W h a t - I s - I t ???
an explanation by a Jewish Christian, Messianic Pastor Burt Yellin
Hudson Taylor was the first successful missionary from Europe to bring the Gospel to the people of China. Why did he succeed when others failed? Because he realized that it wasn't necessary to force European culture upon the Chinese as a part of the Gospel. He even adapted Chinese culture into his own life-style. Despite his success, he was despised by the other missionaries for "compromising" the Gospel for not making Western culture part and parcel of the "Gospel."
There is much "alien" culture that surrounds Gentile Christianity, which makes it unpalatable to most Jewish people. Jews will nearly always reject the Gentile Jesus as being the Messiah, but will much more readily accept the Jewish Yeshua(Jesus) as being their Messiah.
Most Messianic Jews are much more "zealous for the Law (Torah)" than their Gentile Christian counterparts. In this, they are following the example of the first century Messianic Jew, who were also "zealous for Torah" (Acts 15:19-21; 21:17-27).
Most Messianic Jews refrain from calling themselves Christians. which is Greek terminology? They prefer more hebraic terms, such as Messianic Jews.
The first use of the term Christian was in Antioch, among the Gentile believers (Acts 11:26). Rav Shaul (Paul), as a Jew, simply preferred to say. "I am a Jew." The sect of Jewish believers in Yeshua was also called "the Way," not to be confused with the modern cult of the same name (Acts 24:14;22). The Jewish believers were also called Nazarenes, not to be confused with the modern Christian denomination of the same name.
Messianic Jews recognize the seventh day--Saturday--as being the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8- 11; 32:12-17). The Sabbath is even mentioned more in the New Testament than all the other days of the week combined. There is no mention in the Scripture of the Sabbath being changed to any other day of the week---a fact recognized by the Catholic Church.
Although there are various levels of observance of the Shabbat (Sabbath) among Messianic Jews, the Shabbat is still the day of choice for worshipping the Most High. lt is also seen as the perpetual sign spoken of in Exodus. (31:13-16)--pointing back to the original state of the creation---and forward to the time spoken of by the author of Hebrews (4:3) when, ...we who have believed do enter into a Sabbath rest (Shabbat Shabbaton).
Messianic Jews still observe the rite of circumcision. This is part of the Abrahamic covenant for all the physical descendants of Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14). This practice is not forced upon Gentiles (1 Corinthians 7: 17-20).
Messianic Jews observe the Jewish (and Biblical) High Holy Days prescribed in Leviticus 23, which were ordained to be celebrated as a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places...forever Leviticus 23:14; 21; 31; 41
Messianic Jews tend to observe Biblical Kashrut (laws of clean and unclean meals---Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). Messianic Jews tend to observe a New Covenant lifestyle----I will put My Law (Torah) within them and on their heart I will write it… Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-10. Torah is eternal and not abolished, per Yeshua (Matthew. 5:17-19). Sin is defined as the transgression of that Law (1 John 3:4). In addition, Messianic Jews follow, and have found great value in many of the traditions of our people. Ours is a heritage rich and full, and our history is indeed, the history of God's people. Yeshua did not condemn these traditions. but rather commanded that they not be exalted above the commandments of God (Mark 7:6-8). We are careful to follow what our Lord commanded.
Lastly, it must be understood that we are saved by faith in the blood atonement provided by Yeshua, and not on the basis of our own righteousness or good deeds (which as a means of atonement falls far short Isaiah 64:5-6; Ecclesiastics 7:20).
It is wrong and unscriptural to force Gentile church culture upon the Jewish people as a requirement for believing in their own Messiah. While it is right and proper for other cultures to be allowed to practice their culture after coming to faith in Yeshua, much of Jewish culture comes directly from the Scriptures, and has a firm Biblical foundation lacking in other cultures.
The situation was very different in the First century. Then the question was, "How can a Gentile believe in the Jewish Messiah? Shouldn't he convert to Judaism first?" Some Messianic Jews were saying to the Gentiles, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." others said, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses" (Acts 15:1, 5).
The Council at Jerusalem decided that the Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism to believe in the Jewish Messiah (Acts 15:19-21; 28-19).
Properly observed, Messianic Judaism has no middle wall of partition (Ephesians 2:14) separating Jewish believers from Gentile believers. Most Messianic assemblies have a large percentage of Gentiles. Most of these Gentiles love Israel and the Jewish people, and have adopted a Jewish expression of their faith in Messiah Yeshua.
lt is in Messianic Judaism that we find a most wonderful fulfillment of Scripture---in that all, Jew and Gentile, male and female. bond and free---are seen worshiping the Holy One Of Israel in Spirit and in Truth.
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WHY MESSIANIC JEWS?
To ask why we are Jews is to ask why a bagel is a bagel.
A bagel tastes like a bagel and not like a doughnut, although one bagel hater defined a bagel as a doughnut dipped in cement.
Now a Jew is a Jew, because he was born a Jew and because he wants to be a Jew. In most cases even if he does not want to be one, he will be compelled to admit it; otherwise, others will point a finger at him, asking, "Aren't you Jewish?"
The term Jew is related to Judah, Jacob’s fourth son from Leah. Judah (Yehuda in Hebrew) means praise to the Lord. His mother Leah wanted thus to express her gratitude to the Lord for giving her this fourth son. The descendants of Judah were aware of this derivation, and sometimes were reminded of it by descendants of other tribes challenging them to live up to their name. We have to admit that some Jews succeeded in assimilating with their Gentile neighbors through intermarriage, change of name, and denial of their identity. Usually it was a long ardent process and took several generations to achieve. On the other hand, there were groups and individuals who, though not descendants of Judah or from any of the other tribes of Israel, succeeded in their efforts at being absorbed into the people called Jews.
This was not easy. The people of Shechem wanted to do it and even went through the full rite of circumcision of every male, yet were slaughtered and never succeeded to penetrate the hermetically sealed tribes of Israel (Genesis 34). Sometimes those attempting to join them gave them trouble, like the "mixed multitude" of Exodus 12:38, and the Gibeonites of Joshua 9. However, in most other cases these nonJewish groups seem to have been gradually absorbed and assimilated into the Jewish body by intermarriage. Large influxes took place in the Persian period, as reported in the book of Esther in the Bible, and in the Maccabean period, when whole tribes under threat of extermination, preferred circumcision. The most prominent are the Khazar tribes of the present central Russia who accepted Judaism. The story of their conversion was described and popularized by the famous philosopher/poet Yehuda Halevi.
Today, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, Rabbis are working hard at teaching and preparing prospective converts to Judaism. In some cases, at least, these converts are absorbed into the Jewish mainstream by intermarriage.
Among the 14 million Jewish people there is a group of perhaps twenty or thirty thousand people, born Jews, who believe in the Torah and the rest of the Tanakh and practice Jewish customs and religion. They also believe in Jesus. Some, if not most of them, prefer to call Him by His Jewish name, Yeshua. Although small in number, they are a vocal group, constantly challenging the Jewish spiritual and secular authorities with their presence, demanding recognition as Jews.
It would be easiest for these Jewish believers, among whom is also the writer of these lines, to accept the advice of rabbinic leaders and put aside our belief in Jesus. The Jewish authorities work very hard to achieve it. Organizations and individuals spend their time and hundreds and thousands of dollars towards this end. Among the best known are the Peilim, Karen Yeladdenu, supported by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Israel, and many more who do it as a full or part time job.
Why do Messianic Jews resist? What lies behind their obstinacy, not only continuing to believe themselves but also spreading their faith to others? The answer as we see it is spiritual. This spiritual aspect can be summarized as follows:
Prophecies Demand It
We believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah because He alone gives sense to the words of our Jewish prophets. There is Isaiah 53 with its minute description of the suffering servant who was despised and rejected, afflicted with pain and stripes, by whose "stripes we are healed." He then dies, is buried, yet is revived and suffers all this "for the affliction of my (Isaiah the prophet's) people." All this can best be applied to one person only - Yeshua of Nazareth. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 98) teaches that this chapter refers to Messiah. The Targum of Jonathan begins the passage with the words Ha yatslakh avdee Mashikha, "Behold my servant the Messiah shall prosper. ..” Common sense says it must refer to Jesus.
The same goes for many other prophecies which speak of the time of His birth, like Daniel 9:26: And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary ... (The city and sanctuary were destroyed A.D. 70. Messiah had to come and be cut off before then.) The manner of His birth in a supernatural way is recorded in Isaiah 7:14: Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 9:6 (5 in Heb.) says:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government
shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
The place of his birth is foretold by Micah, the prophet in verse 5:2 (5:1 in Hebrew):
But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands
of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in
Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
The manner of His death is found both in Psalm 2 2:17, "they pierced my hands and my feet" (Masoretic text - "Like a lion they are at my hands and my feet"), and in Zechariah 12:10, "They shall look unto me whom they have pierced," which the Talmud in Sukkah 52 applies to Messiah ben Joseph.
We have heard arguments against His Messianic claims by the fact that some prophecies like Isaiah 2 (breaking swords into plowshares) and Isaiah 11 Lamb and lion dwelling together) have not been fulfilled as yet and that our explanations for a future fulfillment by His second coming creates too long a hiatus (of close to 2,000 years). But what is 2,000 years in the sight of God, waiting patiently for His people to respond and accept His Anointed One - Yeshua, ben Elohim?
We hold on to our faith because of the spotless Person He was. His contemporaries testified of Him that "He doeth all things well" (Mark 7:37). He could challenge his contemporaries saying to them, which of you convicteth me of sin? and they held their peace. Some modern Jewish and non-Jewish scholars point out His lack of originality in many of His sayings. Would it have been better if He had contradicted the words of the prophets? Others assert that His teaching is too idealistic (e.g., the turning of the other cheek), and therefore impractical. But who can find fault in a Man who constantly goes from the South to the North of Israel, then Judea and Samaria, doing good, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, making the lame to walk again and preaching the Good News of salvation to the poor, the needy, and the outcast? Rejected by the leading Pharisees and by the High Priests, He died a martyr's death by crucifixion at the hands of the cruel Roman soldiers. But this is not the end of the story, for His 12 disciples plus a number of others see Him alive after He died and proclaim Him the risen Savior. For this assertion nearly all of them had to pay with their lives, dying like their master a cruel death from the hands of pagans and of unbelieving Jewish leaders. Yet these believing Jews never flinched. They knew for sure that He is alive.
PERSONALITIES OF HIS FOLLOWERS
We are convinced that He is Messiah because of the transformation in the personalities of His followers. Who could transform Simon Bar Yonah, the fisherman on the shores of Galilee, to become the leader of Messianic Jews in Israel and abroad, and finally to be acknowledged the first bishop and highest authority next to Jesus by millions of people of the whole world?
What about Saul of Tarsus, convinced that he, with the letters he had from the High Priest, would completely knock out all belief in Jesus? He met the risen Yeshua on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus (Acts 9) and from a persecutor of the Gospel he became a proclaimer of the Good News. He himself was greatly persecuted by unbelieving people everywhere until he finally died a martyr's death at the hands of the Romans in the time of Nero.
PEOPLE WHO ACCEPTED HIM
From the first book, Bereshit, to the last prophet in the Tonach, Malachi, the Messiah's activity involves "the people" or the nations. Yaacov Aveenoo foresees it and says:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from
between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be. Genesis 49:10
Isaiah the prophet sees Him as the root of Jesse which shall stand for
an ensign of the people; to Him shall the Gentiles see. (Isaiah 11:10
In Isaiah 49:6 Messiah is proclaimed with these words:
It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up
the tribes of Jacob,and to restore the preserved of Israel:
I will also give thee a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest
be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
Malachi says of Him (1:11):
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same
my name shall be great among the Gentiles. PEACE THAT MESSIAH GIVES
Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua found that only in Him they have rest, peace, and satisfaction. They heard Messiah's invitation, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest Matthew 11:28. They verified it in their own lives. They read the record of His promise, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27. They found Messiah to be the Great Gentleman who always keeps His promise. The result is that we can say together with one of the first hosidim of Messiah Yeshua, Simon bar Jonah, called Simon Peter:
Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.
And we believe and are sure that thou art the Messiah, the Ben Elohim.
How about you? Have you received your Redeemer, the Stone whom the builders rejected?
In Him is life, light and joy and in His sacrifice is forgiveness of sin.
Reprinted from The American Messianic Jewish Quarterly Reprinted
with permission of The Messianic Literature Outreach
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A M e s s i a n i c G e n t i l e
In A Messianic Jewish Congregation
by Don Daly
What is a Messianic Gentile?!!
That seems like such a strange term. Perhaps the meaning of the term will become clearer as we attempt to clarify the meaning of "Messianic Jewish".
It is generally understood that being Jewish means being a descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and it implies being a follower of Judaism and its practices. In another sense, it is applied to anyone who has joined himself to the people of Israel through ritual conversion, including circumcision for men. The term "Messianic" (i.e. "of Messiah or Christ") refers to anyone, Jew or gentile, who has chosen to follow the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Scripturally, the term "gentile' refers to someone who was born of non-Jewish parents and who did not adentify himself with Israel through ritual conversion and circumcision. Thus, a "Messianic gentile" could be applied to anyone who was born of non-Jewish parents and who is a follower of Yeshua.
Most Messianic gentiles have chosen to worship the Lord in a setting that is largely devoid of any Jewish [culture]- - - -the traditional church. There is, however a small but growing group of gentiles who have left the gentilized form of Christianity to join with their Jewish brothers who worship the Messiah of Israel in an original Jewish way. They have found that in returning to the Jewish roots of their faith they have achieved a deeper understanding and a more fulfilling expression of their faith. Many of these gentiles live out their faith in a Jewish context, celebrating in their own homes the Jewish holidays as fulfilled by Yeshua. They often keep Biblical kashrut (Kosher laws) and other customs freely and without legalism, as a way to worship the Lord.
We see in the New Covenant that Messianic gentiles have met every requirement to be accepted as full spiritual partners with their Jewish brethren in the Messianic faith. "Do not lose sight of the fact that you were born 'gentiles'..., utter strangers to God's chosen community, Israel; and you had no knowledge of, or right to, the promised agreements [covenants] ... But now, through the blood of the Messiah, you are with us inside the circle of God's love ...... (Ephesians 2:11-13, Phillips). Furthermore, Acts 15:23-29 makes it clear that in order to become a child of God, a gentile does not need to undergo conversion rites to Judaism. In fact, Rav Shaul (Paul) takes it one step further - - - - Messianic gentiles should remain as they are and not seek to become part of Israel in the flesh. (I Corinthians 7:18-24)
We who are gentile participants in the Messianic Jewish faith are not second class citizens, but are equal partners with our Jewish brethren. As equal partners, however, we must share the vision of a culturally Jewish expression of faith and an outreach that reaches the Jew first, as well as the unsaved gentile. After all, there is an abundance of places of worship where the faith is expressed in a culturally gentile context. Those who are uncomfortable in a Messianic Jewish context can fellowship there.
In summary, although it is improper and inaccurate to claim a Jewish lineage if we are gentiles, it is good to share how we too have come to faith because of our relationship with the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. When unbelieving Jewish people hear of our zealousness for the Jewishness of our faith, and our excitement over the Jewish Messiah, it can provoke them to jealousy. We trust that they will see that Yeshua is not the "gentile god," but the "Redeemer of Israel."
B e g i n n i n g s
When the early ministry of Jesus was finished there remained as the fruits of his teaching a number of Jews who were convinced that he was their expected Messiah.
Between these Jewish believers distributed among the towns and villages of Israel, little or no connection at first existed. Their life remained unaltered; they worshipped in the synagogues with their fellow Jews, and were distinguished only by their adherence to the Galilean Wonder-Worker, whose claims they no doubt pressed as occasion offered. The driving force of the future Nazarene sect was concentrated in a small body of the Messiah's most intimate friends and some members of his family, who, according to the account in Acts, took up residence in Jerusalem in anticipation of his speedy and glorious return. This was the fundamental and the inspiration of their teaching--the resurrection and ascension of the Messiah and his coming again in due season to re-establish the kingdom of God and of Israel.
This was their belief, and the power of it, that invested the original community of humble persons with dignity and confidence of the Gospel, the Good News!
Selected notes from The History of Jewish Christianity, Hugh Schonfield
5 out of 5 stars AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT HISTORICAL WORK ON THE EARLY "MESSIANIC" MOVEMENT
These days, if Hugh Schonfield is remembered, it's as the author of The Passover Plot: Special 40th Anniversary Edi-tion (1965), a somewhat lurid tale of Jesus deliberately attempting to fulfill the Messianic prophecies and convince people he was the Messiah; only the "plot" failed, when a soldier stuck a spear into his side while on the cross. But believe it or not, in his earlier days, Schonfield (1901-1988)---who was Jewish---was a "Jewish Christian"; what would nowadays be termed a "Messianic Jew" (or formerly, a "Hebrew Christian"). All of Schonfield's earlier works re-flect this orientation (e.g., The Authentic New Testament, The Bible Was Right: New Light on the New Testament, An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew's GospelSaints Against Caesar: The Rise and Reactions of the First Christian Communi-ty, The Jew of Tarsus,: An unorthodox portrait of Paul, etc.). Much of Schonfield's earlier work (such as the book on Paul) are forgettable, nowadays; but his "History of Jewish Christianity" is a real diamond, and it's wonderful to see it back in print, in ANY form.
The importance of this book is even recognized by modern evangelical Messianic Jews (who are utterly repulsed by Schonfield's later books). Schon-field notes that "A few Christian scholars who have been at pains to study the subject have deplored the lack of any text book to which the student could turn ... Clearly, then, the gap is there to be filled." Schonfield's book fills this gap admirably---at least, through the 1936 date of its publication. The book begins with a survey of Jesus' disciples themselves (Schonfield notes, for example, that "Paul himself re-mained an observant Jew to the end of his life"), and continues through the New Testament period, as well as the later writings professing to be Biblical, but not included in any Biblical canon, the Bible, and Talmudic works (the collection of ancient Jewish writings that forms the basis of Jewish religious law, consisting of the early scriptural interpretations). However, with the rise of the Roman Empire, Schonfield notes that "Jewish Christianity never regained its position of authority in the affairs of the Church." He notes that from this point, the Christian Church's position towards Jews in Europe "was less by reason and charity and more by compulsion, intimidation and active violence." Many Jews (such as the Marranos in Spain) were "forcibly" converted.
Nevertheless, Schonfield notes that "sincere Jewish Christians ... must always be distinguished from Christianized Jews." There were even Jewish mystics such as Jacob Frank (Schonfield says that "Undoubtedly there is a place in the Christian Church for the Jewish mystic") and the Chassidic movement, whom he treats sympathetically. Most modern readers, however, will be most interested in his account of the earliest "missions to the Jews" among Protestants ("The debt of Jewish Christianity to the modern Protestant missions is indeed an overwhelming one"), as well as the rise of voluntary Jewish conversions beginning in the 19th century, and the later formation of associations such as the "Beni Abraham association," the "Hebrew Christian Prayer Union," and the "Israelites of the New Cove-nant," as well as the formation of worshipping congregations under men like Joseph Rabinowitz. For persons interested in Messianic Judaism, the history of the Christian Church, or even the history of Jews, this book---though old---is fascinating reading, and very helpful. Highly recommended! Steven H Propp
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