Beyond doubt, without Judaism, Christianity would not exist. Judaism laid the foundation for biblical Christianity, but for the work of the Lord to be complete, it required something to be built on top of a foundation. Without additional layers, all you have are beginnings without something that is whole or functional. Jesus, of course, is a Jew, and He is also the sovereign King of the universe that is the head of the Christian Church. However, cognizant of all of this, many within the modern Church hold Judaism (and those who follow it) to be sacrosanct or in an untouchable, special category. Sadly, this is a position based on sentiment, tradition, and perhaps political peddling, but not biblical fact. I use the phrase “special category” in the sense that many consider modern Jews to be in a class held to a different religious standard, falling into a group characterized by a unique application of God’s grace. Biblically speaking, in the New Covenant, nothing could be further from the truth. A Christ-rejecting modern Jew is as much of an idolater as a Muslim, a Buddhist or a militant pagan. Without regeneration, they all will merit condemnation. Therefore, to say that any Jew who rejects Jesus as the Messiah will endure the wrath of God in hell forever—that is not anti-Semitic, it is a reality of the gospel. To suggest otherwise makes a mockery of God’s holiness, tramples Christ’s work underfoot and spits in the face of God’s truth. The reality is, when it comes to how God views humanity, there are no special categories, because there are only two groups of people: the elect and the non-elect. You are either a child of God or not. You are either an eternal member of Christ’s Church or not. Yes, in the time of the Old Covenant, Israel was a biological people who lived in a physical kingdom defined by geographic borders. But now, after the Cross, there is neither Jew or Gentile, because all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
As I mentioned way back on November 7th, 2018, Israel is a people, not a place. In other words, legitimate Jews are members of a spiritual community, and inclusion in this group has nothing to do with ethnicity or politics. Biblically speaking, now that Christ’s work is finished, Israel refers to the people of God all over the entire world, regardless of who your parents are. Now, to be a member of Israel or a spiritual Jew is best understood as being a member of a borderless tribe that lives in and among all nations on the planet. The true people of Israel transcend time, language, color, nationality and ethnicity. The apostle Paul’s exposition here is helpful because he was a Jew who was also an expert in the Hebrew Old Testament. He helps all to see what the Old Testament Scriptures really mean in the context of Christ. Hence, as the apostle Paul makes clear in Romans 9:6-8:
For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants … it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
What does this mean? That not everyone who says they are a Jew is actually a real Jew. Salvation does not come by bloodlines; it comes from the election of a sovereign God. As Paul will go on to say in Romans 11:25-27, what ultimately matters is not defined in human terms—it is defined by whether you are a child of the promise and profess faith in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul writes in Romans 2:28-29:
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
This means that the true sign of belonging to God is not natural; it is not a physical sign without; it is the regenerating power of God within. In Galatians 3:22-29, the apostle Paul writes to the church in Galatia, which was located somewhere in modern-day Turkey. This means that at the time, Paul was speaking to non-Jewish Gentiles. He writes:
But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Paul begins in verse 22 by saying, “Scripture has shut up everyone under sin.” In other words, because of sin, all human beings are inherently the samethey are all sinners, and this sentence does not discriminate. The apostle then goes on to write that because sin is universal, everyone needs a Savior, and therefore anyone who believes in Jesus Christ will be saved. He says the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament had no special saving powerall the Jewish Law did was point people to Christ. So now, any person who has faith in the Messiah will be justified and reconciled to God. In Christ, there are no longer any divisions or dividing lines, because all are one in Him.
Having this Christocentric understanding of the Old Testament is important because it helps to begin to clarify who the Old Testament is really about. The big picture is that biblical Judaism laid the foundation for Christ, but without Him, you have something that is incomplete, non-functional and devoid of content that sustains faith. In what follows, I will provide three specific ways why modern Judaism is not biblical Judaism.
Why Modern Judaism is Not Biblical Judaism, Reason #1: Biblical Judaism looked forward to the Messiah. Modern Judaism looks back to the Messiah God already sent and says, “Pass.”
The entire message of the Bible is focused on one Person: Jesus Christ. The entire message of the Hebrew Old Testament is also very straightforward: Jesus is coming. It doesn’t matter where you look: for example, subsequent to the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, after God made the first gospel promise, God sacrificed an animal and covered Adam and Eve with its skin. What did that point forward to? The Cross, in that the shed blood of Christ covered our sins. What was the point of God choosing Abraham and thus his biological descendants? To preserve a people so that Jesus could be born in the fullness of time. When Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, what did the Lord do? He provided His own sacrifice for Abraham, just as God provided His own Son to be sacrificed for our iniquities. What was the point of the Passover? To have the blood of the Lamb spread on the vertical and horizontal beams of a home’s door so that God would see the blood and His wrath would pass over that household. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world in that God’s wrath passes over our guilt. What was the point of a Davidic king? To point to the final and ultimate King, Christ, who will rule on David’s throne over an eternal kingdom. What was the point of the Temple? To point to Jesus: a literal intersection point of God and Man where atonement for sin could be made. What was the point of Isaiah 7, Isaiah 53, or Psalm 22? To tell us that God’s Messiah, Jesus, is coming, and that through Him and Him alone can a man be saved through faith.
In fact, on the road to Emmaus, when Jesus Himself gave an explanation to two disciples that He is the Messiah, He didn’t initially say, “Hey guys, look at my pierced resurrected body; go take a look at my empty tomb.” Instead, in Luke 24:27, what Jesus actually did was first point the two disciples back to the Old Testament and explain to them all the things written about Him there, beginning with Moses and the Prophets. In other words, to communicate all the signs that pointed directly to Him, Christ referred back to the Hebrew Old Testament. God chose to sequentially reveal Himself in this manner so that any ancient Jew who actually was familiar with the Scriptures could anticipate Jesus’s coming. Subsequently, when He did arrive, Christ would then be the centerpiece of the faith.
The point of all of this is what? That since the beginning, biblical Judaism by design looked forward to Jesus. Now that He has been born of a virgin, lived, was crucified and is Resurrected, if someone now looks back and rejects what God has said and what He has done through His Son, what does that make them? A condemned non-believer, whatever other labels they may carry. If a modern Jew looks back on Jesus and says, “I’ll pass,” it is not in fact Jesus that accuses them—it is Moses, because he is the one who first told the Jews, “Jesus is coming.” (cf. John 5:45).
When Jesus was alive, who were His greatest earthly opponents? It was not the Roman State. It was not Jews in general, because many common folk who didn’t follow Him simply didn’t know what to make of Him. Even the greatest man who ever lived, John the Baptist, sent word to ask Jesus, “Are you the One who was promised?” (Matthew 11:2). Hence, Scripturally grounded folks like John originally weren’t against Jesus, they just weren’t sure. Indeed, in His earthly ministry, Jesus’s greatest natural opponents were one sect of Jews in particular: the Pharisees. It was this group of non-believing Jews that Jesus called “children of the devil” (John 8:44). The Pharisees were the most hostile to Jesus as a Person and to His teachings; and, of course, they rejected Jesus’s claim that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. Does it come as a surprise, then, that in Matthew 23:13-34, Jesus pronounces eight imprecations or “woes” against the Pharisees? For example, in Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus says:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to people, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The fact that Jesus’s greatest earthly enemies during His ministry were the Pharisees is important not to miss. Why? Because the ancient group that modern Judaism is most closely descended from is the scribes and Pharisees. It therefore makes perfect sense that the Pharisees rejected Jesus then, just as the modern Jew rejects Jesus now. This historical connection not only helps to explain modernity in the context of biblical history, it also makes sense of a warning message that Jesus twice gives to the church in the Book of Revelation: to beware of the persecutions, slander and weaponized lies of those who say they are Jews but are not—they are in fact members of a “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9, 3:9). One who is truly of God has no intimacy with the devil and will certainly not oppress the bride of Christ, the Church.
Beloved, it is very black and white: if you reject Jesus as the Messiah, then you are not a friend of God, you are an enemy of God. There is no in-between. Modern Judaism rejects Jesus as the Messiah, which makes it a false ideology that is at enmity with God, period. Again, reason number one why modern Judaism is not biblical Judaism: because biblical Judaism looked forward to the Messiah. Modern Judaism looks back to the Messiah God already sent and says, “Pass.”
Why Modern Judaism is Not Biblical Judaism, Reason #2: Biblical Judaism had a God-ordained system of atonement. Modern Judaism lacks a biblical system of atonement and therefore condemns itself.
What a modern Jew and a modern Christian can agree on in principle is a basic concept of sin, or that which lacks conformity, either active or passive, to the moral law of God. This lack of conformity may be in nature, thought or action. What a modern Jew and a modern Christian can also agree on in principle is that sin separates a person from God and merits that person judgment. So, under biblical Judaism, what was the remedy for dealing with sins? The only God-ordained system of paying for sins—or atonement—was by means of animal sacrifice. In other words, the penalty for sin is death, so either you die or a substitute dies in your place (like a bull or a lamb). But God specified not just the means of atonement but also a precise place: while in the wilderness, Israel was commanded to use the mobile Tabernacle, and once settled in the Promised Land, sacrifices happened in the Temple. This tells us that under biblical Judaism, atonement happened according to a very specific ritual in a very specific place and was also conducted by very specific people (the Levitical priests).
For the Christian, Jesus was the final and ultimate sacrifice, as He is our Great High Priest who offered Himself to be sacrificed on the altar of the Cross. Now, by our trust in Christ, He is the eternal atonement and no more sacrifices are required, for nothing can exceed the infinite worth of the blood of the God-Man. But outside of Christ, what’s you’re left with are the precise rules for atonement laid down in the Book of Leviticus. Here, then, becomes the problem for the modern Jew: orthodox Judaism does not routinely practice animal sacrifices for atonement, and they can’t perform the sacrifices in the only place God approved, the Temple. Why can’t they do that? Because the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans. Even if a modern Jew were to attempt to wiggle their way out of God’s command by asserting a rabbinical teaching like “a man’s home table is now his altar,” that is a fabrication of men, not the truth of God. God neither approved nor ordained a home altar to be run by non-Levites. Modern Judaism is thus a self-condemning religion, because it lacks a biblical system of atonement and leaves its followers drowning in their own sins without a means of escape. Followers of modern Judaism are condemned by the very Scriptures that lay the foundation for their beliefs: the Torah, or the Books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. Once again, it’s not Jesus who condemns them, it’s Moses: he is the one who delivered the biblical way of atonement, which they now reject.
Speaking of the Old Testament, there is another point to consider. Ancient Judaism was based on one set of Scriptures: the Hebrew Old Testament (also known as the Tanakh), or our Genesis through Malachi. This means that, as a legitimate religion, biblical Judaism was based on God’s Word that He breathed out and communicated through men like Moses, David and Isaiah. When it therefore came to asking, “What did ancient Jews believe?” the answers could be found in the actual Hebrew Bible. Many Christians don’t realize that modern orthodox Judaism does not rely primarily on the Hebrew Old Testament—it instead relies primarily on the Talmud, a large collection of secondary writings written by rabbis over the past two-thousand-plus years. It is clear that these rabbis were not inspired by God and merely gave their own interpretations of what the Hebrew Bible said so that it could be applied to everyday life. Subsequently, over time, orthodox Judaism moved away from the God-inspired Scriptures and instead followed what men reasoned in the Talmud. In other words, modern orthodox Judaism doesn’t primarily rely on the Bible, it relies on something else. It’s no wonder modern Judaism isn’t biblical.
In Talmudic Judaism, the Talmud contains the core of the religion—and what’s in the Talmud may shock the modern Christian. The Talmud contains much ancient mysticism, the idea of multiple different male and female gods, and even prayers to the man downstairs as opposed to the man upstairs. There are even prescriptions for prayers designed to trick God in order to secure what the person wants. On a darker note, the Talmud refers to non-Jews by a derogatory term: goyim. According to the text, only Jews are real human beings with a soul, while goyim are beasts that lack a soul—we are merely creatures shaped like humans. This helps to explain why the Talmud says that the goyim exist simply to be subservient to Jews. A logical conclusion is that if the goyim are not human, they can be treated and killed like animals. But that’s not the worst part: the Talmud regards biblical Christianity as a total abomination—a plague that should be wiped off the face of the earth. The text despises Jesus as the Son of a harlot and someone so wretched that He will suffer in hell forever while immersed in animal droppings. Now you tell me: does any of this at all sound like the biblical commands to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself?
You don’t have to take my word on what I have communicated about Talmudic Judaism. If you’re interested in researching more into the actual beliefs yourself, you can always read the source text. You may be interested in a book titled Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years by Israel Sharak.
Biblical Judaism had a God-ordained system of atonement. Modern Judaism lacks a biblical system of atonement and therefore condemns itself.
Why Modern Judaism is Not Biblical Judaism, Reason #3: Biblical Judaism was based on faith. Modern Judaism is based on works.
Faith, or simply trusting God, is not a novel concept developed in the New Testament. Faith goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. After all, if Adam and Eve had actually trusted God and His Word, they wouldn’t have trusted in the serpent’s lie. Consequently, for any ancient Jew to be a genuine member of the true Israel, they had to trust and believe in the Lord. A lack of trusting God, or unbelief, is where rebellion and disobedience begins. A man who doesn’t trust God certainly doesn’t worship Him, and if you’re not worshipping God, you must find a substitute, which is idolatry. Accordingly, before Moses and before the Law, what do the Scriptures say about the father of Judaism, Abraham? In Genesis 15:6, the text says, “Then [Abram] believed in the Lord; and He credited it to him as righteousness.” In other words, Abram had faith. This laid the foundation for everything that followed. If Abram had not had faith in God, he would have discounted the Lord’s promises and done what he wanted to do. His life would thus be characteristically pagan. Furthermore, consider one of the most important verses in the Bible, in that it is repeated three times in the New Testament. Habakkuk 2:4 says:
Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.
To put it another way, the righteous person is right with God because of their instrumental faith that clings to the Lord. By their faith they live their life. Hence, the biblical idea of living by faith is grounded in the Hebrew Old Testament, and what is subsequently clarified in the New Testament is the precise object of our faith: Jesus. He is the Person in the Godhead in whom we specifically trust because in His life, He fulfilled the Law that we couldn’t, and in His death, He paid a debt for sin that we can’t. And that is the point: no person can perfectly fulfill the righteous demands of a holy God—that would mean, for every second of your life, not only always doing the right thing but also having righteous thoughts with a holy motive and nature. Such a demand isn’t even conceivable with the fallen human mind. Yet a rejection of Christ leaves you with just that: having to fulfill the Law of God all by yourself by your works. Consequently, modern Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Islam and every other form of false religion follow the same formula: do this, and you will live. The person in charge of your salvation is you, so as long as you follow these rules, you’ll be okay. The problem is that no one (and this includes Christians) ever follows the rules all the time. Just look around. And while you’re at it, look back to the Old Testament. What do we see there? Jews who had the Law, which did not save them. With the Law, they backslid into sin over and over and over again. The Law only condemned them because it revealed just how inadequate they were. This is why every person is in desperate need of a Savior. You therefore either try and save yourself or trust in the Savior God sent: His Son, who did perfectly fulfill all the righteous demands of a holy God. Modern Judaism wants you to believe you can perform as good as God in the flesh. Biblical Judaism understood that man cannot save man. Only God can do that, which is why biblical Judaism is predicated on simply trusting God.
Biblical Judaism was based on faith. Modern Judaism is based on works. The good news is that a person is saved by faith. The bad news is that a person is condemned by their works.
In closing, I think being aware of these three points will have a transformative impact on the Christian worldview. On a theological level, it compels us to recognize that the darkness of the world does not discriminate and everyone needs to hear the gospel. And if the Bible teaches us anything, it’s that those who regard themselves to be the most enlightened are often the most blind. On an interpersonal level, this biblical understanding really changes nothing, in that we are called to love our neighbor regardless of who that neighbor is. Yet, while being as gentle as lambs, we must also be as shrewd as serpents and have an informed understanding of what some religious sects actually think about Christians, the Church and Christ. On a political level, I think by now it should be readily obvious that Christians cannot risk getting duped into ascribing to man-made political ideologies in the name of the Bible when such ideologies have nothing to do with biblical Christianity. At the end of the day, the modern nation-state only has the name Israel in common with the Israel of the Bible. Nearly everything else fundamental to that political idea is completely antithetical to what the Bible actually says. Yes, Zionism is not Judaism, but Zionism pretends to be grounded in biblical Judaism. Even more, the Zionist apartheid in Palestine essentially is animated by individuals who are weaponizing a lie to serve a political agenda under the guise of religion. This agenda has absolutely nothing to do with the gospel or the coming reign of Christ. A Christian cannot therefore act blindly and support a political ideology that is a perversion of an ancient biblical idea. Consequently, if the Bible teaches us anything about modern-day political Israel, it’s that it consists largely of covenant-breaking idolaters. Modern Israel is not pro-Christ; it is pro-Israel. Beloved, in the end, there is only one true religion: biblical Christianity. Everything else is a fairy-tale. This is yet another reason why modern Judaism is not biblical Judaism, which is the foundation of the one true faith.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal