I was born in the Washington, D.C., area into a middle-class Jewish family. We were not Orthodox, but we did follow the rhythms of Jewish life. On Friday nights, we went to synagogue for the Shabbat evening service and on Saturdays, we attended Shabbat morning services. We attended all of the holy days, and in our home, we maintained kosher laws by not eating pork or shellfish. Our county had a large Jewish population, so we were not seen as out of the ordinary, and I had virtually no contact with “Christians” or “Christianity” except for some friends in school. We were just friends, without any religious dimension.
College was much the same except that I had walked away from Jewish practice. I had found it hollow and lacking. My hippie lifestyle took over and I had no time for much else. Again, there was no real contact with anything that could be called religious.
It wasn’t until after I was married and had two children that a believer I knew through my work invited me to visit his church to hear a Jewish man speak about Jesus and the Passover. To this day I don’t know why I said yes, but off I went with my wife and two kids to his church. To say that my Jewish jaw hit the floor is an understatement! I did not want to believe what I heard. Jesus…Jewish…Passover…Last Supper? Are you kidding me? Yet, I went up to the man who gave the presentation and said that I would like to meet with him to ask him some questions.
Let me be perfectly clear: My intention was to prove him wrong and defend my so-called Jewishness. Yet every question that I asked him throughout the following eight weeks was answered from the Old Testament. As I think back, if he had quoted the New Testament, the questioning and the meetings would have stopped right there. You see, to me, the New Testament was a book for the Gentiles, not for the Jews. It was an antisemitic book, according to all that I knew. And I wanted nothing to do with it.
But I became curious. If the Old Testament spoke of the necessary death of a Messiah, and a virgin birth, and of sin that required sacrifice, then maybe the New Testament had something to say. And so, one night I just picked up the Bible and started reading from the book of Matthew. I read Matthew, then Mark, then Luke, and then John.
I remember my wife asking me this question when I was about halfway through John: “Well? What do you think?” I answered, “It’s very interesting, but he is just saying what the first three guys said.” My understanding was that of a child, but this much I began to realize—this New Testament is a Jewish book. It constantly refers back to the Old Testament and it is definitely not antisemitic.
I have now come to see the Scriptures as one book, from Genesis to Revelation. I don’t see New or Old, just God’s word and truth. And for this, I am eternally grateful.