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Why Jews Are Not For Jesus

Rabbi Telushkin answers your questions

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Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.(Random House)

As we approach Yom Kippur, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin—author of the Nextbook Press’s Hillel: If Not Now, When?—answers questions submitted by Tablet Magazine readers.

I am a conservative Christian. I’ve come to realize that I do not know why the Jews do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I sincerely would like to understand. I’m quite sure that there is no simple answer to this, but if you could point me in the right direction that would get me started.

From Judaism’s perspective, Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies and therefore is not regarded as the Messiah. The best-known of the prophecies concerning the messianic days is that “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Since world peace must accompany the Messiah, and world peace (or, for the past 2,000 years, anything remotely approaching it) has not come, clearly the Messiah has not come either. In addition, Jewish tradition teaches that the Messiah will enable the Jews to lead a peaceful and independent existence in Israel. This, too, was not achieved by Jesus. One of the greatest rabbis of the Talmudic era, Akiva, believed that the second-century Jewish warrior Bar Kochva was the Messiah, and that he would fulfill in particular the messianic mission of restoring Jewish sovereignty. But when Bar Kochva’s revolt against the Romans failed, Akiva recognized that he could not have been the Messiah (even though he was still regarded as an essentially righteous person).

Though it has been apparent for almost 2,000 years that the messianic days of peace have not arrived, Christians still assume that Jesus was the Messiah. How do they explain this? By arguing that there will be a Second Coming, during which Jesus will return to Earth, and fulfill the messianic functions originally expected of him. For Jews, however, this argument is unconvincing, since the idea of a Second Coming is nowhere found in the Hebrew Bible (what Christians refer to as the Old Testament). This idea seems to have been unknown to Jesus as well, since the New Testament cites him as telling his followers that some of them will still be alive when all the messianic prophecies will be fulfilled (see Mark 9:1 and 13:30). I would guess that the idea of a second coming was formulated by later Christians to explain Jesus’ failure to fulfill the messianic prophecies. In short, from Judaism’s perspective, to call someone who does not bring about the messianic era the Messiah does not make sense.

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Richard Friedman says:

Well said.

Snortwood says:

Seriously? That’s what an adult tells a person who actually believes in nonsense like a messiah? Well, at least that’s by the book. Meanwhile, for those of us living in the moment, it is way way way past time to share the truth with all folks of all persuasions, that that Messiah stuff, that’s for the kids. We’re grownups here, yes? Start sharing this maybe, Rabbi: there’s nobody coming to fix this mess we’re in. If it’s going to get put right, it’s up to us to do that. So let’s get busy, and it might be helpful to stop worrying about why your guy didn’t fix it and why we’re not waiting around for him to come back to do what he couldn’t do while he was alive, or for anyone else to come around to do it, either. IT’s UP TO US. And for anyone who still needs a messiah, stick with Christianity, but in the meantime feel free to lend a hand where work needs to be done.

laval mosley says:

Snortwood: he’s answering the question perfectly, this isn’t an article on the legitimacy of the idea of amessiah, it’s an article answering a specific question.

Snortwood says:

The request was, “point me in the right direction.” The answer is I’m-okay-you’re-okay. Pffft!

Rabbi Telushkin is correct, but incomplete in his answer and has, in fact, left out the tough stuff–those Jewish beliefs that challenge the essence of Christianity.
Judaism and Christianity differ in regard to how each religion defines Messiah. These different underlying assumptions have to be made clear in order to understand why Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
Jews believe that the Messiah is fully human (or, for liberal Jews more recently, that we all bear seeds of the Messiah as we work to perfect the world and bring a Messianic Age). Christians believe that the Messiah is God in human form, both fully human and fully divine. Jews don’t believe this primarily because they don’t believe there is any evidence that Jesus was more than a man. In addition, the Jewish definition of a Messiah does not include any hint that a Messiah will sacrifice himself for his people or that a Messiah will rise from the dead.
It is this difference in belief in what the Messiah is and whether Jesus fits whichever definition (Jews say no to all definitions: he was not divine, did not rise from the dead, and did not bring world redemption. Christians say yes and yes but: he was divine, he did rise from the dead, and he brings personal redemption, with world redemption to come) that has resulted in disputes and Jewish death over the centuries. I mention the “difficulties” of history not to be divisive, but to point out that these different definitions have had very tangible consequences.

Jeff Carpenter says:

and both traditions agree on the essential: “Love God, love your neighbor” Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God; live a faithful life.
Blessings for the holidays—

Another issue that a lot of Christians might not be aware of is that we find the idea of “being in a state of sin” to be utterly foreign and inexplicable. A sin is an action. If you do it, it’s a bad thing. If you repent, it’s taken care of. But you aren’t in some “state of sin” until you repent.

Because Christians believe in Original Sin, they believe humanity requires salvation. Saving. And they don’t understand where we get salvation if not from Jesus. But we don’t see any need of salvation in that sense. We aren’t down a pit that we need someone to drag us out of.

Christians believe that all men are sinners who can only be saved from this status by someone above us. But none of us is born a sinner. And when we transgress, God has given us a method for wiping it clean. We have to regret the act, confess it aloud to God, commit not to do it again, and — if it was a sin against another person — we have to make it right to the extent possible. That’s basically it. The Messiah doesn’t “save us”; he leads us.

donyel ben aharon says:

Another reason not given is Christian belief re: Jesus’ origin as the result of G-d impregnating a married virgin. The idea of gods impregnating humans with their children is alien to Judaism but is extremely common in Greek and Roman mythology. When the original Nazarene sect of Judaism as practiced by Peter and James was destroyed along with Temple Judaism in the revolts of 70 and 130 CE, Paul’s teachings to pagan converts in the hinterlands of Asia Minor (Antioch, etc.) and the rest of the Roman Empire became the basis for the Christian religion(s).

Samuel B. Press says:

More so, all Christian myths, I was told by a Christian, virgin birth, resurrection, etc was from Zorasiraism religon thousands yrs before Jesus..
S, Press

Murray Shapiro says:

There is a much simpler answer: Jews do not believe that God has any form, but is pure spirit, and certainly do not belive that Jesus can be both man and God. Also, what historical evidence even exists that Jesus existed? There is much better historical and archeological evidence that Abraham existed than that Jesus did.

A very good explanation for a very complex issue for some to believe.

Jews do not believe in jss because such a “jew” born from a virgin and the ruach hakodesh (????!!!!) never existed. Its a greek-roman mythe (one of the most ridiculous) and we do not believe in those myths. For us it is only a pagan deity whose believers comitted terribles crimes.

Sara Lang says:

Rabbi Telushkin concludes with the following statement:

“In short, from Judaism’s perspective, to call someone who does not bring about the messianic era the Messiah does not make sense.”

How is than that teachers if Judaism have stated that there will be 2 messiahs: Messiah Ben Yosef and Messiah Ben David. The essential point here is that “Messiah” is a concept and a process and is not a one shot deal as suggested above. This has been amply discussed amongst scholars. The second will finish the job of the first. both Christianity and Judaism agree upon a 2 part process.

Could Jesus have been Messiah ben yosef, the suffering messiah? I think he was. In terms of the process that he initiated in peoples hearts, only G-d can measure.

No, Sara. Mashiach ben Yosef is specifically supposed to be a war leader. He’s also supposed to be descended (patrilineally) from Joseph. As in the son of Jacob.

Mashiach is a person; not just a process. And the whole concept of Mashiach ben Yosef may be mere midrash. There’s certainly nothing in Tanakh that refers to a mashiach descended from Yosef. Only from David. So it isn’t so clear that Judaism sees this as a two part process.

Lastly, if Jesus actually existed, rather than being a literary creation based on a handful of false messiah types around that time, he was *not* any kind of servant of God. He was a blasphemer at best.

    Happy Catz F. says:

    I WOULD have engaged you in this lively debate, BUT the above comment:

    “…if Jesus actually existed…”

    Just PROVES you are clearly unarmed for a battle of wits. Scholars, historians, ancient census data, etc. ALL have proven Jesus, or Yeshua ben Yosef, as he would have been called in His day, did in fact exist. That argument is a moot point. Therefore, your WHOLE argument, rationale, reasoning, and thought process regarding this matter is both baseless and flawed.

Great post, thanks!

Sara Lang says:

Lisa, “Mashiach” and all that it implies – a reconciliation with G-d and a living relationship with G-d, is accessible here and now. Jesus was the vehicle through which that process was made possible and made it possible within ourselves.

My challenge to anyone who choses to believe that he was a “blasphemer” based on the commentaries of those who were offended by his mere presence is very simple: seek and you shall find….if you seek and you don’t find than you have case….its really, really, really just that simple.

Reading these comments makes me wonder how we Christians could read Isiah, and not come to the same conclusions as Rabbi Telushkin. I am a Christian, and I love Isiah, and I also see pr4ophecy that seems to have been fulfilled in Jrsus. However, my heart continues to be pulled toward Judaism, and I want more answers than the put downs given by snort!

Sara, if Jesus even existed (which is very iffy), he was a very bad Jew.

And you can reconcile with God and have a relationship with Him without idolatrous concepts like Jesus. You’ve always been able to. The Jesus idea is nothing but a protection racket. Tell people they’re damned (they aren’t) and that they can get undamned by believing some dead guy was God’s kid (he wasn’t).

Steve613 says:

For my money, the best and most comprehensive answer to the question of “Why Jews Don’t Believe In Jesus” is in an article from Copied here;

One of the simplest answers is

“According to Jewish sources, the Messiah will be born of human parents and possess normal physical attributes like other people. He will not be a demi-god, (1) nor will he possess supernatural qualities.

The Messiah must be descended on his father’s side from King David (see Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, 33:17; Ezekiel 34:23-24). According to the Christian claim that Jesus was the product of a virgin birth, he had no father ― and thus could not have possibly fulfilled the messianic requirement of being descended on his father’s side from King David. (2)


1. Maimonides devotes much of the “Guide for the Perplexed” to the fundamental idea that God is incorporeal, meaning that He assumes no physical form. God is Eternal, above time. He is Infinite, beyond space. He cannot be born, and cannot die. Saying that God assumes human form makes God small, diminishing both His unity and His divinity. As the Torah says: “God is not a mortal” (Numbers 23:19).

2. In response, it is claimed that Joseph adopted Jesus, and passed on his genealogy via adoption. There are two problems with this claim:

a) There is no Biblical basis for the idea of a father passing on his tribal line by adoption. A priest who adopts a son from another tribe cannot make him a priest by adoption;

b) Joseph could never pass on by adoption that which he doesn’t have. Because Joseph descended from Jeconiah (Matthew 1:11) he fell under the curse of that king that none of his descendants could ever sit as king upon the throne of David. (Jeremiah 22:30; 36:30)

Thaddeus Chwierut says:

WOW. Great posts. I think both Christian and Jewish traditions offer a lot. But, I am confused, because the old testament prophecies speak of a virgin conceiving. And, what of the verse, “For unto us a son is given,…and the government will be upon His shoulders,…and his name shall be wonderful…, almighty G-d.”? Furthermore, to think that Jesus was mere myth, and not a historical figure indicates someone didn’t do their homework. Clearly Jesus existed, and was crucified for blasphemy. The issue of dispute is on his claims to be the Messiah, and the Son of G-D, not on his historical existence. Clearly, his followers claimed and believed in these things. But believing in the historical Jesus is simply embracing evidence. Believing in the claims would seem to require something more, perhaps a step of faith.

I really appreciate the commetary from my Jewish brothers regarding this, because it has always puzzled me. I know there is scripture pertaining to both the birth of Jesus (in the old testament), and his death. But, I will go do my study on the concept of the 2nd coming. Because the challenge that it is not foretold in the old testament is a worthy challenge.

Furthermore, the state of sin (state of decay) I think is more accurate than sin being an action. Adam’s fall wasn’t merely an action,…it set into motion consequences still experienced today. But again, this is no excuse not to actively love our neighbors, and work dilligently to make the world a better place.

Thanks for the thoughtful input.

All teh above reveals that there is not one single Judaism or Christianity, but each Jew or Christian speaks as though his version is it. Some Jewish commentators above argue that there is no second coming, others that yes there are two Messiahs, but only one is in the Tanach. And I would dare say that a lot of Jews today (a huge majority?) do not really believe in the coming of the Messiah as a future historical event regardless of what some prophet may have said. Belief in the Messiah is certainly not in the Decalogue and I do not recall its mention anywhere in the Torah. Once we go beyond Torah to Prophets and then further to Mishnah and Talmud the necessity to believe all that is written grows increasingly shakier. (Even in Torah there are items most Jews alive today would prefer to skip over.) — Nor is there any unanimity among Christians in the nature of Jesus. As I understand it, that is the basis of the dispute between Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox churches. — Disputing the historical existence of Jesus seems to me to be as irrelevant, as disputing the historical existence of Moses. In neither case do we have a birth certificate, but hey – how many people refuse to acknowledge Obama’s birth certificate when we can see it in tangible form??? So some Jews deny Jesus existed, others speak of the Jewish Christians who existed shortly after his death and until the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, a third view above is that Jesus was a “bad Jew.” Not sure what a bad Jew is. Jesus apparently kept kosher (after his death that Paul had a vision that it was OK to eat treyf – pretty hard to convert Greeks and Syrians if you won’t let them eat moussaka!). He said he would not change a letter of the Law, acc to Christian sources, and he also changed the Law acc to those same sources. Who knows? The difference between 1st-c Jews and the Palestinian Christians of Temple times was probably less than between either of them and 21st-c Jews and or Xians!

SKLevine says:

To Thaddeus,

There is no prophecy of a virgin birth in Isaiah. Even a scant knowledge of Biblical Hebrew would make this clear.

In Isaiah, the word Christians claim means “virgin” – almah – actually means “young woman” which only refers to her age and not her sexual status. The word that is used in Torah for virgin is “betulah.” This word has nothing to do with the age of the woman, merely her sexual status.

This is just one of many bad Christian translations of Jewish text. Keep in mind that the Christians who translated Hebrew to Latin (with a stop at Aramaic) were translating to meet their theological needs.

You may have many reasons why you are a Christian, but using mistranslated Hebrew text should not be one of them.



SKLevine says:

Sorry, Thaddeus… I meant to say “translated Hebrew to Latin by way of Greek (with a possible stop at Aramic somewhere in there)”

Sara Lang says:

Lisa States: “Sara, if Jesus even existed (which is very iffy), he was a very bad Jew.

And you can reconcile with God and have a relationship with Him without idolatrous concepts like Jesus. You’ve always been able to. The Jesus idea is nothing but a protection racket. Tell people they’re damned (they aren’t) and that they can get undamned by believing some dead guy was God’s kid (he wasn’t)”

Lisa, seperate Christianity and Jesus. Yes, Christianity is a racket and gives Jesus a bad name. There is so much in the bible that is symbolic and archetypal. When taken literally, virgin births and being “G-d’s kid” sounds pretty absurd, but then again so are stories of talking snakes and seas that split. The “word of G-d” is not always literal, it’s a deeply spiritual experience that is so transforming and undeniable. Ever hear the expression “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” ?There is so much more to the concept of Mashiach and Jesus than what is being taugt by Jewish scholars….So much more that even Christianity is not doing justice to.

Unfortunately people are stuck on literal interpretations of prophecies and verses and virgin births….”the word” is alive and accessible to all HERE, NOW….mashiach is a living teacher in the colllective consiousness of huamnity and Jesus was the “vehicle” to that just like moses was a “vehicle” for the law….

Things are not what they seem unless G-d shows you first hand. Blessed are those who know.

No, Sara. Mashiach has not come yet. You misunderstand what his task is to be. We go directly to God. We don’t require an intermediary.

You can try and pretend that Jesus is anything but a pagan myth dressed up in Jewish-style clothing, but it’ll never be true.

SMoskowitz says:

These posts are all very interesting. I am disturbed, however, by Lisa’s assertion that if Jesus existed “he was a very bad Jew.” As a Jew, learning about Jesus and aspects of Christianity as well as aspects of Jewish law, I have come to the conclusion that actually Jesus was Avery good Jew – a social/political reformer. I’ve not found reliable evidence that suggests Jesus actually claimed to be G-d’s son, that claim seems to have been recorded by his followers as they were attempting to gain more followers. Jesus’ big crusade was fixing the priests’ treatment of the Jubilee year, which they had not been following according to the Torah because to do so would have caused economic destabilization, and would have hurt the upper classes. To lobby on behalf of the needy is actually a VERY good thing in Judaism. I know I am glossing over this, and I am sure that many will disagree with me.
I would also like to point out that denigrating another religion’s holy figures and precepts, rather than simply saying that Jews do not accept him, and perhaps giving a neutral explanation as to why, is actually not the correct thing to do in Judaism because we teach tolerance and respect for

Sara Lang says:

Yes indeed Moskowitz! Jesus was a very good jew, his actions and his teachings were quite laudable. What has touched me the most is his teachings is that there is something very empowering about Jesus’s teachings both socio-politically and spiritually.

It’s an easy way out of ignorance to say that “Jesus was a very bad jew” and many Jews are extremely ignorant about who jesus was. They either don’t know enough and are led by what they are told. Those who do the “telling” are also quite threatened by him as they were back in the day and lack discernement in their arguments. They fail to see the good in Jesus and are blinded by the bad that the Christian Church have done in his name.

Sara Lang says:

BTW Lisa….Judaism is full of intermediaries! Abdicating the right to a personal interpretation of texts, asking tzadiks and rabbis for blessings and guidance, doing mitzvahs in their names. Noach, Abraham, Moses, the prophets…all intermediaries used by G-d to channel His message…Rarely have I read or heard amongst the orthodox a message of direct, conscious relationship and communion with G-d in this life. Always has to do with the promise of something that is soooo speculative….The world to come is right inside of you and so many are missing the point.

SMoskowitz says:

Sara, all religions have people who abdicate and people who seek – that is human nature. Some people need to be led. Jews place a high value on seeking, although are seeking may seem different than a Christians. It is almost impossible to understand someone else’s religion when only viewing it through the lens of your own. For example, I might say that Jesus himself is an intermediary for Christians because if Gd were to assume a physical form, why not just do it himself rather than creating a son. Furthermore Catholics pray to Mary and assorted saints for intercession. Christians go to ministers for advice and blessings all the time. By the same note, I know of many Jews who feel that their relationship with Gd is very personal. Jews commune with Gd daily through prayer and mitzvot. Doing mitzvot bring us closer to Gd. Just because we do things differently than you doesn’t make us wrong or mean that we “have missed the boat” and it doesn’t necessarily make you wrong either, it just means that we follow different paths to the same entity.

Sara Lang says:

I am always one to say that no one has missed the boat. G-d’s ways are much more sophisticated than that. However I do believe that the Messiah is an awesome process rather than a one-shot deal and Jesus planted a seed to get that process going. The flower has yet to sprout in the consiousness of his own bretheren. Indeed many do have connection with the divine through prayer and mitzvos, but do standardized prayers not create a “rote” and simply repetitive experience rather than an authentic living dialogue with G-d? A dialogue involves two parties in which there is a back and forth “conversation”.

For the record, I am not a christian in the typical sense. I am one who has seen passed the politics and been able to recognize the beauty in Jesus and his teachings.

I think it’s great how someone posts that the virgin birth is not in the Tanakh and no Christian stops to research that. I suppose Psalm 22 reads “pierced” instead of “like a lion” as well? Shouldn’t we be seeking a pure relationship with G-d? What does He have to say about who is right? Zec 8:23. The “you” at the end of the verse, in Hebrew, is plural. You see, it doesn’t matter what you believe. A thing is either true or it is not true. Jesus isn’t true. He changed the Law on several occasions, advocated hating of parents, and made prophecies of his return that did not come true. By definition, he was a false prophet.If I could make the period on the end of that sentence any bigger I would. Snortwood has a point. We have to do what we can for the world. There is a Messiah coming but we need to wade in up to our nostrils, even if the water hasn’t parted yet. And shame on you for wanting the people who don’t agree with your theology to burn in Hell. If that’s not what you want, why do you ignore the word of G-d? If you are wondering what in the world I am talking about, do some homework. He only said so much to us, we should be hanging on every word. Because we’ll be punished if we don’t? G-d forbid! Rather because what is right should take precedence over your own desires. Learn something about the G-d of Israel and you will find a G-d very worth serving. Learn the Oral Torah, and you’ll realize how practical the Written Torah is. Or ignore every word I’ve said and at least learn Hebrew.

And might I further add that the fact that the greater part of the population thinks it is ok for an “innocent” person to die for their crimes says something very, very dark about the human condition. The blood atonement was for unintentional sins only. The sacrifice was brought, you had to look it in the eye, and you had to KNOW that this animal was about to die because you didn’t care enough about G-d’s word to learn it. The mercy comes in that you do not have to endure the prescribed punishment for something you had no knowledge of. The justice is that you feel it in your gut, as you are walking away. If you sin intentionally, your sin is on you.

Sara Lang says:

Again, there is more to Jesus than what Christianity has claimed about him. One must be discerning and find the truth embedded within the very fabric experience. Messiah is a living and ever present, compasstionate enlightening and fortifying experience. Virgin births, talk of hell….blah blah…so much of it is symbolic just like the Torah has so much symbolism in it. One can say the same: who would follow such a an angry wrathful G-d as we see in the 5 books….the answer is there is a time for everything and now the time for a living relationship with a compassionate G-d is amongst us. Proof is in the pudding and is accessible to human experience: seek and you shall find. Ask G-d, see what happens.

I hate to see all this bickering and fighting between Christian & Jewish scriptural beliefs. I have always had a deep abiding love & respect for my spiritual Jewish family. To uncover the contextual references & meaning in the Torah esp. why YHWY required festivals at specific times with instructions down to the last detail regarding atonement, sacrifices, offering And worship is so AMAZING!

Thank You for being YHWY’s chosen, His children & allowing us to enter into a relationship with YHWY as well. Through you (Abraham’s decendants that number greater than the sands on the SEASHORE) all have been given a chance to discover the Jewish Jesus & our Jewish God- if I may be so bold – because He chose y’all over all other nations on the earth to show how mighty, powerful & merciful He is. THANK YOU for showing the world God will deliver through the Exodus, God desires to save through the prophets messages, God’s protection in any situation.
Also, I firmly believe that we Americans will be judged & drink from YHWY’s cup of wrath if we do not lift up our Jewish brothers & sisters in prayer, stand by their side & defend them from all who would try & hurt them. We must resist becoming offended in our differences. Paul was able to write the words so eloquently by inspiration through the Ruach Kahodesh in the 1st letter to the Church in Corinth. My fav part is -1Corinthians 13:1-13, “..Love is patient & kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand it’s own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad at injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the coast. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him and always STAND YOUR GROUND IN DEFENDING HIM”. That’s what I feel The Lord is asking me to do regarding the Jews. Thank you for reading

Tamara says:

Maybe you should look at the lineage of Jesus from this perspective.

Messiah’s Right to David’s Throne – Fruchtenbaum
A Messianic Jewish teaching article regarding Kingdom prophecies of the Messiah in the Jewish bible.

Tamara says:

Angela wrote:

You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him and always STAND YOUR GROUND IN DEFENDING HIM”. That’s what I feel The Lord is asking me to do regarding the Jews.

***I made an attempt to stand my ground defending him, but my post was deleted. To delete an opposing view is not God-like.



Tamara says:

You may want to read the prophecies of the Old Testament that DO point to Jesus as the Messiah.

How does Old Testament prophecy point forward to Jesus Christ?

There are many specific prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in detail by Jesus Christ. For the past two thousand years, …

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Hal Patrick says:

Jesus is the Messiah. The ludicrous condition that has been attached to the act of recognition is the core cause of Jewish suffering since the birth and denouncement of Jesus. Wake up you unbelievers! Jesus is the only true bearer of the promise. Time for Jews everywhere to get the spirit and start to enjoy the Christian life.


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