Hebrew Roots
or
Messianic Judaism?
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Hebrew Roots or Messianic Judaism?

Synopsis: In this article I explore some of the essential differences between the Hebrew Roots movement and Messianic Judaism.


July 12, 2016 — I read a post on Facebook this morning which said that the “Hebrew Roots Movement” is dwindling and adherents are returning to their churches. The post went on to ask for comments about why readers may feel that might be true. In my humble opinion (take that for whatever you think it may be worth), the title “Hebrew Roots Movement” explains it all.

I believe that the Hebrew Roots Movement and Messianic Judaism (or the Messianic Jewish Restoration, as I frequently refer to it) are two separate and distinct movements. My comments here are based on my personal observations derived from over 50 years as a Bible teacher and 35 years as a Baptist pastor before turning to Messianic Judaism, with a brief stop in the Hebrew Roots movement on the way.

Those in the Hebrew Roots Movement, I believe, are predominantly Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians who want to develop an understanding of how the Church was born and how it developed from the first 3,000 Jews who came to faith in Messiah on the first Pentecost following Messiah’s resurrection. They want to know what happened and how it happened before the “beginnings of the Church” that are taught in most Church history books and Bible school courses. They are primarily seeking to satisfy their intellectual curiosity about how Judaism evolved into Christianity, and are satisfied with their current Church experience. They are comfortable in their belief that they have entered into a “saving relationship” with Jesus Christ and are not necessarily looking for a deeper sanctification experience. They are not looking for something that will radically change their lives.

While perhaps attending either a Jewish Roots church or a Messianic synagogue while doing their research, they continue faithfully attending their own church and Sunday school. Some may become concerned or even confused that they are receiving conflicting teaching from the two sources, and choose to accept the teaching of their church as more authoritative than their Messianic “secondary” source of information. They retain their traditional Christian vocabulary and values, and continue to interpret the Scriptures from a Greek, or western, mindset. Many continue to refer to their Messianic synagogue as a “church.” Although they may participate in an occasional Passover seder[1] or light a menorah[2] during Hanukkah, they continue for the most part to live, think, and feel as Gentiles. When their intellectual curiosity has been satisfied they return to attending only their original churches.

On the other hand, those of us in Messianic Judaism, both Jew and non-Jew, are endeavoring to live a Torah-pursuant Jewish lifestyle and have essentially severed our relationships with our former church or synagogue affiliation.

Most of us believe that entering into a “saving relationship” with the Jewish Messiah is only the beginning, and that sanctification is found in living the lifestyle that is defined by the Torah and was lived by Yeshua, his Emissaries (Apostles), and all those who came to faith in Yeshua for the first hundred years or so after the Resurrection.

We believe that the Scriptures — both the Tanakh (so-called “Old Testament”) and the Apostolic Writings (so-called “New Testament”) — can only be correctly understood when interpreted from a Hebraic, or eastern, mindset. We believe this to be true because all of the Scriptures were compiled in a Jewish environment, written to Jews, by Jews, about the Jewish patriarchs, their ancestors, and their descendants, culminating in the life and ministry of the Jewish Messiah, the King of the Jews. (There are, of course, a few letters among the Apostolic Writings that were written to predominately Messianic-Gentile fellowships, but those few fellowships were all built around the lifestyle of the Jewish synagogues and existed in a Jewish milieu.)

As part of developing and maintaining this Hebraic mindset, we adopt and use a vocabulary that is heavily Hebraic. We refer to God the Father using the Hebrew terms Abba (Father), Adonai (Lord), or HaShem (the Name); we refer to the Son of God by His Hebrew name, Yeshua; we refer to the Holy Spirit using the Hebrew term Ruach HaKodesh. We refer to the Jewish people and places of the Bible by their Hebrew names. We refer to the five books of Moshe (Moses) as the Torah, to the “Old Testament” as the Tanakh, and to the “New Testament” as either the Apostolic Writings or the Brit Hadashah (Renewed Covenant).

We believe that those of us who were born as sons of Abraham have become completed through our relationship with the Jewish Messiah. Those of us who were not born as sons of Abraham have become his sons through our relationship with Abraham’s greater son Yeshua, and have been grafted, or legally adopted, into the the family of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and the Commonwealth of Israel, and are as much citizens of that Commonwealth as though we had been born into it.

Because we believe that Messianic Judaism is an integral part of the greater Jewish community, we endeavor, as far as we are able or inclined, to observe a Jewish lifestyle and Jewish traditions so long as they are not in conflict with our understanding of the Scriptures. And we are committed to endeavor to have our children and grandchildren follow in that lifestyle. We have no desire to return to our lifestyle as Gentile Christians or “Traditional” Jews, and would feel incomplete if we were to attempt to do so.

It should be understood that many who regularly attend Messianic synagogues are of the Hebrew Roots mindset rather than a Messianic Jewish mindset. Many do not even realize the distinction that I have just made. And that is perfectly fine. All are welcome to accept as much or as little Messianic teaching as they are willing and able to bear. Of course we desire that they would enjoy the blessings and fellowship that is to be had through a full commitment to this Messianic Jewish lifestyle.

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  1. A seder is the traditional Passover meal. The original Hebrew word means “order” and refers to the order of the telling of the history of the Exodus from Israel during the meal. [RETURN]

  2. A menorah is a traditional Jewish 7-branched candle holder. For Hanukkah (or Chanukah) a 9-branched menorah called a Chanukiah is used. [RETURN]

Page originally posted on Wednesday, 13 July 2016 02:58 PM

Page last updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 11:32 AM
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Major content changes after May 3, 2015 are identified as "Revisions”)