by Michael Nissim
Dr. Daniel Juster does not believe one must believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.
In the chapter entitled "Salvation and Jews who do not know Yeshua" (from his book "Jewish Roots"), he makes, among others, the following arguments: . . .
1. Believing in Jesus is not the only way to be saved. Jews can get saved after Jesus, just as they got saved before Jesus- by responding in faith to the Abrahamic Covenant. They are responsible only for their response to the Old Testament, not the New Testament.
2. The verse "There is none other name" (Acts 4:12) speaks of salvation from foreign oppression, not of personal salvation.
3. Rabbinic Judaism is a legitimate religion, also based on salvation by grace through faith and not by works, and it may very well be that Paul actually drew his main doctrine from ancient traditions preserved in the Talmud!
4. The name of Jesus reveals a certain reality by which one can be saved.
Juster's essay is, in fact, a treatise of arguments against salvation by faith in Christ alone, with special attention given to Acts 4:12, "none other name". It is important to note, before reviewing Juster's essay, that the apostle, as he calls him, Asher Intrater, refers to Juster as one of the major groundbreaking theologians. (1)
Unless otherwise stated, all emphases in the following quotes are my own.
Juster's views on verses teaching salvation through Christ alone:
"Many hold that unless one consciously and explicitly makes a decision for Jesus, who is understood as the one who lived, died and rose again in the first century- there is no salvation. Although scripture is not teeming with verses to support this position, there are scriptures that seem to support this view."
After raising a question mark in this paragraph, which is one of the first in his essay, regarding the need to believe in Jesus in order to be saved, Juster begins by attacking three verses that "seem", as he says, to support this view. He focuses on three verses especially:
The latter verse is especially attacked, as we will now see.
Juster's views on "none other name":
First argument: This verse does not speak of the salvation of the individual, but rather of salvation from foreign oppression.
"We should point out that the text from Acts 12:4 is traditionally interpreted in a too individualistic way for salvation for the individual. In the first-century Jewish context, Simon (Peter) is announcing that the salvation Israel seeks, deliverance from foreign pagan domination, the hope of all the prophets, and one's personal participation in it will be found only in the name of Jesus."
"I should add that when Peter says there is no other name, and salvation is only found in Jesus, we tend to read into the text the evangelical preoccupation with what happens after we die or in the age to come. This is important, but Peter may well have been using the term as his contemporaries and thinking of the corporate salvation of Israel, deliverance from oppression and more. This will only take place when Israel embraces Jesus (see Rom. 11:15, 25-29)."
The contempt Juster has of the view, by which one must believe in Jesus in order to be saved, is apparent in the expression "the evangelical preoccupation" with salvation. The word "preoccupation" bears a negative connotation, of dwelling on a thing of lesser importance. He keeps at bay the idea of personal salvation by claiming it is about corporate salvation, specifically from the oppression of foreign domination, "and more". Elsewhere he reiterates this argument, saying: "In a day when our ancestors looked for deliverance from Roman oppression, Peter was able to say, 'There is salvation in no one else'".
Second argument: The name "Jesus" actually reveals a certain "reality". Instead of believing in the explicit name of Jesus, it is sufficient to believe in this "reality" or to implicitly respond to it.
"Jesus is the only name [emphasis in source] of the Reality by which all must be saved. Indeed, when the Gospel is heard and understood, there must be an explicit response to the Name. Otherwise, as with the pre-New Covenant saints, there must be an implicit response to the Reality that the Name reveals. In the Semitic understanding, "The Name" stood for the inner essence of the spoken-of Reality, God was simply called "The Name". Peter was not only calling for an explicit response to Jesus in Acts 4:12, but was teaching that all [emphasis in source] salvation has always been in Him."
Juster is saying, in other words, that the name Jesus represents a certain "concept". If the Gospel was not preached to you explicitly and you didn't understand nor embrace it, you could still get saved even without believing in the name Jesus, as long as you subscribe to the "concept" that the name represents, or even respond to this concept implicitly; this is because the name Jesus reveals "a reality by which all must be saved". Peter did call for an explicit response to the name of Jesus, according to Juster, but in context, this kind of response was meant to achieve salvation from Roman oppression, and not personal salvation.
The purpose of these words is to say one does not have to believe on the name of Jesus. It's as if Juster is saying there is no need to hold on to the name Jesus itself, rather you can grasp the "concept" the name represents without believing in the actual name.
In this context I will say that even when Juster sometimes makes statements that ring true to the Christian-evangelical ear, he doesn't always mean the same things we think he means. For instance, when he says in the passage above that "all salvation has always been in Him [Jesus]", or in another passage, that "all saved people- from Adam until the present- are saved only in Jesus", these are things we could say "Amen" to. However he doesn’t mean one must believe in Jesus, but that anyone who was saved to this day, even without believing in Jesus, was saved because of Him, whether he knew it or not. That is, even people who don't believe in Jesus can receive grace through His work, unconsciously.
This is part of the "unrecognized mediation" doctrine (or even "the unconscious Christian" doctrine) common in Jewish Messianic circles in the U.S in general, and in Juster's organization, the UMJC, in particular. On this background he keeps using expressions such as "deciding consciously and explicitly for Jesus" and "a conscious and explicit response"- because according to his view, you can believe in Jesus in an unconscious and implicit way.
An example of this is when Juster teaches that "responding in faith" to the Abrahamic covenant "connects you to Jesus":
"It is possible for a Jew to respond in faith to the Abrahamic Covenant and be connected to Jesus."
The same spirit is expressed in the words of others from Juster's organization, the UMJC:
"The day is going to come in the judgment when all these devout Jews are going to come before the Messiah, and when they approach Him, they're going to look at Him and say, 'Didn't I know you?' and He'll say, "Yeah, you did, you just didn't know my name."(2)
This is an example of how they see salvation by an unconscious and implicit faith.
Juster's views on "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life"
The argument: a state of lostness occurs only when a person clearly hears the Gospel and explicitly rejects Jesus. A person that has yet to receive Jesus explicitly is not necessarily considered lost.
"What of the exclusionary verses that were quoted? First, let us note that one can't reject something he or she has not been clearly offered. John 3:36 says the wrath of God abides on the one who rejects [emphasis in source] the Son."
This means, according to Juster, that it is not an explicit faith alone in Jesus saves you, but an explicit rejection alone of Jesus might preclude salvation, provided that Jesus was clearly offered to you. Elsewhere he sharpens and strengthens his claim:
"However, at no time can we biblically draw a line and say, "From this time forward, if a Jew hasn't accepted Jesus, he is lost". The time when people and individuals are responsible is when revelation is given, and this time is different for everyone. It is only when the Spirit-revealer is spurned that "lostness" ensues".
We should take notice of what is going on here. According to evangelical understanding, people are in a lost state, unless they believed in Jesus consciously and explicitly in order to get saved. They don't have to do anything in order to get to a lost state because they are already in it. For this reason the Gospel is needed. But Juster claims the complete opposite: when he says "only when the Spirit-revealer is spurned", he means that lostness only begins in those extreme instances, when the Holy Spirit Himself gives someone a clear revelation of Jesus and they spurn it. This means that an extreme reaction against a very direct revelation is necessary, in order to reach a lost state. How many religious Jews, for instance, have received a direct and clear revelation from the Holy Spirit regarding Jesus? And how many of them, after having received this clear revelation, have spurned it? In my opinion these are rare cases. But it seems that, according to Juster, apart from these rare cases, a Jew is not in a lost state.
Either way, according to the next excerpt, Juster implies a possibility of believing and being saved after death, which pushes the lost state, for most people, way beyond the biblical boundary. He says:
"If a person still believes that a conscious, explicit response must be made for Jesus before death, we would point to the possibility of further revelation even at the moment just before death for those who have responded in faith to the revelation they have been given. John Wesley divided humanity into the saved, the lost, and those in a prevenient (before full salvation) grace state who were responding to the truth as they could perceive it. This third group would somehow be led on to faith in the Messiah."
The first part of the passage, where he addresses those who still insist there should be a faith in Jesus before death, implies that he believes one can come to an explicit faith after death. This fits together neatly with the unconscious mediation we mentioned earlier. This teaches us that even when Juster tries to present Tikkun’s doctrine of salvation as a "narrow wider hope”, it is in fact far wider than he presents it.
In the second part of this passage, Juster appeals to John Wesley in order to somewhat reinforce his position. However, it is important to note that Wesley's doctrine of Prevenient Grace taught that God, in His grace, can lead a person, whose will is enslaved to sin, to a place where he can choose to believe the Gospel with free will. But again, according to Wesley, this person must explicitly believe in Jesus and in the Gospel in order to be saved. If not, he is not ‘half saved’ and one can't assume that he "would somehow be led on to a faith in the Messiah", as Juster states.
Wesley never taught what Juster promotes and he cannot be recruited to this end.
Juster's views on "He that hath not the Son of God hath not life"
First argument: just as Jewish believers in the Old Testament had the Son even though He had not yet arrived, so Jewish believers today, who don’t know Jesus, have the Son.
"So also, First John 5:12 says, 'He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life' (KJV). Did the believing Jews of the Tanach in a spiritual sense have [emphasis in source] the Son even though he had not yet come? Most would say yes. Why not then Jews one hour after the resurrection, or one year, or one hundred years later?"
Juster effectively claims here that you don't have to believe in Jesus in order to be saved, because "you can have the Son" even a hundred years after the resurrection, without knowing Him. His method is to find a debatable issue such as this and draw on any doubt or uncertainty that might arise in order to cast a shadow on the entire doctrine of salvation. To find a loophole and widen it as much as possible. This is the opposite of good hermeneutics, whereby passages that are less clear are interpreted in light of clearer passages. But by Juster’s method, you can neutralize every verse and justify false teachings.
Second argument: Jesus is "light" and this light reflects a "reality". This argument is difficult to understand and it incorporates another argument against Acts 4:12. Here is the argument:
"Let us also remember that John teaches a spiritual reality to the Son that is not limited to His sojourn on earth. He says of the Word, Messiah, 'That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world' (John 1:9, KJV). The same meaning of a universal light from the Messiah can be given for Acts 4:12".
If I understand his meaning correctly, Juster actually reiterates in different words the argument that Jesus reveals a certain reality. That is, it is not necessary to believe in an "historical Jesus" (the One who died on the cross and rose on the third day) in order to be saved, since according to him, the spiritual reality Jesus reveals "is not limited to His sojourn on earth". The name of Jesus reveals something more abstract that one can relate to even without believing in Jesus Himself- a reality that can shine for anyone in the world even if they never knew Jesus. This notion is, of course, strange and utterly unbiblical. (3)
Evangelizing merely "maximizes opportunities" for salvation
In continuation of the aforementioned, and in the same spirit, Juster claims that "preaching the Good News of Jesus affords human beings everywhere the greatest opportunity to respond and be saved", and that "the Gospel provides the fullest opportunity for salvation to the Jew first". It "maximizes the opportunity to be saved". This is definitely not the language we're accustomed to. Evangelical Christians see the Gospel as a crucial matter- a matter of life and death. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved... For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek. And this is why Paul asks within the same context: How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (Rom. 10:14). Which means, faith in Jesus is necessary, and for that purpose preaching the Gospel is necessary. The Gospel does not maximize any opportunity, as Juster says, since without the Gospel there is no salvation at all. But with the terms Juster chooses, he clearly refrains from saying that the Gospel is the only way to get saved, because he does not believe it's the only way.
Juster also says this:
"I think we must reexamine the older evangelical certainty of being able to determine just who and who is not hell-bound."
Again, Juster sets himself apart from evangelicals and shows contempt of fundamental doctrines. "The evangelical certainty" that he looks upon with contempt, is precisely that simple understanding that whoever believes in Jesus will go to heaven and whoever does not, will not. It is not an "evangelical certainty" that determined this, but a simple understanding of the criteria set by the Word of God. However, it seems as though Juster is setting himself above it all.
Salvation without faith in Jesus
Juster claims there is no reason why Jews can't be saved after Jesus just as they did before Jesus:
"If Jewish people were granted fellowship with God and everlasting life in the Older Covenant period, why should it be precluded now? Let's say that a righteous Jew died an hour after the resurrection (or the gift of the Spirit at Shavuot or Pentecost, if you wish this to be the time of responsibility); would he be hell-bound then [at that same hour], but heaven-bound if only he had died an hour earlier? This is unthinkable, and indeed, unscriptural."
We've already seen how, in the arguments Juster brought against 1 John 5:12, he does not see why Jews who didn't believe in Jesus couldn't get saved even a hundred years after the resurrection. He asked "Why not then [for] Jews [who do not believe in Jesus] one hour after the resurrection, or one year, or one hundred years later?" And so also he does in this passage.
The meaning of these arguments is that even today Jews can get saved without believing in Jesus.
The Jews are exempt from responding to the New Testament
Juster claims that due to the historical circumstances, Jews are in fact responsible only for their response to the Old Testament and not to the New Testament. As follows:
"The decisions of Jewish leadership in the first century, followed by the persecution of centuries, has rendered the Hebrew Scriptures [the Old Testament alone] the main source of revelation and response for most Jews."
It follows that Jews don't have to respond to the New Testament, but only to the Old Testament. Why? Because of the circumstances, which are the decisions of Jewish leadership, who had rejected Jesus and the disciples, and persecution by Catholic Christians. As a side note, we could point out that the Jews were the ones who persecuted believers in the beginning, and that they were the ones who rejected Jesus long before there was any persecution of any sort. Paul mentions the stumbling block of the cross long before there were crusades (1 Cor. 1:23). But more importantly, we shouldn’t miss the faulty logic behind Juster's claim: Juster lifts from the Jews the responsibility for their response to the New Testament because they had rejected it. That is, the Jews had rejected the New Testament, therefore, they don't have to respond to it with faith. His arguments result in an absurd logic which states that since they have rejected Jesus and the New Testament, they therefore don't have to respond to the New Testament. This logic in fact puts God in a position where He accepts and even gives an historical validity and approval to the decision to reject His Son.
Juster strengthens the claim that one can respond only to the Old Testament for salvation when he says that "preaching the Good News maximizes the opportunity to get saved". [again, as far as he is concerned, it is not the only way to get saved, only a maximization of the opportunity. Yet he goes on to detail an alternative way:]
However, we cannot preclude the possibility of Jews responding in faith to God's revelation in the Tanach." Meaning, one can also get saved by responding to what is said in the Old Testament alone, without the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
Rabbinic Judaism as a "legitimate religion"
At some point in his essay, Juster begins to build a case for Judaism as a legitimate religion, and more than that. Granted, at first he is seemingly restrained, saying that "Judaism itself sometimes falls into works-righteousness", that is to say, it "sometimes" overemphasizes justification by works, or that "Judaism sometimes diverges from the truth and quenches the light of revelation".
These two statements are far from the truth. Judaism is characterized entirely by works righteousness and doesn’t just “sometimes” fall into it, and that manifests itself, among other things, in tens of thousands of meticulous laws. Further, Judaism doesn't “sometimes” diverge from the truth, but is full of historical and interpretative lies and falsifications unlike any other. By personal research, I have come to know that Judaism incorporates idol worship, equates the authority of rabbis to that of God (and even elevates it above), approves of paedophilia of the worst kind, and other abominable things. This is apart from a burning hatred toward Yeshua the Messiah and the lies perpetrated about Him. So to say that Judaism “sometimes” diverges from the truth is at least an understatement.
But from there Juster goes on to say that "it is crucial to see that Judaism is a religion with the Tanach as a prime source" and that "most of the prayers and many of the teachings are derived from the Bible". Some traditions, he says, were drawn from the Old Testament, and this is why we can see within it the truth of God. "Some [of the tradition is] first century or earlier". Granted there is a truth to this claim, because the Lord Himself confronted the Pharisees over some of these traditions, but this is part of how Juster constructs his argument.
From there he goes on to claim that "prayer [like the "Al Het" prayer] enshrines the knowledge of salvation only by grace through no merit of our own, even to the extent of appealing to the sacrificial system and the sufferings of the Messiah". There is here an obvious attempt to paint Judaism as a religion that trusts in the grace of God for salvation, based upon the work of Christ, even though most Jews are completely alienated from these concepts, and for a reason. And from this point, Juster finally arrives at the argument he was building towards:
"So also the Talmud teaches that Habakkuk reduced all the commands to one: 'As it is said, the righteous shall live by his faith'. Some of the traditions are so old that it would seem that Paul drew from them to illustrate his teaching on faith."
So then Paul, according to Juster, drew the teaching that is the very essence of the New Testament, that salvation is by grace alone and not by works, from Jewish traditions preserved in the Talmud. According to the New Testament, the prophets of the Old Testament inquired and the very angels eagerly waited to hear the Gospel of grace preached after the coming of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1: 10-12, Eph. 2: 8-10 with 3: 2-5). So Juster is in fact turning the tables when he ascribes this revelation to Jewish traditions preserved in the Talmud, anteceding, according to him, the New Testament. In this way Juster not only legitimizes a religion that rejects the Lord Jesus and His Messiahship, but, in a way, even gives it an advantage and a more esteemed position.
Moreover, if we contend that after all, Jews who don't believe in the New Testament have no sacrifice to rely on, since they have neither the Messiah nor the sacrificial system, that too has an answer with Juster:
"Even though a Jewish person today does not have the sacrificial system, he can still respond in faith to the meaning of [emphasis in source] the sacrificial system as enshrined in the prayers of the synagogue."
From here we can understand that the prayer of confession in the synagogue on the Day of Atonement- is tantamount to a sacrifice. This is giving full legitimacy to Judaism without the sacrifice of Jesus. And so also Juster summarizes this essay in a later essay on the subject of salvation:
"I believe we should not make ultimate judgments about the destiny of individuals as I argued in Jewish Roots [i.e. this article]. The grace of God is available to Jews through Judaism as it was in the pre-Jesus period. (4) I also argued that an adequate response to God’s grace is exceptional."
You’ve read it: the grace of God is available to Jews through Judaism, as it was in the time before Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, from all of the above, I ask you to consider the following:
When someone claims that the name of Jesus reveals a reality that is not necessarily Jesus Himself, and that you can be saved without faith in Jesus, but through Judaism alone, does he not promote another Gospel? Would it not be considered a fundamental heresy? How, then, can we define such doctrines, if not in this way? Please consider this.
1. Along with Michael Brown, Derek Prince, Kenneth Hagin and others (Theology, Spiritual Warfare and Obedience, Asher Intrater, 2000)
3. This view of Juster corresponds nicely with the liberal theology of Dallas Willard, whom Juster admires. I hope to write more on this subject in the future.
4) http://www.kesherjournal.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16 4