Do Jews need Jesus/Yeshua?

by Marvin Olasky

Posted on Monday, December 21, 2015, at 3:47 pm

Earlier this month the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews issued a document (“The Gifts and Calling of God Are Irrevocable”) that stated Jews do not need to believe in Jesus to be saved. As a Jewish Christian, I beg to differ. So does the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE), which is part of the broader worldwide Lausanne Movement.

LCJE’s international coordinator, Jim Melnick, sent me the 1989 Lausanne Movement statement that Jews need Christ along with the Willowbank Declaration on the Christian Gospel and the Jewish People, which declared “it is unchristian, unloving, and discriminatory to propose a moratorium on the evangelising of any part of the human race, and that failure to preach the gospel to the Jewish people would be a form of anti-Semitism, depriving this particular community of its right to hear the gospel.”

The 2010 Lausanne Cape Town Commitment also affirms that Jews “still stand in need of reconciliation to God through the Messiah Jesus.” Melnick applauds the Vatican’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism and show love to Jews but opposes how the Vatican “has turned the Scripture of Romans 11 on its head. … When Paul wrote that ‘the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable,’ he was saying that the Jewish people remain beloved in His sight—not that they can find salvation without faith in Yeshua (Jesus).”

That’s an important comment with an important last word: Yeshua. The name “Jesus” still sticks in the throat of many Jews brought up to disdain that name. It’s easy to say, “Get over it,” but deep down that tension often remains. Besides, as numerous websites explain, “If you could go back to the time of the twelve apostles, if you walked up to Peter and said, ‘Please, take me to see Jesus Christ,’ Peter would get a puzzled look on his face and say the equivalent of, “Who, or what is that?”

Three things to remember: The ancient Greek language did not contain any “y” sound as in “yes.” It did not have a “sh” sound as in “show.” Masculine Greek names did not end with a vowel. So Yeshua turned into “ee-ay-soo-ah-s,” which turned into “ee-ay-soos.” Starting in the 12th century, “J” became a fashionable sound in English, as it is once again with names like Jason and Josh all the rage, and the “j” sound seemed more masculine than “ee-ay.” Once the name started to be spelled “Jesus,” the ambiguous pronunciation of vowels kicked in—English speakers said “ee” rather than “eh” and “uh” rather than “oo.”

Got it? Summary: “Yeshua” became “Ee-ay-soos,” which became “Jee-zuss.” We don’t all have to call on the name of Jesus and picture him as a Nordic track star. By another pronunciation deliverance can also come. But we all need to grab hold of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, who died for our sins and took God’s wrath upon Himself for our benefit.

The crux of the matter: If we think in “exchange religion” terms—I do nice things for God and He will be nice to me—we are helpless. Since everything we have is a gift from God, we cannot give Him anything—and even if we could give Him something, it would be the equivalent of a dirty rag. But if we realize that God saves sinners and will resurrect us—the resurrection of Yeshua proves that it can be done—then we have hope. Then our good works will flow out of gratitude.

No one should give Jews or anyone else the false promise that we can earn heaven by our own efforts or our own genealogy. It’s all God’s grace. We all need it.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is Reforming Journalism. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

Read more from this writer