Eyebrows have been raised by the widely publicised comments of the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries, over his suggestion that some believers who find it difficult to accept certain teachings of Christianity should enbrace Judaism. Here is the full text of his message written in Manna, the journal of the Sternberg Centre for Judaism in north London. Judge for yourself if he is being out-reaching or outrageous.

I would not presume to comment on how Jews should respond to the appeal for a more missionary-minded Judaism. I offer reflections as an observer of the religious scene and as a Christian.

In the Roman Empire there were clearly those who were attracted by the ethical monotheism of Judaism the belief in one god but who were not able to become Jews, or could do so only with extreme difficulty.

Such people, Godfearers, could become loosely attached to the life of a synagogue.

Sometimes they even helped to support it, as a centurion is reported to have done in chapter seven of the Gospel of Luke. Not surprisingly it is from among such people that the early church made converts. If one reflects on the astonishing fact that within 300 years this tiny sect of Judaism had won over the heart and mind of the Roman world, two religious factors stand out. One is the affinity of Christianity with the mystery religions, which were meeting some of the deeper religious needs of people. The other is that the old Roman gods had gone and people were ready for a one-god faith.

During the 19th century there was a spiritual home for monotheists who could not go along with the claims of the church about Jesus Christ in Unitarianism.

It was in this setting, for example, that TS Eliot was brought up. Now Unitarianism, in this country anyway, has virtually died out. The Quakers, who might offer a spiritual home, admirable though they are, have a distinctive approach which clearly appeals to some, but not many. So looking at people's spiritual needs, I see a category of people who are natural monotheists and who simply cannot believe Christian claims about Jesus, but who would love to have a spiritual home.

While new-age religions offer some spiritual insights, Judaism offers a tradition, a way of believing and behaving that has been tried and tested for nearly 4,000 years.

What a new missionary-minded approach would mean for Judaism is a reclaiming of certain key texts which for the last 2,000 years have been appropriated by Christians. I am referring for example to Isaiah Chapter 42, verse six:

I, the Lord, have called you with righteous purpose

and taken you by the hand;

I have formed you, and appointed you

to be a light to all peoples,

a beacon for the nations,

to open eyes that are blind,

to bring captives out of prison,

out of the dungeons where they lie

in darkness. Christians have made this and many texts like it their own. We have seen it as our vocation to bring the light and the knowledge of the good news of God to the whole earth. But those words were and are addressed in the first instance to the Jewish people.

For very understandable reasons Judaism has long contented itself with the idea that there is a special vocation for Jews and the covenant with Noah following the subsiding of the Flood, with the rest of humanity.

According to this view, all that is required of Gentiles is that they observe the basic moral laws and live by the light with them.

Judaism has a higher vocation but one confined to itself. But it is difficult to find this view in the Hebrew scriptures. There the vocation of the people of Israel is a more ambitious one:

It is too slight a task for you, as my servant,

to restore the tribes of Jacob,

to bring back the descendants of Israel:

I will make you a light to the nations,

to be my salvation to earth's farthest bounds.

(Isaiah 49, verse 6)