The Problem With Hebrew Roots, or, It's Good to be a Goy  

July 30, 2014

I will admit that I have a problem with the Hebrew Roots Movement. Perhaps by the end of this blog you will realize the problem is not mine alone, but that the phenomenon is problematic.

First of all, surprise surprise, the church among the nations was meant to spawn a variety of cultural expressions of faith relationship to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through faith in Jesus of Nazareth, who, in addition to being the Son of David/Messiah of Israel, was the Savior of the world, and that means, of all the nations of the world. In other words:

The goyishness of Christianity is a sign of its success, not its failure!

It was what God intended!

I don’t believe in teaching Gentiles about their Hebrew roots, because guess what: Gentiles don’t have Hebrew/Jewish roots. And when we use this rhetoric, the meta-message is this: “Who you most truly are Mr or Ms Gentile is you’re a Jew.” But this is NOT true. And it is one of the misconceptions that spawned the Two House Movement, a.k.a. the Ephraimites. And the flip side of that contention is that somehow being a Gentile of the Gentiles is a liability, that somehow it takes you one step away from real intimacy with God. This is a lie.

God sent the message of his salvation to the nations for the nations to develop their own cultural expressions of faith in the One True God. He was inviting them "turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come," and all of that, from 1 Thessalonians 1:9, without becoming Jews or discovering their alleged Jewish roots. This is the miracle . . . and scandal . . . of Christianity. And my saying that being a Gentile is just fine, and that Gentile expressions of faith in Jesus are the way God intended things to be for Gentiles, is still scandalous. Just watch how this post creates a storm of protest. But it's good: I just went from being a heretic to being scandalous. That's an improvement.

It is true that Christianity at its inception had Hebrew/Jewish roots, but this is not Not NOT and never to be understood as recommending that Christians think they have Jewish roots or that they need to find those roots in order to legitimize themselves and their faith. Sean O’Toole has Celtic roots, and Sven Johanssen has Viking roots, and that is just fine!

Goyish is not bad. Goyish is good. It may not be good for Jews, but if you're a Gentile—goy is good! It is what God made you. ENJOY!!! And realize that salvation has come to the Gentiles as Gentiles. You don’t have to discover your Jewish roots. You should not abandon or disparage the churches from which you came or where you still live, and move, and have your being. You should enrich them through engagement with the Bible, through discovering and expressing your spiritual gifts,  and through your whole-hearted participation, but please please please: Don’t despise your roots or imagine that you have to abandon them to find God. God has come to find you and your people just as you are and where you are.

That was the good news for the Gentiles in the first century. And it still is. Some people won't agree. But people have a right to be wrong 🙂



23 comments on “The Problem With Hebrew Roots, or, It's Good to be a Goy  ”

  1. Good post Stuart , you point out what is the most egregious flaw of Jewish Roots/Hebrew Roots teaching that the Church is inferior or wrong and that only by doing things Jewishly or Hebraicly that you are living true Yeshua faith, making Messianic Judaism or a Jewish/Hebraic faith system as superior, "Real" or "Super" Yeshua faith in contrast to "Pagan Christianity".

    This discounts and demeans Yeshua's work among the Nations among His Church, the 1 billion plus Gentiles drawn to the God of Israel by Yeshua or as they would know Him, Jesus. It is a grave sin to demean the Church among the Nations, because you are demeaning God's work among the Nations by His Messiah and demeaning Yeshua who gave His life to open the way for Gentiles to come near to the God of Israel (Eph. 2:13), wherein they are living and worshipping God as Gentiles.

    The best place for Jews to honor God and His Messiah is in Messianic Judaism and Torah/synagogal life, the best place for those from the Nations to honor God and His Messiah and live life is in the Church among the Nations, wherein given the Acts 15 rulings the Gentiles are able to live as Gentiles in the community of faith without becoming Jews but perfectly acceptable as Gentile Christians developing Yeshua faith in Gentile space and within the cultures of the world.

  2. I love it. Totally agree. if this is implemented Messianic Jewish movement would probably not have this issues like it is having

  3. And then what makes it even worst is when you even say the words "goy" or "gentile" it is as if you insulted them by calling them this big darogetory name like you committed some unforgivable sin (and these names are not derogatory).

  4. Stuart -

    As always, a well written, thoughtful, and thought - provoking piece. Let me ask one question, more for clarification than anything else. I have seen the phrase "Jewish Roots" used in two different, and clearly identifiable ways;
    - the idea that Gentiles should cleave to their "Jewish Roots" (which can take many forms, usually bizarre on some level), or
    - the idea that Gentiles need to understand the Jewish cultural context of the "NT" least they misunderstand and misapply its lessons.

    I'm thinking that it is the former that concerns you, yes?

    1. Yes, right Chris, learning about the Jewish/Hebrew roots of what CHristians believe is instructive and helpful, but not when a Gentile is erroneously steered in the direction of seeking to establish their *own* alleged Jewish roots as a passport to greater spiritual authenticity. As I said above, "It is true that Christianity at its inception had Jewish roots, but this is not Not NOT and never to be understood as recommending that Christians think they have Jewish roots or that they need to find those roots in order to legitimize themselves and their faith."

  5. I just think of my Jewish Roots ad part of my heritage because I was grafted in. I love studying the feasts etc to see how they all point to my savior. So, while some may think we need to go 'back' to our roots, I see them as a Besutiful picture of how God has been pointing forward. So I love to remember how He has been directing us to point towAtd our savior

  6. Thank you for addressing an issue that seems to continue to muddy the waters and cause non-Jews to struggle, trying to get "closer to" or "better for" their Lord. If I understand correcting, this is primarily the point of Rabbi Rudolph's thesis concerning "Paul's Rule for the All the Churches" (1 Corinthians 7) as well as totally ignoring the Apostolic Decree of Acts 15.

  7. I totally agree! I have been telling these "Messianic" Gentiles - that want to come under the law - that Jesus came to set us free from the law - He wrote it on our hearts - it comes out of us internally - not a show on the outside (prayer threads, shawls, etc that they want to wear).

    If the Gentiles needed to be that way - then the great debate about whether or not Gentiles need to be circumcised and adhere to the other Jewish requirements would not have been answered with a resounding "no"!

    If they think they need to have those Jewish roots - stand in line for circumcision 🙂
    Who first?

  8. Oops, I forgot they are all circumcised! Doesn't apply. I am over here in Europe where they do not circumcise the Gentiles!

  9. Splendidly written, Stuart! It is so in concert with Paul's exhortation in 1 Cor. 7, and the larger message of Isaiah 56.

    But I am a bit perplexed. On the very principle you articulate, shouldn't we absolutely discourage the practice of converting Gentiles to Messianic "Jews"? It was my understanding that you support such conversions.

    As always, thanks for your time!

  10. I appreciated this article. I had been immersed in the "MJ" movement for more than fifteen years, as a non-Jew... More need to hear the voice of our Jewish brothers, such as Stuart's.
    I'm comfortable now being a goy and am no longer pretending.
    As Paul admonished in his letter to the Corinthians "Be who God created you to be..."

  11. These relatively new titles are what people do best when they don't understand the new path a friend is on. People attempt to categorize. Are you a Jew or are you a Christian? I am one of those Christians who now recognize and try to obey the civility and protection offered by Gods laws. Call me what you want. Having said that, I excel at holidays like Christmas and Easter - well at least I used to. I wish I grew up with holidays in Leviticus, and that all of this stuff was second nature. I realize that, at its best, I'm only grafted (not a root) in. I have no problem walking away from pagan roots, and taking heat for it from everyone. I am most saddened when I see a Jewish person who looses hope, or find them drifting into the pagan lifestyle - which biblical stories are filled with warnings to avoid. I cannot fully accept Yeshua unless I embrace the Living Word. The Church is an institution which is crippled by denial of OT living. Thanks.

  12. I've been offline for a few weeks and need to catch up on your blog on Christianity, the church and Hebrew roots.

    While there is much good to say about the church, I think the Hebrew Roots response is largely due to a problem, I have to say this, with the reaction of mainline and evangelical pastors to a re-examination of the fundamentals of their doctrine when it comes to Israel. Church members are asked to leave, or otherwise ostracized, for their recognition of the ongoing role of Israel in the redemption of the cosmos - and then they have no where else to go.

    That being said, I recognize that there is all kinds of craziness in the Hebrew Roots community that has its own set of problems. But it, as well as the church, is serving a purpose however imperfect.

    When one recognizes that they have been "lied to" all of their church lives, one looks for identity and community elsewhere. We should always remember to be compassionate and helpful for the identity crisis that is sure to only grow unless and until the church learns to expand their doctrinal perspective.

    Not saying that you are suggesting otherwise, but we inhabit the territory that Boyarin would call Border LInes and all of us need a lot of compassion and empathy here.

  13. This may sound simplistic, but our Redeemer was a Jewish carpenter, yes? The Redeemer for every nation was a Jewish carpenter, yes? The Jewish tribes were scattered throughout the whole globe. Are we so sure we have no Jewish blood in us? Just mulling here. For this old chick, I'll take the old paths because that's where I learn who my Father is...and what He commands for all His children. 🙂 Just a thought; the first commandment was given in Gen 2:2-3...before the Commandments or even the Jewish nation. Hmmm-could that apply to us, too? - Loving all my brothers and sisters in Messiah. mb

  14. So this is a late post, and I would like to raise my hand and request some clarification:

    {I don’t believe in teaching Gentiles about their Hebrew roots, because guess what: Gentiles don’t have Hebrew/Jewish roots. And when we use this rhetoric, the meta-message is this: “Who you most truly are Mr or Ms Gentile is you’re a Jew.”}

    But as people of faith, specifically Christian faith, non-Jews *do* share a common root with their Jewish brethren, and this root is the righteousness of Abraham, our spiritual father. Does that change one's goyishness? No, it doesn't and the question is irrelevant.

    Part of combatting the very serious problem of supercessionism in mainstream Christian denominations is to begin with the very foundation, the Yesod, that Christianity was born of the same Jewish mother that rabbinic Judaism was born of. This, at least, is Daniel Boyarin's perspective and he makes a good case. The fraternal struggle for "most favored" between the twins of Christianity and Judaism is an expression of the Esau-Yaakov archetype. Most Christians have no clue about this.

    So teaching Christianity about its foundation is, at least IMHO, imperative. And this has become also known as Hebrew Roots. This approach to Christian education has solid pillars that I know you are well aware of, Rabbi Dauermann, so my question is, are you speaking of a very particular form of Hebrew Roots? For you appear to be throwing the baby out with the bath water in this post.

  15. Learning about our Jewish heritage as Christians can only enrich intimacy with GOD. The Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament. The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament. All Scripture is divinely inspired and GOD's revelation of HIS divine plan of Salvation for us. We must read the Bible in it's entirety to discover the mystery and truth of our Savior. One Testament with out the other is incomplete.

    In my opinion, the Hebrew Roots Movement gives "Torah" precedence over the rest of the Bible. It is short sighted and points backwards instead of forward to the "GOOD NEWS" of JESUS CHRIST, who came not to abolish the Law, but fulfill it.

    1. Shalom JJ. I appreciate your intent, although I would definitely give the Older Testament more credit than you do. It is not simply the take off ramp for the New Testament. Rather it remains first class revelation now. When Paul wrote that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for [a]instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work," there was no Newer Testament. The great Christian Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser, commenting on the common idea that "the New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed." that the Older Testament simply foreshadows the New, he commented, "SO what was God doing for the prior two thousand years? Mumbling?" His point is that the Older Testament was and remains revelation, and not mere foreshadowing. In Hebrews the foreshadowing spoken of was the institutions of the sacrificial system that foreshadowed the sacrifice and priestly ministry of the Messiah. The Older Testament is not foreshadowing: it is revelation.

      Thank you again for writing.

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