What Is Messianic Judaism?

 

     Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish people who believe that Yeshua (Jesus’ original name in Hebrew) is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world. Yeshua is the most Jewish of Jews. Yeshua was a descendant of both Abraham and King David, was raised in a Jewish home and went to synagogue. He perfectly kept the entire Torah (see Galatians 4:4). He taught that He came to fulfill, not set aside, the Torah (see Matthew 5:17-19). He was a rabbi who performed unparalleled miracles, bringing great blessing to the nation of Israel. All His early disciples also lived very Jewish lives.

     The Messianic movement was entirely Jewish at its inception, and continued to exist as an authentic Jewish movement for 700 years after Yeshua’s death and resurrection. Messianic Jews have not stopped being Jewish. On the contrary, we remain strongly Jewish in our identity and lifestyle! The Tenach (the Old Testament Scriptures) provides the foundation of our Jewish faith, and the New Covenant Scriptures (which were also written by Jews) the completion of our Jewish faith.

     In fact, the Hebrew Scriptures themselves affirm that they are not complete, but that God was going to make a New Covenant with the Jewish people (Jeremiah 31:31-34). We believe that the Sinai covenant, upon which much of traditional (Rabbinic) Judaism is based, is a broken covenant. There is no Temple and there are no sacrifices by which we can be brought near to God and experience genuine atonement. Non-Messianic Judaism is based on this broken covenant, which cannot save us. In contrast, we believe that God already established this New Covenant by means of Yeshua’s death and resurrection. He died and rose again to atone for our sins, so that we can enter into this New Covenant relationship with God. We believe that Yeshua ascended to the right hand of God the Father and is coming back to Earth to reign from Jerusalem over Israel and all the nations of the world. At that time the fullness of the New Covenant will be realized.

 

What Is The Difference Between Messianic Judaism And The Various Non-Messianic Judaisms?

 

     Non-Messianic or Rabbinic Judaism is a religion centered around the teachings and writings of the non-Messianic rabbis. Its formation began during the Babylonian Captivity (around 550 BC) and solidified nearly 2,000 years ago when the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Prior to that, “Judaism”, or the faith of the Jewish people, was centered around the Temple and the sacrificial system, and brought genuine atonement. After the destruction of the Temple, the non-Messianic rabbis decided to radically restructure Judaism, substituting synagogues, rabbis, prayers, study and commandments for the Temple, priests and sacrifices. They also added many of their own laws, rules and traditions. Sadly, they left us with a man-made religion that is powerless to save us. Today their writings and commentaries (the Talmud, etc.) form the foundation of traditional (non-Messianic) Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism consists of several branches: Orthodox (traditional), Chassidic (Orthodox with influences from eastern mysticism, including belief in reincarnation – a non-Biblical concept), Conservative,Reform (liberal), Reconstructionist (emphasizing Jewish culture over theology) and Secular Humanistic (denying the existence of God).

     Very few within these “Judaisms” are actually awaiting the Messiah, and those who are, are the exceptions. Messianic Judaism differs from Rabbinic Judaism in that we rely completely on the Scriptures. Our faith is the Judaism of the Bible (Biblical Judaism) and is centered on Messiah and the salvation He brings. We are brought near to God because of the atoning work of Yeshua, Israel’s Chief Rabbi, who has fulfilled us as Jewish Believers and fulfilled Judaism itself.

 

 

Is There A Difference Between Messianic Judaism And Christianity?

 

     In one sense, Messianic Judaism and Christianity are the same thing. There is only one faith. Messianic Jews and Christians share the same core beliefs. Messianic Judaism is the same faith but it is expressed within the Jewish heritage.

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THE ORIGINS OF MESSIANIC JUDAISM

 

When Did Messianic Judaism Begin?

 

     Messianic Judaism is actually 2,000 years old, dating to the time of Yeshua Himself. Yeshua was (and is) Jewish. He was raised in a Jewish home and ministered to Jewish people in the Land of Israel. His disciples were Jewish. The apostles were Jewish. The writers of the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant or Testament) were Jewish (with the possible exception of Luke, and a good case can be made that he too was Jewish), and for a time, the faith was strictly Jewish. By the middle of the first century AD, tens of thousands of Jewish people believed that Yeshua was the Messiah (see Acts 2:37-42, 4:4, 21:20).

 

If, At First, Messianic Judaism Was Made Up Entirely Of Jewish People, How Did Gentiles Come Into The Faith?

 

     It was always God’s will for the Gentile nations to share in His salvation (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6). God told Abraham that through him all the nations of the Earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). The Lord set apart the Jewish people to bring the knowledge of God, the Word of God, and the Savior to the rest of the world. At first the early Messianic Jews did not understand that this was God’s will and they proclaimed the Good News only to other Jewish people. Ironically, the big controversy in the first century was not whether Jews could believe in Yeshua (naturally they could), but whether Gentiles could come into the faith without having to “become Jewish”! When Messianic Jews finally understood that salvation was also intended for the Gentiles, they began to share the Good News with non-Jews as well as with Jews. As a result, many Gentiles began to come into the faith.

 

How Did A Jewish Movement Come To Be Regarded As So Non-Jewish?

 

     When the early Messianic Jews took the Good News to the Gentiles, many became Believers. By the end of the first century, Gentile Believers outnumbered the Jewish Believers. This occurred primarily because there are far more Gentiles than Jewish people. However, as more and more Gentiles came into the Messianic faith, some had little understanding or regard for its Jewish roots and God’s eternal covenant with Israel. A “de-Judaizing” process (a separation from the Jewish roots of the faith and from the Jewish people) set in. As the number of Gentile Believers increased, they began to dominate the faith until the Gentile expression of Christianity emerged as the dominant expression of the faith. Then, in what can only be regarded as one of the greatest paradoxes of history, Christianity made it seem alien for a Jewish person to be loyal to the King of the Jews!

 

When Did The Early Messianic Jews Disappear And Why?

 

     In spite of the many pressures put upon Jewish Believers to give up their faith, it seems that Messianic Judaism continued into the seventh century AD. First, non-Messianic rabbis pressured Messianic Jews to relinquish their faith in Yeshua as the Messiah. In addition, the dominant Gentile expression of Christianity pressured Messianic Jews to abandon their Jewishness. Finally, in the seventh century AD, the rise of Islam caused distress for Messianic Jews. Despite all this, the real reason for the disappearance of early Messianic Judaism was that Messianic Jews lost their “vision” – no longer regarding it as important to remain Jewish after accepting Yeshua. Consequently, they assimilated into the Gentile expression of Christianity.

 

MODERN MESSIANIC JUDAISM

 

When Did The Modern Messianic Jewish Movement Begin?

 

     Though Messianic Judaism as a distinct movement faded in the seventh century, there have always been individual Jewish Believers in Yeshua. Beginning in the early 1800s increasing numbers of Jewish people began believing in Yeshua. The modern Messianic Jewish movement came to fruition in the 1960s and 1970s. We believe that this could be part of the salvation of the Jewish people predicted to occur in the Last Days (see Hosea 3:4-5, Joel 2:28-29, Deuteronomy 30:1-5, Romans 11:25-27).

 

How Many Messianic Jews Are There?

 

     While there are no concrete figures, it has been estimated by those involved in the movement (and even by those outside the movement) that there are approximately 40,000 to 50,000 Jewish Believers in the Messiah in the United States. Even though there are approximately 300 Messianic synagogues in the U.S., the majority of Messianic Jews join evangelical churches and do not attend Messianic congregations. The Messianic congregational movement is still relatively small, but it is growing. In 1948, when Israel was reestablished as an independent nation, there were fewer than 100 Messianic Jews living in Israel. Today, there are approximately 8,000 Messianic Jews in Israel in 50 congregations! The Messianic Jewish movement is also growing in other countries. If you are interested in getting involved in a Messianic synagogue, discernment is required, since not all are theologically sound.

 

MESSIANIC TERMINOLOGY

 

Why Do We Use The Name “Yeshua” As Well As “Jesus”?

     Yeshua never heard the name “Jesus” in His lifetime! Yeshua is His given Hebrew name! It means “salvation” or “the Lord is salvation” (see Matthew 1:21). He was always called “Yeshua”, a common Hebrew name at that time. When Latin-speaking missionaries, who called the Messiah “Yesu”, brought the Good News to the British people, “Yesu” became “Jesus” in English.

 

What Does “Christ” Mean?

     Some people mistakenly believe that “Christ” is Yeshua’s last name! Rather, “Christ” is His title in much the same way as we might refer to a “President” or “King”. This title is taken from the Hebrew word “Mashiach” or “Anointed One”, which was translated into the Greek “Christos” and later anglicized to “Christ”. The actual English translation of Mashiach is “Messiah” and means an anointed, God-appointed leader. Prophets, priests and kings were anointed. The Messiah is the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King! Examples of this title in the Tenach are found in Daniel 9:25 and Psalm 2:2. In the New Covenant, Yeshua claimed the title of Messiah (see Mark 14:61-62 and John 4:25-26).

 

Why Do Many Messianic Jews Prefer To Identify As Messianic Jews?

     The term “Christian” originally meant “follower of the Christ” or “follower of the Messiah”. By itself “Christian” is a good term. Theologically, Messianic Jews are Christians and many of us do identify as Christians and call ourselves Christians. But sadly, over time the term “Christian” came to be used over-broadly and inaccurately. Many people today have a false dichotomy in their minds, that on the one hand there are Jews and Judaism, and on the other hand there are Gentiles and Christianity; and supposedly one must choose between the two. Accordingly, when a Jewish person accepts Yeshua he is thought to have “switched over” from the Jew-Judaism side to the Gentile-Christianity side; and is therefore no longer regarded as a Jew, but as a Gentile-Christian. For all intents and purposes the term “Christian” has become synonymous with “non-Jew” or “Gentile”. We believe the opposite to be true. Nothing could be more Jewish than to follow Israel’s Messiah! Consequently we also choose to call ourselves “Messianic Jews”, which identifies us as Jewish people who follow Messiah Yeshua.

 

If I’m Jewish And Believe in Jesus, Will I Stop Being Jewish?

     Yeshua is the Messiah and believing in Him is the most Jewish thing that you could do! How could a Jewish person who acknowledges the Jewish Messiah become a non-Jew? Contrary to certain claims, the Jewish identity of many Messianic Jews has been strengthened by their faith in the King of the Jews. Many of us can claim that Jesus made us kosher! Faith in Yeshua is Jewish, no matter what men (even a majority of men) may say, because truth is determined by God – not by a majority vote! In fact, in every generation it has always been the remnant minority of Jewish people who had true faith in God. The majority almost always went astray (as examples, see Numbers 14:1-10, Exodus 32:25-26, Romans 11:2-10). If you are Jewish, it is because God made you a Jew and no one can ever change that.

 

MESSIANIC JEWISH LIFESTYLE

 

What Is The Importance Of Messianic Congregations?

     Just as Messianic Judaism is not new, neither are Messianic synagogues new. Biblical and historical records demonstrate that there were Messianic synagogues throughout the Roman Empire and beyond as early as 50 AD (James 1:1, 2:2, Hebrews 10:27). Messianic congregations help foster community life. They enable Messianic Jews to worship the God of Israel within the Jewish heritage. Assimilation is a problem for Messianic Jews (as well as for other Jews), and Messianic congregations help combat the forces of assimilation. Historically, Messianic Jewish families that make no effort to live a Jewish lifestyle or to be involved in Jewish evangelism almost always assimilate within a couple of generations. Messianic congregations can help us maintain our Jewish identity and pass it on to the following generations.

 

What About Messianic Jewish Ministries?

     Jewish ministries are also part of the Messianic Jewish movement. The Lord has used organizations like Jews for Jesus to bring the truth to many Jewish people, start Messianic synagogues and help Gentile Christians learn about the Jewishness of Christianity. Messianic congregations and Jewish ministries need to work together.

 

Do Messianic Jews Believe They Should Keep The Law Of Moses?

     The covenant upon which much of the Torah is based is the broken Sinai covenant. There is no Temple,and therefore no sacrifices by which we may draw near to God and obtain eternal life. Therefore, it is impossible to keep all the laws of the Mosaic Covenant today. In addition, most Jews live outside of Israel, and many of the laws only apply to life within Israel. Nevertheless, the laws that are part of the covenant mediated by Moses are still valuable and relevant.


     The Torah continues to inform and guide the life of the Jewish people. It teaches us the right things to do and gives us a good way to live. It helps us live an authentic Jewish lifestyle. It helps us remain part of the Holy People. The early Messianic Jews had a favorable view of the Torah, and many were zealous to live in accordance with it (see Acts 21:20-26). History documents that Messianic Jews continued to live a distinctly Jewish, Torah-based lifestyle for centuries after the arrival of Messiah Yeshua. There is no incompatibility with being “zealous for the Torah” and being a Messianic Jew.

 

     Therefore:

• We are pro-Torah, while recognizing that the Covenant made at Sinai is a broken covenant.
• We are pro-Torah, valuing the great wisdom that is found in the Torah.

• We are pro-Torah, recognizing that all Believers are in some sense to fulfill the Law (Romans 8:4), but that not all of us are obligated to fulfill the same requirements of the Law (for example, Gentiles need not be circumcised).
• We are pro-Torah, recognizing that nobody (Jewish or otherwise) can be saved by the works of the Law.
• We are pro-Torah, recognizing that Messiah’s teaching helps return us to the Torah’s original intent regarding issues such as a man being married to only one woman.

• We are  pro-Torah, understanding that one of the main purposes of the Torah is to point us to Messiah.
• We are pro-Torah, accepting the fact that Messianic Jews who choose not to keep every aspect of the Law, particularly the ceremonial laws, do not lose their salvation.

We encourage Messianic Jews to identify with and embrace their Jewish heritage, which in large part is based on the Torah; and encourage Messianic Jews and Christians to be gracious to each other regarding others’ level of Torah observance.

 

 

Do Messianic Jews Celebrate The Jewish Holidays And, If So, Why?

     Most Messianic Jews celebrate the Biblical holidays such as Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), Rosh HaShanah (the traditional Jewish New Year, but actually the Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), Chanukkah (the Feast of Dedication) and Purim. We celebrate the holidays because it is written in the Torah for Israel to observe these festivals forever (Leviticus 23:21, 31, 41; Exodus 12:14). Yeshua observed these festivals, as did the early Messianic Jews and apostles such as Rabbi Paul (Acts 20:16, 27:9; 1 Corinthians 16:8).

    We also believe that when Messiah Yeshua returns to Earth, some of these holidays will be reestablished worldwide (Zechariah 14:11-21). As Messianic Jews celebrate the holidays, we do so with the understanding that Yeshua is the fulfillment of each of them. For example, He is our Passover Lamb, who died on Passover. He is the Firstfruits of the resurrection, who came back to life on the holiday of Firstfruits. He is our Atonement on Yom Kippur, etc.

 

What Is The Relationship Of Gentile Christians To The Laws Of The Torah?


     Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles (the Church), while having much in common with Israel, is not identical to Israel. The New Covenant is not the same as the Old Covenant. Jews who enter the New Covenant remain Jews, and Gentiles who enter the New Covenant remain Gentiles. Gentile Believers are not the same as the Gentile foreigners who lived in the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. Gentile Christians have an elevated status compared to the aliens who lived in the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. They are fully co-heirs of the Kingdom with the Jewish saints. *Being grafted into Israel doesn’t mean that Gentile Believers become Israel or are required to live the same way as the Jewish people.*

     Jews and Gentiles are one because of our one God and Father of all: “one Lord, one faith and one Baptism”. We share equally in the Spirit of God, who lives in all of us, and have the same hope of living forever in the New Jerusalem. Being one doesn’t negate the differences in roles and calling and lifestyle between Jews and Gentiles. Keep in mind that most of the laws of the Torah were directed specifically to the Jewish people and not to the other nations. The laws formed Israel’s constitution. The laws were meant to keep Israel distinct from the other nations.

 

     So what relationship does the Gentile Christian have to the 613 laws of the Torah? The book of Acts records that Messiah’s Emissaries (the Apostles) and the Elders of Messiah’s Holy Community met to decide this very issue. In the Messianic Jewish community we commonly refer to this meeting, recorded in Acts 15, as “the First Jerusalem Council”.

According to the binding, Holy Spirit-inspired decision issued by the Emissaries and Elders, apart from saving faith in Messiah Yeshua, only four essential practices are necessary for Gentile Christians:
     1) abstaining from food dirtied by idolatry,
     2) from sexual immorality,
     3) from eating blood
     4) and from the meat of animals that have been strangled (see Acts 15, especially verses 19-20, 28-29).


     In addition to these Four Essentials, obedience to the Moral Law (for example, not stealing, not murdering, not committing adultery and not bearing false witness) is required. The Creator has written these moral laws on everyone’s heart (see Romans 2:14-15).

     Apart from these Four Essential Practices and the Moral Law, everything else – including the Sabbath, holidays and dietary laws – is to be regarded as non-essential, and comes under the area of Christian freedom and liberty.*

If someone wants to observe a Biblical holiday or custom, there is freedom, but no obligation, to do so. Gentile Christians have the freedom to celebrate the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays, or not observe them. If someone says, “Messiah is my Passover and I don’t need to celebrate a Passover Seder” – that’s fine. If someone says, “Messiah is my Sabbath, and I’m resting in Him, and therefore I don’t need to rest on the Sabbath” – that’s OK. If someone wants to observe the first day of the week as a day of rest and worship, he has every right to do so. If someone says, “I want to observe the Sabbath and celebrate the Passover to help me better remember and appreciate Messiah, my Passover Lamb” – that’s fine, too.


     This does not make the Torah irrelevant for Christians. The Torah is full of great wisdom. In the Torah are found the principles for salvation, atonement and God-ordained ways of worship. The initial prophecies and God-ordained qualifications for the Messiah are found here. True and accurate historical accounts – the history of the Creation, the Fall and the Flood; the origins and dispersing of the nations and their languages; the foundation and calling of Israel; the covenants made with Noah, Abraham and Moses – are all contained in this great Book. Basic laws of morality and justice, and principles for godly living – principles that can be applied to the life of every nation and every Christian – are found in the Torah. Every Christian should be well-versed in the Torah.

 

Can Gentiles Be Members Of A Messianic Synagogue?

     Most Messianic congregations have non-Jewish members. To be a member of a Messianic synagogue, a Gentile Believer should have a love for the Jewish people, an understanding of what God is doing with the Jewish people, and have a “Ruth-like” calling to the Chosen People.

 

Are Messianic Jews Zionists?

     Most Messianic Jews support Israel, not only because we believe the Jewish people need a national homeland, but also because we believe the reestablishment of Israel is a direct fulfillment of ancient Biblical prophecies (Ezekiel 36:24, 37:1-14, Zechariah 12).
• We believe the reestablishment of the nation of Israel is part of the divine plan and not a historical accident. • We reject Replacement Theology, the false teaching that God has replaced Israel with the Church and God’s promises of restoration to our God-given land are not to be taken literally. This also extends to Two House Theology, Ephramitism, etc where they believe they are part of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel.

Therefore everyone, especially Christians, should support Israel’s right to our ancient land because God’s promise to Abraham is still in effect: “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:3).

 

HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YESHUA IS THE MESSIAH?

The prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures assure us that Yeshua is the Messiah. God wanted us to be able to recognize the Messiah when He came:

 The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:1-2). See Matthew 2:1-6, Luke 2:1-20.

 The Messiah would be more than a man. He would be God in human form (Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Psalm 110:1, Proverbs 30:4). See John 1:1, 20:28; Hebrews 1:8.

 The Messiah had to come before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD (Daniel 9:24-27). See Luke 1:5, 2:1-7.

The Messiah had to be a direct descendant of King David, a member of the royal family of Israel (Jeremiah 23:5-6, Isaiah 9:6-7). See Matthew 1.

The Messiah was to be tried and unfairly condemned, even though He was perfectly innocent (Isaiah 53:8). See Matthew 27:1-2, Luke 23:1-25.

The Messiah would die to make atonement for the sin of Israel and the world (Isaiah 53:5-6, 8, 10-12; Daniel 9:24-27; Zechariah 9:9, 12:10; Psalm 16:10, 22). See John 1:29, 11:49-52; 1 Corinthians 15:53.

The Messiah was to be a light to the nations, so that God’s salvation could reach to the ends of the Earth (Isaiah 49:6). Yeshua is the most popular, the most studied and the most influential figure in the history of mankind. He is the most famous Jew who ever lived: more famous than Abraham, more famous than Moses, more famous than King David or any of the prophets, more famous than Freud or Einstein! If people throughout the world know about Israel, or pray to the God of Israel, or read the Holy Scriptures of Israel, it is because of Yeshua. No Jewish person should be indifferent to the fact that this Jewish man has had such a tremendous part in the history of mankind. The love He has inspired, the comfort He has given, the good He has engendered, the hope and joy He has kindled are unequaled in human history. He truly has become the light of the world!

The Messiah would rise from the dead (Isaiah 53:8-12; Psalm 16:10, 118:21-24; Zechariah 12:10). The New Testament records that after His death and resurrection, Yeshua appeared to a wide variety of Jewish people in varying numbers and under varying circumstances. He appeared to Mary (John 20:11-18); to some other women (Matthew 28:8-10); to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34); to two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35); to 10 of the apostles (Luke 24:36-43); to all 11 apostles eight days later (John 20:24-29); then to seven by the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee – see John 21:1-23). Yeshua appeared to 500 people at once, most of whom were alive and could verify the event when the New Testament was written (1 Cor. 15:6)! Yeshua appeared to His brother James, who became the leader of the Jerusalem Congregation (1 Corinthians 15:7), and to Rabbi Paul of Tarsus, who became better known as the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-16). Since the first century there have been millions of people, both Jews and Gentiles (including some of the greatest thinkers, philosophers and scientists), who have claimed to have encountered the resurrected Yeshua. What transformed all of these people? Only one explanation makes sense – He is alive today!

Yeshua’s resurrection makes Him absolutely unique in the history of the world and puts him on a level far higher than any of the prophets of Israel or any other religion or any philosopher. Buddha is still in his tomb. Mohammed is still in his grave. Confucius is still dead. Marx, Lenin and Freud are still in their graves. Only Yeshua has been raised from death! Since God would never allow a liar, a deceiver, or a false Messiah to be resurrected, Yeshua’s resurrection validates His person, His ministry and His message. His resurrection is God’s seal of approval on everything that Yeshua did and taught, and God’s declaration to the world that Yeshua is Messiah and Savior of mankind. Therefore, we ought to pay attention to every word He uttered, since He spoke the truth without any error.

History tells us that only one man – Yeshua of Nazareth – fulfilled these prophecies and many others. No other man in history even comes close. The probability that one person could fulfill all these prophecies by chance is infinitesimally small. There is only one rational conclusion: Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel whom the prophets told us to expect.

 

 

MESSIANIC JUDAISM

OVERVIEW

Messianic Judaism is a Biblically based movement of people who, as committed Jews, believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah of Israel of whom the Jewish Law and Prophets spoke.

To many this seems a glaring contradiction. Christians are Christians, Jews are decidedly not Christian. So goes the understanding that has prevailed through nearly two thousand years of history.

Messianic Jews call this a mistaken - and even anti-Scriptural - understanding. Historical and Biblical evidence demonstrates that following Yeshua was initially an entirely Jewish concept. Decades upon decades of persecution, division, and confused theology all contributed to the dichotomy between Jews and believers in Yeshua that many take for granted today.

 

FIRST CENTURY BELIEVERS IN YESHUA

Two thousand years ago Yeshua was a Jew living among Jewish people. "Yeshua," by which Jesus was called during his time on earth, is itself a Hebrew word for "Salvation." Yeshua kept Torah, or the Law of Moses. He studied the Jewish Scriptures that many now know as the "Old Testament," and read them aloud at the local synagogue on Shabbat (Luke 4:16). He was called rabbi (Teacher/Master) by his followers.

 

Yeshua

Matthew 5:17

"Think not that I came to abolish the law and the prophets: I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them."

After His death and resurrection, His following increased. From the book of Acts and other historical evidence, many believe that in the first century A.D. hundreds of thousands of Jews followed His teachings (Acts 2:41, 2:47, 4:4, 6:7, 9:31, 21:20), and established Messianic Synagogues throughout the Roman Empire and beyond (James 1:1, 2:2).

One of the first debates these early disciples faced seems ironic to us now: Could non-Jews participate in the community of Yeshua's followers without becoming Jews? At the very birth of Judaism, God had told Abraham that He would bless all nations of the earth through Abraham's offspring (Genesis 12.3). Accordingly, the apostolic council in Acts 15 decided that non-Jews could follow Yeshua without converting to Judaism.

Many factors intervened in the following years. Believers in Yeshua suffered increased opposition from both Roman authorities and Jewish synagogue leaders. As more and more Gentiles came to accept this faith and as the original Jewish apostles passed away, the Jewishness of that first-century faith was gradually lost.

 

MODERN MESSIANIC JUDAISM

Though Messianic Judaism itself dates back to Yeshua's twelve apostles, its "resurrection" is a relatively new phenomenon.

In the late 1800s, after several large-scale "revivals" among protestant believers in the United States and Europe, many Christians sought to tell Jewish people about Yeshua, or Jesus. Even as some Jewish people in Europe began to desire to return to the land of Israel and establish a permanent Jewish homeland there, the Lord stirred many Jews to look at the so-called "Christian Bible," or New Testament Scriptures, for themselves.

Centuries of continuing anti-Semitism in the name of Jesus had left the Jewish community skeptical. But some Jewish men and women did become followers of Yeshua during this time. In the following decades whole congregations of Jewish believers in Jesus were born. This movement was dubbed "Hebrew Christianity."

 

Rabbi Sha'ul (Apostle Paul)

Romans 9:4-5

"They are the Israelites, and to them belong the Son-ship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Messiah!"

"Hebrew Christianity" has since become known as "Messianic Judaism." There are now tens of thousands of Messianic Jews in the United States alone; some estimate as many as 1.2 million. Messianic synagogues are springing up in almost every major city across the U.S., and Messianic Judaism is quickly growing in other nations throughout North and South America, Europe, Oceania, and the former Soviet republics.

Christianity later became the state religion of the Roman Empire. Eventually an anti-Semitic view of the Messiah's life and death became accepted theology in Christian Europe for hundreds of years. Messianic Jews recognize that their existence is entirely due to God's intervention on behalf of His Jewish people. Messianic Judaism is part of the fulfillment of God's many Scriptural promises of eternal love and faithfulness to Israel.

 

THE MESSIANIC JEWISH IDENTITY

The "Messianic Jewish identity" is wholly dependent on the person of Yeshua: God Himself comes to earth to reconcile the Jewish people and all nations to Himself. (See our Statement of Faith to find out more.)

 

Isaiah

Isaiah 53:6

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

The foundation of Messianic Judaism, therefore, is each individual's personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through Messiah Yeshua. In the Hebrew Law God clearly demands a blood sacrifice for the remittance of sins. Each Messianic Jew recognizes his or her own sinfulness and has accepted that Yeshua Himself provided this sacrifice.

Another important aspect of the Messianic Jewish movement is Jewish congregational worship. If Yeshua really is the Jewish Messiah of whom all the Jewish Law and Prophets spoke, then it is the most Jewish thing in the world to follow Him!

Should Jews really attempt to assimilate into churches and forego their Jewish identity when they choose to put their faith in the Jewish Messiah? Messianic Judaism answers, "No!" As Yeshua Himself embraced His Jewishness, Messianic Jews seek to embrace theirs, by meeting in congregational communities with other Jewish believers and by maintaining a Biblically Jewish expression of their faith. Every congregation is different, but this expression often means worshiping in Hebrew, following Mosaic Law, dancing as King David did before the Lord, and keeping Biblical holidays such as Pesach, Sukkot, or Shavuot.

Also important is Messianic Judaism's ministry to both the Jewish community and the Christian body of believers. Messianic Jews are part of the larger Body of Messiah throughout the world, and Messianic Jews hope to help all believers in Yeshua to better understand the Jewish roots of their faith. Finally, Yeshua declared that no-one can comes to the Father - the God of Israel - except through Him (John 14:6). Messianic Jews seek to share this way, this truth, and this life with their Jewish brothers and sisters.

 

 

Core doctrines (see a full statement of Faith, click here to link to BELIEFS Page)

Creation: Messianic Jews accept old earth creationism.

God: Messianics believe in the God of the Bible, and that He is all-powerful, omni-present, eternal, exists outside of creation, and infinitely significant and benevolent.

The Messiah: Yeshua (Jesus) is believed to be the promised Jewish messiah. The mainstream movement accepts Yeshua as God in the flesh, and as the Torah made flesh.

Written Torah: Messianics, with a few exceptions, consider the written Torah (Pentateuch), the five books of Moses, to remain fully in force and a continuing covenant, to be observed both morally and ritually, by those who profess faith in God. They believe that Yeshua taught and re-affirmed the Torah, rather than doing away with it. This means that most Messianic Jews do not eat non-Kosher foods such as: shellfish or pork. They also will not work on Friday nights or Saturday days (the traditional Jewish Sabbath). This adherence to the biblical Law is where Messianic Judaism differs from most Christian denominations.

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.

 

The Bible:

The Tanakh and New Testament (sometimes called the B’rit Chadasha) are considered the established inerrant, and divinely inspired Biblical scripture by Messianic Judaism.

Eschatology: 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). In addition most believe in the millennial sabbath,although some are Amillinialist.

Oral Torah: Messianic Jewish opinions concerning the "Oral Torah" (the Talmud) are varied and sometimes conflicting between individual congregations. Some congregations are very selective in their applications of Talmudic law, or do so for the sake of continuity with tradition, while others encourage a serious observance of the Jewish halakha. Virtually all Messianic congregations and synagogues believe that the oral traditions are subservient to the written Torah.

Additional doctrines

Sin and atonement: Some Messianics define sin as transgression of the Torah (Law/Instruction) of God and include the concept of original sin. Some adherents atone for their sins through prayer and repentance—that is, acknowledgment of the wrongdoing and seeking forgiveness for their sins (especially on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). Other Messianics disagree with these rites and practices, believing that all sin (whether committed yet or not) is already atoned for through Jesus's death and resurrection. (Hebrews 9:26)

Faith and works: Some Messianics draw on Jewish rather than Christian tradition. In Hebrew, both "faith" and "faithfulness" are one word "אמונה" ("emunah"). Many adherents believe in a showing of their faith through righteous works (Jacob/"James" 2:17-26), defined by both the Tanakh and the New Testament. Some Messianics believe that faith and works are mutually exclusive or polarized; others believe that faith in God and righteous works are entirely complementary to each other (James 2:20), 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.

Salvation: In agreement with historical Protestantism, Messianics believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.{Ephesians 2:8-9}

 

Canon

Messianic believers commonly hold the תנ"ך (Tanakh; Hebrew Bible), to be divinely inspired. The הברית החדשה ("Brit Chadasha"; New Testament) is also considered to also be divinely inspired.

תורה (Torah; "Teaching" or "Instruction") is also called the חומש (Chumash; "The five"). "The Law" is called "The Five Books of Moses" or the "Pentateuch" especially by Christians.

נביאים (Nevi'im; "Prophets")

כתובים (Ketuvim; "Writings") is sometimes called "Αγιόγραφα" ("Hagiographa"; "Holy Writ")

Gospels

 ‣ Gospel of מתתיהו ("Mattityahu"; "Gift of God")/מתי ("Mattay")/"Matthew", ‣ Gospel of Marcus/Μαρκοϲ ("Markos")/"Mark", ‣ Gospel of Lucas/Λουκᾶς ("Loukas")/"Luke", and ‣ Gospel of יהוחנן ("Yehochanan"; "God has been gracious")/יוחנן ("Yochanan")/"John".

Acts of the Apostles

Epistles of Jude, John, James, Peter, Paul [Romans ,1 & 2 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon), and the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Book of Revelation.

David H. Stern has produced a Messianic Jewish version of the Bible called the Complete Jewish Bible.

Torah

"Torah" refers to the first five books of the Bible. Torah reading in Hebrew is one qualifier for a congregation to be considered authentically Messianic. Individuals are encouraged to engage in private and corporate study of Torah for instruction in doctrine and righteousness.

The Torah contains the 613 commandments of the Covenant between God and Israel. Some Messianic congregations and synagoges hold that for Jews, whether they are Messianic or not, Torah observance is covenantally obligatory, for Gentiles it is not.

Scriptural commentary

Many messianic believers also look to Jewish texts and laws, such as the Babylonian Talmud and other rabbinic commentary, for historical insight into an understanding of the biblical texts. However, much like Karaite Judaism, some Messianics do not accept rabbinic commentary and traditional laws as authoritative where it seems to contradict the Scriptures of the Messianic canon. This, however, is debated and varies from congregation to congregation, or ministry to ministry, and perhaps even issue-to-issue.

Although there is much debate with regard to acceptance of the Babylonian Talmud, there does exist a small minority who adhere to the teachings of the Sages and oral teachings held in the Talmud and consider them authoritative. The main difference between them and mainstream Judaism remains the belief that Yeshua is the Messiah. These groups consider Yeshua's command, "The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses, all of which they command you to do, do, but do not do as they do." (Matt 23:2-3) to be a proclamation of Torah authority to the Pharisaic Jewish community. One of the great differences between them and most Messianics is their belief of non-separation from the Jewish community and the authority of the Rabbis. Although they hold the New Testament teachings as authoritative, there remain many details in Biblical Law which violate oral tradition, as well as the written Torah. Because of this, there remains for them another line of division between them and mainstream Judaism.

Many Messianic congregations use traditional Jewish rabbinic commentaries such as the Mishnah and Gemara to gain historical insight into biblical teachings and passages and to better comprehend the environment that the first-century New Testament writers would have been familiar with.

Messianic commentaries on various books of the Bible, with the exception of a handful of commentaries written on the Torah and New Testament texts, such as Matthew, Acts of the Apostles, Epistle to the Romans, Epistle to the Galatians and Epistle to the Hebrews, can be few and far between.

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 commentary on Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and is presently examining Matthew,[3] Daniel Thomas Lancaster, who has written extensively for the First Fruits of Zion Torah Club series, and Stuart Sacks, author of Hebrews Through a Hebrews' Eyes.

Further scriptural commentary

"Many Messianic Jewish believers consider rabbinic commentaries such as the Mishnah and the Talmud dangerous," says Joshua Isaac Walters "When we begin to study and observe Torah to become like Messiah, there are pitfalls we must avoid. One such pitfall is the study of Mishnah and Talmud - Rabbinic traditional Law. There are many people and congregations that place a great emphasis on rabbinic legal works, such as the Mishnah and the Talmud in search of their Hebrew roots. People are looking to the rabbis for answers on how to keep God’s commands, but if one looks into the Mishnah and does what it says, he or she is not a follower of the Messiah. Or, if one looks into the Talmud and does what it says, he or she is not a follower of the Messiah – he or she is a follower of the rabbis because Rabbi Yeshua, the Messiah, is not quoted there. Rabbinic Judaism is not Messianic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism is not founded in Messiah. Rabbinic Judaism, for the most part, is founded in the yeast – the teachings of the Pharisees. Yeshua’s teachings and the discipleship that He brought His students through was not Rabbinic Judaism. There is a real danger in Rabbinics. There is a real danger in Mishnah and Talmud. No one involved in Rabbinics has ever come out on the other side more righteous than when he or she entered. He or she may look “holier than thou” – but they do not have the life changing experience clearly represented in the lives of the believers of the Messianic communities of the first century."

Halakhic commentary.

While many in the Messianic movement, especially those who have come out of Protestant churches, have a sola scriptura approach to Torah, Tanakh and the B'rit Chadashah, it is incorrect to assume that all Messianics share this rejection of oral Torah. There are those who look to the Talmud and rabbinical interpretations of Israel for guidance in a fuller expression of obedience to Torah. If Messianic Judaism is indeed a Judaism, it stands to reason that it shares community with all Jews in its acceptance of standards and interpretations. Messianics who honor halakhah point out that Deuteronomy 17 instructs not only obedience to Torah, but also to the Judges we go to for Torah interpretation, to "do everything they direct you to do. Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left." Yeshua backs up the Torah teachers among the Pharisees in this authority in Matthew 23, "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you." [4]

In light of this, both the Jerusalem Council, and the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council have begun publishing halakha.[5][6]

People of God

Messianic Judaism has as a core teaching that Israel remains Israel and the Nations remain the Nations, Jews remain Jews and Gentiles remain Gentiles. 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 if and only if the individual claims Jewish identity, similar to the Reform position.[7]

The Jerusalem Council, a Messianic halakhic body, maintains that Israel is defined as a people group of members of the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; chosen by God from the nations, and includes their descendants."[8]

The "People of God" is a larger set which includes Israel, but also includes Gentiles in the Christian Churches as well as Messianic Gentiles. Thus, a rabbinical Jew is part of "Israel", a Baptist is part of Ἐκκλησία ("Ekklesia") and a Messianic Jew is both "Israel" and Ekklesia. Further, rabbinical Jew, Baptist, and Messianic Jew, both Israel and Ekklesia, are "People of God." Messianic Judaism sees itself as the "link," the point of the graft between Israel and Ekklesia.

The issue of the relationship of Israel to Ekklesia, especially in terms of Covenant, is highly important to Messianics. While Jews are considered within an irrevocable Covenant given at Mt. Sinai, gentiles are not. A Messianic Jew must keep Covenant, but a Methodist need not. Those Gentiles who have joined Messianic congregations take up Torah observance, some more than others, but do so voluntarily, either out of love for God or simply as part of being in the community. Jews and Gentiles are seen as completely equal before God, as "one new man" in their belief in Yeshua, but this union is not a homogenization but more analogous to the union of husband and wife in marriage, where differentiation is preserved even within unity.

Thus, Messianic Judaism does not require Gentile conversion to Judaism, and in fact discourages it. However, the UMJC makes exceptions for those rare individuals who identify in a stronger way than simply to be "grafted on." 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. (The statement of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council regarding Conversion [3]) These converts to Judaism do not in any way have a higher status within Messianic Judaism than the gentiles attached to the communities.

A statement on circumcision is provided by the Jerusalem Council: "...although circumcision is not a requirement for positional right standing with HaShem, it is a requirement for those who are Abraham's seed, and who desire to "walk blameless."[9]

Jewish law

The more mainstream Messianic congregations adhere to a strongly halakhic definition for God's people. In these groups, Gentiles are colleagues and are strongly encouraged, but not required, to keep the Torah.

Eschatology

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 prior to a final judgement

Overview of issues

Traditional Christianity affirms that the Torah is the word of God, though most Christians deny that all of the laws of the Pentateuch directly apply to themselves as Christians. The New Testament suggests that Yeshua established a new covenant relationship between God and his people (Hebrews 8; Jeremiah 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, 1John 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 Yeshua could not have changed the Torah (Deuteronomy 13).

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. When the power of capital punishment is available, often its exercise is only after exhausting loopholes in Torah which are used to set a suspect free. According to the Talmud, capital punishment in Jewish law always had to lean on merciful alternatives to execution and make every effort not to give the strictest punishment within the confines of the Torah: "A Sanhedrin which kills once in seven years is considered murderous. Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said: once in seventy years. Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon said: if we had been in the Sanhedrin, no one would have ever been killed."

Most Messianics believe that observance of the Torah brings about sanctification, not salvation, which was to be produced only by the Messiah.

 

Messianic Judaism 101 By Steven Berkowitz, 2015

EAGLES GLIDE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRIES: BETH SHALOM 2016© • SMART ART STUDIOS