You Take Jesus, I’ll Take God: How to Refute Christian Missionaries by Samuel Levine (Los Angeles: Hamorah Press, 1980).
There is something very tragic behind this book. Samuel Levine has purposed to prevent others from becoming followers of Jesus in such a manipulative and hostile manner that the book seems to be one gigantic axe to grind rather than a scholarly piece of work to be studied seriously.
An example of the author’s unprofessional approach is the fact that the reader is unable to verify the accuracy of Mr. Levine’s claims regarding how Christians interpret Scripture passages, as he attributes numerous statements and interpretations to missionaries without listing sources.
He also presents edited correspondence with a Messianic Jewish missionary,” which was “edited” in such a way that the astute reader might well wonder if Mr. Levine exercised more subjective intent than professional expediency.
The following are the primary points Mr. Levine emphasizes throughout the book:
- Levine advises readers to examine carefully both the Bible verses and the context in which they appear. That is excellent advice. If only Mr. Levine had followed his own suggestion with the same consistency and honest objectivity he urges his readers to employ!
- Levine warns his readers to watch for “psychological tricks,” which he claims, “Christians use in seeking to convert Jews to Christianity.” This theme of the “tricky missionary” recurs frequently throughout the book. He treats the idea of the Messiah meeting human needs as manipulative. Yet, if God created us and cares for us, then not knowing him does leave a void in our lives. One need not feel ashamed to admit that void exists. One need not be mentally disturbed or maladjusted to wish that void filled.
- Levine frequently uses the term “Old Testament” as evidence that Christians see the Hebrew Bible as “that which is replaceable or that which was replaced.” Yet most Christian scholars, the author of this article included, do not view the Scriptures in this way.
- Levine elevates oral tradition to the same authority as Scripture itself (p. 22-23). Even popular speculation, such as Schonfeld’s The Passover Plot, is accepted by Levine as historical fact.
- Levine claims that the Christian concept of the Messiah was entirely different from the messianic expectations of Jesus’ time. It is significant to note that Levine does not take into account the fact that God, not popular opinion, determined the nature and role of the Messiah.
- Finally, the author confuses and misrepresents the goal of the missionary as the need to impose “Christian” morality and culture on other peoples. In fact, Christians preach the gospel because they are convinced it is true, not because they deem those to whom they preach as being less moral or less “civilized” than themselves.
To write a comprehensive list of my objections would mean authoring an entire book, so I will list just a few:
- Levine makes a peculiar judgment on page 102 where, referring to 2 Samuel 12:24, he writes, “?Çªbut for sure, David did not commit murder or adultery.” One wonders what the point of 2 Samuel 12:1-12 is, if David was innocent! It is sad to think that in order to prevent people from believing the New Testament, Samuel Levine has seen fit to twist and distort the Hebrew Scriptures.
- Levine suggests (p.34) that the New Testament was “doctored” in order to conform to the concepts Christians introduced in the nature of the Messiah. But why would those who doctored it be willing to die for something they knew was a lie?
- Levine states there was no need for the death of Jesus while the temple still existed (p. 43). If Jesus really was the Messiah, it is logical that the converse would be true. There would no longer be a need for the temple and its sacrificial system after his death. A careful study of the book of Hebrews would have clarified for Levine the place of sacrifice and the death of Jesus in God’s redemptive plan.
Though I felt You Take Jesus, I’ll Take God was a poorly crafted book, I did appreciate the author’s emphasis on the special role of the Jewish people in God’s plans. As a professor at a Christian seminary, I do not teach that gentiles have preempted or replaced Jews in God’s plans. Levine insists that Jews cannot have both God and Jesus. I would not have the Jewish people robbed of their own Meessiah. I believe that someday, Jews and gentiles will walk together into the Kingdom of God, two distinct peoples, trusting in one God, and his anointed.