"So then, every Torah teacher who has been made into a talmid for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new things and old." Matthew 13 v52 CJB

Messianic Judaism Debate

Messianic Jews ?

A Debate arising from an article “We are Part of the Nation” Israel Today Magazine, November 2008

I found this article very interesting but also very troubling. As a member of the Gentile, Christian Church, where we have large logs in our eyes concerning divisions, even among true believers I have attempted to think my way through the issues one at a time and observe the specks in the eyes of the Messianic Jews and their critics.

I had a simplistic view of Jews, “Christians” and the overlap where Jews who believe in Yeshua as Messiah and real Christians who have not cut off their Jewish roots are essentially one. This was challenged by this article.

Quotes and my observations.

A growing number of Jews who believe in Yeshua do not want to turn their backs on Judaism.

What is Judaism? Which form of Judaism?

The Judaism that Yeshua practiced? What was that?

The Judaism of Simeon and Anna, who were looking forward to the Messiah and met him in the Temple at his dedication?

Karaite Judaism; Tanakh only – (no oral law and traditions)

Judaism with the (extra-biblical) Pharasaic traditions that Jesus challenged?

What about the letter to the Hebrews, about not going back to the Synagogue?

 

….. like many other Israeli believers do not attend a Messianic congregation.

Surely God’s people are supposed to meet together?

How do you define a Messianic congregation?

Who should they meet with?

 

…..caught between Judaism and Christianity, between Jewish and Christian doctrine and expressions of worship.

What is Judaism? – what is true Judaism? – what is Christianity? – what is true Christianity?

The body of Messiah Yeshua is one.

Paul/Shaul pictures it as an (one) olive tree; a Jewish olive tree into which believing gentiles have been grafted and from which unbelieving (for now) Jews have been cut off.

These believing Jews are different from the unbelieving majority and have been grafted back into the one olive tree.

Sha’ul warned the Gentile wild olive shoots that they would be cut off again if the ceased to believe. We need to realise that many who call themselves Christians are not now, or never were, part of the one olive tree.

There is much evidence that believing Gentile ingrafts are becoming a remnant and that much of the, so called, Christian church is firewood. The New Testament warned that many would fall away and be lost.

Perhaps one could picture it as two circles that are overlapping – the overlap being the body, the olive tree, the ekkleasi. The two remainders would be the Jews who remain hostile or apathetic to Yeshua and the “Christians” who have wandered off into various false gospels.

Perhaps being “caught between” is the reality of where we should be?

Shaul spoke of much of his old Judaism as garbage (or worse) compared to what he had gained in Yeshua. Where can one even start to list the garbage the Christian church is carrying?

How can we in the overlap determine our doctrine except from the Word of God – discarding doctrines and practices that are rooted in our dead traditions?

How can we have worship that honours and delights YHVH? That is going to be really difficult, since even within a fellowship of believers united on major issues there are different tastes in worship style. We have to accommodate each other. As a gentile wild olive shoot, I value every opportunity to learn from our elder brothers. (or Fathers as at the end of Malachi) Hopefully, nearly 2000 years of Christian tradition has produced something of value to bring to worship the God of Israel.

 

Many Jewish believers are troubled by congregations that they see as implants of Western Christianity that have abandoned their Jewish and Israel identity.

Is their perception accurate?

What identity did they start with?

What do they mean by a Jewish/Israeli identity, apart from worshipping in Hebrew, observing Torah and High Holy Days?

Is there a problem with music and liturgy?

Surely Jews accepting Yeshua and the Brit Hadashah will need to make additions to the liturgy; and even deletions (like the nineteenth of the shmoneh esrim) Messianic fellowships (as currently defined) are using the talents of their members to write Brit Hadashah worship in Hebrew styles.

 

More and more Jews who believe in Yeshua have come to the conclusion that they are called to be part of their nation and not join a Lutheran, Protestant, Catholic or other church. In the past the encounter between a Jew and Yeshua led straight to a church, but today it is leading many to rediscover Judaism.

It was indeed sad that for so long a Gentile church (that had cut off its Jewish roots) was the only place for a Jew coming to faith in Yeshua, but it would be harsh to liken “Messianic communities” to the bad old days because of stylistic controversies.

What does this critic mean by being part of their nation? Surely the experience of God’s called out people is that of being strangers and aliens, or pilgrims. Yeshua talked of his followers being put out of the synagogue and the letter to the Hebrews (a very Jewish letter) is about not going back to the old ways and denying Yeshua.

If one looks through the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah it is possible to see a development of God’s purposes. He called the Jews to be a light to the World, and Yeshua sent out his disciples to carry out the process of taking that light into the world. We must remember that Yeshua sent out his Jewish disciples to make disciples from all nations only at the end of his ministry. Yeshua explained that he was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, and the early church was entirely Jewish. What did that church look like? That light was then taken into the world by the apostles. God’s use of earthly vessels has allowed us to create problems along the way but, even so, there are believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all around the earth. Unfortunately, one of those problems (that Sha’ul warned us against) was the Gentiles cutting off their Jewish roots and consequently failing to make Jews jealous. The fact that Jews have mostly missed out through the “church age” is too awful to contemplate, but it means that by the time God’s purposes came around to the rebirth of a significant body of Jewish believers, the olive tree had developed while in mainly Gentile hands. If we can accept this idea, we should not expect Jews who come to faith in Yeshua to throw out the baby (what God has been doing for nearly two millennia) with the bathwater of the church’s shortcomings (anti-Semitism and ignorance of its Jewish roots).

This raises important questions; do the critics accept the Brit Hadashah, or just the gospels? Do they accept Sha’ul, and his theological reconciling of the Hebrew scriptures with the work Yeshua had instituted?

We don’t call ourselves Messianic Jews any more…..

……..Therefore every Jew is automatically a messianic Jew. ( because they await the Messiah)

Arguments about designations only cloud the issue, but since this has happened perhaps the issue has to be resolved. This critic has a valid point since those usually called “Messianic” Jews do not merely believe in the coming of the Messiah, but believe that Yeshua from Nazareth is that Messiah. Perhaps we (Jews and Gentiles who believe) need to start using the title “Notsreem” to make it clear that we are following Yeshua from Nazareth, whom we believe to be the Messiah who has come and is coming again. This would have the advantage for us Gentiles of including us in the same body as the Jewish believers and acknowledging our roots in the God of Israel/ the Israel of God.

 

The Messianic congregations depend on donations from Christians from abroad who influence how they express their faith.

Is that a fair criticism in all or any cases?

We support a Messianic fellowship but we have no influence on their expressions of worship. I would have thought most such supporters would be hoping to learn from rather than control their Messianic friends.

…..Messianic congregations with their Christian doctrine are not relevant to me…… they are churches.

When talking of “churches”, are we talking about all the erroneous doctrine and non-Biblical baggage coming from Christian churches, or the Brit Hadashah teaching from Yeshua and his apostles (including Sha’ul) that is a necessary addition to pre Yeshua doctrine?

How can a Jew come to faith in Yeshua as the Messiah he has been waiting for without updating his beliefs and his body of scripture. Jews look for the Messiah to be the “prophet like me” that Moshe prophesied would come. When Yeshua came to fulfil the Torah and complete its exposition, his teachings could not fail to alter the appearance of Jewish faith and practice.

The expression ‘Messianic Jew’ is interchangeable with ‘Christian’ in the eyes of Israelis ……….. I want to pray to God in a synagogue.

Both terms are unfortunate, as stated above. We cannot afford to determine our faith to please the outsiders.

There is nothing wrong with Notsreem praying in a synagogue, if they are allowed to. But if the authorities object the Jewish Notsree has found himself in the position of rejection prophesied by Yeshua and has to come to terms with it that rather than attempt to conform himself to the demands of those who still reject and curse Yeshua (Yesha)

Is there a need for Jewish Notsreem to consider looking upon their meeting places as synagogues? They will be different from the synagogues of non-believers, but what would they look like? Would they really be so different from the present Messianic meeting places? Would the present Messianic Jews be meeting in more synagogue-like premises if money was no object?

I pray that Jews who believe in Yeshua will not be ashamed of being Jews so we can finally become a light to our nation.

Amen to that; and to becoming a light to the rest of the nations!

Surely one cannot accuse all “Messianic Congregations” of being ashamed when they are working and praying so hard towards that goal.

 

It is good that Meno Kalisher brought a different perspective, challenging those who are cutting themselves off from fellow believers to their own detriment.

It appears to me that there are specks in the eyes of many of these critics and they should be seeking to work together with those they are criticising in order to find the best, most God honouring form of doctrine, worship, outreach and identity.

I would imagine that the Messianic fellowships would say that they are still seeking the proper outworking of their faith and would welcome constructive suggestions from those who have problems with the existing fellowships. If they could come together, the answer might be found to lay somewhere between the two positions stated at present. But perhaps this coming together is the heart of the issue.

 

Please consider these questions, share them with your friends and let me know what you think.

Created 22/01/09

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