Introduction to Messianic Judaism: The Troubled Ekklesia

jewish-repentanceJewish repentance is not the same as repentance for Gentiles. R. Kendall Soulen highlights a pivotal distinction intrinsic to the Bible but almost entirely ignored by the church:

Christians should recover the biblical habit of seeing the world as peopled, not by Christians and Jews, but by Jews and gentiles, by Israel and the nations…. The Bible, including the Apostolic Witness, presents the distinction as an enduring mark of the one human family, still visible in the church and even in the consummated reign of God.

Human sin is never merely the sin of the creature against the Creator-Consummator. Human sin is also always the sin of Jew and Gentile, of Israel and the nations.

This insight has profound implications for our understanding of Jewish repentance. If departure from Torah living is the measure of Jewish sin, should not a return to the paths of Torah be a sign of Jewish repentance?

-Stuart Dauermann
“Chapter 7: Messianic Jewish Outreach” (pg 95)
quoting R. Kendall Soulen, “The Grammar of the Christian Story” and “The God of Israel and Christian Theology”
Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations

I chose the paragraph’s quoted above from Dr. Dauermann’s chapter in Rudolph’s and Willitts’ book largely to highlight the struggle of understanding between the Messianic Jewish and Gentile Christian perspectives. Certainly Dauermann’s and Soulen’s descriptions of sin and repentance, and especially differentiating them between Jews and Gentiles, flies in the face of how Protestant Christianity defines those concepts. In normative Protestantism, sin is sin, regardless of the individual involved being Jew or Gentile. It’s personal, never national. But therein lies the rub.

I might as well tackle this rather difficult topic since lately, I’ve been pursuing unpopular causes. No, that’s too cynical, even for me. It’s just been a rough week, and I know how much people struggle with the interactions I’m trying to explore.

Whenever I try to describe (let alone understand) the relationship between Messianic Judaism and Christianity, I typically am criticized for my “lack of understanding” of Messianic Judaism. I’m generally told that my error is in defining Messianic Judaism as a “Judaism.” Although my critics aren’t Jewish, they do accurately describe the problem between Messianic Jews and the other Judaisms, both historically and in the modern sense.

Messianic Judaism and its antecedent movement, Hebrew Christianity, first emerged as attempts to reconfigure the relationship between the Christian Church and the Jewish people. The Hebrew Christians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were for the most part evangelical Protestants who saw the Church as an invisible and universal body of “true believers” that was expressed concretely but imperfectly in the local Christian congregation – a community constituted by the regenerated individuals who voluntarily joined it.

-Mark Kinzer
“Chapter 11: Messianic Jews and the Jewish World” (pg 126)
Introduction to Messianic Judaism

Although I doubt Dr. Kinzer intended this paragraph to be received in such a manner, when I read it, I could only be reminded of a long-standing argument between Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots perspectives. In the situation described by Dr. Kinzer, Jewish people accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, set aside all “Jewish” types of religious observance, self identified as Christians, and joined the larger body of the church, being absorbed into their ranks. The Hebrew Christians, except for a string of DNA and the self-awareness of being “Jewish,” were indistinguishable from their Gentile Christian counterparts. People “knew” they were “Jewish” but that knowledge was beside the point. They were first and foremost Christians and anything that distinguished their national and covenant identity as Jews was swept away.

By contrast, to accept (in general since there are a number of variations on this theme) the Hebrew Roots perspective of Gentile “obligation” to Torah observance and full covenant identity as “Israel” as wholly shared with Jewish believers effectively does the same thing to Messianic Jews. Jews and Gentiles in the Hebrew Roots movement look, act, and identify identically. Except for a string of DNA and the cognitive awareness that certain members are Jewish, both Gentile and Jewish participants are indistinguishable from one another. While Jewish covenant observances and behaviors are not “swept away” as such since the Jewish members remain Torah observant, the distinction becomes irrelevant, since everyone looks and acts “Jewish.”

kinzer-postmissionaryHebrew Christians within evangelical Protestantism become invisible and absorbed by the church as a whole. In Hebrew Roots, it is the same for Messianic Jews.

But this is so hard for most Christian Hebrew Roots practitioners to understand.

And why is it so important for Messianic Jews to maintain their distinctiveness from Gentile Christian populations?

The term “postmissionary” was chosen to make an ecclesiological rather than a missionological point – namely, that Messianic Jews are not called to be representatives of the Christian community operating within another religious community (i.e., the Jewish people) but to be fully part of the Jewish world in both religious and national terms. In fact, they are to represent the Jewish community in relation to the Church, rather than the reverse.

-Kinzer, pg 132

Dr. Kinzer is describing material from his book Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People, a work that is at once revolutionary, controversial, wildly applauded by many but not all Messianic Jews, and frequently criticized by various branches of Christianity.

But it, and Dr. Kinzer, describe the need for Messianic Jews to be disciples of the Messiah first and foremost as Jews. The Hebrew Christianity and Hebrew Roots solutions to Jewish Messianic discipleship both require the surrender of that unique covenant identity and role from the Jewish people, in both cases, isolating Messianic Jews from larger Judaism and larger Jewish practices (while Hebrew Roots Gentiles generally support Torah observance in one sense or another, they usually disdain and reject much or all of the historic Jewish traditions which have identified Jewish communities for the past twenty centuries). The Hebrew Roots solution, like Hebrew Christianity, “absorbs” the Jewish population of believers into the wider “ekklesia,” diluting their identity and eventually, causing them to “disappear” within the masses.

But as has been pointed out to me time and again, even the largest and most robust of Messianic Jewish synagogues still have a majority of Gentiles as its members. However, as I have learned time and again, those are Gentiles who have chosen to come alongside Messianic Judaism in order to dialog with and to support the Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah King in Torah observance, identification with national Israel, and forming the ekklesia made up of (Jewish) Israel and (the believers of) the nations that will once day herald the Messiah’s return.

Together the Messianic Jewish community and the Christian Church constitute the ekklesia, the one Body of Messiah, a community of Jews and Gentiles who in their ongoing distinction and mutual blessing anticipate the shalom of the world to come.

“Defining Messianic Judaism”
UMJC.org

In quoting the Hashivenu core values, Dr. Kinzer states:

The expanded core value continues by expressing appreciation for the religious life of the wider Jewish world: “When we say that Messianic Judaism is ‘a Judaism,’ we are also acknowledging the existence of other ‘Judaisms.’ We do not deny their existence, their legitimacy, or their value.”

Never before had a group of Messianic Jewish leaders sought to differentiate their movement so definitively from evangelicalism and to identify it so radically as a branch of Judaism.

-Kinzer, pg 131

women_praying_at_the_wallI suppose you have to be Jewish to really understand the perspective Dr. Kinzer is describing, but being married to a (non-believing) Jewish spouse, I think I have some idea why it’s intensely important for her to be, not just genetically or generically Jewish, but culturally, ethnically, religiously, traditionally, and right-down-to-the-bone Jewish.

Obviously, her requirement has not been the “swan song” for our marriage because I’m a Gentile Christian since we’re still together after over thirty years, but it comes with a few additional challenges. In terms of the wider Messianic Jewish-Christian interface, those challenges are magnified.

Messianic Jews regard Gentile Christians as their brothers and sisters in the Lord and at the same time experience significant tension with the Gentile Christian world.

-Daniel Juster
“Chapter 12: Messianic Jews and the Gentile World” (pg 136)

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. “You’re my brother and I love you, but you also drive me crazy.” That’s what family members do to each other, sometimes.

Oh, it gets even more “interesting:”

According to this statement, the Messianic Jewish community is united with the “Christian Church” in forming the ekklesia, the Body of Messiah. The term “Christian Church” is used here in a more delimited way to describe the “Gentile wing of the Church.” This is in keeping with the connotation of the word “Christian” in the wider Jewish world. For Jews, Christian = not Jewish, i.e., Gentile. This is why Messianic Jews do not self-identify as “Christians.” It would imply to fellow Jews that they are no longer Jews.

-Juster, pp 136-7

I can imagine that many Christians will take Juster’s words as an insult, but again, I think you have to be Jewish to understand the dissonance being experienced. For the vast majority of the last two-thousand years, Christianity has demanded that Jews surrender every last bit of their Jewish identity and practice in order to become disciples of the Jewish Messiah King. Go figure. For the vast majority of the last two-thousand years, the larger, normative Judaisms have considered any Jew who believes that Jesus is the Messiah is no longer Jewish but instead, a “Christian.”

But what if, like James, and Peter, and Paul, and all of the other first-century CE Jewish apostles and disciples (thousands upon thousands of them) you, as a Jew, wanted to be a disciple of the Moshiach and continue a fully lived and observant Jewish experience? Where’s the problem in that?

Old habits die hard. The church will need to learn to accept Jews who identify as “Messianic” as Jews, not just in terms of DNA and a cognitive awareness that the Jew in question had Jewish parents and other family members, but that the Messianic Jew is really, really Jewish in every observable, identifiable, and covenantal sense.

But what about those Gentiles who self-identify as “Messianic?” Not all of them are, as I previously described, Hebrew Roots Christians who aspire to the same identity as the Jews in the Messianic movement, thus claiming what is not their’s. I mentioned in my review of the First Fruits of Zion television series, that narrator and teacher Toby Janicki introduces himself as a Gentile who practices Messianic Judaism. Do Gentiles who come alongside Jews in Messianic Jewish synagogues practice Messianic Judaism (as distinctly different from Christianity)?

jewish-t-shirtI’ve laid out a case, based on chapters in the Rudolph-Willitts book, that describes why Messianic Jews need to identify separately from Christianity, even as Messianic Jews and Christians must be unified within the body of Messiah to form the Ekklesia, but where to “Messianic Gentiles” fit in, if at all?

I could make a case for Christian/Jewish intermarried couples to identify as “Messianic” and whose religious practice is within that context for what I hope are obvious reasons. What about the large number of non-Jews attracted to the Messianic movement who aren’t intermarried or otherwise connected to the Jewish community? I can’t really describe the attraction except I know it’s there. I have the same attraction, which is evidenced by what I write on this blog. Even if I weren’t intermarried at this point, the drive to see God, the Messiah, and the Bible through that particular lens would not go away. For some reason, it’s hardwired to my soul.

But that drive can’t be used to justify the diluting or elimination of Jewish identity and covenant distinctiveness from within the larger Ekklesia of Messiah. Juster, in describing the initiative Toward Jerusalem Council II, speaks of coming together to “heal historic wounds and repudiate ancient decisions by the Church against Messianic Jews.” I believe this should be applied to the overarching relationship of Messianic Jews and believing Gentiles, both within the Messianic Jewish worship framework and between Messianic Jews and all believing Gentile worship groups including the Church and other variant branches of Christianity (even if they choose not to self-identify as “Christianity”).

Juster’s conclusion of Chapter 12 is the hopeful note within the continual struggle between believing Jewish and Gentile communities.

This notwithstanding, the Messianic Jewish community views itself as united with the Gentile wing of the Church in a partnership that is intended by God to reflect interdependence and mutual blessing (emph. mine). Such interdependence and mutual blessing can come about only through close relationship. Therefore, Messianic Jews invest in Christian groups and organizations that welcome a Messianic Jewish presence, even as Paul wrote, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Messiah has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom 15:7 JNT).

Christian theology emphasizes that God is unfolding his great plan for the redemption and transformation of the cosmos through the work of the Church. As Messianic Jews, we have added a significant corollary to the traditional Christian narrative: the work of the Gentile Christian world cannot be accomplished without being in right relationship with Israel and the Messianic Jewish community in particular.

-ibid, pp 142-3

Most Gentile believers aren’t going to accept this message, at least at first. Some never will at all, for a variety of reasons, some of which I’ve already mentioned. But Christianity in all its forms has traditionally rejected the Jewish people from the worshipers of Messiah except on the condition that they give up being uniquely Jewish in any demonstrable and experiential sense. That is no longer a sustainable position for the church or any believing Gentile organization or individual.

When King Messiah returns in power and glory, the Church will be in no position to demand that he surrender his Jewish identity as a condition of ascending the Throne of Israel. That being the case, how can we dare to make such a demand of his Jewish subjects?

157 days.

80 thoughts on “Introduction to Messianic Judaism: The Troubled Ekklesia”

  1. James – more than Kinzer’s PMMJ, his book outlining the two-fold ekklesia, and the role of Yeshua in relationship to the Jewish people, gave me the footing I needed to re-engage with Church as a non-Jewish, Torah observant Gentile worshipping in a Jewish community. (Israel’s Messiah and the People of God: A Vision for Messianic Jewish Covenant Fidelity). I don’t even try to give myself a label anymore but it will be interesting once I start working as a chaplain and others need a label in order to relate to me. 🙂 Looking forward to discussions at Shavuot.

  2. I’d like to offer one clarification that distinguishes between Jewish Christians, who truly were absorbed into the churches, and Hebrew-Christians, who began a movement to maintain their Jewish cultural identity and some familial practices such as Jewish holiday celebrations and Sabbath candle-lighting. While some of the latter were nonethess members of churches and religiously Christian, there was a little bit more than merely the DNA strand and the parentage to distinguish them. Some Hebrew-Christians even formed their own denomination of sorts, meeting in their own facilities and running their own services, albeit along Christian lines and only flavored with Jewish songs and some cultural trappings. They would be called today an ethnic expression of Evangelical Protestant Christianity. So your interpretation of Kinzer’s paragraph, particularly with respect to the sweeping away of distinctive Jewish national and covenantal identity, is applicable primarily to Jewish Christians rather than to Hebrew-Christians.

    While I am less familiar with the much more recent Hebrew Roots perspective, my understanding of its ecclesiological approach is of a uniformity that dismisses the distinctives you’re discussing, applying something that appears to resemble Hebrew-Christianity to gentiles as well as to Jews. While this does miss the point of Jewish distinctiveness, it is an understandable development among mixed populations of modern Jews and Gentiles who are seeking to recapture a lost primitive form of first-century religious praxis among Rav-Yeshua followers, presumably practiced by both non-Jewish and Jewish followers in mixed assemblies. Certainly non-Jewish practice in the assemblies of that time would have resembled Jewish practice far more than later “Christian” practice has ever done. But that, of course, does not justify the presumption that there were no distinctions then and that there should be none now. Unity, as expressed by the phrase “one new man” (cif: Eph.2:15), which refers to a unified and renewed humanity presented in a context encouraging non-Jews that their lack of circumcision did not prevent them from receiving G-d’s mercy, should never be confused with the notion of uniformity or lack of differentiation between individuals or groups within a larger aggregate. Unity, or cooperation between diverse groups, can really only be demonstrated when the diversity and distinctiveness of those groups is recognized. For some, “there’s the rub”; for all, there is certainly a challenge.

    [P.S. – Your link “Toward Jerusalm Council II” did not access any such description of an initiative, but only accessed the TJC II website.]

  3. @Karen: Thanks for reading and commenting here. I look forward to your further contributions and your journey as a chaplain.

    @PL: Thanks for the clarification on Hebrew Christians. With such a complex history, I no doubt missed some details.

    I don’t doubt that Hebrew Roots, taken in its widest context, contains a number of variants that result in somewhat different applications for Jewish and Gentile members, but in general, my understanding is that they view Jews and Gentiles as equal sharers of all of the covenants God made with Israel, thus they not only are co-heirs of salvation and a life in the world to come, but of the entire set of Torah requirements, thus (in my opinion) diluting Jewish distinctiveness to the point of homogeneity with the Gentile participants.

    Given last night’s unscheduled meditation, it occurs to me that one motivation (most likely covert or even unconscious) for this push toward Jewish and Gentile “sameness” is the need for cultural uniformity. The dissonance that Gentiles who participate in formal Messianic Judaism experience is certainly uncomfortable to some, and the response is to eliminate the dissonance by eliminating the distinction. Unfortunately, this sort of thinking has also been employed to eliminate whole people groups, assimilating them into the larger unit, a perpetual danger for the Jewish people in the diaspora. Only adherence to the traditions as a means of maintaining identity has preserved the Jewish identity in a world that is either dedicated to deconstructing it or Xeroxing it endlessly so that “everybody’s the same.”

    Oh, and the TJC II link was the one provided in Kinzer’s chapter.

    1. I don’t know if it is possible to trace any direct intellectual connection, but I note an eerie similarity between the cultural uniformity and hegemony enforced by the Greek Empire (that impelled the Maccabean conflict with Antiochus Epiphanes), its inheritance by the Roman Empire who were primarily interested in civil order, its re-expression in Roman Imperial Christianity that produced a “catholic”, i.e., universal, religion that excluded Jewish religious expression, and modern Christian tendencies toward a “democratic” uniformity that eschews distinctives and claims universal “rights” to all aspects of the biblical heritage. But maybe it’s just a common human tendency, not only for “birds of a feather to flock together”, but to try to enforce a “common feather-ation” in their common federation. Nonetheless, HaShem seems to assign distinctive positions and responsibilities, sometimes to individuals, sometimes to tribes like Levi and Yehudah, sometimes to clans within a tribe, like the Cohanim and other groups among the Levi’im, sometimes to the genders of man and woman, sometimes to entire peoples such as the Jews among the nations of the earth. Hence there is an awareness generated both for commonalities and for distinctives. In ancient practice, the Nazirite vow allowed the ordinary Israelite to experience temporarily the sanctity of the Cohanim. But they did not become Cohanim or swell the ranks of the Cohanim. In the Mikdash, the Court of the Nations provided for non-Jews a place of participation in Jewish worship, and a non-Jew could also submit a sacrifice under appropriate circumstances and observe its immolation. This did not make them Jewish. By trusting Rav Yeshua, non-Jews have an access into the heavenly sanctuary that operates above and in parallel with the earthly Mikdash and its shadow representation in the modern synagogue. But equal access does not eliminate distinctive categories among the diverse ones sharing that access. Distinctiveness does not demand dissonance or discomfort, but maybe you’re right that failure to embrace the distinctives has created a discomfort for which the wrong sort of amelioration has been sought.

  4. But maybe it’s just a common human tendency, not only for “birds of a feather to flock together”, but to try to enforce a “common feather-ation” in their common federation.

    I think that’s the more likely scenario. Humanity has struggled with “those who are different” ever since there’s been a humanity. We distrust what is different from us and we either try to destroy the different ones or make them like us…or in certain cases, we withdraw from the different ones (especially if they are in the majority) and form our own isolated enclaves.

    It is an advanced trait to be able to tolerate and then appreciate those who are different as those who can contribute something to the rest of us. I’ve been reading several chapters in the Rudolph/Willitts book that talks about mutual interdependency between Messianic Jews and believing Gentiles. There’s a reason why the Messiah didn’t command the apostles to convert the nations to Judaism. There’s a reason why the Acts 15 ruling turned out as it did. It’s in God’s plan that the Jewish people and Israel be distinct from the nations, but it’s also part of that plan that there be non-Jewish nations who are “called by His Name.”

    Any attempt to turn the “different ones” into “same ones” relative to Jewish and Gentile distinctions is actually an attempt to derail the plan of God.

  5. “I suppose you have to be Jewish to really understand the perspective Dr. Kinzer is describing,”

    Not at all, James. I am Jewish and have no idea what he is saying…. Duermann is walking on dangerous grounds here. According to him Gentiles can go murder and steal since they have no access to Torah… Try to analyze this, James, with the HR camp your differences are theological, which you can argue from within, but with MJ UMJC style you are shunned culturally, they will take you as a gentile on their own terms, the heck with Yeshua’s terms…Come back home…

    1. Kinzer’s two-fold ekklesia is the Christian Church centered on a proper Jewish understanding of the Hebrew scriptures and apostolic texts as well as a Jewish expression of Jewish tradition and practice integrated with Yeshua as Messiah, perfect priest, Mikdash and self-sacrifice: He is embodiment of corporate Israel. In a bilateral ekklesia, there is no supercessionist disruption between “old” and “new” and this is key – when that day comes, we will have distinct Jewish and non-Jewish groups within the Body of Christ but until then there is such a dichotomy that it is hard to find a comfortable fit . It is virtually impossible for us to feel “at home” in a Church that does not recognize the role of corporate Israel as a People of G-d. It is worth spending the effort to understand and absorb the impact of Dr. Kinzer’s theology.

      As far as any MJ theology leaving room for non-Jews to “murder and steal because they have no access to Torah” – that is an outrageous statement, you know. Check out Toby Janicki’s book on God Fearers to understand – it is very well put together. No one in UMJC would hold the belief you ascribe to them. And yes, coming into a Jewish community as a Gentile means adopting the traditions and practices of the local halakhah and the broader guidelines of the MJRC. If that is problematic, then the question to ask yourself is, “why?”

  6. As non-Jewish believers who practice Messianic Judaism, there is a means for connection and expression within a Messianic Jewish community that identifies as a Judaism. Communities like Rabbi Forbes (shofar.org) seem to be relatively rare. We are part of their community as sojourners, in and among the mishpocha, following local halakha, not as Jews, but as non-Jews who have attached themselves to this community. It is a perfect fit for us. I just don’t have a clear “label” that is convenient to use in everyday conversation. Our community is majority Jewish. Gentiles who join are expected to learn and participate in a Jewish expression of “Yeshua-followership.”

    That being said, I do find connection also within a small segment of the local Christian community as a teacher – the discussions and debates that we have over the Gospel and Paul’s epistles in light of Hebrew scriptures are some of the most precious I have each week and I look forward to them. I “dwell” in one community and I “visit” the other, speak their language, and try to foster the vision of a two-fold People of God. It is a mix that works for me.

    Juster’s vision that you quote above is a long long way from here in most mainline Christian denominations. I would be counting down days if I were there as well (which is why I’m not there!) Faith communities who retain an “evangelical Christian” base and add on selected Jewish traditions (lighting Shabbat candles, havdalah) but not others (kashrut, Shabbat observance), who readily adopt Hebrew scriptures as sola scriptura, but reject Talmud, are a very confusing witness to the MJ movement, IMO. I understand they exist and the rationale behind them, but this blog seems to attest to some of the reasons why we have some identity confusion.

    I’m firmly in the MJ as a Judaism camp, not as MJ within the Church as “united with the Gentile wing of the Church in a partnership that is intended by God to reflect interdependence and mutual blessing.” The Church is not ready for an MJ within its midst without swallowing it up and making it look the “same” as mainline Christianity. Distinction is critical.

  7. @Dan: You are being far too rigid in your interpretation and I seriously don’t believe Kinzer is advocating allowing the Gentile disciples of Messiah to murder and steal, not is the dichotomy between the application of Torah to Jew and Gentile absolute.

    Come back home…

    Dan, I’m deeply touched and believe that you are sincerely appealing to me out of a sense of concern and even friendship, and I very much appreciate that. Thank you.

    @Karen: I still struggle with how Gentiles practice a Judaism and what the distinctions are that preserve Jewish vs. Gentile identity. Stripping the labels away, what we practice is worshiping God as disciples of the Messiah, we just apply that worship in distinctive ways based on being Jewish or from the nations. It’s still One God and one Messiah.

    1. “I still struggle with how Gentiles practice a Judaism and what the distinctions are that preserve Jewish vs. Gentile identity.”

      Good point. Our local community adopted a standard of distinction, and while I might not always like it (human nature) I respect and uphold it. The distinctions are not that great. You are absolutely correct: we worship one G-d and one Messiah; still a distinction is important, if for no other reason than to avoid a form of cultural assimilation (it cuts two ways).

      Looking forward to continuing the dialogue in a couple of weeks!

  8. “@Dan: You are being far too rigid in your interpretation and I seriously don’t believe Kinzer is advocating allowing the Gentile disciples of Messiah to murder and steal, not is the dichotomy between the application of Torah to Jew and Gentile absolute.”

    I was referring to Duermann, not Kinzer….

  9. “It is worth spending the effort to understand and absorb the impact of Dr. Kinzer’s theology.”

    Kinzer thinks (and you alluded to this) that we live in an utopia. He has a Platonic concept of the Ekklesia, and for him is so much the deeds but “the thought that counts.” His concept cannot work today as you so eloquently put it.

  10. @Dan. It’s not what it is, but what it will be. Messiah will come and he will set things right, but we can prepare in the meantime.

    @Karen, I take it you’ll be at the Shavuot conference then.

  11. “@Dan. It’s not what it is, but what it will be. Messiah will come and he will set things right, but we can prepare in the meantime.”

    Not so fast, James…We will give an account of what we do today…Escapism is no solution…..

  12. “”””Duermann is walking on dangerous grounds here. According to him Gentiles can go murder and steal since they have no access to Torah… “”” I find this a very offensive comment .

  13. @Dan – the purpose for clarifying and enunciating the theology of the two-fold (bilateral) ekklesia and its relationship to Torah, the People of G-d, the Land, Yeshua, and each other is to create a compelling vision of something that is more aligned with the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, that is scripturally accurate, and something we can work for. What we have today (supercessionism in the Church, fractions in MJ, MJ separate from both Church and Judaism) is untenable. By your argument, you would not allow for a big hairy audacious goal to be set for any reason, because such a lofty goal seems unattainable. To do that is to accept mediocrity and in the case of the ekklesia, it would mean accepting a theology based on replacement of Israel by the Church. This has proven to be dangerous in the past, and will continue to be dangerous if it does not change.

    It takes people with vision to get our sights set on something far better. It takes people with leadership to help us all move there. And it takes followership to make it reality. 😉

    Dr. Kinzer’s work sets a vision that we can seek to understand, even if it will take a miracle for it to be true. At least we get a glimpse of the breakthrough of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth while we labor toward that end with our simple human efforts.

    @ James, yes, I’ll be in Hudson, B”H.

  14. Since entering into the Messianic Jewish “universe,” I’ve lived in between a few different worlds, maneuvering into and out of Messianic Jewish and Evangelical environments, then, doing Holocaust work, into and out of mostly reform but some Conservative Jewish environments, spending alot of time in Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant circles along the way. Reflecting on my “travels,” I agree that a bi-lateral unity based upon thorough understanding and grace-filled acceptance is the great objective of our time. Acceptance and understanding that passes muster in terms of Jesus’ great emphasis on love and understanding as a significant emanation of evangelism out into the world: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    Great discussion.

  15. ““”””Duermann is walking on dangerous grounds here. According to him Gentiles can go murder and steal since they have no access to Torah… “”” I find this a very offensive comment .”

    But truthful as well…

  16. “By your argument, you would not allow for a big hairy audacious goal to be set for any reason, because such a lofty goal seems unattainable. ”

    You are right, Kinzer’s goal is unscriptural, therefore unattainable.

    “Dr. Kinzer’s work sets a vision that we can seek to understand, even if it will take a miracle for it to be true. At least we get a glimpse of the breakthrough of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth while we labor toward that end with our simple human efforts.”

    Well, at least Kinzer is consistent with his ecclesiology. He admits that Mixed congregations will not work. To agree with Kinzer’s BE one must accept two distinct “separate but equal” communities that make up the ekklesia. He parallels his vision of the ekklesia with Paul’s teaching on marriage in Eph. 5:22-33 (page 170 in his book). Only in his vision of a marriage model is that the husband and wife live in separate houses…..

    1. Dr. Kinzer does not require distinct separate but equal communities. His bilateral ecclesiology is not easy to absorb, but you’re reading it incorrectly.

  17. “Dr. Kinzer does not require distinct separate but equal communities. His bilateral ecclesiology is not easy to absorb, but you’re reading it incorrectly.”

    Well, maybe you can show me where I am wrong…

    This from Kinzer:
    “…The leadership of the Yeshua movement determined at an early stage that the ekklesia as an eschatological extension of Israel was to be an essentially transitional reality in which cultural particularities of different regions and ethnicities would be expressed with the broad framework of Israel’s messianic faith” (Page 152).

    Kinzer makes it clear that Jews remain Jews by “observing those transitional Jewish practices that identify the Jewish people as DISTINCT COMMUNITY.” What it means is that the believers who join the Israel in the singular ekklesia must likewise retain their cultural particularities that would define their own nationality and origins…This is the obvious conclusion from his argument.

    Kinzer argues that Jewish believers must conform to Jewish halacha, therefore he also affirm that a Gentile convert to Judaism joins the Jewish people in a different way than a Gentile Yeshua -believer. A Gentile convert according to halacha, joins the Jewish people as a Jew and therefore must abandon his national culture and take on Israel’s culture. That means that the convert becomes a part of Israel in a way that a Gentile Yeshua-believer is not.

    In Kinzer’s BE, the ritual of a proselyte gives tan individual a different status and purpose within the ekklesia which faith in Yeshua alone does not effect.

    Meanning, that Kinzers teaching emphasise identity is in Judaism, not in Messiah.

  18. Dear everybody. Sorry, but I’ve had the family over (hard to believe, but I really do have a life) and was out visiting a friend earlier. Lots going on so I’ll have to pick up on all your comments when I get some time tomorrow. G’night.

  19. Dan B: You might want to get a hold of a copy of Introduction to Messianic Judaism since it includes twenty-six individual contributors, all authoring articles on related themes. You can compare what they write to Kinzer to “flesh out” what this sort of vision looks like. I think you’ll see (though I don’t imagine you’ll agree) that the overarching message of the book is that Messianic Jews and believing Gentiles are interdependent. In order to create a fully functioning ekklesia, we have to be together and work together, combining our own unique roles and identities to fulfill the purpose of Messiah.

  20. James: Interdependence is the key word. It is possible to remain distinct, yet interdependent. Just as I maintain my distinct idiosyncracies that I had before I was married, and my husband maintains his, we are mutually interdependent in our relationship (and live in the same house.) 🙂

    So, to your comments on Kinzer: “…The leadership of the Yeshua movement determined at an early stage that the ekklesia as an eschatological extension of Israel was to be an essentially transitional reality in which cultural particularities of different regions and ethnicities would be expressed with the broad framework of Israel’s messianic faith” (Page 152).

    Kinzer is speaking of a transnational ekklesia – the world of Gentile Christians as well as Messianic Jews – in this paragraph. (see the opening of chapter 4 of PMMJ). In the emerging bilateral ekklesia of the 1st century, this expression was set in the framework of Jewish tradition and practice (that had been an effective sign for Israel for millenia). In the multinational ekklesia, it was necessary that Gentiles be allowed to remain Gentiles, and Jews as Jews. The structural arrangement that was chosen for this (probably the only choice) was to create a bilateral ekklesia.

    This isn’t theology, this is history.

    The theology that I think is coloring your view point is this: the Gentile believing community receives its relationship with all Israel as grafted in, coming under the commonwealth of Israel. Through their grafting in (by faith, through Yeshua) they become partakers of the Jewish New Covenant as given in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. They do not become nationally Jewish – they are part of the multinational ekklesia in solidarity with Israel. It is a relatively rare occurrence for the average Gentile believer to convert to Messianic Judaism. I can tell you from my first hand experience that my family, as Gentile believers, participate in a Messianic Jewish community which is a full Jewish expression as followers of yeshua, under the authority of a Messianic Jewish rabbinical council. We are fully members of the community, but retain a distinction – we are ger toshav. We still participate fully in kashrut, Shabbat, prayers, worship, study – under the leadership and halakhic guidance of the local rabbi. This model is an Acts 2 faith community and is consistent with Jewish tradition and practice.

    Those who do convert do so to be recognized as halakhically Jewish because there usually is family history for which conversion is a tikkun. It is a complex decision and from the recent editions of Kesher it appears that the MJ leadership has widely divergent points of view on this topic.

    You mentioned T. Hegg so this seemed like a clue. If one holds firmly to a T. Hegg perspective, I suppose that person will continue to see Kinzer’s bilateral ekklesiology as unscriptural, regardless. My point to you would see more clearly that Kinzer’s position is a scriptural one if the T.Hegg theological goggles long enough to make an objective analysis. As with any opposing view points, we have a hard time being objective if we root ourselves in one camp and reject the “other” as wrong out of hand. Nothing ever is quite so black and white.

    1. Thank you, Karen, for correcting the typographical error “transitional” to “transnational”. The former didn’t make sense in the context, and I remember reading the latter (probably in Kinzer’s PMMJ). Also, I believe it was Dan Benzvi (rather than James) who mentioned T.Hegg. But I agree that he should set aside his “T.Hegg theological goggles” as you suggest, in order to obtain a fresh evaluation of the scriptural exegesis underlying Kinzer’s interpretation which is realy quite straightforward. Dan seems to have a penchant for misreading folks like Kinzer and Dauermann and inferring things they never would suggest (and thus complaining about invented notions that never existed but in his own imagination).

  21. Just to be clear Karen, the comments you are responding to are Dan B’s and not my own.

    I can see where you (and presumably Kinzer) are coming from identifying Gentile disciples of Messiah as Ger Toshav but the way the majority of Judaism understands the term, at least in its modern application, Gentiles with this status are Noahides. It doesn’t recognize our status as equal in the blessings due to our faith in Messiah.

    It’s a difficult concept to grasp and I believe the intent is to describe us as Ger Toshav as it was understood in ancient times, Gentiles who are “resident aliens” among Israel and who “accept the authority of the Torah and the Rabbis upon ourselves, but specifically as applied to Gentiles.”

    As I continue to go through the Rudolph/Willitts book (I have to return it to the library Thursday), I’ll continue to develop these themes as they are suggested by the contributing authors.

    1. And may I recommend that you don’t sell short the blessings that Noahides may experience. Avraham was effectively a Noahide, though he obtained greater blessing than most due to his faith and friendship with HaShem. Hence the non-Jewish believers whom Rav Shaul considered to be metaphorical “sons of Avraham” (cif: Gal.3) could be considered also Gerei Toshav who dwelt in concert with the Jewish community, obtaining blessing thereby without becoming Gerei Tzedek converts (also considered sons of Avraham). There is no particular necessity to infer a status greater than Noahide or Ger Toshav for non-Jewish disciples of the Messiah.

  22. James, of course Judaism has to equate ger toshav with Noachide because there is no concept of a multinational community including Gentiles under Messiah Yeshua. But the closest thing to the Acts 15 guidance of the Jerusalem Council regarding Gentiles is a Noachide. Keep in mind also, that the Jerusalem 15 guidance is regarding halakhah for the multinational ekklesia to be able to enjoy table fellowship together – it has nothing to do with the fullness of the believing Gentile status in the blessings due to faith in Messiah.

  23. That’s OK, Karen. It’s just that we have to remember there are a lot of people who read these blogs and blog comments but who may not have the background to understand the details of the concepts behind the words we use, so it’s important for me to add a bit of clarification from time to time. No worries.

  24. “Dan B: You might want to get a hold of a copy of Introduction to Messianic Judaism since it includes twenty-six individual contributors, all authoring articles on related themes. You can compare what they write to Kinzer to “flesh out” what this sort of vision looks like. I think you’ll see (though I don’t imagine you’ll agree) that the overarching message of the book is that Messianic Jews and believing Gentiles are interdependent. In order to create a fully functioning ekklesia, we have to be together and work together, combining our own unique roles and identities to fulfill the purpose of Messiah.”

    James, but that of course is not happening in the field. MJ, UMJC style now openly discourage participating of Gentiles. (See Ahavat Zion in Beverly Hills). This to me is not “working together.”

  25. “It is a complex decision and from the recent editions of Kesher it appears that the MJ leadership has widely divergent points of view on this topic.”

    Thanks for affirming my point, Karen. One thing they are united on, in their zeal to become a part of mainstream Judaism. you are looking for the future? I will paint it for you….1) they will through the gentiles under the bus (they already doing it). 2) They will throw Yeshua under the bus (Watch how they edge slowly to deny His deity).

  26. PL, I don’t know if most Jews would agree that Abraham was a Noahide, additional blessings or not, since the sages believed he kept all of the Torah, including separating meat and milk in accordance with Kashrut. Also, Jews call Abraham “Our Father” which would not be true of any (other) Noahide.

    It’s my understanding that the Noahide laws are incumbent upon all mankind and that in Acts 15, James “raised the bar” for the Gentiles in Messiah by applying a status to us related to “resident aliens” (see Lev. 17-18). While I don’t sell the Noahide’s short, I consider my faith in Yeshua as granting me an access to God and blessings of redemption and salvation on par with the Jewish community in Messiah. I could be a Noahide by denying Messiah and just conforming to the seven laws. Messiah must mean more or he means nothing.

  27. “You mentioned T. Hegg so this seemed like a clue. If one holds firmly to a T. Hegg perspective, I suppose that person will continue to see Kinzer’s bilateral ekklesiology as unscriptural, regardless. My point to you would see more clearly that Kinzer’s position is a scriptural one if the T.Hegg theological goggles long enough to make an objective analysis. As with any opposing view points, we have a hard time being objective if we root ourselves in one camp and reject the “other” as wrong out of hand. Nothing ever is quite so black and white.”

    James, I am working as hard as I can to remain civil, only to face an attack on me and Hegg…Thanks…

    So, I will continue with Kinzer..On page 152-53 he writes: “At first Gentile Yeshua believers apparently expressed their “solidarity” (kinzer loves this term, never really explains what it means), with the Jewish people by participating along with Jewish Yeshua-believers in the wider Jewish world (see what i mean Karen when I mentioned Ahavat Zion?). They attended synagogue gathering and experienced Jewish life directly.”

    Later in the chapter when Kinzer deals with the epistle to the Eph., he conveniently interpret the language of Eph. 4 as expressing unity, not between Jews and Gentiles within the messianic synagogue at ephesus, but only among Gentiles Yeshua-believers, because incredibly he comes to the conclusion that “the addressees (those to whom Ephs. was written) are all non-Jews. (page 171, n. 51).

  28. “There is no particular necessity to infer a status greater than Noahide or Ger Toshav for non-Jewish disciples of the Messiah.”

    The Noachide laws are a later invention of the Rabbis, why do you invoke them in this discussion?

  29. Dan.
    …”but that of course is not happening in the field. MJ, UMJC style now openly discourage participating of Gentiles. (See Ahavat Zion in Beverly Hills). This to me is not “working together.”
    Which UMJC congregation are you a part of? Are you relaying information from first hand experience? It certainly doesn’t reflect my experience with UMJC rabbis or congregations. Your outlook is remarkably pessimistic. Nothing is perfect, but you are casting misinformation and misperception around as if it is fact and then drawing conclusions from there.

    You said I affirmed your point. In Judaism, widely divergent points of view are not uncommon, nor are they discouraged, and they are certainly not something to be avoided. Not sure what point you think I am affirming. That we have differences of opinion on conversion practices in MJ?

    From the UMJC values: (http://www.umjc.org/faith-and-values/defining-messianic-judaism)
    The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) envisions Messianic Judaism as a movement of Jewish congregations and groups committed to Yeshua the Messiah that embrace the covenantal responsibility of Jewish life and identity rooted in Torah, expressed in tradition, and renewed and applied in the context of the New Covenant. Messianic Jewish groups may also include those from non-Jewish backgrounds who have a confirmed call to participate fully in the life and destiny of the Jewish people. We are committed to embodying this definition in our constituent congregations and in our shared institutions.

    When that day comes where the Church embraces Israel as more than a transitory covenant partner in the Kingdom of Heaven, and recognizes the role of the mitzvot in daily living for all Yeshua followers, we will be much closer to a two-fold ekklesia that worships together as one body. Until then, it is necessary and reasonable that Jewish believers, and their Gentile believing sojourners, worship together and enjoin their brethren in the Church to come, study, and learn, to hear and to do, in the name of Messiah Yeshua.

  30. “I consider my faith in Yeshua as granting me an access to God and blessings of redemption and salvation on par with the Jewish community in Messiah. ”

    But they want you to become a Jew first…Acts 15 De-Ja-vu all over again…Come home, brother.

  31. But they want you to become a Jew first…

    That’s not the impression I get, Dan. I’ll be attending the FFOZ Shavuot Conference at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, WI again this year. Just like last year, I’m pretty sure it’ll be OK for me to be a Gentile believer and still get inside their doors. I’ll also get to meet more than a few good people, including Karen as well as Carl Kinbar, one of the contributors to the Rudolph/Willitts book. I also look forward to renewing old friendships.

    Jews and Gentiles in Messiah meeting together under one roof in unity as Yeshua’s ekklesia.

  32. Karen, I don’t know if you read the expended commentary of the official statement, so i will try to document them for you:

    From Russ Resnik who was at the time the general secretary of the UMJC:
    “You have many gentile congregations who are calling themselves Jewish because they practice Jewish festivals and love Israel. We think God raised up MJ as a Jewish people movement for Yeshua.”

    Where does it leave the non-Jewish members of the Messianic congregations? The need for clear, Jewish identity precludes the Torah being equally the possession of all.

    Russ Resnic in his addendum 1 of the staement you posted:
    “Torah remains a living and relevant document for all believers, Jewish and gentile, but many of its specifics are intended for Israel alone. MJ are to draw upon the rich tradition of Torah, not necessarily because this tradition is mandated for all believers, but because we are Jews. gentiles may be moved to participate in this tradition out of love for Israel and the God of Israel, but they must be careful to affirm the unique relationship of Israel to Torah…Gentiles in MJ are not here for themselves, but for Messiah’s own people, who have been wounded in his name by others Gentiles. and the Jews in MJ are not here for themselves either, but must accept the rejection and misunderstanding that messiah endures in the midst of His own people.”

    This viewpoint holds that the body of Messiah is made up of two DISTINCT groups: the “Gentile Church” and “Messianic Judaism.”

    One more:
    “Jewish life is life in a concrete, historical community. Thus, MJ groupings must be fully part of the Jewish people, sharing its history and its covenant responsibility as a people Chosen by God. At the same time, faith in Yeshua also has a crucial communal dimension. this faith unite MJ and the Gentile Christian Church, which is the assembly of the faithful from the nations who are joined to Israel through the Messiah. (try to tell this to the Baptist Church down the street. Emphasis mine). Together MJ and the gentile Church contribute the one body of messiah, a community of jews and gentiles who in their ongoing DISTINCTION and mutual blessing anticipate the shalom of the world to come.” ( http://www.umjc.org).

    Need I say anything more? Yes…

    According to this last statement, the body of Messiah is made of two groups with DISTICT identities, and both are apparently valid expression of Genuine faith in Messiah. If according to this view, the majority of gentiles should find their faith community within the “Gentile Church,” this can onlt mean that the framers of this theology find no God-given requirement for gentiles to obey Torah in the first place. for the :Gentile Church” has surely taken an anti-Torah view throughout her history, and does so to the present day.

  33. “Jews and Gentiles in Messiah meeting together under one roof in unity as Yeshua’s ekklesia.”

    That is what they tell you, but as you can see from my last comment, they write something completely different. These are people who specialise in speaking from both sides of their mouth….

  34. Again, Dan.

    If you have something official such as a value statement or halakhic guidelines that state that the Jewish community in Messiah wants Gentiles to “become a Jew first”, as you say, please post it. Such things do not exist as far as I am aware so I’d like to see what you have.

  35. I do want to say at this point that there usually is some difference between stated ideals and actual practice. That’s usually because any community of faith is made up of human beings and human beings aren’t perfect. We often don’t live up to the fullest extent of our ideals. I know I don’t, much to my chagrin.

    But ideals, like a life of holiness in Messiah, are a target to shoot for, a destination to aspire to as we travel the path of faith. If Messianic Jewish communities continue to struggle to define themselves and their practice in the real world, any mistakes made are regrettable (as are any mistakes made in churches or Hebrew Roots congregations, or non-Messianic Jewish synagogues, or any other house of worship), but those mistakes don’t invalidate the ideal, anymore than they invalidate faith in Messiah or invalidate God.

    We can choose to point fingers or we can choose to correct each other in love and to move forward in hope. Messiah is coming. He is our one true judge.

  36. Dan:
    You wrote: “Where does it leave the non-Jewish members of the Messianic congregations? The need for clear, Jewish identity precludes the Torah being equally the possession of all.”

    The answer to your question is this: there are congregations who are not Jewish, who have the mistaken belief that because they are grafted in as in Romans 11, and full recipients of the New Covenant promises by faith, that they are somehow Jewish. Resnick’s statement for a distinction is to correct this error on behalf of a well-intentioned but ultimately theologically incorrect gentile Yeshua-believing community.

    Dr. Amy-Jill Levine put it well to a tzitzit-wearing Gentile believer who came up to her after her lecture here last week to argue the case that he was Jewish. Her answer, in essence was this: there is a standard for becoming Jewish, and that standard is held by the Jewish community. Think of it like immigration. A non-US citizen comes to the US, and she works here, lives here, abides by the law, raises her children here. Does that make her a US citizen? No! Who says? The US!

    The non-Jewish Torah-loving Yeshua following community has been and continues to be running close to a campaign of cultural annihilation of the identity of the Jewish people through a mistaken belief that if they act Jewish, and believe Jewish, they are somehow Jewish. And it is because of this growing trend that clarity regarding distinction between Jews and non-Jews must be made and observed. MJRC set forth guidelines regarding Jewish identity at http://www.ourrabbis.org.

    A non-Jewish follower of Yeshua has every expectation to be a good disciple and to live as his Rebbe lived. Eat as he ate, teach what he taught, memorize his words, learn his Torah and the traditions of his people, understand his thinking, observe his holidays, his Shabbat, do mitzvot, and make daily offerings of prayer. These are all Torah, and they are all open to Gentiles through Messiah Yeshua.

    Your bias that affects your viewpoint on this is fascinating. I hope you will keep an open mind so you can see how there is no difficulty here. The Baptist congregation down the street may or may not have a difficulty with Dr. Resnick’s words, but the issue is one of a supercessionist viewpoint and an inability to see the ekklesia through 1st century Jewish eyes before the Schism that split the ekklesia.

  37. “A non-Jewish follower of Yeshua has every expectation to be a good disciple and to live as his Rebbe lived. Eat as he ate, teach what he taught, memorize his words, learn his Torah and the traditions of his people, understand his thinking, observe his holidays, his Shabbat, do mitzvot, and make daily offerings of prayer. These are all Torah, and they are all open to Gentiles through Messiah Yeshua.”

    Karen, you are shooting yourself in the leg, and now, it makes me question if you really attend a UNJC MJ congregation? All the list you mentioned, they say is only for the Jews…When was the last time you saw a Gentile makes Alyah LaTorah?

    I have just proven to you that they form MJ as a Jewish group..Their mistake was to let the gentiles in…According to Scriptures, they had too, now when the gentiles in their midst outnumber them in huge disproportions, they are crying and want Gentiles to go back to the Church, or stay there…I gave You Ahavat zion as an example, they only want mixed couples, no Gentiles..You can call me biased, but you really not addressing the subject….

    In our community we do not teach that Gentiles become Jews, we teach that we are all fellow heirs, not that the Jews are more heirs and the gentile are less fellow…

    Since you mention Supercessessionism, just to let you know, I am Jewish, born and raised in Israel.

  38. My, what a lively discussion! It flies by faster than I can keep up.

    @James: The fact that a Noahide might do more and better than the minimal standards incumbent upon Noahides does not change their Noahide status. Avraham Avinu, even if he progressed from his original upbringing as an idolator all the way to complete Torah observance as the rabbis may credit him, is still a son of Noa’h. The fact that he is the only son of Noa’h to become the progenitor of the Jewish people, thereby earning an honorary place as the first Jew (viewed from a later point in time, of course), does not change his Noahide identity except to add to it, perhaps comparably to conversion which also is a later concept. Just because someone is a Noahide does not prevent them from becoming more than merely a Noahide. A “ger toshav” is already more than merely a Noahide by dint of cooperating with the Jewish people who are constrained by HaShem’s Torah. Likewise a non-Jewish Rav-Yeshua messianist has minimal requirements like any Noahide, but is expected to progress in discipleship by learning Torah (per Acts 15:21) voluntarily (which also may be compared to Avraham’s process, even if it is not intended ultimately to result in conversion or submersion within the Jewish covenant and peoplehood). Grafted wild olive branches benefit from the nourishment of the cultivated tree’s sap, drawn up via the Root of the tree. They do not become the tree itself. They become beneficiaries of HaShem’s covenant with Jews; but they do not become the covenant people themselves. Even the new/renewed covenant described by Yirmiyahu is still directly applicable only to the Jewish people, despite that the entirety of humanity may benefit from it through the Messiah.

    @Dan: The fact that the rabbis did not begin to use the term Noahide until a later point in time, as an analytical term to categorize the majority of humanity, does not make the term meaningless or inapplicable to people of eras prior to the rabbinical derivation of the term. And the fact that an MJ synagogue like Ahavat Zion is designed specifically as Jewish space, that explicitly welcomes Jews and intermarrieds, does not throw any others under any buses or out any windows. Would you deny to Jews the right to safe-haven Jewish space? Would you insist that non-Jews have the right to overrun and overwhelm Jewish space so that no safe haven can exist and Jews must be always submerged in a more general mass of humanity? Would you thus deny to Jews the right to exist as Jews, to develop as Jews? That is exactly how European attitudes developed up to the Holocaust. First, it was “You have no right to live among us as Jews (i.e., as a distinctive separate people who are not like everyone else).” Then, it was “You have no right to live among us (because you refuse to become like us).” Finally, it was “You have no right to live.” Jews have every reason to demand safe haven. Non-Jews should not feel so threatened by the existence of explicitly dedicated Jewish space. They should develop a thicker hide rather than “no [a] hide” at all. [:)] They will need it if they wish to visit or participate in a Jewish environment insofar as permitted. And they may cooperate with Jews in all sorts of common endeavors. Cooperative unity is not a myth or chimera, if the conditions required to support it are maintained. But non-Jews have also a right and a responsibility to pursue the challenge of discipleship as non-Jews.

  39. “Would you deny to Jews the right to safe-haven Jewish space? Would you insist that non-Jews have the right to overrun and overwhelm Jewish space so that no safe haven can exist and Jews must be always submerged in a more general mass of humanity? Would you thus deny to Jews the right to exist as Jews, to develop as Jews? ”

    PL, this is a cop-out…They have all these in Orthodox, conservative, Reform and reconstructionist Judaism, where they deny Yeshua…MJ is a different bird, and you know it.

    1. @Dan: Perhaps it must be considered an integral part of the challenge of non-Jewish discipleship to avoid trying to diminish Jews by diminishing characteristically Jewish space. If you don’t like Ahavat Zion for what it tries to be, no one is forcing you to go there. Don’t go there trying to change it. It is not your right to demand such change, and it is not right at all to demand such change. There are understandable historical reasons for the denial of Rav Yeshua (or rather his fictitious Christian misrepresentation) in all streams of Judaism except MJ. But MJ can only participate in discussions to challenge these views if it is not a “different bird” but rather part of the same flock. The foundational defining paradigm for modern MJ, as conceived in the early 1970s in the USA, was and is for Jewish Rav-Yeshua messianists to think and behave as Jews and not as something else, just as Rav Yeshua and his hasidim were Jews and not something else. It has taken four decades for even a small segment of MJ to dedicate itself to unabashedly pursuing this model, that we might yet see realized in our days what existed in the Jerusalem area as noted in Acts 21 — tens of thousands of Rav-Yeshua messianists zealous for Torah, thoroughly Torah-observant, Temple-and-synagogue-attending, and capable of operating and arguing on a par with any of the other Pharisees. Though this model capitalized on the thoughts and actions of a few earlier pioneers in Europe, the USA, and in Israel, its formulation in the USA was part of an ongoing process of “return” that has also returned to Israel. This model must continue to develop; and this development does not prevent a parallel redevelopment of the non-Jewish ecclesia as it was in the first century. There will be some who are dedicated to the “gospel to the uncircumcision”, and others who are dedicated to the “gospel to the circumcision”. Let neither be denied.

  40. The challenge of integrating believing Jews and Gentiles is as old as the Apostle Paul and the same conflicts exist. In Paul’s day, many Jews eagerly accepted the message of the good news of Messiah, but out of hand, rejected admitting masses of Gentiles into the synagogue for largely the same reasons PL outlines. They didn’t feel safe and they felt their unique relationship with God and their “chosenness” as a people threatened.

    It’s small wonder that we face the same problems today, since they were never resolved during Paul’s lifetime or afterward. And yet, just as in Paul’s day, Messianic Jews and believing Gentiles do interact, support each other, forge close friendships, and work intimately together for the sake of Messiah. The articles I’m reviewing from Rudolph’s and Willitts’ book are an attempt to communicate that struggle and to flesh out potential solutions. After all, Rudolph, a Messianic Jew, and Willitts’ a Gentile Christian had to come together in friendship and partnership to make the book possible.

    Why isn’t it possible for the rest of us to do something similar?

  41. But this is so hard for most Christian Hebrew Roots practitioners to understand.

    James, I understand it, as well as many others, we simply disagree. We don’t believe it is the right approach. Just like the ‘BE’ camp views ‘OL’ as destructive, those who are of ‘OL’ camp, view ‘BE’ as destructive, at least we share something in common… 😀

    1. Dan, the dream is already a partial reality, though guarding its low profile to minimize the resistance it faces, and its fulfillment is closer now than ever before. UMJC is not quite at the forefront, because it is trying to maintain cohesion and cooperation between diverse groups of Jews (are there any other kind?), including those who are still pioneering at the cutting edge.

  42. James, I understand it, as well as many others, we simply disagree. We don’t believe it is the right approach. Just like the ‘BE’ camp views ‘OL’ as destructive, those who are of ‘OL’ camp, view ‘BE’ as destructive, at least we share something in common…

    Agreed. We’re all human and we all develop “systems” that we believe fit the scriptures as well as our own requirements. 😉

  43. PL, here is where you are wrong…

    Kinzer speaks a lot about “BE in solidarity with Israel.” He means that the Baptist church in the corner actually has “solidarity” with Israel because within the “universal Ekklesia,” believing Jews like Kinzer actually remain community within “greater Israel” (or at least they hope eventually to be accepted communally by “greater Israel”). The baptist Church does not even realize that they have been granted such “solidarity with Israel,” but that does not really matter. in kinzer’s platonic concept of the universal ekklesia, the Baptist church “participates” in Israel via the Jewish believers. likewise, the Jewish believers in the Baptist Church (even if they do not recognize nor display their Jewishness) mystically connected the Jewish believers who live communally with greater Israel to the “Gentile segment” of the ekklesia.

    This is why I call this a pipe dream. Because it does not exist today. But i see where you are coming from, you, like the rest advocate a complete separation…Gentiles in your midst are a burr under you saddle….

    1. @Dan – I have no problem with gentiles in the midst (nor with gorillas in the mist). But gentiles in Jewish space are required to respect where they are and with whom they are interacting. They face constraints imposed on non-Jews by Torah when they are in a Torah-constrained environment. They may even face constraints that ordinarily would not be imposed on non-Jews, simply because these constrains are artifacts of the Torah environment that defines the Jewish space and its requirements for Jews. Non-Jews cannot expect by their presence to nullify or contradict or ignore the Torah environment. If there is a burr under anyone’s saddle, it is theirs rather than mine. Outside of Jewish space they face different constraints on their behavior. Some are consistent with Torah due to general principles of modern civilization. Some represent the four cited in Acts 15. Others derive from other cultural customs. However, they do not, even in the aggregate, include the entirety of Torah. And they don’t need to do so.

  44. “Pipe dreams” are defined by something that is not happening today?
    Emancipation was a pipe dream.
    The State of Israel was a pipe dream.
    Civil Rights was a pipe dream.

    I have pipe dreams that women and children will no longer be trafficked;
    That polio will be eradicated from the planet soon;
    That clean water will be available to the 97% of the human population who does not have it;
    That the gospel message will reach all the corners of the Earth.

    It is not such a far off “pipe dream” that we should not work together toward this goal: that the Body of Messiah and the People of God can be restored to a non-supercessionist bi-lateral ekklesia. The benefits changing the world view of eschatology, soteriology, and the consummation of Creation is so worth it.

    This will ony happen in dialogue and relationship in the Body of Messiah. The sad irony is that the Body is turned inward on itself and it is apparently because it prefers a theology of zero tolerance for differences in the Body based on its read of scripture. We see it differently. Its a dialectic. So we need to find the missional role in the Body of Messiah where the dialectic is preserved and move forward. It will shake itself out over time.

  45. “It is not such a far off “pipe dream” that we should not work together toward this goal: that the Body of Messiah and the People of God can be restored to a non-supercessionist bi-lateral ekklesia. The benefits changing the world view of eschatology, soteriology, and the consummation of Creation is so worth it.”

    Yes, it is a pipe dream, because the ONE ekklesia is no bi-lateral….

    “This will ony happen in dialogue and relationship in the Body of Messiah. The sad irony is that the Body is turned inward on itself and it is apparently because it prefers a theology of zero tolerance for differences in the Body based on its read of scripture. We see it differently. Its a dialectic. So we need to find the missional role in the Body of Messiah where the dialectic is preserved and move forward. It will shake itself out over time.”

    And this is exactly what we do, don’t we?

  46. You think bi-lateral means that it is not one ecclesia?
    This may be the root of the issue on this thread. Think of bilateral in this sense as two parts of a whole. Without both parts, there is nothing.

    This is why bilateral ecclesiology is so important. Because in the present Church, it is missing its critical covenant partner, the Jewish people. Supercessionism wrote one “half” of the Church out 1800 years ago.

    Bilateral eccelsiology RESTORES the unity of the One Body of Messiah, it doesn’t divide it.

  47. I’ve been writing away about the One Ekklesia having two “parts” in it for days and days, it seems. Tomorrow, I’ll have another go at it, and the day after, and the day after. As Rudolph said in the intro to his book, Messianic Jews and Christian Gentiles depend on each other. We are incomplete without each other.

  48. ” Bilateral eccelsiology RESTORES the unity of the One Body of Messiah, it doesn’t divide it.”

    Well, not in the way Kinzer teach it..And not how it plays out in the field today…Read PL comments, and Ahavat Zion statement…

  49. “I’ve been writing away about the One Ekklesia having two “parts” in it for days and days, it seems. Tomorrow, I’ll have another go at it, and the day after, and the day after. As Rudolph said in the intro to his book, Messianic Jews and Christian Gentiles depend on each other. We are incomplete without each other.”

    James, this is just you paying lip service…In your posts yo describe a much worse experience….Hollow man, and “The lonely man of faith” show a different picture of your struggle…Come back home…..

  50. James, this is just you paying lip service…In your posts yo describe a much worse experience….Hollow man, and “The lonely man of faith” show a different picture of your struggle…Come back home…..

    That has far less to do with Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Roots, and Protestant Christianity, than it does with me and my personal journey of faith (and also my “journey” to the “savage jungles” of religious arguments in the blogosphere), Dan. Thanks again for your concern…sincerely.

  51. “They face constraints imposed on non-Jews by Torah when they are in a Torah-constrained environment.”

    Wasn’t you the one who introduced here the three steps the Nazis took against Jews? Have you no shame?

    None of you have been able to prove this from Scriptures beside your faulty interpretation of Acts 15…

    1. @Dan – Torah constraints that non-Jews must bear along with Jews in Jewish space cannot be compared with the progression toward genocidal oppression of Jews in Europe. If you can’t see the differences, let me point out a few. One is that Jewish space is very small and does not span the entire territory of every nation where non-Jews dwell. Secondly, these constraints do not say to non-Jews that they may not live among Jews as the non-Jews that they are. Quite to the contrary, they insist that non-Jews be non-Jews. Thirdly, Jews were never any kind of threat against the cultural existence of non-Jews in Europe or anywhere else; and Torah constraints on non-Jews in Jewish space do not suppress non-Jewish cultural existence. They do inhibit non-Jews from pretending to be Jews.

      Several other posters have cited additional scriptures, such as prophetic passages that identify the future existence of distinct non-Jews in advanced spiritual conditions, which should prove sufficiently that non-Jews are not to become Jews (at least in general, though one cannot rule out the possibility of a few exceptional cases of conversion for appropriate reasons).

      Your refusal to recognize that Acts 15 specifically counters a faulty assertion demanding non-Jews to convert (become circumcised) in order to be saved, and thus distinguishes non-Jews from Jews — who are still required by Torah to be circumcised throughout their generations — is an irrational denial of irrefutable exegesis. Non-Jews are exempted from full Torah observance and the burden its requirements represent, and are alternatively given only four principles as requirements. Two different sets of requirements each correlate with one of two different populations to whom they apply within the body of Rav-Yeshua followers. These two populations constitute the two segments of one body (i.e., a “bi-lateral ecclesia”). This is a matter of definition, which is valid regardless of anyone’s failure in any era to behave accordingly. Similarly, the phrase you quoted about “BE in solidarity with Israel” is a prescription for what should be done; not a description of what is currently done (or has ever been done properly). Both segments of the BE should pursue solidarity with the whole people of Israel, including those who are not yet part of the Jewish segment of the BE. If you’re having difficulty understanding the word “solidarity”, consider that its dictionary definition is: “unity (as of a group or class) that produces, or is based on, community of interests, objectives, and standards”.

      In Zech.8:23, HaShem cites a future time when 10 men of all languages of the nations will grab hold of the “corner” (code word for tzitzit) of a Jew’s garment, saying “We’ll go with you because we’ve heard that G-d is with you”. It is entirely understandable that those of the nations who seek HaShem’s redemption would wish to latch onto MJs in order to accompany us in our pursuit of HaShem, in accordance with Zechariyah’s symbolic image. But they are not described as trying to wear this Jewish garment for themselves. They are not described as becoming Jews. Is.56 shows HaShem commending “b’nei nechar” (foreigners, non-Jews) for holding tight to the covenant and keeping Shabbat; but still they are “foreigners” and not Jewish converts. Non-Jews who have obtained righteousness in the Messiah do not become thereby Messianic Jews or take on Jewish Torah responsibilities. When Rav Shaul describes the Galatian believers as metaphorical “sons of Avraham”, he is not describing them as sons of Yitzhak or Ya’akov, nor as converts who also bear the appellation “ben-Avraham”. He doesn’t offer any label for such folk to wear with pride. Personally, I think “Messianic Gentile” is an inappropriate term. I might favor “Messianic G-d-Fearer” or “Messianic Yoreh HaShem” (plural: Yorei HaShem), but perhaps better terms might be devised (anyone for: “Messianic Wild Branch?”).

  52. @Dan:

    The fact that experienced readers of the New Testament come away with diametrically opposed interpretations of the same text is today perhaps one of the few universally recognized results of modern historical critical scholarship.

    -Joel Willitts
    “Chapter 23: The Bride of Messiah and the Israel-ness of the New Heavens and New Earth” (pg 245)
    Introduction to Messianic Judaism

    That’s a quote from Thursday’s “meditation” but it fits our current argument. You said PL (and presumably the rest of us) made a “faulty interpretation of Acts 15,” but you are operating under the assumption that you possess the correct interpretation and everyone else doesn’t. Maybe so and maybe not, but theologians have been arguing many of these points for hundreds and even thousands of years. The Talmud is replete with such debates, and Christianity doesn’t lack for them either.

    Each of us is just a single voice in a chorus. We’re going to disagree with each other. It frustrates me too sometimes, but try not to take it personally.

  53. Love you James. And thanks for not deleting my comments….Unlike other people who censure other point of view which does not fits theirs….My hat off to you..Well, my Kipah…LOL!

    1. James – sorry for being too vague. It is not the conversation itself, but the points we raised in the conversation that make it clear that this movement suffers from some communications issues and I was struck by similarities.

      Dan – I was with a OL community and moved on. I can’t see it working to restore the Body of Messiah. It is just another form of supercessionism, IMO.

  54. This conversation reminds me of the challenges I faced as a manager at a major software company. One thing I learned the hard way was that leadership means casting a vision, but the “on the ground” people who receive that are often looking for very tactical steps in order to be successful. Visionary statements, missions, and goals must be translated by someone into tasks, rules, policies and success measurements or the team gets frustrated, and the entire vision, no matter how “right” or profound will not be realized.

    Similarly, if actions on the ground are not linked clearly into the vision, people may misunderstand the actions of others. I’d venture such is the case with the community in LA that keeps being mentioned on this thread. The senior rabbi there has very good reasons for his decisions – it is incumbent on us to give him the benefit of the doubt, isn’t it?

  55. @Dan: You’re welcome. Thank you for being reasonably civil in your discourse here and leaving “personalities” out of the discussion. But if you mean that shot you took at PL, I think he can handle himself.

    @Karen: Not sure anyone is “managing” this conversation except me, and it’s a different dynamic than being a “leader,” unless I’m misunderstanding your statement.

  56. PL,

    “@Dan – Torah constraints that non-Jews must bear along with Jews in Jewish space cannot be compared with the progression toward genocidal oppression of Jews in Europe.”

    Yes it does….Everything begins with a step…

    ” Quite to the contrary, they insist that non-Jews be non-Jews. ”

    So do the teachings of OL…Our argument is on what basis are non-Jews become a covenant members, on a second citizens basis?

    “Thirdly, Jews were never any kind of threat against the cultural existence of non-Jews in Europe or anywhere else; ”

    And Gentiles who become covenant members do? Is Gentiles keeping Shabbat threatening the Jewish culture?

    “They do inhibit non-Jews from pretending to be Jews.”

    Are we having the same conversation? You know very well that is not what OL is teaching….

    “Several other posters have cited additional scriptures, such as prophetic passages that identify the future existence of distinct non-Jews in advanced spiritual conditions, which should prove sufficiently that non-Jews are not to become Jews (at least in general, though one cannot rule out the possibility of a few exceptional cases of conversion for appropriate reasons).”

    So, let me understand you, exactly….You are against the ritual of a proselyte, am I right? Halleluyah!!!

    “Your refusal to recognize that Acts 15 specifically counters a faulty assertion demanding non-Jews to convert (become circumcised) in order to be saved, and thus distinguishes non-Jews from Jews — who are still required by Torah to be circumcised throughout their generations — is an irrational denial of irrefutable exegesis.”

    are you saying from knowledge or you are just throwing stuff against the wall? Can you document my “denial?”

    “Non-Jews are exempted from full Torah observance and the burden its requirements represent, ”

    So, for you, Torah observant is a burden, I get it now…Maybe after all gentiles have it much better?…..

    “Two different sets of requirements each correlate with one of two different populations to whom they apply within the body of Rav-Yeshua followers. These two populations constitute the two segments of one body (i.e., a “bi-lateral ecclesia”). This is a matter of definition, which is valid regardless of anyone’s failure in any era to behave accordingly. ”

    You conveniently omit Acts 15:21, but what else is new?

    ” Similarly, the phrase you quoted about “BE in solidarity with Israel” is a prescription for what should be done; not a description of what is currently done (or has ever been done properly). ”

    I rest my case on this Issue….

    ” If you’re having difficulty understanding the word “solidarity”, consider that its dictionary definition is: “unity (as of a group or class) that produces, or is based on, community of interests, objectives, and standards”.

    well, you made me unrest my case….LOL! And this, according to your experience, is the action of the Baptists Church down the street, right?

    “In Zech.8:23, HaShem cites a future time when 10 men of all languages of the nations will grab hold of the “corner” (code word for tzitzit) of a Jew’s garment, saying “We’ll go with you because we’ve heard that G-d is with you”. It is entirely understandable that those of the nations who seek HaShem’s redemption would wish to latch onto MJs in order to accompany us in our pursuit of HaShem, in accordance with Zechariyah’s symbolic image.”

    You must be kidding….The moment the Jew will tell them: “you can hold to my Tzitzit, but you cannot wear,” they will disappear in no time…how do you think the 2 house doctrine was born?

    “But they are not described as trying to wear this Jewish garment for themselves. ”

    you guys have a problem with that, don’t you? On one hand you say that a tzitzit is a Jewish garment, on the other you make fun of the Gentiles who want to follow God’s Law (Numb. 15:37) (you say they can do it by invitation?) who attach tzitziot to their belt loops…You guys need to make up your mind….

    “but still they are “foreigners” and not Jewish converts. ”

    this is just a weak argument….There is no such thing as “Jewish converts” in Scriptures…

    Well. I guess by now, you got my drift….

    Be well.

  57. Karen said: “…that make it clear that this movement suffers from some communications issues.”

    That’s an understatement, Karen. 😉

  58. Which of course you are entitled to. I was with a MJ community, and like you I moved on, because I do not believe it is from God. IMHO.

    How does the song go? “one man’s ceiling, is the other man floor…”

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