Long-time commentator ProclaimLiberty (PL), in response to Chaya, another of my enduring readers, has framed a detailed outline of his perspective on the Messianic Jewish viewpoint on God, Messiah, and the Bible. After a bit of editing on his part, he’s asked me to post it here, and I agreed. From here to the end is what PL has crafted. The comments section is open. Since I didn’t author what you’re about to read, please direct any specific questions to PL. Thank you.
@Chaya — You wrote:
“@James, @PL and others, I would like to know what you view as the, “MJ viewpoint,” because, according to my understanding, there are many viewpoints and the situation continues to evolve/change.”
I would answer that I see two possible ways of trying to envision what is “the MJ viewpoint”. One would be some sort of aggregate summary of whatever those who claim to represent MJ seem to be expressing. Since there seem to be a great many conflicting expressions extant, I suggest that this method is intractable. It lacks a coherent objective model by which to qualify the various subjective views and how well or badly they actually reflect “genuine” MJ. The other method, which I believe to be more accurate and much easier to define, is a theoretical or philosophical construct or model. Hence I would answer that the definition of “the MJ viewpoint” may be stated simply, though its ramifications can be elaborated broadly. I would like to outline it thusly:
Point 1. Messianic Judaism (“MJ”), or Jewish messianism, begins and ends with Jews and Jewish behavior and outlook. It is, however, the nature of HaShem’s choice of the Jewish people that they affect all of humanity because ultimately all humans are one Adamic (or even Noa’hide) family. Nonetheless, Jewish messianists must define themselves within Judaism and the Jewish people; and their lifestyle must reflect the traditions that are definitive of the Jewish people and their (our) four millennia of developing civilization. MJs must not view themselves as factional separatists (“minim”) at odds with other Jews.
An MJ organization in the USA called “Hashivenu” (@ hashivenu.org) expressed this as one of their core principles with the phrase: “The Jewish people are ‘us’, not ‘them’.”. They elaborated it, with a degree of perspective developed from prior Hebrew-Christian experiences, as follows:
Like a boat that had drifted from its moorings, we were not cognizant of what was happening to us until a key event, conversation, or combination of factors jolted us awake to the realization that we were farther from our Jewish moorings than we had realized.
For most of us, experience in evangelical contexts taught us to look at Jews only as people to whom we ought to witness. For us, the subtext of every family gathering became “How can I bring the subject up?” and the objective in our relationships with Jewish family, friends and acquaintances became “How can I witness to them without their closing the door on the Gospel and on me?” As important as these issues are, we realize now how wrong it was for these evangelistic concerns to be the sole axis of measurement of relationship with other Jews, even our own family members. We became church-culture chameleons, adept at blending in, showing that even though we were Jews, “we weren’t like the other Jews”: we were real Christians, too. More often than we were prepared to admit, though, we felt ourselves uneasy strangers in a strange land of potluck suppers, hallelujahs, and obligatory right-wing politics. But we had been taught, “You can’t go back to what you were. This sense of distance from the Jewish people, Jewish ways, and from family is the cost of discipleship, the cross you are called to gladly bear. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” One day we discovered that we had become habituated to speaking of the Jewish community in third person. We awoke with a start.
Now we know we can go home again. In fact, we must go home again for, truly, there is no place like home. And home for Jews is Jewish life. No doubt, we will have to remodel that home a bit to properly accommodate Yeshua, our Messiah, but better to remodel our own home than to be a permanent guest at someone else’s address.
We dare to believe that among the many mansions prepared for Yeshua’s people, some have mezuzot on the doors. We dare to believe that by rediscovering and reclaiming our own identity as Jews, we will be better brothers and sisters to Gentiles who love our Messiah. In all aspects of life, we want to live in a Jewish neighborhood socially, culturally, conceptually so that we and our children and our children’s children will not only call Yeshua Lord but also call the Jewish people “our people” and Jewish life “home.”
Point 2. MJ is a Jewish messianism that views Rav Yeshua ben-Yosef ben-David as a valid candidate for the position of the ultimate Jewish King Messiah, on the basis of his teachings, his example, his piety, and his resurrection from death. His qualifications are derived from the Tenakh and elaborated in later Jewish literature. The qualifications for Messiah cited by the RamBam focus on only a portion of overall messianic qualifications, which are termed the “ben-David” Messiah who will restore the Jewish kingdom and rule therein as the “conquering king”. His rather “Johnny-come-lately” perspective on the Messiah neglects other messianic qualifications that have been described as a separate messiah-figure termed the “ben-Yosef” Messiah who suffers and dies because of the sins of Israel and on our behalf. Without benefit of a resurrection, it would be rather difficult for a single messiah to fulfill the entire set of qualifications. While it can be argued that Rav Yeshua has not yet fulfilled most of the requirements for the conquering king ben-David Messiah, hence the prophecy and expectation of his return to do so at the proper time, he has fulfilled the purposes of the ben-Yosef suffering servant Messiah admirably well, and he has been suitably positioned via resurrection and ascension to enable such a return and task-completion. Meanwhile a proper understanding of the Torah perspectives he taught enables would-be Jewish disciples to pursue a form of ‘Hasidut that would demonstrate the validity of his messiah-ship.
Point 3. MJ derives its view of Rav Yeshua from the writings of his disciples who were commissioned to teach his perspective on how to apply Torah toward Jewish living. These disciples were all Jews (though one may have been a convert, or at least a former Hellenist). Rav Yeshua’s teachings were essentially Pharisaic in character, particularly with regard to their interpretive methodology. From a much later Jewish perspective we would describe him as a ‘Hasidic “admor” and “tzaddik”. However, these “apostolic writings” were adopted and preserved by non-Jews who professed to follow their teachings; and these non-Jews, who called themselves Christians, were excessively influenced by political influences by which they distorted the interpretations of the apostolic testimony to exclude its particularistic Jewish application and perspective, and to denigrate Jews and Judaism — even creating a fictitious Greek-styled demigod, known today in English as “Jesus”, in place of the original Israeli rabbi Yeshua in his natural context. Nonetheless, MJs have identified and continue to research correspondences between the apostolic writings and other Jewish literature in order to re-develop their native Jewish character and improve general understanding of what Rav Yeshua and his apostles actually intended and taught. Their exegesis is not derived from traditional Christian doctrines but from the Jewish text and its context.
Point 4. Because of historical persecutions of Jews by Christians during at least 15 centuries (some would say as much as 18 or 19), Jews in general resist any involvement with Rav Yeshua or the apostolic writings, and mistakenly assume that anyone who does so must be some sort of a Christian or to have joined forces with them against Jews. Regrettably, there are well-known historical examples of just such treachery by Jewish converts to Christianity. Hence MJs who attempt to reclaim and restore the original Jewish character of the apostolic literature about Rav Yeshua frequently are required to assert that they are not Christians, and that neither they nor the writings are anti-Jewish. However, since some modern Christians have learned to eschew the anti-Semitism of past Christian tradition, and even to become ardent supporters of Jews and Israel, MJs do interact positively and cooperatively with them when possible.
Point 5. Among the implications in the Jewish apostolic literature is a view of how Jewish redemption can be extended to the rest of non-Jewish humanity, which is the basis on which the non-Jewish religion of Christianity began (before it became directed against Jews and Judaism). Therefore, many non-Jews seeking the authentic roots and origins of faith in Rav Yeshua have turned to MJs for help in their parallel quest to understand the Jewish context of the apostolic writings. However, for MJs such assistance must be prioritized as secondary to MJ re-development and restoration of Jewish praxis and knowledge, without which there is little or nothing meaningful to offer that can support the non-Jewish request for help. Regrettably, this left somewhat of a vacuum during the initial decades of MJ development, which has become filled with a wild mixture of notions that falsely claim an MJ or related label.
The Hashivenu website offers a few additional core values elaborating its statements of MJ principles. Though their formulation is, at this stage, somewhat dated, I would still recommend them as worthwhile reading. I suspect that “the MJ viewpoint” described above is not much different from the views of Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein in 19th-century Hungary, a century prior to the formulation of the MJ paradigm of the 1970s in the USA and just as different from the HC viewpoint as it was from the 19th-century views of the Jewish Christian Feivel (Paul Phillip) Levertoff. Consequently I would not place much credence in the notion that “there are many viewpoints and the situation continues to evolve/change”. I see two basic models, which I would associate with “MJ” (Lichtenstein) and “HC” (Levertoff), respectively, and which have persisted for more than a century. The MJ model re-emerged in the 1970s, but still it has been overshadowed by the HC model, despite the latter’s adoption of terminology more suited to MJ. The strength of HC has been its appeal to Jews who wish to maintain a semblance of Jewish culture and identity within an otherwise foreign Christian religious environment. A weakness of MJ (in terms of popular perspective and appeal) has been its somewhat insular Jewish perspective and its more demanding requirement to conform with Torah-based Jewish culture that differs from the surrounding mainstream environment and which is therefore often denigrated or disdained. Perhaps we should also consider a form of the perspective mentioned in statement #5 above, which may be termed the gentile seekers of “Hebrew Roots” (“HR”). While this is not at all a part of MJ, in some ways it resembles HC, adopts MJ terminology, and associates itself with MJ. That might offer an appearance that the “MJ movement” (so-called) comprises three perspectives and a lot of developmental confusion. However, much of HR suffers from effects derived from the supercessionism developed by earlier versions of Christianity. HR tends not to recognize continuing Jewish distinctiveness and validity, as it focuses on trying to distinguish itself otherwise from traditional Christianity by trying to act in some manner that it perceives to be Jewish in some first-century sense. It suffers from the lack of clear MJ guidance cited above in statement #5, because it is true that MJ is still challenged by the need to develop itself by elaborating an otherwise stable MJ viewpoint into stable, well-defined, and wide-spread praxis.
A significant consideration in current discussions of “Judaism” is the notion of “continuity”, which is a reflection of a primary reason mentioned in Torah for why HaShem so favored Avraham Avinu (in addition to his extraordinary faith). He, as the primary of three visitors to Avraham, in Gen.18:19, is quoted as “saying”: “For I have known him, so that he will command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him.”. It is well-recognized that various forms of Orthodox Judaism have diligently continued the practice of teaching Jewish children thoroughly to perform both private and communal aspects of Judaism, generation after generation. The modernized halakhah practiced by Conservative Judaism has only been tested for a few generations so far, and there is some question about whether it can successfully maintain itself or whether it will succumb to assimilationist pressures and the effects of intermarriage with non-Jews. Reform Judaism has been through a cycle of recognizing that many aspects of Jewish practice that they previously discarded left their children with little by which to distinguish themselves as Jews or with which to identify, which has contributed to their assimilation, their intermarriage with non-Jews, and their loss to the Jewish people. Within the current generation they have re-adopted some of the distinctive forms, within religious contexts rather than lifestyle ones, in order to stem this loss. Even newer forms of so-called Judaism have arisen within the current generation, and these have not been tested for their ability to maintain Jewish continuity. Messianic Judaism has included examples of multi-generational families that have maintained at least as much Jewish identity as the Reform or Conservative movements, even among those whose praxis and theology is more like that of Hebrew-Christians, but the movement still faces assimilationist and intermarriage pressures arising from close association with Christians of one sort or another who still don’t quite grasp or support the Jewish responsibility to remain a distinct people. It has been stated in various places that if the Jewish people does not maintain its communal distinctiveness, thus ceasing to exist as an identifiable people, then Hitler wins a posthumous victory. Some would note that such a victory also belongs to the spirit of Amalek, and to HaShem’s ancient adversary known as HaSatan. Regardless of whether anyone grants credence to such pessimism, I would insist that a proper response is to ensure that no actions taken by any Jew should ever contribute toward such an outcome – and we might extend such a principle to apply it to anyone who seeks HaShem’s favor. Therefore I would like to reiterate from my defining statement #1 above that MJs should conduct themselves as Jews, preserving Jewish tradition in their actions and in their teaching to their children (and to anyone else who may care to listen). Incidentally, we can see from Rav Yeshua’s observation in Mt.5:19 that this is also a recipe for greatness in the kingdom of heaven. May it be so for all MJs, and for the gentiles who affiliate with us (and let us say, “Amen”).
46 thoughts on “One Perspective on Messianic Judaism”
Reblogged this on Jewish and Christian News.
Nice write up. Thanks for all the time and effort I’m sure it took.
How would you respond to someone like an Orthodox rabbi who would assert that by virtue of your view of Yeshua as Messiah you have proactively chosen to leave Judaism and are in fact not a Jew and that you are not allowed to partake in Jewish communal activities such as making Aliyah on Sabbath or partaking as a full participant in a Seder?
Well said, Proclaim Liberty! I think keeping the categories of MJ, HC and HR separate is extremely helpful in this discussion, because they are truly different things. I think within MJ there is still diversity, maybe akin to the denominational differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, so it’s certainly not homogenous. But any discussion of MJ would be impossible without first weeding out the other categories who sometimes hijack the term. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Thank you PL; you obviously put a lot of thought into that. I have a question for you: My understanding is that both Levertoff and Lichetenstein followed the evangelical theology of the day, while remaining within the Jewish community and retaining/continuing the Jewish practices of their earlier years. Is this accurate? Levertoff’s descendents are Catholic, which says something about maintaining Jewish identity and continuity.
I believe one needs to be honest, about the past, perhaps brutally so, rather than reframe history, in order to move forward into the future.
One issue here is not that MJ moved away from Jewish moorings, but that HC had already cut the moorings a long time ago, and the attempt was to return, in some fashion. Various attempts to return and repair (different viewpoints) were opposed by the churches that birthed and financially supported them, yet many managed to break away in some fashion. It is like a young person that leaves their home and family, yet retains imprints of their past, no matter how much they seek to differentiate themselves and take on a new identity. I remember Dan Juster (before he called himself rabbi) teaching that the purpose of keeping Jewish practices was to prove that we were good and loyal Jews. I heard terms like, “authentic Jewishness.” So, a person who grew up in the church, attended Presbyterian seminary and as far as I know, didn’t have any involvement with the Jewish community as a youth, tells others what is authentically Jewish. When he spent a year a Spertus College (a Jewish institution) he identified himself as a Presbyterian minister with a Jewish father, which was acceptable and kept feathers from being ruffled. Next I knew, he and his group joined forces with NAR, not only a gentile group, but full of all sorts of mishegas. I heard, “we are on the cutting edge of prophecy,” and other typical spouting of this doctrine.
Jewish practices were not engaged in for the purpose of obedience to torah, and there seemed to be an inference that because we were suspect due to our faith in Yeshua, we needed to be SuperJews; be better at Jewing than the secular Jewish community at least. In other words, there is a formula like: (evangelical belief and kinship + Jewish culture + traditional practices + biblical kosher + involvement in the Jewish community. Unlike Levertoff and Lichtenstein, the vast majority of MJ’s grew up secular or with limited connection to Judaism. My background was pretty typical; disengaging follow Bat Mitzvah, working out at the JCC and celebrating holidays as traditions and family gatherings. I remember the Philadelphia group refused to add traditional elements and practices to their services and community despite the request of some, and Martin Chernoff’s words were, “If that is what you want, go to Rockville.”
I don’t know that much about Hashiveinu that seems to be held up as an paradigm, but they and any group has a very real practical problem. There appears to be no way to determine the number of MJ’s in the US, but the number is not sufficient, especially given divisions, for financial support. You get your money from gentiles, so you can’t afford to offend them too much and you need to gear your teaching and culture to them. MJ is still pretty much emeshed in right-wing politics, joining their evangelical brethren, and much worse, embued with gentile culture and mentality. I don’t blame people that it must be very difficult to undo years of training and education.
An example of that gentile culture might be the “names,” including your chosen Hashiveinu, refusing to interact with any serious challenges. I didn’t receive a very positive impression when some simple comments and questions about a book review were responded to in a typical evangelical manner: Refuse to answer questions. Refuse to engage. Attack. Make assumptions without bothering to ask. Make a ridiculous claim that a person who publishes a book should not be subject to challenges and criticisms because, “he is trying to serve God and is my friend.” The Jewish community has its faults, but I can’t imagine this sort of response. But they are so used to gentiles who are so happy to be connected to Jewish stuff at their level of comfort and ability to understand, that an imperfect, yet seriously thinking, Jewish person who has no financial or social/emotional constraints is a serious threat. I would love it if some of these people were willing to enter the ring, and I don’t care if someone completely disagrees with everything I say, as long as they can follow honest rules of engagement and not pull out as soon as they face a legitimate challenge that is not in their scripted arsenal of replies. I hate to keep tooting this horn, but these groups that claim neo-Conservative Judaism halacha hold to evangelical thought and practices in relation to the role of women; not allowed to become rabbis, must be under the authority of men, submit to husbands, etc. For leaders, the evangelical culture is certainly preferable, as it requires far less qualifications, expertise and aggravation.
There still isn’t a place for me, but perhaps I can identify with the likes of Chagall and Sholem Asch, who were connected in some fashion to Yeshua, yet didn’t adopt evangelical theology, culture or practice. It is far more difficult to make changes to long-held beliefs, assumptions and practices than to have never been there in the first place, when one’s financial and social standing is tied to these things, it becomes nearly impossible. I’ve learned that the academics, scholars and persons from varied religious and cultural backgrounds who usually are in a state of flux, learning and changing are my most comfortable home, even if it is a virtual one. These are the people we were warned about.
I appreciate people who are wiling to engage, and this helps me sort out my own thinking.
@Chaya — I need to research Lichtenstein in a bit more depth, but he remained within Judaism, unlike Levertoff who became an Anglican minister. If Lichtenstein’s writing failed to express any significant Jewish theological re-invention of traditional Christian memes, he cannot be faulted for lacking the resources to do so. I do not know his family situation, but, since he did not immerse himself into any Christian environment, if he had any children there would be little likelihood of them doing so. Note that there was another unrelated later Rabbi, Yehiel Lichtenstein, who worked with a missionary organization in Leipzig and with whom Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein is often confused.
Yes, I understand about the confusion of the two. Rabbi Isaac L. came to this realization of Messiah at the age of 60. He was then forced out of his rabbinic position. He was never baptized, so allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. He said he wished there were a Hebrew Christian church he could worship at, or if he were younger, he would have started his own. He does not have the volume of writings Levertoff left behind, and I understand his works are mostly tracts? He mentioned that he continued to seek connection in the Jewish community, via synagogue worship and communal resources and continued despite abuse because it gave him the opportunity to pass out New Testaments. So, it appears he saw his role in the Jewish community as an evangelist, not as a member. When one is hated and attacked, as some of the old timers I’ve spoken with, this viewpoint is understandable. Interesting that other Hebrew Christians, especially those in ministry, attacked Rabbi Isaac L. for his continued involvement with the Jewish community and synagogue life.
My research led me to a Yinon post from 2011. One thing that seems clear is that religion makes it nearly impossible to objectively examine evidence and/or to question and attack one’s assumptions, an interesting practice I learned doing a recent class assignment. Plato wasn’t wrong about everything 🙂 An interesting comment on the blog was that there are likely many Jews who believe in Yeshua in traditional synagogues. I would add possibly also those not synagogue affiliated. However, that doesn’t make the MJ’s. MJ’s would like to bring this demographic into their congregations, while evangelicals would like to bring them into theirs. Maybe this group is doing the right thing in not allowing their belief to be influenced and contaminated by those with an agenda and a different worldview and culture. Perhaps it is difficult to accomplish anything of substance or that is generationally meaningful as long as one is stuck on defense, apologetics and self-validation.
OBTW Chaya, I forgot to address your comment about “moving away from Jewish moorings”. That phrase was used by the Hashivenu writer to describe the recognition by an individual of the personal impact of an HC or other Christian exposure. It was not an assessment of any drifting by MJ as a concept or as a movement. It was an illustration of why MJ was necessary to counter a personal drift that had been occurring as a result of not having the benefit of the MJ emphasis on Judaism and Jewish praxis. Remember, HC is by definition Jewish cultural identity and trappings in a primarily Christian doctrinal framework, which is why other Jews tended to become viewed as “them” or as philosophically “other”. It might be classed as an “ethnic” version of Christianity. It was just such exposure and influence that added or emphasized a sense of “return” to MJ.
Thus MJ, in its turn, emphasized a quest for Jewish authenticity as a measure of success in bringing the Messiah back home with us, even as our own repentance was bringing us home to a Judaism from which we had become estranged through secularism or assimilation or simply not caring. A well-known midrash depicts the Messiah as a leper in chains at the gates of Rome, and a young man seeks him out to ask when he will come [to Jerusalem to restore the kingdom]. His answer was a cryptic “Today”, which the boy’s rabbi had to interpret for him when he returned home complaining that the Messiah had not come that day as it seemed he had promised. The interpretive verse was from Ps.95:7 – “Today, if you would but hear his voice …”. Rome is a coded symbol representing Christianity, and the “leper messiah” a coded reference to the suffering servant. Hence, there appeared a need to rescue Rav Yeshua, whose voice we had heard, from his imprisonment to Christianity, and to bring him home to his Jewish family, even as we also needed to return there.
I have heard of the, “leper Messiah,” and like that idea of bringing him home from his imprisonment. But I don’t believe MJ is doing much of that, as they have their own agenda. Academics, both Jews and non-Jews seem to be on the cutting edge of doing this. It would be wonderful if more within Judaism would employ their great knowledge and scholarship to at least examine his words from their perspective. Perhaps we will see more of this. I am not sure that the agenda of MJ’s would be helpful in this regard.
I’m not aware of any Jewish descendents of Rabbi Lichtenstein either. It appears both married Jewish women prior to their conversion.
Came across this interesting paper: https://www.academia.edu/3331436/Paul_Philip_Levertoff_and_the_Popularization_of_Kabbalah_as_a_Missionizing_Tactic According to the author, Levertoff formally converted to Christianity. He did considerable translation work for Socino, who originally wanted to leave his name off of his considerable efforts and attribute his work to others. When Levertoff refused, a compromise was reached where his name was listed among others as translators, while he did the translation alone.
Academia has its own biases and limitations, but at least one can attempt to look critically at evidence. It seems the religious world, in all its permutations, is about validating and promoting their belief, and therefore not honestly investigating what is accurate nor seeking to expand or even alter one’s views. So, the religious world has many benefits, but seeking truth is rarely one of them.
I know I’m only hosting PL’s commentary, but I just want to respond to a few things that have been said:
@Kari: I agree that in order to even begin to get a handle on what might be a truly Messianic Jewish point of view, we have to separate MJ off from Hebrew Roots and other (apparently) similar movements, since those represent a Gentile adaptation of Jewish/Hebraic thought and practice.
I’m not sure but are you saying any Jew who adopts Yeshua-devotion must, by definition, leave Judaism and anything Jewish behind and assimilate into Gentile Christianity? That seems to be what Messianic Judaism is standing against. Granted that the modern MJ movement emerged from Evangelical Christianity, but if you go back far enough into history, Biblical history that is, at its initial emergence, Yeshua-devotion was another branch of Judaism, closely resembling the Pharisees, and before Paul, contained very few non-Jews. My opinion is that Messianic Judaism is attempting to define itself as the modern-day version of that ancient branch. Of course, you can’t go back to the past, but you can create a Judaism that echos the Jewishness of being a disciple of Rav Yeshua.
You mention that MJ will have a difficult time “biting the hand that feeds it,” that is, Evangelical Christianity, since the mainstream church, for the most part, would oppose Jewish observance of the mitzvot as required of Yeshua-devoted Jews. Sounds a lot like the current state of affairs between Israel and the U.S. Israel depends on the west for a great deal of financial aid, but on the other hand (as I’m sure you know), Netanyahu stood in front of the U.S. Congress, and against President Obama, and told us why we cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran.
In the end, Israel defines its own best interests. In the end, so will Messianic Judaism. Remember, I believe that when Messiah returns I don’t believe the Church as we have it today will continue to exist. I believe that there will be the ekklesia of Messiah, with Jewish and Gentile members, and the Jewish members will be operating within a wholly Jewish religious and social community to which we Gentiles will be attached.
I know that many in Messianic Judaism don’t want to offend Christianity and would like, on some level, for the Church to be their ally, but on the other hand, at the end of the current age, Christians will need an ally in Messianic Judaism as servants of Israel’s King.
My statement was to indicate that I am not aware of any of the older generation of MJ’s/HC’s who have Jewish descendents, which argues with the concept of maintaining Jewish identity. Levertoff was a brilliant, original scholar. If he couldn’t keep his family Jewish, what does that say? I am not saying a Jewish person must leave their Jewish identity behind, but commenting that this is what has appeared to have occurred in the past. Yes, I know there are 3rd and 4th generation MJ’s, but they are few.
I agree that in the days of Messiah, things will not be anything like what we might expect, and certainly not the vision of the, “rapture ready.” I believe there is more than torah keeping that is a threat to evangelicals. I understand the attempt to restore the mindset of the first century, but there is so much to be jettisoned. It is those earning their living off of evangelicals and other gentiles that need to maintain the connection. I get you are attempting to make an analogy to Israel, but MJ is so splintered and has little to offer in the way of serious scholarship, wisdom or community benefit, although there is some wonderful music. MJ cannot look out for its own best interests as this seems to be the interests of individual and cooperating leaders fighting for their own piece of a rather small pie. Gentiles tend to look to other gentiles or gentilized torah lite MJ’s that speak their language to learn about torah. If they are looking for serious scholarship, they go to the Orthodox world.
Perhaps torah following is a major break with evangelicalism, far more than Jewish culture, but there are other “givens,” in evangelicalism/MJ that I have distanced myself from, that have been discussed to some degree already: right-wing politics (which doesn’t mean I have joined left-wing politics) disdain for heretical and apostate groups of Christianity such as Mormons, SDA, JW’s, (who never persecuted any Jews AFAIK) disdain for Catholics, who I see as no worse than evangelicals, and at least they respect tradition, admit sola scriptura is impossible and have a tradition of intellect and scholarship, even if it doesn’t always filter down to the rank and file. I can see where Levertoff’s descendents might have found Catholicism more akin to Judaism, despite the fact Catholics killed a lot more Jews than Protestants have. Anyway, Anglicanism isn’t evangelicalism. The culture of, “nice,” and the constraints upon women make me want to puke – a rather scholarly assessment, don’t you think?
@James — I don’t give credence to the oft-repeated view that modern MJ “emerged” from evangelical Christianity. Many pioneering leaders in this movement sought training in evangelical institutions as the only available source of study into the apostolic writings. They certainly couldn’t obtain such information from Yeshiva University! On a more prosaic level, Jews entering the movement in its earliest stages of development similarly obtained training in HC environments and fundamental churches. There was not yet any other community support available. But it was not long before these pioneers began forming their own congregations meeting in homes and rented hotel conference rooms (using their own funds and not gentile donations, I might add for Chaya’s benefit).
So, while it is fair to say that MJ boot-strapped itself using Christian and HC organizational resources, and even that it was initially tainted theologically by them, it is not really accurate to say that it emerged from such environments — just as it is not accurate to say that it emerged from Reform or Conservative environments, even though the Jews developing the MJ perspective came from such family environments and early religious training. I find it regrettable that there was not more emphasis placed, at that early stage, on strengthening the connection with such familial Jewish resources; but the notion of what MJ should be was not yet sufficiently well-developed to avoid invoking ancient Jewish defensiveness against a presumed threat from Christianity.
Incidentally, it would be equally erroneous to say that the “Jesus People” movement of the 1960s emerged from either evangelical Christianity or from Pentecostalism. It arose rather spontaneously, perhaps borrowing some ideas from them while seeking to interpret the scriptures they were newly investigating, and later merged into these environments.
Most MJ’s I knew came to faith in Yeshua via churches or gentile friends, not via MJ congregations. The older generation came to faith in the same manner, mostly. Many attended churches prior to or concurrently with attending MJ congregations, that were seen as an adjunct to their fellowship. Many felt it was fine for Jews to attend an MJ fellowship on Friday or Saturday as long as they showed up at church on Sunday. As far as the Jesus movement, although there were many influences, persons with a history in church and graduates of seminaries and bible colleges had major involvement.
Lack of educational facilities and lack of this and that isn’t a good excuse. Who says one can’t study in small groups or alone? What about a third alternative, an education at a secular university in religious studies? They might also learn critical thinking skills as well as the ability to weigh evidence?
@PL – I appreciate the time & effort you put into this. Well written and very helpful.
James, do you perceive Levertoff’s descendants as identifying themselves to be Jews and Jewish? I ask because I don’t know the answer to that question but am surprised by your confusion/question.
I mean, Catholicism sure isn’t synonymous with Yeshua devotion and has historically been against… like I said, I’m surprised.
AFAIK, they are Catholic and they are not Hebreo-Catholics, which are quite small in number and nothing like MJ’s or HC’s, as Catholicism is far more authoritarian and not entreprenurial, like US evangelicalism.
Messianic Judaism is christianity, PL can attest that it was “resurrected” [pun-intened] in the 60’s…. the Hellenistic Judaism found in the New Testament lost its Jewish majority and subsequently became non-existent afterwards among Jews… The non-jews lead by Paul [rogue rabbi] followed the ideals and “revelations” presented through him because of his perceived “vision” or “encounter” he had not from the G-d of Israel but by jesus encountering him along the road to damascus (this alone departs from the Jewish bible since all the prophets heard from G-d not through a deceased individual) . This is some 20-30years after the death of jesus by the way, since the first book of the christian bible was Thessolonians in the 50’s the synoptics were published some 50-80yrs after jesus death.
Messianic Judaism should stop criticizing their own christian brothers and sisters, because as the Christian Bible claims, a house divided against itself cannot stand; the MJ movement needs christians, it’s too small of a movement to stand on its own.
My comment is based off your statement James: “I know that many in Messianic Judaism don’t want to offend Christianity and would like, on some level, for the Church to be their ally, but on the other hand, at the end of the current age, Christians will need an ally in Messianic Judaism as servants of Israel’s King.”
*** Also Messianic Judaism must resort to a midrashic justification (albeit a flawed justification but midrashic non-the-less) for proclaiming jesus is the messiah, but I’ve yet to see a participant of Messianic Judaism (either jew or gentile) be honest with the Jewish Bible and show from the Jewish Bible why jesus is the “messiah”. Can you or PL do a post showing evidence that jesus is the jewish messiah based off the Jewish Bible?
Boris, I think most people are aware of both MJ and anti-missionary interpretations of messianic prophecy. I don’t believe that numbers are the most important issue, and alliances, as we have seen, are often more harm than help. If you dance to the music, you have to pay to the piper.
@Bruce — I never said that R.Lichtenstein had worked out the entirety of the MJ paradigm and its theological revisions. He continued in his rabbinical post for quite some time. Rav Shaul is not deemed a prophet, merely because of a vision featuring Rav Yeshua. Your timing of the writing and circulation of various apostolic books is flawed. Not everyone affiliated with Rav Yeshua is a Christian, merely because of Christian hegemony over the apostolic literature for so long. MJ is *not* a form of Christianity. Rav Yeshua’s messiahship is not something that one “proves” by citing various passages in Tenakh. His own disciples sought to grasp and interpret their experience with this tzaddik by identifying passages that reflected something of their experience, drawing meaning from the text in exactly the same manner as many a rabbi has done in midrash and other literature. Their experience was the primary evidence, and prior text was merely prophetic “remez”.
@PL Lichtenstein was a trinitarian who remained with the foundation of Orthodox Judaism (as weird as it sounds) …. The FFOZ book makes mention of this to my knowledge (but I could be mistaken since I no longer have the book, nor have a desire to).
Then again, there’s Richard Wurmbrant who became a Lutheran minister and continued to bring Jewish teaching into the way he saw life and what he said to people. [And his only child died rather young (though grown enough to demonstrate faith as well).]
Michael Wumbrand, son of Richard and Sarah, is 75 years old and still alive. He has a ministry to assist persecuted Christians, and has warned that VOM has been misusing his father’s name to raise funds that go to other sources.
James, my dad’s parents were understood within their family of children to be speakers of German, except that they didn’t speak it (for anyone to see or learn). They were afraid of being seen as Germans (right around WWII) in the United States. As it turns out, they were not Germans, and their German wasn’t exactly German (thus, they were afraid of more than being seen as German). My grandmother was from Romania, and my grandfather was from Czechoslovakia (my grandmother moving here when she was about four years old just after 1900 and my grandfather’s parents moving here just before 1900); consider what would have been the mutual language. They raised my dad and his siblings Catholic. There is nothing in that to carry on Jewish continuity. There were, however, hints here and there in day to day life (not in the religion, just at home and in habits) to be discerned by someone who pays attention. Back then, more than now, there wouldn’t have been even an openness to a surface acknowledgement in Catholic community that a person or especially a family is Jewish.
Lichtenstein and Levertoff were hardly the only Jews who came to the knowledge of Yeshua as Messiah and yet continued to live fully communal and religious Jewish lives. See Rabbis Who Thought For Themselves, Part I and Part II.
Addition: I emailed back and forth with a Hebreo-Catholic about prophecy issues a while back. Also, Michael Wumbrand replied to an email I sent him last year, and we communicated a few times. Both good and informative experiences.
PL – Where in my comments on the publishing a of the christian bible, have I misrepresented? (Your own christian scholars attest to the validity of my statements). http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Epistle_to_the_Thessalonians
Paul wrote this letter first. Also I’ve examined that Paul wasn’t a prophet and that he was apparently “sent” by jesus to do what he’s done, there’s never a mention of the G-d of Israel commissioning him to speak or to author.
I was just trying to convey that Messianic Judaism is shooting itself in the foot when it tries to bring a divide with its bigger brothers and sister in Christianity …. You guys should realize that glue that binds you all and that is your groups in one way or fashion subscribe divinity to your messiah jesus. You take to the “rav yeshua” approach but you do equate your rav as to “interceding” presently as some melech-tzadik priest in “heaven” as the christian bible asserts right?
I think it would be better for MJ to be a bridge not for greater Judaism (Orthodoxy) but for Christianity. Just leave Jews alone and continue the mission of Paul, bringing more Gentiles into the fold of a Hellenism Judaism (polytheism/duality basically) that fizzled out some millinial ago. Not to mention the christian bible goes against the very fabric of core beliefs that the Jewish Bible teaches (It’s sad to see Jews involved in Islam Christianity Buddhism Sikhism etc). But HaShem has a plan for all this.
Good guys like James get mixed signals when Messianic Judaism tries to say hey “we Jews need to find ourselves, you Gentiles need to know your place, until we figure things out”. Your movement is christianity basically (based off of beliefs) and christianity was created by Paul for Gentiles.
And remember to label one anti-missionary is implying that you are pro-missionary. And I can examine the Tanach by itself and it paints a clear picture of The Nature of the Anointed One (Messiah) and that painting doesn’t resemble jesus (no shadows either). Though I do make sure the Remez D’rash and Sod never depart from the P’Shat of the text (which is true Jewish study of the text).
@Bruce — You may cherry-pick Christian scholars as you wish, to find opinions that denigrate the historical positioning of the apostolic writing within the initial few decades following the events of which they write, but that does not conform with their own testimony nor with the sociology that drove this first-century movement. You may find agreement with your mistaken and anachronistic notion of Christianity as a gentile religion invented by Paul. There is a lot of collected “shtuyot” (nonsense) written by people who do not wish to credit these first-century Jews as having an entirely Jewish viewpoint about a Jewish event. And you have failed (or deliberately refused) to grasp that MJ, by definition, cannot exist as anything if not as a perspective within Judaism. If not Judaism, it is not MJ.
Anything other than Judaism that claims the MJ label may be a charlatan and a usurper, but it is not MJ. A lot of folks associating within the varied general streams of the so-called MJ movement may consider that a harsh assessment, but they deserve to be challenged to examine whether they have settled for a lesser-quality product or for an entirely different mislabeled one. There are certainly valid roles to be served by Christian Zionists, and by philo-Jewish gentile affiliates of the genuine Rav Yeshua in general, but they are not MJs (maybe MGs, though I have at times suggested potentially better labels). Jews who affiliate with the genuine Rav Yeshua should not adopt the MJ label unless they are willing to follow that motivation into its natural place that is not defined by Christianity, neither by antagonism against it nor by affiliation within one of its expressions.
You may or may not have noted in my previous responses to various discussions that I frequently point to a statement by Rav Shaul that counters the “two powers” error, despite the widespread misperceptions regarding “divinity”, its meaning, and its implications for humans. I have invoked here the Jewish notion of the tzaddik, which illustrates within an unquestionably Jewish framework a kind of spiritual interaction that you as a Jew ought to give credence and by which a Jewish view of “divinity” in human form is illustrated.
But the key to understanding the modern resurgence or re-invention of MJ is precisely the search for the Jewish perspectives, that were extant in the first century, that enabled or impelled the disciples of a Galilean rabbi to envision him as the prophesied Jewish Messiah. They were not wrong or crazy to do so, and modern Jews are not crazy or wrong to pursue their example. Where craziness and wrongness enter the picture is when anyone begins to invoke enmity between one Jew and another that is not “for the sake of heaven” (i.e., to foster deeper Jewish commitment to the responsibilities assigned to us via Torah). When Rav Yeshua spoke of his coming bringing “not peace, but a sword”, and even divided households, he was referring to the very human problem that makes commitment to righteousness dangerous and threatening to those who are not dedicated to such pursuits but rather wish to pursue their own agendas or to be left alone. This, of course, is not solely a Jewish problem, but one that afflicts all of humankind.
But for Jews, the question must be considered about what does one do with a messiah? Does one sit back and wait for him to perform janitorial services to clean up the mess that humans have made? Or does one pitch in with his help and guidance to clean up our own mess? It seems that a lot of folks seem to prefer arguing about what jobs to assign to such a character, without considering that maybe he has already an assignment from a higher authority and that they need to listen and learn from him.
Incidentally, I disagree that the use of a label like anti-missionary implies that the one using it is pro-missionary. This view neglects the logical existence of a non-missionary position; however the real problem is not the labels but the failure of people to examine the implications of various views for their merits or lack thereof. If there exists something worthwhile or beneficial, who would wish to be so selfish as not to offer to share it? That motivation has no relationship at all to the one that would force something onto someone else, or to oppress them or to imprison them or to do anything whatsoever harmful to them. Such an oppressive motivation was not advocated by Rav Yeshua, nor by any of the apostolic writers; and the antagonisms it engenders only obscure any pursuit of reasoning and positive values. Missionizing Christianity has done great harm to Jews for many centuries. Reactionary anti-missionaries also have done harm, philosophically as well as physically.
But MJ is not Christianity; and it is neither a missionary endeavor nor is it harmful to Jews. It is a search to recover a meaningful and beneficial Jewish perspective that has long been buried and suppressed by historical antagonisms that are not limited to the religio-political conflict between Christianity and Judaism. It is not a middle position between these two, nor a synthesis nor a bridge, but a source of potential correctives for one and an enhancement of the other. A bridge implies crossing over from one place to another; but Christians are not to become Jews and Jews are not to become Christians; and whether or not a bridge may be an appropriate metaphor for communication or interaction between Jews and gentiles, MJ is not that — which ought to be obvious from the definition in the essay above. So many people wish to view MJ as something that it is not, including making it their favorite whipping boy. So few have been allowed to pursue it for the ‘Hasidut that it was intended to be, even making allowances for human frailty and the need for time to grow into its ideals.
Now, by this time someone has got to be wondering how I can possibly justify presenting my definition so authoritatively. The answer is quite simple. My professional training as a systems engineer equips me with the skills to follow and to develop the logical progression and implications of a proposal. The proposal, in this case, is a notion that I encountered some 45 years ago. It was a consideration of the Jewish origins of a view that an extraordinary man could represent the fulfillment of a messianic role envisioned within prophetic Jewish literature, and what his teachings and his example should imply for the Jewish people and for the redemption of all humankind. Additional considerations required examination of the historical religious and political impact that had already accrued because of arguments about this man and these issues. The data used to analyze this proposal has included a variety of Jewish and Christian literature, for the examination of which was also required examination of source texts in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Thankfully, that is not as hard as reading Klingon (for those who appreciate the humor of non-sequitur StarTrek references [:)]). Nonetheless, I am not at all averse to discussing my attempt to formulate this definition with anyone who wishes to bring related disciplines of knowledge to the examination of one point or other. After all, I’ve only had about 45 years during which to read relevant articles, to attend courses and presentations, to acquire linguistic skills, to deepen my religious commitment and knowledge, and to mull over these notions. There are centuries worth of collected wisdom that other folks have indirectly contributed to my thinking already, and discussion with other interested folks offers the opportunity for them to contribute their own collections of wisdom. Of course, recognizing the difference between wisdom and nonsense can sometimes be as difficult as reading Klingon is supposed to be. [;^)]
*PL, I appreciate your thorough analytical skills. However, I am sure you are aware that systems, especially religious systems, don’t develop according to logic or organization. The masses that populate and drive a movement as well as the various leaders that attempt to direct it operate according to the same principles.
Actually, Chaya, systems *must* be definable logically. That’s a criterion for a “system”. It is people and social movements who suffer the messier conditions that don’t necessarily conform to the logic of a system, even when they theoretically are committed to the principles of a systematized or well-defined outlook. However, while I can describe logically what MJ ought to be, that is to say its religious goals, any hope of people seeking to pursue such goals depends on them becoming convinced to do so and then encouraging one another to do so. Much like the Jewish relationship with Torah, having a well-defined set of principles and judgments and rules and laws cannot in itself empower its people to conform with them. That requires an inner motivation of the heart, and even then there will be failures and repentances and the need for forgiveness and restoration.
@Merrill — It’s all very well that HaShem can trace every genetic pathway for every individual, but that is not how the Jewish covenant and peoplehood is defined and preserved. Genetically-qualified people can be cut off from the covenant and the people, and their children remain cut-off. Intermarriage can make that permanent throughout all subsequent generations. For example, most descendants of the Anusim, Hispanic Jews who were forced to convert or to hide their Jewish extraction, have not been able to maintain a halakhic genealogical chain throughout the ensuing five centuries; therefore they became cut off from the Jewish covenant and would need to convert in order to become Jews in honor of their Jewish ancestors. Otherwise, they would remain cut-off from Jewish peoplehood and covenantal identity. You’re on the right track, though, to recognize the requirement for public testimony and demonstration of HaShem’s faithfulness to preserve His people, which thus requires their cooperation and dedication to their own preservation.
“It’s all very well that HaShem can trace every genetic pathway for every individual, but that is not how the Jewish covenant and peoplehood is defined and preserved.”
This might be how Orthodox Judaism defines and identifies who is a Jew and who is and who is not, but I don’t think it is how God defines or identifies us. There are just too many variables of what may or may not constitute the “Jewish Covenant” outside of ancient Israel and without a functioning Temple system. I know this is an area where we disagree. And like I mentioned earlier, I am somewhat in state of flux regarding this. But from my own studies it seems that Yeshua will set things right regarding the placement of those who attain to the resurrection of the dead in the Millennial Age. This will include placing the ecclesia, each person according to ethnic background, in various geographical areas throughout the globe (possibly according the the 70 nations that God originally gave). This may also have something to do with the “rewards” Yeshua talks about in Luke 19:17, Matthew 42:47, Matt 25:21,etc. So with this in mind, I feel God will place me with my own people and reward me according to my faithfulness to what he has shown me. So far I don’t see Him showing me that being faithful includes Torah Observance, at least not according the set of standards given by the modern day Orthodox (in either normative Judaism or Messianic Judaism). If He shows me otherwise, I will gladly comply. But I won’t commit myself to something unless I feel 100% about it (i.e. where there is NO doubt in my mind that this is what He expects of me). And so far I DO have considerable doubt about what constitutes “correct” Jewish praxis and whether or not this is binding on me personally (as well as on all Jews) in the current era that I find myself.
Unless God shows me otherwise, I am not concerned that my status as a Jew (including my future inheritance in the Land in the Millennial Age) is in any way jeopardized by my not being Torah Observant according to normative Orthodox Judaism. When Yeshua returns, he will show all of us (faithful Jew and faithful Gentile alike) how and where we are to live. And this may, in the end, look quite a bit different than we may expect. 😉
Somehow, I had the impression Mihai had cancer at a young age and died. Did Sabina start going by Sarah, Chaya? I read I think three books by Richard, so apparently I don’t have all the details. Anyway, I sure didn’t know someone (not a Wurmbrand, despite the appearances in summaries under headlines) in the VOM organization had committed suicide in such terrible circumstances (besides also the apparent misuse of funds and dismissal of Michael’s Concerns).
There’s a long history of Christians being critical (to say the least) of Richard Wurmbrand. It’s really sad people are taking advantage of his name after his death. In another version, some “spiritual abuse sanctuarty” called him [or reposted someone else calling him] a false prophet (because someone else called him a prophet after he died). They say a bunch of stuff indicating they don’t know how to process and understand what he ever meant by what he said while they act like they are perfect experts on what he said, including, But the conclusive test is Wurmbrand’s affirmation of the social gospel. For him salvation is not only personal but social, and such social salvation will usher in the Kingdom of God here on earth …. Here Wurmbrand stands solidly as a Christian Marxist, declaring that there is much common ground between Communism and Christianity and that the good points of the former all stem from the latter. Thus Wurmbrand’s Christian Socialism as well as his persistent Zionism … continue to lay the necessary groundwork for the Kingdom of Anti-Christ.
They will have to answer for slandering him. I did read a book of his where he says what I’m sure they are referring to. As far as that goes, they’re just dense. On top of that, I challenge them to figure out what to do about trying to keep one’s friends alive while saying cheeky things and true things to despots while imprisoned.
The Wikipedia article has a notice saying it has deficiencies. It sure does have deficiencies; there are no children mentioned.
@Marleen, I’m sorry, you are right. Richard’s wife is named, Sabina. Michael’s Romanian name is Michai. We were discussing that in his email and the meaning of his Romanian name.
Obviously Richard Wumbrand was never a Marxist. That is just ridiculous. Tom White, former CEO of Voice of the Martyrs, committed suicide after being informed he was being investigated for child molestation. Richard was concerned that tens of millions of dollars were being spent to build a new headquarters rather than being sent, as designated, to help the persecuted.
@PL: Apparently a poor choice of words on my part. I wonder if anyone would be interested in writing a book or even an online history of the modern Messianic Jewish movement to correct some of these common misconceptions?
@Marleen: I don’t know anything about Levertoff’s descendants so I can’t answer your question.
Chaya: As I recall, R’ Lichtenstein was not immediately asked to leave his Rabbinic position, even after publicly revealing his Yeshua-devotion to his congregation. In fact, I believe the pressure that eventually requiring him to leave came from outside sources.
I don’t know. Maybe it was as simple as having no community support. If his children were surrounded only by Christian goys, who were they supposed to model themselves after?
That said, assimilation and intermarriage are a huge problem in Judaism in general and Messianic Judaism in particular and I don’t have a solution except to emphasize Jewish community for Messianic Jews and greater transmission of performance of the mitzvot across generations.
Since Orthodox Judaism feels the least effects of assimilation/intermarriage, the simple answer is to model MJ on OJ. That said, I can see a number of problems adapting that for widespread use.
I appreciate the complement even though I don’t share your perspective.
PL, an online history would be interesting if it allowed multiple viewpoints. There are bits and pieces here and there.
@James, I understand R’ L. was removed from his post within a year or so. I believe the community pressured him to resign. As far as no community support, I wonder if one’s children and descendants continuing to be Jewish was important or not, or even considered? I understand that back in those days, believing in Yeshua meant being forced out of the Jewish community and welcomed into the Protestant community of choice. I don’t believe one could survive physically or emotionally in those days without a community, and I suppose one was forced to pick a community most geared to their worldview and would have to ignore the rest or subsume it.
As far as Orthodoxy and its success in staving off intermarriage, we might want to look at the elements involved. I have Sephardi relatives and they don’t intermarry and this does not depend upon how observant they are. Some I’ve known among Sephardim won’t even marry outside their historical country of origin.
So, Chaya, we see then that being intellectual and brilliant isn’t quite enough for people who have children and want them to carry on in their/Jewish faith. Or do you see something else to consider?
I might be misunderstanding that you don’t seem to have enjoyed Messianic congregations (or any one). But do I understand correctly that your sense of community (which you find sufficiently encouraging) is a more fluid kind I described recently?
Marleen, perhaps I didn’t go into a lot of detail about Levertoff. He was highly respected for his scholarship and insights. Of course more than intellect is needed to encourage our children to marry Jewish and pass their Jewish identity onwards. Perhaps this wasn’t so important to him or perhaps he didn’t consider it. This would be the situation if one considers the Jewish community to be lost, unsaved, in darkness, sinful – them, and the Christian community of one’s choice to be, “saved, righteous, doctrinally accurate, holding the truth – us.
I suppose if it is important for one’s children to marry Jewish, the family would be discussing this and encouraging it, just as education and accomplishment is highly encouraged.
Sorry, I meant Michael had this concern.
“…assimilation and intermarriage are a huge problem in Judaism in general and Messianic Judaism in particular…”
This is true of all ethnic groups. The mixing of the original 70 nations are a fact of life. I don’t think this however is necessarily a problem.
God doesn’t forget our origins (or attachments through conversion) as well as our DNA. No matter where the Jewish people are around the globe and no matter how assimilated we have become, God knows who we are! I have full confidence that in the Age to come that God will restore ALL of the Jewish people to their callings as Jews in regard to the covenant given at Sinai, this includes those who may be completely unaware of their Jewish heritage/DNA. (See Is 66: 21-22, etc, etc.)
In the mean time, I agree that Jewish believers in Messiah need to maintain their distinctiveness as Jews. Otherwise, how will it be KNOWN to the world at large that the promises of Romans 11:25-28 are being realized?
It’s the “HOW” of maintaining this distinctiveness (as WITNESS to the world that the Jewish people live) seems to me to be a matter for each generation to work out. In the conventional (non-Yeshua believing) Jewish community there are many forms that this takes (Reform, Reconstructive, Conservative, Orthodox, Ultra Orthodox with it’s many offshoots, etc). Even atheist Jews are considered Jews. No one to my knowledge (except perhaps the ultra-orthodox) question this. The important thing is that we maintain our identity AS JEWS. This can range from something as simple as making the statement that we are Jewish via heritage and cultural identity, or it can be something structured like what is encouraged by the UMJC.
As long as there is a strong Jewish presence in the world, I don’t think we have to worry that we (the Jewish people) are going to lose our identity. Modern day Israel is a testimony that the Jewish people live! If we were all still in diaspora, our assimilation would indeed be a much more serious problem. But this is not the case in our day.
Okay, I know I have probably ruffled a lot of feathers here. Let it be known that I am thinking out loud and my views are not set in stone. This is just (in my grappling with this subject) where my understanding leads me so far.
What do you think, Merrill, of (for instance) French Jews being encouraged to move to Israel in response to violence in France? It doesn’t seem to me Israel is a safer place to be. I suppose that’s a bit of a tangent on my part, and I respect that you’re speaking off the cuff.
Personally my feeling is that if they feel they are in danger living in France, then they should consider moving to Israel. I know some are choosing to leave France, but rather than move to Israel, they are moving to the States or other places such as Australia, etc. I do think that sooner or later all Jews will be living in Israel and not in diaspora. For sure this will take place in the Millennial Era. But even before Yeshua returns all Jews might be faced with the need to move to Israel as no place may be safe for Jewish individuals outside of Israel proper. It’s hard to tell how things exactly will transpire and/or how fast.
Also, in order for Yeshua believing Jews to move to Israel, the Israeli Dept of Interior will need to accept that they are Jews. Right now this isn’t the case. If they know that you are a Yeshua believer, they will deny you citizenship. They specifically will ask you to state whether or not you are a Yeshua believer. It has happened to several friends of mine that they were denied citizenship after being asked if they were believers in Yeshua. The Shas party in Israel has placed much pressure on the Dept of Interior to reject Yeshua believing Jews from making aliyah. There are some loopholes to this law, but in order to make use of them takes time and legal wrangling.
A person may be in physical danger in Israel also. But in Europe, Jews have no future.
A nice effort. Cut back on the faux-Hebraisms and Christian bashing and you might have something. “Jesus”, “Christ” and “Christian” are not dirty words.
Thank you, Louis, but from a Jewish perspective, “Christ” is a term bearing an extremely long historical association with religious hegemony and persecution against Jews, and “Christians” were the persecutors. The term “Jesus” far too often represents a Greek-styled demigod that is entirely irrelevant to Jews, and yet it is frequently presented to them, even nowadays, along with a threat of eternal damnation if they refuse to embrace him. Jews are enjoined, as a reflection of their obedience and dedication to G-d, to die rather than to succumb to such blatant idolatry; and, regrettably, we have had to do so far too frequently during the past millennium-and-a-half. I would suggest that these are sufficient reasons to view these terms as “dirty words”.
Now, if, on the other hand, we should wish to discuss a Jewish religious topic and elements of Israeli history, even in English, then a number of Hebraisms should be expected to appear in order to reflect the concepts and characters referenced, and the ethnic “flavor” of the topic. Attempting to eschew those Hebraisms would be an exercise in stripping away the nature of the topic, much as Roman Imperial Christianity attempted to do historically. Such an exercise disrespects these concepts and characters; and I must recommend strongly against doing so. Hence the Hebraisms are intrinsic to the content and are thus not “faux-Hebraisms”. Rav Yeshua’s first-century Jewish disciples certainly did “have something” of extremely high value; and their modern counterparts are challenged to recover it after centuries during which it has been obscured.
Nonetheless, many modern Christians have repented Christianity’s past destructive history, and try to avoid repeating it and even to make amends. Along the way, some have tried to recapture its origins prior to its development of its destructive viewpoints, including the embrace of certain Judaic elements and Hebraisms, even to the extent of re-examining the use of words that have become “dirty” by association with evil deeds and viewpoints. These are all positive developments, and not to be “bashed”; however the development of MJ should be independent of either positive or negative associations with another religion, and not be distorted by reaction against it.
When we encourage children in education and accomplishment, we take it upon ourselves to provide (what we can), to facilitate, with home and help and home education or private or parochial or public schooling and an array of possible additional activities. If we want, too, to convey the importance of a family of faith or marrying Jewish, I suppose moving to Israel is one way to back up that concept or discussion.
For those who aren’t going to move to Israel, whether because they can’t or whether for other reasons, we have to figure out what to do where we are. I like that in America, at least North America, we have some options. It’s possible to be a free agent, especially when we don’t have children. It’s also possible to frequent a Jewish community center (with and without children of our own). As I’ve said before as well, I don’t see any requirement that a person who believes Yeshua is the messiah should have to cease attending a synagogue they already considered home. And then there are home gatherings (whether for mainstream Jews who aren’t near synagogues or for Messianic Jews or what have you), Messianiac synagogues, etc.
[Not forgetting: there are non-Jews who want to do something with their children (and themselves to one extent or another) that doesn’t involve training children up to be part of the problem or to have no one to “relate to” but those who are part of the problem, the arrogance of supercessionism or patronization or the blankness of ignorance.]
I tend to side with PL in terms of the importance of maintaining Jewish covenant identity and the dangers assimilation and intermarriage represent (and I say this as an intermarried person).
Yes, I believe that when Messiah returns, the ancient promises will be kept and all Israel will have their sins forgiven and be redeemed by God as a people and a nation. That said, Jewish covenant obligations have never ceased so it’s not as if performing the mitzvot has gone out of style or was “replaced by grace.”
As has been brought up, just how certain mitzvot are to be observed without a current Temple, Priesthood and Sanhedrin is problematic, and I have to assume that the commandments regarding these areas of Torah are in abeyance until these structures and offices have been restored, which is something God also has promised.
I ran across a “Shabbat Shalom Weekly article at Aish.com written by Rabbi Kalman Packouz that provides a number of ways to pass on the importance of being Jewish to the next generation. I think it’s just as applicable for Jews in Messianic Judaism as for any other Jewish religious stream. This may not be “do-able” for all Jewish people/families in MJ, but every effort should be made to impress upon young Jews that being Jewish isn’t just about lox and bagels.
About four-and-a-half years have passed since the last entry in this discussion. Recently I have been reading a number of academic articles on the subject of Messianic Judaism, discussing various views trying to define it and reviewing the history of its development — both regarding its ancient origins and its persistence for about four or five centuries and tracing its modern resurgence and the influences with which it has interacted. One drawback I perceive in all of these discussions is that their examination of all these influences and the state of Jewish praxis, or lack thereof, among the people who affiliate with this modern social movement prevents them from recognizing its driving characteristics and its “theoretical” definition. They cannot see what the goals of Jewish messianism and discipleship under an Israeli admor haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef ought to be, rather than merely limited accomplishments so far. I find this irritating, because to me it seems so much simpler than that with which these writers seem to be wrestling.
It occurs to me that they have not considered a parallel movement, that also reflects “messianic” characteristics, which is modern Zionism. Zionism is effectively a messianic movement without a distinct human “messiah” character. In place of such a “king” it has a political entity, a nation governed by democratic principles. But its fundamental vision is nonetheless one of return and restoration. There are four elements from which Jews may be estranged, and reversing that estrangement requires actions characterized by changing prior views (repenting), returning to a prior condition or location or both, and restoring prior conditions. These four elements comprise relationships with HaShem, with His Torah covenant, with the land that He identified as where they would live, and with his chosen or specially-designated people. Zionism represents a re-gathering of a widely-dispersed Jewish people and a re-establishment of their culture and society. That culture and society derive from the Torah covenant and all the centuries of study that the wisest and most dedicated of these people have compiled in their literature and their communal and personal praxis. The locus of that re-gathering is the physical land in which their society originally developed. The implications of restoring their culture should also include a restoration of their relationship with HaShem as the source of that culture.
However, Zionism is also still a work in progress. It consists of both secular and religious threads, and it includes adherents who still live in exile from their restored homeland. Thus, not everyone affiliated with it has yet succeeded to “return” to the land or to the Torah covenant, and therefore likely not to their source HaShem. They may have only strengthened their ethnic ties to the people, and to an intellectual assent to and affiliation with the principles and goals of Zionism, without yet becoming practitioners of it by doing these things within the physical land. They may have strengthened their religious praxis, but nonetheless limited its expression. Secular Zionists, even within Israel, have not yet completed their “return” to HaShem and the Torah covenant; and some Jews still eschew Zionism altogether.
I have reviewed the nature and development of Zionism in order to draw some parallels with “Messianic Judaism”, which is likewise an incomplete expression of the same motivation to “return”. Where Zionism comprises secular and religious threads, MJ comprises Christian and Jewish ones. That is, some Jews seeking to repent and return to HaShem may have been diverted from the religious environment of the Torah covenant due to evangelical Christian missionary activity, even while trying to retain Jewish cultural touchstones. Thus also their interaction with fellow Jews has been limited or inhibited. Other Jewish messianists pursued their repentance and return by deepening their Jewish knowledge and praxis, and by pursuing the development of theological understanding quite apart from traditional Christian influences. Nonetheless, pursuit of this Jewish thread has required suppression of public expression of messianic affiliations due to communal Jewish defensiveness against anything deemed to be associated with the threat of Christian missionizing. Thus some supposed “Messianic Jews”, even within Israel, have not yet completed their “return” to HaShem and the Torah covenant; and some Christianized Jews still eschew Jewish messianism altogether.
One cannot dismiss Zionism as a failed experiment merely because it has not yet succeeded to accomplish the full measure of its theoretical goals among 100 percent of those who acknowledge it; and one likewise cannot dismiss Jewish messianism, nor its goal of Jewish discipleship under haRav Yeshua, as a failed experiment merely because many of its supposed adherents have not yet recognized or acknowledged what it actually requires that they ought to become. Whatever state either movement currently is in, or whatever prior conditions have existed during its development, these conditions do not need to constrain what these movements will accomplish nor what they ought to accomplish.
I will leave to a later discussion any consideration of gentile involvements in either of these movements, though certainly non-Jews have contributed positively to both of them.