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Kingdom of Priests

Jay Michaelson has an interesting column in the Forward about the flood of recent books by Jews seeking to argue with Jesus and Christianity:

[T]hese past few years have seen a small mountain of Jesus books arrive on my desk, most of them not worthy of review. Screeds about how Jesus got Judaism wrong, or how Christians got Jesus wrong, or how much better we are than they are…

Kindly he attributes this literary trend, such as it is, in part to me:

Surely, some of the Jesus fad is due to the success of David Klinghoffer’s 2005 book, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus. (Answer: We’re the chosen people — a nation, not universalists.) But I think a lot of it is also due to our increased confidence as an assimilated minority in the United States. Where once we could have been tortured or burned for not accepting Christ, now we can publish books criticizing him.

I appreciate the reference, and the second point — about Christian America’s remarkable openness to disagreement — is correct. But I would slightly modify Jay’s answer to the question posed by the title of my book. Judaism’s universal message is a big part of the reason Judaism stands stubbornly apart from Christianity.

In my book, I narrate the 2,000-year history of the Jewish-Christian debate about Jesus. In the course of that history, Jews have offered many different objections to the claims Christians advance on Jesus’ behalf — that he was the promised Messiah, the son of God, who frees us from the “curse of the Law” (Galatians 3:13), meaning the curse of God’s Torah.
But if I were talking to a Jew in real life who was attracted to Christian faith, a conversation I’ve had many times, the very first thing I would say to him is that God must have created Jews for a reason, with some mission of benefit not only to ourselves but to the world.
That mission requires that we be distinct, in the role of priests to mankind. That is the traditional Jewish belief, and it is universal in nature in the sense of being relevant to humanity as a whole. God, seemingly, has an interest in seeing us fulfill that role through history.
Every Jew who has ever accepted Jesus has abandoned this “clerical” role in order to join the “laity.” The earliest Christians were Jews and not one of them has Jewishly identified descendants today, as far as anyone can tell. No community of Jewish Christians or so-called “Messianic Jews” has ever survived intact for generations. They always, always, always intermarry and disappear into the wider Gentile world.
Understanding how other faiths fit into God’s scheme to bring man closer and closer to Him is a question to which I don’t have an entirely satisfying answer. But the eternal existence and integrity of the Jewish people — maintained by Jewish law, the grammar of our special relationship with God — is the single most fundamental precondition of the success of that divine plan.
That’s the most basic reason that a Jew cannot accept Jesus.
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