Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that helps provide reasons for belief in the explanatory power of Christian theism. It is true that other faiths attempt to provide reasons for justification for their own truth claims.
I have talked to my share of people from a variety of religious backgrounds such as Islam, Mormonism, The Bahá’í faith, The Watchtower Society as well as Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism. I have also talked to my share of atheist apologists as well. There are various apologetic systems within Christian theology such as evidentialism, presuppositionalism, classical, philosophical and scientific. I personally tend to utilize all of them on a fairly regular basis.
One apologetic method that is a bit unfamiliar but is not entirely new is what is called Messianic Apologetics. Messianic Apologetics is not new because it deals with many of the same objections that Jesus and His followers encountered in the first century. Messianic Judaism pertains to those who are Jewish and have come to faith in the promised Messiah of Israel. Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus, and means “Salvation.” Jesus was actually called Yeshua, a Jewish man living in the land of Israel among Jewish people.
In his book Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God), Volume 2, author N.T. Wright says that the historical Jesus is very much the Jesus of the gospels: a first century Palestinian Jew who announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God, performed “mighty works,” and believed himself to be Israel’s Messiah who would save his people through his death and resurrection. “He believed himself called,” in other words, says Wright, “to do and be what, in the Scriptures, only Israel’s God did and was.” (1)
The purpose of Israel was not to be a blessing to herself. Through her witness, the world will either be attracted toward or repelled from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The entire promise to Abraham in Gen 12:3 exhibits God’s plan to bless the nations. It should be no surprise that in Matthew’s opening chapter, he says, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham“ (Matt. 1:1). The Messiah is not only of Davidic descent, but will bring fulfillment to the Abrahamic Covenant. Also, Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ mission to help Israel fulfill it’s calling (Matt. 10:5-6;15:24), as well as Jesus’ command to bring the nations into God’s redemptive plan (Matt 28:19).
In relation to Jesus’ Messiahship, while a Jewish remnant believed in Him then and still do today, what is more significant is that the Christian faith is now the home of 1.4 billion adherents who are non-Jewish people. Sure, large numbers don’t make a faith true. But another traditional view is that the Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9;40:5;52:8). Are there any other messianic candidates that have enabled the world to come to the knowledge of the one true God other than Jesus?
All the authors of the Hebrew Bible were Jewish as well as the authors of the New Testament (with the possible exception of Luke). For many years the early faith in Jesus was strictly Jewish in both orientation and practice. Hint: Read the Book of Acts.
Today, there are thousands of Messianic believers in the United States alone – some estimate the number to be over half a million. Of course, the Apostle Paul (a Pharisee himself) showed he had a tremendous burden for the Jewish people (Rom. 9:1-5; Rom. 10:1), and calls upon the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11). Paul understood that since Gentiles (I am one of them), have received the blessing of knowing the Jewish Messiah, they have the responsibility to take the message of salvation back to Israel. Therefore, Christians of all denominational backgrounds should show interest in learning about how to share the good news of the Messiah with the Jewish people.
But with acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah comes much opposition and objections from within the Jewish community. Christians have not always been very gracious to the Jewish people. Also, it should not be surprising that the Jewish community has formed its own set of objections to Jesus and the claims of His followers. Many Jewish people who come to faith in Jesus can be ostracized by their own communities. I even know some who have been disowned by their own families. While there has been much progress in Jewish/Christian relations, there is always a need for Messianic Apologetics.
Dr. Michael Brown
The most well-known Messianic apologist at the present time is Dr.Michael Brown. Dr. Brown has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He has debated many rabbis on shows such as Phil Donahue, and Faith Under Fire. Dr. Brown is a Jewish believer in Jesus and is visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Fuller Theological Seminary. His website is http://askdrbrown.org. You can also see him walking down the streets of New York discussing the Messiah issue here:
Dr. Brown has written a five set volume called Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus in the following order:
Vol 1: General Objections/Historical Objections
Vol 2: Theological Objections
Vol 3: Messianic Prophecy Objections
Vol 4: New Testament Objections
Vol 5: Traditional Jewish Objections
Christians can be shocked to see five volumes had to be written to cover the objections to Jesus by the Jewish community. But anyone who has studied the history between Judaism and Christianity knows it is rather messy. Some common objections by Jewish people are the following:
1. If the Messiah has come, where is the peace?
2. The Messiah is not supposed to be divine!
3. Jewish people don’t believe in a dying Messiah!
4. Jewish people don’t believe in a virgin birth!
5. Christianity is more about the creed, while Judaism is about the deed!
6. Jesus changed the Torah!
7. The New Testament authors misquote the Old Testament!
Most of Dr. Brown’s books dive into these issues. To read why many traditional methods utilized by Christian apologists won’t go very far with most Jewish people, click here:
To see a more simplified version to some of the objections in each section of Dr. Brown’s books, click here:
I encouage all my Christian friends to read Dr. Brown’s books. You will learn much and be enriched in your own faith.
1. Sheller, Jeffrey L. Is The Bible True? How Modern Debates and Discoveries Affirm the Essence of the Scriptures, (New York. Harper Collins Publishers. 1999),191.