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In the last few decades, accompanied by a blaze of publicity, hundreds of so-called "Messianic synagogues" have sprung up in cities throughout the US, Europe, and Israel.
Despite their founders' incessant denials and their unceasing attempts to worm these institutions into the mainstream Jewish community, these "synagogues" have always been rightly perceived to be Evangelical Christian Churches in the guise of Jewish houses of worship. Though divested of the most flagrant Christian symbols (e.g., crosses), and cleverly designed to look "Jewish," their toned down Christian message has been, nevertheless, unmistakable.
And, despite what most people have erroneously been led to believe, they have been singularly unsuccessful in attracting large numbers of Jews to their programs. Even with the endless hype and the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars by various well-connected Christian bodies over the years, the "Messianics" have succeeded in converting only a fraction of a fraction of the vast number of Jews whom only a few years ago they confidently expected to reach by means of their newly minted ersatz "synagogues."
Instead, something totally unexpected has happened. These "Messianic synagogues" have fired the imagination of hundreds of thousands of non-Jews.
Although the founding fathers of "Messianic Judaism" clearly intended the "Messianic movement" to be only a slick evangelical tool to reach Jews and convert them to Christianity, these fledgling "Jewish" congregations have been inundated by hundreds of thousands of non-Jews.
Spiritual pilgrims, these earnest non-Jews are attracted by what they see as the more authentic Jewish traditions in worship and lifestyle, even though at the same time, they want to retain their belief in Jesus as their own personal messiah and savior.
Nevertheless, despite their marked success in attracting masses of gentiles, the new "Messianic synagogues" have failed in their primary purpose, i.e., attracting and converting Jews. According to Reverend Stan Telchin, a Jews-for-Jesus activist, non-Jews make up about 80 percent of those who attend Messianic synagogues.
But, researchers in the field note that the number of Jews reportedly affiliated with Messianic congregations is routinely inflated because "many attendees falsely fabricate Jewish background and ancestry" because it is considered "prestigious" to be thought "Jewish." In addition, the Messianic leadership, anxious to be perceived as a genuine mass "Jewish movement" by the mainstream Jewish community, wildly exaggerates the percentage of ethnic Jews among their membership.
These observers suggest that, despite the pervasive "Jewish" even "Orthodox" image the Messianics desperately seek to project to the Jewish world, the average Messianic congregation is probably over 90 percent non-Jewish.
And the vast majority of ethnic Jews who do attend "Messianic synagogues" are either intermarried or the offspring of mixed marriages in which the father is as likely as the mother to have been the Jewish parent, making the individual not necessarily halachically Jewish at all.
Most of the intermarried couples in these congregations, instead of affiliating with an "ordinary" temple or church, solve their potential religious conflicts by compromising on a "Messianic synagogue."
"Statistically, the number of Jews that get lost to Messianic Judaism is a tiny fraction of the Jews who are lost to us through intermarriage, assimilation, and apathy," said Rabbi Maynard Bell, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the American Jewish Committee.
In Tyler, Texas, Rabbi Neal Katz of Reform Congregation Beth El considers the Messianic movement "less of a threat to us than some people might imagine."
"I think the press has to work fairly hard to find real Jews in some of these [Messianic] congregations," he said.
This massive "over-abundance" of gentiles in a movement that was established to attract Jews to Christianity has not gone unnoticed. In a revealing piece entitled Messianic Gentiles: Just Jewish Wannabes? Christian commentator Ms. Jessie Arcona said that, as a gentile, she has noticed "an undercurrent of frustration" among Jewish members of the Messianic movements because "it is so easy to attract non-Jewish participants and so difficult to attract Jews."
"Messianic groups attempt to give [Jews] a place to be without 'gentilizing' them," she said, describing the "exciting prospect" of "telling Jewish people that their Messiah has already come." "And sometimes it works out that way. One here, one there, a few Jewish proselytes appear," she said.
But, she continued, "Embarrassingly, for every Jewish proselyte, there are many more gentiles who see the appeal of the Messianic movement, and wish to participate. How can the Messianic movement be truly for Messianic Jewish believers, if the place is crawling with Gentiles?"
"So, what to do?" asks Ms. Arcona. "You have these ideals of congregations filled with Jewish people who have discovered their Messiah, and what do you get? A bunch of gentiles playing at being Jewish and getting it all wrong in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways that would make any Jewish person cringe."
"Watching some of these performances is really a kind of travesty," she concluded.
Frequently, gentiles who are genuinely attracted to Judaism, wind up in Messianic congregations, only as way stations before continuing on to full halachic conversion.
Others renounce Christianity and satisfy their spiritual needs by becoming Noahides. Noahides, because they do not convert to Judaism, are only enjoined to follow the Sheva Mitzvot Bnei Noach, the Noahide Laws, a set of seven moral imperatives that according to the Talmud, were given by G-d to Noah as a binding set of laws for all mankind.
According to Jewish tradition, non-Jews who live according to the seven Noahide laws are regarded as Righteous Gentiles and are assured of a place in the World to Come.
Ms. Patricia Power serves as undergraduate academic advisor in the religious studies department at Arizona State University. Some four years ago, she converted to Judaism after years of intensive self-study of Torah and Biblical Hebrew while a member of a local Messianic group. Born and raised a Catholic, she joined a "Bible church" after getting married until friends invited her to join their "Messianic synagogue."
"Judaism spoke to me academically, intellectually, and spiritually. This was not anticipated by the Evangelical movement," she said.
The paucity of Jews affiliating with "Messianic synagogues" should not be surprising. Despite 1700 years of Christian missionizing, persecution, pogroms, inquisitions, crusader violence, expulsions, kidnapping of Jewish children, forced conversions, and mass slaughter culminating in the Holocaust in the heart of Christian Europe initiated by Germany, the cradle of the Reformation, Jews, by and large, have stood firm in their beliefs and traditions.
"Jewish persistence has presented no small theological challenge to church leaders and thinkers, many of whom have asked: Why has the church been so singularly unsuccessful in its past efforts to convert the Jews and what new techniques can be employed to reach them?"
According to Rabbi Tovia Singer, national director of Outreach Judaism and an expert on Christian missionary activities among Jews, "devout evangelists placed the Jewish people under a microscope" and reached the conclusion that Jews do not convert because they simply do not want to stop being Jewish.
"Jews view Christianity as antithetical to Judaism," said Rabbi Singer.
This realization, he explained, prompted "highly motivated Christian missionaries to develop an entirely new technique."
Even in this "enlightened" age, believers who take the Christian Bible, the "New Testament" (NT), literally, are commanded to try to convert Jews to their way of thinking, which means acceptance of the Christian Messiah. "Pluralism" as we understand it, cannot be on the agenda for most Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians. On the contrary, their faith requires them to be "witnesses" for their Messiah whom they believe has come and will come again.
Most traditional Evangelicals (even if they support Israel) would perforce agree even if not out loud with Jewish literary critic Stanley Fish, that Evangelicals are obligated, if they're intellectually honest, to proclaim frankly that theirs is the sole universal truth. "Any hemming and hawing is just pandering to 'politically correct' liberal sensibilities," said Mr. Fish.
This brutal truth shocks many pathetically naïve liberal Jews, who, not taking Judaism seriously themselves, find it almost impossible to believe that there are plenty of people in the world who actually do take the dictates of their religion seriously.
In 1996, The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, passed a resolution calling on its members to "direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jewish people." A 1999 prayer guide by the International Mission Board recommended conversion of Jews to Christianity during their High Holy Days "when they are most vulnerable."
Dr. Jim Sibley, Criswell College professor and former consultant on Jewish evangelism, sanctimoniously told the Baptist Press, the denomination's official news service, "There can be no more extreme form of anti-Semitism than to deny Jews a chance to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Asking Christians to abandon evangelism, he said, would be "akin to asking Jews to eat ham-and-cheese sandwiches. Through our neglect of Jewish evangelism, I believe we have actually sinned,"
Dr. R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary concurred. He called for education on the "strategic issues of Jewish evangelism because Jewish evangelism is so intrinsic to the fulfillment of the Great Commission."
It was in this spirit that Rev. Dr. Bailey Smith, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, stated: "G-d Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew." Though he claimed that he "loved" the Jewish people, he made it perfectly clear that, in his opinion, only prayers offered in the name of Jesus are accepted by G-d.
This missionary theme is not unique to Baptists. Although Martin Luther, arguably the most influential figure in German history, was a rabid anti-Semite and was frequently quoted by the Nazis, "Apple of His Eye Ministries" is an official Lutheran mission designed to convert Jews to Lutheranism. Its website, which features a picture of the Kotel and a black-hatted religious Jew, includes reports from the denomination's August 2008 Berlin conference entitled, "A Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today."
Beaming their conversionary theme direct from the former capital of the Third Reich, the conference declared: "Christians everywhere must not look away when Jewish people have the same deep need for forgiveness of sin and true shalom, as do people of all nations. Love in action compels all Christians to share the Gospel with people everywhere, including the Jewish people of Europe," the site proclaims.
Examples of this genre in Christian literature both hardcopy and electronic are endless, prompting the natural question: Why are Christians so concerned about the spiritual welfare of the Jewish people, especially when they should be tending their own rather weedy garden?
The root cause lies deep within Christianity itself.
In the Gospel According to Matthew (10: 5, 6), Jesus charges his disciples, "Go not into the way of the gentiles...but rather only go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Mark (7: 26, 27) quotes Jesus, when approached by "a Greek, a Syro-phenician woman" who wanted a devil to be "cast" out of her daughter, as saying, "Let the children (the Jews) first be fed: for it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs (i.e. the gentiles)."
In the four Gospels Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John non-Jews are almost completely excluded.
The Apostle Paul (circa 5-67 CE), the real founder of Christianity, called himself the "Apostle of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13). But even he told his minions, "Go to the Jew first, then also to the Greek" (Romans 1: 16). Paul constantly emphasized the necessity of converting the Jews first and only then the gentiles.
But already in the generations immediately after Jesus, the emerging Christian church led by Paul and his successors increasingly gentile by this time found itself in a serious theological dilemma. The Jews, unaccountably, instead of enthusiastically accepting the Christological arguments, preferred to remain in their "unbelief." To Paul it was a mystery.
The early Christian missionaries' problem was how could the "New Covenant," sealed with Jesus' redeeming blood (as they fondly believed), be valid as long the Jewish people the bearers of the "Old Covenant" rejected their message? Of the thousands of Jews who heard Jesus speak and were eye-witnesses to his "mighty works," only a tiny handful followed him.
If Jesus were indeed the promised Messiah, the masses of Jews, led by their spiritual leaders, should have been the first to embrace him!
To account for this disparity, Christian theologians came to see Jewish disbelief in Jesus' "divine mission" as a willful rejection of G-d's cosmic plan. In their minds, it became, in effect, the equivalent of crucifying Jesus yet again.
From a Christian positional perspective, a Jew is either spiritually on the cross crucified with Jesus (as are believing Christians), or is one of the crucifiers, a crime of cosmic proportions.
The NT writers, eager to curry favor with the Roman authorities, early saddled the responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus who, by this time, was theologically well on his way to "becoming" the "Son of G-d" on the Jewish High Priest, the "Pharisees" (that is, the Jewish sages who laid the foundation of the Mishna, the first authorized compilation of the Oral Tradition), and the entire Jewish people the contemporaries of Jesus as well as their descendents until the end of time.
In his account of the death of Jesus, the imaginative Gospel writer Matthew created out of thin air a howling Jewish mob that clamored for Jesus' death, screaming, "His blood be upon us and our children" (Matthew 27: 25).
Once having "accepted" corporate responsibility (as per Matthew 27: 25) for the murder of the "Son of G-d," the Jews, as a people, were seen by Christians as irrevocably spiritually corrupted by this unparalleled crime for all eternity. By converting to Christianity, at least the individual Jew's inherited devilish culpability in Jesus' crucifixion could be lifted.
However, since the Jewish people, despite the exhortations of Jesus, Paul, and their successors, did not en mass accept the Christian message, a question mark perforce hung over Christianity's very authenticity. If the very people, who were the descendents of those who actually heard the messianic prophecies from the inspired lips of G-d's messengers, and possessed ancient traditions concerning their true meaning, did not believe that Jesus fulfilled them, despite Paul's "visions" of the "resurrected heavenly Jesus" (Paul never met Jesus in the flesh), how could Christians legitimately claim to know better?
Therefore, the very existence of Judaism was seen as an affront to Christianity.
But, if in the course of time, the Jews could be brought one way or another to believe that adherence to Torah Law in the post-Jesus era was indeed superfluous, and Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, the Church's theological conundrum would be solved.
For this reason, evangelization i.e. preaching the Christian message with the intent of converting the Jews became the top priority of the Church throughout its bloody history.
It is vital to grasp that only the conversion of an unbelieving Jew to Christianity lent credibility to the Church. The conversion of a gentile while obviously to be encouraged could never have the same theological significance.
Simply put, converting the Jews to Christianity proves the Church's own legitimacy.
Christian theologians understood perfectly well that only if the Jewish people accepted the Christian messiah en mass, the Christian message would be truly vindicated for all time.
At the end of the Book of Matthew, the newly resurrected Jesus is quoted as saying, "I will not return until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'" (23: 39).
Since Jesus was addressing his disciples plus some female hangers-on (all of them Jewish), Christian theologians have always understood this statement to mean one thing: there will be no "Second Coming" or parousia until all the Jews are converted.
In short, all the glorious prophecies foretold by the prophets that would be ushered in by the Second Coming: world peace; an end to want, poverty, and human suffering; universal "knowledge" of G-d; the lion lying down with the lamb, cannot become a reality until the stubborn, unbelieving Jews accept Jesus.
This is a matter of no small urgency for Christians. Far more than Judaism, Christianity is obsessed with eschatology, the study of the "End of Days" as well as the final destination of the immortal soul. Christians found Jewish unwillingness to cooperate in this vision frustrating, to say the least.
Most Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians adhere to the theology of "supercessionism," also called "displacement theology." According to this theory, first developed by St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus of Lyon (circa 130 to 200 CE), when Jesus completed his "ministry on earth," Christianity's "New Testament" superseded Judaism's obsolete "old" one.
Supercessionism, according to Christian theology, meant that G-d had unilaterally abrogated the "Old Covenant" with the Jewish people and that Judaism was now denigrated to a state of permanent inferiority vis-a-vis the glorious "New Covenant," Christianity.
Judaism itself was seen as a religious dead-end, the "victim" of Pharisaic-rabbinic obsession with legalistic minutiae. "The letter (of the Law) killeth, but the spirit (i.e., belief in Jesus) giveth (eternal) life," wrote Paul (2 Corinthians 3:6).
This change in G-d's outlook, so to speak, is graphically dramatized to the Christian believer by the lurid description in Mark (15: 38) of how the veil before the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem was "ripped in twain" by invisible hands at the precise moment when "Jesus gave up the ghost," a story not confirmed in Jewish sources, Josephus or anywhere else.
By the 4th century, supercessionism in one form or another was the accepted doctrine of the Church.
According to this ingenious theory, while the Jews retained all the Biblical prophets' criticism and condemnation, the Biblical blessings were somehow transferred to the new coalescing Church.
Paul had already begun the process of giving the Jewish Bible the Tanach a new Christological reinterpretation, denigrating it to a mere collection of predictions forecasting Jesus' coming. In the Tanach, Christian theologians found ingenious ways (not necessarily congruent to the text) to foresee Jesus as the incarnation of G-d, Jesus' miraculous birth, various episodes in his life, his crucifixion and resurrection, the "atoning power of his precious blood," and so forth.
At the same time, the venerable tradition of Jewish Biblical interpretation was discounted as irrelevant, willfully ignorant, or worse.
Paul set the process in motion of demoting Jewish scriptures to, at best, secondary status, when he wrote to his devotees: "If there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another" (Hebrews 8: 7).
By the time St. Justin Martyr proclaimed that "Christians were the holy people promised to Abraham," the emerging gentile Church, molded by Paul, regarded itself as the blessed "true" or "spiritual" Israel, in contradistinction to the accursed "carnal" Jews who were destined to burn in hell for "rejecting their Messiah."
Christian theologians vigorously lambasted Jewish sages for failing to interpret the key "messianic" passages of Scripture Christologically. St. Cyril of Alexandria (circa 378- 444 CE) wanted to know when the Jews would finally withdraw their "minds from the shadow of the law." "Doctor of the Church" (a title bestowed on him by a grateful Catholic Church), St. Augustine of Hippo (circa 354-430), contemptuously called the Jews mere "satchel bearers" and opined that they "can never understand the Scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus."
Justin Martyr arrogantly told the people of the Bible, the Jews, "The [Hebrew] Scriptures are not yours but ours."
The Jews' inexplicable refusal to accept Christianity soon precipitated vicious popular myths of Jewish stubbornness, depravity, anopia, and eventually even unholy Satanic connections. This motive provided the underpinning of the traditional Catholic prayer which entreated G-d to lift the veil "from Jewish blindness" so they could become good Catholics.
In this, the Church Fathers were acting fully in the spirit of the Gospels, where Jesus was constantly threatening his unbelieving listeners with the wrath of Heaven.
The Gospel according to John was the first to tar the Jewish people with the devil's brush: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do" (John 8: 44).
As opposed to the rather amorphous Jewish vision of gehennom, hell is far more prominent in Christian theology. The NT refers to it as the "place of torments" (Luke 16: 28), a "pool of fire" (Revelation 19:20 and elsewhere), "furnace of fire" (Matthew 13: 42, 50), "unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12, etc.), "everlasting fire" (Matthew 18: 8; 25: 41).
The torments of the damned were perceived to be everlasting (Revelation 14:11; 19:3; 20:10). "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched" (Mark 9: 43, 45, 47). The fire of hell is repeatedly called eternal and unquenchable. The wrath of God "abideth" on the damned (John 3:36); they are "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" (Romans 9:22).
Therefore, in the eyes of believing Christians, the unbelieving Jews perforce must spend eternity writhing in hell fire. Small wonder, therefore, that some Christians, motivated by a genuine concern for the benighted Jews' immortal souls, attempted to lead them to a "saving knowledge" of Jesus.
And if force had to be used against the recalcitrant spiritually backward Jews at times, or their children kidnapped, it was only for their own good; after all, the salvation of their immortal souls was at stake. Besides, was that not the true meaning of the verse from Jesus' Parable of the Banquet: "Compel them to come in" (Luke 14: 13)?
Jesus himself was quoted as saying: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14: 6).
Though the targeted Jews rarely see it that way, to this day, many Christians honestly believe that missionary work among the Jews is a wonderful act of kindness and a repayment of indebtedness that gentiles owe G-d's formerly chosen people.
"If Jewish people are denied the opportunity to hear about Jesus because of Christian self-censorship, then Christians truly will be guilty of anti-Semitism," is the modern version of an old song.
When Jews react to missionaries' attempts to convert them with distaste instead of love, many missionaries are genuinely shocked by what they see as Jewish "ingratitude."
When modern Church leaders finally understood the main bar to mass conversion to Christianity on the part of the Jews was the fact that the vast majority of Jews wished to remain Jewish, Christian missionaries determined to develop an entirely new approach to Jewish evangelism. "It was remarkably simple."
According to Rabbi Singer: "It goes like this: When Jews become believers in Jesus, they are not converting to another religion. On the contrary, they are becoming 'fulfilled' or 'completed' Jews."
"'After all,' they say, 'Jesus was a Jew and his followers were Jewish; therefore, believing in Jesus must be the most Jewish thing you can do,'" explains Rabbi Singer.
The new approach in evangelizing Jews called for massive efforts to blur the distinctions between Judaism and Christianity. The purpose was to deceive naïve Jews who otherwise would resist the straightforward Christian message.
In the mid-1950s, one of the first Christian missionaries in the modern era to adopt this new approach was Reverend Martin Rosen, (aka Martin Meyer, Moshe Rosen, and even "Moishe" Rosen), a Jew who converted to Evangelical Christianity and was ordained a Baptist minister. In 1957, he was assigned to serve the American Board of Missions to the Jews (ABMJ).
In 1973, he founded "Jews for Jesus" (JFJ), which encapsulated in its provocative name the new technique for winning Jews to Christianity.
In a document meant for internal consumption entitled What Evangelical Christians Should Know About 'Messianic Jews, Rev. Rosen was forthright: "We define ourselves as evangelical fundamentalists. We believe in affiliation with a local church and being accountable to the church for service and discipline. We will uphold the local church wherever we can."
"As we win and disciple [convert] Jewish people, we urge them to take their place in a local evangelical church ... " wrote Rev. Rosen.
But the masses of expected Jewish converts to Christianity failed to materialize; this prompted Rev. Rosen to fine-tune his technique. His new method would be to "disciple" Jewishly illiterate young Jews from non-observant backgrounds, by "proving" to them that he represented authentic "completed" Judaism as opposed to the "incomplete" antiquated version they were vaguely familiar with.
"Preying on the lack of Jewish knowledge," Rabbi Dov Aharoni Fisch in his Jews for Nothing on Cults, Inter-marriage, and Assimilation wrote, "Moshe Rosen claimed that his movement (JFJ) was not less Jewish than the typical Reform or Conservative Jewish temple [i.e., it was just one more Jewish denomination]."
Rev. Rosen admitted his deceptive practices in a pamphlet entitled Sharing the New Life with a Jew in which he advised Messianic missionaries to at first avoid emphasizing the divinity of Jesus more than necessary because it made "witnessing" to Jews much more difficult.
Mr. Scott Hillman of Jews for Judaism, an international organization designed to counter Christian missionaries founded by Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz in 1985, explains: "Few Hebrew-Christians tell you up front that their belief is identical to that of the Baptist Church. The use of the term 'Messianic Jew' for example is nothing more than 'Newspeak' and an attempt to make their beliefs appear Jewish. Even fewer will tell you that they believe Jesus is G-d and not just Messiah."
Rev. Rosen advised the newly organized "Messianic synagogues" to use Jewish accoutrements such as kippot, tallitot, Torah scrolls, Jewish music, and extensive use of Hebrew to disguise the Christian nature of their theology from potential Jewish converts.
The leaders of these groups were often ordained Christian ministers, specifically trained by JFJ activists in techniques for converting Jews.
Many of these activists are not only products of newly created "Messianic yeshivot," but frequently also invent bogus "Orthodox" Jewish provenances which "somehow" are virtually always too vague to be checked.
In these ersatz yeshivot, aspiring missionaries are taught "Messianic Apologetics," "Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus," "The Brit Chadasha: A survey of the New Testament from the Jewish perspective," and "Personal Communications: How to Interact with Various People in Various Situations for the Best and Right Results."
There are also "Messianic Batei Midrash" where students wear kippot and have tzitzit hanging out.
Christian missionaries, whether masquerading as JFJ, "Messianic Jews," or "Hebrew Christians," can honestly claim that the concept of "lying for the Lord" (the "Moonies" call this technique "heavenly deception") originated with Paul. In I Corinthians 8: 20-22, Paul boasts: "And unto the Jews, I became as a Jew, that I might gain (i.e. convert) the Jews."
But he was not above simulating to others as well. To those who were "without law," that is, "Greeks" (gentiles), he became a "Greek"; to the "weak," he behaved as though he were "weak."
"I am made all things to all men that I might by all means gain some," he candidly admits.
In Philippians 1: 18 Paul continues in this vein: "What then? Not withstanding, every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."
"Indigenous cultural evangelism" is an elegant academic term frequently used for the kind of disingenuous missionary technique innovated and perfected by Paul; as long as missionaries make their targets think that they can simultaneously be Christians and Jews, "lying for the Lord" is justified.
When the first "indigenous Messianic synagogues" were established, it was considered a tremendous "missiological breakthrough."
In these new congregations, the baptismal process morphed into immersion in a mikveh; "Jesus Christ" became "Yeshua Hamashiach." The "New Testament" became the "New Covenant" or, better yet, the Brit Chadasha. Christian symbols like the cross were not to be seen. John the Baptist became "Yochanan the Immerser."
"You will never find a Christmas tree or blinking colored lights around December in a Messianic congregation. Instead, these missionaries celebrate Jewish holidays with a 'Christological' spin. Messianic congregations will never be listed in the Yellow Pages under churches. They are always listed with the synagogues," said Rabbi Singer.
The congregants are never referred to as Christians, but rather "Bible believing Jewish followers of 'Rabbi Yeshua'" and his epigone "Rav Sha'ul" (Paul).
A good example of Messianic mimicry is Messianic Congregation New Beth Israel located in Syracuse, NY. The congregation uses the same building that, 50 years ago, once housed a now-defunct Orthodox synagogue by the same name. Its website assures its readers that the congregation is "Torah observant, Ruach (Spirit)-filled, and Sabbath-keeping."
"The level of orthodoxy observed by our members is individualized based on their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. A few of our men wear tzi tzi [sic], even under their garments," the site boasts.
The members of New Beth Israel "celebrate the Shabbat" at home on Friday evenings; the lady of the house lights candles followed by kiddush and a family Sabbath meal. After Shabbat morning services (there are no Friday evening services at NBI), members "often fellowship" at one another's homes. "However, sometimes, we all go out to lunch together to the nearby Chinese buffet."
The congregational prayer repertoire includes a "regular" rendition of the "Borchu, the Shema, the V'ahafta, the Pre- and Post-Torah Blessings, the Etz Chaim, the V'ne'emar, and the Aaronic Benediction (Y-varechecha." This, the site says, is accompanied by "very gregarious Messianic Praise Music and Davidic Dancing."
Every week, the congregation's bearded spiritual leader reads excerpts from the weekly portion from a Torah scroll, "the corresponding Haftorah (Hebrew Scripture) and Brit Hadasha (New Covenant) portions." But as of yet, they have no Hebrew teacher.
As in most Messianic congregations, Christmas and Easter are not celebrated at New Beth Israel, "because they are technically the legitimization of formerly pagan holidays," and, therefore, "it would be inappropriate to acknowledge them corporately."
Despite the Jewish paraphernalia, the Messianic leaders' hidden agenda remains the same: the propagation of the Evangelical Christian belief system, including such key Christian concepts as the Trinity, "virgin birth," "resurrection and ascension," the "redeeming power of Jesus' blood," and all the rest.
This is certainly true at New Beth Israel, which, like most Messianic congregations, celebrates "the birth and resurrection of Messiah Yeshua."
Unlike the rest of the Christian world, many Messianics, including those at New Beth Israel, claim that Jesus' birth was during Sukkot and the "resurrection three days after Pesach which is the Biblical holiday of Bikkurim (first fruits) [sic], which we do celebrate."
Some of these local congregations operate "Messianic Hebrew Schools," child day care facilities, and "Bible counseling centers." There are also a few "Messianic day schools."
It can be a shock for the uninitiated to view the website of Shammash Ariel, of Pueblo, Colorado, for the first time. Led by a self-proclaimed "Rebbe" with a long white beard and peyot who, unlike the local rabbis, prays with a large talit over his head, the services at Messianic synagogue Shammash Ariel seem, at first glance, reminiscent of a right-wing Conservative congregation.
The website reads: "There are some modern day sects of Judaism (Reform and some Conservative) that do permit women to serve on the Bima [sic] alongside men. Some even permit women to become Rabbis, though there is no scriptural basis for this."
"Most Messianic congregations tend to side with the Orthodox concerning the role of women and the Bima," the website concludes.
The website vigorously trumpets the congregation's commitment "to maintaining a vibrant Jewish community focused on Torah, Mitzvot, and our Messiah, Yeshua."
Shammash Ariel maintains a standard of kashrut that is considerably higher than most Reform temples.
Many full blown "Jewish" Messianic congregations have developed in areas where the actual Jewish presence is infinitesimal if not non-existent.
Priest River, Idaho, an idyllic town of 1,500, 70 miles from the Canadian border, has such a Messianic congregation. Its website displays a smiling father with his arm around his adoring son. Lovingly gazing into each others eyes; both are wearing white kippot and tallitot.
Like Jewish houses of worship everywhere, this Jesus worshipping congregation in the wilds of Idaho, has their main service on "Shabbat," is "Torah pursuant," the men wear kippot and tallitot, the women cover their hair, "Jewish liturgical worship" is their mode of prayer, and services are concluded with an Oneg Shabbat and Kiddush.
The Idaho congregation holds "special services" on "both Biblical and traditional Jewish holidays, e.g. Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), Rosh HaShanah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), Hanukah (Feast of Dedication) and Purim (Feast of Esther)."
Led by bearded zekeinim ("elders"), the congregation enthusiastically "identifies with Israel as the Jewish homeland," has an Israeli flag in their sanctuary, uses as much Hebrew as possible in their services, and has bar and bat mitzvah celebrations. However, "training" for this traditional Jewish rite of passage "is centered around learning G-d's Word as it pertains to a personal relationship with Him through the Messiah Yeshua."
Unlike many Reform temples, "pork products, shellfish and anything containing animal fat or lard are not allowed" on the premises. And unlike many Reform and Conservative congregations, women, while expected to cover their heads with veils or scarves, are not permitted to wear kippot or tallitot.
In the bizzare world of "Messianic Judaism," sometimes when there are several Messianic congregations in close proximity, there can be a sort of competition to see which is more "authentically Jewish." In Dallas, Texas, three Messianic congregations and a number of home-worship groups vie for the title.
In an email, "Ebony Queen," an Afro-American "27-year-old wife and proud mother of four," describes her household: "We are a Torah-Observant family meaning that we observe Yahweh's laws. We are biblically kosher meaning no pork, shellfish. We observe the feasts and Shabbat."
In a pattern familiar to many Orthodox Jews, this Messianic gentile prefers to surround herself with "Torah observant" people similar to herself. For this reason, she and her family attend Messianic congregation Simchat Torah on Shabbat "because it's Orthodox."
"Well, almost," adds the perhaps more theologically precise "Queen of Sheba," but unlike other Messianic congregations in the area, "We use the ArtScroll Siddur. However, we also say a few prayers related to Jesus' messiahship."
"There is an Orthodox Messianic synagogue in Plano, TX where they do have the full partition between men and women when they pray."
"The [Messianic] home synagogue where we occasionally fellowship does not have a partition. But they observe the Talmud on the same level as Torah," "Ebony Queen" adds.
Unusual among Messianic congregations, the Simchat Torah website quotes extensively from Pirkei Avot, including such notorious Pharisees as Hillel, Shammai, and Rabbi Meir.
According to "Ebony Queen," the more "Reform-minded" Messianics in the area attend Messianic synagogue "Boruch HaShem."
Lambasting the lack of observance she found at Boruch HaShem, she complains that, "It's way too Reform for me."
She continues: "I love G-d's Laws. They were put here to teach us how to live and to govern ourselves instead of needing people over us to tell us. The law lets us know what sin is. If we don't know the law, we will have no idea as to where an infraction may have occurred."
"Oh, and we ALL believe wives should cover their heads when outside of the home. Hair is a woman's glory, hair attracted the fallen angels to the daughters of men hair is purdy lol. So wives, women who are unavailable, should help men not to lust after them and cover their hair."
"Ebony Queen" ended her email with the beautiful blessing: "Shalom and Yom Tov. YHWH's grace and peace upon you and your house."
Mr. Mark Powers, Jews for Judaism's national director, notes: "We've seen over a period of years a change from what could be called more Christian-looking to more Jewish-looking, Messianic activity."
Mr. Powers recalled how he recently "attended" a "Torah observant" Messianic convention in San Diego. "If I didn't know where I was, I could have been in Borough Park on a Saturday afternoon," he said. "The attempt to effect the look, to appear Jewish, is clearly what this movement or segments of it are heading toward."
Founder of the Denver Community Kollel, Rabbi Aaron Schwab, goes one step further. Drawing on his own sad experiences with duplicitous Messianics, he contends that today's Messianic Jews "have two stages in their missionizing. One is to go and learn all you can so you can soak up all the movements and motions of the Orthodox community the clothes, the way the hat is worn, everything. The idea is to learn all the exterior trappings . . . and then implement that and trap other innocent Jews who are looking for what they think is true Torah religion."
The enormous crush of non-Jews flooding into Messianic synagogues means there are now "Jewish" congregations with only a smattering of Jews engulfed by a huge majority of Gentiles. According to Rabbi Singer, this has threatened some of the "ethnic Jews" who are now "concerned about their ability to retain leadership roles in these congregations."
"Not surprisingly, as ethnic Jews asserted their independence and claimed a 'natural' right to lead the movement, the largely non-Jewish constituency began to feel some sense of discrimination," said Rabbi Singer.
One fuming non-Jewish woman, who used to attend a Messianic synagogue in her area, quit when the "lies and hypocrisy" became too overwhelming to be ignored.
When her Messianic synagogue began selling tickets for "the Passover meal," which was to be catered at a local banquet hall, members of the congregation (almost all of whom were non-Jews) were required to pay $22 each. "But Jewish guest tickets were free. The same invitation was not extended for the native-born gentiles," she said.
The woman noted that same year when the sisterhood of the congregation threw a Chanukah party, the Messianic leadership instructed them "to invite only Jewish women and women married to Jewish men." The members were specifically told "not to invite your gentile friends."
According to this woman, "many Torah-observant gentiles" who were seeking "a spiritual home" wanted to join this particular Messianic synagogue, but "they were shunned and basically told not to let the door hit them on the way out."
"This would not have happened if it were Jewish people trying to find a spiritual home," she complained, adding that she felt she was only pointing out "the lies and hypocrisy."
"Messianic leadership can say they have no such second-class citizens until they are blue in the face, but actions speak louder than words," she said.
For a while, some Messianic congregations seriously considered granting full membership only to those of Jewish descent and their spouses, relegating "ordinary" gentiles to "associate member" status. As can be imagined, this generated much ill will.
One Texas born proselyte to Judaism who for many years was an observer of the Messianic "scene" in Washington adds: "Some of the gentiles who were members of the Messianic churches (i.e. Messianic "synagogues") got fed up with their 'second-class' status there and found a way to equalize it by latching on to a new theology called "Two-House" in which the non-Jewish believers in Jesus are 'Ephraim/Israel' and the Messianic Jews are 'Judah.'"
Since they couldn't find the "equality" they sought in the Messianic synagogues as gentiles, "some of them very creatively invented this new spiritual identity for themselves and suddenly they became 'Israelites'" descendants of the ten lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
As "Israelites," they become privy to (in their minds anyway) all the privileges of the original exiled Israelite tribes. This includes the right of permanent residence in Israel and the immediate granting of Israeli citizenship upon arrival as mandated by Israel's Law of Return for Jewish olim.
Scores, and perhaps hundreds, of "Two Housers," masking their gentile identity, have already taken up residence in Israel. In the guise of ba'alei teshuva, they try to infiltrate religious communities, taking advantage of traditional Jewish hospitality.
According to some reports, many more of these "Israelites" are planning "to join their brothers, the 'Yehudites' in Eretz Yisrael" in the not-too-distant future.
On their website, called "Hear O Israel:" "Rivka" writes: "Those who are too steeped in their Talmudic traditions to find time to read their Tanach will be surprised when Yahweh brings us home without giving up Yeshua, but we will be sure to invite him to the party!"
"Nachshon" comments: "Just as the Ephraimite spies [sic] reported back to Joshua with the good report, I report to all the house of Joseph and Yehuda, Yahueh [sic] will lead us back to the land as followers and keepers of Torah, including Sabbath (sic), Yahueh's holy days (not man-made holidays), kosher diet of Torah, and as followers and believers of Yeshua, our Messiah, King, and Redeemer."
In a recent Israel National News forum, Jeffrey Gayken, an "Ephraimite" from South Carolina, posted: "All we [Ephraimites] want is to be recognized as equal heirs to the covenants of Hashem and given a place to come home too [i.e. Eretz Yisrael]. We want to embrace our brothers and sisters (the Jews) and help foster growth toward the imminent return of our Messiah Yeshua when He comes as King over Yerushalayim."
Some "Torah-observant Israelite" groups are not nearly as benign.
On its website, the Messianic Evangelical New Covenant Church of G-d (NCCG) has a section entitled "Talmudic Judaism: The Dark Truth," in which readers are promised that if "you are a genuine believer in the Lord Yeshua and you obey the Torah, you are marked by heaven as belonging to one of the Twelve Tribes, whether by descent or by adoption. If you are a Torah-observant Christian, you are Israel and there is no other Israel."
This "Torah-observant site" leaves little doubt as to the ghastly fate that awaits the unconverted "Talmudic" Jews currently living in Eretz Yisrael. They "will be displaced by HaShem if they have not repented and received the true Messiah, whom they have reviled, persecuted, and killed."
"If they receive Him, they will be forgiven. If they do not, they will be cast out of the land which they are illegally occupying, along with all the other heathens who name other gods," the NCCG website promises its devotees.
Our Texas observer commented, "In my opinion, this is where much of the 'Hebrew Roots Restoration' movement and its evolving theology are heading. Once everyone who was supposed to come out either as converts [to Judaism] or Noahides has done so, those who return to the mainstream churches will spread the old Christ-killer accusation against Jews and many of those who remain stuck in the false belief that they are 'True Israel' will fall into the arms of the 'Christian Identity'/Neo-Nazis ..."
There are a number of Christian Identity groups and militias, all of them allied or associated with "White Christian Patriots" from throughout Western Christendom. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that they are the "Nations of Modern True Israel."
They are careful to note that, "This, of course, does NOT include the imposter Jew State of Israel in Palestine, or the multitudes of "Muds" (remember "mudbloods" from Harry Potter?) that have "invaded the Nations of Western Christendom, our modern day White Kingdoms of True Israel" which stand in direct confrontation to "the Zionist Occupation Government, the Jew World Order, and their cornerstone, the Jewnited States of America."
But these groups seem like sweetness and light when compared to the "Two Seed" theologians who preach, in the spirit of John 8: 44, that while white Christians of Northern European descent are indeed "Israel," the "Satanic Jews" are literally the biological descendants of the devil himself, who, in the form of the serpent, had sexual relations with Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Despite our Texas-born observer's dire predictions and the squabbles between "ethnic Jews" and gentiles in Messianic congregations, the overwhelming majority of the gentiles in the Hebrew Roots Restoration movement are not following this path.
"Non-Jewish Christians were increasingly being drawn to live a more Jewish or Hebraic lifestyle because of (a) an increased level of awareness of the 'Jewishness' of Jesus, Paul and their first-century CE following, and (b) the rise of "Hebraic Roots" ministries that encouraged and taught non-Jews to model themselves after their now thoroughly 'Jewish' Messiah," notes Rabbi Singer.
Our Texas born observer concurs: "It was the gentiles who were at first attracted to 'Messianic Judaism' who inspired a 'Hebrew Roots Restoration Movement' which spread into all the Fundamentalist and some mainline Evangelical churches. As a result many (most?) now celebrate a Passover Seder of sorts every spring."
This increasingly widespread phenomenon [of "Hebrew roots"] "runs the gamut from Presbyterians and Lutherans who have added Passover seders to their Easter celebrations," to self-described "Torah-observant" Messianic congregations who, like one in Houston, "build their synagogues using imported Jerusalem stone," a website that specializes in auditing "Two House (Ephraimite) Theology" notes.
Vatican II (1962-1965) heralded a sea change in official Catholicism's attitude towards Judaism and the Jewish people. It did not take long for some Catholics to start exploring their Jewish roots.
As early as 1988, the newsletter of the US Catholic Bishop's Committee on Liturgy contained the following: "It is becoming familiar in many parishes and Catholic homes to participate in a Passover seder during Holy Week ... It is wrong to 'baptize' the seder by ending it with New Testament readings about the Last Supper, or worse, turn it into a prologue to the Eucharist."
"When Christians celebrate this sacred feast among themselves, the rites of the Hagaddah for the Seder should be respected in all its integrity. The Seder should be celebrated in a dignified manner, and with sensitivity to those whom the seder truly belongs."
"Seders arranged at or in cooperation with local synagogues are encouraged," the Catholic bishops emphasized using bold print.
According to Professor Desmond Maxwell of Belfast Bible College, if the Hebrew Roots Movement continues to gather momentum, it could result in "virtually another Reformation."
Messianics converting halachically to Judaism is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon. This is especially true for gentiles who erroneously believed that they could express their desire to become Jewish by joining a Messianic congregation.
Once involved, however, they, like many Jews, soon come to understand that a Messianic "synagogue" is nothing more than an Evangelical church deceptively designed to ape a synagogue in order to lure Jews who might otherwise be uncomfortable with the Christian trappings.
"Messianic Judaism was only a ruse to use, hoping that the Jewish person who didn't believe in Jesus would see that the Jewish believers were still 'Jewish,' and be saved. Sabbath and Passover were only deceptive tools in this charade. The founding fathers, as well as the current leadership, do not hold Torah, Sabbath, and Passover as holy. It's only [Jewish] a cultural window decoration to win the Jewish people to a Law-less Christ," wrote disillusioned Jewish Messianic Avraham Yehoshua.
Once Christianized, the meaning of Jewish customs are distorted out of all recognition.
Rabbi Singer gives an example: "At first glance, a Messianic Passover seder table appears quite traditional with all the customary essentials, including a seder plate, matzah, and wine."
"Once the ceremony begins to unfold, however, even the most uninitiated will immediately realize that something is askew," said Rabbi Singer.
"Participants are told that the wine at the seder table represents the blood of Yeshua/Jesus, and the matzah represents his body."
Rabbi Singer reconstructed a "Passover Messianic question-and-answer" session: "Do you know the real reason why Jews have three matzoth at the seder table? To represent the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Do you know why the matzahs are perforated? Because Jesus was pierced through when he was crucified. Why does the matzah have stripes? Because Jesus had stripes across his back as a result of the beating he endured during his trial. Why is the middle matzah broken? Because Jesus was brutally broken on the cross. Why is the matzah wrapped in a white towel? Because Jesus was wrapped in a white burial shroud. Why is this middle matzah hidden? Because Jesus was hidden away in the tomb following his crucifixion. Why is the matzah brought back at the end of the meal? Because Jesus will return in the Second Coming at the End of Days."
This sort of thing does not only repulses Jews, but also disgusts many serious gentiles. "They soon come to realize that the Messianic movement exists in order to generate the very opposite effect that they wish to be a part of," notes one observer.
While most of these gentile spiritual seekers first convert to Judaism under Reform or Conservative auspices, many of them continue their spiritual odyssey and, in the end, gravitate to Orthodox Judaism, undergo halachic conversion, and become active members of the observant community in the US and Israel.
Like Ruth of the Bible, many of these converts to Judaism are of exceptionally high quality.
"We see something happening over and over again amongst believers in Yeshua today. That is, their 'rediscovery of their Jewish roots' leads them into a denial of Yeshua himself," said Hanna Nesher, a self-described "Messianic Jew."
According to Ms. Nesher, this "alienation from Yeshua" may be prompted by the "horror" felt by Christians when they learn of the "historical, bloody, blot of anti-Semitism on the Christian Church."
"Understandably contrite and broken-hearted for the vile acts perpetrated against the Jewish people 'in the name of Christ,' some want to distance themselves from anything 'Christian,' and even in some cases from the Messiah Himself," she said.
But there is something else at work here, too. It is clear that Jewish anti-missionary activist groups, including Rabbi Singer's Jewish Outreach, Jews for Judaism, Chabad, Aish HaTorah are giving the Messianics Jews and Gentiles a run for their money.
"If one is not well-versed in scripture, their [anti-missionary] arguments can sound convincing. Doubts begin to form in one's mind and answers seemingly cannot be found. As the believer opens him or herself more and more to rabbinic Jewish teachings, including Kabbalah and Zohar, it seems as if the blindness begins once again to descend. Finally, the veil is firmly back in place over the eyes of the believer and he or she is no longer able to 'see' the Light," said Ms. Nesher.
It is, she said, a phenomenon Jewish Messianics see repeatedly. "Believers who begin to study under Judaism by Christians "seems to exceed anything Jews for Jesus or the other groups have ever specifically accomplished. And that has been achieved without spending millions of dollars on glitzy campaigns," he said.
Other experts posit that the wave of converts to Judaism is likely to increase exponentially as the "second generation of Messianics grow to maturity."
"In addition, today, the Internet allows people easy access to authentic uncensored information on Judaism that, at one time, was available only in major libraries. The importance of having this information available to religious seekers in their own homes cannot be over-estimated," observer Daniel Gwertzman points out.
Phoenix-resident "Sam" and his family are examples of Mr. Ross's astute observation and Ms. Nesher's recurrent nightmare. A former deacon at a fundamentalist Christian church, Sam originally dreamed of converting Jews to Christianity.
But he felt something was missing in his own education, and turned to the "Old Testament" for solace. His study of the Hebrew Scriptures brought him to "Hebrew Christianity," which he thought was more authentic than the Christianity he knew. As a "Hebrew Christian," he engaged in evangelism, primarily to Jews, but also to Gentiles. While some Jews were initially attracted to him and his message, he found many more Christians who "felt they lacked a connection with G-d." Seeking "the real thing," these Christians also turned to the Jewish Bible "to hear Hebrew words and feel closer to G-d."
As Sam and his family delved deeper into Judaism, the more they began to doubt the fundamentalist teachings they once held as absolute truth, such as the Virgin Birth, the divine and human character of Jesus, and even the veracity of Christian Scripture. Finally, after reading "equally powerful" quotes in the original Hebrew Bible, they questioned whether Jesus was really the only path to salvation.
Eventually, Sam and his family underwent conversion to Judaism, supervised by an Orthodox Beit Din. Today they live a thoroughly halachic lifestyle and are members of the Young Israel of Phoenix.
Not surprisingly, these developments have infuriated many mainstream Christian leaders who bitterly resent the veritable miasma of Jewish influences and customs seeping into their churches from all sides.
Some of these leaders even have branded advocates of the "Hebrew Roots Restoration Movement" and "Messianic Judaism" with the truly awful epithet resuscitated from early first-century intra-Christian struggles, when Paul vociferously and routinely besmirched his opponents as "Judaizers."
Christian critics of "Messianic Judaism" argue that the "Apostle" Paul (these people do not speak of "Rav Sha'ul") was indifferent to ethnicity, Jewish or otherwise. They frequently quote his maxim from Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile), for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
In addition to the theological problems, these church leaders dislike most Messianics' politics. Like most Evangelicals, the Messianics are politically quite conservative, while the mainstream churches have grown increasingly left-wing liberal.
Rev. Telchin, the JFJ activist, has accused proponents of "Messianic Judaism" of confusing Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus and of becoming a divisive influence in the church. "Their insistence on following rabbinic form and their statements that Jewish believers need to be in Messianic synagogues in order to maintain their identities is unbiblical," he argued.
However, Rev. Telchin's criticism must be taken with a grain of salt. While there are few theological differences between JFJ and the Messianics, there is something of a "turf war" going on between them. Not only do they have to compete for the relatively few Jews who are interested in what they have to offer, but they have different goals. JFJ (as noted above) prefers to "mainstream" any Jews they convert into local Evangelical churches, while the Messianics want them to join their own congregations.
Fuelling their anger is the fact that hundreds of thousands of members of "ordinary" churches have joined the ever-swelling flood of gentiles streaming into the Messianic synagogues. Pari passu, hundreds of millions of dollars that might have funded "ordinary" church projects also has been "re-routed" to the Messianics' bulging coffers. That hurts.
But for these mainstream church leaders, perhaps the greatest concern is that making Jesus "too Jewish" might seriously undermine the "supernatural status" of the "Second Person of the Trinity." They feel that the gap between "Christ Jesus," the "virgin-born savior" to whom "all power is given in heaven and earth" (Matthew 18: 8) and the Messianics' cracker-barrel folksy "Rav Yeshua" is just too great.
For these reasons, mainstream Christian leaders brutally castigate Messianic leaders for refusing to cut the "umbilical cord" that binds them to "Talmudic Pharisaic man-made doctrines" that Jesus supposedly abolished. They vehemently decry the Messianics for preferring to do the "Jewish thing" even if it "violates the plain truth of Scripture."
In their eyes, the Messianics are the classic case of the "blind leading the blind" (Matthew 15: 14). They themselves sin and "become as a snare" to the unsuspecting gentiles who are thereby "led astray."
Worse, for these Christians, whether mainstream or Messianic, is a gnawing gut feeling that all their efforts to legitimize the "belief in Jesus" in the wider Jewish community will be in vain.
"Traditional Judaism will never accept Messianic Judaism as a legitimate expression of the Jewish faith," resigningly admit many disappointed church leaders.
Yea, many peoples and mighty nations
Shall seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem,
And to entreat the favor of the Lord.
Thus saith the Lord of Hosts: In these days it shall come to pass
That ten men, out of all the languages of the nations,
Shall even take hold of the skirt of him who is a Jew, saying:
We will go with you, for we have heard
That G-d is with you."
(Zechariah 8: 22, 23)
Catriel Sugarman is a researcher on American Jewry, a social critic
and lecturer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was published in the Jewish Voice and Opinion
Englewood, New Jersey.
This article was published in the Jewish Voice and Opinion Englewood, New Jersey.
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