heavenly treasure.”

Rabbi Lichtenstein converted to Christ at the age of 60. For three years, he kept his faith in Christ underwraps, but taught many of the parables and doctrines of Christ without telling his congregation that they came from the New Testament. Finally, he proclaimed his faith openly — and continued to preach at his local synagogue for 6 years! The gospel, men and women, is it own apologetic. It has a power to transform.

In our own time many decry Christianity and Christ as hateful, obsolete bigots and would have the New Testament gladly burned and Christianity relegated to the “ash heap of history.” But most of those shouting so loudly and hatefully at Christians have NEVER read the book. They have a read a verse here or there; they have read what someone else quoted (often without context); they have assumed they knew what was in its pages; but they have not read the book with an openess to what is actually taught there. 

But if they do, 

if we could help that to happen . . .

if we could figure out a strategy to enable more people to read the New Testament . . .

we might have a revival on our hands. 

Wouldn’t that be a something worth giving your life to? Wouldn’t it?!

Help your church to do that.

Source:  Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein and the discarded New Testament


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