R. David Pogge
7 April 2013
Since we want Jews to experience the joy of the Christian life, we should not put stumbling blocks in their way.
When you discover a product you really love, a new laundry detergent, for example, your natural reaction is to tell all your friends about it. If the new detergent gives you cleaner, softer, sweeter smelling clothes, you want share that discovery with your friends so their clothes can be as clean, too.
We Christians have discovered a product that makes our lives better. Its brand name is, “Jesus.” Jesus gives us peace and confidence. So, naturally, we want to share Jesus with our friends, and even strangers.
Some of those people might be Jews. On the surface, it would seem that Jews should be the easiest religious group to reach because they already believe the Old Testament, and know that God promised to send a Messiah to save mankind. They aren’t like Buddhists and Hindus, who don’t have any Biblical background or any concept of a Messiah. All we have to do is show Jews that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament messianic prophecies, proving that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God. Despite that, historically, it has been difficult to convert Jews.
As much as we would like to witness to Jews, for centuries the Catholic Church and her Protestant daughters have made it very difficult for Jews to convert. If we want our Jewish brethren to experience the joy of the Christian life, we need to recognize what stumbling blocks we have placed in the path of the Jews, and remove them.
The obstacles that keep Jews from converting are revealed in a book titled The Real Kosher Jesus by Dr. Michael L. Brown, a Jewish scholar who has accepted Christ. His book was written as an immediate rebuttal to a book simply called Kosher Jesus by Shmuley Boteach published just two months earlier. These two books, which could easily be confused because of their nearly identical titles, give us Christians a peek at the argument within Judaism over Jesus; particularly between Jews who accept Jesus as the Messiah, and those who don’t.
Even when Jews do accept Jesus, they tend not to join mainline Christian churches. How many Messianic Jews are in your church? Not many, I’ll bet. These two books reveal the reasons why.
Both books were written by Jews for Jews. Since Christians aren’t the intended audience, there are portions of the books which deal with aspects of Judaism that aren’t of particular interest to Christians. But there are other portions of The Real Kosher Jesus that are vitally important for Christians to understand because they help us witness to Jews.
Shmuley Boteach is an American Orthodox rabbi, author, TV host and public speaker. In his controversial book, Kosher Jesus, he claims to present “the real story of Jesus, a wholly observant, Pharisaic Rabbi who fought Roman paganism and oppression and was killed for it.” This proposition is a deeply flawed revision of history, based on the assumption that Jesus was a violent zealot with delusions of grandeur. It is then argued that Jesus’ failed violent overthrow of the Roman Empire would not have been recorded in history had it not been for the Apostle Paul, who created a brand-new religion called “Christianity” based upon the teachings of this poor martyr.
It is not surprising that the absurd premise put forward in the book, Kosher Jesus, is controversial, inspiring Michael L. Brown to respond immediately by publishing The REAL Kosher Jesus as a rebuttal.
There are several famous men named Michael Brown. The one who wrote The Real Kosher Jesus is “Michael L. Brown, the founder and president of FIRE School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina, director of the Coalition of Conscience, and host of the daily, nationally, syndicated talk radio show, The Line of Fire, as well as the host of the Jewish-outreach, documentary TV series, Think It Thru, which airs internationally on the INI network. He became a believer in Jesus 1971 as a sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer. Since then, he has preached throughout America and around the world, bringing a message of repentance, revival, reformation, and cultural revolution.” 
Suffice it to say that Brown quite thoroughly demolishes the silly notion that Jesus was “Rabbi Rambo” attempting a violent overthrow of the Roman Empire. We won’t waste any of our valuable broadcast time discussing that portion of his book.
However, the rest of The Real Kosher Jesus is of great interest to Christians who want to witness to Jews because it highlights the stumbling blocks preventing Jews from joining our churches.
The introduction to The Real Kosher Jesus is titled, “So, When Did Jesus Become Catholic?” That’s as profound as it is funny! Jesus was as Jewish as could be, as Brown so eloquently proves later in his book. But Jews haven’t been brought up to believe that. He quotes a common Jewish misconception:
“Fundamentally, we understood Jesus as a foreign deity, a man worshipped by people. The Torah instructs us never to mention the names of other gods, as no other god exists except God. We also understood Jesus to be as anti-Jewish as his followers. Was he not the Jew who had rebelled against his people? Was he not the one who instructed his followers to hate the Jews as he did, instigating countless cruelties against those with whom God had established an everlasting covenant? Was he not also the man who had abrogated the Law and said that the Torah is now mostly abolished?” 
Of course, Jesus didn’t hate the Jews, nor did his disciples. Jesus certainly did not abolish the Law. Furthermore, the New Testament tells us that in the first few decades after Jesus’ crucifixion the debate in the church was not, “Can Jews be saved?” the question was, “Can Gentiles be saved?”
Jews see Jesus as being Catholic—not Jewish. They think Jesus, and His followers, hated the Jews. They think that if we Protestants are followers of Jesus, we must hate the Jews, too. As long as they have these erroneous perceptions, we have absolutely no chance of telling them the truth about Jesus.
So, here’s the outline of today’s broadcast. We are going to take a musical break in which Becky Richardson, Sue and I share a Sabbath Prayer with you, and then we will look at the scriptural evidence that Jesus, and Paul, were unquestionably Jewish. In the third segment of today’s broadcast, we will look at the historical events that brought anti-Jewish traditions into the church. Finally, with this scriptural and historical understanding, in the fourth segment we will suggest what can be done to make it possible to witness to Jews.
[music – Becky Richardson, Dave and Sue Pogge, “Sabbath Prayer”]
Today’s broadcast addresses the difficulty in witnessing to Jews. We are using as our guide a book titled, The Real Kosher Jesus, written by the Jewish scholar and talk-show host, Michael L. Brown. In the introduction to his book, he poses the question, “So, when did Jesus become Catholic?” He then addresses that foolish notion by citing a long, impressive list of books and articles written by Jewish and Christian authors about the Jewishness of Jesus.
As impressive as this list of references is, it is even more compelling when he quotes the first two verses of chapter 3 of John’s gospel.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” [John 3:1-2]
Then Brown makes this observation:
So, a Jewish leader—a Pharisee at that—recognizes Jesus as a gifted teacher, a man sent by God, and he calls him rabbi, a title by which he is addressed a total of thirteen times in the New Testament (along with being called a teacher many more times) 
A point Brown failed to make is that when Jesus was brought before the kangaroo court the night before he was murdered, FALSE witnesses claimed that Jesus had committed crimes against Judaism. If Jesus really had done anything against Jewish law, such as eating unclean meats, dishonoring his parents, disrespecting God, or violating the Sabbath, there would have been no need for false witnesses. False witnesses twisted His words, saying that Jesus was planning to tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days because they could not find any Jewish law that Jesus had ever violated.
Here’s how the apostle John describes what happened.
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. [John 18:19-24]
Jesus was preaching in the synagogues and temple because He was a Jewish rabbi. Furthermore, He didn’t say anything that contradicted anything in the Old Testament in front of all those witnesses. If He had, He would have been stoned on the spot.
Mathew tells us what happened when Jesus was taken to Caiaphas.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered. [Matthew 27:59-66]
The so-called blasphemy He committed was that He admitted He is the Jewish Messiah.
There is no question that Jesus was a Jew. He wasn’t Catholic. He didn’t buy candles and leave them burning in front of a picture of King David. He didn’t attach a statue of Saint Noah to Peter’s fishing boat to protect Him when He traveled. He didn’t buy an indulgence from a priest to have His sins forgiven. He didn’t go to Mass on Sunday.
What about His disciples? In Acts, chapter 21, Luke tells about what happened when he and Paul went to Jerusalem. This passage contains four important points. First, it tells us that the early church was predominantly Jewish. There were thousands of Jews who believed. Second, it was news to the brothers in Jerusalem that Gentiles were being converted by Paul. Third, Paul was falsely accused of telling his followers not to observe Jewish laws. Fourth, to prove these accusations were false, Paul obeyed a Jewish law by shaving his head. Let’s listen to what Luke said.
When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them. [Acts 21:17-26]
If Paul really had been telling Jews to turn away from Moses, he would have refused to take the elders’ suggestion. Paul would have argued with the elders, trying to convince them that Jews really should turn away from Moses. Instead, he performed the purification rite so that everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about Paul, but that Paul himself was living in obedience to the law.
Notice that the elders told Paul that they had written to Gentile believers and told them to observe the Jewish dietary restrictions and remain sexually pure. This is a reference back to the council meeting described in Acts 15. Here’s what Luke wrote about that meeting:
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. [Acts 15:1-6]
The question at that meeting was not, “Can Jews be saved?” The question was, “Can non-Jews be saved, or does a man have to be circumcised and become a Jew before a man can become a Christian?”
Did you happen to catch it when Luke use the phrase, “some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees?” The early Christian church contained Pharisees. Apparently, there were enough of them that their concerns about circumcision had to be addressed. For the first few years, the Christian church was made up almost entirely of Jews. The trouble started later when Gentiles started joining the church. So, after some discussion, James makes the decision recorded in Acts 15:19 and following verses.
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” [Acts 15:19-21]
Notice, James said Christians were still meeting on Sabbath (not the first day of the week), they were still eating a kosher diet, and preaching the law of Moses more than 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection. James also ruled that the Gentiles don’t have to first become Jews by being circumcised, and don’t have to keep the Jewish festivals; but they do have to follow a Kosher diet, and not participate in the sinful sexual practices generally accepted by secular society.
Ironically, James said, “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” If he were speaking today, no doubt he would say, “We should not make it difficult for the Jews who are turning to Jesus.”
This brings us back to the today’s topic which is, why it is so difficult to witness to Jews? Why is it so hard to get them to join our Protestant churches? There are historical reasons, which we will examine right after this song that reminds us of many Jewish names for God.
[music – Dave Pogge, “El Shaddai”]
In our first segment we showed that it is hard to convert Jews because they have been taught from the time when they were little children that Jesus and His disciples hated the Jews and abolished the Law.
In the second segment we shared scriptures with you showing that Jesus was a rabbi, well-respected enough that he caused some Jewish leaders to seek His advice. Furthermore, we read scriptural evidence making it abundantly clear that for decades after Jesus’ resurrection the church was still Jewish, keeping Sabbath and observing the difference between clean and unclean meats.
But now, it is very difficult for Jews to accept Jesus. In this segment we will examine church history to discover how, in Michael L. Brown’s words, “Jesus became Catholic,” or, more accurately, seemed to become Catholic. This will lay the groundwork for our fourth and final segment, in which we seek to undo the historical damage, purify the church, and make the church Jew-friendly.
Just before the last musical break, we saw the early Christian church started out as a Jewish sect that recognized Jesus fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies, and accepted Him as their savior. Later, Gentile converts were rather grudgingly accepted into the fold. There was no anti-Jewish discrimination in the early church—it was just the opposite! In fact, deacons were established to make sure Greek widows received the same support from the church that Jewish widows did.
Clearly, something changed. We need to discover when it changed, and why. Brown’s book explains the plight of Jews who accepted Jesus after the third century A.D.
The Gentile church no longer understood them, having lost sight of their Jewish roots (just as Paul had warned!) and basically saying to them: “If you want to be part of us, you have to give up your Jewishness.” … The rest of the Jewish community basically told them, “If you want to be part of us, you have to give up Jesus.” …
But that’s only part of the story. By this time (meaning the fourth century), the church had become so detached from its Jewish roots that it had turned Peter … into the first pope, banned Christians from observing the seventh-day Sabbath (changing it to Sunday), and celebrating Easter in place of Passover (rather than celebrating the Messiah’s death and resurrection during the Passover season, as the first believers did). 
… by the Middle Ages, Jews converting to Catholicism often had to promise on oath that they would break all association with their people, that they would no longer observe Sabbath or any festivals or holy days, that they would not circumcise their sons, and they would even force themselves to take a liking to pork. 
That explains why ham is the traditional Easter dinner. It was intended to drive a wedge between Jewish converts and their Jewish friends and relatives.
Brown alludes to, but does not actually quote, Emperor Constantine’s Sunday Law, and Constantine’s letter outlining the decision of the Council of Nicaea regarding Easter. We have a link to the complete text of these historical documents on the Archives page of our website, KRSF.NET. Since we don’t have time to read them in their entirety, here are a few excerpts from Constantine’s letter. See if you can detect any hint of anti-Semitism in them.
Constantine Augustus, to the churches.
At the council we also considered the issue of our holiest day, Easter, and it was determined by common consent that … it seemed very unworthy for us to keep this most sacred feast following the custom of the Jews, a people who have soiled their hands in a most terrible outrage, and have thus polluted their souls, and are now deservedly blind. Since we have cast aside their way of calculating the date of the festival, we can ensure that future generations can celebrate this observance at the more accurate time which we have kept from the first day of the passion until the present time. Therefore have nothing in common with that most hostile people, the Jews. Let us, most honored brothers, withdraw ourselves from that detestable association. It is truly most absurd for them to boast that we are incapable of rightly observing these things without their instruction. On what subject are they competent to form a correct judgment, who, after that murder of their Lord lost their senses, and are led not by any rational motive, but by an uncontrollable impulsiveness to wherever their innate fury may drive them? … [Y]ou should still be careful, both by diligence and prayer, that your pure souls should have nothing in common, or even seem to do so, with the customs of men so utterly depraved. 
Emperor Constantine clearly hated Jews. His hatred was shared by other members of the Council of Nicaea, and the general population in medieval times. It was during Constantine’s reign that the Holy Roman Empire replaced the “Jewish” Sabbath with Sunday, because worshipping on Sabbath would make it seem that Christians had something in common with the Jews.
Today, honest, sincere Christian believers innocently eat ham on Easter, and worship on Sunday, totally ignorant of the hateful, anti-Jewish origins behind these traditions. Jews, however, have not forgotten. But it isn’t just what Constantine and the Catholic Church did in the 4th century that the Jews remember. They also remember the Holocaust, and the embarrassing Protestant connection to it.
Brown quotes Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin as saying,
Christianity did not create the Holocaust—indeed Nazism was anti-Christian—but … Without Christian anti-Semitism, the Holocaust would have been inconceivable. …
Hitler and the Nazis found in medieval Catholic anti-Jewish legislation a model for their own, and they read and reprinted Martin Luther’s virulently anti-Semitic writings. 
It may come as a shock to you that Martin Luther was anti-Semitic, but I’m sorry to say he really was. In chapter 1 of The Real Kosher Jesus, Brown begins a section titled, “The Luther-Hitler Connection” with these words:
During the post-World War II Nuremburg trials for war criminals, Julius Streicher, one of Hitler’s top henchmen and publisher of the anti-Semitic Der Sturmer, was asked if there were any other publications in German that treated the Jewish question in an anti-Semitic way. Streicher put it well:
“Dr. Martin Luther would very probably sit in my place in the defendants’ dock today, if this book had been taken into consideration by the Prosecution. In the book, [On] The Jews and Their Lies, Dr. Martin Luther writes that the Jews are a serpent’s brood and one should burn down their synagogues and destroy them … 
Actually, Luther had a lot worse things to say about the Jews and what to do to them, which we would rather not repeat. You can easily find the complete text of On the Jews and their Lies on-line.  Of course, the Lutheran Church has officially renounced Luther’s anti-Semitic views, and modern Lutherans are not, generally speaking, anti-Semitic; but one can’t ignore the historical fact that Hitler used Luther’s writings to justify the holocaust.
In Article XXVIII of the Augsburg Confession of Faith, the Protestant Reformers recognized that the Catholic Church had no Biblical basis to change Sabbath to Sunday. Here’s what they wrote:
Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws concerning meats, holy-days and grades, that is, orders of ministers, etc. … They refer to the Sabbath-day as having been changed into the Lord's Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten Commandments!
But concerning this question it is taught on our part (as has been shown above) that bishops have no power to decree anything against the Gospel. 
Did you ever wonder why the Reformers, after recognizing that bishops had no power to change the Sabbath, didn’t obey God rather than man? The answer is in, On the Jews and their Lies. They hated the Jews so much that they didn’t want to worship on the same day as the Jews. It’s sad—but it’s an undeniable historical fact.
It breaks my heart to say that about Luther because he was, in other respects, such a great man. He risked his life to reform the Church. He began a great work. The Protestant church is greatly indebted to him. But he was a product of his prejudiced times, and was not infallible. May God forgive him for his anti-Semitic writings.
The first step toward forgiveness is confession; but we can’t confess our sins unless we recognize our sins. It is sinful to continue to practice traditions that violate God’s law and prevent people from accepting Christ.
That’s pretty heavy, so let’s take a break, and when we come back we will ponder what to do about it.
[music – Yeshua Hamashiah]
Today we have been discussing Michael L. Brown’s book, The Real Kosher Jesus. Written from a Jewish perspective, it reveals the anti-Semitic traditions which originated centuries ago to keep Jews out of the church. If you tuned in late, you can go to the archives page on our website, KRSF.NET, and scroll down to this week’s broadcast, Witnessing to Jews, to find links to the program transcript, mp3 files of each segment, and links to relevant historical documents we discussed earlier.
Briefly summarizing what we have already said in this broadcast, it is hard to witness to Jews is because we Christians put stumbling blocks in their way. They know Saturday is the Sabbath, and that God commanded it to be observed from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. But we tell them they must break the Sabbath Commandment and worship on Sunday morning, if they worship at all, because the law, including the Sabbath Commandment, doesn’t matter any more. We tell them that it is OK to disregard God’s health laws, even though the Council of Jerusalem said Gentile converts have to keep them, and Jesus appeared in a vision to John telling him to write letters to the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira warning them not to eat profane things. Some churches even ordain gays and lesbians, insisting that the laws about sexual immorality don’t apply, either. Despite Jesus’ clear teachings in the four Gospels, and Paul’s letters emphasizing the importance of keeping the law, we tell the Jews that all the laws have been abolished because we are saved by grace. All of these traditional doctrines originated centuries ago because of a hatred for Jews and anything related to the Jews, including the law.
Is it any wonders that Jews don’t want to join the Christian church? These obvious contradictions between God’s word and the anti-Jewish traditions, which were introduced into the church centuries ago to keep Jews out, are stumbling blocks to Jews, and perhaps to converts from any other religious background.
Christians don’t hate Jews any more; but the sad fact is that Christians once did. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and ignore that fact. The hatred may be gone now, but the traditions remain. We worship on Sunday every week because Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicaea changed the day 1700 years ago to avoid any connection with the Jews. The tradition of violating God’s dietary laws, and eating ham on Easter, began simply to offend the Jews—and we are still doing it today! Because medieval church leaders didn’t want to be associated with Jews by keeping the Jewish laws, those leaders abolished the laws, and we’ve been breaking God’s laws ever since.
Is it worth keeping those traditions just to keep Jews out of our churches? Of course, not! We don’t want to keep Jews, or anyone else, out of our church. We are just creatures of habit, and many people don’t know the reasons for many of the traditions we keep. But it’s tradition! We can’t change it!
Why can’t we change traditions that violate God’s law? Jesus said,
“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” [Mark 7:6-9]
The end-time prophecies tell us that there will be a great reformation and revival before Jesus comes again. The Holy Spirit will be poured out upon the church. Those Christians who are led by the Holy Spirit will preach the pure Gospel with great power, which will awaken nearly equal powerful opposition. Everyone will be forced to take sides.
Will the pure Gospel message preached during the last days be contaminated with anti-Semitic traditions? Of course not! Any doctrines that keep Jews out of our church will keep Jesus out of our church because Jesus was, and still is, a Jew.
We need to choose. Are we going to continue to follow human traditions which directly contradict the Word of God, or are we going to give ourselves completely to following God?
 Shmuley Boteach, Kosher Jesus, page ix
 Michael L. Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus, page 27
 Michael L. Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus, pages 10 - 11
 ibid. page 9
 Wisconsin Lutheran College website, http://www.fourthcentury.com/index.php/urkunde-26
 Michael L. Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus,, page 5
 Michael L. Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus,, page 2