Does Jesus being Jewish suggest Judaism is the correct religion and the one to which people should convert?
Conversion to Judaism was the intention of Jesus
It is difficult to affirm a concrete dogma considering all the New Testament data that may lead people to think contrary to conversion to Judaism. Nonetheless, based on the evidence I've uncovered thus far, I believe that conversion to Judaism was the intention of Jesus and His followers. Remembering that the New Testament scriptures are enveloped in first century culture, we can uncover how the first believers understood the words of Jesus by applying historical evidence.
First, the religion of Jesus and His followers was Judaism. Jesus clearly frequented the synagogue (as did Paul and the other disciples) and the festivals of the Jews - a clear sign of His religion.
Second, contrary to popular belief, the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees was not thoroughly turbulent. There is much scholarly work to support that it was more of an intra-Jewish conflict. In fact Jesus endorses the Pharisees in Matthew Chapter 23. Close examination of the passage reveals that Jesus had a problem with Pharisees that did not practice what they preached, yet He did not totally disagree with their doctrine.
Now you may be thinking that that is a stretch, but look at the internal evidence. It is often understood among modern Christendom that the Apostolic Decree at the "Jerusalem Counsel" (Acts 15) instructed Gentiles to only keep the Noahide laws (Gen 9). However, most modern scholars have abandoned this view, and theorize that the minimal requirements for the Gentiles were probably based on Levitical laws (Lev 17 - 18) rather than Noahide. In my opinion, New Testament internal evidence supports this view. Whenever Paul argues his "faith based doctrine,"(Gal 3:6-11) he points to Abraham - not Noah. The same can be said about James. When James said that "faith without works is dead," (James 2:14-26) he also formulates his argument based on the patriarch. The big question is - Why? Why Abraham and not Noah? In fact Noah is never even mentioned in any argument relating to "Gentile Christians." I believe that Abraham was the example because he was the first Gentile to convert to Judaism.
If we re-examine the Jerusalem counsel (Acts 15) it becomes evident that the question that is being addressed was - how to convert Gentiles to Judaism? The Pharisees, that believed, adamantly declare that they be circumcised - Just as Abraham. The Council, the Pharisees and Paul, all agree that Abraham was the first convert for obvious reasons - he is the proselyte model that is advanced by the Torah. However, there remains the question of when the Torah declares the defining moment that Abraham became a Jew. Was it when Abraham believed and G-d accounted it as righteousness? Was it when he and his children were circumcised? Or was it when he left Ur of the Chaldees? This is the gray-area that the Council was dealing with.
The Jerusalem Council, as it appears by their final judgment, determined that Abraham became a Jew when he faithfully believed in the almighty G-d and, separated himself from Idolatry (Abraham's father Terah was pagan Josh. 24:2). For this reason they declared that Gentiles (that are turning to G-d - Acts:15:19) should abstain from anything that would associate them with idolatry - sexual immorality, things strangled, and blood - Just as Abraham. Later, after instruction from the Torah (Acts 15:21), they are to be baptized - something that is not specifically mentioned at the council. Now this begs the question. What purpose does baptism serve? Also, for those that might argue that circumcision is an outward ritual, consider that this is also true of baptism. It is my opinion, that baptism is used by the followers of Jesus for proselyte conversion into Judaism, and I believe that the New Testament Scriptures support this view. One needs to look no further than Paul, who echos the rabbinic language that encompases proselyte conversion. It is Gentiles, per the sages, that are considered to have died when they went into the mikvah - immersion pool and emerged a born again Jew. In this context, consider the words of Paul:
"Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
Further evidence of this is found in Corinthians 5 when Paul, writing to a Gentile Church, appears to consider them as full fledged Jews by his statement: "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles--that a man has his father's wife!" In this context Paul's letter becomes intelligible - proselytes should not behave as (pagan) gentiles, rather they should reflect the ethics of a gentile proselyte (born again Jew).
Jesus commanded to go to all nations
Even though pre-resurrection, Jesus commanded the disciples not to go to the Gentiles, His post-resurrection stance was different. He commanded them to go to all nations: Mat 28:19 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Baptism was and is known to be a part of Gentile conversion to Judaism. Therefore Jewish: Yes. Conversion to Judaism: Very probable
Jesus was Jewish and he did effectively 'leave' Judaism for his belief that he was the son of G-D. However he never proclaimed any other religion other than Judaism and still practiced Pesach (passover) and the 'last supper' was Pesach anyway. Christianity was formed by Jesus's followers. They were 'the followers of Christ'. But they didn't convert to Christianity, they still practiced Judaism, they simply formed 'a group' praising and believing in Christ. Eventually, people started to turn 'followers of Christ group' into a religion, leaving Judaism behind and replacing the ONE G-D belief with Jesus being the son of G-D. This is why Judaism's belief's are similar in ways with Christianity. However, Christian's should not convert to Judaism. Jews believe that Judaism is the right faith (naturally) but you should only ever convert if you stop believing in your own faith and start to believe in Judaism. The major thing that sets Jews and Christians apart is the beliefs about Jesus. If you believe Jesus is the son of G-D then you belong to Christianity. If you don't, then maybe you should convert. To summarize: Jesus was Jewish, but Jews do not pray to him, so if you converted, you would no longer be practicing and praying to Jesus so would be unhappy in Judaism.
Christians believe God the Father sent His only Son Jesus Christ who is the true Messiah to this world to accomplish His promise of love. The death of Jesus Christ was planned by GOD, hundreds of years before Jesus Christ was born to this world. He died to pay for all of our sins (we are all sinners) and he arose to give us Eternal life. Read John 1:1, John 3:16,17... Jesus Christ died for us, He paid for the penalty of our sins, He went to hell for us, so we don't have to go to hell. Why? because he is the only one that defeated death, He arose after the third day to give us eternity. We don't deserve salvation, but God with His amazing love gave us grace, the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ is among us in His Holy Spirit.
Jesus and Judaism
Jesus was Jewish, yes, and sought to reform some aspects of Judaism. However, while he never intended to leave the religion, he effectively did, because if he did indeed claim to be 'god', then this is a big violation of sacred Jewish belief. In Judaism no mortal can ever be divine. And G-d never takes human form.
Judaism itself does not claim to be the 'only' correct faith. Rather, it teaches that ALL humans are equally G-d's children. We are all equally capable of a meaningful relationship with G-d. And the righteous of all nations 'will have a share in the world to come'. Judaism is just ONE path to G-d. It is not 'the' path.
So no, just because Jesus was born into a Jewish family, nobody needs to convert to Judaism. Although some people do, of course - just as some Jews convert to other faiths.
The early followers of Jesus were Jewish but again, the moment they accepted that Jesus was 'god incarnate' and 'messiah' and that he'd been 'resurrected', they were effectively *leaving* Judaism and becoming part of the new emerging faith that ultimately became Christianity.
Judaism and Christianity are profoundly different faiths. If you believe in one then by default, you reject the other. Nobody can agree with both of them - because they disagree entirely on almost everything!
The greater part of Christian history has been eclipsed by a gentile presence. This has contributed to the unfortunate representation of who Jesus was and what he promoted. Some of what I'm about to say may be offensive to some, however, that is only because they have not looked at the scriptures with an open mind. Most people approach the New Testament with an agenda - "a religious ax to grind."
If the New Testament is examined through the lens of a first-century Jew, the internal evidence unquestionably promotes a Pharisaic Judaism. It has been estimated that over ninety-percent of the doctrines promoted by Jesus have parallels in the Talmud - the heir of Pharisaic Judaism. Also, when compared to other Jewish sects mentioned in the New Testament, it is the Pharisaic sect that more aligns with the practice and example of Jesus. His formulation of arguments, quarrels with the Sadducees, belief in angels, reverence and interpretation of Torah are all Pharisaic in nature. One may argue that Jesus, on more than one occasion, rebuked Pharisees for their hypocrisy, but that approach is prejudiced and resolves nothing.
Consider that, of all the Jewish sects in the first century, he only endorsed the Pharisees (Matt 23:2-3). This alone speaks volumes. Also, of all of the Jewish sects, it is overwhelmingly Pharisees that become followers of Jesus. The Jerusalem council is attended by "Pharisees that believed." (Acts 15) Paul and Nicodemus where both Pharisees, and in the gospel of Luke, (Luke 13:31) the Pharisees caution Jesus of Herod's plot to assassinate him. These are just a few examples where Pharisees are presented in a favorable light.
It is clear to me that Jesus promoted Judaism with a Pharisaic patronization. It is for this reason that the Pharisees where so attracted to his movement. Jesus was Jewish, and presumably, a Pharisee. He promoted a Pharisaic Judaism and commanded his disciples to convert gentiles to Judaism.
- The question gives the impression that if Jesus being Jesus; which is a fact; then it would not be logic to claim that Jesus is God or son of God.
- All God prophets since Adam through Noah, ..., Abraham, ..., Moses, ..., Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all) called for full submission to God (that means in Arabic Islam) as the one and only one God with no partner, no companion, no associate, and no equivalence. Islam per Torah revelation by God to Moses is called Judaism. Islam per revelation of the Bible by God to Jesus is called Christianity, and Islam per Qur'an revelation by God to Muhammad is called the very name Islam as it is the last God religion.