Brown, Michael L. 60 Beliefs Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011.
Michael L. Brown, Semitic language expert and Jewish convert to Christ, writes a good primer introducing Christians to “why Jews do what they do.” While it points out inconsistencies and tensions in rabbinic belief, it primarily serves to a) explain the Jewish foundations of Christian thought and b) combat fringe Christian silliness.
Are there Jewish Denominations?
Reform Judaism was a humanistic reaction to Orthodox Judaism. The Reform motto became “Guidance, not governance.” Conservative Judaism, by contrast, respected the sanctity of traditions but acknowledged a historical development to them. The differing traditions view the following doctrines accordingly:
Orthodox–Tanakh is inerrant and authoritative.
Reform–imperfect human product, but special.
Orthodox–God gave Moses a written and oral law
Reform–respect their teachings but you aren’t bound to them.
When speaking of God, Orthodox Jews say “adonoy” (referring to the Eastern European pronunciation). Conservative Jews say “adonai” (referring to the Middle Eastern pronunciation). Liberal Jews say “I-don’t-know.”
What is Hasidic Judaism?
Originated in the 1700s with Eliezer ben Israel, known as Baal Shem Tov. He emphasized joy and laughter and that one good deed was worth more than the 613. Initially opposed by the Formalists, his teachings ended up becoming widespread, if not mainstream.
Unique to the Hasidim was the position of “rebbe,” Grand Rabbi of a community. This position had almost mystical importance and was passed down from father to son.
Lubavitch. They are known as the Chabad, an acronym for
(3) What is the Oral Law?
The oral law explains the written law? Where is the evidence for it? It’s oral, so you can’t find evidence of an unwritten law in a written text (sound familiar?). On one hand there is no problem with saying there are long-standing traditions. Brown, however, points out the irony: it is in their written form that the oral traditions have been preserved.
(4) What is the Tanakh?
It is the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.
(5) What is exactly meant by the term ‘Torah’?
On one hand, Torah is broader than “law,” yet the Talmud has legal discussions which are considered Torah, yet they insist that Torah isn’t law.
(6) What is the Masoretic Text?
It’s actually a textual tradition, since there are thousands of medieval manuscripts.
(7) What are the holy books of Judaism?
Babylonian Talmud. Commentary on the Mishnah. Covers every aspect of Jewish life.
Haggada. Non-binding rabbinic stories and commentaries.
Halakhah. A specific legal ruling.
Kabbalah. Jewish mystical writings.
Midrash. Rabbinic commentaries.
Mishnah. The oral law.
Targum. Aramaic translations of the Hebrew bible.
(10) Do Jewish People Expect a Literal Messiah?
Yes, but he will be fully human.
(11) Do Jews refer to God by the Name Jehovah?
No. Jehovah is based on a mistaken rendering by those who were educated in Hebrew, but didn’t know the scribal practices. They didn’t know the scribes put the vowels for adonai in the word yhwh.
(13) Why do traditional Jews have separate dishes for milk and meat products?
They think this is how they observe the prohibition for not boiling a goat in its mother’s milk. You can’t eat meat and drink milk together. The problem is that in Genesis 18:8 Abraham did both.
Part of Brown’s book addresses silly myths Christians tell themselves about Hebrew. No, the New Testament wasn’t originally written in history. Jesus’s real name isn’t Yahushua.”
This is where some Christians take their silliness to full-orbed live action role playing. To be fair, there are Jewish roots to the NT. Jesus did not come into the world as a Greek Socrates to establish a Greek-Christian religion. He came to fulfill Moses and the Prophets.
Further, Romans 11:18 makes it clear that we are the branches, not the root. We are grafted into Israel’s new covenant. We understand that the Feast of Tabernacles points to the final ingathering of the nations. Israel is to play a special role in world redemption, whose salvation will be life from the dead. Yeshua himself will not return again until his own people welcome him back (Matt. 23:37-39).
Now for the silliness. If you watch these Hebrew Roots groups, you will see that Torah replaces Jesus in terms of centrality.
On another point, Paul didn’t always follow the LXX. When he quotes Habakkuk 2:4 in Romans 1:17, he is not using the LXX. Half the time when Paul cites the LXX, he isn’t citing it exactly. Romans 11:27-28 appears to be a misquotation but is actually closer to the Hebrew.
Reform Judaism on God: