Eugene Volokh has posted a letter from a Rabbi about whether or not the term "Jews for Jesus" is an oxymoron. I'm qoing to quote one paragraph here that I want to talk about:
Be peeved no longer. You are right about the view of traditional Judaism that there is no opt-out clause. Once a Member of the Tribe, always a MOT. Your friends, however, who call Jews for [Jesus] an oxymoron are also correct. The key to harmonizing these positions is in a phrase you employed in describing their position: "one can't ... theologically be a Jew and a Christian at the same time." This is arguably the case. Theologically, ideologically, experientially, one cannot practice "Judaism" in any mainstream form and Christianity at the same time. The term "Jews for Jesus" simply does not, in the popular mind, mean people of Jewish background who have embraced Chrisitianity. It does mean people who claim that their Jewish lives are enhanced by accepting Jesus as the traditional Jewish savior. They see Christianity as enhancing and fulfilling Judaism, rather than negating it. That makes as much sense as awarding a mink coat as a door prize at a PETA convention.
Eugene later asks:
I appreciate the Rabbi's arguments, and they may well be properly persuasive to many devout Jews. But I wonder just how one figures out that it makes no sense for people to "claim that their Jewish lives are enhanced by accepting Jesus as the traditional Jewish savior."
It is this question that I would like to address. I believe that what we have here is a disagreement about facts.
Here's what I mean by this: one of the key points of Judaism is that there is a Messiah coming. Hebrew scriptures contain prophecies about this in many places. (For instance, Moses spoke of the coming of another prophet like him.) Orthodox Jews and "Messianic" Jews both agree about the importance of the Messiah. (At least in general terms.) They disagree, however, about the identity of the Messiah. "Messianic" Jews believe that Jesus is the Messiah; Orthodox Jews clearly do not.
This difference is the crux of their disagreement. It is also central to the matter of whether someone can believe that "Jewish lives are accepted by accepting Jesus as the traditional Jewish savior," as well as whether they believe the term, "Jews for Jesus," is oxymoronic. If Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, then it makes perfect sense that believing such is the logical, and meaningful, extension of Judaism and Jewish lives. If he is not, in fact, the Messiah, then those who believe that will naturally view belief in him as opposed to the Jewish faith and the term, "Jews for Jesus," to be an oxymoron.
In short, where you come down on this issue is entirely dependent on whether you believe Jesus to be the Messiah. Orthodox and Messianic Jews cannot, logically, resolve this issue as long as they disagree about the identity of the Messiah because the resolution of the issue Eugene raises is entirely dependent on their primary source of disagreement.