Q. I know that Christians and Jews share many religious beliefs and are very close to each other in spiritual brotherhood. But Christians basically believe that they are created sinful and unclean and, therefore, need a Redeemer, Jesus, to take the sins of believers on Himself so that they may come to God’s Kingdom when they pass over.
Since Jews do not have this Redeemer, how do they become pure enough to enter God’s Kingdom? I realize there is the Law, but human beings, being who and what they are, cannot keep these laws sufficiently to reach purity and freedom from sin. Christians also believe that they are able to receive the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit directs their lives and brings them to true belief in God through Christ.
How does Judaism look at the Holy Spirit and is the Holy Spirit considered to be active in bring Jews to true belief? I can answer this question myself, from a Christian point of view, but that would be a one sided answer. I would very much appreciate learning what Judaism teaches in this matter.
Thank you very much.
Answer: You are correct in assuming that most Christians believe in Original Sin to a greater or lesser degree. As to whether Jesus himself really believed in Original Sin or not, I have some serious doubts. In one of the Gospels, we read about how Jesus’ disciples once asked Jesus, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (John 9:2-3).
As a Jew reading the Gospel narrative, it seems to me that Jesus explicitly disapproved of any idea that man suffers from an inherited sin. By extension, every human fault we are born with, serves a spiritual purpose so that we may glorify the Creator despite our natural shortcomings.
Please bear in mind that many scholars have considerable doubt as to what Jesus actually said, and I think that the work of the Jesus Seminar is most instructive in this manner. The theological notion that man is born in sin has more to do with the theological teachings of Augustine, who perhaps with the exception of Paul, formed the Christian doctrine of man and sin after his own personal image and likeness.
Regarding the question whether the “Law” (or “nomos” – which we Jews prefer to refer as “the Torah”), we believe very strongly that the Torah is not too difficult to observe and those who live by it are not “under a curse” (see Gal. 3:13).
The Book of Deuteronomy makes this plainly clear: “For this command which I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out . . . ”(Deut. 30:11-14).
Curiously, instead of interpreting this passage for its obvious meaning regarding the Torah, Paul alleges that these words refer to how Christians can come to faith and salvation in Christ (Romans 10:6-10).