Jewish Ideas Daily has been succeeded and re-launched as Mosaic. Read more...

Christianity: Good for the Jews?

Examining the state of contemporary Christendom in an article first published January 5, 2012, Elliot Jager asks whether Jews have an interest in seeing Christianity thrive—and answers yes.—The Editors


On a sun-drenched day during the week before Christmas, Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre was crowded with pilgrims from Nigeria.  They were taking turns kneeling and praying at a marker on the spot where, sacred history has it, Jesus was crucified, entombed, and resurrected.  (Other Christians consider the holy place to be the nearby Garden Tomb.)  Back in Nigeria on Christmas Day, a wave of murderous bombings by Muslim extremists hit several churches.  Plainly, the Christian faith is at once thriving and struggling.  Global Christianity, a new report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, describes and measures both phenomena.

Jews have more than a passing interest in the state of Christianity, not only because of Christianity's origins in Judaism and fraught relationship with Jews but also because nowadays, many believing Christians consider themselves friends of the Jewish people and Israel.  Consider, for instance, the fact that growing numbers of Hispanic-Americans are embracing an Israel-friendly evangelical Christianity.  Note the fact that Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hopes to visit several African countries with substantial Christian populations in the coming months.

Given the trends in Muslim civilization, it matters to Jews that there are more Christians than Muslims in the world and that Christians make up about the same portion of the global population today—32 percent—as they did a century ago.  With almost 80 percent of the U.S. population of Christian heritage, the Americas are today the world's largest bastion of Christianity.  Post-modern Europe comes in only second.  It no longer has the most Catholics or Protestants, though it remains home to most of the world's Orthodox Christians, thanks to believers in Russia, Ukraine, Greece, and Romania.  The report does not explore the continent's declining commitment to its religious heritage, which is marked enough so that Prime Minister David Cameron recently exhorted Britons not to be afraid to assert their country's Christianity.

Around the world, half of all Christians are Catholic; Protestants make up 37 percent, Orthodox Christians 12 percent. Catholics are most strongly represented in Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, the United States (where about one in four is Catholic), and Italy.  The United States is home to the largest number of the world's Protestants, followed by Nigeria and—somewhat surprisingly—China.  Germany is evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics—who, together, total only around 70 percent of the population (five percent are Muslim).  The percentage of Protestants is greater in the Congo—over 95 percent—than in the place where Luther launched the Reformation in the 16th century.  Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa is generally robust.  In Nigeria, Africa's largest country, Pew figures the Christian population at 50 percent.

The picture is quite different in the Middle East, where Christianity was born but which is now home to less than one percent of Christian believers.  Just four percent of today's Middle Easterners are Christian, mostly Catholic or Orthodox.  The country with the largest proportion of Christians—38 percent—is Hizballah-dominated Lebanon.  In raw numbers, however, the largest body of Christians in the Mideast, about a third of them, consists of Coptic Christians living in Egypt.  Though the CIA World Factbook places their percentage of Egypt's population at nine percent, Pew says the figure is only about half of that—and shrinking.  The reason may not be hard to deduce: Egypt's Sunni Muslim majority has not been particularly tolerant of Christianity.  With Hosni Mubarak's fall and the rise of Islamist parties, the prospects for Christianity in Egypt hardly leave room for optimism.

Intriguingly, the Pew study counts substantial numbers of Christians in Saudi Arabia: 1,200,000, or 4.4 percent of the population.  Left unsaid, however, is that these are mostly not Arabs but Filipino and Indian expatriates who, because of state-sanctioned intolerance, may not be practicing their faith openly.  The United Nations does not seem overly concerned about this type of bigotry.

Pew reports that 100,000 Christians, almost all Arabs, live in the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority.  Those who speak for them, such as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, tend to be PLO marionettes.  At this time of year, for instance, the Sunni-dominated PLO cynically promulgates the fairy tale that Jesus was a "Palestinian" and Christmas is a Palestinian holiday, while over in Hamas-run Gaza several thousand Christians live under siege.  Meanwhile, Israeli authorities granted West Bank and Gaza Christians passage into Israel to visit family for the holidays and issued 400 separate permits allowing them travel abroad from Ben-Gurion Airport.

As for Christians in Israel proper, Pew places their numbers at 150,000, up from 34,000 when the state was founded but down by 10,000 from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics figure in 2008.  Eighty percent are Arabs, the remainder immigrants from the former Soviet Union.  Israeli Christians, naturally, enjoy full freedom of worship.  (By tradition, the Jerusalem municipality distributes free Christmas trees to all comers.)  Pew's figures do not count Israel's thousands of foreign workers, such as Filipino and African caregivers or Romanian laborers, or foreign clerics assigned to the country.

Life is not always easy for Israel's Christian evangelicals, many of whom have been treated shabbily by officious bureaucrats at the Shas Party-controlled Ministry of Interior.  The ostensible justification is a (mostly) unfounded dread of missionary activity; actually, most Christian fundamentalists are in Israel on personal spiritual journeys or expressly to build support for the Jewish state in the larger Christian world.

Making strange bedfellows, many liberal and ultra-Orthodox Jews—insecure in their different ways—have demonstrated an unseemly intolerance toward fervently believing Christians.  Though Jews have been treated with contempt by the Christian world from time immemorial, it seems myopic and counterproductive to view 21st-century Christianity, with its 2.18 billion adherents, as if it were continuing, robot-like, in that benighted legacy.  In fact, as fate would have it, Christian and Jewish civilizations at the present time have every reason to seek possibilities for collaboration.  Strangely enough, what's "good for the Jews"—and the Jewish state—is to see Christianity thriving.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Amo Fuchs on May 24, 2013 at 9:53 am (Reply)
This is a typical American self-centered vista.
Catholic hristianism is still essential Vatican, and the Vatican is still fervently anti-Judaic (*). Mainly its representatives in the Holy Land (they avoid to name Israel) are very anti-Judaic see tgheir organization Kairos Palestina, then Pax Christi and else.

(*) strictly spoken, they are not anti-Semitic, this word was created to design a lay, non religious anti-Judaism.
James More, Author of Raise the Flag on May 24, 2013 at 9:56 am (Reply)
Seems easy enough to comprehend that Jesus is Jewish and so are Mary and Joseph. Jesus preaches from the Torah. He opens the Torah to many where some of the Jewish clergy practice exclusion he practices inclusion. So, Christians are adaptations to the Jewish religion, and Jesus is a Jewish rabbi, possibly a reform rabbi, and if not for his preaching spreading word of the Torah, making Christian adaptations to the Jewish religion, Roman idol worship suppresses and threatens to smother out the Jewish, and this battle continues most evident in the Inquisition and Holocaust eradication of the Jewish religion and a war against Gd, and I know in my own life this battle for who owns your soul continues with excommunication, condemnation, social economic suppression, and political persecution making confusion, good cop bad cop literally, protestant catholic baptist, that hurts my health by raising the psychological stress level because of my choosing a freedom of religion and learning about my Jewish heritage. "You must bow down and kiss the ring of our priest and accept our Roman religion, or don't you care that you will be tortured, tormented, and sent to hell?" I don't want anything to do with any religion that does that to anyone. So, learning about reform Judaism and a wholeness of my being helps keep me healthy many ways.
    Eliyahu Konn on May 25, 2013 at 5:09 am (Reply)
    Let's see how violent the involuntary spasm this little history question/lesson will cause. How does a Middle Eastern Israeli Torah scholar (Jew) named Y'hoshua ben Yosef become a Roman-Hellenist poster boy for a strange religion......he didn't.

    There was a man in the 1st century and now there is a 19 century old lie that you all just love to repeat.

    How is any lie good for the Jews?
Ellen on May 24, 2013 at 10:16 am (Reply)
Thank you, Mr. Jager, for saying something that liberal Jews in particular do not want to hear, but unfortunately will be forced to hear by the current realities. Evangelical and other committed Christians today are the biggest pro-Israel lobby in America and in many parts of the developing world. The liberal Christians - or post-Christians would be more accurate - that liberal Jews tend to intermarry with are indifferent or actually hostile to the Jewish state. Why they have these unfortunate views is an interesting psychiatric question, but the fact remains that the only significant anti-Israel lobby group that exists in America today are the dying liberal churches. Good for the Jews that they, in fact, are dying, as is most of European Christianity, which is unreformable from the point of view of their anti-Semitism.

Israel should celebrate the fact that conservative and evangelical Christianity which is spreading across Africa and Latin America, and through the Hispanic population of America is very pro-Israel. They are the future of Christianity, not the European variety, which offers mostly hatred of Jews and Israel as is advertising focus. That wins points with British and Norwegian intellectuals, no doubt, but they are part of the sinking EU ship, and before too long won't be around to cause Israel many problems.
Mitch on May 24, 2013 at 11:08 am (Reply)
Of course it is Bible believing followers of Christ{Messiah} who strongly support Israel for they rfead and study the Tenach and B'rit Chaddashah all their lives.We know the story of the Exodus and of Baalam who was asked to curse the Israelites but was told by GOD to bless them.Also that God told Abraham Issac and Jacob that those who blessed them would be blessed and those who cursed them would be cursed.Having read and studied the entire Bible for all my life..I am convinced the entire book was written by Holy Spirit inspired people from Genesis to revelation..All Hebrews.Those of us who serve our Lord with all we know how and "study to show ourselves approved" support Israel and a few with enough funds visit,{as I have}The Lord was born of the tribe of Judah and the prophesies speak of Him all the way back to Moses.Also it includes Isaiah.It is not easy to support Israel with many in Israel hating us.We must love those in Isreal who hate us for the Gospel's sake for they are still beloved of our Abba father in Heaven.All authority in Heaven and earth has been given to the Lamb of GOD.Yeshua ha Messiach.Who will judge all the earth at the end of time.Looking forward to the remnant of Israel who will be with us and stopp associating us with the Devil's children who have so maligned them throughout history.Blessings be upon Jacob and his descendants of which I am "grafted into" by faith like Abraham ,the friend of GOD! Amen
    Eliyahu Konn on May 25, 2013 at 5:31 am (Reply)
    Perfection 101.
    Perfection never makes a mistake.
    The Creator is perfect.
    The Creator makes no mistakes.
    The Creator made the covenant at Har Sinai.
    The covenant is perfect.

    Only someone that doesn't comply with the covenant of Har Sinai will try to pimp another one.
chamim dovid rabinovitch on May 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm (Reply)
christianity is good for the jews when it leaves us alone and doesn't try to force itself on us

otherwise, it's usually pretty bad
Daniel Paul K on May 24, 2013 at 10:45 pm (Reply)
Christianity is certainly good for Jews. Christianity helped Jews to remain as Jews. Christianity provided the gentiles a religion having all the good qualities of Judaism. Christianity prevented gentiles from converting to Judaism and thus helped to maintain its purity. Christianity prevented Jews from assimilating with gentiles. Christianity spread Bible - the word of God - all over earth which the Jews couldn’t do.
Yochanan Hardisty on May 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm (Reply)
In the long run,the Conservative-Christian's goal is to convert our Jewish People to Christianity. They have used this tactic before saying they are our friends. Martin Luther tried it for awhile and when our people didn't convert during the Reformation. Martin called for the burning of the Jews and their Torah. So listen up Christians,we Jews NEVER Forget. The question remains,"What are our new found friends going to do? When they realize that we are not going to convert?". Let the history of the X'ers speak for itself.
Robert Donaldson on May 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm (Reply)
This is truely a wonderful analysis of the Yeshua believing community.
Whilst I see that there are many people listed as believing men and women thinly spread around this planet we must be very mindful of the words that truth gives us.
He Yeshua is truth and in Him is nothing false or sinful
I am not speaking of my self here but of what we who believe truth to be that many who claim to whilst preaching about Yeshua or as Jesus please I urge you to check to see you are in the faith for many of us have been taught error and are still being taught error. The scriptures clearly say that the road to salvation through Yeshua is narrow and the gate is small and FEW find it.
We are saved by grace not works as some teach.
The love of the Jewish people's comes upon us as a flood into our hearts. It is from heaven this comes through the Holy Spirit.
Oh brothers and sister please again I urge you check to see you are indeed in the faith.
Oh Father in heaven bless those who seek you in all earnestly.
We ask this in your Sons name that of Yeshua our Jesus Lord and Saviour
Ken Chapman on May 25, 2013 at 6:33 pm (Reply)
I strongly consider myself a Zionist Christian. I oppose Islam and all of its teachings. I support my Jewish "big brothers" with my heart and soul. I pray for their protection, for preservation of their noble history, for great success, and their passion for the Almighty G-d.
Daniel Paul K on May 26, 2013 at 9:45 am (Reply)
Yochanan Hardisty, You are right,Christian's goal is to convert Jewish People to Christianity.But it won't happen, because it is only their hearts desire, God is against it, God want to keep his chosen one as always Jews. If it was not his intention why should he search the lost sheep of the house of Israel? Parable of the lost sheep told by Jesus confirms this view.
Yochanan Hardisty on May 26, 2013 at 11:43 pm (Reply)
I see that there is a number of X'ers that like to read Jewish articles. And that is good. Remember,the light of Israel shall shine out to the world.
If we were to compare the relationships between X'ers, Muslims,and Jews, down through the centuries.History would show that we Jews were treated better by Muslims than X'ers.
Living on Kibbutz,as I did,I saw that we couldn't enter into our fields until Arab mine-sweepers from the near-by Muslim village had cleared the fields that we were going to work that day. Kibbutz Admit is within rifle shot of Leb.. Google it. Polls
show that most Pals and Israelis want peace between our two peoples. And yes we have hater minorities on both sides.
Daniel Paul K on May 28, 2013 at 12:59 am (Reply)
Yochanan Hardisty, hearing you are living on kibbutz I respect you.I would like to hear more about your Kibbutz life.would you please provide me your email address. Mine is [email protected].

Ltet me come to our subject:-according to your scripture nothing happens in the world without the knowledge or permission of God.Take the case of " Job ". Job was tested and tried by Satan but it was not without the sanction of God.It seems that Job represents every Jew , the other three characters Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar represents Christians, Muslims and others.At last Christians and Muslims will realize Israel's righteousness and Israel is blessed by God and will live peacefully. Christians and Muslims will realize that "Israel" the rejected stone will become the Corner Stone of future world.
conqueror in progress on May 28, 2013 at 6:35 pm (Reply)
The same "Christians" who persecuted Jews in the past persecuted Bible-believing Christians as "Heretics"... Writer of this good article should take that into account...
EBENEZER SAMUEL on May 30, 2013 at 12:05 am (Reply)
The total emancipation of the Jews and the peace they so craved for will be their portion when they receive the Messiah (The originator and sustainer of the Christian Faith) they unknowingly rejected. That is a promise by the Prophets to the children of Abraham through Sarah.
    Eliyahu Konn on May 30, 2013 at 4:12 am (Reply)
    The messiah is a concept developed by prophets mostly in the few centuries before the common era EXCLUSIVELY by those adhereing to the covenant of Har Sinai. That covenant is the polar opposite of "the Christian Faith."

    Why? Because the Torah distinctly says it is eternal and changes are forbidden. The man you claim is not connected to anything "Christian" because he kept Torah. Please refrain from your revisionist history of the 1st century.
DACON9 on May 31, 2013 at 12:51 pm (Reply)
Eliyahu Konn on June 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm (Reply)
You must provide credible historical references from the 1st century of his evil actions that were brought before a beit din and judged as evil. Hearsay even a generation after the persons death, spoken or written is not credible.

However, there is no negative command to speak well of a man and it is also required to clear a good name, especially in the Torah community, that has been libeled and slandered for centuries.

To remain neutral is forbidden, "You will not stand on the blood of your neighbor."

If embarrassing a man is likened to murder how worse is libeling a man that can no longer defend himself?

Remember that it only requires one credible witness to acquit a man even when two witnesses say he is guilty.

Comments are closed for this article.

Like us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Pin us on Pintrest!

Jewish Review of Books

Inheriting Abraham