Jesus With a British Accent…

As I was scrolling through Facebook last night, I saw an ad for a new movie being released next month: David & Goliath. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m partial to that story, so I watched the trailer.

Why is it that Hollywood insists on having the characters in every Biblical movie and TV show produced, speak with a British accent?

I made that comment on Facebook, and we had a bit of fun with it.  Peter speaking like he’s from with Canada, ‘eh? John the Baptist talking like he was raised in Brooklyn? Pontius Pilate with an Italian accent? Abraham with a Southern drawl?

It’s funny to think of, but in some ways it’s also a little sad. It’s representative of a problem that is plaguing the Western Christian Church today.

There’s a real issue here. The Western Church doesn’t understand what is going on. But we’ve separated ourselves from the roots of the faith. In the words of the half-brother of Yeshua (Jesus), Judah (Jude), we’ve forgotten “the faith once delivered to the saints.” And it’s hurting Believers.

We’ve been laboring under the delusion that Christianity is a Western, Greek, Gentile faith. Is it any wonder that our movies and TV shows that are supposed to be portraying that faith, do so from a non-Jewish perspective?

Below are a few excerpts from the book, Why the Jews?, written by Dennis Prager and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.  This book is an analysis of the various reasons for anti-Semitism throughout history.  Chapter 4 examines the higher quality of life that religious Jews have experienced because of their observance of the principles of Judaism.

In nearly every society in which the Jews have lived for the past two thousand years, they have been better educated, more sober, more charitable with one another, committed far fewer violent crimes, and have had a more stable family life than their non-Jewish neighbors.  These characteristics of Jewish life have been independent of Jews’ affluence or poverty…Thomas Sowell has concluded: “Even when the Jews lived in slums, they were slums with a difference – lower alcoholism, homicide, accidental death rates than other slums, or even the city as a whole.  Their children had lower truancy rates, lower juvenile delinquency rates, and…higher IQs than other children…There was also more voting for congressmen by low income Jews than even by higher income Protestants or Catholics…Despite a voluminous literature claiming that slums shape people’s values, the Jews had their own values, and they took those values into and out of the slums.”

Jewish Educational and Professional Success

The high level of Jewish intellectual and professional achievement in the Western world is the most obvious example of Jews successfully applying to the secular world a value they acquired from Judaism…(For the Jews) study was not only a commandment but, along with charity, the supreme commandment.  The Biblical injunction “you shall teach your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7) was translated two thousand years ago into a system of universal education.

The Talmud legislated that every city was required to have schools and that no teacher could be assigned more than twenty-five students.  The poor were to be taught free of charge.  Parents were forbidden to live in a city without a school system, and if they spent time in such a place, the father bore full responsibility for his children’s education.

The purpose of all this education was not to achieve professional and financial success…but to understand what God required of human beings.  Moses Maimonides ruled: “Every Jew is under an obligation to study Torah, whether he is poor or rich, in sound health or ailing, in the vigor of youth or very old and feeble.  Even a man so poor that he is maintained by charity or goes begging from door to door, as also a man with a wife and children to support, are under the obligation to set aside a definite period during the day and night for the study of the Torah…Until what period in life ought one to study Torah? Until the day of one’s death.”  At a time when nearly all Christian…men and certainly women, were illiterate, a very high percentage of Jewish men and women could read and write, and many of them achieved high levels of knowledge…The great Catholic theologian Abelard, reported, “A Jew, however poor, if he has ten sons, would put them all to letters, not for gain, as the Christians do, but for the understanding of God’s Law, and not only his sons but his daughters.”

A letter written by a Jewish woman on her deathbed in the same century in Egypt exemplifies Abelard’s description: “I tell you my sister…that I have fallen into a grievous disease and there is little possibility of recovering from it…If the Lord on High should decree my death, my greatest wish is that you should take care of my little daughter and make an effort for her to study.  Indeed I know that I am imposing a heavy burden on you.  For we do not have the wherewithal for her upkeep, let alone the cost of tuition.  But we have an example from our mother and teacher, the servant of the Lord.”…Historian of medieval Jewry, Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson, commented on this letter: “Here is an instance of a Jewish family that was certainly not well-to-do in which the women of two generations were educated and saw to the education of their daughters.”

The Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel quotes a Christian scholar who visited Warsaw during World War I: “Once I noticed a great many coaches on a parking place but with no drivers in sight.  In my own country I would have known where to look for them.  A young Jewish boy showed me the way; in a courtyard on the second floor was the shtiebl [combination of synagogue and study hall] of the Jewish drivers.  It consisted of two rooms, one filled with Talmud volumes, the other a room for prayer.  All the drivers were engaged in fervent study and religious discussions…It was then that I found out…that all professions, the bakers, the butchers, the shoemakers, etc., have their own shtiebl in the Jewish district; and every free moment which can be taken off from work is given to the study of Torah.”

(Studies in 1990 and in 2001) documented that American Jewish males are twice as likely as non-Jewish males to have completed a college or graduate degree, and American Jewish women are three times as likely as their non-Jewish counterparts to have done so.  American Jews are twice as likely as non-Jews to graduate college, and are represented among Ivy League students more than five times their percentage in the population.  This Jewish passion for study in turn helps to explain why Jews have the highest income of any ethnic group in the United States….This unique intellectual achievement is not due, as is sometimes alleged, to some innately superior intelligence among Jews, but solely and directly to Judaism.

Jews and Alcoholism

An old Yiddish folk song bears the title, “A Drunkard Is a Non-Jew.”…In 1925, separate studies were conducted in Warsaw and New York, comparing alcoholism among Jews and non-Jews.  The Warsaw study revealed that non-Jews were 68.6 times as likely as Jews to be alcoholics, and in New York non-Jews were 59 times more likely than Jews to be admitted to hospitals for treatment of alcoholism.  Even more remarkably, the Jews achieved this much higher level of sobriety even though 87 percent of Jews drink liquor, whereas a 1950’s study documented that only 79 percent of Catholics and 59 percent of Protestants drink.

Judaism made drinking a mitzvah (religious obligation) and sanctified it (the Kiddush), while drunkenness was deemed a sin.  Thus, Jewish law encouraged, and even commanded, moderate drinking.  The Psalmist’s praise “Wine makes glad the heart of man” (104:5), along with the Talmudic dictum, “There is no [meal of] joy except with wine,” became popular adages in Jewish life.  The Sabbath meals commence with the Kiddush prayer over wine, in which even children participate.  At the Passover Seder, it is a mitzvah for each participant to drink four cups of wine.

Rabbi Yochanan (wrote), “A Jew should never have a passion for wine” (Genesis Rabbah 36:4)…Later the Talmud ruled: “A drunken person is forbidden to say the prayers.  One who recites the prayers while drunk is like one who serves idols.”

Anthropologist Raphael Patai has concluded: “Since until the Enlightenment the Bible and Talmud were by far the most potent formative influences upon Jewish thinking, attitudes and values, one need not wonder that these sources acted as effective deterrents against inebriety…Thus…deterrents on the negative side combined with traditional approval of moderate drinking, and frequent ritual use of wine on the positive side, made wine a regular part of the God centered life of the traditional Jew and effectively removed it from the realm of dangerous excess or frenzy.  One may say that the ritual use of wine immunized the Jews against drinking to the point of intoxication and thus against alcoholism.”

That Jews’ sobriety as a function of Judaism is attested to further by the enormous rise in alcoholism among Jews that has accompanied the corresponding decline in Jews’ religiosity in recent generations…Patai summarizes the various studies with the observation, “the traditional Jewish resistance to alcoholism is weakened to the extent to which Jews become assimilated to their Gentile environment.”…When Jews drop the Kiddush, they apparently drop their model for moderate drinking.

Jews and Charity

Jews give a higher percentage of their income to charities and public causes, both Jewish and non-Jewish, than do non-Jews with comparable earnings.  Although Jews in the United States constitute only a little over 2 percent of the population, the United Jewish Communities alone annually raises over $1 billion, making it one of the largest American charities.

This disproportionate Jewish philanthropy is unique neither to American Jewry nor to the present time.  Jewish communities have always been extraordinarily charitable.  This is why Jews have always been less likely than non-Jews to be in need of food or clothing.  For example, for the few thousand Jews living in seventeenth-century Rome, seven charitable societies provided clothes, shoes, linens, and beds for the poor.  Two other societies provided trousseaus for poor brides, another aided families struck by a sudden death, and yet another was responsible for visiting the sick.  One special society collected charity for Jews in the land of Israel, and another eleven groups raised money for Jewish educational and religious institutions.  

The Talmudic declaration that “Charity is as important as all the other commandments together” indicates the importance of charity in Jewish life.  Tzedaka, the Hebrew word for “charity” actually means “justice.”  Tzedaka is, therefore, a duty, and act of justice, and withholding tzedaka is not simply uncharitable, it is also unjust.

Tzedeka laws also helped to reduce the number of Jews needing public funds.  First, they obligated Jews to accept tzedaka only as a last resort – “Better [to earn money by] skinning an animal’s carcass [a particularly unprestigous job] than by taking charity” was the Talmudic admonition.  Second, the highest form of tzedakah was to start a poor person in a business or profession so that he never again would need tzedakah.  Finally, most Jewish communities have had a gemilut hesed society to provide interest-free loans to the needy; a device intended to help people avoid poverty and the need for tzedakah.  

The Jewish Family

The Reform Jewish leader Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver noted that examination of Greek and Roman writing on the family “helps us to realize the violent contrast between the standards of [their] society and the Jewish standards of sexual decency, the sanctity of marriage and of family life.”

While Christianity profoundly and positively helped alter the ancient world’s negativism toward the family, it, too, idealized non-family life, but in a very different way…Origen, one of Christianity’s most influential theologians [and proponent of Replacement Theology], wrote that three sacrifices are pleasing to God: a martyr’s death, voluntary celibacy, and abstinence from sexual intercourse by married persons.

According to the Talmud, “Did you fulfill your duty with regard to establishing a family?” is among the first questions a Jew will be asked on his Day of Judgment.  [This is based upon the command to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28)]…A man could not be a high priest unless he was married, nor a member of the Jewish high court unless he had children, it being the Jewish sages’ belief that raising children humbled, humanized, and increased a judge’s wisdom.

The family also was strengthened by other Jewish laws as well.  The Jewish Sabbath, for example, is observed more at home than in the synagogue.  Many of its religious rituals are fulfilled in the house: the Sabbath candles, the parental blessing of the children, the Kiddush over the wine, the festive meal and concluding Grace After Meals…

Sociologists long have noted that fewer observant Jewish families break up than do secular Jewish and non-Jewish ones, and that among families that stay intact, the members of Jewish families generally remain closer than do members of non-Jewish families.

That Judaism has been the source of Jewish family values has been reconfirmed of late by the rates of divorce and spouse desertion among secular Jews, which are approximately the same as for the non-Jewish society.

[Ahad Ha’Am – “More than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel.”]

Why the difference?

It would be one thing if the above truths were applicable to the traditional Church and Christian, but the facts are sobering.  The divorce rate among those who call themselves “Christian” is nearly identical to non-Christians.  50% of pastor’s in America struggle with pornography.  Alcoholism is taking over many “Christian” homes.  Sexual promiscuity is common place in churches.  Nearly 90% of teenagers who grow up in Christian homes are turning their back on their faith upon graduation from high school.  For many of the neediest in society, the church down the street is doing little or nothing.  Most people who attend church services regularly are completely ignorant of the Scriptures.  Why the difference?

Revelation 3:17: “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

Is this not a description of Western Christianity today?  We act like we’ve got it all figured out.  Yet, the fruit that our churches are producing is rotting.  A few years ago my wife, Christy, said that she wanted to look at some plants at a hobby store not far from our home.  I immediately knew what kind of plants she was referring to.  I said, “Oh.  You want to get plants that you can keep alive (artificial plants).”  As soon as I said this, God spoke to my spirit that this is what the Church in America is today: an artificial plant.  It looks good and it’s easy to maintain.  But it is dead.  True faith is alive!  But like a natural plant, true faith is not easy.  It takes care.  It will have problems.  It doesn’t always look like we want it to.  But it is alive!

The Western Church has created an artificial faith.  A faith that seems to be based more upon attendance to services, financially maintaining the organization, and developing new programs.  The larger the church, the less likely anyone is to question the quality of the fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).  The reason the Western Church has surrendered to this form of religion, is because it has severed itself from the roots of its faith.  Without this root system, it has become impossible to maintain a “living faith”. In Romans 9:4, Paul writes of Israel: “…to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the {temple} service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

After developing this theme throughout Romans 9 and 10, Paul speaks of Israel as the “root”: “…and if the root is holy, the branches are too.  But if some of the branches were broken off (Jews who have not accepted Jesus as Messiah), and you, being a wild olive (Gentiles who have accepted Jesus as Messiah), were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant (i.e. 1,900 years of theological anti-Semitism), {remember that} it is not you who supports the root, but the root {supports} you.  You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith.  Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.” (Romans 11:16-21)

How has the Western Church severed itself from the root of its faith?  The anti-Semitic theology that completely consumed Christianity during the 4th and 5th centuries still has a hold of our churches, seminaries, writings and beliefs.  We have developed a theology that has taught us that the “Law” or Torah is bad.  The traditions that are found in the truth of the Old Covenant (Old Testament) Scriptures have been taken from our Sunday Schools and pulpits.  The “Church” has replaced Israel.  And we have lost our compass.

Jesus specifically teaches in Matthew 5:17-19 that He “did not come to abolish (the Torah and the Prophets – the Old Testament Scriptures) but to fulfill.”  He said that Heaven and Earth would not pass away until everything contained in those Scriptures was completed.  Jesus then begins to give examples of how we are to obey these Scriptures: He teaches on adultery and lust; murder and hate; divorce; oaths; retaliation; charity; prayer; fasting; finances; the standard by which we our to judge ourselves.  He then concludes this teaching by saying that we are to “Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.”  But, “…the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  (Matthew 7:13-15).  In verses 16 through 20 Jesus says that there will be teachers who will not teach the Truth, and we will know that they are false teachers by the fruit that their teaching produces.  There will even be some who have been committed to doing mighty miracles in Jesus’ name, but will not enter the Kingdom because they “practice lawlessness.”  (The Greek word for “lawlessness” is “anomia” which means “opposition and ignorance of the law.” Clearly this hearkens back to the statement Jesus made earlier about how He did not come to abolish or change the Law [Torah] and Prophets.)  The final conclusion of Jesus’ teaching is that there are two types of builders: the wise builder who “hears these worlds of Mine and acts on them” and the foolish builder who “hears these words of Mine and does not act on them”.

Our churches are full of opposition and ignorance of the Torah and the Prophets.  We wonder why we no longer seem to know the standard of righteousness, yet we refuse to acknowledge that the standard is seen clearly in the Word of God.  It is time for the Church to cry out to God for mercy and to reconnect to the root of our Faith.  Only when we repent of 1,900 years of theological anti-Semitism and begin to draw from the “nourishing sap” of the Olive Tree will we see the life return.  This will not be easy.  The easier path is to continue with the “artificial” religion that we’ve become accustomed to.  But for those of us whose souls are crying out for life, we must cling to this promise that is made to the Church of Laodicea:

Revelation 3:18-20 – “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and {that} the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock (the door of the Church); if anyone (you and I) hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.”

May we open the door!

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