The central characteristic defining the Messianic Jewish movement as Christian, rather than Jewish, is its belief in the divinity of their Messiah, Jesus. This is also the opinion of the Supreme Court of Israel regarding immediate and automatic eligibility for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.
Similarly, Messianic Judaism differs widely from mainstream Christianity in adherents' observation of Jewish Law which is often discouraged in churches. These observances include observing the Jewish Sabbath, abstaining from pork, shellfish, and other foods banned by Jewish law, and observing Jewish holidays.
As of 1993 there were 160,000 adherents of Messianic Judaism in the United States and 350,000 worldwide. As of 2003, there were at least 150 Messianic synagogues in the U.S. and over 400 worldwide. By 2008, the number of Messianics in the United States was around a quarter million. The number of Messianic Jews in Israel is reported to be anywhere between 6,000 and 15,000 members.
Although many Messianic Jews are ethnically Jewish and argue that Messianic Judaism is a sect of Judaism, the various streams of Judaism are unanimous in their rejection of Messianism as a form of Judaism. Christians and Jews consider Messianic Judaism to be a form of Christianity.
Adherents to Messianic Judaism are described as Messianic Jews, Messianic Believers, or Messianics for short.
Although terms used to identify adherents of Messianic Judaism are frequently disputed, the terms used generally describe someone who holds to the belief that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, and who lives in obedience to the Scriptures, including the Torah, and Halakha, and who believes such a lifestyle of obedience is the proper expression of faith. Messianic Judaism is a relatively new term, coined as recently as 1895 to help separate the practices of its followers from those of common Christianity as a whole, and in order to more closely align its faith with that of biblical and historical Judaism.
The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations defines Messianic Judaism as "a movement of Jewish congregations and groups committed to Yeshua the Messiah that embrace the covenantal responsibility of Jewish life and identity rooted in Torah, expressed in tradition, and renewed and applied in the context of the New Covenant."
"Jewish life is life in a concrete, historical community. Thus, Messianic Jewish groups must be fully part of the Jewish people, sharing its history and its covenantal responsibility as a people chosen by God. At the same time, faith in Yeshua also has a crucial communal dimension. This faith unites the Messianic Jewish community and the Christian Church..."
See also Messianic Movement
The Messianic Judaism movement of today grew out of the Hebrew-Christian movement of the 19th century. Hebrew-Christian congregations began to emerge in England; the first of these was Beni Abraham, in London, which was founded by forty-one Hebrew-Christians. This led to a more general awareness of their Jewish identity for Christians with a Jewish background. In 1866, the Hebrew-Christian Alliance of Great Britain was organized, with branches also existing in several European countries and the United States. A similar group, The Hebrew Christian Alliance of America (HCAA), was organized in the U. S. in 1915. The International Hebrew-Christian Alliance (IHCA) was organized in 1925 (later becoming the International Messianic Jewish Alliance). Additional groups were formed during subsequent decades.
Modern Messianic Judaism was born in the 1960s. A major shift in the movement occurred when Martin Chernoff became the President of the HCAA (1971-1975). In June 1973, a motion was made to change the name of the HCAA to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) and the name was officially changed in June 1975. The name change was significant as more than just a "semantical expression;" as Rausch states, "It represented an evolution in the thought processes and religious and philosophical outlook toward a more fervent expression of Jewish identity."
When the movement began to become larger, new organizations such as the Messianic Israel Alliance and the Coalition of Torah Observant Messianic Congregations arose. These organizations disagreed with UMJC's stance over the issue of Gentile observance of the Torah, and whether it is obligatory, or not.
Messianic believers commonly hold the Old Testament to be divinely inspired. Theologian David H. Stern in his "Jewish New Testament Commentary" argues that Paul is fully congruent with Messianic Judaism, and that the New Testament is to be taken by Messianic Jews as the inspired Word of God. This is the mainstream view within the movement although, as with many religions, there are several schools of thought. A very few Messianic believers are troubled by the writings of Paul and may reject his writings, holding them in less esteem than those of the Gospel writers, or even reject him. Often, the emphasis is on the idea that the Old Testament is the only scripture the early believers had (most scripture scholars agree that there was not an established New Testament canon until the 4th century) and that, except for the recorded words of Jesus, the New Testament was meant to be an inspired commentary on the Old Testament.
- Torah תורה meaning one or all of: "The Law"; "Teaching"; "Instruction". "The five books of Moses". It is the "Pentateuch".
- Nevi'im נביאים meaning: "Prophets"
- Ketuvim כתובים meaning "Writings" or "Hagiographa".
- Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
- Pauline Epistles
- General Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude
Stern has produced a Messianic Jewish version of the Bible called the Complete Jewish Bible.
"Torah" refers to the first five books of the Bible, also called the Pentateuch, Books of Moses, or Books of Law. The word translated most commonly as laws is probably more rightly translated as teachings. The Torah contains the 613 laws of the Covenant between God and Israel. For Jews, whether they are Messianic or not, observance is covenantal. For Messianic believers, the Torah is held as the foundation for "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Some Messianic communities believe that the rabbinic commentaries such as the Mishnah and the Talmud, while historically informative and useful in understanding tradition, are not normative and may not be followed where they differ from the messianic scriptures.
Other Messianic believers who call rabbinic commentaries such as the Mishnah and the Talmud "dangerous". These people believe that followers of rabbinic and halakhic explanations and commentaries are not believers in Jesus as the Messiah. Furthermore, Messianic believers deny the authority of the Pharisees, believing that they were superseded, and contradicted, by Messianism.
There are a number of Messianic commentaries on various books of the Bible, both Tanakh and New Testament texts, such as Matthew, Acts, Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews. David H. Stern has released a one-volume Jewish New Testament Commentary, but it overlooks many of the issues of composition, history, date and setting, and only provides select explanatory notes from a Messianic Jewish point of view. Other noted New Testament commentary authors include: Joseph Shulam, who has written commentaries on Acts, Romans, and Galatians; Tim Hegg of TorahResource, who has written commentaries on Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and is presently examining Matthew; Daniel Thomas Lancaster, who has written extensively for the First Fruits of Zion Torah Club series; Stuart Sacks, author of Hebrews Through a Hebrews' Eyes; and J.K. McKee of TNN Online who has written several volumes under the byline "for the Practical Messianic" (James, Hebrews, Philippians, Galatians, and both a Tanach and Apostolic Scriptures Survey).
This section lists some of the main beliefs and doctrines present in Messianic Judaism
- God - Messianic Jews believe in God (Adonai of the Bible), and that he is all-powerful, omni-present, eternal, exists outside of creation, and is infinitely significant and benevolent. Messianic Jews believe in the Shema ("Shema Means 'hear' and is the quintessential Jewish text from Dvarim/Deuteronomy 6:4.: 'Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD' showing the uniqueness of the God of Israel. Israel didn't require many gods (like harvest gods, fertility gods, fire gods) The God of Israel is unique and infinite -- He alone is sovereign. The Shema is a confirmation in Torah that Adonai/God is a compound unity ('echad') not as is commonly misunderstood.") The large majority of Messianic Jews are open to trinitarian views of God; some demand strict monotheism.
- Yeshua the Messiah - Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth, is believed to be the Jewish Messiah in Messianic Judaism. The mainstream movement accepts Yeshua (Jesus) as "the Torah (Word) made flesh" (John, 1:14), and believe he is HaShem. These however, are rejected by mainstream Messianic Jews in the same way that some Christian groups reject groups with differing Christologies, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses.
- Written Torah - Messianics, with few exceptions, consider the written Torah (Pentateuch), the five books of Moses, to remain fully in force and they therefore believe that it is a holy covenant, which is to be observed both morally and ritually, by those who profess faith in God. They believe that Jesus taught and re-affirmed the Torah, rather than did away with it.
- Israel - It is believed that the Children of Israel were, remain, and will continue to be the chosen people of the God of Jacob, and are central to his plans for existence. Virtually all Messianics (whether Jewish or non-Jewish) can be said to oppose supersessionism (popularly referred to as replacement theology), the view that the Church has replaced Israel in the mind and plans of God.
- The Bible - The Tanakh and the Apostolic Writings (sometimes called the "B’rit Chadasha") are usually considered to be the established and divinely inspired Biblical scriptures by Messianic Jews.
- Biblical Eschatology - Most Messianics hold all of the following eschatological beliefs: the End of Days, the Second Coming of Jesus as the conquering Messiah, the re-gathering of Israel, a rebuilt Third Temple, a Resurrection of the Dead (and that Jesus was resurrected after his death), and the Millennial Sabbath.
- Oral Law - Messianic Jewish opinions concerning the “Oral Torah”, encoded in the Talmud, are varied and sometimes conflicting between individual congregations. Some congregations believe that adherence to the Oral Law, as encompassed by the Talmud, is against Messianic beliefs and outright dangerous. Virtually all Messianic congregations and synagogues can be said to believe that the oral traditions are subservient to the written Torah. It is important to note that Jesus followed some oral traditions (such as the observance of Hannukah), but opposed others.
- Sin and atonement - Messianics define sin as transgression of the Torah (Law/Instruction) of God (1 John 3: 4-5). Some adherents continue practices intended to atone for their sins - usually involving prayer and rituals relating to repentance—that is, acknowledgment of wrongdoing and seeking forgiveness for their sins (esp. on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). Other Messianics disagree with these practices, believing that all sin (whether committed yet or not) is already atoned for because of Jesus's death and resurrection.
- Faith and works - Messianics draw on Jewish rather than Protestant tradition. In Hebrew there is one word for both faith and faithfulness: Emunah. Most adherents to Messianic Judaism believe in a showing of their faith through righteous works (Jacob 2: 17-26; James 2: 1-26), defined by the Torah. Few Messianics believe that faith and works are mutually exclusive or polarized; most believe that faith in God and righteous works are entirely complementary to each other, and that the one (faith) naturally leads to the other (works) - much like some Christian thinking. Some say that righteousness with God is solely by grace through faith and then acknowledge that works are still very important.
People of GodEdit
According to the Jerusalem Council, "the people of Israel are members of the covenant HaShem made with Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya'akov. Covenant membership is extended to converts to Judaism from the nations, as well as to the descendants of covenant members. Israel is a nation of nations and their descendants, or more specifically a people group called out from other people groups to be a people separated unto HaShem for his purposes. HaShem's promise of covenantal blessings and curses as described in the Torah are unique to Am Yisrael (People of Israel), and to no other nation or people group. The bible describes an Israelite as one descended from Ya'akov ben Yitzhak ben Avraham, or one who has been converted or adopted into that group by either human or spiritual means."
Jews are those who are born of a Jewish mother or have undergone halakhic conversion to Judaism. An exception is also made for those born of Jewish fathers only if the individual claims Jewish identity, similar to the Reform position. The statement of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council on Jewish identity is often disputed among Messianic believers who either don't find it necessary or discourage halakhic conversion by believing the Romans 2:29 teaching (that a "Jew" is not one who is one "outwardly" but one who is a Jew in his heart). They also believe that by accepting Jesus into their hearts and confessing that he is Lord, salvation is received.
Messianic believers from the nations are also considered a part of the People of God. Depending on their status within various Messianic Jewish groups, such as the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, an allowance for formal conversion is made based on their understanding that Messianic converts are not automatically considered Jewish. The reasoning for this variance is as follows: While Titus may have been the norm in the epistles, a Gentile not converted to Judaism, Paul nevertheless made an exception for Timothy, whom he circumcised and brought under the Covenant, probably because though Timothy's father was Greek, his mother was Jewish. According to the statement of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council regarding Conversion, converts to Judaism do not in any way have a higher status within Messianic Judaism than the Messianic believers who are considered by the UMJC to still be "Gentiles" who are attached to their communities.
One Law theology Edit
One Law theology teaches that anyone who is a part of Israel is obligated to observe the Covenant and its provisions as outlined in the Torah. Dan Juster of Tikkun, and Russ Resnik of the UMJC, have argued against One Law theology's insistence on Gentiles being required to observe the entirety of Torah in the same way Jews are. Tim Hegg from FFOZ responded to their article defending what he believes to be the biblical teaching of "One Law" theology and its implications concerning the obligations of Torah obedience by new Messianic believers from the nations.
Two House theologyEdit
Two House Theology comes from the idea that the "House of Judah" in scripture refers to Jews, and the "House of Israel" refers to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, or Ephraim. Where scripture states the House of Israel and Judah will again be "one stick" (Ezekiel 37:15-23), it is believed to be referring to the End Times, right before Yeshua returns, that many of those descended from Israel will come back to Israel. This theology postulates that the reason why so many so-called gentiles are coming into Messianic Judaism is that the vast majority of them are really Israelites and just don't know it yet. They believe a majority of the people who considered themselves as gentiles coming into Messianic Judaism are those of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Like One Law groups, the Two House movement appears at first glance to have much in common with Messianic Judaism because of their belief in the ongoing validity of the Mosaic Covenant. While much of the Two House teaching is based on interpretations of Biblical prophecy, the biggest disagreements are due to inability to identify the genealogy of the ten lost tribes. Organizations such as the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America and Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations have opposed the Two House teaching and it continues to be a sensitive issue among Messianic congregations.
Issues of Creation and Eschatology are not central to Messianic Judaism with the following exception: the idea that one age is ending, as the fullness of the Gentiles has been reached, and the next age beginning, where we shall see the fullness of Israel. The wording is a reference to Romans 11,
"Again I ask: Did [the Jews] stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! ... For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? ... I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved."The "fullness of the Gentiles" might be said to refer to the Great Commission, which is complete. The rebirth of the nation of Israel, the re-establishment of Jerusalem as its capital, the return of Jews from Russia, "the nation to the north," and the return of Jews worldwide to greater observance are all seen as signs of the beginning of the age of Israel. Messianics believe that when the fullness of Israel is reached, the Messiah will return and the world will see the resurrection of the dead.
The majority of Messianics believe, as does traditional Judaism, in a literal 7,000 year period for the human history of the world, from Adam to the Judgment, and many Messianics believe that we are the final generation that will experience the Biblical apocalypse.
Most Messianics believe that the Messianic Kingdom, or Millennial Sabbath, will literally be for a period of a thousand years, after the collective resurrection of the dead, with Jesus the Messiah ruling from Jerusalem. Many believe that we are living in the final days, or “End Times”, before the physical return of Jesus to Jerusalem.
Messianics also contend that no serious study of the End times should ever leave out the significance of God's appointed times--the major Jewish Festivals in the Torah--and their fulfillment as prophetic events as it relates to the person of Jesus and to Israel. Many Messianics believe that just as the Spring Festivals (Passover, First Fruits, Shavuot) were literally fulfilled to the day at Jesus's first coming, the Fall Festivals (Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) will be literally fulfilled to the day at Jesus's second coming, and that all of the moedim, indeed the entire Torah, intrinsically hints at the Messiah.
Overview of issuesEdit
Traditional Christianity affirms that the Torah is the word of God, though some Christians deny that all of the laws of the Pentateuch apply directly to them as Christians. The New Testament suggests that Jesus established a new covenant relationship between God and his people (Heb 8; Jer 31:31–34) and this new covenant speaks of the Torah being written upon the heart. Various passages such as Matthew 5:17-19, Matthew 28:19-20, 1 John 3:4 and Romans 3:3, as well as various examples of Torah observance in the New Testament, are cited by Messianics in suggesting that the Torah was not and could not have been abolished.
Many Messianics believe that it is absurd to assume that any of the 613 Mitzvot would be abolished simply because certain commandments are or are not repeated or reaffirmed individually in the New Testament, proclaiming the belief that such was never the job of the Apostles in the first place, and that the Torah has always been immutable. Messianics sometimes challenge Christians by arguing that if they believe Jesus is the Messiah, then according to the Torah itself Jesus could not have changed the Torah.
As with Orthodox Judaism, capital punishment and animal sacrifice are not practiced because there are strict Biblical conditions on how these are to be practiced, requiring a functioning Temple in Jerusalem with its Levite priesthood.
Most Messianics believe that observance of the Torah brings about sanctification, not salvation, which was to be produced only by the Messiah.
Like so many other elements of Messianic Judaism, the issue of Torah observance varies widely across the movement. The following subsections attempt to explain the differing opinions regarding Torah observance within Messianic Judaism as a whole.
Law and graceEdit
Some believe that the Torah is separated into moral, ceremonial, and civil commandments, and that only the moral laws are necessary to be observed by believers today. Others consider such a partitioning of the Torah to be a man-made and deliberate attempt to avoid serious observance of the whole Torah.
Others among the Messianics hold that both Jesus and Paul taught and commanded Jews to remain obedient to all the laws found in the Torah. (See New Perspective on Paul)
Most Messianics believe Jesus himself said that he came not to destroy the Law or Prophets but that he came to fulfill [to fill up to the full]. Matthew 5:17-19 17 " Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
Messianics understand (as supported by modern scholarship that Paul the Apostle (who is often referred to as Sha’ul, his Hebrew name) remained a Jewish Pharisee even as a believer until his death. This is based on Acts 23:6, detailing events after Paul's acceptance of Jesus as Messiah. "But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men [and] brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question."
Messianics cite the cutting off of Paul’s hair at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken (Acts 18:18), references in passing to him observing the Jewish holidays, the frequent mistranslations of his writings in many Bibles, and his consistent good standing with his Rabbinic master Gamaliel, to show that he was wholly in continued observance of the laws and traditions of Judaism
They maintain that Paul never set out to polarize the gospel between faith and righteous works, but that one is necessary to maintain the other. The New Perspective on Paul is important in Messianic Judaism.
Messianic Jewish ConversionEdit
Messianic perspectives on "Who is a Jew" vary. The Jerusalem Council, a global Messianic body, defines a Jew as one who is born of a Jewish mother or father, or who is a convert to Judaism. It should be noted that the Jerusalem Council recognizes as a convert to Judaism, in addition to Orthodox halakha, anyone who is a follower of Jesus who has gone through a mikvah of conversion to Messianic Judaism. Circumcision is seen by the Jerusalem Council not as a means by which one is recognized as a Jew, but rather as a measure of continued obedience to the Torah after conversion.
The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council, a Messianic halakhic body submitted to the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, instead promotes developing a process of conversion by which "non-Jews" may be circumcised and then only afterwards be recognized as Jewish.
Jewish theology rejects the idea that the messiah (or any other person) is a divinity, and such an idea has often been regarded as idolatrous. Nor does Judaism view the role of the messiah to be the salvation of the world from its sins (an idea widely accepted by Christians and messianic Jews). Judaism does not accept Jesus as the biblical messiah, nor does it assign him any religious role at all.
Historically, Christianity has featured supersessionism in which the Mosaic Covenant of the First Testament is superseded by the New Covenant of Jesus, wherein the merciful grace of God and not obedience to the Torah is required for salvation. This is sometimes complemented with God moving the status of "God's people" from Israel, as the First Testament announces, to the Christian Church. Messianic Judaism, in varying degrees, challenges both thoughts. Israel, though it has rejected Jesus (by majority) has not forfeited its place as God's chosen people. They quote Romans 11:29 which says "for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." The core of supersessionism, in which the First Testament covenant is canceled, is less agreed upon. Though the mitzvoh may or may not be necessary, most are still followed, especially keeping the Sabbath and other holy days. Some believe that Jews can still find favor with God through the Torah without accepting Jesus, as did Moses, David, and the Prophets.
Ethnic Jews who are ChristiansEdit
Being Jewish can refer to a religious identity or an ethnic designation, or usually both. Christians who were born Jewish do not necessarily identify as Messianic Jews; Christians with a Jewish heritage may follow Christianity in exactly the same way that any other Christian does. More confusing, some Messianic believers are actually of non-Jewish ethnicity, but attend Shul and follow the teachings of Messianic Judaism.
Jews for JesusEdit
Some Messianic believers do not consider Jews for Jesus to be a Messianic Jewish organization.
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The place of Jesus in Messianic Judaism is usually clearly defined. Contrary to Judaism, Messianic Judaism asserts that Jesus is the word of God become manifest (John 1:1;14), a belief that is identical with normative Christian doctrine regarding the nature and identity of the son of God. Furthermore, Messianic Judaism generally asserts that the Messiah has a dual aspect as revealed in Scripture. Instead of merely a physical Messiah who would save Israel from occupation and restore the Davidic Kingdom, Jesus first rescued the world from spiritual bondage – paving the way for true understanding and application of the Torah. The Messiah will return again – only this time he will indeed rescue the world from physical oppression and establish his unending Kingdom - again, a belief that is identical to the normative Christian view of the Messiah. George Berkley writes that Messianics "worship not just God but Jesus" who they call Yeshua.
As with many religious faiths, the exact tenets held vary from congregation to congregation. In general, essential doctrines of Messianic Judaism include views on God (omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, outside creation, infinitely significant and benevolent - viewpoints on the Trinity vary), Jesus is believed to be the Jewish Messiah though views on his divinity vary), written Torah (with a few exceptions, Messianics believe that Jesus taught and reaffirmed the Torah and that it remains fully in force), Israel (the Children of Israel are central to God's plan, replacement theology is opposed), the Bible (Tanakh and the New Testament are usually considered the divinely inspired Scripture, though Messianics are more open to criticism of the New Testament canon than is Christianity), eschatology (similar to many evangelical Christian views), and oral law (observance varies, but virtually all deem these traditions subservient to the written Torah). Certain additional doctrines, including sin and atonement and faith and works, are more open to differences in interpretation.
People of GodEdit
There exist among Messianics a number of perspectives regarding who exactly makes up God's chosen people. These are 'covenant membership, and halakhic definitions. Most commonly, Israel is seen as distinct from Ekklesia; Messianic Jews, being a part of both Israel and Ekklesia, are seen as the necessary link of the 'Gentile' People of God to the commonwealth of God's people of Israel. The two-house view, and the one law/grafted-in view are held by many identifying as Messianic, although some Messianic groups do not espouse these theologies.
Many Messianics believe that all of the moedim, indeed the entire Torah, intrinsically hint at the Messiah, and thus no study of the End times is complete without understanding the major Jewish Festivals in the larger prophetic context. To these believers, Passover, First Fruits, and Shavuot were fulfilled in Jesus's first coming, and Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot will be at his second. Many Messianics believe in a literal 7000 year period for the human history of the world, with a Messianic Millennial Sabbath Kingdom before a final judgment.
The issue of Torah observance is a contentious one within Messianic Judaism. Generally, "Torah observant" congregations observe Jewish Law, biblical feasts, and the Sabbath, although they do not teach that Gentiles need observe Torah. While most traditional Christians deny that the ritual laws and specific civil laws of the Pentateuch (though still affirming that Torah is the word of God) apply directly to themselves, passages regarding Torah observance in the New Testament are cited by Messianics that Torah was not abolished for Jews. They point out that in Acts 21 we find that the Jewish believers in Jerusalem are "zealous for Torah" and that Paul himself, never stopped being observant. Most Messianics believe that observance of the Torah brings about sanctification, not salvation, which was to be produced only by the Messiah.
- Main article: Messianic religious practice
Many Messianic organizations exist that address issues concerning Messianic religious practice.
The vision of the Jerusalem Council, a new organization, "includes the hope of re-appointing a beit din for Messianic believers worldwide, to be called the Jerusalem Council, or Beit HaDin HaYerushalmi, modeled after the original, and submitted to the new Jewish Sanhedrin in issues that do not contradict obedient faith to Messiah Yeshua or his teachings."
Another organization, the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (many of whose members are affiliated with the longstanding Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations) has published its standards of Messianic Torah observance at its website, ourrabbis.org.
Holiday observances Edit
Worship services are generally held on Friday evenings (Erev Shabbat) or Saturday mornings. Many Messianic Jews do not observe the Christmas holiday and those who do observe do not keep a Christmas tree.
The dietary laws of Judaism are a subject of continued debate among Messianic Jews.
Messianic music Edit
There are dozens of recording artists who consider their music to be Messianic in message. Some of the more famous artists who are known throughout the Messianic Jewish community include Joel Chernoff and Paul Wilbur. Joel Chernoff is one of the original members of a group called Lamb. Paul Wilbur is a solo artist. Another artist that is a household name in the Messianic movement is Marty Goetz. All of these artists have been influenced by Yiddish music and often incorporate Hebrew as well as Yiddish phrases into their lyrics.
Jewish objections to Messianic Judaism are numerous and often begin with objections to the term "Messianic Judaism" itself: It is objected that Judaism is a messianic religion, but that its messiah is not Jesus, thus the term is misleading.
Use of "Judaism" in the term is also considered misleading and as a subversive tactic used for missionary purposes. Messianic Jews are only considered eligible for the State of Israel's Law of Return if they can also claim Jewish descent. An assistant to one of the two lawyers involved with an April 2008 Supreme Court of Israel case explained to the Jerusalem Post that Messianics were "entitled to automatic new immigrant status and citizenship precisely because they were not Jews as defined by the Law of Return, but rather because they were the offspring of Jewish fathers"
Several anti-missionary organizations, such as Outreach Judaism and Jews for Judaism oppose Messianic Judaism on theological grounds, usually from an Orthodox Jewish perspective. In recent years these organizations have noticeably shifted their focus from countering the missionizing of Jews in the name of Christianity to countering the spread of Messianic Judaism. The Jewish anti-missionary organizations view the latter (Messianic Judaism) as a more threatening and subversive form of apostacy than the former (openly missionizing in the name of Christianity).
Denominations and organizationsEdit
All denominations of Judaism, as well as national Jewish organizations reject Messianic Judaism as a form of Judaism.
According to the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform):
"For us in the Jewish community, anyone who claims that Jesus is their savior is no longer a Jew and is an apostate. Through that belief she has placed herself outside the Jewish community. Whether she cares to define herself as a Christian or as a 'fulfilled Jew,' 'Messianic Jew,' or any other designation is irrelevant; to us, she is clearly a Christian."
"…Except in relations with Christians, the Christ of Christianity is not a Jewish issue. There simply can be no dialogue worthy of the name unless Christians accept — nay, treasure — the fact that Jews through the two millennia of Christianity have had an agenda of their own. There can be no Jewish-Christian dialogue worthy of the name unless one Christian activity is abandoned, missions to the Jews. It must be abandoned, moreover, not as a temporary strategy but in principle, as a bimillennial theological mistake. The cost of that mistake in Christian love and Jewish blood one hesitates to contemplate.
…A post-Holocaust Jew can still view Christian attempts to convert Jews as sincere and well intended. But even as such they are no longer acceptable: They have become attempts to do in one way what Hitler did in another."
According to a 1998 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents issued by Canadian B'nai Brith,
"One of the more alarming trends in antisemitic activity in Canada in 1998 was the growing number of incidents involving messianic organizations posing as "synagogues". These missionizing organizations are in fact evangelical Christian proselytizing groups, whose purpose is specifically to target members of the Jewish community for conversion. They fraudulently represent themselves as Jews, and these so-called synagogues are elaborately disguised Christian churches."
Suggestions of Jewish legitimacyEdit
Jews believe that Messianic Judaism is not a form of Judaism, and that the very name of the movement itself is deceptive. However, two non-Messianic Jewish scholars have suggested re-approaching the subject:
- University of Wales, Lampeter, Theology and Religious Studies Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok also an American Reform rabbi, has suggested in his book Messianic Judaism that there should be a consideration of the place of Messianic Judaism within the contemporaryJewish community and outlines three alternative models for understanding the relationship between Messianic Judaism and the modern Jewish world.
- Reconstructionist rabbi Carol Harris-Shapiro has posited that Messianic Judaism is a form of Judaism, while simultaneously a form of Christianity. She also asserts why and how both Christianity and Judaism reject Messianic Judaism.
The state of Israel grants Aliyah (right of return) and citizenship to Jews, and to those with Jewish parents or grandparents who are not considered Jews according to halacha, e.g. people who have a Jewish father but a non-Jewish mother. Specifically excluded were any “person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion.” An Israeli Supreme Court decision in 1989 ruled that Messianic Judaism constituted another religion. The Israeli government therefore rejected as a matter of course applications from Messianic Jews under the Law of Return.
On April 16, 2008, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled in a case brought by a number of Messianic Jews with Jewish fathers and grandfathers. Their applications for Aliyah had been rejected on the grounds that they were Messianic Jews. The argument was made by the applicants that they had never been Jews according to halacha, and were not therefore excluded by the conversion clause. This argument was upheld in the ruling.
Persecution of Messianic JewsEdit
The International Religious Freedom Report 2008, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the US states that discrimination against Messianic Jews in Israel is increasing. Some acts of violence have also occurred such as incident on March 20, 2008, a bomb concealed as a Purim gift basket was delivered to the house of a prominent Messianic Jewish family in Ariel, Israel, which severely wounded the son.
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- Cohn-Sherbok, Dan. Messianic Judaism, Continuum International Publishing Group (1 February 2001), ISBN 0-8264-5458-5
- Cohn-Sherbok, Dan, ed. Voices of Messianic Judaism: Confronting Critical Issues Facing a Maturing Movement, Messianic Jewish Resources International (June, 2001), ISBN 1-880226-93-6
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- Fieldsend, John. Messianic Jews - Challenging Church And Synagogue, Monarch Publications/MARC/Olive Press, (1993), ISBN 1-85424-228-8
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- Gruber, Daniel, The Church and the Jews: The Biblical Relationship (Springfield, MO: General Council of the Assemblies of God, Intercultural Ministries, 1991)
- Gruber, Daniel, Torah and the New Covenant--An Introduction (Elijah Publishing 1998) ISBN 0-9669253-0-0
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- Hefley, James C. The New Jews, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (1974), ISBN 0-8423-4680-5
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- Maoz, Baruch. Judaism Is Not Jewish - A Friendly Critique Of The Messianic Movement, Mentor, (2003), ISBN 1-85792-787-7
- Pearce, Tony. The Messiah Factor, New Wine Press, (Spring 2004), ISBN 1-903725-32-1
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- Robinson, Rich, ed. The Messianic Movement: A Field Guide For Evangelical Christians From Jews For Jesus, Purple Pomegranate Publications, (2005), ISBN 1-881022-62-5
- Schiffman, Dr Michael. Return Of The Remnant - The Rebirth Of Messianic Judaism, Lederer Books, (1996), ISBN 1-880226-53-7
- Scholem, Gershom. The Messianic Idea in Judaism and other Essays on Jewish Spirituality, (1971), ISBN 978-0805210439
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- Telchin, Stan. Messianic Judaism is Not Christianity, Chosen Books (September, 2004), ISBN 0-8007-9372-2
- The Jerusalem Council - Messianic Beit Din Global Forum for Messianic Judaism, Messianic Halakha, and Torah Study
- Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council UMJC's Messianic Halakha development organization
- Basics of Messianic Judaism
- Association of Messianic Congregations
- UMJC Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations A major Messianic denomination
- IAMCS The International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues
- Hebrew for Christians A Hebrew language site geared toward Christians
- Messiah Truth — critical of Messianic missionary outreach
- Jews for Judaism
- Outreach Judaism
- Why Jews Don't Believe in Jesus Aish.com
- Can a Jew believe in Jesus? chabad.org
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