Image: The image of Christ the Redeemer that stands above Rio de Janeiro. (Photo by Fabio Wanderley / Pixabay)
In a word, no. I get this question from time to time, and I always feel sad having to give news that often people do not want to hear.
If what you mean by “believe in Jesus” is believe that he is God, or that he rose from the dead, or died for your sins, no. Jews do not believe those things. Jews are strict monotheists – no Trinity – and we do not have any belief in what Christians call “original sin.”
If Jesus is important to you as the Son of God or as your Savior, you aren’t Jewish. That’s OK – we are happy for you to be a good Christian, and we hope you find a branch of Christianity that works for you. Judaism doesn’t have an opinion on a “one true religion,” unlike Christianity and Islam; we believe that there are many different ways to be in relationship with the Holy One. This way is our way, and it does not involve a belief in Jesus as anything but an ordinary guy who died a long time ago.
If you find that you are very attracted to Judaism, but still believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Anointed One) then you are welcome to be a friend to the Jewish community. If you have Jewish ancestors, but Jesus is your Savior, that’s fine – but you aren’t “Jewish,” you are a Christian with a Jewish heritage. That’s wonderful! And we are happy to have that relationship to you.
So yes, the answer to the question above is a resounding No.
Someone’s going to jump in here and talk about Messianic Judaism, so I’m going to repeat my policy on that. Messianic Judaism is not Rabbinic Judaism. It’s a form of Christianity in which Jesus is the savior of mankind. What I’m teaching here is Rabbinic Judaism.
See My Policy Regarding Messianism.
9 thoughts on “Can I Convert to Judaism and Still Believe in Jesus?”
If you come to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophetic voice and murdered by Roman authorities and that “Saint Paul,” Emperor Constantine, and Church councils invented a supersessionist narrative and doctrine (e.g., the trinity), then yes, you may believe in that Jesus. Ironically, I had this conversation just this morning with an Episcopal priest friend.
As the American Baptist theologian Dr. Langdon Gilkey was fond of telling us in his Introduction to Christian Theology class at the Univ. of Chicago Divinity School, “What we know for sure about Jesus is that he did live, and he didn’t die in bed. Anything more detailed goes beyond history and into the realm of belief.”
Hear! Hear! Rabbi Ruth!
Thanks for your clear and concise (and accurate!) answer. I get that question a lot too, in my work at the local Navy Base, leading services and teaching Judaism to Jewish and non-Jewish recruits to the Navy. The question allows me to touch on the two major differences – no one has more “God” in them than anyone else (b’tzelem elohim) and what happened in Eden wasn’t a sin – it was Eve exercising free choice that God gave, and acknowledging the consequences, i.e. no original sin. Thanks for your writing.
One of my pet peeves is the word “Judeo-Christian.” It is an attempt to paper over the profound theological differences between Judaism and Christianity. Christians can be comfortable with about 90% of what Jews teach; for Jews, Christian teachings are a good bit less palatable. That 10% (which might as well be 100%, as important as Christology is to Christians) is not trivial.
At a certain point in American Jewish history, the word caught on as a way to get past anti-Semitism. Still, it bugs the life out of me.
Thanks for your clear and respectful post. People reading this post may encounter Jews who do have what appears to be ‘an opinion on a “one true religion”.’ I say, “appears to be,” because I’m not really sure what insular Haredi communities truly believe. Do you have any guidance on this topic?
I am very careful NOT to say that “ALL Jews believe X” because there’s always going to be one who will prove me wrong.
I’ve had the question as well. People have very diverse views of what Judaism is. I remember a Christian friend saying to me with some pain, “Can’t you be a Jew and just believe in Jesus too?” She was worried about my soul. Sadly it was causing her discomfort when I felt (and feel) none. 🙁
Belief in Jesus as redeemer, lord, friend, savior is the key element of Christianity. For a devout Christian, rejection of that understanding of Jesus is unthinkable. It is not an easy topic.