31. What do Jewish people believe and is it important for us to have a basic knowledge of what the person believes to whom we are witnessing?
Yes, it is very important that we know a little about the beliefs of the one to whom we are witnessing. This is true whether we are talking to a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Catholic, or a Jewish person. Having no knowledge of what they believe makes it almost impossible for us to know in what they are falsely trusting. We will study only the Orthodox and Reform branches of Judaism. The Conservative Branch falls somewhere in between the two.
ORTHODOX – The oral and written Law are given by God. But, they put more emphasis on the Pentateuch and minimize other portions of Scripture. Especially the Messianic passages.
REFORM – They do not believe in the inspiration of the oral or written Law. Hence, the Bible is not God’s Word. It is viewed as literature which contains moral and ethical teaching.
ORTHODOX – The oneness of God is stressed and the Trinity is rejected. Monotheism is considered the bottom line of Judaism. They do believe that God is a personal God.
REFORM – God is considered to be impersonal and to some, even nonexistent. It is not taught that He is knowable and that He is a God who cares for the individual.
ORTHODOX – Man has the ability to do both good and evil. By doing good and obeying the ten commandments, he can win over the evil side. Man is not considered totally depraved.
REFORM – Man’s nature is basically good. Through education and fanning the spark within, man can reach their full potential. Man is continually evolving and progressing.
ORTHODOX – They do not believe in original sin, nor does the fall of Adam negatively impact the human race. Sin is committed whenever the Law of Moses is broken.
REFORM – They do not believe in original sin. Sin is seen as the ills of society. Lack of education, poor neighborhoods and environment are the causes of our problems.
ORTHODOX – Salvation is obtained by praying, by repenting, and by doing good works. Stress is placed upon keeping the Law of Moses and adhering closely to the Jewish religion.
REFORM – Salvation is obtained by improving one’s self and the society. Personal salvation as taught in the Bible is not at all what they are thinking of when the topic comes up.
ORTHODOX – The Messiah is a personal superhuman who is not divine. He will restore Israel and execute judgment upon the world of evil. During his reign, peace will rule.
REFORM – Instead of a belief in a Messiah who is personal, they believe in a Messianic Age. They believe that mankind is progressing toward this and will one day be established.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
ORTHODOX – Making the most of life here and now is stressed. There will be a physical resurrection where some are raised to be rewarded and some will be raised and punished.
REFORM – No specific resurrection. A person lives on in the memories of others. There simply is no concept of personal life after death.
When witnessing, it’s helpful to let the person tell you what they believe. By doing so, you will know where they’re coming from. Most unsaved people appreciate it when they are able to express their beliefs. Even though they may be wrong, letting them talk usually earns us the opportunity to give them the truth. It’s necessary to know something of what they believe.