Over the years, I have had several discussions with individual members of Jews for Jesus, and invariably found them to be sincere, committed, evangelical - and of a childlike theological navete. It may well be, as they claim, that they are simply reiterating the beliefs of the first Jewish followers of Jesus, who otherwise practised normative Judaism but regarded him as the true Messiah. It cannot have escaped them that the world has moved on since those days, though.
The early Jewish followers of Jesus soon found that their belief in the Messiah who had come was incompatible with their co-religionists' conviction that the Messiah was yet to come, and so they left Judaism to found a new religion - Christianity. Since then, although sharing much in common, Judaism and Christianity have been two separate, distinctive faiths, with, as Ms Hebblethwaite acknowledged, often tragic results for Jesus' own people.
It is not theologically possible to practise both faiths at once, and has not been since about the year 70 of the Common Era.
To try and re-create as a living reality, 2,000 years later, the theological milieu of first century Judea is - to mix metaphors and civilisations - a particularly futile labour of Sisyphus, which is why Jews for Jesus is sure to go the way of other aberrant religious conventicles throughout history. Its activities merit a gentle rebuke and patient attempts at education, rather then a sledgehammer response.
DAVID J. GOLDBERG
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