Do Jews Need to Be Perfected?

Posted by on Oct 12, 2007 in Blog | 12 comments

A while back, Ann Coulter said on a television program that Jews need to be “perfected,” with reference to the teaching of the Old and New Testament. Her talk show host promptly declared himself “offended,” and later Joe Scarborough, on his show, countered Coulter, saying to his “panel of experts” that “nowhere in the New Testament” did he find the teaching she was talking about. Instead, people would be judged on the basis of whether they fed the hungry, helped the sick, and visited those in prison. He also said we should not judge other people.

I know when I’m out of my league, and so for the most part try not to comment on politics (I’ll leave that to pundits such as Ann and Joe), but in this case, they ventured into the area of Christian theology and biblical exegesis, and on this territory I feel a little more comfortable contributing to the discussion. In short, I am going to argue that while I may have wished that Ann Coulter had expressed her view with greater theological sophistication, she did have a point, and Joe’s efforts to “clarify” the New Testament’s teaching fell, at least in my opinion, flat.

Rightly interpreted, does the New Testament teach that the Jews need to be “perfected,” to use Ann Coulter’s language? Do Jews need to believe in Jesus the Messiah in order for them to be saved? Or is this belief optional, just for Christians, and non-Christian Jews can go on holding to their own beliefs (which involves rejecting Jesus as Messiah)? (In case some of you reading the last sentence are wondering about the phrase “non-Christian Jews”—as if there were “Christian Jews”—there were, and are, in fact Christian or messianic Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah.)

To address this issue, we must do better than Joe Scarborough, quoting one or two passages out of context. We need to look at all the relevant passages on the topic in Scripture, and try to understand the biblical theology on this subject. Since the genre of this post is that of a blog, not a scholarly monograph, this is not the place to do this; I will limit myself to a few key passages. On the one hand, Jesus did acknowledge that “salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22), that is, the Jews are God’s chosen people per the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament), and it is through them that the Messiah, Jesus, came. Jesus was a Jew!

At the same time, Jesus unequivocally claimed to be the Messiah and the only way to God. In John 14:6, he is quoted as saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The same belief is echoed by the early Christians. Thus Luke quotes Peter as teaching, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). So who is this name? “… then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead … Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone’” (Acts 4:10–11, quoting Ps 118:22). The name without which no one—Jew or non-Jew—can be saved is Jesus. (And notice that Peter was addressing his fellow Jews.)

What will happen to Jews, then, who reject Jesus as Messiah? In John’s Gospel Chapter 8, in a passage many consider (erroneously, in my opinion) anti-Semitic, Jesus is quoted as saying that the Jews—his own people—are “children of the devil,” which, in context, means “sinners.” Imagine that—Jews are sinners, just like the rest of us! But if they are sinners, they need salvation. And how can they be saved? By feeding the hungry, helping the sick, and visiting those in prison, as Joe Scarborough is misrepresenting Jesus as teaching? No! According to both Jesus and the early church, salvation—not only for non-Jews but also for Jews—is “found in no one else” but Jesus.

So how do Jews get saved? Just like the rest of us—by believing that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:31). There is no special arrangement, no exception, no partiality. As Paul wrote, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” That’s what the New Testament says. You didn’t hear it on Joe Scarborough’s morning show—but check it out, it’s right there in the Bible. Maybe Ann Coulter, in her amateurish way of expressing it, did have a point—this time?

12 Comments

  1. Sorry, I accidentally hit submit before finishing. Hope this isn’t too long.

    Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we take scripture out of context. When I started reading, I thought that you were sympathetic (somewhat) toward Jews. Then you quoted Acts 4:10 — “you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified…”(NASB) You make it sound like replacement theologians who decry all Judaism for the act of a few. Reading Acts 4 in context, you will see that Peter was speaking to the people when “the priests and the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees came up to them.” THESE were the ones he was speaking to who, in a political move conspiring with Pilate, demanded that Yeshua be put to death, NOT the entire population, many of whom, by the way, were entirely on Yeshua’s side (viz the multitude throwing palm branches in his path as he came ito the city).

    It has always been a belief in Judaism that the righteous of all nations will have a place in the Olam Haba, the World to Come. Why should Christians think that they have a monoply on salvation (which, by the way, is an extended topic by itself). “The LORD [is] my strength and song, and he is become my salvation” (Ex 15:2). “Let the God of my salvation be exalted (Ps. 18:46). “My soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation” (Is. 61:10).

    Over and over in the Hebrew Scriptures, God is claimed to be their Salvation, their Savior. God is actually named more times as Savior through the entire Bible than Yeshua is.

    The question should be, “Who does the saving?” Let’s look at Yeshua’s words in John 5:24(NASB): “He who hears My word, and believes HIM WHO SENT ME, has eternal life.” Salvation is in God more than it is in His son (not to say that the Son does not impart salvation).

    Let’s take another look at John 3:16 without the pronouns (and not being a Greek scholar, I might misread the intention of one or two): “For God so loved the world that GOD gave GOD’S only begotten son that whosoever believes in GOD should not perish but have everlasting life.”

    Do the Jews need to be perfected? Isn’t that up to the One who saves and will save?

    Shalom

  2. i believe we are made in G-D’S image but His son YESHUA came to die for us all first for the Jew then the Gentile, so yes through Yeshua we are all made perfect if we only choose Yeshua. We need both Jew and Gentile readings of the Bible. Yeshua came to fulfill the law not take it away. so what i think or anyone else think makes no difference except we believe in Yeshua and be saved and mrs coultier you need watch how you present your believes, that is why the jews dont believe.

  3. Christians are “perfected in Christ” – not that they are perfect but that they are able to commune with God because of Christ’s sacrifice. Christians are “reconciled” to God, or made equal or “perfected” by Christ’s sacrifice, not by anything a man might do (giving to the poor, feeding the sick, etc) – “not by acts but by faith”.
    A converted Jew is also a “completed Jew”, so I was told by a Christian Jew. Jews, just like everyone one else, must be made perfect by Christ in order to receive salvation.
    That is a basic Christian belief and I think that was what Ms. Coulter was trying to say.
    People are so jaded these days by their politics and personal bias and are offended sometimes when they shouldn’t be.

  4. I can’t get past Ann Coulter. I find the woman so divisive and disgusting in her rhetoric that frankly I’m not prepared to listen to anything she says, whether someone finds it objectively “correct” or not. I deplore the continuing widening of the ecumenical gulf by such provocative and I think mostly unnecessary discussion. It’s time Muslims, Christians, and Jews accept the fact that we must live together, and start putting more effort in there.

  5. I saw only the sound-bites of Ann’s controversial interview. And I view her statement as correct, though she never got an opportunity to complete her point. We are all made “perfect” *In Christ* when we are declared righteous through faith in His sacrificial and judicial death for us. We are not yet “perfect” in our walk but made “perfect” in our standing before the Father. I think the theological term is imputation.

  6. Umm, I think there is a language problem. I believe when Christians hear Ann Coulter talk about Jews being perfected, they are mostly listening from a theological perspective. At least, I can only hope so.

    As a Jew, when I here a Gentile say I need to be perfected, I hear overtones of Nazi-ism, where Jews were deemed subhuman, and not deserving of life.

    Of course none of us are perfect! Apparently, Ann Coulter least of all!

  7. Dear Andreas Kostenberger & Biblical Foundations,

    If Joe Scarborough has publicly declared that he finds none of Ann Coulter’s statements taught in the Bible and that we are not to judge, then why is he judging Ann Coulter’s statements. Of course, we are to judge teachings and doctrine in order to know if they are false teachers. Apparently Joe Scarborough has not read what the Apostle Paul commanded who wrote most of the New Testament. Of course, Donny Deutch should throw away his Judaism for true Christianity as Ann Coulter suggested, exactly what the Apostle Paul did. Why do you supposed Paul’s name is no longer Saul. As to true religion being divorced from sound doctrine…pagans and cults and false religions give to the poor. Judas even suggested this. [Paul also gave to the poor]. The reason we are in the fix we are in is because of people like Joe Scarborough who have not heeded the Scripture:

    1Ti 4: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

    So we should not judge teaching to test the spirits for sound doctrine huh?

    In this regard, here is my response to Ann Coulter.

    October 12, 2007

    Dear Ann Coulter,

    As an author of two books demolishing Rick Warren’s teachings through my publisher Southwest Radio Ministries, l must come to your defense regarding your statements to Donny Deutch on the Big Idea TV Show earlier this week regarding the true essence of Christianity. Furthermore I must commend you for having the backbone that other so-called Christian have failed to exhibit in obeying Christ’s commands. OF COURSE, CHRISTIANS WOULD THAT NONE PERISH AND PRAY AND PREACH THAT EVERYONE BECOMES A CHRISTIAN…THAT IS THE GREAT COMMISSION WHETHER THEY ARE JEW OR GENTILE…NO EXCEPTIONS. IT IS THE CENTRAL DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIANITY AND THE NEW TESTAMENT AND PRECISELY WHAT THE APOSTLE PAUL TAUGHT.

    From the New Testament:

    John 3:36 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” JESUS CHRIST

    The Apostle Paul taught in Galatians that whoever taught another gospel should be eternally damned. So of course, this is the Christian message. This is the New Covenant! The New Testament!

    Even callers on Michael Savages show last night who disagreed with your statements confirmed that is nothing more than orthodox Christian doctrine….The Apostle Paul’s theology. Now may oppose Christianity [of course he would as he is not a Christian], but people should not be surprised that you were simply mirroring what the martyred and persecuted (and non-marytred) saints have believed since the inception of Christianity). Everyone seemed so shocked and Michael Savage has come unhinged by your statements. But what shocks me is how many don’t even know this is straight New Testament theology. The Apostle Paul marked those those who did not believe or teach this as false teachers. A host of saints were burned at the stake for believing this. HELLO!?!?!?!

    Pastor John Hagee is a friend and frequent guest of Michael Savage on his Savage Nation radio show. Michael Savage said he would never again have you as a guest…in great part because of beliefs she just expressed on the Big Idea TV show. Yet he continues to have John Hagee as a guest that he highly esteems WHO BELIEVES ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME THING AS YOU…at least regarding the core doctrines of Christianity. Michael Savage’s respect for John Hagee is so high regarding interpretation of Biblical Prophecy that he re-airs his appearance on his show. And I have heard a host of his shows and would commend him for many of his positions. But his vitriolic attack on Ann Coulter must be opposed. If anyone doubts that you views expressed on the Big Idea show, as a whole, represent what most conservative Christian and Biblical Scholars believe, why don’t they have one as a guest, such as Dr. Robert Morey and Richard Land from the Southern Baptist Convention…or someone famous that is known to be a conservative Christian? I sure hope you say this on Hannity and Coombs Show too!

    I have been a guest on about a thousand radio stations, and will do what I can to publicly come to your defense, though you are quite capable of defending yourself without my help. You are a 21st Century Deborah or Esther.

    btw, I also heard your great interview on Kevin McCullough’s Muscle Head Radio Show in NYC.

    Now I would love to see you for President against Hillary. In fact, I would pay money to watch you two debate! The Roman Collesium could not rival putting these two adversaries in the same ring!

    You would have Hillary for lunch! You would be the only candidate, male or female that I think has the backbone to go toe-to-toe with her. Christians all over the country are in great dismay because there is no real David who would ignite them. Don’t you meet all of Janet Folger’s criteria for President in her recent article? (Janet Folger ended up picking Huckabee…but Huckabee is a Rick Warrenite through and through). She should have picked you!

    Well done thy good and faithful servant!

    Kindest regards in Christ,

    James Sundquist
    Director
    Rock Salt Publishing

  8. I often wonder where people get the idea they don’t need Jesus the source of truth. Douglas Groothius says “Our dark side balks when the truth leads us anywhere we don’t want to go”(Truth Decay). I could understand why they might reject him though. Anyone who makes exclusive claims must be able to back them up. Jesus did at all times in all areas and is today still changing the world for good. We must all remember that guys like Scarborough have a spot on Cable tv because of his liberal view. It’s obvious he has never read ALL of the New Testament. I fear that he also may need perfecting, if he is to enter into the kingdom!! May his heart be turned to the only one who might save him!! Jesus!!! (Jo 14:6).

  9. The entire human race is direly in need of salvation. We are each and all, “sinners”, separated and ALIENATED from God. There are not “options” for redemption. We all come to God in the exact same way; repentance for our sins, faith in God’s provision for our salvation – the atoning death of Jesus Christ and forgiveness from God, in the same person, His own Son. This is the ONLY basis of human salvation; however, God does bless His people, based on their selfless service to Him. May we each turn to God’s Son for our salvation and then serve Him with good works.

  10. Dr. Köstenberger:

    Thank you for your words of wisdom; they are right on the mark. The problem we often face is that too many people get their ‘theology’ from the Scarboroughs and Coulters and LaHayes of the world (and not enough read JETS!) There are not enough people getting their theology from the Scripture and from sound exposition of Scripture. We are in the midst of Amos’s words: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “When I will send a famine on the Land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the Words of the Lord.”

    Too few actually want to hear the truth. Too few are willing to preach the entire council of God.

    Coulter may not have been ‘sophisticated’ in her remark, but I agree that she declared a powerful message that needs to be spoken to all unbelievers: Salvation is through Christ Jesus alone and apart from Him, there is none. The problem, is that as soon as anyone, say Joe Scarborough, gives credence to this radical thought, he loses any audience he might have if he condemns it. If more people actually read the Scripture, they would see that the message of Jesus is, after all, terribly, terribly offensive, exclusive, and demanding.

    Thank you for your timely, biblical point of view.

    jerry

  11. If Christians are perfected by belief in Jesus you could have fooled me. The text of Gospels is like blank paper to Jews. We don’t recognize Jesus as having any authority. Our Jewish Bible came directly from G-d and that is who we follow. No some strage man-god intermediary.

    IMHO Christianity is a cult like organization. Sure Christianity has many followers, but that is mainly due to politics and forced conversions. Not true faith. If you want faith, check out Judaism. It has survived for thousands of years, even though it has often been the target of destruction from political entities as well as other religions.

    Jews have no need for Jesus, sorry!

  12. I find starting a discussion of Biblical exegesis based on something Ann Coulter said somewhat disturbing. Be that as it may, I think that it is worth noting that your references are primarily from the Gospel of John, which seems to be the odd one out on this point among the NT documents. Presumably in response to the “delay of the Parousia”, the Fourth Gospel moves in the direction of “realized eschatology”, and brings into the present the anticipated future judgment, making the whole thing revolve around one’s response to the Son.

    In Romans 2:6-10, on the other hand, Paul states very clearly the principle that God will render to each one according to what he has done, a principle also found in the Gospel of Matthew (for instance in the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of the sheep and the goats) and in Revelation 20:12.

    Scarborough’s claim that the idea is NOWHERE in the New Testament was thus wrong. But Coulter’s approach is also problematic – choosing one particular view expressed in the New Testament and then reading everything else through that lens and forcing everything else to fit that mold.

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