Questions on Christianity
Reader: I read with interest your recent articles on Christianity and Judaism. I have two questions:
1) Is Christianity OK for Gentiles? I believe Maimonides said that Christianity was all right for Gentiles since Christianity taught there was one God, and thus an improvement over polytheism, though he also said Christianity's understanding of His nature was flawed in that it believed He is a trinity. Is this the correct understanding of Maimonides' position?
Mesora: Let us read Maimonides’ words:
Laws of Kings, Laws 11:10-12 (Capach Edition):
“ …Can there be a greater stumbling block than this (Christianity)? That all the prophets spoke that the Messiah will redeem Israel and save them, and gather their dispersed and strengthen their Mitzvot, and this (one, i.e., Jesus) caused the Jews to be destroyed by the sword, and scattered their remnants and humbled them, and exchanged the Torah, and caused the majority of the world to err to serve a god other than the Lord.  Nevertheless, the thoughts of the Creator of the world are not within the power of man to reach them, ‘for our ways are not His ways, nor are our thoughts His thoughts.’ And all these matters of Jesus of Nazareth and that of the Ishmaelite who arose after him are only to straighten the way of the king Messiah and to fix the entire world, to serve God as one, as it is stated (Zephaniah 3:9), "For then I will turn to the peoples (into) clear speech, to all call in the name of G-d and serve Him unanimously.  How (will this come about)? The entire world has already become filled with the mention of the Messiah, with words of Torah and words of mitzvos and these matters have spread to the furthermost isles, to many nations of uncircumcised hearts, and they discuss these matters and the mitzvot of the Torah. Some say: "These mitzvoth are true, but were already nullified in the present age and are not applicable for all time." Others say: "Hidden matters are in them (mitzvos) and they are not to be taken literally, and the messiah has already come and revealed their hidden (meanings). And when the true Messiah stands, and he is successful and is raised and exalted, immediately they all will retract and will know that fallacy they inherited from their fathers, and that their prophets and fathers caused them to err.”
We cannot suggest that G-d desired Christianity to arise. G-d desires no other religion than Judaism. G-d knew the future, and foresaw all future religions, that would arise. Nonetheless, He publicly instructed man in only one religion – Judaism.
Maimonides does not indicate that G-d desired Christianity's existence. This is clearly in direct opposition to G-d's Torah. All Maimonides says is that G-d's plan will not be altered by the rise of other religions. The fact that Christianity spread the Mitzvos, is not equivalent to saying G-d desires Christianity from the outset. The spread of Christianity may have brought about awareness, but a false one at that, and one that all nations will ultimately see as false, as the quote says, “…immediately they all will retract and will know that fallacy they inherited from their fathers, and that their prophets and fathers caused them to err.” Look at Maimonides’ opening words: “…Can there be a greater stumbling block than this (Christianity)? Also, “and this (one, i.e., Jesus) caused the Jews to be destroyed by the sword, and scattered their remnants and humbled them, and exchanged the Torah, and caused the majority of the world to err to serve a god other than the Lord.” Christianity is pure evil.
Reader: Question number 2… If Christianity is not OK for Gentiles, what is their alternative? Should they convert to Judaism? If so, then why don't Jews proselytize? If Gentiles shouldn't convert, then what else can they do? Just following seven laws can't satisfy spiritual need. How should they worship God? What should they study? Thank you for your reply.
Mesora: Gentiles must study and observe their seven Noachide laws, as G-d demands. And the study required to master these seven laws will takes years, and certainly will satisfy one’s “spiritual needs” as you put it. The seven Noachide laws must be understood as the ‘minimum a Gentile must keep, in order to remain alive’. This is why death is the punishment for the violation of any of the Noachide laws.
We do not attempt to convert Gentiles to Judaism. If a Gentile wishes to benefit from our additional laws, then he must do so out of his own recognition, if he is in fact to merit from such a decision. How can a Jew’s oppressive conversion of a Gentile benefit the Gentile? Missionary work makes no sense. Love of the Judaic system must be internally generated, not external. Otherwise, it is not a true love.