How to Share the Good News With Jewish People, Part 3

“Bubbe, please shake hands with Dr. Kaplan,” said Sarah.

“I’m honored to meet you, Mrs. Levy,” said Ben as he extended both his hands and warmly grasped both of hers.

Jenny Levy appeared to be in her mid to late 60’s. She was tall and had an athletic build and striking facial features. Her thick iron gray her was arranged in a French twist. She wore a dress that was attractive yet modest. Airs of pride and arrogance seemed distinctly absent. Inner strength and dignity were clearly present.
“Please, call me Jenny.”

“I will. And please call me Ben. Josh and Matt are also here today. They are two of Sarah’s classmates. How are you today?” asked Ben as he guided Jenny to a comfortable chair with a small table next to it that held a glass and a pitcher of water.

“I’m not so good today, Ben. My husband Isaac died suddenly a few weeks ago. We were getting ready to celebrate our 45th anniversary,” said Jenny as a tear ran down her right cheek.

“Is there anything that we can do for you Jenny?” asked Ben.

“Possibly. I need peace, personal peace, and I don’t have it. I’ve never had it. But I’ve never needed peace like I do now, since Isaac’s death,” said Jenny.

“I’m so sorry to hear about Isaac. Would you mind telling me about your family?” said Ben.

“I had two children. Barbara, Sarah’s mother, is alive and well. I had a son, Bradley. He died 20 years ago in a car crash. He was 21 years old. I miss him terribly and I have tremendous guilt in my heart concerning him, Ben,” said Jenny.

Tears were now streaming down Jenny’s cheeks. She was sobbing softly.

“Could you tell us why you have this guilt?” asked Ben.

“Brad lived at home with us. When he was 19 and at college he was suffering from depression. He was even thinking about suicide. He told me that he had no hope for himself. He didn’t know why. We sent him to see a psychiatrist but that didn’t help. Our Rabbi even met with him a few times to counsel him. That didn’t help either. Then he went to a Jews for Jesus meeting on campus. A few weeks later he accepted Jesus, Brad called Him Yeshua, as his Lord and Savior. The depression lifted. Brad seemed to be transformed. He was full of joy. He had been having trouble at school. After he accepted Yeshua he was able to focus on his studies and he became a “A” student,” said Jenny.

“It sounds like good things happened to him after he accepted Yeshua,” said Ben.

“I agree. But then trouble started, a few months later. Brad joined a Messianic Jewish congregation and he was baptized. He told Isaac and me that baptism represented an outward sign of an inner change. He told us all about his new faith and Isaac became enraged. Isaac told Brad that he was a traitor to his people and that he was no longer a Jew, that Jews don’t believe in Jesus. He called Jesus a mamzer and he called Brad an anti-Semite. He ordered Brad to leave our home and to never come back. Isaac told Brad that if he ever came back he would kill him. Brad left and I never saw him again,” said Jenny.

Mamzer means someone of illegitimate birth, a bastard, in Hebrew. It’s translated as misbegotten in Deuteronomy 23:3,” Ben explained to the group.

Deuteronomy 23:3 No one misbegotten shall be admitted into the congregation of the LORD; none of his descendants, even in the tenth generation, shall be admitted into the congregation of the LORD1.

“Jenny, how did you feel about what happened?” asked Ben.

“Terrible. I didn’t agree with what Isaac did but I was afraid to stand up to him. He was a very inflexible man and he had a terrible temper. He changed our phone number and made it unlisted,” said Jenny.

“Jenny, what’s past is past. What do you want to do now?” asked Ben.

“I don’t know what I can do. I know that I want peace. I’m afraid of dying. And I want to see Brad again. I think he’s in heaven,” said Jenny.

“Jenny, what do you know about Yeshua?” asked Ben.

“Brad shared a lot with me after he was baptized but that was a long time ago. I know that Yeshua was Jewish and that those who follow him believe that He was the Messiah and equal to God,” said Jenny.

“Do you have any thoughts about why Brad changed after he accepted Yeshua as his Lord and Savior? You said Brad seemed to be transformed,” said Ben.

“I don’t know why Brad changed but I know that the change was miraculous. It was as if he had hope, irrepressible hope. I remember wondering at the time what power could have caused it. It had to be a good power,” said Jenny. “Ben, I want that hope, the hope that Brad had.”

“Jenny, what do you know about sin?” asked Ben.

“Sin? I know that none of us are perfect,” said Jenny.

“Do you believe in God, Jenny?” asked Ben.

“Yes. My parents believed in God and they taught me that He is real and that there is a heaven and a Book of Life. My father sometimes read Bible stories to me and we celebrated the Jewish holidays,” said Jenny.

“Jenny, God is real. He is alive today. His Son Yeshua who is our Messiah is also alive today. God loves you, Jenny. He also loved Brad. He sought Brad out and rescued him. That’s why Brad changed. God wants to do the same thing for you, Jenny,” said Ben.

“Ben, you asked me a moment ago if I know about sin? Does sin have something to do with this?”

“It does, Jenny. Do you know about the Ten Commandments? Would you mind if we read them now?” asked Ben.

Jenny looked nervous. She was clenching and unclenching her hands. The color had drained from her face.

“It’s OK, Ben. Go ahead.”

“Matt, there’s a Jewish Publication Society Tanakh in the bookcase behind you. Would you grab it please and show Mrs. Levy where the Ten Commandments are?” said Ben. “Jenny, would you please read the verses?”

Jenny read: 2

Ex. 20:1 God spoke all these words, saying:

Ex. 20:2 I the LORD am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: 3 You shall have no other gods besides Me.

Ex. 20:4 You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, 6 but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Ex. 20:7 You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD your God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.

Ex. 20:8 Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God: you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or your cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.

Ex. 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that the LORD your God is assigning to you.

Ex. 20:13 You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Ex. 20:14 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house: you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female slave, or his ox or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

As Jenny finished reading tears were streaming down her face. She was convulsed with sobs.

Ben got up and stood in front of her. He took her head and shoulders in his arms and gently hugged her.

“Bubbe, why are you crying?” asked Sarah.

“Because I’m guilty of breaking those commandments. I don’t think I could ever keep them all. Ben, I think I understand what sin is now. Is there any hope for me?” asked Jenny.

Ben went back to his chair.

“There is, Jenny. There most definitely is. Jenny, you’ve just read the Ten Commandments. You’ve confessed that you have broken them. Moses said that righteousness or salvation can only come through the Law if you obey the Law perfectly. Nobody can do that. We are all guilty of breaking God’s laws. The penalty for that is death, eternal separation from God. That’s why we all need a Savior. Jenny, you need a Savior. That Savior is Jesus, Yeshua, the Lamb of God,” said Ben.

“Ben, I know that I need a Savior. I’ve known that for years now. Now is the time. If Jesus can save me so that I can go to heaven when I die, I’m ready to accept Him and follow Him as my Lord and Savior,” said Jenny.

“He can save you Bubbe. He saved me and Josh and Matt and Dr. Kaplan. He is the Jewish Messiah,” said Sarah.

“I believe that now, Sarah,” Jenny said as she smiled through her tears. “Would you take my hand and kneel down with me?”

Jenny and Sarah knelt together with their hands joined. Kneeling behind them, Ben, Josh, and Matt put their hands on Jenny’s and Sarah’s shoulders. Jenny prayed.

“Yeshua, I know now that you are my Messiah, my Savior, and my Lord. Thank you that you died on the cross for me. I know that your blood paid for my sins and I know that I can never repay you for what you did for Brad and for Sarah. Please save me now. Thank you Lord.”

Joyful hugs and shouts of Hallelujah followed!

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How to Share the Good News With Jewish People, Part 2

“We’re all here, Dr. Kaplan,” said Sarah.

“Yes, and we’re ready to go! You’re going to tell us more about how to share the Good News with Jewish people, right?” asked Matt.

“You’ve got it, Matt,” said Ben Kaplan.

“So, how do we get a handle on how to share, Dr. Kaplan? What do we need to know?” said Josh.

“Well Josh, I think we should start by looking at the 10th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans and using the first few verses as a guide today,” said Ben. “Matt, would you put the verses on the screen, please?”

Romans 10:1-4 (NASB) Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

“Let’s take this verse by verse:

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.

“The Apostle Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews and a sold out believer in the Messiahship of Yeshua, is speaking and he is explaining how from his very heart he wants the Jewish people to be saved.

2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.

“Paul is testifying about the Jewish people, and he is well qualified to do so. He was a Pharisee and a leading member of the Jewish community in Jerusalem. Paul was saying that the Jewish people had a zeal for God. What does that mean? They had a passion, a fervor, an enthusiasm for God. In a sense they were on fire for God. But their fervor was not based on knowledge. For one thing, they did not have a spiritual understanding of the Scriptures. They did not understand what their own Scriptures, the Tanach or Old Testament, was saying. They did not know that the Tanach prophesied about Yeshua. Their eyes were blinded to the truth. They couldn’t see that Yeshua was their Messiah, that He came to be the ultimate sacrifice for them – the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 – in order to reverse the curse of Genesis 3:15. That curse caused all humanity to fall in Adam and it was the origin of death for the human race. Without this knowledge, their zeal for God could not lead to salvation.

3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.

“They needed to know that righteousness in God’s eyes could not come by obeying the Law of Moses. Instead it comes through faith, through trusting God. This was first made clear in the Scriptures through Abraham:

Genesis 15:5-6 (NASB) And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he (Abraham) believed in the Lord; and He (God) reckoned (accounted) it to him as righteousness (words in parenthesis added).

“God made a promise to Abraham that in his old age he and Sarah, who was well past the normal age of child-bearing, would have their own son and that through that son Abraham would have physical descendants as numerous as the stars in heaven. As incredible as the promise seemed, Abraham believed. He trusted in God and His promise. He had faith in God. God knows when a person has faith in Him. And on the basis of Abraham’s faith God accounted Abraham as being righteous. God marked Abraham down in His book in the saved column. Abraham was saved right then. This did not occur because Abraham was obedient to a set of laws. In fact the Law of Moses had not even been given yet.

“There is another verse in the Tanach, from the prophet Habbakuk that helps to make clear that salvation comes by faith and not by obeying the Law:

Habakkuk 2:4 (NASB) “Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.

“Many, but not all, of the Pharisees were proud and their souls were not right within them. They did not have what Abraham had. They did not have faith in God. Therefore God did not count them as righteous. This is well depicted in a parable given by the Messiah, Himself:

Luke 18:9-14 (NASB) And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

“The Pharisee was not accounted righteous by God. He thought he was righteous. He thought that he kept the Law perfectly. He did not know about God’s righteousness. He was seeking to establish his own righteousness by obeying the Law and that is not possible for him or for us. That’s what Romans 10:3 is telling us:

3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.

“If this Pharisee was able to keep the Law perfectly that would have included this Law from Leviticus:

Leviticus 19:18 (NASB) You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

“If this Pharisee had been obedient to this law, he would have had compassion on the very tax collector who was praying in the temple at the same time as he was. The Pharisee knew that the tax collector was there and he clearly believed that he was better than the tax collector. The Pharisee was self-righteous. God does not count self-righteous people as righteous.

“But God did count the tax collector righteous. He knew that he could not keep the Law. He knew he was a sinner and he asked God to have mercy on him. We know that God did have mercy on him because we are told that he went to his house justified, said Ben.

“What does justified mean, Dr. Kaplan?” asked Sarah.

“It means that God forgave the tax collector’s sins and declared him righteous. When God sees a person sincerely acknowledge his or her sin and plead with Him to have mercy, God sees that person’s heart and declares that person righteous, forever. That’s what justification means. It is a legal declaration by God. That’s why it’s instantaneous. We can clearly say that the tax collector in this parable was saved by faith. He did not trust himself. He repented of his sins and asked God to show him mercy. He trusted God, he had faith in God, and God saved him,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, I’m thinking of a passage in John and I’d like to read it, O.K.?” said Josh.

“Sure,” said Ben.

John 1:12-13 (NASB) 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

“Are these verses describing what happened to the tax collector?” asked Josh.

“Is this passage telling us how a person is born again?” asked Matt.

“When a person is born again does that mean that he or she is justified?” asked Sarah.

“Yes, yes, and yes! The tax collector received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He believed, he was born again, he was justified, and he became a child of God. I think that all three of you have grasped this,” said Ben.
“Did the tax collector do what the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk said needed to be done?” asked Josh.

Habakkuk 2:4 (NASB Strong’s) 4 “Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.

“He did, Josh. You’re right on target. “But the righteous will live by his faith.” This verse could also be paraphrased this way: “But it is by faith that the righteous person will live”.

“So, righteousness in this context means justification which means all sins are forgiven, right?” asked Sarah.

“Exactly, Sarah,” said Ben.

“But God’s justice is perfect. So who paid the price for this tax collector’s sins? God can’t just forgive sins with no punishment can He?” asked Matt.

“No, Matt, because that would mean that God is not just. He cannot forgive sins without someone paying the price. Do you remember Leviticus 17:11? Would you mind putting it on the screen for us?” asked Ben.

Leviticus 17:11 (NASB) For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’

“So a blood sacrifice is still needed,” said Sarah. “When the Temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem one day, will the blood of an animal without defect make atonement for our souls then?”

“No, Sarah. The all sufficient Sacrifice was made once, 2,000 years ago by the Son of God, our Messiah, the Lord Yeshua. He died instead of you and me. He was our substitute. Only His infinitely precious blood can completely and permanently free us from the penalty of sin and make us perfectly clean so that we are fit to be in God’s presence and to dwell with Him for eternity,” said Ben. “By shedding His blood and dying on the cross, Yeshua paid the price that we owed, which is death, and He turned away God’s wrath giving us peace with God. We are reconciled with God. There is a word that describes this: propitiation. The sacrifice of a bull or goat could never accomplish that.

“Let’s put up that last verse:

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

“Douglas Moo, in his commentary on Romans, explains the end of the Law like this: Christ is the culmination of the Law. Christ did not abolish the Law and He did not even get rid of one jot or tittle of the Law. But because He perfectly obeyed all of the Law when He walked this earth, when we receive Him as our Lord and Savior we are counted by God as being fully obedient to the Law. We are given Yeshua’s perfect righteousness just as He bore our sins. We are perfectly righteous in God’s sight. We are justified by God. It’s a done deal! We are saved forever and right then the Holy Spirit begins to progressively conform each one of us to the image of Messiah Yeshua. That process is called sanctification.

“The only way to accept Yeshua is by faith. That means accepting Who He is, accepting what He did for us, and accepting Him as our Lord and our God. We have to believe just as Abraham our father in the faith did,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, haven’t you just told us today what a person needs to know to share the Good News with a Jewish person, or anyone else for that matter?” asked Matt.

“I guess I have Matt. But now we need to go on and talk about some practical pointers about how to share. Lord willing, we’ll do that next week,” said Ben.

“Can I bring my grandmother, Jenny Levy, to the meeting next week? She’s Jewish and does not know Yeshua.” said Sarah.

“By all means! Could we share the Good News with her?” said Ben.

“Yes! I’ve been praying for that to happen,” said Sarah.

“Please pray, all of you, for the heart of Sarah’s grandmother to be open to Yeshua. See you all next week!” said Ben.

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How to Share the Good News With Jewish People

Ben Kaplan’s medical students were gathered in his office to begin the weekly meeting. Like Ben, Sarah was Jewish. Josh and Matt were Gentile. All were believers in the Lord Jesus, their Messiah.

“Dr. Kaplan, I’ve been reading the New Testament to try to get an understanding of how to share the Good News with Jewish people and there’s a passage that I’m having trouble understanding,” said Josh, as he put the passage on the screen.

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NASB) For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

“I’m confused about this passage too,” said Matt. “I see that Greeks are mentioned twice and Gentiles are mentioned once. I thought that Greeks was just another name for Gentiles in the New Testament.”

“Good observation, Matt! The words in this passage for Greeks and Gentiles is the same word in the original language. The word is Hellen which means Greek or Greeks and in some Bible versions all three words are translated Greeks, but we should usually understand the word to mean Gentile or Gentiles,” said Ben.

“Is there some special reason that Greeks search for wisdom is used here rather than Gentiles search for wisdom?” asked Sarah.

“I think there is, Sarah. In my opinion, the NASB translators have made the right choice because Greeks searching for wisdom in this verse refers to people who are actually Greek. So we could read this verse as Greek Gentiles search for wisdom,” said Ben.

“How do you know that, Dr. Kaplan?” asked Josh.

“Because of a passage of Scripture in Acts, Josh. Do you remember when the Apostle Paul was speaking to Greek Gentiles in Athens?

Acts 17:18 (NASB) And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

“Greek philosophers were conversing with Paul. These were men who placed intellect and reasoning above all else. They were interested in the wisdom of the world, not the wisdom of God. Their minds were not open to supernatural things such as the resurrection of Yeshua,” said Ben. “Gentiles in general and Greeks in particular considered Paul’s message foolishness.”

“But what about Jews seeking for signs and Christ crucified being a stumbling block to Jews?” said Sarah.

“Sarah, Let’s look at a passage from Matthew:

Matthew 12:38 (NASB) Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”

“Some of the scribes and Pharisees, Jewish religious leaders, who had already seen Jesus perform miracles were asking for an additional sign or miracle. These people should have known better and Jesus rebuked them:

Matthew 12:39-40 (NASB) But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

“Jesus was talking about His death and resurrection symbolized or foreshadowed by what happened to the prophet Jonah The scribes and Pharisees knew all about Jonah,” said Ben.

“Wow! That’s pretty clear, Dr. Kaplan. But what about Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block?” asked Sarah.

“Now that’s a little different, Sarah. The Jews of Jesus’ day knew that a Messiah would come. In fact they were waiting for him hoping everyday that he would come. They were looking for someone who would be a political and military leader, someone who would deliver them from the Roman yoke and bring glory back to the Nation of Israel.

“To them a carpenter, the son of a poor and uneducated couple, could never be the Messiah. On top of that, Jesus said He was God and He proved it from the Hebrew Scriptures and by miracles. He offered deliverance from sin and he offered eternal life. He taught that everyone is a sinner and needs deliverance. And to receive these things we must submit to His Lordship. To these leaders, who thought that they were righteous and needed no personal savior, the idea of Yeshua being their Messiah was entirely offensive. He was a stumbling block to them,” said Ben.

“I think I’m starting to get it, Dr. Kaplan. These people were not righteous. They were self-righteous,” said Josh.

“Exactly, Josh.

“Now let’s look at the 1 Corinthians passage again but this time let’s focus on verse 24. I’m showing it in bold:

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NASB) For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

“The group that is mentioned in verse 24 is comprised of Jews and Gentiles who are the called,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, are those who are the called the same as the elect?” asked Matt.

”Yes, Matt. I believe they are,” said Ben. “They are people whom God has chosen to save from before the foundations of the earth.”

“Does that mean that the first group, Jews and Gentiles who are obviously unsaved are not the elect?” asked Josh.

“Now that is a fantastic question, Josh. What do you think the answer is?” said Ben.

“I think that you’re asking me if all the people, both Jews and Gentiles, in that unsaved group are doomed to eternal separation from God in Hell. Is that right?” asked Josh.

“That’s right Josh. So, are they all doomed?” asked Ben.

“No. I don’t think they are, Dr. Kaplan,” said Josh.
“You are absolutely correct! There is something that we must never forget. As long as there is life there is hope. A particular Jew can regard Yeshua as a stumbling block and a particular Gentile can regard Jesus as foolishness but the eternal destiny of a particular person is not set until he dies. There is a verse in Hebrews that says so,” said Ben.

Hebrews 9:27-28a (NKJV) And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

“But is there anything that can be done to save people in the unsaved group?” asked Sarah.

“You are asking if unsaved people can become saved people? Of course they can. All people are unsaved at birth. And we must remember that none will seek the Lord on their own. That is made clear in both the Old Testament and the New Testament,” said Ben.

Romans 3:10-11 (ESV) 
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.

Psalms 53:2 (ESV) 
2 God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

“What can we do, Dr. Kaplan?” asked Matt.

“Several things. First, don’t forget that God desires that none should perish, but that all should repent,” said Ben.

“Is that a guarantee that every person with a heart that is hardened to Yeshua will change and be saved?” asked Matt.

“No, Matt,” said Ben. “Second, we need to pray for those people.”

“Dr. Kaplan, you say we should pray. What do we pray?” asked Matt.

“We pray that God would turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. We pray that God will send the Holy Spirit to convict the unsaved person of his or her sin and of the need to repent, and to give the unsaved person the gift of faith in Jesus Christ so that he or she will call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

Third, we share the Scriptures with them, one on one, as led by the Holy Spirit and we can ask them to come with us to hear Scripture expounded at a meeting where Messiah is exalted and where messages from the Old Testament and from the New Testament are preached, whether in a church or in a Messianic Jewish fellowship,” said Ben.

“Is there anything else? Can you be more specific, Dr. Kaplan?” asked Sarah.

“I can, Sarah. But for now, let’s pray for those we love to receive the gift of salvation. Next week we’ll talk more about specifics and about how to approach people with the Good News in today’s world,” said Ben.

The students and Ben joined hands and Ben prayed:

“Father in Heaven, we have friends and family members whom we love but who do not know You. We fear for them, that they might spend eternity in Hell, separated from You. We know that You desire that none should perish. We ask You LORD to send Your Holy Spirit to convict them of the truth that they are sinners just like we are and that they need to repent, to submit to Jesus as Lord, and to call upon Your Name, that they might be saved, as your Scripture says. Praise, honor, and glory to You LORD.”

Romans 10:12-13 (NASB) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Joel 2:32a (ESV) And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

“See you all next week,” said Ben.

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A Rabbi Comes Closer to Accepting Jesus. Another Jewel From the Shema.

Today’s meeting promised to be an exciting one. Rabbi Jonah Greenberg, Ben Kaplan, and Ben’s three medical students, Sarah, Josh, and Matt, were all gathered together in Ben’s office. They had all done their homework and were ready to present information on the all important question: Does the Shema support One God with a plural or complex nature?

Ben opened the discussion.

“Let’s look at the Shema again. I have it written on the whiteboard in English, in an English transliteration of the Hebrew, and in Hebrew:

Deuteronomy 6:4 1. HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE.

Shemah Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad

שׁמע ישׂראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד׃

“Last week, Jonah explained the significance of the Shemah when he said ‘These words, recited morning and evening in the synagogue represent the core of what it means to be a Jew. God is One. There is, simply put , no polytheism in Judaism and Moses made that abundantly clear to the Nation of Israel before the people entered the Promised Land’.

“In addition we made a strong case that the word echad means one but not an indivisible one. There is a Hebrew word for an indivisible one and that word is yachid. Echad means one but it is clearly a complex one and we gave a number of examples of this from the Hebrew Scriptures. There are an enormous number of additional examples.

“Thus echad was the first portion of our “case” that the Shema speaks of a God who is most definitely One but He is a complex One. He is a single God with a plural nature,” said Ben.

“I’m with you Ben. Echad is a complex one. So God being called Echad could definitely mean that God is a complex One,” said Rabbi Greenberg.

“Thanks, Jonah. Let’s now take a look at the word Elohenu, written in bold above, and see where that takes us,” said Ben. “Then, we’re going to discuss Dr. David Cooper’s take on all this, OK?”

The Rabbi, and Sarah, Josh, and Matt, all nodded their agreement.

“Now, as we said before, Elohenu is a masculine plural construct noun. That is not controversial,” said Ben.

“Ben, I’ve studied Hebrew for many years and I agree. Elohenu is a plural noun. It is the first person plural possessive of Elohim and so it is essentially the same word as Elohim which everyone knows is a plural noun. No orthodox Jew would debate that. We orthodox Jews consider Elohim, the first word for God in the Torah, to represent the prerogative of a supreme ruler to refer to Himself in the plural form. It’s like a human king saying to his subjects We command you to do this or that. So I don’t see the significance of Elohenu being plural in your argument,” said the Rabbi.

“Jonah, I think that the point here is that Elohenu, a plural noun, cannot be explained by the majestic plural. It just can’t work that way in the Shema,” said Ben.

“Why can’t it work in the Shema, Dr. Kaplan?” asked Matt.

“The LORD gives Moses further instructions for the Children of Israel as they are about to enter the Promised Land.  Let me paraphrase the relevant verse.  Because I hope to make this as understandable as possible, I’m going to paraphrase this as if the instructions were being given to Jewish people today.  And I’m going to put some additional words in parentheses to further facilitate understanding, to make things as clear as possible.  I’m putting it on the whiteboard now.

We (the LORD, using the majestic plural, is speaking to Moses, the Leader and Lawgiver of Israel) command you (Moses) to tell the children of Israel (God wants all Jews everywhere to know what He is about to say) to speak the following twice daily in the synagogue: The LORD Our God (Our God meaning the God of the Children of Israel) is One.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t see any way that the majestic plural has any possible place, grammatically or otherwise, in the translation of Elohenu. The majestic plural simply does not fit into Our God. There is just no way,” said Ben.

“I think you’re right Ben!” said the Rabbi. “But I have a question. Why is Elohenu, a plural noun, always translated as our God in the Tanach?”

“May I speak?” asked Josh and then, in an excited voice, proceeded to do so. “I don’t know Hebrew. But, I’m blessed to be able to use software that at least partially overcomes this lack of knowledge. Elohenu is translated our gods, meaning pagan gods of course, in the Tanach in Isaiah 42:17:

Isaiah 42:17 (ESV) They are turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in carved idols, who say to metal images, “You are our gods.”

“This is great research, Josh. Jonah, what do you think about all this?” said Ben.

“I’m impressed,” said the Rabbi.

“OK, how about we get an opinion now on Dr. Cooper’s work on the Shema?” asked Ben. “Sarah, please share your research with us.”

“For sure, Dr. Kaplan,” said Sarah. “Matt, could you lead off please?”

“Sure, Sarah. Straight and simple, here is how Dr. Cooper translates the Shema, literally. I’m writing it on the whiteboard now,” said Matt.

“Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our Gods is Jehovah a unity.”

The Rabbi was quick to speak up. “Ben, I don’t buy that translation for one second. Do you?”

“No Jonah. I don’t.

“Jonah, I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Cooper. He was a great scholar. He profoundly loved the Jewish people. His works are phenomenal and have helped me personally. But, although his translation of the Shema may be literally correct, Dr. Cooper is missing the point in this case. Our God is a plural God. Our God has a complex nature. But our God is emphatically One.

“And, the correct translation of the Shema is what we said it was earlier, as it is still written on the whiteboard,” said Ben.

HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE.

“Jonah, are you getting closer to accepting the notion that God could be three persons making up one complex God?” said Ben.

“I am Ben, I definitely am. I’m not quite there yet however. I need to pray and think about all this. I’d like to come back in a few weeks. Is that OK?” asked Jonah.

“I think we are all more than OK with that,” said Ben.

Josh, Matt, and Sarah vigorously nodded their agreement.

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Can a Rabbi Believe in Jesus? What the Shema Can Tell Us.

“Hi, I’m looking for the office of Dr. Benjamin Kaplan,” said the young man.

The man was tall and appeared to be about 30 years old. He wore a black frock coat, a black Homburg hat, and had a full black beard. Instead of typical sideburns he had peyes; they were long, full, and spiral. He wore a smile and looked to be approachable.

Dr. Kaplan’s receptionist, Denise, answered. “You’re in the right place. Are you Rabbi Jonah Greenberg?”

“Yes, I am. I’m Sarah’s friend,” said the Rabbi.

“You must be here for the weekly meeting,” said Denise. “Please, come with me Rabbi.”

*

“Shalom, Rabbi Greenberg,” said Ben Kaplan. “We are so glad that you’re here today. Of course you know Sarah. Let me introduce you to Josh and Matt.”

Ben made the introductions, and the Rabbi took a seat.

“Rabbi, Sarah said that you have some concerns but she didn’t tell me what they were. Do you feel comfortable sharing your concerns with the four of us? Of course you know Sarah is Jewish and I’m Jewish. Josh and Matt are Gentile and are believers in Jesus,” said Ben.

“I’m comfortable sharing, Dr. Kaplan. I want to know about Jesus, or Yeshua as you call him. I’m told that you believe he is God. I don’t understand how that could be. If Jesus is God, then who is my heavenly Father? Certainly He, my heavenly Father, is King of the Universe and He is my God. Do you believe in my Father and King, God of heaven and earth, and LORD of the universe?” asked Rabbi Greenberg.

“I certainly do believe in Him, Rabbi,” answered Ben.

“Do you believe in one God? Do you believe in monotheism, Dr. Kaplan?” said the Rabbi. “Do you know the Shema?”

“Rabbi, I want to tell you something before I answer. I sense that your questions are sincere and that you want to know the truth.

“Rabbi, I know the Shema and I definitely believe in one God. I also believe that Yeshua, who is the Messiah, is God and I believe that my heavenly Father and King is also God. God is One but He is a complex One. He is One God in three persons,” said Ben.

“Now you’re including the Holy Spirit, Ruach HaKodesh. He is God too, Dr. Kaplan?” asked the Rabbi.

“Yes, Rabbi. He is God too, the third person of the one triune God,” said Ben.

“Can you prove this to me?” said the Rabbi.

“I believe I can, Rabbi, and I’d like to begin making the case using the Shema,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, it would be truly amazing if you could do that by using the Shema. I’m all ears,” said the Rabbi.

“OK, Rabbi. Let’s start by looking at the Shema, first in English and then in Hebrew”, said Ben.

With burning curiosity, Josh exclaimed. “Rabbi, what is the Shema?”

“Josh, the Shema was given to the children of Israel by the LORD through Moses. You will find it in the Tanach in Deuteronomy 6:4, which says:

Deuteronomy 6:4 1. HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE.

“Josh, these words, recited morning and evening in the synagogue represent the core essence of what it means to be a Jew. God is One. There is, simply put , no polytheism in Judaism and Moses made that abundantly clear to the Nation of Israel before the people entered the Promised Land.

“Dr. Kaplan, can I use your white board?” asked the Rabbi?

“Of course, Rabbi,” said Ben.

The Rabbi quickly wrote on the board.

“The transliteration of the Shema from the Hebrew is:

Shemah Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad

“And in Hebrew the Shema looks like this,” said the Rabbi.

שׁמע ישׂראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד׃

“So, the Shema essentially defines Judaism. It is the most emphatic statement that God is One. Do I have it right, Rabbi?” said Matt.

“You’ve got it Matt!” said Rabbi Greenberg.

“And I could not agree more!” said Ben Kaplan. “But I want to ask a question at this point. Could One have more than one meaning?”

“What do you mean, Dr. Kaplan?” said Sarah.

Ben stepped up to the white board and rewrote Elohenu and Echad so that they alone were in bold.

“I want you all to please focus on the two words that are now the only ones in bold.

Shemah Yisrael Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echad

שׁמע ישׂראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד׃

“Now let me try to explain. Let’s look at the word Elohenu in bold above, the third word from the end, in both English and Hebrew. No expert in Hebrew grammar would deny that this word is a masculine plural construct noun. So it seems to me that Elohenu is a plural One.

“And Echad, the last word in each sentence, means One but it is often a complex one,” said Ben. “Let me give you some examples. I’ve italicized the pertinent words.”

Genesis 2:24 (ESV) Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Numbers 7:27 (ESV) one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering;

Numbers 13:23 (ESV) And they came to the Valley of Eshcol and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they also brought some pomegranates and figs.

Exodus 26:6 (ESV) And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains one to the other with the clasps, so that the tabernacle may be a single whole.

“There are a great many other examples I could give today but I want to give just one more because in a way, it especially agrees with the use of Echad in the Shema. The verse speaks of the future time of the Messianic Kingdom:

Zechariah 14:9 (ESV) And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.

“Rabbi, you are an expert in the Hebrew language, so I don’t know that I have any explaining to do to you. But for the benefit of my students, I’m going to explain. Each word printed in italics in the above verses is echad in Hebrew and has the cardinality of one whether it be the word one or whether it be the word single. In each verse the single unit described is made up of more than one component yet it is still single or one. A husband and wife become one flesh. One bull, one ram, and one male lamb, become one offering. Many grapes comprise a single cluster. Components of the tabernacle combine to make a single whole. And lastly the LORD who is going to be King over all the earth, is a plural One and His Name, Hashem, is a plural name.

“There are hundreds of examples like this in the Tanach. But what about a one that has no complexity. What about a single unit that can have no distinguishable separate components?” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, you are talking about the word yachid and it is used very infrequently in the Tanach. Let me give you an example and I will identify this word, in English and in Hebrew, in italics to make it easy for your students to follow.

Genesis 22:2 (ESV) He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Genesis 22:2 (Hebrew OT)

ויאמר קח־נא את־בנך את־יחידך אשׁר־אהבת את־יצחק ולך־לך אל־ארץ המריה והעלהו שׁם לעלה על אחד ההרים אשׁר אמר אליך׃

“So when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, his one and only son, God used the word yachid, “ said Rabbi Greenberg. “Do you agree with me Dr. Kaplan?”

“Yes!” said Ben.

Matt had a question. “Didn’t Abraham have two sons at this point? Didn’t he have both Ishmael and Isaac as sons? So why is Isaac, Abraham’s one and only son?”

“Dr. Kaplan, do you mind if I answer that question?”

“Not at all Rabbi,” said Ben.

“Matt, Isaac was the son of promise, the son who God gave to Abraham through Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Through Isaac came Jacob and through Jacob came the 12 tribes of Israel. And it is through one tribe, the tribe of Judah and later through King David that God promised that the Messiah would come. This line of inheritance could come through one, and only one, son. That is the reason that Isaac was Abraham’s one and only son,” explained the Rabbi.

“What a great explanation, Rabbi. Now I have a question for you. When the Rambam, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, formulated his 13 Cardinal Principles of the Jewish Faith he said that God is an absolute indivisable unity. But if that is the case, would not God have used yachid in the Shema rather than echad? Why didn’t the Rambam, Maimonides, say that?” said Ben. “Surely what Maimonides said has influenced many millions of Jews over the centuries,” said Ben.

“You know, that is a very interesting question, Ben. May I call you Ben?” said the Rabbi.

“Please do call me Ben. And I’ll call you Jonah if that is OK with you,” said Ben.

“Absolutely, Ben!” said the Rabbi.

“Well, I think we’ve established something today. The Shema refers to God as echad and that means that God could be a complex single God, a complex unity. I do not see this as contradicting any basic tenets of Judaism.

“But there is another word in the Shema that we must investigate. That word is Elohenu and as we noted earlier it is a plural noun. What might that signify?

“Sarah, before our next meeting, I’d like you to go online to www.biblicalresearch.info and see what Dr. David L. Cooper had to say about the Shema. Would you do that please?” said Ben.

“I can’t wait to do it Dr. Kaplan! And if you don’t mind, I’m going to ask Josh and Matt to help me with that assignment,” said Sarah.

“Great Sarah.

“Jonah, could you join us for our next meeting? And would you close us in prayer today” asked Ben.

“I look forward to that next meeting, Ben,” responded the Rabbi. “And let me pray the Aaronic benediction over all of you right now.”

The Rabbi recited the blessing from Numbers, chapter 6.

24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

“Thanks, Jonah! See you all next week,” said Ben.

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Does the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) Help to Support One Triune God?

Yes it does, with two Hebrew words.

Our God, Elohenu (אֱלֹהֵינוּ), is a masculine plural construct noun.

One, Echad (אֶחָד), is a singular word but is often used to describe a single thing which has more than one part.

More about this, in the next full post, coming soon.

The Shema:

Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָֹה אֶחָד

(Bold added by author to help the non-Hebrew reader more easily see the two key words discussed in this post).

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