What is Messianic Judaism?
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What is Messianic Judaism?
Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish people from all walks of life, who believe that Yeshua (Jesus -in Hebrew) is the promised Jewish Messiah and Savior for Israel and the world. Messianic Jews have not stopped being Jewish. On the contrary, we have continued to remain strongly Jewish in our identity, lifestyle, and belief that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah and the fulfillment of true Biblical Judaism.
When did Messianic Judaism begin?
Messianic Judaism is actually 2,000 years old. Dating back to the time of the Messiah Yeshua. Historically, Yeshua was Jewish. He was raised in a Jewish home and ministered to Jewish people in a Jewish land (Eretz Yisrael). His disciples were Jewish. The apostles were Jewish. The writers of the Brit Hadashah (New Covenant or New Testament) were Jewish, and for a time, the faith was strictly Jewish.
Some historians believe that more than one million Jewish people in the first century A.D. believed that Yeshua was the Messiah, both in Israel and outside of Israel (Acts 2:37-42, 4:4, 21:20).
If Messianic Judaism was strictly Jewish at first, how did Gentiles come into the faith?
It was always God’s will for the Gentile nations to also receive His Salvation (Is. 49:6, 42:6). God told Abraham, that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12: 1-3).
At first, the early Messianic Jews did not understand that this was God’s will and proclaimed the Good News of the Messiah only to Jewish people.
Ironically, the big controversy in the first century was not if it was Jewish to believe in Yeshua (naturally it was) but whether Gentiles could come in without having to “become Jewish!” When Messianic Jews finally recognized that God’s Salvation was also for the Gentiles, they began to share the Messiah with the non-Jews as well as with the Jews. As a result, many Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire began to come into this Messianic faith (Acts 15:1-31).
What is the difference between Messianic Judaism and Gentile Christianity?
Gentile Christianity is the faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as expressed by Gentile followers of Him. Gentile Christianity today numbers over one billion people in the world, with innumerable denominations and doctrines, all centered around Yeshua as Savior.
For most of the first century A.D., this faith in Yeshua was predominantly Jewish. As more and more Gentiles came into the Messianic faith however, some did not understand its Jewish roots and God’s eternal covenant with Israel. A “de-Judaizing” process set in, a separation from the Jewish roots of the faith and from the Jewish people.
This separation eventually led to the formation of a second wing of this faith in Yeshua composed of Gentile believers i.e. “Christianity.” While we feel we are one in the Spirit with true Gentile believers, Messianic Jews have our own expression of faith in Yeshua the Messiah. Messianic Judaism holds that it is Jewish to believe in Yeshua and is a return to the Jewish roots of the faith.
We observe the Biblical feasts and holidays, while at the same time maintaining that the only way to be saved and truly born again of God’s Spirit is through the great atoning work of the Messiah Yeshua (Rom. 11:24-25).
How was the first century Messianic Judaism “transformed” into Gentile Christianity?
When the early Messianic Jews took the Good News of the Messiah to the Gentiles, a great number were brought into this Messianic faith. By the end of the first century A.D., the number of Gentile believers out-numbered the Jewish Believers by a ratio of two to one! This occurred primarily because there were (and still are) more Gentiles in the world than Jewish people.
Through the years, as the number of Gentile believers increased, they began to dominate this Messianic faith. Some Gentile believers, not understanding the Jewish roots of their faith and God’s eternal covenant with Israel, wanted to split off and form a separate religion divorced from their Jewish roots (Rom. 11:1-2). This “de-Judaizing process” continued until Gentile Christianity emerged as the dominant representative faith in the Messiah. In one of the greatest paradoxes in history, it became alien for a Jew to believe in Yeshua as his Messiah!
When did the early Messianic Jews disappear and why?
Surprisingly, Messianic Judaism continued to flourish well into the seventh century A.D., in spite of the many pressures on the Jews to give up their Messianic faith.
First of all, the Rabbis pressured Messianic Jews to relinquish their faith in Yeshua as the Messiah. In addition, Gentile Christianity wanted Messianic Jews to abandon their Jewishness. Finally, in the seventh century A.D. the rise of Islam caused great pressures for Messianic Jews as well.
Despite all this, the real reason for the disappearance of early Messianic Judaism was simply that Messianic Jews lost their “vision.” They no longer saw that it was important to remain Jewish after accepting Yeshua. This was because the majority of believers in Yeshua were now members of Gentile Christianity. Consequently, Messianic Jews assimilated completely into the Gentile Christian Church.
When did the modern movement of Messianic Judaism begin?
Even though Messianic Judaism, as a distinct movement, faded from the ancient scene in the seventh century A.D., there have always been Jewish believers in the Messiah Yeshua. However, beginning in the early 1800’s, ever increasing numbers of Jewish people began to believe in Yeshua as the Messiah. The modern movement came to fruition after 1967 when tens of thousands of Jewish people suddenly accepted Yeshua.
Because that is when Jerusalem came back into Jewish hands in fulfillment of a prophecy given by Yeshua in the Brit Hadashah (Luke 21:24). This prophecy indicated that when Jerusalem was restored to the Jewish people God would turn once again to His Jewish people in national salvation. Messianic Judaism is a prophetic movement and a direct result of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon His Chosen People (Hos. 3:4-5, Joel 2:28-29, Deut. 30:1-3).
Messianic Judiasm 101
Rabbi Greg Hershberg
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree