On Sunday, January 19, 2014, The Washington Post Magazine published a “first person” article by Lon Solomon, now pastor of the McLean Bible Church in McLean, Virginia. Mr. Solomon, who was born to Jewish parents, stated in the article that “I still consider myself Jewish. I’m just a Jewish person who believes Jesus is the Messiah.”
It is a fact of life in the 21st century that Pastor Solomon can feel comfortable in reporting his Jewish heritage. We live in an exceptional country where religion is separate from the state; our state-issued identification documents do not include our religion or ethnicity, as they do in some other countries. Nowadays, it is not dangerous to announce your Jewish heritage, as it was in many areas of this country before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Covenants on houses restricting sale to Jews (or Blacks because of race) can no longer be enforced. There are no longer quotas on Jews entering colleges; corporations doing secular business can no longer discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion, and hotels can no longer prevent Jews from checking in solely because of religion (or Blacks because of race).
There is, however, a distinction between having a Jewish heritage and being Jewish. One cannot be Christian and Jewish at the same time. The basic tenet of Christianity, that Jesus was the son of a Jewish woman, Mary, impregnated by God the Father, is antithetical to Jewish belief. The concept of a child of a human female and a male god (often called a demigod) is taken from Greco-Roman culture, not from Jewish history. Heracles, a Greco-Roman demigod, was the son of the mortal woman Alcmene by the god Zeus. Another hero of myth with a similar parentage is Theseus, supposedly the son of the god Poseidon. In Judaism, every person named a messiah (mashiach, meaning annointed one) in the Hebrew Bible or in Jewish history, and there are quite a few, is a mortal human with no divine parentage. An example is Bar Kochba, who led the failed Jewish revolt against Rome in year135 of the Common Era. Cyrus, King of Persia and certainly not Jewish, was named a mashiach because he permitted the Jews to return from exile in Babylon and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.
By becoming a Christian, Pastor Solomon has accepted, or at least not rejected, the extensive anti-Judaism in New Testament writings. If a person has not discovered this fact through his or her own readings of that holy text, many examples may be found by reading modern texts that point out examples. These books include Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews, A History, by Roman Catholic priest James Carroll; Jesus, Judaism, and Christian Anti-Judaism: Reading the New Testament after the Holocaust, edited by professors of religion Paula Fredricksen and Adele Reinharz, as well as the 2013 book Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by historian David Nirenberg.
The claim of a Christian also to be a Jew is particularly offensive to Jews who have been approached by such persons stating that they were members of a “messianic” Jewish sect. The evangelizers typically want the Jew to accept Jesus, otherwise (the claim is ) that the Jew will go to Hell when he or she dies. Of course, no evidence is supplied that this is the case. This type of activity has perhaps lessened recently, but it was so prevalent in the 1980s and early 1990s that the the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York produced, in 1993, a report of its Task Force on Missionaries and Cults. The report, approved by all major branches of Judaism, stated that such groups “deceptively use the sacred symbols of Jewish observance . . . as a cover to convert Jews to Christianity, a belief system antithetical to Judaism.”
Note: Many of the facts presented above were determined during the writer’s research in preparation for publication of his book Sacred Humanism without Miracles: Responding to the New Atheists.