A Brief and Mild Rebuke of Some Messianic Jewish Snark

December 26, 2018


Guess what. Christianity is not a dirty word.

Some people, MANY people, have a naive version of Messianic Judaism which is really a kind or proof-texty hodge-podge of a personalist Torah orientation, AND they believe this to be an elite religion for the world in contrast to an "apostate" church which "fails to keep the feasts, or to keep Torah or the seventh day sabbath."

This entire viewpoint is naive and quirky. God did not give the Feasts (which the Jews never call them) to the Gentile world, nor did he give the Torah and its mitzvot to the other nations.

He says in Exodus 31:17 that the shabbat is his gift to Israel in particular as a covenant sign between himself and them, so rejecting the church for not keeping the seventh day sabbath is, at best, strange, and in all respects, uninformed.

And the Church is an institution in which God's Spirit has been at work for 2000 years. To write it off as apostate is cultic and proud. Period.

Messianic Judaism is a bewildered multitude right now. Only some are looking for and following a bona fide pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. Most are running off in wrong directions or just wandering around. We have no right to stand in judgment over anyone.

Sorry for the rant. But this is something that needs to be said. . . about once every three weeks.

5 comments on “A Brief and Mild Rebuke of Some Messianic Jewish Snark”

  1. While you are certainly correct that HaShem gave the biblical festivals to the Jewish people and not to all or any of the other nations (gentiles), it is not true that Jews never call them "the feasts". We may not do so in English, so much, but English speakers in both the USA and in Israel frequently call them "the 'hagim" -- and, of course, Hebrew speakers call them "ha-'hagim" ("החגים", transliterated here for convenience). The English translation of this term as "the feasts" is not inaccurate, even if culturally less desireable. Now, in some contexts they are referenced as "mo'adim", but that's a detail for some other discussion.

    And the notion of "the Church" as an institution opens another issue altogether, including questions about the impropriety of creating such an institution at all, let alone discussions of its behavior and doctrines throughout some 16 centuries of its multi-faceted and contentious existence. (I'm counting the first few centuries prior to Nicea as pre-institutional.) HaShem's Spirit has certainly continued to work throughout His creation among all peoples in order to pursue their redemption. But it may be well-argued that He has done so in spite of human institutions, including this one. However, in saying so, I'm expressing an analytical perspective rather outside the box or framework that you were addressing.

    Nonetheless deserving of consideration, though, is the methodology whereby gentile would-be disciples of haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef may best pursue redemption under the guidance of the Torah (as hinted in Acts 15:21) and the example of the covenant that was given to Jews to render them as first-fruits of human redemption, without any of the inapplicable Jewish obligations or rituals associated with the covenant itself that was made only with the houses of Judah and Israel (cif:Jer.31:31, which qualifies a more general-sounding passage in Deut.29:14-15). The "b'nei-nechar" of the present era, who wish to pursue the vision of Is.56:1-8 and Eph.2, face a challenge not well addressed by existing institutions.

    1. Matthew 16:18
      And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

      Looks pretty institutional to me...

      1. Well, Robert, among the several problems with your perception of Mt.16:18 is that the original text doesn't say "church". That's a later inaccurate translation. Another is that Peter/Kefa/Shimon bar-Yonah was a Jew who was not the foundation of an organization or institution, despite later claims by the Roman Catholic Church. Now it's true that HaShem gave him a vision that opened doors for gentiles to be accepted among the ecclesia, but despite his (possibly brief) involvement with them in Antioch, he was not their appointed emissary/apostle. Rav Shaul was designated for that job (the apostle to the uncircumcised), and he identified Kefa's role as an apostle to the circumcised (i.e., to Jews rather than to gentile disciples). Yet another issue with that verse is that there is a play on words in the Greek text, between Kefa's nickname "Petros" ("Rocky") and the "petra"/rock that Rav Yeshua cited as a foundation for his chosen/called-out ones, his "ecclesian". The context suggests that it was Kefa's example of faith (as demonstrated in the preceding verses) that was to be that foundation, not Kefa himself. Hence it was not at all an institution that was in view. Moreover, Roman persecution of the informal social movement comprising Rav Yeshua's disciples, sometimes called "the Way", prevented anything like the formation of an organization or institution for more than two centuries.

  2. You're right - the church isn't apostate and Christianity is not a dirty word. (Messianic Jews are Christians; Messianic and Christian mean the same thing: of Christ/Messiah.)

    That said, I think you're being uncharitable here, Rabbi Dauermann. Those of us who are Torah positive for Jews and Gentiles don't say, "God gave the Feasts to Gentiles!"

    Rather, we say, "The Feasts belong to God. So we encourage all of God's people to keep them."

    God has a special plan and purpose for our people. But the non-Jews who come to the God of Israel through Israel's Messiah? That brings them nearer to us than the pagan nations of old who never received the Torah. It brings them into a commonwealth and brotherhood with us.

    1. Regrettably, Judah, you may speak truer than should be so when you play the linguistic game of conflating the terms Messianic and Christian. Too many Jewish messianists have failed to complete their initial re-examination of the apostolic writings in order to repudiate centuries of their misinterpretation. Thus too many Messianic Jews are indistinguishable from Christians -- though this ought not be so.

      The term "Christian" appears only three times in the entire corpus of the apostolic writings, and never in a favorable light. This Greek attempt to represent the notion of "anointed-ness" was flawed at best, and was never appropriate to Jewish disciples even if it might have held some interest as a term for gentile ones. The rise of the Messianic Jewish concept in the USA in the 1970s was an exploration of how different it was from traditional gentile Christian misperceptions and departures from the teachings of an ancient Israeli rabbi. Thus the term "Messianic Jew" was coined precisely to assert that modern Jewish disciples of haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef were decisively *not* Christians, because they repudiated the doctrines and long history of Christianity that had been inimical to their people and the plan of HaShem in choosing them. They *did* most certainly reject the Christianity that had made of itself a stench in Jewish nostrils and an unremittingly destructive enemy. *That* Christianity is most certainly a dirty word, contrary to Stuart's whitewashing assertion above.

      Anyone trying to do as you have done, in saying that these terms are linguistically the same, is uprooting the planting of heaven in the hearts of Jews -- to whom haRav Yeshua was explicitly and solely sent (cif: Mt.15:24). Non-Jews seeking HaShem's redemption by joining in commonwealth with Israel do not become Jews, nor are they obligated by Jewish responsibilities and covenant(s). They may, however, use the term "Christianity" to mean something quite different from the "dirty word" depicted by Christian behavior and teaching that has been contrary to Jews across many centuries. They may use the term to represent many positive spiritual values derived from the ancient Jewish literatures of the Tenach and the apostolic writings about Rav Yeshua. That is the sense which Stuart invoked in his rant above -- a sense which Jews have rarely experienced, though it has been somewhat more in evidence during the past century where the lessons of the Holocaust and other historical persecutions against Jews have been taken to heart.

      The distinctive chosen-ness of Jews was for a "kehunah", a priestly service to all mankind. Just as within the Jewish people Cohanim have a distinctive set of responsibilities and activities not shared by the average Israelite, so also redeemed gentiles do not share in the chosen-ness and kehunah of the Jewish people, notwithstanding their redemptive destiny or their participation in a "commonwealth". One of the mistakes made by post-Nicean Christianity was to adopt a universalistic view of religion that nonetheless excluded Jews and Jewish particularism and distinctive chosen-ness. We may analyze the historical reasons why this mistake was adopted, but we must repudiate it and avoid repeating any variation of it if we are to adopt a truly biblical perspective in obedience to HaShem and His plans to redeem humanity.

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