If You're New to Things Jewish, Read This!
by: Robert (Bob) Somerville
Hi there! You're probably interested in this article because you are new to things Jewish, or you know someone who is, and could do with some simplification of things. If this is your first encounter with all of the "Jewish" stuff, you may be getting the impression that an over emphasis is being placed on the "J-word." That's understandable. I know I did initially! And you're probably right! Enthusiasm tends to create an over emphasis. It seems to be inherent in any new idea, but be patient!
You may be experiencing some uncertainty, even concern - thinking:
A little "fear of the unknown" is a normal, even a healthy reaction to something with which we are unfamiliar. Don't be overwhelmed. You are not alone in your apprehensions and you're in the good company of many other sincere believers who have simply never been exposed to "things Jewish." The Jewish connection to Christianity has actually never occurred to many Christians, because the Church has simply failed to teach us about it. That failure is now being exposed and corrected.
To a great extent, the word Judaic is often used for the lack of a better term (Biblical might have served us better). The fact is, God simply utilized a nation of people who happened to be Jews, as a vehicle to communicate His will or word (i.e., His oracles) as a blessing to all of mankind: "...and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Ge 28:14).
Christian - For a long time I did not know that Jesus was a Jew. I just assumed that he was a Christian. Wait!! I was not informed of the fact that the word Christian did not exist until nearly ten years after the death of Jesus. The scripture says:
"And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch" (Ac 1 1:26).
May God hasten the day something is judged, not by whether it is traditionally Jewish or Christian,
but by whether it is Biblical and Christ-centered.
Dr. Billy Graham has pointed out that the word Christian was a term of scorn created by the public against believers in the first century. Now I am not trying to discourage anyone from the use of the word Christian. It should not, however, become the antithesis of the word Jew or Judaism. Thankfully, the Church is becoming more familiar with the term "Judeo Christian."
Hebraic & Judaic – Don't be confused! These two words mean essentially the same thing. The only distinction might be that one refers to the people and the other to their religion. Many Hebrew words have an unusual guttural (clearing the throat) sound. I remember when I first heard them. I thought something guttural might be coming my way (if you know what I mean), as when one properly pronounces the word "Hanukkah." When one pronounces the Hebrew name for Jesus Ye-shoo-ah], someone may think you have just sneezed.
You may question; why not just say it in English? Well, no one language is perfect in its expression nor conveys precise translations of thought. How ever, among the languages of mankind, the Hebrew tongue is known to be among the purest. To the extent that we are able, Christians want to know the exact meaning of sacred scripture. Since a greater percentage of the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, familiarity with some Hebrew words facilitates better comprehension of Biblical text. If you are a serious student of scripture, a little patience to learn some basics of the Hebrew language will pay great dividends to that end.
Judaizing – Now there is a scare word for you. Loosely, Judaising means the attempt to proselytize to traditional Judaism. It is often used in Christian expression to create fear in the minds of those who value the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. There is a difference between being Judaized and simply developing a Jewish consciousness.
Hellenize – Not everyone knows what this word means. It is a reference to being schooled in Greek thought, philosophy and culture. It is believed by many that Hellenism undermined Christian theology by severing it from its Jewish roots and that accurate Biblical interpretation has been sacrificed in the process.
No, we are not trying to make ethnic Jews out of anyone! Oh! There are some zealots out there who may be trying to create a new Jewish tribe which I satirically call the "Wanabee" tribe - that is, while they are in fact Gentiles, they ostensibly want-to-be Jews. Unfortunately, some are even masquerading as Jews. Don't be fooled or turned off by these extremists. Rest assured, you can enrich your Christian life and understanding without changing your faith. Having said that, however, may God hasten the day when something is judged, not by whether it is traditionally Jewish or Christian, but by whether it is Biblical and Christ-centered.
Ours is a Judeo-Christian faith, not simply a Christian faith.
The two most prominent symbols of Judaism, are the candlestick (Menorah) and the six-pointed star of David. The Menorah is a religious symbol. The star of David is more of a political or national symbol.
The Biblical candlestick (Menorah) has seven branches. However, the traditional religious candlestick has nine branches and is called the "Hanukkah Light." It is easy to confuse these two if you are not counting. The seven branched candle stick was introduced by God through Moses. The "Hanukkah" light was created to memorialize one of Israel's most important national deliverance from an evil invader. This nine branched lampstand commemorates a miracle that occurred during the re-dedication process of the temple.
The Star of David is not purely a Biblical symbol. Opinions vary as to its historic origin. However, it is now the political symbol of the nation of Israel, appearing on their flag, official documents and public buildings.
Reactions that you will experience from individuals while sharing the "Jewish roots" idea can vary. Usually Christians are, as I was, very unfamiliar with our Judaic heritage or even that there is such a thing. When that is the case, the listeners' eyes may glaze over like Krispy Kreme doughnuts, wondering what you are trying to say. Their eyes may be open but with the shades drawn. Remember that they may be victims of either no teaching on the subject or even historic anti Semitic teaching by the Church. Bible teacher Bill Gothard defines persuasiveness as "The ability to guide vital truths around another's mental road blocks." Such expertise will be required. Search for and point out "things Jewish" in what they already believe but have never realized they were Jewish. Example; the ten commandments, saying Hallelujah, tithing, etc. Don't be surprised by failure -- this is cutting edge stuff.
Unlike the typical church setting, there may be an unusual amount of pageantry associated with a Jewish roots meeting or conference. This is a form of liturgical order that serves to impress the mind with Biblical truth in an indelible fashion. Sometimes it may border on the bizarre but it is an effective Biblical concept (Ps 20:5).
The Bible is not a collection of books or writings with conflicting concepts and teaching. They (the Scriptures) are altogether harmonious and in mutual agreement. There is not a God of the Old Testament and a different God of the New. The Father God did not make a mistake in creating Judaism and then in utter exasperation send His son to correct it 4,000 years later. The Bible is a progressive revelation from which we can become fully instructed unto righteousness and the Kingdom of God (2 Ti 3:16).
KEEP GOING FORWARD IN FAITH – YOU'LL BE GLAD YOU DID!