The critical issue in the New Testament is straight forward: Is Jesus the Messiah? Is Jesus the fulfillment of the messianic expectations and prophecies of the Jewish scriptures. And therefore, one of the biggest tensions is how the Christian relates to the Jew.
For most American, evangelical protestants, this relationship is a no-brainer: Our Messiah is Jewish, our apostles were Jewish, our Old Testament is Jewish, the apostolic teaching is about bringing Jews and Gentiles together, and (for most) our politics are highly pro-Israel.
However, most Christians that I talk to get their understanding of Judaism from Gentile teachers. That’s not bad per se, but I think most of us can agree that if you want to get a solid understanding of Judaism, you’d want to get it from a Jew (just like, if you’d want to get a solid understanding of Islam, you’d want to get it from a Muslim of if you’d want to understand Christianity, you’d ask a Christian).
I’ve been diving into the Jewish/Christian conversation over the last couple of years and two key people have given me a lot of material to explore.
On the Jewish side, Rabbi Tovia Singer has produced the collection of anti-Christian polemics from a Jewish perspective. Rabbi Singer’s organization, Outreach Judaism works to protect Jews from the Christian missionaries that “target” them. For those of you new to this conversation, these Jewish apologists are often called “counter missionaries” (because they see their work as standing against the work of Christian missionaries).
He has a 24-part series called Let’s Get Biblical where walks through histories and texts to explain why Jews don’t accept (and shouldn’t) accept Jesus as Messiah. The CD set is $60 (MP3 files are on a donation basis), and they’ve generously posted it to their website where you can stream/download it for free.
Rabbi Singer also has a two volume study guide of the same title.
On the Christian side, Dr. Michael Brown, a messianic Jew and expert in Semetic langauges, prepared a 22-part response titled Countering the Counter Missionaries where he walks through why Jewish Christians have (and should) embrace Jesus as the Messiah. The CD set and DVD are on the pricey side ($65, $120, respecivly), and you can get the MP3 at $60. It is expensive, but it’s worth it. Dr. Brown is both articulate and encyclopedic in his explanation of this material.
Together, Rabbi Singer and Dr. Brown’s collections amount to over 50 hours of lecture and almost 2,500 pages of researched material. I’ve been slowly working through this material and it is fantastic. Not only does it bring you into the contemporary, theological conversation between Jews and Christians (as opposed to the first century conversation), it also provides a gateway into the Hebrew Bible.
Notoriously (in the tempestuous teapot sense) Rabbi Singer and Dr. Brown have only had one debate. Rabbi Singer gives his reasons for why that is the case here. It was a number of years ago on Sid Roth’s Time Is Running Out. I can’t find a primary source link, so here is the audio I could dig up: