Does the Bible Allow Jews and Christians to be Friends with Unbelievers?
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
In this entry, I will list Bible verses from both the Old Testament/Tanakh and New Testament to demonstrate that they do not permit Jews and Christians to be friends with unbelievers. The translation I will be using for both is the English Standard Version unless stated otherwise. I will continually expand on what is written here and make corrections where necessary. Let me know if there are any issues, mistakes, etc.
Here are some important passages.
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,
This is a direct command which mentions to not be friends with people who become angry frequently.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.
Psalm 14:1 (cf. Psalm 53:1)
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.
Here, we see certain types of atheists are referred to as fools and Jews are taught to not be their companions (unless they want to suffer harm, that is), leave their presence, and not speak to them, this demonstrates that they cannot be friends and that none of them do good.
My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise,
This last verse is very important as it teaches to not “join” with those who don’t fear the Lord. The Chabad website translates this as:
My son fear the Lord and the king; do not mingle with dualists.
Rabbi Rashi’s commentary is as follows:
My son fear the Lord and the king: Fear the Lord and fear the mortal king, but only if he does not turn you away from the fear of the Lord, for the fear of the Lord is always first.
do not mingle with dualists: Heb. שונים, who say that there are two powers [governing the world].
Here we see an important difference in translation between Jews and Christians that can impact their relationships with one another (this may be due to manuscript differences). Jews cannot mingle with dualists, however, in Jewish theology, Christians are seen as more than just dualists as they believe in three powers (i.e., the trinity) that govern the world.
This would also be the case with pagans as well as anyone who is not accepted as a monotheist by Jewish theology as well. Such would be the case for atheists, but not through the latter part of the verse but rather the beginning as they do not believe (or, as some might say, “lack a belief”) so they can’t even fear the Lord in the first place.
Oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
This sequence of verses teaches hatred of the enemies of the Lord of the OT as well as those who rise up against him. Perhaps this might include dualists and other related groups.
The Talmud includes many passages which speak of non-Jews in a certain way which help demonstrate that Jews cannot be friends with non-Jews. Here are some passages.
The Jews are called human beings, but the non-Jews are not humans. They are beasts. Talmud: Baba Mezia, 114b (page referrals).
The Akum (non-Jew) is like a dog. Yes, the scripture says to honor the dog more than the non-Jew. Talmud: Ereget Raschi Erod, 22 30.
This passage is very clear about the honor of non-Jews. If non-Jews are like dogs and Jews are taught to honor a dog more than non-Jews, then they clearly cannot be friends as being friends would “honor” them.
Even though God created the non-Jew they are still animals in human form. It is not becoming of a Jew to be served by an animal. Therefore, he will be served by animals in human form. Talmud: Midrasch Talpioth, p 225, Warsaw 1855.
A pregnant non-Jew is no better than a pregnant animal. Talmud: Coschen Hamischpat 405.
Although the non-Jew has the same body structure as the Jew, they compare with the Jew as a monkey to a human. Talmud: Schene luchoth haberuth, p 250b.
The souls of non-Jews come from impure spirits and are called pigs. Talmud: Jalkut Rubeni gadol 12b.
If you eat with a non-Jew it is the same as eating with a dog. Talmud: Tosapoth, Jebamoth 94b.
If a Jew has a non-Jewish servant or maid who dies, one should not express sympathy to the Jew.
You should tell the Jew: “God will replace ‘your loss’, just as if one of his animals had died. Talmud: Jore Dea 377.
Sexual intercourse between Gentiles [i.e., non-Jews] is like intercourse between animals. Talmud: Sanhedrin 74b.
Source: Non-Jews as seen in the Talmud
One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
The above Talmud passages demonstrate the wickedness of non-Jews in Judaism. If Jews do not want to be led astray, they should not be friends with non-Jews.
Keep in mind that the Talmud is binding, at the very least in Rabbinic Judaism:-
The sages who taught the teachings, ordinances and decrees which make up the Talmud represented the totality of the sages of Israel, or at least the majority of them.
Because of this, and because the Talmud was accepted as binding by almost the entire Jewish people at the time, its laws are considered binding on all Jews no matter when or where they live.28 And it is precisely this binding that has kept our Jewish identity strong for thousands of years throughout this long and bitter exile. May we merit the ultimate redemption speedily in our days!
28 Maimonides, introduction to Mishnah Torah.
Source: What Is the Talmud?
The same verses from the Old Testament apply here as well for Christians. Some Christians would argue that all of the traits described above, such as anger, etc. are representative of someone who is not “saved”. That said, here are some interesting New Testament verses on this matter.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Therefore, go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
These verses make it very clear that friendship is not possible with “unbelievers”, which are non-Christians. Christians are commanded to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” and to “go out from their midst and be separate from them”.
The famous Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, confirms this, he writes in his commentary of 2 Corinthians 6:17:
We should not join in friendship and acquaintance with wicked men and unbelievers. Though we cannot wholly avoid seeing and hearing, and being with such, yet we should never choose them for friends. We must not defile ourselves by converse with those who defile themselves with sin.
Matthew Henry Commentary
Charles Spurgeon was a famous Christian preacher who was known as the “Prince of Preachers” in certain circles. In his comments on, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” he writes:
Not in any way, — neither in marriage which is the chief of all forms for yoking, nor yet in business or other partnerships.In his comments on, “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
You must be in the same world with them but keep yourself distinct from them. Go not into their society by your own choice, nor seek your pleasure with them.
Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible
Another verse reads:
1 Corinthians 15:33
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
The NIV renders this verse as:
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
At the very least, unbelievers here could be referred to as slaves to sin and Christians should not have bad company. Moreover, we know from 1 John 2:22 that those who do not believe in Christianity are lying antichrists.
Lying in Christianity is a sin and being an antichrist would be considered bad company and because Christians should want to keep good morals, they should stay away from the bad company of lying slaves to sin antichrists. Note as well that the verse says, “touch no unclean thing”, thus signifying that Christians cannot touch unbelievers because they are impure.
An objection Jews might give is the following:
You are misrepresenting these verses because the Bible plainly states to “Love your neighbor as yourself” Leviticus 19:18
This is very easy to answer. This command is speaking about other members of the faith, at the very least with Judaism, in which case it is probably another Israelite.
The Christian might object as well and cite Matthew 5:44 (cf. Matthew 22:39), where it says to love your enemies, moreover, they might also quote Matthew 28:19 which commands Christians to make disciples of all nations. There would still be problems with these citations. A problem with citing Matthew 5:44 is the inconsistency of what it means to “love” your enemy. Here is an interesting passage from one of Paul’s letters.
1 Corinthians 16:22
If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!
A Christian would not claim that Paul did not love his enemies. However, we find in this passage that Paul curses all who have “no love for the Lord”. Is this what “love” entails in Christianity?
Another issue is that Paul writes 1 Corinthians 6:14 which is clear about not making friends with unbelievers, this demonstrates that one can “love” their enemies and still not be friends with them. Moreover, with respect to Matthew 28:19, making disciples of non-Christians does not necessitate that one become friends with them either.
Allah knows Best.
Commentary on the verse “And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides Allah, lest they insult Allah wrongfully without knowledge” Quran (6:108)
It is essential to respond to those who defame the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
Prepared by Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
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