What do we make of Messianic Judaism?

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
An Eastern Orthodox acquaintance of mine last year emailed me asking me for a response to Messianic Judaism (presumably a friend of his was looking into it and he didn't have an answer). Admittedly, I didn't have too detailed an answer, since I never had to deal with it. During my current research of various Orthodox claims, I came across a Messianic Jewish response to Eastern Orthodoxy (which I summarized on my blog). There is much I don't like, particularly the playing off of Paul against the Jerusalem Church, but in my surface level reading of Messianic Judaism, I didn't see any claim where they forced the goyim to submit to Jewish Ethnic boundary laws, which, of course, is anathema to the New Testament Christian.

In a nutshell, what is noticebly wrong with Messianic Judaism?
 

Tirian

Puritan Board Sophomore
I denial of the ingrafting of the Gentiles to the Covenant fulfilled in Christ as the church becomes catholic rather than remaining parenthesis around the NT church. I think they refer to it as replacement theology
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
There's a good book about its errors, here, by Stan Telchin, late converted Jew:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Messianic-J...T49O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1361736401&sr=8-2

Depending on its variety, Messianic Judaism can bring in more or less erroneous extra-biblical elements of Judaism into the faith of converted Jews, or of Christian Gentiles who wish to be (like) Jews. I think Telchin says that more Gentiles attend Messianic Jewish services in North America, than Jews converted to Christianity. Telchin says that it's turned out to be a very poor strategy for winning Jews for Christ.

Of course there are biblical elements to Judaism e.g. the food laws, the feasts, etc. But these cannot be, and are not, observed as they were under the OT, and under the NT, to perpetuate them is to obscure Christ, engage in false worship and place a burden on professing Jewish or Gentile Christians.

Stan Telchin, and Baruch Maoz who has also written a book on the subject, point out that it is possible to be culturally Jewish without mixing Judaism with Christianity or imposing originally O.T. biblical, or non-biblical elements on one's Christianity.

Messianic Jews need to be reminded of the Book of Galatians:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1,ESV)
 

PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
"Messianic Jews" are a VERY mixed bag. You almost have to address specific groups.

1) Jewish Christians who are connected with the church. No harm there.
2) Cultural Jews who are also Christians - they may celebrate the old festivals, use the old prayer shawls, etc. out of a cultural context, but still believe in salvation by grace alone to all peoples. So long as they do this strictly for these reasons, I don't see a problem. (Chosen People Ministries, who I've supported, seem to fit into this group, as well as Jews for Jesus.) Mostly dispensational.
3) Foolish Galatians - those who still believe in racial/ethnic separation and the superiority of the Jewish race. Many keep the old superstitions of the Jews (writing G-d and L-rd rather than God or Lord), would possibly concede salvation to the Gentiles (but often not!) and look their noses down on marrying or interacting with Gentile Christians, even using "Christian" as a curse word. These head toward Armstrongism, Sacred Nameism, Arianism, Ebionism and other forms of cultism, often back to Pharisaical Judaism.

I've run into all of them over time. If they are #2, I don't see any more problems with this than having a Scottish Festival at a Presbyterian Church, or Dutch Reformed folks celebrating their Netherlands background, but it can lead them into #3, which Paul resoundingly condemned.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
"Messianic Jews" are a VERY mixed bag. You almost have to address specific groups.

1) Jewish Christians who are connected with the church. No harm there.
2) Cultural Jews who are also Christians - they may celebrate the old festivals, use the old prayer shawls, etc. out of a cultural context, but still believe in salvation by grace alone to all peoples. So long as they do this strictly for these reasons, I don't see a problem. (Chosen People Ministries, who I've supported, seem to fit into this group, as well as Jews for Jesus.) Mostly dispensational.
3) Foolish Galatians - those who still believe in racial/ethnic separation and the superiority of the Jewish race. Many keep the old superstitions of the Jews (writing G-d and L-rd rather than God or Lord), would possibly concede salvation to the Gentiles (but often not!) and look their noses down on marrying or interacting with Gentile Christians, even using "Christian" as a curse word. These head toward Armstrongism, Sacred Nameism, Arianism, Ebionism and other forms of cultism, often back to Pharisaical Judaism.

I've run into all of them over time. If they are #2, I don't see any more problems with this than having a Scottish Festival at a Presbyterian Church, or Dutch Reformed folks celebrating their Netherlands background, but it can lead them into #3, which Paul resoundingly condemned.

I think that's what I have come across. When I researched these people I must have only seen groups one and two.
 

AlexanderHenderson1647

Puritan Board Freshman
"Messianic Jews" are a VERY mixed bag. You almost have to address specific groups.

1) Jewish Christians who are connected with the church. No harm there.
2) Cultural Jews who are also Christians - they may celebrate the old festivals, use the old prayer shawls, etc. out of a cultural context, but still believe in salvation by grace alone to all peoples. So long as they do this strictly for these reasons, I don't see a problem. (Chosen People Ministries, who I've supported, seem to fit into this group, as well as Jews for Jesus.) Mostly dispensational.
3) Foolish Galatians - those who still believe in racial/ethnic separation and the superiority of the Jewish race. Many keep the old superstitions of the Jews (writing G-d and L-rd rather than God or Lord), would possibly concede salvation to the Gentiles (but often not!) and look their noses down on marrying or interacting with Gentile Christians, even using "Christian" as a curse word. These head toward Armstrongism, Sacred Nameism, Arianism, Ebionism and other forms of cultism, often back to Pharisaical Judaism.

I've run into all of them over time. If they are #2, I don't see any more problems with this than having a Scottish Festival at a Presbyterian Church, or Dutch Reformed folks celebrating their Netherlands background, but it can lead them into #3, which Paul resoundingly condemned.

Very wise words above,- great distinctions. Likewise Richard's remarks. By way of addition, I'll give you some of my very nonscholarly, anecdotal remarks. I have little by way of research into their doctrine (though I get the notion that it isn't terribly monolithic) so I want to be careful not to go to far in my commentary. Sadly, there was a family of the heretical stripe in my children's Classical Conversations homeschool tutorial group. I worked with a couple university students who claimed this as their background when I was employed at an institution.

1. They seem to lay hold of Jewish customs and roots more tenaciously than anything else (whether they be Hebrew descended or not.) They (almost to the person) practiced Passover (one of which claimed that this was the Lord's Table as commanded by Jesus and restated in 1 Cor 11 is merely Passover; while this is nothing new due to Armstongites and other cults, it is a shameful suggestion.) Many ardently celebrate the "three biblical feasts" (Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot), as well as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah (and a few throw in Hanukkah.)

2. The bit that I've gotten to know seem to show that they make a custom (if not a mark of obedience, or even part of the ordo salutis) the observance of the various dietary laws: Most avoid pork and shellfish and insist on keeping of Passover requirements to not eat yeast during this time. I think some use these as an "evangelistic" tool to Jews (nothing wrong with that as such) whereas others seem to hold it in an idolatrous sense as noted above.

3. Silly reliance on "Jewish" pronunciations of Biblical terms (the silliness comes in the fact that it is typically Yiddish, not even original pronunciation of the Hebrew terms.) Even when it is legitimate, it is almost dogmatic. Jesus must always be "Yeshua." Again, it isn't that such is wrong, it is the idolatrous nature of it. They virtually repudiate the fact that the living God was pleased to have the New Testament penned in Koine.

4. Required "Shabbat" or Saturday worship. I can safely say on this board, we all understand why this is sinful.

5. The keeping of the Jew - "goyim" distinction. Some sinfully suggest that this is not only Biblical, but in perfect keeping with the Scripture. They note Paul's circumcision of Timothy as well as the Jewish ritual haircut of Acts 18 that shows that Torah teachings are still fully in force at LEAST for those of "Jewish" heritage (and that takes on different forms in these communities.) This is almost certainly directly fed from the Plymouth Brethren theology. So they repudiate "replacement" theology, known to us as covenant theology. They are fueled by the notion that the church and "the People" are separate bodies that will only enjoy this "parenthesis" together, and even it in we will suffer significant divisions.

Here are the issues that emerge that puts this movement in conflict with orthodox Christianity:


1. "Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love...11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased." Further, the Gospel accounts of the Lord's Supper and 1 Cor. 11 show that this is manifestly not either a subset of the Passover (despite the fact that the date of the first taking of the Supper and the elements were taken from the Passover table. In fact, if it were only a subset of the the Passover: a) it is NEVER referred to as such b) only the elements of the Lord's Supper are mentioned (never Lamb, bitter herbs, etc) c) the warnings Paul offers would be irrelevant (don't come and glut yourselves as others are hungry- he exhorts them to eat at home before coming to this worship - if it were the Passover, there would be a feast spread at this time!) Further, Act 2 suggests (in my opinion) that this was being done far more routinely that the one feast per year. Further, here seems to be an eschatalogical fulfillment anticipated and brought to pass in the words of 1 Cor. 5:6-8

2. Acts 10:11-13 - three words: "...arise, kill, eat."

3. The New Testament Scriptures were written in the Greek - we are cautioned to wisely and with careful scholarship to translate these wonderful words into the vulgar language of whatever peoples it comes to. But we are told to consult these original languages when confronted with interpretive difficulties. If all our English versions did as much in terms of using Hebrew names, I would have no problem with this pronunciation. In fact, I refer in prayer (at times) to our Savior as Yeshua. But, as far as I can see, there seems to be almost an idolatrous insistence in some quarters of this movement.

4. Jesus' custom prior to his death was in fact Saturday worship (Luke 4:16.) Immediately after, note what his "custom" became and that of his disciples. 1st day of the week, 1st day of the week, 1st day of the week. He was pleased to be Resurrected thereon and to begin a new assembly day for the saints.
"Mark 16:2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun...9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils."
John 20:19 "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you."
"Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight."

Further, unless one assumes that the leaders of the church have Romanish declaratory power over the church, its doctrine and worship it MUST be assumed that 1 Corinthians 16:2 is a command from Christ and not just from tradition of Paul's apostolic authority, to wit: "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." The Lord of the Sabbath has declared a new one unto his people: Rev. 1:10

5. Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." To further solidify this idea, Colossians promises us, "2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." Circumcision is gone, for everyone who trusts in Jehovah's atonement. We all have a new sign. Likewise, New Covenant Sabbath keeping anticipates a MAJOR change in the accidents of it. Is. 58 shows that the Jew-Gentile distinction as one "people" of God, worshipping together, is a picture of a change in the day in powerful way which could never be fulfilled under Old Covenant distinctions. Foreigners couldn't go beyond the "Gentile" court. Eunuchs couldn't come AT ALL due to Levitical law. And yet, both are promised a heritage therein according to this passage.

My final assessment: Christ's first instructors were "Messianic Jews." Far be if from me to repudiate that fact! But for those within this movement who marry Jesus Christ to shadowy figures of Old Testament imagery undermine His wonderful work entirely. Insistence on using Yiddish or Hebrew words to "properly" worship the Lord is idolatry of those languages and to be abhorred by God's people. Holiness is not defined by a keeping of dietary laws made in the Old Testament. One doing so is "will-worshipping" in the New covenant and committing idolatry. The Sabbath is not what it was - Christ shows us how it is now kept, and when to keep it. Lastly, God made of one blood all peoples- to create some distinction made on flawed eschatology is lethal to our aim of believers. Given the multiplicity of views within the movement, it is hard to nail down.

But, if I am correct that many of the above tenets are insisted upon, this is a synagogue of Satan. For those that are orthodox on the major points and only observe, say, dietary laws and Yiddish/Hebrew terms on a customary/social/evangelical level, there is nothing condemnable about them. I would tread carefully when dealing with any of them and see that they are not astray in those chief areas of orthodoxy.
 
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JoannaV

Puritan Board Sophomore
Good points above! Baruch Maoz has some good articles that show the proper place for any form of Messianic Judaism.

There are a lot of mainstream churches that do not teach on nor understand the OT at all. So Messianic Judaism can be appealing to those who wish to learn more.
 
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