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Messianic Judaism

Introduction: Overview, history, books


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Overview:

Messianic Judaism is a religious movement of individuals "who believe in Jesus as Messiah, but which retain their Jewish identify." 1

The group follows an evangelical Christian belief system, including the acceptance of key cardinal Christian beliefs: the Trinity, the virgin conception of Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ), his sinless life resurrection and ascension, the atonement, etc. They combine Jewish practices, celebration of holy days, etc from the first century CE with the beliefs established by the Pauline Christians and their successors in later centuries. Among their membership are many ethnic/cultural Jews.

A key difference between Messianic Jews and Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews involves their beliefs about the Messiah. This difference is sufficient for Morton Klein, the President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), to have allegedly declared that a Messianic Jew is a "former Jew." Another difference relates to the conservative Protestant theology of Messianic Judaism.

There are many references in the Hebrew Scriptures to the coming of a Messiah who would inspire Jews in Israel to rise and throw off oppression from occupying military powers. Most Jews believe that the Messiah has yet to come; Messianic Jews believe, with most Christians, that Yeshua of Nazareth was the expected Messiah.

Messianic Jews consider themselves to be fully Jewish. They maintain a "Jewish lifestyle of faith....[they] celebrate all of the biblical holidays (i.e. Passover, Succot, etc) as well as many of the customs which are consistent with the Scriptures." 10

Within Messianic Judaism, there exists a wide range of beliefs:

bullet What might be called an "evangelical Protestant" wing of Messianic Judaism has accepted Yeshua (Jesus Christ) as the Messiah. They have also adopted the theology of evangelical Christianity. Some add an additional criteria: the belief "that G-d wants the Jewish people to remain a distinct and obedient nation until the end of time." 2

Note: Jews frequently use the term "G-d" and "L-rd" to refer to their deity. The regard his full name as so sacred that it must not be written or pronounced.

Messianic Jews retain Jewish symbolism, heritage, culture, seasonal days of celebration and many details of religious observance. They also regard themselves as an integral part of the "Body of Messiah" - what countless conservative Christian denominations refer to as the "Body of Christ" - the followers of Yeshua who have accepted and worship him as Lord and Savior, and as a member of the Christian Trinity. 

The doctrinal statement of the Christian Jew Foundation, for example, is indistinguishable from that of other evangelical faith groups. 3

Messianic Bureau International's essay "Why you need Messiah" similarly supports evangelical Christian belief when it states:

bullet 7. Those who hear and place their trust in Him {Yeshua] as Savior and L-RD are rescued (redeemed) from the curse of sin and death and will live eternally. The full promise will appear when Messiah returns and the resurrection of the dead takes place.

bullet 9. If you do not know Yeshua as your Messiah and/or Savior, you can receive Him now by confessing your sins to Him, then asking Him to come into your life and make you a new person. Your entry way to G-d's throne will be made clear and you can then learn all that His Word says, because you will have the strength through His presence in you. 4

bullet What might be called a "Jewish Christian" wing of Messianic Judaism closely resembles the original Jewish Christian movement. This was the group of reform-minded Jews who were followers of Yeshua. They formed a group in Jerusalem immediately following Yeshua's execution circa 30 CE, under the leadership of James -- Yeshua's brother. They worshiped and offered sacrifices in the Temple; they circumcised their male children; they followed all of the Jewish festivals; they observed Jewish dietary laws.

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History of modern-day Messianic Judaism:

The recent roots of Messianic Judaism date from the mid 19th century. Many Jews in Britain who had accepted Christian beliefs questioned why they were expected to forfeit their Jewish heritage and identity in order to accept the Messiah. The Hebrew Christian Alliance and Prayer Union of Great Britain was formed in 1866 to promote the combination of Jewish heritage and Christian theology. A similar group, The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) was organized in the U.S. in 1915. 5 Additional groups were formed elsewhere in the world during subsequent decades. The International Hebrew Christian Alliance (IHCA) was organized in 1925. It has become the International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA). 6 The International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues was organized in 1986 "as a fellowship of Messianic congregations or synagogues under the auspices of the MJAA." 7

"By the end of 1993 there were 165 independent Messianic Jewish congregations world-wide, and a similar number of Jewish ministries and fellowships." 8 These congregations are usually affiliated with associations such as:

bullet Canadian Fellowship of Messianic Congregations and Ministries.

bullet Fellowship of Messianic Jewish Congregations, a non-charismatic group.

bullet International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues. (IAMCS)

bullet Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA). This was the original American alliance, and is a charismatic group.

bullet Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.

bullet Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC).

Some groups restrict membership to those who are children of a Jewish parent or who are married to a Jew. Some organizations admit individuals who do not qualify for full membership to join as associate members.

Although some refer to their members as Jewish Christians, their preferred term since World War II has been Messianic Jews. There are about 100,000 Messianic Jews in the United States. There are now over 200 Messianic congregations in the U.S., about 50 in Israel and many others in other countries. 9 Some Christian-Jewish inter-faith couples find a Messianic Jewish congregation to be a religious environment in which both can feel comfortable.

Books on Messianic Judaism:

There have been an enormous number of books written about this topic. However, most seem to be now out of print. Some still available are:

bullet Michael Brown, "Answering Jewish objections to Jesus: General and historical objections," Baker Book House, (2000).  You can read reviews and safely purchase this book from Amazon.com

bullet Shoshanah Feher, "Passing Over Easter: Constructing the boundaries of Messianic Judaism.Read a review or buy this book
bullet Ruth Rosen, "Testimonies of Jews who believe in Jesus," Purple Pomegranate Productions (1992).  Read a review or buy this book

bullet Dan Cohn Sherbok, "Messianic Judaism: The first study of Messianic Judaism by a non-adherent," Continuum Pub. Grp, (2000). Read a review and/or buy this book (It isn't really the first such study).

bullet Ruth Tucker, "Not ashamed: The story of Jews for Jesus," Multnomah Publ., (2000). Read a review and/or buy this book

References used:

  1. "Messianic Jews," Religious Movements Homepage Project, at: http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/
  2. Steve Heiliczer, "What is Messianic Judaism" at: http://www.execpc.com/~dwolfe/mjfaq.html
  3. The Christian Jew Foundation has a web page at: http://www.cjf.org/ Their doctrinal statement at http://www.cjf.org/pages/aboutcjf.htm discusses Biblical inspiration, the Trinity, original sin, salvation and pre-millennialism
  4. "Why you need Messiah," Messianic Bureau International, at: http://www.messianic.com/articles/rescued.htm
  5. Messianic Jewish Alliance of America has a home page at: http://www.mjaa.org/
  6. "The rebirth of Messianic Judaism," an essay on the International Messianic Jewish Alliance's web site at: http://www.imja.com/rebrth.htm The IMJA publishes a magazine: Messianic Jewish Life.
  7. International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues has a web site at: http://www.iamcs.org/
  8. "The rebirth of Messianic Judaism," an essay on the International Messianic Jewish Alliance's  web site at: http://www.imja.com/rebrth.htm The IMJA publishes a magazine: Messianic Jewish Life.
  9. "What is Messianic Judaism?," at: http://www.baruchhashem.com/menus
  10. "Answers to your Questions," Beth Emunah Messianic Synagogue, at: http://www.bethemunah.org/FAQ.htm

Copyright 1998 to 2011 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-AUG-23
Author: B.. Robinson

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