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Messianic Jewish

This article is about the religious movement or sect. For the Jewish religion, see Judaism. For the Messiah in Judaism, see Jewish messianism. For specific messianic claimants, see Jewish Messiah claimants.

Messianic Judaism is a syncretic[1] religious movement that arose in the 1960s and 70s.[9] It blends evangelical Christian theology with elements of religious Jewish practice and terminology.[14] Messianic Judaism generally holds that Jesus is both the Jewish Messiah and "God the Son" (one person of the Trinity),[18] though some within the movement do not hold to Trinitarian beliefs.[19] With few exceptions, both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are believed to be authoritative and divinely inspired scripture.

Salvation in most forms of Messianic Judaism is achieved only through acceptance of Jesus as one's savior.[20] It is believed that all sin has been atoned for by Jesus' death and resurrection. Any Jewish laws or customs that are followed are cultural and do not contribute to salvation.[10] Belief in the messiahship and divinity of Jesus, which Messianic Judaism generally shares, is viewed by many Christian denominations[21] and Jewish religious movements[22] as a defining distinction between Christianity and Judaism.[28] Mainstream Christian groups usually accept Messianic Judaism as a form of Christianity.[21]

Some adherents of Messianic Judaism are ethnically Jewish,[2][21] and many of them argue that the movement is a sect of Judaism.[29] Jewish organizations, and the Supreme Court of Israel in cases related to the Law of Return, have rejected this claim, and instead consider Messianic Judaism to be a form of Christianity.[22][30] From 2003 to 2007, the movement grew from 150 Messianic houses of worship in the United States to as many as 438, with over 100 in Israel and more worldwide; congregations are often affiliated with larger Messianic organizations or alliances.[31][32] In 2008, the movement was reported to have between 6,000 and 15,000 members in Israel[33] and 250,000 in the United States.[34]

History

Pre-19th century

Efforts by Jewish Christians to proselytize Jews began in the first century, when Paul the Apostle preached at the synagogues in each city he visited.[35] However, early accounts of missions to the Jews, such as Epiphanius of Salamis' record of the conversion of Count Joseph of Tiberias, and Sozomen's accounts of other Jewish conversions, do not mention converted Jews playing any leading role in proselytization.[36] Notable converts from Judaism who themselves attempted to convert other Jews are more visible in historical sources beginning around the 13th century, when Jewish convert Pablo Christiani attempted to convert other Jews. This activity, however, typically lacked any independent Jewish-Christian congregations, and was often imposed through force by organized Christian churches.[37]

In the 15th and 16th century, Jewish Christians occupying professorships at the European universities began to provide translations of Hebrew texts. Scholars such as Paul Nuñez Coronel, Alfonso de Zamora, Alfonso de Alcalá, Domenico Gerosolimitano and Giovanni Battista Jona were actively engaged in spreading Jewish scholarship.[38]

19th and early 20th centuries

Main article: Hebrew Christian Movement

In the 19th century, some groups attempted to create congregations and societies of Jewish converts to Christianity, though most of these early organizations were short-lived.[39] Early formal organizations run by converted Jews include: the Anglican London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews of Joseph Frey (1809),[40] which published the first Yiddish New Testament in 1821;[41] the "Beni Abraham" association, established by Frey in 1813 with a group of 41 Jewish Christians who started meeting at Jews' Chapel, London for prayers Friday night and Sunday morning;[42] and the London Hebrew Christian Alliance of Great Britain founded by Dr. Carl Schwartz in 1866.[43]

The September 1813 meeting of Frey's "Beni Abraham" congregation at the rented "Jews' Chapel" in Spitalfields is sometimes pointed to as the birth of the semi-autonomous Hebrew Christian movement within Anglican and other established churches in Britain,[44] though the non-Anglican minister of the chapel at Spitalfields evicted Frey and his congregation only three years later, and Frey severed his connections with the Society.[45] A new location was found and the Episcopal Jew's Chapel Abrahamic Society registered in 1835.[46]

In Eastern Europe, Joseph Rabinowitz established a Hebrew Christian mission and congregation called "Israelites of the New Covenant" in Kishinev, Ukraine in 1884.[47][48][49][50][51][52] Rabinowitz was supported from overseas by the Christian Hebraist Franz Delitzsch, translator of the first modern Hebrew translation of the New Testament.[53] In 1865, Rabinowitz created a sample order of worship for Sabbath morning service based on a mixture of Jewish and Christian elements. Mark John Levy pressed the Church of England to allow members to embrace Jewish customs.[49]

In the United States, a congregation of Jewish converts to Christianity was established in New York City in 1885.[54] In the 1890s, immigrant Jewish converts to Christianity worshiped at the Methodist "Hope of Israel" mission on New York’s Lower East Side while retaining some Jewish rites and customs.[55] In 1895, the 9th edition of Hope of Israel's Our Hope magazine carried the subtitle “A Monthly Devoted to the Study of Prophecy and to Messianic Judaism”, the first use of the term "Messianic Judaism".[56][57] Hope of Israel was controversial; other missionary groups accused its members of being Judaizers, and one of the two editors of Our Hope magazine, Arno C. Gaebelein, eventually repudiated his views and, as a result, was able to become a leader in the mainstream Christian evangelical movement.[56] In 1894, Christian missionary[58] and Baptist minister[59] Leopold Cohn, a convert from Judaism, founded the Brownsville Mission to the Jews in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York as a Christian mission to Jews. After several changes in name, structure and focus, the organization is now called Chosen People Ministries[58] and has operations and staff in the US and 11 other nations.[60]

Missions to the Jews saw a period of growth between the 1920s and the 1960s.[3][61] In the 1940s and 50s, missionaries in Israel, including the Southern Baptists, adopted the term meshichyim (משיחיים "Messianics") to counter negative connotations of the word notsrim (נוצרים "Christians", from "Nazarenes"); the term was used to designate all Jews who had converted to Protestant evangelical Christianity.[11]

The Messianic Judaism movement, 1970s

Messianic Judaism itself arose in the 1960s and 70s.[9] In the 1970s, a growing number of young Jews who had converted to Christianity were committed to maintaining a culturally Jewish lifestyle, in the mode advocated by Rabinowitz in the 19th century. Going against the thinking of the older members of the Hebrew Christian movement, they believed that different methods of evangelism of Jews were needed. They looked to and adopted some of the evangelizing techniques of Jews for Jesus.[62] According to author Peter Hocken, "The new thrust that turned Hebrew Christians into Messianic Jews was distinctly charismatic." This reflected the influence of the charismatic Jesus movement at the same period.[63] These younger members pressed the HCAA to change the "outdated" name of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America (HCAA) to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA).[64] In 1915, when the HCAA was founded, it had "consistently assuaged the fears of fundamentalist Christians by emphasizing that it is not a separate denomination but only an evangelistic arm of the evangelical church", and insisted that it would be free of these Judaizing practices "now and forever".[65] Martin Chernoff, who was president of the HCAA from 1971 to 1975, led the effort to shift the organization's focus.[66] 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. According to David A. Rausch, "The name change, however, signified far more than a semantical expression—it represented an evolution in the thought processes and religious and philosophical outlook toward a more fervent expression of Jewish identity."[66] The Messianic Israel Alliance, an organization of over 130 Messianic congregations and ministries, was formed in 1999.[67]

Theology and core doctrines

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 (that he is omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, outside creation, infinitely significant and benevolent—viewpoints on the Trinity vary), Jesus (who is believed to be the Jewish Messiah, though views on his divinity vary), written Torah (with a few exceptions, Messianic Jews 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 Messianic Judaism is more open to criticism of the New Testament canon than is Christianity), eschatology (sometimes similar to many evangelical Christian views), and oral law (see also Christian Oral Tradition—observance varies, but most deem these traditions subservient to the written Torah). Certain additional doctrines, including those on sin and atonement and on faith and works, are more open to differences in interpretation.[68]

God and Jesus

The Trinity

Many Messianic Jews affirm the doctrine of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as three representations of the same divinity:[16][69][70]

  1. God the Father—Messianic Jews believe in God and that he is all-powerful, omnipresent, eternally existent outside of creation, and infinitely significant and benevolent. Some Messianic Jews affirm both the Shema and the Trinity, by understanding that the phrase "the Lord is One" to be referring to "a differentiated but singular deity",[71] and "eternally existent in plural oneness".[72] Some Messianic believers profess only a strict view of monotheism, rejecting Trinitarian doctrine, but this is not common.[19][73]
  2. God the Son—Most Messianic Jews, in line with mainstream Christian theology, consider Jesus to be the Messiah and divine as God the Son.[16][72] This belief is supported through links between Hebrew Bible prophecies and what Messianic Jews, together with most mainstream Christians, perceive as the prophecies' fulfillment in the New Testament.[74] Many also consider Jesus to be their "chief teacher and rabbi" whose life should be copied.[75] Many English-speaking Messianic Jews prefer to refer to Jesus by the Hebrew name "Yeshua" rather than by the English name "Jesus". Certain congregations outside mainstream Messianic Jewish belief do not ascribe divinity to Jesus, with some considering him a man, fathered by the Holy Spirit, who became the Messiah.[19][76]
  3. God the Holy Spirit—According to some Messianic Jews, the Spirit is introduced in the Old Testament as co-creator (Genesis 1:2), is the inspirer of prophets (II Sam. 23:1–3), and is the spirit of Truth described in the New Testament (John 14:17, 26).[72] According to the teachings of Messianic Judaism, in the earthly life of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was the dove at baptism (Matt 3:16) and the giver of tongues in Acts 2.

Jesus

Main article: Jesus

The place of Jesus in Messianic Judaism is usually clearly defined. His Jewishness and that of all the original disciples is affirmed. 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.[77] Messianic Jews believe Jesus' first role as Messiah was to rescue the world from spiritual bondage, and that he will return again to 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 the Messianic Jews of the MJAA "worship not just God but Jesus" whom they call Yeshua.[78]

Scriptures and writings

The Bible

Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament (sometimes called the "Brit Chadasha", from the Hebrew for "new covenant") are usually considered to be the established and divinely inspired Biblical scriptures by Messianic Jews.[79][80] Messianic believers generally consider the written Torah, the five books of Moses, to remain in force as a continuing covenant, revised by Jesus and the Apostles in the New Testament, that is to be observed both morally and ritually.[81] Jesus did not annul the Torah, but its interpretation is revised through the Apostolic scriptures.[82]

Jewish oral tradition

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 New Testament.[83] Other Messianic believers call rabbinic commentaries such as the Mishnah and the Talmud "dangerous",[84] stating that followers of rabbinic and halakhic explanations and commentaries are not believers in Jesus as the Messiah.[84][85] Furthermore, many Messianic believers deny the authority of the Pharisees, believing that they were superseded, and their teachings contradicted, by Messianism.[84]

There is no unanimity among Messianic congregations on the issue of the Talmud and the Oral Torah. Most Messianic congregations and synagogues can be said to believe that the oral traditions are subservient to the Written Torah, and where there is a perceived conflict between the Torah and the Talmud, the plain interpretation of the Written Torah take precedence.[86] Some congregations believe that adherence to the Oral Law, as encompassed by the Talmud, is against Messianic beliefs, since the Talmud was not written until after the whole of the biblical canon (begun 70 CE, completed approx 500 CE).[87] Other congregations are selective in their applications of Talmudic law.[88][89][90] Still others encourage a serious observance of Jewish halakha.[91]

Messianic Bible translations

Messianic Jews generally consider the entire Christian Bible to be sacred scripture. Theologian David H. Stern in his "Jewish New Testament Commentary" argues that the writings and teachings of Paul are 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. 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.

Messianic publications

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, providing 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; Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries, who has written commentaries on the Epistles, Judges & Ruth, and Genesis, and 7 systematic doctrinal studies; 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 surveys of both the Tanakh and the Apostolic Scriptures).

Attitudes toward Paul

Messianic Jews understand (as suggested by some recent scholars[92]) 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 (see Paul of Tarsus and Judaism). 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."[93]

Messianic believers 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, 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.[94]

Sin and atonement

Messianic believers define sin as transgression of the Torah (Law/Instruction) of God (1 John 3: 4–5). Messianics hold to a belief that all sin (whether committed yet or not) is already atoned for because of Jesus's death and resurrection.[95]

Evangelism and attitudes toward Jews and Israel

Messianic Jews believe God's people have a responsibility to spread his name and fame to all nations (Psalms 96:3, Ezekiel 3:18–19)[96][97] It is believed that the Children of Israel were, remain, and will continue to be the chosen people of the God, and are central to his plans for existence. Most Messianic believers, 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.[98]

There exist among Messianic believers a number of perspectives regarding who exactly makes up God's chosen people. Most commonly, Israel is seen as distinct from the church; Messianic Jews, being a part of both Israel and the church, are seen as the necessary link between the 'gentile' People of God and 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.[99]

According to the Messianic group 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." [100]

According to certain branches of Messianic Judaism, Jews are individual who have one or more Jewish parents, or who have undergone halakhic conversion to Judaism. As in Reform Judaism, those who have Jewish fathers but gentile mothers are considered Jewish only if the individual claims Jewish identity. The statement of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council on Jewish identity[101] is often disputed among Messianic believers who either don't find it necessary or discourage halakhic conversion, in accordance with their interpretation of Romans 2:29 (that a "Jew" is not one who is one "outwardly" but is one who is a Jew in his heart). They also believe that salvation is received by accepting Jesus into one's heart and confessing that he is Lord.[102]

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,[103] 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

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 the One Law movement's insistence on Gentiles being required to observe the entirety of Torah in the same way as Jews.[104] Tim Hegg 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.[105]

Two House theology

Proponents of ]

Supersessionism

Historically, Christianity has taught supersessionism (replacement theology), which implies or outright states that Christianity has superseded Judaism, and that the Mosaic Covenant of the Hebrew Bible has been superseded by the New Covenant of Jesus, wherein salvation is brought about by the grace of God, and not by obedience to the Torah.[107] This is generally complemented with the concept of God having transferred the status of "God's people" from the Jews to the Christian Church. Messianic Jews, in varying degrees, challenge both thoughts,[108] and instead believing that although Israel has rejected Jesus, it has not forfeited its status as God's chosen people (Matthew 5:17). Often cited is Romans 11:29: "for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable". The core of supersessionism, in which the Mosaic Covenant is canceled, is less agreed upon. Though the mitzvot may or may not be seen as necessary, most are still followed, especially the keeping of Shabbat and other holy days. Some followers of the movement believe that Jews can still find favor with God through the Torah without accepting Jesus, as did Moses, David, and the Prophets.

Eschatology

Some Messianic Jews hold to certain eschatological beliefs concerning events such as 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 the Millennial Sabbath.

Some Messianic Jews believe that all of the Jewish holidays, and 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 their larger prophetic context. To certain believers, the feasts of Pesach and Shavuot were fulfilled in Jesus's first coming, and Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot will be at his second. Some also believe in a literal 7000-year period for the human history of the world, with a Millennial Messianic kingdom prior to a final judgment.[109]

Torah observance

There is a variety of practice within Messianic Judaism regarding the strictness of Torah observance. Generally, "Torah observant" congregations observe Jewish Law, biblical feasts, and Sabbath.[110] While most traditional Christians deny that the ritual laws and specific civil laws of the Pentateuch apply to gentiles, certain passages[111] regarding Torah observance in the New Testament are cited by Messianic believers as proof that Torah was not abolished for Jews. They point out that in Acts 21 Jewish believers in Jerusalem are described as "zealous for the Law", and that Paul himself never stopped being observant.

Religious practices

Sabbath and holiday observances

Worship services are generally held on Friday evenings (Erev Shabbat) or Saturday mornings.[83] According to the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship (SBMF), services are held on Saturday to "open the doors to Jewish people who also wish to keep the Sabbath".[112] The liturgy used is similar to that of a Jewish siddur with some important differences including the omission of "salvation by works" as the Messianic belief is Salvation through Jesus.[112] According to the SBMF, the main purpose in using a liturgy similar to a Jewish siddur is to bring others to Jesus.[113] Other branches of the movement have attempted to "eliminate the elements of Christian worship that cannot be directly linked to their Jewish roots".[114]

The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council recommends the observance of Jewish holidays.[115] Most larger Messianic Jewish congregations follow Jewish custom in celebrating the three biblical feasts (Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot), as well as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.[83]

Dietary laws

The observance of the kashrut dietary laws is a subject of continued debate among Messianic Jews.[116][117] Some Messianic believers keep kosher purely for the purposes of evangelism to Jewish people.[116] Most avoid pork and shellfish, but there is disagreement on more strict adherence to kosher dietary laws.

Conversion to Messianic Judaism

Messianic perspectives on "Who is a Jew" vary. The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council, (West Haven, Connecticut, 2006) a global Messianic body, acknowledges a Jew as one born to a Jewish mother, or who has converted to Judaism. Copying from the Reform stream of Judaism, the Council also recognizes as a Jew one who was born to a Jewish father (but not a Jewish mother) on the condition that the family of the child (or the individual as an adult) has undertaken public and formal acts of identification of the individual with the Jewish faith and people.[118]

Large numbers of those calling themselves Messianic Jews are not of Jewish descent,[119] but join the movement anyway as they "enjoy the Messianic Jewish style of worship".[120] The MJAA views conversion for Gentiles an unbiblical practice, but accepts gentiles into their congregations,[121] and other Messianic organizations hold to similar views.

Baptism

Messianic Jews practice baptism, calling it a mikveh ("cistern", from Leviticus 11) rather than the term hattvila ("baptism" הטבילה in the Hebrew New Testament).[122]

Circumcision

Some within the Ephraimite movement seek to convert themselves for identification with Israel, but most Messianic governing bodies acknowledge the presence of gentiles in the congregations, and do not see a need for them to convert to worship in the Messianic style and understanding. When conversion is sincerely desired by a gentile Messianic believer, Messianic Jewish halachic standards (including circumcision) are imposed to maintain integrity among the world Messianic Jewish community.[20][123][124]

Use of Hebrew names and vocabulary in English

The movement generally avoids common Christian terms, such as Christ and cross (tsalav—צלב), and prefers to maximise the use of Hebrew terms.[125][126] Messianic Jews take the opposite approach from the Sacred Name Movement regarding the name of God. The transliterated name "Yahweh" is rarely used, nor the New Testament "Lord", but "HaShem" (Hebrew השם, "the name"). Messianic Jews take the same approach as the Sacred Name Movement for the name "Yeshua".

Culture

Music

Messianic Jewish hymnologies are not merely Christian evangelical ones. Many of the hymns relate to Israel’s role in history, convey a messianic hope, and refer to Jesus as the Savior of Israel. In addition, small changes differentiate them from the usual contemporary evangelical hymns, such as the use of the name Yeshua instead of Jesus. Messianic hymnals also include a large number of Israeli songs.[127]

The movement also has several recording artists who consider their music to be Messianic in message, such as Joel Chernoff of the duo Lamb,[128] Paul Wilbur, Marty Goetz, Ted Pearce[129] and Chuck King.[130] Many of these artists have been influenced by Jewish music and often incorporate Hebrew phrases into their lyrics.[131][132]

Reception of the Messianic Judaism movement

Reception among mainstream Christianity

In the United States, the emergence of the Messianic Jewish movement created some stresses with other Jewish-Christian and missionary organization. In 1975, the Fellowship of Christian Testimonies to the Jews condemned several aspects of the Messianic Jewish movement.[133]

In Israel, the linguistic distinction between Messianic Jews and mainstream Christians is less clear, and the name "Messianic" (Meshiyhiy משיחי) is commonly used by churches anyway, in lieu of Notsri (Hebrew: נוצרי), the secular government administrative term for "Christian". The Israel Trust of the Anglican Church, based at Christ Church, Jerusalem, an organization that is ecumenical in outlook and operates an interfaith school in Jerusalem, gives some social support to Messianic Jews in Israel.[134]

Reception among Jews

As in traditional Jewish objections to Christian theology, opponents of Messianic Judaism hold that Christian proof texts, such as prophecies in the Hebrew Bible purported to refer the Messiah's suffering and death, have been taken out of context and misinterpreted.[135] Jewish theology rejects the idea that the Messiah, or any human being, is a divinity. Belief in the Trinity is considered idolatrous by most rabbinic authorities,[136] though there is a minority view that it constitutes shituf (literally, "partnership"), an association of other individuals with the God of Israel. While shituf is, according to some opinions, permitted for gentiles, it is considered idolatrous for Jews.[23][137] Further, Judaism does not view the role of the Messiah to be the salvation of the world from its sins, an integral teaching of Christianity.[102][138]

Jewish opponents of Messianic Judaism often focus their criticism on the movement's radical ideological separation from traditional Jewish beliefs, stating that the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah creates an insuperable divide between the traditional messianic expectations of Judaism, and Christianity's theological claims.[139] They state that while Judaism is a messianic religion, its messiah is not Jesus,[140] and thus the term is misleading.[27] All denominations of Judaism, as well as national Jewish organizations, reject Messianic Judaism as a form of Judaism.[22][24][141] Regarding this divide, Reconstructionist Rabbi Carol Harris-Shapiro observed:
To embrace the radiocative core of goyishness—Jesus—violates the final taboo of Jewishness[.] ... Belief in Jesus as Messiah is not simply a heretical belief, as it may have been in the first century; it has become the equivalent to an act of ethno-cultural suicide.[142][143]

B'nai Brith Canada considers messianic activities as antisemitic incidents.[144] Rabbi Tovia Singer, founder of the anti-missionary organization Outreach Judaism,[145] noted of a Messianic rabbi in Toledo: "He’s not running a Jewish synagogue ... It’s a church designed to appear as if it were a synagogue and I’m there to expose him. What these irresponsible extremist Christians do is a form of consumer fraud. They blur the distinctions between Judaism and Christianity in order to lure Jewish people who would otherwise resist a straightforward message."[146]

Response of Israeli government

Messianic Jews are considered eligible for the State of Israel's Law of Return only if they can also claim Jewish descent.[30] An assistant to one of the two lawyers involved with an April 2008 Supreme Court of Israel case explained to the Jerusalem Post that Messianic Jews who are not Jewish according to Jewish law, but who had sufficient Jewish descent to qualify under the Law of Return, could claim automatic new immigrant status and citizenship despite being Messianic.[147] 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 halakha, e.g. people who have a Jewish father but a non-Jewish mother. The old law had excluded any “person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion,” and an Israeli Supreme Court decision in 1989 had ruled that Messianic Judaism constituted another religion.[148] However, 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 halakha, and were not therefore excluded by the conversion clause. This argument was upheld in the ruling.[147][149][150]

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.[151] 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, in the West Bank, which severely wounded the son.[152] The bombing was eventually traced to Yaakov "Jack" Teitel, an "alleged Jewish terrorist" who immigrated to Israel from the United States has been arrested in connection with several bombings, murders and attempted murders in Israel.[153]

This antagonism has led to harassment and some violence, especially in Israel, where there is a large and militant Orthodox community. Several Orthodox organizations, including Yad L'Achim, are dedicated to rooting out missionary activity in Israel, including the Messianic Jewish congregations. One tactic is to plaster posters asking Israelis to boycott shops where Messianic Jews are owners or employees; another is to report Messianic Jews to the Interior ministry, which is charged with enforcing an Israeli law forbidding proselytizing.[154] In another incident, the mayor of Or Yehuda, a suburb of Tel Aviv, held a public book-burning of literature passed out to Ethiopian immigrants. He later apologized for the action.[33]

Response of US governments

The US Navy made a decision that Messianic Jewish chaplains must wear as their insignia the Christian cross, and not the tablets of the law, the insignia of Jewish chaplains. According to Yeshiva World News, a website covering stories of Jewish interest, the Navy Uniform Board commanded that Michael Hiles, a candidate for chaplaincy, wear the Christian insignia. Hiles resigned from the program, rather than wear the cross.[155] Rabbi Eric Tokajer, a spokesman for the Messianic Jewish movement, responded that "This decision essentially bars Messianic Jews from serving as chaplains within the U.S. Navy because it would require them to wear an insignia inconsistent with their faith and belief system."[156]

A Birmingham, Alabama's police employee's religious discrimination case was settled in her favor. She filed suit over having to work on Jewish Sabbath.[157]

Messianic organizations

  • The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA).[158]
  • Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC).[159]
  • Chosen People Ministries (CPM).[160]
  • Coalition of Torah Observant Messianic Congregations (CTOMC).[161]
  • Union of Nazarene Yisraelite Congregations (UONYC).
  • Union of Conservative Messianic Synagogues (UCMJS).[162]
  • The International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS).[163]
  • HaYesod ("the foundation") is a discipleship course that respectfully explores the Jewish foundation of Christianity. There are currently 259 HaYesod study groups of 5 or more members.[164]
  • The Jerusalem Council, an organization seeking to become a ruling council for Messianic believers worldwide.[165] It is in the process of publishing a set of Messianic halakha that the "majority of orthodox Messianic Jews accept".[89]
  • The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council, many of whose members are affiliated with the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, has published its standards of Messianic Torah observance.[166]

Affiliated organizations

Organizations sympathetic to Messianic Judaism which remain outside the mainstream Messianic movement:

  • Jews for Jesus is an evangelizing organization that does not create or sponsor Messianic congregations.[167]
  • The [1]

See also

Notes

  1. Stetzer, Ed (October 13, 2005). "A Missional Church", The Christian Index. "Missional churches are indigenous. Churches that are indigenous have taken root in the soil and reflect, to some degree, the culture of their community... The messianic congregation (is)... in this case indigenous to Jewish culture."

Sources

Further reading

  • 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
  • Feher, Shoshanah. Passing Over Easter: Constructing the Boundaries of Messianic Judaism, AltaMira Press (1998), ISBN 0-7619-8953-6, ISBN 0-7619-8952-8
  • Fieldsend, John. Messianic Jews – Challenging Church And Synagogue, Monarch Publications/MARC/Olive Press, (1993), ISBN 1-85424-228-8
  • Fischer, John, ed.; The Enduring Paradox: Exploratory Essays in Messianic Judaism, Messianic Jewish Resources International (July, 2000), ISBN 1-880226-90-1
  • Fruchtenbaum, Arnold, ThM, PhD.; "Messianic Christology" ISBN 0-914863-07-X
  • Fruchtenbaum, Arnold, ThM, PhD.; "Hebrew Christianity: Its Theology, History & Philosophy" ISBN 0-914863-01-0
  • Fruchtenbaum, Arnold, ThM, PhD.; A Passover Haggadah for Jewish Believers" ISBN 09148630405
  • Goldberg, Louis, ed. How Jewish Is Christianity? Two Views On The Messianic Movement, Zondervan, (2003), ISBN 0-310-24490-0
  • Harris-Shapiro, Carol. Messianic Judaism: A Rabbi's Journey through Religious Change in America, Beacon Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8070-1040-5
  • Hefley, James C. The New Jews, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (1974), ISBN 0-8423-4680-5
  • Kinzer, Mark. Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, Brazos, (November 2005), ISBN 1-58743-152-1
  • Liberman, Paul. The Fig Tree Blossoms Fountain Press, Inc. (July 21, 1976) [2]
  • Mayhew, Eugene J. Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology: A Constructive Approach Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Sep 2010; accessed through bnet, the CBS Interactive Business Network
  • Pearce, Tony. The Messiah Factor, New Wine Press, (Spring 2004), ISBN 1-903725-32-1
  • Saperstein, Marc (ed.), Essential Papers on Messianic Movements and Personalities in Jewish History, NY: New York University Press, (1992), ISBN 978-0-8147-7943-9

External links

  • UMJC Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations A major Messianic denomination
  • IAMCS The International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues

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