Messianic Judaism: Questions and Answers are adapted from a booklet written by Rabbi David Chertoff with the same title (No 1-23) it answers some of the basic questions frequently asked about Messianic Judaism. From (No 24-37) By Rabbi William Levi – “We are not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God, Salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jews first and then to the gentiles. “~ Romans 1:16
Frequently asked questions
What Is Messianic Judaism?
Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish people throughout the world who believe that Yeshua (Jesus’ original name in Hebrew) is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world. Yeshua is the most Jewish of Jews. Yeshua was a descendant of both Abraham and King David, was raised in a Jewish home and went to synagogue. He perfectly kept the entire Torah (see Galatians 4:4). He taught that He came to fulfill, not set aside, the Torah (see Matthew 5:17-19). He was a rabbi who performed unparalleled miracles, bringing great blessing to the nation of Israel. All His early disciples also lived very Jewish lives. The Messianic movement was entirely Jewish at its inception, and continued to exist as an authentic Jewish movement for 700 years after Yeshua’s death and resurrection. Messianic Jews have not stopped being Jewish. On the contrary, we remain strongly Jewish in our identity and lifestyle! The Tenach (the Old Testament Scriptures) provides the foundation of our Jewish faith, and the New Covenant Scriptures (which were also written by Jews) the completion of our Jewish faith. In fact, the Hebrew Scriptures themselves affirm that they are not complete, but that God was going to make a New Covenant with the Jewish people (Jeremiah 31:31-34). We believe that the Sinai covenant, upon which much of traditional (Rabbinic) Judaism is based, is a broken covenant. There is no Temple and there are no sacrifices by which we can be brought near to God and experience genuine atonement. Non-Messianic Judaism is based on this broken covenant, which cannot save us. In contrast, we believe that God already established this New Covenant by means of Yeshua’s death and resurrection. He died and rose again to atone for our sins, so that we can enter into this New Covenant relationship with God. We believe that Yeshua ascended to the right hand of God the Father and is coming back to Earth to reign from Jerusalem over Israel and all the nations of the world. At that time the fullness of the New Covenant will be realized.
What Is The Difference Between Messianic Judaism And The Various Non-Messianic Judaism?
Is There A Difference Between Messianic Judaism And Christianity?
In one sense, Messianic Judaism and Christianity are the same thing. There is only one faith. Messianic Jews and Christians share the same core beliefs. Messianic Judaism is the same faith but it is expressed within the Jewish heritage.
THE ORIGINS OF MESSIANIC JUDAISM. When Did Messianic Judaism Begin?
Messianic Judaism is actually 2,000 years old, dating to the time of Yeshua Himself. Yeshua was (and is) Jewish. He was raised in a Jewish home and ministered to Jewish people in the Land of Israel. His disciples were Jewish. The apostles were Jewish. The writers of the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant or Testament) were Jewish (with the possible exception of Luke, and a good case can be made that he too was Jewish), and for a time, the faith was strictly Jewish. By the middle of the first century AD, tens of thousands of Jewish people believed that Yeshua was the Messiah (see Acts 2:37-42, 4:4, 21:20)
If, at first, Messianic Judaism was made up Entirely of Jewish People, how did gentiles (non-Jewish people) come into the Faith?
It was always God’s will for the Gentile nations to share in His salvation (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6). God told Abraham that through him all the nations of the Earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). The Lord set apart the Jewish people to bring the knowledge of God, the Word of God, and the Savior to the rest of the world. At first the early Messianic Jews did not understand that this was God’s will and they proclaimed the Good News only to other Jewish people. Ironically, the big controversy in the first century was not whether Jews could believe in Yeshua (naturally they could), but whether Gentiles could come into the faith without having to “become Jewish”! When Messianic Jews finally understood that salvation was also intended for the Gentiles, they began to share the Good News with non-Jews as well as with Jews. As a result, many Gentiles began to come into the faith.
How Did A Jewish Movement Come To Be Regarded As So Non-Jewish?
When the early Messianic Jews took the Good News to the Gentiles, many became Believers. By the end of the first century, Gentile Believers outnumbered the Jewish Believers. This occurred primarily because there are far more Gentiles than Jewish people. However, as more and more Gentiles came into the Messianic faith, some had little understanding or regard for its Jewish roots and God’s eternal covenant with Israel. A “de-Judaizing” process (a separation from the Jewish roots of the faith and from the Jewish people) set in. As the number of Gentile Believers increased, they began to dominate the faith until the Gentile expression of Christianity emerged as the dominant expression of the faith. Then, in what can only be regarded as one of the greatest paradoxes of history, Christianity made it seem alien for a Jewish person to be loyal to the King of the Jews!
When Did the Early Messianic Jews Disappear and Why?
In spite of the many pressures put upon Jewish Believers to give up their faith, it seems that Messianic Judaism continued into the seventh century AD. First, non-Messianic rabbis pressured Messianic Jews to relinquish their faith in Yeshua as the Messiah. In addition, the dominant Gentile expression of Christianity pressured Messianic Jews to abandon their Jewishness. Finally, in the seventh century AD, the rise of Islam caused distress for Messianic Jews. Despite all this, the real reason for the disappearance of early Messianic Judaism was that Messianic Jews lost their “vision” – no longer regarding it as important to remain Jewish after accepting Yeshua. Consequently, they assimilated into the Gentile expression of Christianity.
When Did The Modern Messianic Jewish Movement Begin?
Though Messianic Judaism as a distinct movement faded in the seventh century, there have always been individual Jewish Believers in Yeshua. Beginning in the early 1800s increasing numbers of Jewish people began believing in Yeshua. The modern Messianic Jewish movement came to fruition in the 1960s and 1970s. We believe that this could be part of the salvation of the Jewish people predicted to occur in the Last Days (see Hosea 3:4-5, Joel 2:28-29, Deuteronomy 30:1-5, Romans 11:25-27).
How Many Messianic Jews Are There?
While there are no concrete figures, it has been estimated by those involved in the movement (and even by those outside the movement) that there are approximately 40,000 to 50,000 Jewish Believers in the Messiah in the United States. Even though there are approximately 300 Messianic synagogues in the U.S., the majority of Messianic Jews join evangelical churches and do not attend Messianic congregations. The Messianic congregational movement is still relatively small, but it is growing. In 1948, when Israel was reestablished as an independent nation, there were fewer than 100 Messianic Jews living in Israel. Today, there are approximately 8,000 Messianic Jews in Israel in 50 congregations! The Messianic Jewish movement is also growing in other countries such as Ethiopia, Zambia, South Sudan and etc. If you are interested in getting involved in a Messianic synagogue, discernment is required, since not all are theologically sound.
MESSIANIC TERMINOLOGY: Why Do We Use The Name “Yeshua” As Well As “Jesus”?
Yeshua never heard the name “Jesus” in His lifetime! Yeshua is His given Hebrew name! It means “salvation” or “the Lord is salvation” (see Matthew 1:21). He was always called “Yeshua”, a common Hebrew name at that time. When Latin-speaking missionaries, who called the Messiah “Yesu”, brought the Good News to the British people, “Yesu” became “Jesus” in English.
What Does “Christ” Mean?
Some people mistakenly believe that “Christ” is Yeshua’s last name! Rather, “Christ” is His title in much the same way as we might refer to a “President” or “King”. This title is taken from the Hebrew word “Mashiach” or “Anointed One”, which was translated into the Greek “Christos” and later anglicized to “Christ”. The actual English translation of Mashiach is “Messiah” and means an anointed, God-appointed leader. Prophets, priests and kings were anointed. The Messiah is the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King! Examples of this title in the Tenach are found in Daniel 9:25 and Psalm 2:2. In the New Covenant, Yeshua claimed the title of Messiah (see Mark 14:61-62 and John 4:25-26).
Why Do Many Messianic Jews Prefer To Identify As Messianic Jews?
The term “Christian” originally meant “follower of the Christ” or “follower of the Messiah”. By itself “Christian” is a good term. Theologically, Messianic Jews are Christians and many of us do identify as Christians and call ourselves Christians. But sadly, over time the term “Christian” came to be used over-broadly and inaccurately. Many people today have a false dichotomy in their minds that on the one hand there are Jews and Judaism, and on the other hand there are Gentiles and Christianity; and supposedly one must choose between the two. Accordingly, when a Jewish person accepts Yeshua he is thought to have “switched over” from the Jew-Judaism side to the Gentile-Christianity side; and is therefore no longer regarded as a Jew, but as a Gentile-Christian. For all intents and purposes the term “Christian” has become synonymous with “non-Jew” or “Gentile”. We believe the opposite to be true. Nothing could be more Jewish than to follow Israel’s Messiah! Consequently we also choose to call ourselves “Messianic Jews”, which identifies us as Jewish people who follow Messiah Yeshua.
If I’m Jewish and Believe in Jesus, Will I Stop Being Jewish?
Yeshua is the Messiah and believing in Him is the most Jewish thing that you could do! How could a Jewish person who acknowledges the Jewish Messiah become a non-Jew? Contrary to certain claims, the Jewish identity of many Messianic Jews has been strengthened by their faith in the King of the Jews. Many of us can claim that Jesus made us kosher! Faith in Yeshua is Jewish, no matter what men (even a majority of men) may say, because truth is determined by God – not by a majority vote! In fact, in every generation it has always been the remnant minority of Jewish people who had true faith in God. The majority almost always went astray (as examples, see Numbers 14:1-10, Exodus 32:25-26, Romans 11:2-10). If you are Jewish, it is because God made you a Jew and no one can ever change that.
MESSIANIC JEWISH LIFESTYLE. What Is The Importance Of Messianic Congregations?
Just as Messianic Judaism is not new, neither are Messianic synagogues new. Biblical and historical records demonstrate that there were Messianic synagogues throughout the Roman Empire and beyond as early as 50 AD (James 1:1, 2:2, Hebrews 10:27). Messianic congregations help foster community life. They enable Messianic Jews to worship the God of Israel within the Jewish heritage. Assimilation is a problem for Messianic Jews (as well as for other Jews), and Messianic congregations help combat the forces of assimilation. Historically, Messianic Jewish families that make no effort to live a Jewish lifestyle or to be involved in Jewish evangelism almost always assimilate within a couple of generations. Messianic congregations can help us maintain our Jewish identity and pass it on to the following generations.
Do Messianic Jews Believe They Should Keep The Law of Moses?
Do Messianic Jews Celebrate The Jewish Holidays And, If So, Why?
Most Messianic Jews celebrate the Biblical holidays such as Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), Rosh HaShanah (the traditional Jewish New Year, but actually the Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), Chanukkah (the Feast of Dedication) and Purim. We celebrate the holidays because it is written in the Torah for Israel to observe these festivals forever (Leviticus 23:21, 31, 41; Exodus 12:14). Yeshua observed these festivals, as did the early Messianic Jews and apostles such as Rabbi Paul (Acts 20:16, 27:9; 1 Corinthians 16:8). We also believe that when Messiah Yeshua returns to Earth, some of these holidays will be reestablished worldwide (Zechariah 14:11-21). As Messianic Jews celebrate the holidays, we do so with the understanding that Yeshua is the fulfillment of each of them. For example, He is our Passover Lamb, who died on Passover. He is the First fruits of the resurrection, who came back to life on the holiday of First fruits. He is our Atonement on Yom Kippur, etc.
What Is The Relationship Of Gentile Christians To The Laws Of The Torah?
Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles (the Church), while having much in common with Israel, is not identical to Israel. The New Covenant is not the same as the Old Covenant. Jews who enter the New Covenant remain Jews, and Gentiles who enter the New Covenant remain Gentiles. Gentile Believers are not the same as the Gentile foreigners who lived in the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. Gentile Christians have an elevated status compared to the aliens who lived in the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. They are fully co-heirs of the Kingdom with the Jewish saints. Being grafted into Israel doesn’t mean that Gentile Believers become Israel or are required to live the same way as the Jewish people. Jews and Gentiles are one because of our one God and Father of all: “one Lord, one faith and one Baptism”. We share equally in the Spirit of God, who lives in all of us, and have the same hope of living forever in the New Jerusalem. Being one doesn’t negate the differences in roles and calling and lifestyle between Jews and Gentiles. Keep in mind that most of the laws of the Torah were directed specifically to the Jewish people and not to the other nations. The laws formed Israel’s constitution. The laws were meant to keep Israel distinct from the other nations.
So what relationship does the Gentile Christian have to the 613 laws of the Torah
Can Gentiles Be Members Of A Messianic Synagogue?
Most Messianic congregations have non-Jewish members. To be a member of a Messianic synagogue, a Gentile Believer should have a love for the Jewish people, an understanding of what God is doing with the Jewish people, and have a “Ruth-like” calling to the Chosen People. That does not mean Gentile Believers need to live exactly like Jewish people.
Are Messianic Jews Zionists?
Most Messianic Jews support Israel, not only because we believe the Jewish people need a national homeland, but also because we believe the reestablishment of Israel is a direct fulfillment of ancient Biblical prophecies (Ezekiel 36:24, 37:1-14, Zechariah 12). We believe the reestablishment of the nation of Israel is part of the divine plan and not a historical accident. We reject Replacement Theology, the false teaching that God has replaced Israel with the Church and God’s promises of restoration to our God-given land are not to be taken literally. Therefore everyone, especially Christians, should support Israel’s right to our ancient land because God’s promise to Abraham is still in effect: “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:3).
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YESHUA IS THE MESSIAH?
What is the significance of Yeshua’s resurrection from the death for Jews and Gentiles?
What do you tell Jews who don't believe in Yeshua and will disqualify us from being Jewish because we believe in Jewish Messiah, Yeshua HaMashiach which made us a Christian as if Christianity has nothing to do with Israel?
There is nothing called Christianity before Yeshua Hamasciach, a Jewish Messiah who was God in the flesh born by Jewish earthly mother in Bethlehem, Judea by the power of Holy Spirit, 2000 years ago. He came from Above unto his people to fulfill the Torah and prophets. If as a Jew you don't believe that, it is okay. We Messianic Jews are not God nor are the Jews who don’t believe in Him. We are here only to bear witness of the Messiah who fulfilled all the Biblical prophecies. No man has the power to convert anyone to believe in Yeshua. It is the power of God (Holy Spirit) that stirs anyone's heart to believe in Yeshua. We can't hide our identities to because we believe in Yeshua on that we don’t offend Jews who don’t believe in Him yet. One should be out of his/her mind at a time where Jews have been persecuted worldwide to call himself/herself an Israelite or Jewish or a Hebrew if he /she has nothing to do with the Jewish heritage
Can someone be considered a Jew only through His mother?
First all, of all my parents, both father and were South Sudanese Hebrews. As Messianic Jews of the South Sudan, we suffered the same persecution in the hand of Islamic regime in the Sudan. We Jews are to be light to the world and shine everywhere we go. That is what we are doing through our ministry in South Sudan. We have a Messianic Congregation which serves both Messianic Jews and gentile Christians alike. This should not come to you as a surprise because unlike the rabbinical Judaism, that grew out of Jewish Diaspora in Europe , we who have gone into African Diaspora are Biblical Hebrews and according to the Bible our Jewishness is defined by the father's bloodline. If not so, Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph's children would have been considered Egyptians. This is not to mention Boaz the son of Rehab the Harlot, or Obed the son of Ruth the Moabite, the grandfather of King David. This tells us something about the faith of those gentile women who married Hebrew men. It is evident that since they too become part of the Jewish heritage by conversion and marriage, we considered them Jewish too. But as we stated in our statement of faith, if indeed you believe that you are a Messianic Hebrew because both your parents are Jewish, or one of your parents, your father or mother is Jewish, by marriage and/or by conversion we consider you Messianic Jew too. But the biggest picture is this. We are here to bear witness that Yeshua is a Jewish Messiah and it is a Jewish thing to believe in him but if you don't believe, we don't set that against you. We love you and pray for you. The Bible commands us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Who are the South Sudanese Jews and how did they get there from Israel?
The “Ethiopia” of Bible times extended from Egypt and the Nubian Desert in the north to the region of modern-day Sudan including the South Sudan; and eastward into the horn of Africa. Although the name of Cush is commonly associated with what is now modern-day Sudan, sometimes the term “Ethiopia” was used to refer to the entire area south of Egypt.
How deep the depth of the Hebrew roots in Africa and specifically along the Nile valley runs?
The Bible indicates that Messianic Judaism or Christianity was originally received in the Land of Cush in the first century AD. But the Hebrews of the Nile Valley goes as far as Abraham. All the Patriarchs of the Hebrews came to Africa by the way of Egypt including Yeshua himself. So the presence of the Jews in African Diaspora from Egypt, the modern day countries of the Sudan, Ethiopia, to the South Sudan, predate Islam and the current geopolitical boundaries of African countries and fully integrated in African culture. There is the massive ruin of the replica of the Solomon Temple in Elephantine Island outside Jerusalem located in the Nile valley between Aswan in Egypt and Wadi Halfa in the Sudan. Matthew Levi, one of Yeshua's disciples was believed to have come to Ethiopia and died in Ethiopia which is the modern day, Sudan. Simon of Cyrene, of the modern day Libya, who carried the Cross of Yeshua in Jerusalem was from the continent of Africa. The Book of Acts describes a meeting between the apostle Philip and a royal Ethiopian Hebrew eunuch who was returning home to Africa after a pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem. The eunuch was reading a messianic prophecy from the book of Isaiah when Philip explained its meaning—and its fulfillment in the life of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Immediately, the eunuch stopped his chariot and asked to be baptized in a nearby body of water. This eunuch would have been headed to the capitol city of the kingdom of Meroe, located on the Nile River just north of the confluence of the Blue and the White Niles, in the heart of present-day Sudan. No doubt this influential man brought the good news of the Messiah back to the courts of Queen Candace and to the synagogues of the region. Originally, the message of the Messiah was taken only to Jewish groups, and they were the first Jewish Christians. They were our ancestors. " Even from beyond Ethiopia’s rivers they will bring those who petition me, the daughter of my dispersed as my offering." Zephaniah 3:10
How did the Nubian Christian Kingdom start?
Can a Messianic Jew makes another Jew to believe in Yeshua?
No. We don’t have the power to make a Jew or gentile to believe in Yeshua nor does a Jew or a gentile have the power to force or make a Messianic believer not to believe in Him. This does not make you or us more or less of a Jew because the definition of a Jew goes as far as the call of Abraham by God and it is up to the individuals families scattered abroad to find their identity. The Bible is our source of identity. Salvation is of the Jews as Yeshua said to the Samaritan woman at the well. He fulfills the callings and the promises which God has made with our forefather Abraham, Isaac and Yaakov. He was raised by Jewish Mother and Jewish Earthly father, Miriam and Josef. The Bible, both Old and the New Testament are written by the Jews. First believers in Yeshua 2000 years ago were all Jewish. It is true that not all the Jews believe in Yeshua as the Messiah. Some believed and some did not and that was perfectly fine as long as we don't temper with trying to qualify who is a Jew or who is not or who is more suited to defend Israel. Let us not confuse the issue here. God is for most the defender of Israel and it is our responsibility to confirm and put that in practice. This is why we support Israel and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
How did we become believers in Yeshua?
As for us in the South Sudan, our household are guided by the Hebrew Scriptures and the Holy Spirit (Both Old and New Testament). We finally heard Yeshua’s voice for ourselves through the words and we believe and know He is the long awaited Jewish Messiah. This is not to say, every Jew who does not believe in Yeshua should follow what we say blindly. They must be like the Bereans who were open to the reading of the scriptures and understanding it for themselves. Keep seeking him for yourself. He called us unto Himself and we responded to His call. There was a time, we were like our fellow Jews back 2000 years ago asking this question. “They said, "Isn't this Yeshua Ben-Josef? We know his father and mother! How can he now say, `I have come down from heaven'?" Yeshua answered them, "Stop grumbling to each other! No one can come to me unless the Father -- the One who sent me -- draws him. And I will raise him up on the Last Day. It is written in the Prophets, `They will all be taught by ADONAI. Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God -- he has seen the Father. Yes, indeed! I tell you, whoever trusts in me has eternal life: I am the bread which is life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert; they died. But the bread that comes down from heaven is such that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that has come down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever” John 6: 42-50.
Are Messianic Jews and true gentile Christians dangerous for Israel's existence as a Jewish State?
No! Comparing Messianic Jews and True gentile Christians to Palestine Christians who support the right of Palestine as an Islamic State and who refers to Israel and Jewish people as an occupation is disturbing. We don't think those Palestinian Christians who support Israel's destruction are Christians just in the same way we don't think Spanish Inquisitors or the Nazi German were Christians . They did things in the name of Christianity against our people but they were not Christians. I don't think American church that divest from Israel in support of Hamas are Christians
How to you explain to Jews who put Jews who believe in Yeshua in the same category as enemy of Israel?
For any Jews to put Messianic Jews in the same category of Israel’s arch enemies without a cause, is wrong and misguided. It is like a divided house which will not stand. How do someone account for the blood and the contribution of Messianic Jews and Christians who have risked their lives to defend the right of Israel and Jewish people to exist? What is one going to do with Messianic Jews from around the world including Ethiopia who have taken Alia to Israel as their homeland ready to defend Israel and Jewish people against all enemies?
Did the Messianic Jews caused the down fall of Israel in 70 AD?
False. 2000 years ago those Jews who believed in Yeshua did not cause the down fall of Israel and the displacement of Jewish people across the globe. Rather it was the Romans in 70 AD according to Josephus, a Jewish Historian that the Romans were the ones who ransacked Jerusalem, destroyed the 2nd Temple and drove the Jews into Captivity. Both first century Jews who don't believe in Yeshua and Messianic Jews who believed in Yeshua suffered the same fate. They were all banished from Israel never to return until 1948 when God brought Israel back from captivity. Assimilation of Jews in Diaspora took place on both sides of Jewish people. The idea that being Jewish and believing in the Jewish Messiah automatically removes a Jew from being Jewish and he or she is dangerous for the existence of Israel as a Jewish State is absurd and disturbing at best.
How do you explain to a Jew the blatant persecution of Jews by even those who called themselves Christians who believe in Jewish Messiah?
There were times in history a very terrible event to remember when European “Christians, not every one of them” gentile converts during the Spanish Inquisition, persecuted the European Jewry and drove the Jews out of Spain in 1492. Then came the World War 2. Adolf Hitler killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. Since 1948, Israel and Jews worldwide have been persecuted by Islamic world who seek to drive the Jews out of Israel. But by the grace of God, Israel will not be moved nor destroyed because God put her there, this is regardless whether another Jew recognizes a Messianic Jews as a Jewish or not. We to appreciate Non-Messianic Jews for who they said they are, a fellow Jews and brothers. The issue which Israel faces today are big and can only be understood from Biblical prophecy Zachariah 12. But they (problems) are not bigger than God who will not slumber or sleep over Israel. We all must pray for the peace of Jerusalem, love Israel and Jewish people and do what we can to support this important cause.
Who will attempt to destroy Israel?
Mark this. It is not the Messianic Jews or true Christians who will cause Israel's down fall rather it is Arab Islamic world spearheaded by Iran in the 21st Century and the majority of the UN body who think Zionism is an occupation of Europeans entity, since 1948, sustained by USA to oppress Palestinians. These are the arch enemies of Israel and our Jewish people as well as true Christians. Let us not cause un necessary pain or division among ourselves at the expense of Israel, Jewish people and Christians who stand with Israel worldwide. Yeshua says, a house divided shall not stand.
Who are these people who say they are Christians? Christian church in the west and worldwide that hate Israel and support Hamas and embraced women pastor ship, social engineering agenda, homosexuality in the west.
There are at least 25 mainline denominations representing approximately 100 million church members today who have very little to no understanding of the unity of the Scriptures and sound biblical prophecy regarding Israel and Jewish people. These churches teach that prophetic passages and the Scriptures in general are allegorical and not literal; they believe the church has replaced Israel.