Why did the Jews think they had eternal life?


Clarify Share Report Asked August 24 2015 Mini Kenneth Heck

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Ari Ariel HaNaviy Messianic Jew and Torah Teacher with Messianic Congregation 'The Harvest'
The passage in question is likely from the words of Yeshua (Jesus):

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (Jn. 5:39, 40).

It is not wrong to think that the Scriptures present eternal life to the reader and follower. After all, Sha'ul (Paul) wrote to Timothy about the TaNaKH (Old Testament) offering life through Yeshua:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 3:14, 15).

And Paul spoke of justification (salvation) for those who not only hear but do Torah in one of his earlier letters:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified (Rom. 2:13). Yeshua challenged the rich young ruler with this cryptic statement:

And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments (Matt. 19:17).

Moreover, the Torah (Law) alluded to its own internal righteousness when Moshe (Moses) stated:

And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us (Deut. 6:24, 25).

So now we can understand why Yeshua would say what he did to those Jewish leaders. The problem with the Jews of Yeshua's day is that they were blinded by their own nationalism into believing they were "saved" by being ethnically Jewish and by maintaining covenant faithfulness to the Torah of Moshe. Thus, they rejected any need (in their eyes) for an additional Messiah who would ostensibly cleanse them from personal sin. 

Don't misunderstand me here. I didn't say the Jews believed that Torah obedience would save them. To be sure, I am not saying it ever saved anyone! They simply, although incorrectly, believed that their ethnic identity as Jews would save them (i.e., "we are sons of Abraham..."). Torah obedience, then, was seen as the national duty of a Jewish person and existing covenant member who desired to remain faithful to the covenant. Thus, Jewish identity and Torah observance were two sides to the same coin. It is only the later emerging Christian church that likes to imagine that early Jews kept Torah because they thought it would save them. This caricature of merit theology is inaccurate compared to what we now know historically from the surviving rabbinic literature of the 1st century Jews and their preoccupation with covenantal nomism.

So, in closing, I want to state as a Messianic Jewish man that there was and is nothing wrong with Jewish people (or anyone for that matter) keeping the Torah out of obedience to God and love for one's fellow man--even after coming to faith in the Messiah! What is wrong is when your ethnocentric Jewish exclusivism and zeal for Torah blinds you to the true Messiah found therein.

August 25 2015 8 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining