Impressions of “Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast,” by Rabbi Stuart Federow

Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast the inverse of The Crucified Rabbi. Instead of being an explanation of the Gospels as fundamentally Jewish documents, A Comparison asserts that the Gospels are fundamentally pagan documents that co-opted Jewish words. Rabbi Federow presents Christianity as foreign to Judaism as any replacement theologian does.

Roughly, there are five classes of arguments in Judaism and Christianity.

First, arguments against heretical or non-Catholic Christianity
Second, arguments against literary Judaism
Second, arguments that mirror Christian apologetic
Fourth, arguments that Christian writers have failed to address
Five, arguments that may persuasively argue against Christianity from a Jewish perspective

In the interest of space, I will provide one example of each of the arguments

Against the Heretics

Rabbi Federow criticizes Nestorianism, the idea there are two Christs (the part of Jesus that is man, and the part that is God), and only one of these died on the cross.

Although this should be obvious, Jesus was a human being, and not a lamb. Christians may believe that Jesus was also God: however for their to have been a death on the cross, it had to be Jesus-the-human that died and not Jesus-the-God who died, since the One True God cannot die.

All existing Christians agree! The Nestorians were declared as heretical, and the last known Nestorian Church was a pagoda in China!

A Nestorian artifact of the support objected to in the book

Against Judaism

Christ’s prophesy that he would lay in the ground for “three days and three nights” is criticized, as this appears to contradict the Biblical account. As Federow reckons:

However, if one simply remembers the story of Jesus as portrayed in the Christians’ New Testament and the way in which it is celebrated all over the world, Jesus was crucified and buried on a Friday (called Good Friday) and was resurrected on a Sunday (called Easter Sunday)

Friday – the first day
Friday Night – the first night
Saturday – the second day
Saturdy night – the second night
Sunday morning – Jesus was resurrected

But if on sunday, as some point during the day, he was supposedly resurrected, where is the third night?

Yet the Book of Esther, recognized by all Christiand and Jews as scriptural, counts days in the same manner:

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him…

Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house. So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter.

And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!”

So Esther answered, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him.”

Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, that he may do as Esther has said.” So the king and Haman went to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

Esther 4:15-5:5

Contemporary American English speakers note that phrases such as “next weekend” are ambiguous in their tongue. We shoudl not be surprised that other languages have ambiguities too.

Esther swoons, upon hearing she cannot count

With the Christians

In the context of a longer argument against the Messiahship of Jesus, Federow brings up the following analogy: what if one calls in an electrician, but the repairmen is a plumber instead?

As soon as the “electircian” left, all of Jack’s neighbors came over to his house. They said to Jack, “Wasn’t Bill a great electrician?”

Jack responded, “He wasn’t an electrician. Electricians do not fix the plumbing.”

That is strikingly close to C.S. Lewis’s analogy in Mere Christianity that Christ is like a carpenter that the believer hires for some specific work (to repair the cabinets say, or a marriage) and then is surprised that the work performed can be quite different (it appears a mansion is being built — completely beyond spec!)

“I just wanted the plumbing repaired, this seems a bit much…”

Beyond the Christians

The Hebrew Bible distinguishes three kind of blood sacrifices: the Sin Offering, the Trespass Offering, and the Peace Offering. Alred Edersheim has an excellent description of them. They were sacrificed in a particular order

  • the Sin Offering (such as a castrated steer or a female lamb), for the forgiveness of intentional sins
  • the Trespass Offering (sometimes a male lamb), for the forgiveness of unintentional sins
  • the Peace Offering (sometimes a male lamb, calf, or bull) , the jofyl sacrificial meal

The gem of the book was the following line:

Christians believe that Jesus, who was male, was their sin sacrifice of a lamb. However, we cannot find a passage in the Torah where God demands a male lamb to be sacrificed for sins.

If one wanted to offer a lamb for a sin sacrifice, it have to be female.

“Leviticus 4:32: And if we brings a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.”

Jesus was not a female, much less a female lamb. So Jesus could not be a sin offering.”

I had not encountered this before. There are sacrifices of male lambs in the Bible outside of the three-fold sacrifice, including how Abraham describes Isaac:

And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb of a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.”
Genesis 22:8

And the sacrificial male lamb is used in the Passover offering too

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it
Exodus 12:5-8

Additionally, the specific phrase Lamb of God appears only twice in the Bible

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!
John 1:29-36

Something is missing from how Christians understand these events. Rabbi Federow should be blessed for pointing out this gap in our understanding.

As the Bible says:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”
Zechariah 8:23

I am grateful for Rabbi Federow’s work, as God is with him, and he is showing us some things that were too hard for us gentiles to find on our own.

The Wedding Feast of the Lamb who Takes Away the Sins of the World

Before the Christians

By far the most convincing of Federow’s arguments is the obvious one: much of the Messiah’s work is unfinished. The Jews were given a specific description of what the Son of David would accomplish, so that they could recognize him.

The real Messiah will make changes in the real world, changes that one can see, perceive, and prove. It is for this task that the real Messiah has been anointed in the first place, hence the term messiah — one who is annointed. These changes that one will be able to see and perceive in the real world include the following: … There is peace between all nations… All weapons of war are destroyed… There is an end to all forms of idolatry… Famines cease to exist… Death ceases to exist [etc].”

Christians would respond these things will be accomplished by the Messiah but not just yet. Rabbi Federow responds then perhaps Jews should just wait to be sure they don’t follow a false Messiah.

It’s hard to argue against that.

An interesting analogy arises to the Parable of the Sleeping Guards

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
Matthew 24:32-37

If the guards were hired after the time the man went away, the new guards would know him only through the written and verbal descriptions of those who had seen him, or knew what he would look like. If the traveling man came back with a deep tan, or unexpectedly dirty or fine clothes, or missing a limb or with a new wife, these would be surprising. The travelling man could not be too cross at his servants who were trying to prevent a trickster from hoodwinking them. Rabbinical cautiousness of the crucified Rabbi is thus seen, by Christians, as faithfulness to the Messiah who came for them.

Zealous guards at the wedding feast

I read Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast in the Kindle edition.

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