Syrian Antioch

Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch, and Today’s Messianic Judaism

It is a sad fact that our knowledge of the Judaism of the first century CE is rather limited. It is true that we know quite a lot about the ideology of different Jewish groups. The pioneering works of C.G. Montefiore, G.F. Moore, R.T. Herford, J. Parkes, and W.D. Davies, for instance, culminating in that of E.P. Sanders, have been of tremendous importance in showing that ancient Judaism was not a legalistic religion in which salvation was earned by merit, but a living religion of grace and forgiveness.

-Magnus Zetterholm
Chapter 3: “The Cultural and Religious Differentiation,” pg 53
The Formation of Christianity in Antioch: A Social-Scientific Approach to the Separation between Judaism and Christianity

I wish Pastors preached sermons based on the latest research performed by New Testament theologians and historians. What we hear from the pulpit, more often than not, is doctrine that is decades if not centuries (or longer) old, the same standard preaching that declares Judaism of ancient and modern times as a “religion of dead works.” Even in the church I attend, which has a very pro-Jewish perspective, Jewish people and national Israel are loved, but the Christians are very happy that the old Law is dead and replaced by grace. Jews are loved but Judaism is not, even the (Pharisaic) Judaism practiced by Paul and by Jesus and by all the apostles.

Zetterholm’s book seeks to understand and explain the early schism between the Judaism once called “the Way” and the emergent religious form adopted by Gentile believers known as “Christianity” from a sociological rather than a theological point of view. Of course, it’s impossible to keep theology completely at bay, but Zetterholm, who doubts the accuracy of certain sections of Luke’s Book of Acts and any part of the Bible that speaks of miracles, does his best.

That said, I find his research compelling because he doesn’t have a doctrinal ax to grind and he does establish and confirm certain things about Judaism as practiced by the believing Jews in first century CE Syrian Antioch.

It is generally accepted that the Judaism of the first century CE was not homogeneous but a complex, diversified phenomenon. At the same time these somewhat different realizations of Jewish life had something in common. E.P. Sanders has referred to what he calls “common Judaism” as “what the priest and the people agreed on.”

-ibid, pp 55-6

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of this concept. Nearly a year ago, Rabbi Dr. Carl Kinbar had this to say in different comments on one of my blog posts:

The situation today is very different. There is no common Judaism or commitment to Torah that is shared by the streams of Judaism and, especially, by individual Jews. Second Temple Judaism varied from one form of Torah observance to another. Today’s diversity is from ultra-orthodoxy to atheism.

To avoid misunderstanding, let me put it this way: common Judaism had a core of practices that all communities of any size considered mandatory while also having a diversity of practice in other matters. Diversity does not mean that some Jews ate pork and did not daven.

That is, unless the Jerusalem leadership objected to the common Judaism of their time. If they did object, they may have engaged in the project of bringing about uniformity. Again, there’s no direct evidence one way or the other. However, there’s some indirect support that they did not teach or enforce uniformity — there is no record that they directed Paul (or anyone, for that matter) to teach or enforce uniformity of practice. There is also nothing in the apostolic letters to indicate that the Jerusalem leadership or other apostles mandated uniformity. If they practiced uniformly in Jerusalem, why would they be indifferent to the lack of uniformity elsewhere?

The Jewish people (in the Land of Israel in particular – I’m not as familiar with the rest) actually did quite well during the time of common Judaism (from late Second Temple times to at least 400 CE). (emph. mine)

In another portion of his book, Zetterholm explains that while each synagogue adhered to a core of common Judaism, they also diverged in meeting the various needs of their differing populations, as R. Kinbar described above.

Antioch was religiously a highly pluralistic milieu. Even though the “zeal for the law” also influenced the Jewish communities in the Diaspora, Judaism was but one of many religions practiced contemporaneously at Antioch.

-ibid, pg 65

The various Jewish communities in Antioch had to exist perhaps in some sort of “tension” between each other, depending of their differences, but they also had to exist in a wider environment of many other religious entities, many or most of which would have opposed monotheistic Judaism, which I can only believe was one of the core beliefs of the common Judaism these synagogues shared.

This speaks to me somewhat of the struggle of Messianic Judaism today. Messianic Judaism isn’t a single, monolithic unit that has a definition easily applied to all Messianic Jewish groups (and I define the different streams of Messianic Judaism as an overarching entity distinct from any of the expressions of Hebrew Roots, even though some [many…most] Hebrew Roots congregations define themselves as “Messianic Judaism”) and there is some variability between the different synagogues (in the U.S.) of which I am aware.

Messianic Judaism is trying to relate within it’s various groups as a Judaism as well as relating to the larger Jewish community (and the rest of the world) as a Judaism, all within a diaspora (again, I’m speaking of U.S. congregations) that is poly-religious and areligious.

Carl Kinbar
Rabbi Carl Kinbar

I say all this acknowledging Rabbi Kinbar’s statement above that the modern Judaisms of today cannot be directly compared to the Judaisms of the first century because they lack a commonly held core set of convictions related to Torah . Nevertheless, I can see connecting threads, especially between modern, western Messianic Judaism and the Judaisms in first century Antioch.

A number of critics of modern Messianic Judaism emphasizing itself as a Judaism, complain that this emphasis bumps Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus) to the back of the bus if not off the bus altogether. Normative Christianity stresses that Judaism was indeed (they claim) replaced by a more generalized and generic faith in Jesus without tradition or ritual, and modern Hebrew Roots proposes that modern Rabbinic Judaism is adopted by Messianic Judaism in place of “Biblical Judaism” which was (they claim) practiced by both Gentiles and Jews in the first century Messianic community.

Their sons will, furthermore, be subject to compulsive epispasm since they will be “cut by physicians to bring forward their foreskins.” In 1 Corinthians 7:18, Paul admonishes the circumcised Jesus-believing Jews against having this operation performed.

-ibid, pg 72

Zetterholm goes on in pages 76 through 79 to provide numerous examples of what we may not get from just reading the Bible…the fact that Jews in the diaspora, perhaps many, many Jews, struggled with or just plain left the Jewish community, attempted to cover up the signs of their Judaism (males), and assimilated socially and religiously into Greek culture.

Do we have that today?

How many Jews have converted to Christianity and exist and worship as “Hebrew Christians” within the Church, having abandoned any and all practices of Judaism and Jewish identity and adopted living as “Goyishe Christians?” Even the observant Jews within Messianic Judaism are considered by most other Jewish communities (i.e. not Messianic) as “Jews for Jesus,” as converts to Christianity who have abandoned their own people and left Israel. To resist this impression as well as to resist the draw from the Church that says if you believe in Jesus, even as a Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah, you are a Christian and are “free from the Law,” the Messianic Jew must strictly adhere to a Jewish lifestyle, including observance of the mitzvot and the traditions.

…that most Jews, in Palestine as well as in the Diaspora, worshiped daily and weekly, kept the Sabbath, circumcised their sons, observed certain purity regulations and supported the temple. Despite mixed opinions on how this obedience would be realized, we can safely assume that the majority of the Antiochean Jews intended to live their lives obeying the torah.

-ibid pg 80

The Jewish communities in the diaspora including Antioch were at risk of assimilation and absorption into the wider Greek culture and religious milieu. The barrier to stave off this threat for Jewish communities was Jewish observance and adherence to Jewish identity as distinct and unique among the myriad people groups and religions existing in the galut.

Magnus Zetterholm
Magnus Zetterholm

Zetterholm cited (pp 83-4) the practice of Jews in Antioch refusing to use Greek-produced oil, but believes that it was more an indication of Jewish identity rather than outright devotion to the Jerusalem Temple. Nevertheless, this still indicates that these diaspora Jews were highly aware of the necessity to keep separate from the surrounding culture, even to the point of being selective about which source of oil they used.

Further, Zetterholm citing Sanders says:

Antioch was thus located in an area almost regarded as part of the Land of Israel, and there is evidence of a particularly strong connection between some Antiochean Jews at least and the temple in Jerusalem.

-ibid, pg 85

Zetterholm’s opinion isn’t quite in line with Sanders’, though.

I would therefore conclude that we may cautiously assume the existence of a group more strongly committed to Jewish life than the main body of Antiochean Jews…

-ibid, pg 86

While Zetterholm doesn’t give much credence to the Book of Acts as an accurate model for Jewish/Gentile interactions of the first century Jewish history in Antioch, he nevertheless states:

…we may assume that there was no intermarriage between Jesus-believing Jews and Jesus-believing Gentiles, because the Jesus movement was a completely Jewish one with an unusual openness towards Gentiles.

-ibid, pg 89


While Antiochus had clearly left Judaism, most Jews who were interested in Hellenism and wanted to create a Hellenistic Judaism were at the same time concerned with the preservation of a Jewish identity and had no intention of ceasing to be Jewish.

-ibid, pg 90

The Jewish PaulIf, as Zetterholm says, the first century “Church” was a wholly Jewish movement, albeit with a high tolerance for Gentiles in the community, then even if this represented a Judaism that was “open,” to some degree, to Hellenistic influences (though this is very dicey material to seriously consider), the “Jesus-movement” had no interest in abandoning Judaism and Jewish practice for something foreign to them or more in line with the religious practices of the Greeks. Paul, as we saw above, was not convincing Jews to give up Judaism. Quite the opposite. Zetterholm’s research and the sources he cites do not support at all the creation of an alien Gentile religion out of the teachings of a rural Jewish Rav who was known by his Jewish followers to be Moshiach.

Zetterholm covers the diversity of Antioch’s synagogues (pp 90-91), including (as I stated above) how they served diverse Jewish populations, and it seems likely that the synagogue Paul and his companions used as their “home church” throughout Paul’s three “missionary journeys” was one of the (perhaps) thirteen synagogues in Antioch. In fact, he says of the Jewish Jesus-believers:

…it is highly unlikely that the Jesus-believing Jews in Antioch were organized in any other way than the synagogue.

-ibid, pg 93

Zetterholm cites Mark Nanos (The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letters, pp 289-336) as well as a wide selection of scriptures from the Book of Acts, to support this position. This includes the most likely common usage of “ekklesia” to mean “synagogue.” Additionally, Zetterholm references James 2:2 and James 5:14 as evidence that James the Just, brother of the Master, considered the “assembly” and “community” of Jesus-believers to be the synagogue:

We can thus conclude that the terminology does not speak against the view that the Jesus movement in Antioch was originally a synagogue consisting of Jesus-believing Jews, and that the Jesus-believing Gentiles related to this synagogue as any Gentiles related to any Jewish community. (emph. mine)

-ibid, pg 94

What might we conclude from all of this?

Judaism in the first century CE (and in my opinion, much of Judaism today) was not a “works-based religion” but rather a vibrant, faith-based practice of devotion to God. While there were many variations of Judaism practiced in that day, there was a core or common Judaism that served to define and identify all communities of Jews as Jewish and those who worshiped the God of Israel. This would have included the Judaism then known as “the Way.”

Jewish identity, performance of the Torah mitzvot, and devotion to the Temple services were among the common qualities of the Jewish community, both in Roman-occupied Judah and in the diaspora. Jews in the diaspora were at risk of assimilation and absorption into Greek culture, even to the point of attempting to cover the marks of circumcision. There was likely little to no intermarriage between Jewish and Gentile believers and if intermarriage occurred, Jewish identity would be staunchly adhered to by the Jewish spouse. If not, it was more likely that the Jew would undergo apostasy and assimilate into Greek religious and social culture.

Paul was very much opposed to Jews in the community of believers undergoing the medical procedure to restore their foreskin (males) and continued to encourage and support the Torah observance of the Jewish believers. There is no evidence, based on Zetterholm’s research, that the combined community of Jewish and Gentile believers left the synagogue or that they left Jewish practice and formed a new religion that was opposed to the other Judaisms and core Jewish practice. The Way remained a Judaism that was distinguished only by its unusual acceptance of large numbers of Gentiles who were identified neither as proselytes or God-fearers but had a different legal status allowing them to remain Gentiles and equal co-participants in the community (It should be noted that the Way wasn’t the only Jewish community that has ever claimed to follow the Messiah, so Messianic claims are not all that distinguishing).

Many of these conclusions can be applied to Messianic Judaism (and to a degree, larger Judaism) today. My experience with Messianic Judaism is within the confines of the United States, so I’ll restrict my opinions to that population. Messianic Judaism, existing in the diaspora amid a nation of religious plurality including a strong emphasis of no religion at all, faces some of the same risks as its ancient counterpart in Antioch. There is a strong pull, especially for Jews who are believers in Jesus as the Messiah, to apostate from a Jewish faith in Moshiach and “convert” to Christianity, effectively becoming Gentile believers with Jewish DNA.

Orthodox JewsIntermarriage, although exceptionally common within Messianic Judaism and relatively rampant within all of the other Judaisms (with the likely exception of Orthodox Judaism) presents a risk or at least a challenge to the Messianic Jewish spouse to remain Messianic and Jewish in his/her observance of Torah and overall lifestyle. If this isn’t supported by the non-Jewish spouse, it could spell trouble for the marriage and/or the Jewish identity of the Jewish spouse. How the children are to be raised and their identity as Jewish vs. Gentile is also a serious consideration.

For these reasons, I reaffirm my previous assertion that a strong Messianic Jewish community be available, both for Jewish and for intermarried families who identify as Messianic. Furthermore, the Jewish Messianics should be allowed and encouraged to maintain and embrace a Jewish identity, and to consider themselves and the Messianic synagogues as part of larger Jewry. The continued effort by Messianic Gentiles and Hebrew Roots Gentiles (and some Hebrew Roots Jews), as well as the overall normative Christian community to demean any Jew in Messiah who continues to live a halachically Jewish life, and who further demands that Messianic Jews abandon Judaism as a practice, or observe some unobservable entity as “Biblical Judaism” vs “Rabbinic Judaism” must cease. Don’t argue.

It’s not our place as Gentiles within or outside the Messianic Jewish movement to dictate terms relative to how a Jew should or shouldn’t live as a Jew. A Jew’s relationship is and always has been with God.

No, I’m not throwing Jesus off the back of the bus and in fact, he’s at the center of all of this. Who lived a perfectly Jewish, halachically correct, completely Torah observant life as evidenced by the Gospels and the rest of the Biblical narrative? Only Yeshua Ben Yosef of Nazareth. Only he was born a Jew, of observant Jewish parents, within the borders of the Land of Promise, faithfully studying the scriptures and performing the mitzvot, and yet he was without sin and totally obedient to God.

What a role model for the apostles, all of the Jewish disciples, and for Messianic Jews today. Could anybody be more Jewish and live a more Jewish life than Messiah, Son of David? Will anyone live a more Jewish life in the Messianic Kingdom than the King of the Jews upon his return?

Zetterholm’s book has certainly confirmed a few things for me and opened up other doors. When next I revisit the pages of his book on this blog, I’ll further examine the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic community in Syrian Antioch as Zetterholm’s research reveals it to us.

This series continues in my blog post Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch, and the Problem of the Gentiles.

37 thoughts on “Zetterholm, Ancient Antioch, and Today’s Messianic Judaism”

  1. “I wish Pastors preached sermons based on the latest research performed by New Testament theologians and historians. What we hear from the pulpit, more often than not, is doctrine that is decades if not centuries (or longer) old, the same standard preaching that declares Judaism of ancient and modern times as a “religion of dead works.”

    I agree, it seems strange that if non-professionals can find and digest this information, the seminary trained could as well. Baffling…

    1. Ruth, we should be thankful that agnostics (with all their attitude issues) run the world of science, as if Christians ran it, there would be no new inventions or discoveries, and likely no research except junk science designed to validate what they already believe.

      @James, I wasn’t torah observant (like most) when I came to believe in Yeshua. Torah was a positive addition to my life when I was ready for it and appreciated its meaning and beauty. But it seemed the prevailing attitude in the 70’s and 80’s was that we had to prove we were good Jews, which comes across as phony and insincere. Was this the same as the understanding that a woman had to do twice as good a job as a man and be twice as qualified for the same position in order to merit the same consideration?

  2. You made an interesting observation, that religion doesn’t update itself as new information is uncovered. Well, that is religion. It is based upon belief, loyalty and conformity and trust in authority. I heard a professor say that when someone convinces him that he is wrong about something, it makes him very happy, because this means he has gained new knowledge. Religion resents anything that might upset the status quo, the formula that works and the positions of authorities.

    I suspect there was intermarriage in the first century Way, as we already know there were Jewish/Greek unions such as that which produced Timothy.

    I certainly agree with encouraging growing in the wisdom and practice of torah, but I don’t subscribe to Dan Juster’s “SuperJew,” plan, where Jewish believers in Yeshua need to prove their Jewish loyalty and observance in a way their fellow Jews don’t.

    I am not sure if it is possible or how to go about it, but my goal would be to return to the teachings of Yeshua as understood by his talmidim, and by the talmidim as they went about, “teaching everything I have taught you.” I want to unburden Yeshua of 2,000 years of Christian theological mistranslation, but I am not sure how. Even if I can unbundle Yeshua, I have to admit that Greek philosophy and mindset has influenced me.

    Face it; there is no such thing as Messianic Judaism, despite the talking heads that claim to represent their customers. Just from what I see online, it isn’t terribly attractive or attracting. Why would I desire to involve myself in any side of their internecine battles? Please tell me why I should look to a “rabbi,” who received smicha through an unaccredited online course and might possess Bar Mitzvah level Hebrew? In 40 year, “Messianic Judaism,” has not produced one accredited academic institution, one hospital, one scholar/religious thinker on the level of Abraham Joshua Heschel or C.S. Lewis and even has few free-standing synagogues. We can claim a handful of talented cross-over musicians.

    Where to go from here? I don’t know. I was watching some old Star Trek reruns. I say we, “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

  3. @Sojourning: My guess is that the rank and file in the church would be too confused by all the new ideas coming out. Most people want to be secure that they know “the truth” and that it never changes, even in the smallest details.

    @Chaya: I never said anything about a “Super Jew.” All I’m saying is that a Jewish person doesn’t have to stop being Jewish, including stop being observant, once they become a disciple of the Master. As far as there not being any such thing as Messianic Judaism, I’ll have to disagree with you as well (it’s already Shabbat in Israel, so ProclaimLiberty won’t be along to respond for awhile). In fact, when Messiah comes, I suspecct that the only kind of Judaism will be Messianic Judaism (boy, I’m going to get in trouble for this one), since the Moshiach will be fully revealed as Israel’s King.

    @Steve: Thanks.

    1. @James; I didn’t say that you said this. It came from Dan Juster and others, and I suspect they were sincere. I would agree there is MJ in Israel, but not in the US. I agree that all Israel will be made whole as it looks upon him who we have pierced and mourns for him. That doesn’t mean we will be practicing any of the various modalities or following any of the self-proclaimed leaders or their quasi-evangelical model of competing franchises. Sorry for the cynicism; it is the journalist in me 🙂

      1. One of the things Messiah is supposed to do in the Messianic Age is to correctly teach Torah, including revealing all that is hidden in Torah right now. I suspect that’s the Judaism the Jewish people will be observing. How that works out when compared to the various streams of Judaism we have today, I have no idea.

  4. I suppose there is a history of overcompensation among Jewish people who have come to Messiah, but when all the shouting is over, the performance of the mitzvoth is simply part (a large part) of what defines a Jew’s relationship with God.

  5. I heard a saying, “When Messiah comes, he will not only teaching the meaning of words, but the meaning of each letter, and even the meaning of the spaces between the letters.”

    I don’t know that most Jewish believers feel the need to overcompensate, as many of them have gone in the opposite direction. I suppose MJ didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up, and still doesn’t. Certain leaders have an agenda that would encourage the overcompensation.

    1. Shavua Tov, chaya — I suppose you might be right to compare the notion that women must work twice as hard and be twice as capable as men to obtain similar recognition for their efforts, and the notion that MJs must try to be that much more Jewish than average in order to be viewed by other Jews as Jews. In both cases the notion is somewhat exaggerated to make its point. In the MJ case, regrettably, there is a real need to motivate Jews to behave more traditionally, because they are surrounded by an environment of a majority culture that encourages assimilation and discourages Jews from pursuing their traditional distinctiveness. It is a subtle force in the USA, though Jews have become so accustomed to it during the past few generations that most feel that traditional Jewish behavior and mores are exaggerated (e.g., too orthodox). This perspective is amplified in the MJ environment by a similar force embedded in a worldview influenced by historical Christian (even Hebrew-Christian) doctrine. If we consider Rav Yeshua’s parable that he told while sitting on a beach at the Kinneret (Matt.13), we might compare the modern American MJ environment to weedy, thorny patches of land where the seedlings of MJ have had to struggle to grow while being continually crowded out by other sturdy tenacious plants. If MJ is delinquent in failing within the past four decades to produce its own distinctive hospital, or accredited academic institutions, it is because it is still struggling to produce viable, stable, Jewishly-characteristic synagogue communities. As with many start-up business franchises, some have flourished for a time and then failed, and few have continued successfully. Nonetheless, as James suggested I might chime in to assert, MJ does exist and there has been some measure of success in a few places to eliminate the weeds — though certainly this is still a work in progress, and the aggregate quality of Jewish Rav-Yeshua messianism must continue to improve. Folks like an AJ Heschel or a CS Lewis are exceedingly rare, even within the span of several generations, and MJ scholarship per se is only now beginning to show some signs of promise. I do believe, however, that MJTI has made accreditation arrangements; so don’t give up hope on that academic institution, and I’m not sure that a distinctive hospital is necessarily a suitable goal. Certainly we may hope to see increasing quality in rabbinical candidates, and, I hope, in candidates for cantorial and teaching positions, and hashgachah for kashering kitchens in synagogues, homes, and other institutions (not to neglect mikvaot inspection and the training of hevrei kadishah). I suspect that first we need to encourage the development of successful MJs in financial positions, which isn’t easy in the current precarious financial climate, so that we may then encourage philanthropy toward various MJ endeavors. And there is also some need to prioritize aliyah to build up the community in Israel as a base for further development. However, one aspect of all this is that MJs need to fit into existing Jewish institutions rather than to establish separate distinctive ones (except, perhaps, for some distinctive coursework that cannot be found elsewhere). One aspect of our teshuvah and restoration is to reverse the long-standing Jewish impression of us as “minim” (factional separatists). It is one thing to be “outstanding” (or even merely above average) — it is something else to be aloof (or to suffer from a self-inflicted “cut-off” condition of “caret”).

      I suppose I should add one observation for James, which is that all Judaism is already messianic, so of course all Judaism will be messianic in the messianic era. At issue is merely the degree of recognition of the Messiah’s identity, which will not be in dispute by the time Messiah is enthroned in Jerusalem.

  6. All I want you to do Chaya is to see past the flawed human reasoning, the pain, the problems, and whatever else has always been clouding your vision, and to realize there is a real Messiah, he is Jewish, he loves the Jewish people and he has and will teach Torah. Forget everything else and please, please have faith, for without faith, you will always be angry and cynical.

  7. I think it’s important, with all the slams against MJ, to consider what Judaism looked like 40 years in, or Christianity for that matter. Both had competing and destructive forces from outside and inside.

    The Hebrew Bible describes the Israelites stuggles, failures, (and victories) and Church history was plagued with all sorts of heretical teaching (Marcion, Gnosticism, etc.). Additionally, many ideas put forward by Church Fathers were soundly rejected over time. Neither Judaism or Christianity has remained static, rather it’s developed over a long period. Why would MJ be any different?

  8. I enjoyed this post, James. It frustrates me to no end that so many people see Judaism as being works-based. This completely ignores, well, everything. The same accusation could be leveled at Christianity, and that would also ignore everything. Acts of obedience are done because one already has faith in and a relationship with God, not because one is trying to earn that faith or that relationship. That is, at least, how it’s supposed to be.

  9. My opinion since the Judaism wasn’t as open to Gentiles as The Way, there was an ekklesia that was formed to include The Way. In other words I think Lancaster noted in one of his audios that Antioch was a metro city with many synagogues. You might have had the ‘synagogue of the Pharisee’s’, ‘synagogue of The Way’. Although the synagogue of The Way was a different synagogue because it was Yeshua centered and open to Gentiles doesn’t mean it wasn’t a Judaism.

  10. @PL: True enough, though the appellation “Messianic Judaism” (as I’m sure you know) specifically identifies the branch of Judaism that does recognize Yeshua as Messiah.

    @Sojourning: In reading Zetterholm’s The Formation of Christianity in Antioch, the variations of belief even within the first century Judaism of “the Way” is quite apparent, especially the struggle of finding the sort of relationship and fellowship halachically suitable between Gentile and Jew. I hope to write a blog post on this in the next day or two.

    @Marie: It’s true that some churches are “works-phobic” out of “concern” that they’ll be seen as trying to buy their way into heaven. For that reason, much of Christianity misses the meaning and beauty of performing the mitzvot and why observant Jewish people don’t see themselves as enslaved to “the Law.” That said, sadly, a large number of Jews in the modern age have left all observance behind just because they think it’s archaic and anachronistic.

  11. @Macher: That’s exactly what I read yesterday in Zetterholm’s book. There was an estimated thirteen synagogues in Syrian Antioch in the first century, each serving a different population of Jews. They all adhered to a “core Judaism” but beyond that, had different interpretations on how to observe the mitzvot. I agree that the believers met in a synagogue setting and that it is very likely there was a “Synagogue of the Way,” and yes, it was (and is) a Judaism.

    1. However, the MJ of today is not the same as that of the first century. It is deeply emeshed in evangelicalism, and yes, I know that a few are disengaging to various degrees.

      Many suspect artist Marc Chagall and author Sholom Asch to have believed in Yeshua. However, neither embraced Christian theology or practice, nor left their Jewish environment.

      1. @chaya — I should certainly hope that the MJ of today would differ somewhat from that of two millennia ago! Two thousand years may seem like just a couple of days in HaShem’s sight, but to humans it ain’t exactly an afternoon stroll! Since Judaism is not a religion, but rather a cultural lifestyle and outlook, one should expect a little development in all that time. Of course, American Jews have had to live with the negative aspects of a foreign identity that has seldom been viewed positively by the majority cultures where it has found itself, with only the model of being just another religious denomination by which to justify that distinctiveness. That doesn’t offer a lot of room for demonstrating the power of life in covenant with HaShem, though survival itself is a demonstration of power given the circumstances. Not surprisingly, the grass tends to look greener elsewhere when your own patch seems precariously planted over previously scorched earth. The resulting self-defensiveness among those who try to remain and tend that patch tends to make for the cliquishness and social cloistering noted by your son and his friend in that Hillel chapter. It is not counterbalanced by the ingrained missionary outreach of Mormons or the Muslim sense that all must ultimately become Muslim. A haven for embattled Jews doesn’t look inviting to anyone else, having something of the feel of a rescue mission, unless that haven is the last best hope of Jewish restoration (i.e., Israel). The miracle that is Israel (including its blemishes) offers some change for that demeanor, and MJ also offers hope for such an improved outlook if it similarly expressed the restoration of our ancient power.

  12. That said, sadly, a large number of Jews in the modern age have left all observance behind just because they think it’s archaic and anachronistic.

    I think it’s important to note that while we can idealize something we didn’t grow up in, and many people do idealize Judaism, the Jews I know who want nothing to do with it because they did grow up in it and their experience was / is quite negative. That’s not to demean Judaism, but is more of a commentary on the “human factor.”

    1. There are a lot of reasons for assimilation. For some, it is just a matter of the default; if the identity isn’t encouraged and developed, you just follow the majority of your peers. There may have also been the negative connotation that the religious Jews had a backward, shtetl mentality that didn’t work in the new world, and sometimes assimilation, as the price of success, was encouraged. I know my grandparents never taught their children their own languages, and my parents only knew a bit of Yiddish – they wanted to be Americans.

      I hear MJ “leaders,” who never grew up in the Jewish community say things like, “Isn’t it wonderful that a Jewish person can hear the gospel in their own Jewish environment?” Well, they make the mistake that all Jews have a positive relationship with Judaism; many are ambivalent and some are purposefully creating distance with negative memories.

      My own experience with Judaism as a child was a mixture, but I would say it was more negative than positive. The more positive things I discovered on my own as an adult. I should be thankful that my parents were not religious although they were traditional, as that might have turned me away from religion. As it was, I made the false dichotomy error, that if their lack of faith and religion was negative, that living with faith and religion would be positive – and that is a mixed bag also. It doesn’t help that MJ encouraged testimonies that asked people to frame their feelings about their Jewish upbringing positively for “testimony,” sake.

      I had this conversation with an HR lady who grew up Catholic, and she was also Judeophilic to the point that she couldn’t understand that a Jewish person might have an unhappy experience with Judaism and so decide to have nothing to do with it. The grass is always greener on the other side. I asked her is she had any negative experiences growing up Catholic, and she discussed these, but I think I finally got her to understand that Jewish people grew up with these sorts of things also.

      My son visited the Hillel on campus, and told me the people were cliquish, elitist and unfriendly. He wondered if it was just him, so he brought his roommate to an event, who validated his opinion. He told me the friendliest were the Mormons, and the Muslims were friendly too as long as you didn’t discuss Israel. Plus he said the Mormons and Muslims have better food. 🙂

  13. Agreed. We see something similar in Christianity where many kids raised in the Church leave as soon as they are able because faith was their parents’ decision, not theirs. I know, at least from what I’ve been told, that some Jewish people growing up religiously was very painful or at least incomprehensible. Zetterholm was clear that many Jews in the first century left Judaism and became totally Hellenistic, so this isn’t a new problem.

    The difference is that the Jewish people are the only ones directly born into covenant with God, whether they want to be or not. Ignoring that relationship is perilous.

  14. @James, question: Do you know of any MJ congregation that doesn’t treat women as second-class citizens, a la evangelical theology? I just read an online book by Robert Gorelik about the church fathers and their denigration of women which of course continued into the reformation. Many believed that women were intellectually and morally inferior. I suppose the same people who fear and despise Jews also fear and despise women?

    1. @chaya — Because you grew up in the USA, I need to ask what you mean when you use the term “second-class citizens”? For example, do you identify “scc” in the practice that only men are called to read Torah? or that there are distinct roles for men and women, for Jews and non-Jews, for Cohens and for Levis, and that each is to be honored in the fulfillment of those distinctives? Modern forms of Judaism, including modern orthodoxy, are wrestling with the boundaries for men and women, and whether their current placement was conditioned by things like educational factors and other responsibilities rather than mere gender. Since some conditions have changed from when some of these boundaries were determined, there is reason to reconsider whether some of the boundaries should shift with them. Do you view such borders as protective or oppressive? Do you object to the presence of a “mechitzah”? By what standard do you evaluate an implication of superior or inferior status, and as applied to what circumstances? From what I have heard from time to time, some American Jewish women fail to recognize circumstances where rabbinic definitions viewed them as superior to men, and these women thus misinterpret their distinctive as if they were being denigrated or degraded. Cultural education is needed for both the men and the women in such circumstances, in order to redress the balance.

      1. This was an interesting read.

        PL, I am going to define, “second class citizen,” as the prevailing attitude within most of evangelicalism, and MJ as it holds to much evangelical theology, as the fact that women are limited in what roles they can play in a congregational setting, and those roles are always subordinate or diminished vis a vie the roles of men, although how that plays out may be different.

        These restrictions may be: Women not allowed to act as rabbis, elders, must be under the authority of a man (for their own good and protection of course.) Women do this willingly because they believe they are honoring God, and if women refused to play this subordinate role, how would these “leaders,” maintain their status? Religion (of most stripes) is overwhelmingly female – the rank and file worker bees, not the leadership. In some instances women are not allowed to teach a mixed group. There may be restrictions on clothing (I am not talking general modesty applicable to both sexes) that further serve to let a woman know her place.

        MJ continues the evangelical belief that women need to be protected from their emotional instability (men are rational, you know) and propensity to be deceived, as Eve was.) Yes, I know of a number of weirdo women who claim to be receiving prophecies and “hearing from the Lord,” that is all their imagination. But if we look at data, abusive cults are almost always led by men.

        As I mentioned, CTOMC says it is not even discussing whether women will be allowed on their “rabbinic,” counsel, as even the idea of discussing it brings about so much rancor. Hmmmm

        I suppose different groups have different ideas about reading torah. I recall one girl at Beth Messiah, Rockville, asked in the 1980’s, why women couldn’t read from torah. She was informed that Orthodox might find it offensive. She asked, “Isn’t believing in Yeshua the ultimate offense?

        Jewish women are the most educated women in the US; 20% have a gradate degree. On the other hand, evangelicals have the lowest rate of education, lowest income and highest divorce rate. These are just facts. I am wondering why I would leave the highest demographic for the lowest demographic.

        My own experience in MJ and evangelicalism is that women were not encouraged to pursue education or careers – well, men weren’t exactly encouraged either. They were told to, “wait for the right one,” as God would supernaturally bring their husband to them, even as they worshipped in a congregation with few or no marriageable men. They were to look forward to a life of serving their husbands and raising children and staying home as the only option. Logic would suggest that with the high divorce rate, that a woman at least be prepared to suppport herself and her family.

        I have never been a part of a group that used a mechitza, although when I attended Orthodox Hebrew school, I did attend services there on a few occasions. The women were in the back and the rabbi frequently turned to the ladies’ section and whispered, “Shhhh.”

        Paternalism is oppressive under the guise of being protective. Women are just so delicate and weak they need to be protected from certain active roles so they don’t threaten men by competing and perhaps excelling beyond them. Women need the protection of men from other men. This seems like the companies that sell anti-virus software and create viruses to sell their product.

        The thing is, if women would revolt and refuse to be the unpaid support staff for men’s religious careers, they would be up a creek. I was in a fellowship – not MJ – where one female teacher who taught ladies said that women could do everything a man could do, but they could not do it officially. What is that supposed to mean? Just don’t have a title or official role so the men feel safe? I don’t see the pursuit of titles and honors as biblical anyway. As we see that some college graduating classes are close to 60% women, when women are not artificially restrained, they can succeed in greater numbers than men.

        I can understand why religion is populated by women: You have one (or perhaps a few) dominant males, 70-80% females looking for the spiritual companion they don’t have at home, and 20-30% weak males who are willing to remain passive under the leadership of a male. Now I understand why my husband tended to only go to fellowship to please me and tended to peter out. What man wants to sit passively and listen to another man and compare himself negatively to “the man of God?” Okay, I am “painting with a broad brush,” but this is basically accurate. Then there is the whole teaching of women’s submission to their husband, and the idea that a woman needs to be under the “covering,” of a man.

        I understand the idea that women were not obligated to time-bound practices due to family responsibilities, and it does make sense that women did not need tzitzit (tell that to HR and they get mad and stupid on you) because it is the role of the man to zachar (remember) and women are more innately spiritual and don’t require this. I understand the spin on the prayer, “Thank God for not making me a woman,” and I don’t buy it. Even the supposed superiority of women is employed to limit the influence of women and their threat to the privilege of men. You find quite a bit of misogyny among the Orthodox and even some of the sages.

        I read an interesting article about women professors at Christian colleges. They claimed they were discriminated against as Christians in the secular world, but discriminated against as women in the Christian college, yet they preferred the environment of the Christian college.

        I feel my MJ/church experience has caused me to have wrong expectations of my husband and fail to grasp something that should be obvious. We all enjoy doing things we are good at and dislike struggling in areas where we are weak. I think men experience this to a greater extent. Now apply this to a voluntary situation where one is not required to participate for the sake of status or livelihood. Why was I so stupid to not understand that a man who is a good golfer, highly intelligent and skilled in high tech want to go somewhere to sing for 30 minutes, then listen to some man speak for 40 minutes, then talk with people who mostly think the same about politics and other topics and are far more proficient in biblical knowledge? In a sense churches encourage women to disrespect their husbands. I see HR women listening to these buff, smooth-talkers on You-tube, and it seems like the spiritual equivalent of women who read romance novels and watch soap operas to fantasize about what they don’t have. I think most of us did the smart (and innate) thing in choosing less spiritual men who were able to make a living and support us – so we can sit around and study scripture and think we are spiritually superior.

        Cultural education may be beneficial, but why would those in control seek to open avenues that might unseat them from their unsteady perches?

        Pastor told me that we need authority. But do we? He must feel we need (his) authority to protect us from heresy. And we do need a method to protect the integrity of the group from those who would behave badly. I know most people abhor conflict, but everyone in a group needs to take responsibility for the well-being of the group, and organic leadership says that certain people are gifted in this area, and should act as the need arises, rather than hold institutional positions.

        I see an ideal environment as one that asks questions rather than indoctrinating answers, that challenges and provokes participation, welcomes disagreement rather than fears this. Does this exist anywhere? No. But the closest thing I have found is the five ladies who meet every Tuesday morning at Panera for no agenda, no authority, no holds barred discussion. Sorry, I didn’t intend to write this much, but thank you for helping me organize my thoughts 🙂

  15. Chaya, the only congregation I could actually call Messianic Judaism is Beth Immanuel (I’ve a lot of experience with Hebrew Roots groups but relatively little face-to-face time in what I could classify Messianic Jewish synagogues) and I don’t recall seeing anything particularly sexist or denigrating toward women. I also don’t recall hearing women complain about how they were treated.

    I do know in my own, former, little Hebrew Roots group, we were all treated the same. In fact, some of the women, being rather conservative, seemed to place more limits on themselves than I would have, at least relative to leadership.

    I suspect we’ve had greatly different experiences or maybe it’s my outlook as a male that’s affecting my perceptions.

  16. Just a reminder that the conversation is drifting away from the original topic, but I think some good information is coming out of this, so I’m OK with the direction the discussion is taking…for the time being.

  17. I’ll go ahead and approve you comment Cynthia, complete with links with the understanding that I don’t endorse or support (or really even know about) the opinions and viewpoints of the persons and organizations involved.

    I’m only aware of Shapira because he wrote a book called Return of the Kosher Pig, which received a less than stellar review, written by a fellow I know and trust (meaning, I probably won’t put “Return” very high on my “to read” list).

  18. By the way, my next Zetterholm blog post will publish early tomorrow morning and addressed the topic of how or if the first century believing Gentiles were able to integrate socially and via covenant in the Antioch “Synagogue of the Way.”

  19. @PL, regarding my son, he is Jewish -both parents, all grandparents, etc., so why wasn’t he welcomed warmly as “one of us?” He invited his roommate whose grandfather was Jewish to the second event. Yes, my son didn’t grow up going to Jewish camps or youth groups, but he is far more devoted to and knowledgeable about Israel and the political/historical situation than any of them.

    @James, I am not saying MJ purposefully treats women badly. In fact, they believe they are treating them appropriately and according to scripture when they disallow certain roles and ministries. Yes, women are often the enforcers of men’s rules and dominance. I remember several “old biddies,” who took it upon themselves to chide women who they believed weren’t dressed according to their standards of modesty.

    Re: Shapira: Using someone else’s blog to promote your stuff without permission is rude. I have his book, which looked interesting, but haven’t read it yet. I heard him on El Shaddai, and was disappointed. If he didn’t have the Israeli accent, I would just see him as another neo-Pentecostal preacher, yelling the entire sermon, employing hype and whipping the crowds emotionally. I was half expecting him to call everyone to come forward and be pushed over by “the spirit.” I am not sure what to think about people calling themselves, “Rabbi,” but at least one ought to possess an equivalent of knowledge and education as a traditional Jewish rabbi. He doesn’t seem like a scholar, and appears to be selling a product to the widest market. He employed manipulative sales techniques, such as telling the crowd he was telling them something they never heard before, going to reveal something new and amazing, etc.

    One thing that really bothers me about these self-proclaimed leaders is that you can’t find a history for them, which is suspect. I mean, where did they go to school, work, etc. If I can’t find info, I suspect they lack noteworthy education or work experience, and have cleverly built themselves a following from the naive, hopeful masses. It is one big scam, each name promoting the other. They learned this from evangelicalism, certainly not from Judaism.

    So, here is my deal. I am not cynical about the greatness of the Holy One or his Messiah. But, here’s the rub. They tell you, “It’s not religion; its a relationship.” Wrong. The relationship is the loss leader to get you “plugged into,” – haven’t we heard that before – religion. My belief doesn’t require me to join myself in support of people/movements that are at their core dishonest, corrupt, -making converts twice the sons of hell as they are themselves. It is not the, no church is perfect.” It is that no questions are asked, no challenges are presented, and the evil gets swept under the rug and they shoot the messengers. Some feel they can fix or heal the system, and they seek to fix it for their own benefit because they need the movement either financially or socially, and perhaps thus are blinded. So, I was looking, not for perfection, but at least honesty, and failed to find it. And it was not a matter of finding a different brand or a different group, as they are all fundamentally the same. There are good people in a bad system; but I see no reason to put my efforts into supporting the system. Maybe the good people should leave the bad system to the corrupt, self-deceived people?

    I don’t desire a leadership position for myself, because that is not my gift. But I don’t want to be a part of any group that places any limitations upon women. Perhaps you know if Beth Immanuel does this or not. I visited the site and noticed they have a statement of faith, calling it the, “Hebrew Christian statement of faith,” by Paul Levertoff, whose descendents are now Catholic. Jews never have statements of faith. BI has no rabbi/leader, but a group of elders, and I am guessing all are male? I don’t see an affiliation with one of the letters, so guess they are independent? But many of the teachers/elders work with FFOZ and they sell their stuff – so there is an affiliation? At least they are honest about the fact that most are not Jewish. So, MJ and HR are really not by Jews for Jews. They are mostly by gentiles, for gentiles, and that is fine with me as long as they don’t claim to be something they are not.

    I think it might engender more respect to refuse to be called, “rabbi,” rather than creating online, unaccredited, one year or less programs to provide the fake credential. I think I will form a committee and have myself smicha’d as the Queen of England. Since I form the committee and populate it with my people, I decide upon the (sub) standards.

    So, why did it take me 40 years to discover that I am fundamentally incompatible with the world of religion, and especially the role required of women? I suspect it was a combination of dishonest (whether purposeful or inadvertent) on the part of those selling the product, and my desire for the positive benefits of the association, without understanding or choosing to be blind to the opportunity cost.

    1. @chaya — You offered a lot of thoughts and viewpoints for which I might enjoy trading a little pilpul with you, but just now I’m a little short of time and I would want to give them thoughtful and thorough treatment. And the discussion might be straying off the current topic. But I will offer a guess about the nature of your son’s reception at the Hillel chapter. Recall how I characterized Jewish groups of this type as a haven for an embattled minority and naturally self-defensive, and therefore cautious about newcomers. This would be true even of a campus organization like Hillel, despite the fact that one of its goals is kiruv. One would need to persevere in one’s attendance before experiencing the warmth of acceptance as one of the gang, given that one’s goals are to participate in that degree. It’s perhaps a little like the simile of Israelis as “sabras” (prickly-pear cactus fruit) — thorny on the outside but sweet on the inside. One needs to be willing to brave the thorns before experiencing the sweetness.

      I have one other observation — though it may be a bit too sweeping a generalization — that “out-of-the-box” kinds of thinking are best applied after one has verified that desirable solutions are not to be found inside the box. When the box in question is the ark of the covenant that contained the tablets of Torah, and Torah addresses just about all kinds of human experience, it’s a little difficult to justify looking for alternative solutions outside the box.

      @Cynthia — I’ve looked briefly at R.Shapira’s website, to view his bio and a video or two, but I’ve never met him. His style is not necessarily reflective of Pentecostal preachers; I’ve seen videos from haredi rabbis that are even more so, and they are most certainly NOT modeled on any American Christian style. While this is not a style that I can identify with or enjoy as a teaching vehicle, I find that it is more appropriate to filter out the hortatory style in order to extract the substance. He does have some substantive things to say. I don’t recall his educational credentials to justify the title Rabbi, but I do know that the UMJC, the MJRC, and the MJTI have set and have been enforcing much higher educational standards for granting the title than Chaya’s description of what she decried as a fake credential.

      1. @PL, I don’t know how familiar you are with the American Jewish community. I know Israelis, and they may be tough on the outside and somewhat rude to people they don’t know, but they are friendly to guests and newcomers in a social environment. My son’s take was that these were all upper middle class to wealthy people who already had their friends and had no desire to welcome anyone else. My son and his roommate would have no reason to persevere and continue spending time with snotty (that wasn’t the word he used) people in the hope that they might be eventually accepted.

        As far as Shapira, I’ve only heard his message from Shabbat on El Shaddai, so this is where my impression is from. He did say a few interesting things, such as his take is that the fullness of the gentiles refers to the fullness of understanding among gentiles. That makes sense to me. I know some people love this style of message and find it stimulating, but it is not my style. I don’t like to hear someone scream for an hour straight. Perhaps their “rabbinical,” program is not the same as a diploma mill, but a year or less of online courses does not a rabbi (or any other sort of teacher) make. I can’t change how other people behave, but people will identify me with them and I find it embarrassing. If you desire respect, you have to earn it.

        This would be my idea of qualifications for an MJ rabbi. 1. Possess at least a BS/BA degree. 2. Three years in person (mentorship okay) study plus needed coursework perhaps cobbled together via various accredited sources. 3. A graduate thesis where one does legitimate peer-reviewed, original research. (the peers are degreed scholars, not doctrinal compatriots.)

        I don’t know that a believer in Yeshua would be accepted in a Jewish seminary, but one can certainly get a degree in Judaic studies either at a public (where there would be no discrimination) or private (not Christian) university.

      2. @chayah — I think your sense of qualifications for an MJ rabbi is not far from that of MJTI (find their website for actual details), and I should point out that several such rabbis of my acquaintance already hold doctoral degrees. Your proposed demand for peer-reviewers who are not doctrinal compatriots may be somewhat excessive, given the specific nature of the material for which they must be qualified as “peers”, though I would agree about their academic qualifications. I would also agree, however, at the doctoral level, that peer-reviewers should be from a broader spectrum of academia, to ensure that the candidate can defend his or her mastery of the field even to unsympathetic critics. Yeshiva-trained rabbis do not face this degree of academic scrutiny, but only the approval of the head-rabbi of the yeshiva that has mentored such a one over the course of years of immersion in Jewish study. I mention this to note that there is more than one way to ensure suitable qualifications for a rabbinic smicha, and that the academic model is only one method.

        I grew up in the USA and I am familiar with the snotty nouveau-riche overly-pampered Jewish kid stereotype, which is related to the American Jewish princess stereotype, as well as a few examples of actual youngsters suffering from some small degree of those exaggerated stereotypical syndromes. I lived in the USA quite a bit longer than I’ve lived in Israel (so far), matriculating in a high-school whose demographic was in large majority Jewish but not orthodox, and later participating in the Jewish community as a member of one or another Conservative synagogue. We could probably explore the persecuted immigrant psychology of one generation that led to the success-driven behavior of the second generation which produced such stereotypes in a third generation, but applying psychoanalysis of generalities really wouldn’t tell us anything about the specific personalities one might encounter in a Jewish club such as Hillel, or B’nai Brith, or Hadassah, or ZOA or AJC or JDL or USY or B’nai Akiva, or even any given synagogue community. One can approach such an organization with a sense of: “What’s in it for me?”, or one of: “Is there anything meaningful that I can contribute here by which to grow and learn and derive a measure of satisfaction?”. The latter attitude is probably asking a lot of a freshman university student — though it is a good lesson to learn, that can be applied on a much broader scale. The former attitude is much more common, not only among students or youngsters, and it is prone to disappointments, reactionary withdrawal and isolation, and, ultimately, even bitterness and disdain. I suppose each of these approaches could be correlated with a stage or two on Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”, but that would require yet another psychological discussion.

      3. He’s a senior, and very busy. There are lots of groups and activities that compete for members. My son surmised that the people in the group were not interested in gaining new members. I can imagine that when relocated to a foreign environment such as a university, one seeks the familiar. I had some minimal contact with the adult leaders a while back, and they were very kind and helpful, and I assume they would like to reach out and bring in new members. However, the demographic attracted to Hillel likely had a different goal than the leadership, that of socializing with people they knew from previously organizations and events or those very much like them.

        I support my son in his decision to choose to associate with people he thinks highly of and also appreciate him. Since this is a voluntary association (not like a workplace) and there are 20,000 other people to hang out with, I see no purpose in attempting to be accepted by people who lack the qualities that would make for a good friend/colleague. In fact, it seems rather masochistic to desire to associate with people who mistreat or ignore you. I did mention that these people might act differently alone than they do under the influence of the group, and also that if you cut off the possibility of relationship with someone based upon a poor initial impression, you might later discover that there is more to the person, and perhaps things you have in common.

  20. Well, that was certainly an empassioned response Chaya.

    As far as the links Cynthia inserted in her comment, remember, I have to manually approve each of the comments here, so I had a look and considered the source and content, and ultimately approved the comment, links intact, with a disclaimer that I do not endorse the source. Cynthia is trying to authentically contribute based on her perspective, and while I don’t always have to agree with what people offer here, I do try to respect it.

    I get the feeling that anything you don’t agree with in terms of a religious institution you feel is somehow dishonest as opposed to just different or wrong or having an alternate viewpoint.

    I also get the impression that if a religious institution sells anything, that somehow means they’re greedy and out for profit. I’ve never been a church or synagogue anywhere that didn’t have a book store or a gift store. The local Conservative/Reform shul where I live is really the only place to buy Judaica probably for hundreds of miles around, or at least it was until the Chabad came to town.

    So, why did it take me 40 years to discover that I am fundamentally incompatible with the world of religion, and especially the role required of women? I suspect it was a combination of dishonest (whether purposeful or inadvertent) on the part of those selling the product, and my desire for the positive benefits of the association, without understanding or choosing to be blind to the opportunity cost.

    But knowing what you know now, you don’t have to be in situations where you feel taken advantage of. You can either choose to rail against those people and groups you feel are bad, or you can choose to make associations, based on your experiences and current judgment, that you deem beneficial to you. There are plenty of socially and politically liberal churches and synagogues in the U.S. where women hold major leadership roles including Minsters and Rabbis. If you still find no people or groups you deem beneficial to you, then you can choose to trust God and worship Him as a community of one.

    I’m sorry if I’m coming off as insensitive, but after a certain point, it’s no longer useful to use perpetual anger as your primary response. Maybe it’s time to make a choice to move on and to do things and become involved circumstances that result in you having more positive life experience. You can’t change the past, but you can make choices that control the future, or at least the part you interact with.

    And you can choose to ignore those people or groups you dislike or disagree with. Why bother wasting your time and energy on them. Your attention to them changes nothing and the only one who gets hurt is you. Why do that to yourself?

    1. I don’t have a problem with somebody selling something; only when it seems as the major focus.

      For example, I do appreciate the out of the box thinking of Jewish Renewal, but wouldn’t be able to join in their politics or changing scripture to fit the times, rather than seeking its true meaning.

      When you say, “thinking differently,” do you mean the entire group agreed to go this route, or leaders drove the agenda, and if you want to be a part you submit? Why do you see the noticing of discrepancy, dishonesty and hypocrisy as anger? When I used to write restaurant reviews and product reviews, was it out of anger? No, I tried to understand the product to the best of my ability so I could evaluate it fairly. Is the world of religion beyond the same standard of evaluation? Or, perhaps it is more like marriage. They say you should keep your eyes open before and close them afterward. So, once you become part of a movement/fellowship, you close your eyes to the faults? And it is not always purposeful dishonesty, although sometimes it is. But the rank and file close their eyes to the dishonesty in their midst. I don’t believe pastor was purposefully dishonest. My son mentioned cognitive dissonance. We use that term in connection with cults, but might all formal religion be considered cultic?

      Part of me wonders if there is another option beyond the ones out there? These things do provoke me to think, and so are positive in that way. Well, perhaps it is not positive to those who are looking for agreement. I used to do editing, and the idea was to validate facts, search for errors and omissions and improve the expression. But this is a negative trait in the world of religion.

      So, perhaps you are right. The four other ladies I meet with for coffee every Tuesday morning is all I need, and I should shut out the rest of the religious world, except for a very few online places where thinking and creativity are encouraged.

  21. I readily agree with Chaya, “the naive, hopeful” describes me. I suppose I am hoping for an outreach that ‘corrects’ the division and misunderstandings. As for Shapira, I haven’t read his book, and know very little other than what I listened to. Since he is from Israel, maybe Proclaim Liberty will know something, if it is important, he will share.
    Honestly, I have similar feelings as Chaya, only toward my evangelical background.
    I did go visit a Messianic assembly not far from me. When I mentioned I was a gentile, I was told, ‘don’t say that, that means you are lost.’ I haven’t been back. I’ve told my daughters I would love to teach the youth, but I know they won’t let me, because they would think I am trying to put them back ‘under the law’ or be Jewish. So I stay home and read blogs like this one and listen to online services or podcasts.
    I sincerely believe we are witnessing the Ruach HaKadosh moving to take the scales off both our eyes, the gentiles and the Jews.
    Thank you for your counsel, James.

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