Can a Jewish rabbi ever become a Christian? It's rare, but it happens. Consider the remarkable case of Orthodox rabbi, Daniel Zion, who lived in Bulgaria, but was born in nearby Salonika, Greece in 1883.
In 1941, Bulgaria became an ally of Nazi Germany in its invasion of the Soviet Union. Bulgaria's king: Boris came under tremendous personal pressure from Adolf Hitler to cooperate in both the German invasion of Russia and then the Holocaust. The Nazis wanted Bulgaria's Jews sent by cattle trains the death camps of Poland and Germany.
It's difficult to say when Rabbi Zion became a believer in Jesus, but it was before the Nazis occupied his country. Strangely enough, though he publicly confessed New Testament faith in the messiahship of Jesus, he continued to live a traditional Jewish life; and continued to serve as one of the chief rabbis of Bulgaria all the while. He had a large following.
Rabbi Zion is reputed to have received a vision from Jesus that he was to tell King Boris of Bulgaria to refuse Hitler's insistence to send the Bulgarian Jews to the camps. Through Rabbi Zion's connection with Bishop Stefan of Sofia, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, King Boris received this remarkable warning by letter on the day before he was due to meet with the Fuhrer. As a result, King Boris stood up to Hitler and refused to release the Jews. Significant numbers of Bulgarian Jews were spared.
On May 24th, 1943, Zion addressed a gathering in a Bulgarian synagogue, then joined a mass street demonstration against the so-called "Laws for the Protection of the Nation"; Bulgaria's version of the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws of Germany. Two days later, he was arrested and sent to a concentration camp himself. He survived the camp and, after the war, emigrated to Jaffa in what was then British-ruled Palestine.
When Israel became a nation in 1949, Rabbi Zion, despite his belief in Christ, was offered a position as judge on Jerusalem's rabbinic court, the "Beit Din", but only IF he agreed to keep his faith in Christ a personal and private secret. This he refused to do. The Beit Din therefore declared him insane and stripped him of his title of rabbi. Despite this, many Bulgarian Jews still considered him their rabbi, and between morning and evening Sabbath services in his synagogue, Rabbi Zion would hold teachings about Jesus and the New Testament in his home. Before he died, Zion served as President of the Union of Messianic Jews in Israel (Ichud Yehudim Meshihiim Be-Israel).
Understandably, Daniel Zion is not talked about within Jewish communities because they are ashamed of him, (if they've even heard of him at all). But he was highly educated, and as the chief rabbi in Bulgaria during the war years, influenced the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, not only by his teaching but by his example of character and the active measures he took to rescue his countrymen from the gas chambers.
"When the roll is called up yonder" as the old hymn goes, there no doubt will be many obscure saints honored whom most of us have never heard of here on earth. Their fame will have to wait for that glorious day. And for that reason, Daniel Zion is one of the "Honorable Menshen"!
2) Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus - Vol. 1, Michael L. Brown, Baker Books, 2001
3) Mishkan 15, "Rabbi Daniel Zion: Chief Rabbi of Bulgarian Jews during WW II," Joseph Shulam (1991), pps. 53-57.
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