To the Jew First (audio)

A frequent reader and commenter to this blog, Lou Vasquez, pointed me to one of the best teachings I've heard in a long time, which I've posted below. The teaching covers humanism, secularism, Judaism and the revolutionary thing that is the Good News, the gospel.

In particular, it asks, why is it that Scripture -- even the gentile's favorite New Testament author, Paul -- commands us to spread the Good News of Messiah to the Jew first, then the gentile? Why is that? Why would God prefer one race over another? Isn't that racist?

The answer is in this teaching by a Jewish man, a former Maxist and atheist, turned believer in Christ named Art Katz. This man of God, I've just recently learned, passed away only 5 months ago, on June 28th, 2007. His teachings live on...

Please give it a listen. It is simply one of the most direct, confrontational teachings I've heard in some time. You can even hear his gentile audience squirming at the non-politically-correct, bold assertions he makes. Please, please give it a listen.

"To the Jew first" is a statement that makes many gentile Christians uncomfortable; here we are with 1/3 of the whole world having received Messiah and the God of Israel, but the only things Israel and the Jews have received is hatred, persecution, anti-semitic pogroms, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust, mostly at the hands of supposed Christians! To say we have failed the "Jew first" commandment would be an understatement.

Some choice quotes on Judaism and Jewish life, giving a background to why the gospel is "to the Jew first":

"You would do well to avoid Jews. Not only do they have an historical case against you, they happen also to be bright, and intellectual, and formidable. And if ever you want to feel the full extent of your inadequacy, try confronting one. It's one thing to bring the gospel to some slob and drunk gentile in the gutter, who went to Sunday school as a kid and knows that he should be saved, but it's another thing to knock on the door of an erstwhile Jew who has 2 or 3 university degrees and is an impeccable man, morally and ethically, as many if not most Jews are, who has never so much raised his voice once to his wife -- to tell that man he's as lost as that drunkard slob without your Christ, in whose name he has been persecuted for 2000 years. Got the picture?

Judaism is not just another world religion. It's the embodiment of a wisdom. It's predicated on humanistic principles. It makes certain assumptions about man and his intrinsic virtue. It believes that man is innately good. It does not subscribe to the Scripture or doctrine that says, "There is no man good, not one." It rests on the premise of human virtue and good works, under righteousness of man, rather than the righteousness of God.

And what we need to understand also is, what we call Judaism today is not a Biblical faith so much as it is a rabbinical faith. With the destruction of the Temple, when there is no possibility again of continuing in a Biblical Judaism with a priest-oriented worship, some kind of substitute had to be found, so that the Jewish community could have a coherence and a continuation. And that was provided by the same class that saw to Jesus' execution. It became a rabbinical class. The Judaism that is practiced today has its origin with them. It is more Talmudic than it is Biblical.

But underlying all of that -- even with the references to Scripture -- is a philosophical premise as an understanding about man that elevates man in his own righteousness and sees him as perfectible. We Jews are the ultimate humanists of the world, even when we are religious. We are the ultimate secularists, even when we are religious.

As for example, when I was invited as a missionary to the Jews to come to a Jewish classroom in New York City, who wanted to hear about this Jews for Jesus phenomenon, I got into a confrontation with the Jewish teacher. Van Dyke beard and yarmulke -- kippa, the head covering -- and deeply Orthodox and religious. We went out into the hall when the period ended, and as we were having our discussion, I all of a sudden squinted my eyes and said, "Excuse me a minute," I said, "do you believe that God parted the Red Sea and made it as a dry ground that we should go over in safety and closed up the seas and engulfed the pursuing Egyptians?" He hesitated and choked and spluttered, and finally he said, "It was a confluence of tides." He began to give me a rational explanation, a natural explanation for a supernatural event.

And then I asked, "What about the birth of Isaac? If you can't believe for the birth of Jesus, how about the birth of Isaac?" And again he gave me a rational and natural explanation. So what the Lord was showing me, and I think that it is basically true, is there's a deep-seeded, rational and natural component of Jewish life and thought, which is really an expression of a world itself which is at enmity with God, and that has an abhorrence for supernatural explanation, even while it speaks about God and is fastidious in its religious observance about what to eat, and how to eat, and other kinds of ritual things that are performed.

It brings me to another point: if we are ruled by the things that are visible, rather than the things that are of God, we are likely to find ourselves applauding such a people who have an ethical quality of life, an impressive religious quality of life, that is historically impressive, that has a liturgy that leaves us in the shade, and by every natural appearance, seems to support what they say! That they are moral, ethical, and righteous, whereas we're the ones who are coming apart at the seams. We're the ones that are struggling to keep our spiritual heads above water and have our marriages somehow to be coherent, and are struggling against sin and against temptation, and they seem to be walking through the world whistling Dixie."

As a Jew myself, I relate deeply to that last sentiment. I have found myself applauding and am often drawn towards the beautiful Jewish lifestyle, even with its faults, as I find it more Scriptural that the way most Christians are living! (gulp, I'm gonna get hell for that one in the comments!) Yes, Jews don't get it all right, as Katz mentions, but they often live much better than many Christians do, as far as religion and moral teaching goes. Katz summed it up nicely: here Christian evangelicals have one of the highest divorce rates in the United States, yet this lowly, erstwhile Jew has not once raised his voice at his wife.

Indeed, the anti-Torah lifestyle of most of backwards, idolatrous western Christianity only pushes me in that direction -- more Jewishness, less Christianity! I am constantly pulled towards Judaism merely by appearance and pushed -- by Christians! -- away from Christianity. (In fact, I was recently told by a Christian man that I am not a Christian because I throw out church tradition and instead opt to celebrate the Feasts of the Lord.)

Wisdom has taught me that all have sinned and all are dirty inside, no matter how clean one looks from appearance alone. That applies to all religious people, no matter how pious, no matter how devout, all sin. So do the most Orthodox Jews, no matter how strictly they outwardly observe Torah. This wisdom has kept me from abandoning all ties to gentile Christianity.

Like the Pharisees, I suspect many Jews aren't clean inside as they are on the outside; all the wonderful moral practices and regulations and commandment-keeping does nothing for you if you aren't alive with the Spirit of God, really living for God on the inside as much as the outside.

I also recognize that loving God and loving others trumps all. This is something straight from the mouths of both Moses and the Messiah, something Jews and Christians can agree on. The beautiful Jewish lifestyle currently misses Messiah, and even though I have contempt for the idolatry in Christianity, and though I cringe at the sight of Constantine's anti-Jewish, anti-Torah version of Christianity being preached today, I trust that God doesn't want hatred towards those practicing and preaching the faults of gentile Christianity. The Lord is so good, he doesn't let his anger rage against us when we fail, but instead corrects us out of love and brings us back to him. The least I can do is imitate that kind of love.

And it's us Jews that need this love and need to hear about Messiah, not about your misguided gentile church traditions, or how I need to become a Baptist, or Lutheran, or Catholic, in order to truly know my own God, the God of Israel.

To the Jew first, and to us with the Good News of the revolutionary Jewish Messiah, not the Lukewarm News of Gentile Christianity.

To the Jew first, because we are the tough guy that spits out what pagans so readily accept.

To the Jew first, because God chose us and revealed himself to us while gentiles were still worshipping hand-crafted idols.

To the Jew first, because we've held fast to God's commandments for 4000 years, while the gentile world traded that in for man's traditions, despite immense pressure and persecution to do otherwise, often by men in the name of Christ.

To the Jew first, because we are the litmus test for the gospel.

If you want to hear more of Art, please see his podcast teachings on SermonIndex. Also see


  1. Judah H: "As a Jew myself, I relate deeply to that last sentiment. I am often drawn towards the beautiful Jewish lifestyle, even with its faults, as I find it more Scriptural that the way most Christians are living! (gulp, I'm gonna get hell for that one in the comments!)"

    I'd say you haven't *read* even the portion of the transcript (*) you've quoted.

    For instance: "It [Judaism] does not subscribe to the Scripture or doctrine that says, "There is no man good, not one." It rests on the premise of human virtue and good works, under righteousness of man, rather than the righteousness of God."

    For instance: "But underlying all of that -- even with the references to Scripture -- is a philosophical premise as an understanding about man that elevates man in his own righteousness and sees him as perfectible."

    (*) And, if there is a transcript, do you have a link to it? I prefer to read, rather than listen to an audio; it takes up less of my time, and gives me the ability to linger/contemplate as necessary if I don't understand some point.

  2. Hi Ilion,

    There is no transcript, I wrote portion down as he was speaking. Please, please give it a listen. You will understand it in context and better understand where I'm coming from if you give it a listen.


    p.s. I responded to your comments in "The Lord is So Good" post.

    Take care.

  3. Oh, I want to give it a listen, and I intend to. I did listen to the first few minutes; the man sounds like the sort of speaker -- and thinker -- I enjoy listening to. But it's a time thing.

    Judah, I sometimes fear you are close to turning into this fellow.

    Now, he happens to be a Gentile convert to Orthodox Judaism (apparently from an irreligious upbringing); but that's not what I'm getting at. As one reads more and more of his blog-entries, one begins to suspect that his Judaism is mostly "not-Christianity" (one also sees that he's not nearly so logical and rational as he imagines, but that's a different matter).

    ps. I saw. I'll try to get to that sometime soon.

    pps. Speaking of "time things:" for whatever reason, it takes me several tries to post any comment to your blog. Aaarrggh!

  4. Ilion,

    Thanks for replying.

    Glad to hear you'll listen to the teaching at some point, please let me know what you think. From his teachings, it seems he was an intelligent man who knew how to articulate what God revealed to him. His wisdom really comes through in his teachings.

    Regarding the Jewish philosopher guy, I appreciate your concern for me, you are not the first Christian to have such concern.

    My response is, I am not a Christian. I don't like the religion that is Christianity, not what it is today, not what it has been for the last 1700 years or so. I don't like associating with Christian things; I think it's basically true that the religion has so far strayed from what Messiah and the apostles had, I don't think the church would be recognizable to them.

    If you want to know why, I'd gladly elaborate and we can talk about why that is.

    Ilion, what exactly are you concerned about? Can you elaborate? On this side of the fence, it seems you're concerned about losing a convert to your religion, more than you're concerned about my spiritual well-being. What are you concerned about? Please elaborate.

    One thing I need to make clear is that my faith in and love of Messiah is stronger than has ever been in my life. I have fellowship with like-minded folks and still maintain love and tolerance for Christians like yourself. It's the love and tolerance for Christians that I sometimes find difficult, especially when those people accuse me of denying Christ, betraying the church, being ignorant, or being out of grace because I keep God's commandments. It's mind-bending that we can believe essentially the same thing and have such different takes on it.


    p.s. I don't know why blogger comments aren't working quite right. They seem to work fine here. Anyone else having a problem?