A Letter about Messianic Christians

A Letter about Messianic Christians February 19, 2009

Before we answer this, I’m wondering if you are hearing things like this. Any response?


This is unbelievably forward of me.   I am a reader of your blog.  I

have a question about New Testament history, perhaps you can point me to

a resource or might want to write about it on your blog sometime.

I belong to a message board for evangelical Christian mothers. An

increasing number of the members are intrigued by “Messianic worship”

and quite a few have found congregations in which they can worship in a

more Jewish fashion while upholding their Christian beliefs.  They begin

to refer to Jesus as Yeshua, replace Christmas with Hanakkah, replace

Easter with Passover, start keeping Sabbath starting at sundown on

Fridays, and dream of becoming fully Torah observant.

Some believe Christians are /commanded/ to do this.  Convincingly one

woman explained that Acts 15:19-21 points to the idea that Gentile

believers were being directed to abstain from a few key things in the

short term and for long term teaching (v. 21) they would naturally hear

Moses (the Law) expounded upon in the synagogue…and therefore learn to

keep the rest of the Law.

Others believe that when we are saved, Torah is written on our hearts,

and we will be “prompted by the Spirit to live Torah.”

They believe that the reason this is news to most Christians is that

anti-semitic pressure arising from events between AD 70-300 caused an

intentional stripping of Jewishness from the beliefs of the church.

Here is how one woman (who is a rabbi in a messianic congregation) put it:

    With the destruction of the Temple in 70AD there was a revolt that

    the Messianic believers missed because they had heeded Jesus’ words

    and fled to the mountains.  They were accused of being traitors to

    the Jews. So they stayed and participated in the next revolt until

    the rabbis named a general messiah and then they had to leave. This

    caused a strong split between the messianic church and traditional

    Judaism.  Combine that with it being dangerous to be Jewish and the

    teachings of the Church became radically anti-semitic.  The

    *intentional goal* was to strip everything Jewish looking, sounding

    or rooted from the Gospel and the NT writings.  This is the first

    time you hear teachings that Jesus came to start a *new* religion

    instead of radically reform the Jewish understanding of Torah

    (interpret it correctly); or that Sabbath was *changed* to Sunday;

    that Torah didn’t apply to believers.  Through 70AD and until this

    shift began there was an understanding of everything being rooted in

    Torah.  If you study church history you can see the transition.

This really has my head spinning because as a Protestant (and generally

leaning to New Covenant theology, to boot) I’ve believed that a blessing

of the New Covenant is to not have to follow the Law of Moses, but the

law of love.

I’m suspicious when people find a new way of looking at things after

2000 years of viewing the situation differently.  But the explanation is

plausible.  On the other hand it also sounds a little

conspiracy-theory-ish.  It’s always tempting to believe that the truth

has been suppressed and subverted until MY group rediscovered it.

I just don’t have the background to know.   Does any of this ring a bell

for you?  Can you point me to a resource?

Thanks very much.  Please excuse me if I’ve been terribly presumptuous

in writing to you!

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  • This is the Galatian heresy in contemporary form, especially if it is being “forced” on Gentile followers of Jesus.

  • BeckyR

    That’s what came to me it’s the Galatians thing. But, I wonder, could such a thing be done without trying to gain favor from God or without obligation? We are free from the law but could this stuff be done without it being about being under the law?

  • Eleanor

    I have always understood the messianic movement as being primarily for Jews who want to proclaim Jesus as Messiah but not trade in all their heritage.
    So in this context I understand celebrating Passover along with Easter, and celebrating other Jewish holidays. (Hanging on to Yom Kippur in its original context would present more of a problem theologically, though.)
    This is the first I have heard of replacing Easter with Passover. !?? And of Gentiles believing the highest expression of their faith would be to become as OT Jewish as possible.
    Perhaps this is a fringe movement among messianic congregations?

  • Lisa S.

    I know a few families in our area who have taken a somewhat similar approach. I don’t know that they would go as far as the woman quoted (that Christians are commanded to do this). And they are not trying to keep the entire law, but they do keep the Sabbath, and observe the Jewish feasts. They do not claim this in anyway affects their salvation, but instead enhances their understanding of God. To me it seems like a desire for stability and tradition. I live in the suburbs, and many of the churches in our area are relatively new, nondenominational with little tradition or liturgy. I wonder if this move is a reaction to that in some way. But I’m just speculating. I’d be interested to hear what others think.

  • m

    Scot, in answer to your question, “No.” This is the first I’ve ran across this.

  • Matt

    I think I heard James Dunn advocating this kind of spirituality.
    [That was a joke btw]

  • Saya

    No – I ran into a “Messianic Jew” on a discussion board (of some tv show of all things) several years ago (like 2001-2002ish) and when I heard her say she was a Messianic Jew – I assumed that she was a Jewish Christian, but she quite flatly informed me that no, Messianic Jews were NOT Jewish people who had become Christians, but rather Christians who incorporated Judaism into their Christianity (well she said it another way but I can’t remember now, but it was QUITE snippy I thought, thus why I remember). I found it really odd at the time… We never got into any more about it because I quickly (virtually) my little freshman college student head and got out of the line of fire, but it seems like this would be the kind of thing this woman was espousing…
    I have no problem with Christians incorporating Jewish ideas into their worship and lives when appropriate (Mudhouse Sabbath happens to be one of my favorite books) and I certainly have no problem with Jewish believers whom want to honor their cultural background by continuing on with Jewish traditions (after all, Jesus was a Jew! How can we have problems with celebrating something Jesus himself celebrated) – the problem comes when you say that these things are necessary…

  • ChrisB

    I’ve seen this before. If we had none of Paul’s writings, we might think this was a good idea, but we do and so we don’t.
    If they’re really replacing Easter, we’ve got a problem.
    “Others believe that when we are saved, Torah is written on our hearts,and we will be “prompted by the Spirit to live Torah.”
    Well, then, this movement would be quite unnecessary.
    I don’t think there’s anything here that wasn’t covered in Galatians. It’s one thing to say you get something out of observing some of the old traditions, but there’s no way to make this required without doing serious violence to the NT.

  • Dana Ames

    I recognize this. I’ve flirted with it myself in the past.
    My understanding is that the messianic believers were “turned out” by the rest of the Jews, pretty completely by the end of the first century. Yes, many survived because they fled Jerusalem, but they were also scattered after that, and before that, just as “regular” Jews were. The Romans counted the Christians as a Jewish sect, for a while. Someone who knows the history better than I is free to correct me.
    I think it comes from the same place as the neo-reformed thing. People want certainty, and a structure, and invest a lot in them. I also think this appeals to people who otherwise have little or no exposure to church history, or whose expression of Christianity ignores or derides everything after 100 AD., and therefore have no means to counter this rabbi’s arguments. Another case of jumping back 1500 years before the Reformation trying to find “the New Testament/First Century church”. Dear letter writer, The First Century church passed into history in the year 101; it will never exist again. Stuff happened in the meantime, and we can’t go there ever again…
    Robert Webber’s “Ancient-Future Faith” really helped me get a grip on church history and the operative paradigms throughout. If you have time for it, NT Wright’s “Resurrection of the Son of God” goes to great lengths to show how some important things in the early church looked like Judaism but were dissimilar because of having been transformed because of the Res. Other good, and not as lengthy, Wright resources: “The Challenge of Jesus” (book); or the four 1999 IVP conference audios on Jesus, or the Faraday Institute lecture, “Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?”, the latter two available at http://www.ntwrightpage.com.
    Wright does not believe in “replacement theology”, but rather that God’s one new humanity is constituted in Jesus by both Jew and Gentile. The “Galatian problem” as noted by John and Becky above, was about not about “keeping the Law”, but about Unity; as Wright puts it, who was allowed to eat together?

  • Travis Greene

    Well, I have seen a rise of interest in the Jewishness of Jesus and Christianity in general. Which, overall, I think is a very good thing. I have also known (gentile) Christians deciding to keep kosher or follow Torah in other ways. Not sure if that, in itself, a bad thing either, any more than is choosing to abstain from movies or alcohol or meat (things not sinful in themselves) for personal spiritual reasons.
    And there really has been a long history of Christian anti-Semitism.
    Certainly, I disagree that gentile Christians are commanded to, essentially, become Jews. That’s the whole point (okay, maybe not the whole point, but a major point) of Acts.

  • Glenn

    Messianic Jews would agree that gentile Christians are NOT commanded to, essentially, become Jews. That’s a major point of Acts. Messianic Jews would also go beyond this statement. They would say Messianic Jews are not to become essentially Gentiles. Messianic congregations exist as a way for Jewish believers to live out their covenant identity as Jews and to pass their covenant identity and heritage on to the next generation.

  • E.G.

    “Replacing Easter” (etc.) is not the problem. All of those holidays/recognitions came about after the fact. There is no divine decree that we follow them.
    The major problem is adding to the Gospel. As with any other form of religiousity, the true beauty of following Christ can be quickly swamped by fussing about adhering to this rule or that ceremony or whatever. So, yes, Galatians is a perfect yardstick by which to measure this type of behavior.

  • Karl

    Scot, I have a friend who I think is into this movement, or something similar. He used to attend our church but recently told me that his family has been “celebrating Shabbat” together each week instead, often including inviting friends over to celebrate the Shabbat meal with them. It sounded like they follow at least a modified version of the Jewish Shabbat observance and meal ritual, including prayers in Hebrew. I don’t know if he’s into the other things that your correspondent referenced or not, but I’m guessing that what has influenced him is at least part of the same movement.

  • Glenn

    Sorry Scot and everyone. I kept trying to post the document without the colors. Could someone delete my previous comments and post this correct link without the word highlights? My apologies.

  • ron

    My response is that this seems “gimmicky”; but evangelical Christianity has plenty of “gimmicks”, this particular one just has this “Messianic” component.
    I recommend studying the Jewish environment at the time of Jesus, trying to imagine what he might have thought in this environment, while simultaneously trying not to read back into his personality the theological speculations of non-Jewish Christians who came one or more centuries later. Also, learning about contemporary Judaism from Jews (as opposed to Christians). It can be quite a humbling jolt to appreciate the love of God and the love of the scriptures that people have who nevertheless do not claim Jesus as their Messiah.

  • Glenn

    The “One Law” or “Grafted-In” view and the Messianic Jewish view are two different views. Please see my link at #14 for a rebuttal of the One Law view by two Messianic Jewish leaders.

  • That’s interesting. I was recently considering the fact that the ability to follow the Law of Love , if Total Depravity be true, is only available through God’s direct action, Calvinist or Arminian (or other?). Why could God not provide that same ability, unattainable by Mankind’s own efforts in a Fallen World, to a Law-Observant Jew?
    Was Simeon the recipient of just such grace in Luke 2:25
    “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.”
    Just as even the Born-Again Christian does not become perfect, Simeon was deemed “just and devout” though he may not have kept the Law of Moses to the letter.
    I am not trying to make any theological point. I am just following a thought to see where it leads.

  • Glenn
  • Eric Chabot

    I have been in a messianic congregation for 14 yrs. I am not Jewish and do not want to be Jewish. For starters, the Apostle Paul showed he had a tremendous burden for the Jewish people (Romans 9:1-5), (Romans 10:1), and calls upon the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy (Romans 11:11). Paul understood that since the Gentiles have received the blessing of knowing the Jewish Messiah, they now have the responsibility to take the message of salvation back to Israel. Therefore, Christians of all denominational backgrounds should show interest in sharing the good news of the Messiah with the Jewish people.
    The only thing that will help Christians understand messianic congregations is education. The Messianic Movement is not a monolith. Many of the congregations are different. I wuld suggest a textbook called Our Father Abraham: The Jewish Roots of Christianity, by Marvin Wilson and Messianic Judaism by David Stern. There is another book by Dr. Michael Brown called What Jewish People Believe that is helpful. He addresses the issues with the law, etc.. there is tremendous confusion in the church about that issue alone. I can only say from experience (and being that I am very interested in early Christianity) that being in a Messianic congreation has been a blessing. Even Scot M. has a great book about Jesus in National Context. He says, Scholarship is now recognizing that Jesus’ mission was directed toward the nation of Israel. This means that his understanding of God himself must be oriented toward an understanding of God that emerges from the covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David, which guided the history of the nation to the time of Jesus. The God of Jesus, accordingly, is the God of Israel, who is now restoring the nation and renewing its people as he had promised long ago. (A New Vision For Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1999, 19). Try to read those books- they will help.

  • First, I looked to see if Rabbi Derek Leman has wieghed in, as he is also a reader of Jesus Creed. I’m sure he will.
    Pending a response from him: If you go to his blog page, at http://derek4messiah.wordpress.com/, you’ll find he has a lot to say about what Messianic Judiasm really believes, and about some of the extremes, such as you’ve mentioned.
    Mainstream Messianic Judaism is much more Gentile/Christian-friendly, as well as seeking to remain thoroughly Jewish.

  • Wow, wish I’d checked in on this earlier. Have to be brief at the moment.
    Messianic Judaism properly is for Jews and intermarried families and for some non-Jews who strongly feel a desire to be part of the Jewish part of the ekklesia. There is much abuse and many who push Jewish Torah-observance on non-Jews. This is improper.
    The label Messianic Judaism is used, unfortunately, by many immature groups seeking credibility. The real thing is respectful of the Church and Judaism at the same time.
    Derek Leman

  • Terry

    Not only am I hearing it from time to time, but have lived through a couple of rounds of it with folks moving in and then out of our congregation because I have not supported their interpretation or endeavors. For us there wasn’t simply a greater interest in Jewishness or Israel — which are fine — it was Law.
    In every case it has been a movement among non-Jewish women, sometimes with their men in tow, but, for us, it has never been initiated, presented or led by any of the guys. Unfortunately, our congregation, and me in particular, has been treated with a great deal of un-love (at least in the end) because of our inferior understanding of Torah, it’s shaping of the rest of Scripture, and our second-rate relationship with Yeshua the Messiah. And there has been no talking to them.
    We have experienced a great deal of division caused by our modern-day Judaizers, and that within a congregation that gives some attention to Jewish Feasts (because we can), has done some missions work in Israel, we’ve even toured Israel, as a congregation, multiple times (thus the impression given that “you love Jewishness the way we do.”) Please understand, my response to the question is blunt, but not meant to be mean-spirited in any way. This has been our experience.
    There are now several groups of Christians meeting in our area who have discovered each other. I am afraid they left a bit of a wake before their discovering each other.

  • Rachael

    I am so glad to read this letter! I have encountered this too (I think the writer and I belong to the same message board). I am very interested to read the responses.

  • One instructive thing from the comments goes both ways: it is not helpful for people to tell each other what to do or how to relate to God. I feel the pain of Christians who have been snubbed by people with some superiority complex about Hebraic Roots (their belief was not properly Messianic Judaism though they doubtless used the label). I also feel the pain, and have experienced it, of people telling us we are wrong to keep the covenant we believe (and the Bible says) God made with us.
    Galatianism is wrong (I agree, John Frye) and so is Reverse Galatianism (Christians telling Jews in Christ not to live a Jewish life).
    I hope this little exchange helps a few Jews and a few Christians learn how to better get along.
    Derek Leman

  • Mike Mangold

    Maybe a fundamental question is which part of the Torah (Law) are we supposed to keep? I know most Christians pick-and-choose (for example, they choose the 10 commandments and ignore ceremonial and dietary laws even though the two greatest commandments aren’t amongst the 10). Even then, many don’t really honor the Sabbath day as God intended, which is why the Sabbatarians, in reaction, have moved it back to Friday night – Saturday night. As for keeping the Jewish Holy Days, I believe these too were considered Sabbath days and so worth honoring. Passover has not replaced Easter either: the Seder is honored as Jesus honored it, and then Resurrection Day is also celebrated. As well as Pentecost. In fact, each High Holy Day is interpreted in light of Jesus’ mission, including Yom Kippur. Derek may know more about this than I.
    And maybe this too: when Messianic Jews talk about following Torah, are they referring to Rabbinical Judaism or Judaism as Jesus practiced it? Jesus took real offense with the Pharisees for putting up so many hedges around the Law and it appears that Orthodox Judaism does the same thing. Is that an issue?

  • Pat

    While I havne’t heard this before now, there was one couple at our church that decided to leave (after becoming members) once they started believing that the Sabbath is on Saturday. I’m not against that if someone is truly convinced. However, this couple was troubled and easily influenced. They now attend a Seventh Day Adventist church, but I can’t help but wonder why they joined our church only to become convinced in a year’s time that the Sabbath is on Saturday. It behooves the church to be able to give solid, biblical answers upon which people can make sound decisions and not be caught up in every “wind of doctrine”.

  • Pat

    Oh, and let me add that we have a Saturday service, so this couple could have observed the Sabbath if attending worship on Sunday was an issue.

  • Your Name

    For what is worth, I have never been asked or forced to keep Torah in any capicity in all the yrs at the messianic congregation in which I attend. But I do think it is fine for messianic Jews to keep Torah for cultural or spiritual purposes. It has nothing to do with their justification before God. This is why it is important to find a messianic congregation that has the right balance.

  • Mike (#26):
    This is going to sound shocking, and understanding one paradigm from another is usually difficult, but we do respect rabbinic tradition. Those outside of Judaism often do not realize the tradition speaks with many voices and there is a lot of room for interpretation and dissent.
    Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees is a topic that needs a lot of nuancing. Jesus was far closer to the Pharisees than any other group. Think of the Pharisees as over-blown fundamentalist Christians and not as anti-Christs and it helps (I don’t mean that you, Mike, thought Pharisees were the anti-Christ).
    And I don’t in any way read you, Mike, as attacking our practices, but for the sake of clarity and to help people understand, I’d point out Acts 21:20-24, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. . . . purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you but that you yourself live in observance of the law.”
    Derek Leman

  • Mike Mangold

    Derek: the way I figure it is that if God said to do or not do something, it probably is good advice. Like not eating pork or filter feeders and “keeping the Sabbath,” which means not doing what we usually do the other 6 days. Everything else has been filtered through the rabbis which is certainly fine and not meant as an attack (or as Lewis Black says, if you want to know about “our” Book, ask one of “our” experts!). It’s funny, as Pat alludes to, that “honoring the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy” has come to mean “going to church” to most Christians. Is “going to Temple” on Saturday mandatory in the Messianic Jewish community?

  • Donavan Holmes

    I have a messianic Christian friend who regularly posts anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim status’s on Facebook. A few months ago his status said that he supports the right of Israel to defend itself against Hamas. When I questioned him about Jesus’ teaching and example with regards to nonviolence & nonretaliation I was informed that a) I have been selective in my interpretation of Scripture and b) that I am actually not part of the true church. The true (Messianic) church, according to my friend, apparently existed prior to Constantine and every expression of the church outside of this one is false and misled. My friend is a a-critical supporter of all of Israel’s political policies and cannot distinguish between Christianity and “Old Testament” style Judaism. Although I am aware of the Christian Zionist movement with Evangelicism, I had no idea that such a right-wing expression of the Messianic church existed. I was shocked. Here is an explanation in his own words.
    “Donovan, my friend, I am not Christian, I am a follower of the way – Messianic Judaism which predates Constantine’s paganistic reforms in the 3rd Century, most of it now referred to a Christianity (not all of it though there are still some who seek the truth) . I think you need to define Christianity in terms of how you understand it. Secondly, You need to look at what context and to whom Yeshua was speaking at the time – for example, I could quote you from Matthew 11:2 “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” How would you interpret that? I think you need to differentiate between the individual, to whom Yeshua was speaking to ones heart from which unrighteousness flows, not to a Nation trying to defend itself from annihilation. Have you ever been to Israel? What did God mean in Genesis 12:3 when he spoke of Abrahams descendents – which includes Jews of natural birth or Jews by choice? If someone were about to kill your wife and child, would you not defend your family using all means necessary?”
    So there we are. What do you think?

  • Travis Greene

    Glenn @ 11,
    Yes, I agree. By saying that gentiles don’t have to become Jews, I was taking it for granted that Jews don’t have to become gentiles. We’re united by Jesus (or Yeshua), not our own uniformity (which would be very boring, after all).

  • Eleanor

    I am very much enjoying this thread and am learning quite a lot about some of the issues out there. I’d like to thank Derek Leman for chiming in about what mainstream messianic congregations are all about; as I suspected, it is more the fringe people and congregations who are making the kinds of demands we are hearing about.
    After pondering the posts thus far, I have been struck by what our more fringe friends (and not just messianic folks, fringe people in general) look like. We don’t have the messianic fringe flavor in our non-denominational church, but we do have plenty of drifter people who come, stay for a time, demand that we start or stop doing X, and then move on when they can’t convince us to do what they want.
    To a person, I would describe them, as a previous poster mentioned, as somewhat troubled and immature folks who become convinced of something “blowing in the wind” as Paul would say, latch onto it, and then see it as indispensable to Christianity. I think this is an increasing danger these days when anything can be convincingly espoused in mass media and the internet. It would be worth its own thread here on Jesus Creed.

  • JG

    My goodness.
    The Acts 15 arguement is exactly the one used by my mother-in-law.
    It’s a frustrating situation – my husband and I are pretty Jewish-minded and think it’s critical for us to understand the Jewish background of the NT. We are passionate about interacting with the Jewish community. We are super “New Perspective”. We’ve even begun observing a Jewish sabbath. And yet, in my mother-in-law’s eyes, we’re missing the point because we don’t think it’s necessary to keep kosher. And while she argues that she still believes that “you don’t need to be Jewish to follow Yeshua,” it’s not so clear.
    What seems most odd to me is the idea that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas or Easter – we should celebrate the Jewish holidays instead. I understand celebrating some Jewish holidays – we’ve been grafted in to this community of faith, so it makes sense to understand Passover, for example. But Hannukah? A political holiday?
    And I agree that we ought to celebrate Easter as it is connected to Passover – we’ll more fully understand Easter that way. But I’m not sure that my extended family would celebrate the Resurrection at all if it wasn’t connected to a Jewish holiday. There’s an arguement that the birth of Christ actually happened at Sukkot – so that’s when “Christmas” is celebrated. But I don’t think that the Incarnation would be celebrated at all if it wasn’t connected to a Jewish holiday.
    So I’m in a funny spot – I understand the historical arguements that the early church wasn’t so great to the Jewish Christians – and that we ought to be exploring our Jewish roots more closely. But Jesus did change everything – He did revolutionize the world, He did make it unnecessary for us to become Jewish in order to become His followers.
    I’ll be watching this thread. I’m curious about all this.

  • Jon

    The rabbinic tradition is, by definition, a post 70 phenomena. But I digress. I see a lot of the same things happening around the world, particularly within non-denominational evangelicalism. At my church we have a small group that celebrates the Jewish roots of our faith, but doesn’t try to suppress the clear differences between Messianic Christianity and Judaism.
    Some good books to get a background of early church history (the woman the letter refers to only counts about 150 years of church history out of 2000) are:
    NT Wright’s: The New Testament and the People of God
    Wilson’s: Our Father Abraham: Jewish roots of the Christian faith.
    It is important to recognize the continuity of Christianity with Judaism, but not to allow Judaizers to grasp control of the faith.

  • Glenn

    One of the better resources that tackles some (not all) of these issues and has stood the test of time is Jewish Roots by Daniel Juster.

  • JG

    I attended Gordon, where Marvin Wilson (Our Father Abraham) teaches. Great guy.
    Interestingly, many students in his “Modern Jewish Culture” class consider converting to Judaism – so he always gives a little spiel about why it’s unnecessary, why it would actually be contrary to the gospel.
    What I’ve found odd, in my own interactions with (“fringe”?) Messianic Judaism/Christianity is that it seems far more like Fundamentalist Christianity than like (what I know of) Conservative, Reformed, or even Orthodox Judaism.
    Derek, thank you for your comment: “Galatianism is wrong (I agree, John Frye) and so is Reverse Galatianism (Christians telling Jews in Christ not to live a Jewish life).”
    Mike’s question (“Maybe a fundamental question is which part of the Torah (Law) are we supposed to keep?”) might best be answered by reading a little James Dunn…

  • Mike Mangold

    JG (#37): when I went to amazon.com and typed in James Dunn’s name, I got like 1500 books. Which one in particular would you recommmend?

  • This has been alluded to, but one of the outstanding questions from Galatians is in chapter 3. Paul asks them how they received the Holy Spirit – was it by something they did? No, it was by faith. Well, how do they expect to finish something they couldn’t start?
    If attempting to follow the Torah and encouraging others to do the same leads one to try to control others, then that person is living in the fruit of the flesh, not the fruit of the Spirit. Which would be missing the whole point of the Christian walk.
    I have known one person in particular who was very pushy. She observed the Sabbath, not Sunday, which freed her up to work in a nursery at a local church on Sunday. But she created conflict by using that position to try to “convert” moms and kids right there in the church.

  • Glenn

    Mike’s question – “Maybe a fundamental question is which part of the Torah (Law) are we supposed to keep?” From what I understand (I am not a Messianic leader) the majority Messianic Jewish view and solution to this question is an interesting one. Following the thought of Lloyd Gaston, Michael Wyschogrod, Mark Nanos, John McRay and several other scholars, Messianic Judaism believes there is one application of the law for the Jew and a different application for Gentiles. For example – circumcision, the Sabbath, the Jewish Festivals, etc. would still apply to Jews who have a covenant responsibility to live out aspects of Torah while moral laws that have a more universal application (do not steal, do not commit adultery, etc.) would be binding on both. If this seems odd consider that John Yoder, Marcus Barth, W. D. Davies and countless others all considered Paul to be a Torah loyal Jew post-conversion. Of course Scot would disagree with this interpretation of the law from what I have read.

  • pat

    Jesus came to fulfill the law and the old testament with a new promise, the new covenant. Therefore, Jewish rules, laws and practices have been made irrelevant, except if one is Jewish and does not believe in Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth, the life and there is no ritual, ceremony or old testament practice that should be practiced for those who believe in Christ.

  • I’m a Jewish believer, grew up (secular) in Israel, and don’t attend a Messianic congregation here in the U.S. because they feel “too Jewish” to me. That being said, while practicing Jewish laws and customs is not necessary for salvation, there’s no reason that Jewish believers (and others) cannot practice them as a way of expressing their faith. Jews don’t stop being Jewish when they come to faith, just as Chinese or Brazilian people don’t lose their ethnic and cultural background. And yes, I know that for some this is a theological rather than cultural issue; just be aware that there are at least as many “flavors” of Messianic as there are of Christian – or maybe more, considering our famed hereditary multiplicity of opinions. 😉
    A few more resources to add to your reading lists:
    “In the Shadow of the Temple” by Oskar Skarsaune, on Jewish influences in the early church; “Jewish Believers in Jesus,” edited by Skarsaune (planned 3-volume series, only vol. 1, on the early centuries, is out); various issues of “Mishkan” on a plethora of topics relating to the gospel and the Jewish people (http://mishkanstore.org/store/index.php?cPath=1&sort=2a&page=3); Borough Park Symposium (http://boroughparksymposium.com).
    Donavan (31) – you’ll find both “right-wing” and “left-wing” Messianic believers, though more of the latter in Israel itself. It’s much easier to have absolutist black-and-white answers when you’re not actually living there. One of my favorite ministries works to bring Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians together – http://www.musalaha.org.

  • Glenn

    Pat said, “Jesus came to fulfill the law and the old testament with a new promise, the new covenant. Therefore, Jewish rules, laws and practices have been made irrelevant, except if one is Jewish and does not believe in Jesus.” If this is true then Jewish believers should assimilate into Gentile culture and cease to exist. The question is should they assimilate into Korean culture, African culture, Latino culture, etc? But wait a second. Shouldn’t Jesus make Jewish rules, laws and practices more relevant, especially if one is Jewish and believes in Jesus? Also Pat’s statement at face value denies that the gift and call of Israel is irrevocable. Messianic believers are part of Israel, they share in the gift and call of their people and just like every people group are a witness that God has called his bride from every tribe and nation.

  • Mike Mangold

    Pat’s response (#41) is the flip side of what I was talking about. In my dictionary, “fulfill” is not the same as “destroy.” Obviously, Christians have a desire to follow the 10 Commandments but why even those if the “Jewish rules, laws and practices have been made irrelevant?” And why only those? And why add onto those, for example, some Christian denominations consider a female wearing pants or hanging out laundry on a Sunday to be sins. I know Roman Catholics feel the Vatican has the right to define sin but how did “lusting after your own wife” get in there?
    Oh, and is any particular book by James Dunn relevant here?

  • Robyn Brown

    This is a great discussion!Blessings to all of you! I would love to add another perspective if you would allow me too. First, if I remeber my Bible history right, there were 12 tribes which were split after Solomon’s death. the southern Kingdom being the Jews. As in the book of Esther. The northern Kingdom was never referred to this way. They were the Ivrim in ancient historical accounts. the Assyrians took this group captive and wrote of them. Unlike the return of the Jews after their Baylonian Captivity, These Ivrim of the N. Kingdom never returned.
    You will see these people referred to as Ephraim and Israel through out the prophets and are distinct from Judah. If this boring, skip to the last paragraph:)
    Let me speak form a Hebrew perspective and a bigger picture than just Pauls letters.
    I believe we are seeing this movement is because the LORD said he would do this in the Latter Days. This wave is every bit as exciting as the Days in which our Savior walked the Planet. He is restoring His people back to His Ways, which, He says are a blessing not a burden.
    Deu 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
    Deu 30:20 That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham,(Galatians says we are of Abraham’s seed if we are of Faith) to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. Because this northern kingdom chose NOT to follow the LIfe the LORD gave them, he let them leave like the prodigal son.
    Hosea says because we worshiped other gods we would lose our identity and the torah but that we would repent and find our way back.
    Hos 2:23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. *****Peter reminds us of this prophecy.*****
    Hos 8:12 I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing. We Christians think the law is strange and cumbersome?
    Prophecy of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.
    Deu 30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
    Deu 30:2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
    Deu 30:3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
    Deu 30:4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
    Deu 30:5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
    Deu 30:6 And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
    Jesus speaks of these nonJewish sheep; Joh 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    He is teaching from Ezekiel 34. Go check it out. Next we see the Good Shepherd laying down His life for this *regathering* . Caiaphas prohesies of Him………
    Joh 11:50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.
    Joh 11:51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;
    Joh 11:52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
    Here are a few verses to throw in the mix for thought. Here is how the great Story of the Gospel takes us into the 1000 year reign of the King. Jesus/Yeshua. Also, Isaiah 66 and Zechariah 14 speak of the Sabbath, New Moons, and Feast of Tabernacles in the Millenial Reign. Again, restoration.
    Rev 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
    Rev 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
    Rev 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
    One last thought, Jesus fulfilled the Spring Feasts in His first Coming. The Jews had been rehearsing for centuries leading to this Kyros moment in time. He was the Passover lamb before their eyes, the Firstfruits from the dead (Paul reminds us), and the the sinless picture/unleavened bread….Shavuot/Pentecost/Holy Spirit… I submit that He intends to fulfill the Fall Feasts just as dramatically in His second coming. Trumpets speaks of that Last great Trump when He calls us up!!!, Yom Kippur – that time of rewards and judgment…and Tabernacles where we live with Him for a 1000 years on into eternity!!! Is that not exciting???? I came to a Hebrew understanding of the scriptures because of this revelation. I want to be a part of these rehearsals/Miqrah, so when he comes I am watching and ready.
    Blessings, Robyn

  • Mike M

    Robyn: blessings to you, too. That sure is a lot to chew on.
    Passover Week this year coincides with our Holy Week. I would recommend honoring Passover to all Christians, at least give Seder a go this year. It is a way to remember not only a nation’s release from captivity, but also our own release from the bonds of sin.

  • Your Name

    In relation to anyhting to do with the word “law”- i think we need to remember the following:
    Context is key: Where is the word “law” used in the Tanakh or N.T.? Who is the author? Who is the audience? How does it fit within the rest of the passage and book?
    -Law viewed in negative sense: Ephesians 2:14-16; Romans 3:20; 4:13-15; 6:14; 7:5-6: 10:4; 1 Cor 15:56-57; Gal 2:15-16; 3:10-13; 3:23-25; 5:4; 5:18. Law viewed in positive sense: Romans 2:13;17-20, 23,25; 3:1-2;21-22, 31; 6:15; 8:3-4; 13:8,10; 1Cor 9:8-9; Gal 3:21; 1 Tim 1:8.
    In Christian theology-“Under the law”- is usually taken to mean “within the framework of observing Torah.” “Works of the law”- is usually taken to mean “acts of obedience to the Torah.”
    “…the Greek language of Paul’s day possessed no word-group corresponding to our “legalism,” “legalist” and “ legalistic.” This means that he lacked a convenient terminology for expressing a vital distinction, and so was surely seriously hampered in the work of clarifying the position with regard to the law. In view of this, we should always, we think, be ready to reckon with the possibility that Pauline statements, which at first sight seem to disparage the law, were really directed not against the law itself but against that misunderstanding and misuse of it for which we now have a convenient terminology. In this very difficult terrain Paul was pioneering.” (C.E.B. Cranfield “St. Paul and the Law, “ in Scottish Journal of Theology (1964), pp.43-68.
    Rom 10: 4: Some will argue that Jesus is “the end of the Law.” “End “- is understood by today’s reader as termination. The Greek word for “end” is “telos.” Telos is used 42 times in the New Testament, and in the great majority of cases it means, “aim, purpose or goal to which a movement is directed. Therefore, a better translation is David Stern’s Jewish New Testament which says “”For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who believes.”

  • Eric

    Sorry, that was my post-I have already been participating in this discussion.

  • Ian Blackthorn

    Hmm. This is a very interesting set of questions, and I think my best answer is:
    I have seen this before. Particularly the law-keeping thing, and I have also seen the bit about the Sabbatarian/Judaic Church vs. the non-Sabbatarian/Gentile Church.
    Bacchiocchi, Samuele (1977). From Sabbath to Sunday. Pontifical Gregorian University Press. 4 of 11 chapters online.
    I’ve read the book (sometime back), and he provides an interesting perspective on the historical character of the Sabbath/Sunday controversy. The publisher is Catholic, so take it as you wish.
    An interesting discussion of the entire subject is on Wikipedia. And while Wikipedia is not a particularly scholarly reference, it nonetheless can make an excellent starting point for more research.
    More information about the author of that book: Samuele Bacchiocchi
    And, about the book itself:
    Sabbath to Sunday

    From Sabbath to Sunday has the distinction of being the first book written by a non-Catholic ever to be published by a Pontifical press with the Catholic imprimatur (approval). The book has already been reprinted fourteen times in English and has been translated in several languages. Hundreds of scholars of different persuasions have praised this book as a definitive treatment of the early history of the Lord’s Day.

    I’m not sure I agree with his perspective (many don’t), but it’s interesting, at the very least.

  • Kathy

    I’m sorry I missed this discussion!
    So…do you think early gentiles who became Christians were basically brought into Judaism? Is that what Jesus and Paul had in mind? Is that what Acts 15:21 is alluding to, where it says, “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues?

  • Louise Cohen

    I heard a similar sermon last Summer and went looking for some information. I’m still eagerly seeking, but have found a series on http://www.twr.org.uk called ‘In The Right Mind’ to be really interesting. It seems to be presenting evidence from a non-biased position and I find what the hosts say to be really fascinating. There are past programmes to download. I hope this helps.