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MESSIANIC JUDAISM QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
This booklet seeks to answer many of the most often asked questions about Messianic Judaism. The most important fact to comprehend about Messianic Judaism is that it is centered around the belief that Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) is the long promised Messiah of Israel. He is the Messiah of whom the prophets did speak. He came and died in atonement for our sins. He was raised on the third day and is coming back again to reign over the entire earth. I trust and pray that as you read this booklet you will understand what Messianic Judaism is and how Jewish people can believe and follow Him and still remain Jewish.
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.
Rabbinic Judaism is a Judaism centered around the teachings and writings of Rabbis. Its formation began over 1,900 years ago when the second temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. Before then, “Judaism,” or the faith of the Jewish people, was centered around the Temple and the sacrificial system according to the Torah (the Law or the five books of Moses). After the destruction of the temple the Rabbis reorganized Judaism, adding many new laws, rules and traditions. Today, their writings and commentaries (the Talmud, etc) form the foundation of Rabbinic Judaism.
Rabbinic Judaism consists of several branches: Orthodox (very traditional), Chasidic (Ultra-Orthodox), Reform (liberal) Conservative, and Reconstructionist. Some within Rabbinic Judaism are still looking for the Messiah, but they are the exceptions.
Messianic Judaism differs in that we
rely totally on the Scriptures. Our faith is the Judaism of the Bible
(Biblical Judaism) and is centered around the Messiah and the worldwide
salvation He brings. We in Messianic Judaism believe that Yeshua is the
promised Messiah and that we don’t have to go through the Sages or the
Rabbis to know
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
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
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)
It was always
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 the
When the early Messianic Jews took the Good News of the Messiah to the Gentiles, a great number were brought into the Messianic faith. My the end of the first century A.D., the number of Gentile believers outnumbered 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
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 pressure 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.
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.
Why 1967? 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
While there are no concrete figures, it has be estimated by many of those involved in the movement (and even by those outside the movement), that there are at least 100,000 Jewish believers in the Messiah Yeshua in the United States alone, and this number is growing all the time.
Today the movement of Messianic Judaism is in many other countries throughout the world including Israel, England, France, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and other countries. This is truly an international movement! We believe that Messianic Judaism will eventually spring up wherever there are communities of Jewish people throughout the world.
Because Yeshua is His given Hebrew name! “Jesus” is the Hellenized-Anglicized form of “Yeshua”, which means “Salvation.” Yeshua never heard the name “Jesus” in His lifetime. He was always called “Yeshua”, which is very similar to “Joshua”, a common Hebrew name at that time. Good examples of this name, in reference to the Messiah, are in Isaiah 62:11 in the Old Covenant and also in Matthew 1:21 in the New Covenant.
Some believe that “Christ” is Yeshua’s second name or surname in the same way that we have a second or family name. Actually, “Christ” is a title in much the same way as “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” or “Anointed One” is “Messiah.” Once again, using “Messiah” rather than “Christ,” is more accurate. (Examples of this title in the Old Covenant are Daniel 9:25, Psalm 2:2). Also, Yeshua claimed this title of Messiah in the New Covenant (Mark 14:61-62).
The term “Christian” originally meant “follower of the Christ” or “follower of the Messiah.” In and of itself, it is a good term. Unfortunately, over time, the term “Christian” came to mean more that simply “follower of the Messiah.”
Many people today have this dichotomy in their minds that on the one hand there are Jews and Judaism, and on the other there are Christians and Christianity. You are either one or the other. Accordingly, [they think] when a Jew accepts Yeshua he “switches over” from the Jew/Judaism side to the Christian/Christianity side, and is no longer a Jew but a Christian. For all intents and purposes, the term “Christian” has become synonymous with “non-Jew” or “Gentile.”
Because we believe that Yeshua is the
fulfillment or completion of Biblical Judaism. As Jews, we have completed
or fulfilled what
Yeshua never intended to start a new religion: He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Therefore, how could we, as Jewish people, by accepting the Jewish Messiah become non-Jews? On the contrary, we believe that Yeshua has fulfilled our Jewish heritage and faith. We have not converted to another faith, but rather we have been completed because we have found true Biblical Judaism through the Messiah Yeshua (Matthew 5:17).
Messianic Synagogues are the heart of
the Messianic Movement, Messianic communities, and the center of Messianic
life. A Messianic synagogue is where we can collectively believe in
Yeshua, live a Jewish lifestyle, raise our children to be Jewish, and
Interestingly enough, just as Messianic Judaism is not new, Messianic synagogues are not new either. Actually, we find they have existed for two thousand years! From Biblical historical records, we know that there were Messianic synagogues throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, as early as 50 A.D.! (James 1:1, 2:2; Hebrews 10:25).
There are well over 125 Messianic synagogues and congregations throughout the United States. There are also many in Israel and other parts of the world. Messianic synagogues range in size anywhere from 10 to 115 up to several hundred members. Many have their own synagogue buildings, Messianic day schools, and Messianic communities.
Most Messianic Jews celebrate the Biblical festivals, i.e. Passover, Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks), Rosh Hashanah (the traditional Jewish New Year, the Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication of Lights) and Purim.
We celebrate all of the feasts
because it is instructed by
When we, as Messianic Jews, celebrate the festivals, we do so in a Messianic way, with the view that Yeshua is the fulfillment of all of these Holy Days (i.e. He is our Passover Lamb, our Atonement on Yom Kippur, etc.)
Generally speaking, Messianic Jews do not celebrate Christmas and Easter. There is no place in the Scriptures that command us to celebrate the Birth or Resurrection of the Messiah. Apparently, none of the early believers, Jewish or Gentile, celebrated these two days, as there is no mention of it in the Brit Hadashah (New Covenant).
That does not mean that Messianic Jews are against Christmas or Easter (Romans 14). During the Christmas season we do not have Christmas trees, give gifts, or have Christmas parties. At the same time, we do recognize the importance of the Birth of the Messiah and rejoice with believers who are celebrating this day throughout the world. Similarly on Easter, while we do not have special services and Easter egg hunts, we do believe in the resurrection of the Messiah and an rejoice in its celebration at this time.
General worship and praise is
the overall action of man coming to
As King David taught from the Scriptures, this type of praise and worship involves numerous musical instruments, singing, Hebraic music, psalms, lifting up of hands, chanting, clapping of hands, processions, and is also characterized by great joy. Probably, the most unusual characteristic of “Davidic” Worship and Praise is dancing to the Lord. This is not dancing in a secular sense. While Messianic dancing uses a strong Israeli-Hebraic style, it is dancing unto the Lord in praise and worship as King David did and taught (2 Samuel 6:14).
“Davidic” Worship and Praise is one of
the great distinguishing traits of the Messianic Movement. It is a return
to our Jewish roots in praising
Yes and no. The Torah (or Law of Moses)
is composed of the 613 Mitzvot, or commandments, in the Tenach (Old
Covenant or Testament) that
We, as Messianic Jews, recognize that one cannot be saved through the Law, because the only way to be saved through the Law is to keep all of the commandments perfectly (Deuteronomy 27:26). This is impossible because we have a sinful nature (Ecclesiastes 7:20). At the same time, while the Law cannot save, it is far from being dead. The moral precepts of the Ten Commandments are carried into the New Covenant. The Festivals are for eternity. Shabbat (or the Sabbath) on the seventh day was instituted before the Law was given, as was tithing, which most believers practice today.
There are many other areas of the Law that are valuable to us today as well. Rabbi Shaul (Paul) in the New Covenant makes it very clear that all believers have liberty in the Messiah Yeshua (Galatians 5:1), which means freedom from the Law as well as freedom to keep the Law as we so desire. Rabbi Shaul kept the Law as much as he could, as did the other early Messianic Jews, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:17).
Most Messianic Jews support Israel
unequivocally and unconditionally. We support Israel not only because we
believe our Jewish people need a national homeland, but also because we
believe that the re-establishment of the State of Israel is a direct
fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. We believe that
We know that Israel is not a perfect
nation, but believe that
Obviously, this is a question that has been debated for centuries. One cannot be considered Jewish strictly on the basis of religion, because most Jewish people today are not religious. The same applies to any definition of a Jew based on culture, as well. According to Rabbinic Judaism, to be considered a Jew, one must have Jewish parents (in particular a Jewish mother).
This rabbinic definition is not Biblically correct. The Scriptural definition of a Jew is three-fold. First of all, we’re a nation and a people. To be considered Jewish one must be a physical descendant of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12:1-3). Secondly, the Biblical lineage is patrilineal (i.e., carried through the father) not matrilineal or carried through the mother. For example, Moses had a Gentile wife and King David’s great grandmother was Ruth, the Moabitess, yet their children were all considered Jewish.
Finally, the Scriptures indicate that if
either parent is Jewish or if a grandparent is Jewish one can identify
himself or herself as being Jewish and can claim himself as part of
When a Jew marries a Gentile
there is an inherent danger of assimilation into Gentile society, and
therefore a serious risk of being permanently lost to the nation of
Israel. Rather than assimilating, we believe that it is
In Temple days a “middle wall of partition’ existed in the Temple that physically separated Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles could not enter past that point and were delegated to what was sometimes called the “Court of the Gentiles.”
According to the New Covenant Scriptures, this “middle wall of partition,” spiritually speaking, has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14). We are all one in Him. In fact, according to Rabbi Shaul, Gentile believers have entered a Jewish faith (Romans 11:24), and have become spiritually circumcised and spiritually Jewish as they have accepted the Jewish Messiah.
Gentile believers are one with us
because the spirit of
Yes, and most Messianic congregations do
have non-Jewish members. To be a member of a Messianic congregation as a
Gentile believer, one must have a burden and love for the Jewish people,
Generally speaking, Jewish
believers in the Messiah Yeshua should be members of Messianic synagogue.
The reason? Because we have an eternal covenant with
The primary way a Jewish believer can continue to live a live as a Jew and not assimilate away from his Jewish people is to be a member of a Messianic synagogue. In a Messianic synagogue, a Jewish believer can continue to worship the Lord in a Jewish way, celebrate the Jewish festivals, raise his children as Jews and be a testimony to his family and his people.
Words are powerful. The terms, expressions, titles and labels that we use in every day life are crucial in expressing ourselves to one another. For instance, in the realm of politics terms such as hawk, dove, liberal, conservative, left-wing, right-wing, Republican and Democrat all help to identify concepts and positions.
In Messianic Judaism, terminology is also extremely important. The last two thousand years of history have seemingly boxed us into an undesirable dichotomy that exists in the minds of people. This thinking purports that one is either Jewish or a member of Christianity. We as Messianic Jews say that this is not true. We believe that it is Jewish to believe in the Messiah Yeshua and that He is the fulfillment of Biblical Judaism.
Consequently, we have created and developed a new language to more effectively express our faith. By using Messianic terminology, we accomplish a number of things. First of all, we put Yeshua back within the proper Biblical and historical Jewish context from which he was uprooted. Secondly, we are educating many people today to the Jewish roots of this faith in Messiah Yeshua. Finally, this Messianic language simply is oftentimes more accurate historically and Biblically (e.g. the name of Yeshua).
I encourage all Messianic believers to use this terminology, to change your language in order to more clearly express your Jewish faith in the Messiah Yeshua (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). Here are some of the most important terms to understand:
Yeshua: the actual Hebrew name for “Jesus,” meaning “salvation;” “Jesus” is the Hellenized- Anglicanized form of “Yeshua.”
Messiah: “the Anointed One:” a title like president or king; in the Greek it was translated to “Christos” and then anglicized to “Christ.”
Messianic Judaism: the movement of Jewish people who have come to believe that Yeshua is the promised Messiah of Israel. This movement is worldwide and is the fulfillment of prophecy (synonymous with “true Biblical Judaism.”)
Messianic Jew: a Jew who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah and remains Jewish in lifestyle and worship.
Messianic Synagogue: a congregation where Messianic believers can worship and exercise their Jewish faith in the Messiah Yeshua.
Messianic Rabbi: literally “teacher,” the spiritual leader of a Messianic synagogue. [Note: In many congregations, it is the practice to refer to the congregational leader as a Messianic Rabbi if he is Jewish, and Messianic Pastor if he is non-Jewish. RLS]
Completed Jews: Jewish people who have found the Jewish Messiah, have not converted to another religion but are fulfilled in their Judaism and heritage in the Messiah Yeshua.
Brit Hadasha: the New Covenant or New Testament; books written in the first century by Jewish writers who believed and followed the Messiah Yeshua.
Tenach: Old Covenant or Old Testament.
Rabbi Shaul: Paul of the New Covenant: he was a rabbi who studied under the feet of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel in the first century. (Acts 22:3)
Mikveh or Immersion: Mikveh is the actual pool of water and immersion is the Jewish ceremony of being “immersed” in water for purification as commanded in the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, the Immersion also symbolizes purification when believers in Yeshua publicly confess their faith in the Messiah Yeshua. (Christians use the term “Baptism” for this Jewish ceremony).
Yochanan the Immerser: John the Immerser or Baptist.
While many of us have had a dynamic personal experience with the Lord that has helped convince us that Yeshua is the Messiah, the primary evidence that Yeshua is truly the Jewish Messiah of Israel is in the Hebrew Scriptures themselves (i.e. the Tenach or the Old Covenant.)
In the Tenach, there are prophecies or predictions about the “Anointed One.” Over 25 prophets, covering a period of 1,500 years, gave predictions about the Coming One. The only way to know if Yeshua is the Messiah is to go back to the Scriptures and study these prophecies (1 Peter 1:10-12, 2 Peter 1:19-21).
This issue concerning Yeshua not having brought worldwide peace is a result of a misconception many have about the purpose of the Messiah. The Messiah was not just to come to bring peace to the whole world. More than half the prophecies about the Messiah speak of His coming and dying for the sins of the world. Many rabbis recognized that the Messiah had to suffer and die, and rabbinic literature at one time speaks of two Messiah coming: Messiah Ben-Joseph (the Suffering Messiah) and Messiah Ben-David (the Conquering Messiah).
In reality, there are not two Messiahs coming at one time, but one Messiah coming twice. The first time to suffer and die for the sins of the world, and the second time to set up His Kingdom over the entire world (Isaiah 53). Prophetically, we are very near to the Second Coming of the Messiah Yeshua (Matthew 24:3-21).
The next step is for you to grow
spiritually in the Lord until you become a strong, mature believer (Colossians
2:6,7). When you first accept the Messiah Yeshua and come into
God wants you to begin to grow
spiritually, to develop your own personal relationship with Him. You can
do this by studying the Work of
Baruch Ha Shem! (Praise the Lord!)
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*Ari Levitt is the shem kodesh of Messianic Pastor Dr. Rickard (Ari) Levitt-Sawyer. As the free expression of my religious beliefs, the content of this website is protected under the provisions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Except where otherwise specifically indicated, the opinions expressed on this website are my own, are sometimes highly speculative in nature and subject to differing interpretations, and rarely reflect the views or opinions of any other organization or individual. If you disagree with my opinions, please CLICK HERE before contacting me.
In the event of my suspicious demise, let be clearly understood that I am not suicidal. I have, however, received countless death threats from “moderate Muslims” in response to the content of this website. I now have reason to expect retaliation from my own government as well. Here’s why.