The Words of the Wilson Family

Ten Thoughts on Theological Issues that Arise When Encountering Jews

Dr. Andrew Wilson
December 4, 2003

Jewish people are intellectual and thoughtful. We can expect that any Jew who encounters Rev. Moon’s teaching will quickly grasp the implications of the Divine Principle as it concerns Jews and Judaism, and particularly as it concerns the doctrine of the Messiah. At the same time, Jews have been habitually confronted by Christian missionaries and evangelists who have called for nothing less than conversion to Christianity. Even the so-called "messianic Jews" are for all intents and purposes Christians when it comes to theology.

However, Rev. Moon is not advocating conversion; he respects the First Israel as a legitimate actor in God’s providence. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we learn how to explain Rev. Moon’s teachings about the Messiah in ways that show it to be a distinctive teaching not at all aligned with traditional Christianity. We should rather show that it is in fact closely allied with traditional Judaism.

Can we go so far as to proclaim that once Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah (in the Unificationist sense), they possess a better grasp of God’s providence than Christians do? Maybe so. But first we must get better grounding in Jewish theology. This essay is a small step in that direction, towards explaining the Principle within Jewish categories of thought.

1. The Shame of It

I've been meditating about the feelings that Jews must have when we tell them that their ancestors rejected the Messiah. It must be such a difficult thing for Jews to surrender their pride and accept Jesus who, after all, has been their enemy and accuser (through the Christians) for 2000 years.

Even when Jews get beyond the feeling of resentment against Christians, and can separate Jesus from his Christian representatives, and forgive the Christians for past persecution, there still remains the feeling of shame. How can we Jews admit that the Christians were right all along? It is too painful to bear the shame of it. Here we were, thinking we were the chosen people, and yet these gentile upstarts who persecuted us were right and we were wrong. It is really unbearable. 

Yet to correctly teach on this issue, we have to keep reminding Jews that we do NOT advocate conversion to Christianity.

2. Loving Jesus Does Not Mean Becoming a Christian

We have to keep reminding Jews that the Christians, too, got it wrong when they glorified the crucifixion and made Jesus out to be the Savior of the world. The Jesus that Christians worship is not the Jewish Messiah. He is only a ghost of what might have been, had Jesus lived to fulfill his mission. He might have brought God's blessing to the gentiles, but he did not bring the Kingdom of peace on earth. Nor is the Jewish Messiah a divine being, a "son of God," as Christians believe. Therefore it is still totally plausible for a Jew to reject the Jesus of Christian faith.

Here is where the doctrine of the cross has complicated matters for Jews: it has allowed Christians to develop an incorrect notion of Jesus that is totally alien to Jewish sensibilities. The place where Jews and Christians can unite is not through conversion, but by coming to terms at a point that neither has encountered before—behind the cross.

3. Jewish Theology of the Suffering God

There is one aspect of this truth where Jews are closer to the mark than Christians: Jews already have a doctrine about the suffering of God. Christians generally don’t have a concept that God suffers--their theology is that the cross was God's will. It was the incorrect teaching about the crucifixion that blinded Christians to God's painful heart as he witnessed the death of the one who came to bring physical salvation, world peace and the Kingdom to Israel and all humanity. At least Jews, with their theology of the suffering of God, have a basis to understand God’s pain at the cross.

Jews believe that God went into exile with his chosen people, and remains in exile until his people are redeemed--this is orthodox Jewish theology. It is based on Ezekiel's vision of the chariot of God departing Jerusalem and God's spirit going into exile, to Babylon:

The glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is east of the city. Then the Spirit took me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to those in captivity. --Ezekiel 11:23-24

Despite the holiness of Jewish life, which can sanctify the individual and draw him close to God, God still suffers because it is a life outside of the kingdom. It is thus only a short distance to an understanding that God's heart was even more deeply hurt when his chosen champion, Jesus (never call him God's "son" to a Jew) was rejected and killed--it spoiled God's plan of redemption. It also created the split in God's people between Jews and Jesus' new followers, the Christians; this feuding relationship has hurt God more than anything.

There is nothing more central to Judaism than to live in close proximity to God and God's heart. Therefore, we should argue that when Jews recognize the painful heart of God behind the advent of Jesus and his death, they will be able to draw even closer to God and thus become better Jews.

4. Divided Judaism and Christianity, Results of the Cross: Both Partake of God’s Brokenness; Both Are Incomplete.

Meanwhile, Christians have their own path to go to reach God. Both Jews and Christians have lived in ignorance of God's heart. So it is not a matter of Jews becoming Christians, but rather of both Jews and Christians being enlightened, recognizing the deeper core of truth that transcends both,

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." --Isaiah 55:8-9

The project of removing the cross is not about symbols in the Catacombs. It is really means returning to the situation prior to the cross, when God's people were one people. The crucifixion created a split in God's people, separating Jews, Christians and ultimately Muslims. No one religion is "good" and the other "bad": rather, all religions are "bad" in the sense that they participate in the broken reality of God's division and suffering. Each religion has to humble itself before God and give up some of its pride if it is to reach this point of healing and unity.

 5. Unification and the Jewish Teaching of Tikkun

One way that Jews can perhaps understand this project of unification is the Kabbalah teaching of tikkun, or repair. The suffering of God is a brokenness of the Godhead that is a consequence of the brokenness and dividing walls within the creation. In the Kabbalah, it is as if the holy ‘sparks’ of God are trapped in isolated ‘husks’ of matter, separated from one another, and thus separating God into myriads of fragments. Tikkun is about reuniting the pieces of God through acts of love, prayer and devoted service. Hassidic Jews practice tikkun in their everyday life, in relating to neighbors, even animals and all things of creation.

Yet although many regard tikkun as involving small things, there are the big cracks in God's being that need to be repaired through large-scale tikkun. Surely the divisions between Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the biggest of these cracks. This was how some people understood the ministry of the ‘false messiah’ Shabbetai Zvi. He converted to Islam as a cosmic tikkun in order to unite Judaism and Islam in his own self and his devotions—or so he claimed. But Shabbetai Zvi was a false messiah, who only used the doctrine of tikkun to justify his own cowardice when he converted at the point of the sword.

Real reconciliation between Judaism and Islam, or between Judaism and Christianity, does not involve conversion of one religion to the other. Rev. Moon has given us the key: go back in history and recognize the point in history at which the ‘shattering’ of the unity of God’s people occurred—it was at the crucifixion of Jesus. With that knowledge, the sons of Abraham from all 3 faiths can prayerfully and lovingly honor each other’s religions and seek to reconstitute the people of God not divided by the enmity of the cross.

6. We Are All Messiahs—through supporting the Messiah

Now let's turn to another part of the argument, the idea that we are all "Messiahs." Many Jews are far more comfortable with this notion than with the claim that Jesus, or Rev. Moon, is THE unique Messiah. On the other hand, Christians think that Jesus does everything for them, and there are also many Orthodox Jews who believe that it is enough to wait for the Messiah, who will accomplish redemption all on his own. The truth is somewhere in between.

I think we can use the attractive notion that we are all messiahs to argue for the biblical doctrine that when the Messiah comes, he can only succeed through our cooperation. Then, by cooperating with him, we all become Messiahs. Jesus died because the prepared people of his day didn't cooperate with him. Rev. Moon likewise cannot fulfill the mission of the Messiah unless people support his work. His doctrine is that we must all unite together if we are to establish God's kingdom.

Throughout the Old Testament, the prophecies that Christians (and many Jews) apply to the unique Messiah often explicitly speak of the saints among the people Israel participating in the mission. For example, Isaiah 49:1-6 describes the "Servant" who will bring "My salvation to the ends of the earth." He is the Messiah, but he is also Israel: "You are my servant, Israel in whom I will be glorified." (Isaiah 49:3) A careful examination of the verse shows that the Servant is not all of Israel, but those saints in Israel who will shoulder the task of restoration. Another important passage is Daniel 7:13 and 7:27. The "Son of man" who receives an everlasting kingdom in v. 13 is often identified as the Messiah. Yet Daniel explicitly connects him with the "saints of the Most High" in v. 27, where the saints receive the Kingdom.

7. The Responsibility of the Chosen People in This Time

This leads to yet another point I've been pondering: the responsibility of Jews as the chosen people. According to Isaiah 42:1-6, the chosen people are to "bring forth justice to the Gentiles" and be "a light to the Gentiles." According to Isaiah 62:1-2, it is in Jerusalem where the righteousness of God shall shine forth to the gentiles, Jerusalem that shall be "a praise in the earth." (Isaiah 62:6) Therefore, it should be clear that Israelis have an awesome responsibility to make Jerusalem and Israel an example of peace and justice to all the earth. Otherwise, they cannot fulfill their responsibility as God's chosen people. We Jews cannot succeed in this when we turn inward and only think about our own survival, especially at the Gentiles’ (i.e. Palestinians’) expense. The glory of Jerusalem is something that must illuminate the world; its peace must flow out to the nations. (Micah 4:1-5)

 In the current geopolitical situation, I think it is right to say that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is the key to peace for the entire world. Therefore, we can say that God has set up a situation where a few million Jews hold in their hands the possibility for lasting world peace, or an ever more terrible world war (Huntington’s "clash" of civilizations). As the chosen people, we Jews should regard our mission as having such ramifications for the world. By finding the way to reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, Jerusalem will fulfill its mission, as stated in Micah 4:1-5, becoming a model for peacemaking everywhere. That fulfillment is linked to the fulfillment of the Messianic mission, now taken up by everyone who offers him or herself on the altar of peace.

8. The Path of Sacrificial Love

Christians know the teachings of Jesus about loving one’s enemy, turning the other cheek, and repaying evil with good; they might want to commend this path of sacrificial love to Israelis and Palestinians interested in reconciliation. Nevertheless, we can teach this way without resorting to Christianity.

Here we can utilize Isaiah 53, whose suffering servant Jews have always interpreted as Israel collectively. That is, Jews generally do not apply this prophecy to the Messiah, as Christians do. There is no teaching in Judaism that the Messiah of the lineage of David can fulfill his mission by suffering and dying, as Christians have believed.

Instead, we can see Isaiah 53 as a teaching of how to be victorious through the path of sacrificial love. This is very practical today, as Jews who reach out to their Arab brothers and sisters and seek their welfare alongside their own might experience a loss of security, even some loss of life in the process. Ultimately, the love expressed through service to others will overcome the enmity of the suicide bombers and heal the hearts of the Palestinians. Yet in the process the stored-up hatred will need to be vented, creating a situation where Jews may suffer the sting of the lash. Nevertheless, the prophet promises that ultimately the way of sacrificial love will ultimately lead to glory. (Isa. 53:11-12)

Moreover, Jews will find, to their joy, that there are Palestinians with the same nobility of spirit who will want to reach out in friendship to the Israeli "oppressors."

9. God’s Hand in the Other Religions

Up to this point, I have not touched the issue of convincing Jews that Christians or Muslims are God's people. It is more relevant to work with the Jews in terms of their own self-understanding as God's people. The Torah teaches that Gentiles (non-Jews) are to be treated fairly, yet they are usually not accorded the respect of being chosen by God. Yet finally, the issue of reconciliation of the three Abrahamic faiths requires the Jew to extend to his Christian and Muslim brethren the status of God’s people. This is particularly the case in the era of the "Fourth Israel."

Scriptural support for the idea that the gentiles have their own history as God's chosen people can be found. Let’s begin with Isaiah 19:24-25:

In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land, which the Lord of Hosts shall bless, saying "Blessed is Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance."

Egypt and Assyria were Israel's major enemies in biblical times, yet here the prophet is announcing that these enemies have actually all been God's people all along. The same idea is found in Amos 9:7:

Did I not bring Israel from the land of Egypt,
the Philistines from Caphtor
and the Syrians from Kir?

Again, the Philistines and the Syrians had been Israel's two greatest enemies in the centuries prior to the prophet Amos. Yet God declares through the prophet that he has been guiding the fortunes of the Philistines and Syrians, leading them on their own exoduses and forming them as peoples.

Thus, we find a biblical principle that the universal God raises up other nations, even enemy nations, as his peoples for his purposes. It is but a small step to apply this principle to Israel's greatest enemies in the modern era: Christianity and Islam.

10. Removing the Boundaries 

When the peoples who had been enemies realize that they are really nations formed by the same God, then there can be more confidence that a future of peace and harmony is indeed possible. The prophet envisions such a future,

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptians will serve God with the Assyrians. (Isaiah 19:23)

The boundaries between these former enemies will come down, to be replaced by a highway (this is the biblical source of Rev. Moon's idea for an international highway) running between the enemy nations and through Israel at the geographic center. Apply this to the Middle East today, and we can glimpse Rev. Moon's vision of a peaceful land where Israelis and Palestinians are free to live and travel anywhere they please.

I hope that these 10 thoughts will help us to better understand the theological issues that come up when discussing Rev. Moon’s teachings with Jews. Sooner or later, Jewish outreach will demand that we teach the entire Divine Principle by utilizing only Jewish scriptures: the Torah, the Talmud and the Kabbalah. Until that day, let us engage our Jewish brethren in friendly dialogue, learning from them and sharing the truth in humility and love.

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