Question: How can you believe in the New Testament? Isn’t it full of anti-Semitism and lies?
Answer: The New Testament—which simply means New Covenant—needs to be accepted for what it is, a Jewish book written by Jewish people. Most of the concepts in the New Testament cannot be understood apart from their background in the Hebrew Bible. It was fashionable a few years ago to claim that the New Testament contained a large proportion of ideas that were not Jewish but Greek. More recently, though, archaeology has vindicated the Jewish origins of practically everything within the New Testament.
A glance at even a few verses from the New Testament shows its Jewish background:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).
And it came to pass that, on the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child… (Luke 1:59).
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication (Hannukah), and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch (John 10:22-23).
(Paul said in Hebrew) I am verily a man who is a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day (Acts 22:2-3).
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting (James 1:1).
It is becoming increasingly recognized, even in Israel, that the New Testament is a Jewish book that stands alongside the Hebrew Scriptures. The Israeli scholar Pinchas Lapide has reported an analysis of 10 textbooks used in primary and secondary schools in Israel. He says that six of the books quote a total of 18 New Testament passages…Three books give detailed explanations of the historical, literary and religious meaning of the four Gospels…In two books quotations from the Old Testament are juxtaposed with quotations from the New so as to point out similarities and affinities.”*
As far as allegations of anti-Semitism go, remember that in the early days of Christianity there were no Gentile believers. The whole question of whether or not Jesus was the Messiah was a family affair, to be settled by the family of Jewish people. This is the context in which the tone of many passages depicting criticism of this or that segment of the Jewish populace must be seen. The “harsh” passages of the New Testament resemble far more the moral exhortations of the prophets than they do the intolerant rhetoric of medieval sermons. For example, consider this passage that refers to the Jewish people:
Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
Did you think that this passage came from the New Testament? Perhaps you didn’t recognize it as a quotation from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.** Those kinds of words calling Israel away from sin have always been a part of the prophetic tradition. The New Testament continues this tradition, along with the tradition of elaborating on the positive side of Israel’s relationship with God.
The real question to be dealt with is not, “Is the New Testament Jewish?” Rather the question ought to be, “Is the New Testament true?” When the same tests of historicity and validity are applied to the New Testament as to the Hebrew Scriptures, both will be seen to be equally true.
* Lapide, Pinchas, Israelis, Jews and Jesus, (Doubleday & Co., 1979), p. 49.
** Isaiah 1:4.