Jewish Views on Christianity

Theological attitudes toward Christianity have changed over time in response to social and political developments.

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Modern Attitudes

In modern times there has been far greater cooperation between Jews and Christians, many Jews welcoming Jewish‑Christian dialogues in which the aim of each side is to understand the position of the other, and even learn from it, without in any way moving from its own.

Some Jews believe that Judaism and Christianity have so much in common that it is permissible to speak of a Jewish-Christian tradition. But there is the strongest opposition on the part of all Jews, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, to the attempts by Christian missionary groups to convert Jews to Christianity. The Jews for Jesus movement is very much a fringe phenomenon and has justly been condemned by all faithful Jews as trying to introduce Christianity to Jews through the back door, so to speak.

A single contemporary Orthodox Jewish theologian in the US has argued that Judaism does not oblige Jews to reject the doctrine of the incarnation as impossible in itself. For him, Jews reject Christianity not because God could not have become incarnate in a human being, since that would compromise God's omnipotence, but because, in fact, He did not do so in the person of Jesus.

This eccentric view is rejected by all other Jewish theologians on the grounds that God, being God, can as little become human as He can wish Himself out of existence. As Aquinas said--and he was anticipated by Jewish thinkers--it is no compromise of God's omnipotence that He cannot do the absolutely impossible.

[British Jewish theologian] C. G. Montefiore, while insisting that a Jew cannot be at the same time a Christian, argues that some aspects of the Christian ethic are superior to the Jewish, for which he was attacked by [Zionist thinker] Ahad Ha‑Am. On the scholarly level, there have been Jewish investigations into the Jewish background of Christianity, but in a purely objective way with the theological questions seen as irrelevant to scholarship.

It would certainly be incorrect to say that the suspicions of the two religions of one another are a thing of the past. What can be said is that, in an age of greater religious tolerance, there has been a growing realization that the two have enough in common to enable them to work in harmony for human betterment.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.