Messianic Gerut (Conversion)

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Messianic Gerut (Conversion)

This is an argument against Messianic Gerut.
The argument in favor of Messianic Gerut is here.

There is significant debate among various Messianic Jewish organizations over whether or not it is appropriate to provide a formal process for non-Jewish Messianic Believers to “convert“ to Messianic Judaism. Rabbinical Judaism embraces a formal process — based upon the Talmud, not upon Scripture — whereby a Gentile may “convert” to Judaism. The process is described in a WikiPedia article as follows:

The Amora'im who produced the Talmud set out three requirements for a gerut to Judaism (Keritot 8b), which must be witnessed and affirmed by a beth din:

   • Circumcision (Brit milah or hatafat dam brit) for men

   • Immersion (tevilah) in a ritual bath (mikveh) for both men and women

   • Offering a certain sacrifice (korban) in the Temple (the Beit Hamikdash) - this requirement is deferred while the Temple does not exist until such time as it may be rebuilt.

The consensus of halakhic authorities also requires a convert to understand and accept the duties of the halakha, classical Jewish religious law. This is not stated explicitly in the Talmud, but was inferred by subsequent commentators.

After confirming that all these requirements have been met, the beth din issues a “Certificate of gerut” (Shtar Giur), certifying that the person is now a Jew.

As a practical matter, the requirements may be restated like this (as actually practised):

The candidate for “conversion” must:

 1.  apply for gerut and be denied twice

 2. renounce his or her current religion, and explain the difference between the current religion and Judaism

 3. affirm his or her desire to become a part of the Jewish religion (generally accomplished by enrolling, either formally or informally, in a course of halakhic study under a supervising rabbi)

 4. adopt a Jewish name (a shem kodesh)

 5. (for men) undergo brit milah (ritual circumcision) by a mohel; if already “medically” circumcised, there must be a fresh drawing of blood (hatafat dam brit) by a mohel (the Reform and Reconstructionist movements generally do not require a circumcision as part of the conversion process)

 6. undergo tevilah (ritual immersion) in a mikvah (a pool of “living” water)

 7. make a sacrifice at the Temple (since no Temple is available, the candidate may make a charitable donation as a substitute for the sacrifice)

A review of the definitions of the words “convert” and “conversion” is appropriate here.

convert, n. a person who has been converted to another religious or political belief

convert, v1. change religious beliefs, or adopt a religious belief; 2. cause to adopt a new or different faith

conversion, n. 1. a spiritual enlightenment causing a person to lead a new life; 2. the act of changing from one use or function or purpose to another; 3. a change of religion; 4. an event that results in a transformation

It should be noted that there is absolutely no formal process for conversion given in the Scriptures, the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) specifically ruled that no “conversion” process is appropriate, and Rav Sha'ul specifically taught against a formal “conversion.” (It must be remembered that Rav Sha'ul used the term “circumcision” as a technical term for “Jewish” and “uncircumcision” as a technical term for “non-Jewish,” and not necessarily as a reference to the brit milah itself.)

Only let each person live the life the Lord has assigned him and live it in the condition he was in when God called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the congregations. Was someone already circumcised [Jewish] when he was called? Then he should not try to remove the marks of his circumcision. Was someone uncircumcised [non-Jewish] when he was called? He shouldn't undergo b'rit-milah. Being circumcised [Jewish] means nothing, and being uncircumcised [non-Jewish] means nothing; what does mean something is keeping God's commandments. Each person should remain in the condition he was in when he was called. Were you a slave when you were called? Well, don't let it bother you; although if you can gain your freedom, take advantage of the opportunity. For a person who was a slave when he was called is the Lord’s freedman; likewise, someone who was a free man when he was called is a slave of the Messiah. You were bought at a price, so do not become slaves of other human beings. Brothers, let each one remain with God in the condition in which he was called. (1 Cor. 7:17-24, CJB; emphasis added)

Rav Sha'ul also clearly taught that the non-Jewish individuals who have come to saving faith in Yeshua HaMashiach are already “fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family” (emphasis added).

1You used to be dead because of your sins and acts of disobedience. 2You walked in the ways of the 'olam hazeh (the world which is now) and obeyed the Ruler of the Powers of the Air, who is still at work among the disobedient. — 11Therefore, remember your former state: you Gentiles by birth — called the Uncircumcised by those who, merely because of an operation on their flesh, are called the Circumcised — 12at that time had no Messiah. You were estranged from the national life of Isra'el. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God's promise. You were in this world without hope and without God. 13But now, you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.

14For He Himself is our shalom — He has made us both one and has broken down the m'chitzah [a five-foot-high wall in the Temple courtyard which divided the Court of the Jews from the Court of the Gentiles] which divided us 15by destroying in His own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. He did this in order to create in union with Himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom, 16and in order to reconcile to God both in a single body by being executed on a stake as a criminal and thus in Himself killing that enmity. 17Also, when He came, He announced as Good News shalom to you far off and shalom to those nearby, 18news that through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's family. (Ephesians 2)

Let’s look at just the most relevant phrases again in isolation:

“… You used to be dead … You walked in the ways of the 'olam hazeh … remember your former state: you Gentiles by birth … You were estranged from the national life of Isra'el. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God's promise. … you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood. … He has made us both one and has broken down the m'chitzah [partition] which divided us … He did this in order to create in union with Himself from the two groups a single new humanity … both in a single body … through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. … you are no longer foreigners and strangers … you are fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's family.”

It is clear from the Scriptures that non-Jewish individuals who have come to faith in Israel’s Messiah are “no longer foreigners and strangers” but already are “fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God's family” — that is, they already are full citizens in good standing of the Commonwealth of Israel, exactly the same as those who have been born of Jewish ancestry.

It is also clear from biology that no process of “conversion” can change the DNA of a non-Jewish person and make them biologically Jewish.

What purpose, then, can a “conversion” process serve for a non-Jewish citizen of the Commonwealth of Israel other than to deny the Scriptures which clearly say that he/she already is a citizen of that commonwealth? Additionally, biblical Messianic Faith insists that in Messiah there is no difference between Jews and non-Jews. If in truth there is no difference, then what purpose does a “conversion” serve, other than to insist that there is, in fact, a difference! Apparently Rav Sha'ul was not writing under the inspiration of Ruach HaKodesh when he wrote:

For in union with the Messiah, you are all children of God through this trusting faithfulness; because as many of you as were immersed into the Messiah have clothed yourselves with the Messiah, in whom there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor freeman, neither male nor female; for in union with the Messiah Yeshua, you are all one. Also, if you belong to the Messiah, you are (present condition, not “you may become”) seed of Avraham and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:26-30)

In order to “convert” to Judaism (even to “Messianic” Judaism), the convert must renounce his/her current “religion.” So the Messianic Gentile convert must renounce his/her Messianic Faith!

The ultimate question which must be asked is from what is one converting, and to what is that one converting? How can one “convert” from being a citizen of the Commonwealth Israel to being a citizen of the Commonwealth Israel? To say that one wishes the conversion in order to “become Jewish” is a denial of both the facts of biology and the clear teaching of Scripture. If one is already Messianic in faith, can one “convert” from Messianic Faith to Messianic Faith? Any such attempt at conversion is a clear denial that the m'chitzah (dividing wall) has been broken down. “Conversion” of a non-Jewish Messianic Believer would then, of necessity, be a conversion from Biblical Judaism to Rabbinical Judaism, and the individual should therefore no longer be considered truly “Messianic.”

One argument in favor of providing Messianic Gerut reads:

“All other branches of Judaism provide for Gentile “conversion.” Such seems to demand that Messianic Judaism must also provide for Gentile “conversion.” If not, Messianic Judaism is called into question as a “true” or “valid” Judaism. Also, Messianic Jews normally accept Gentile conversions from other branches of Judaism. If Messianic Judaism does not have its own conversion process, then that means that Gentiles must go (and in fact are encouraged to go) to “non-believers” [i.e., rabbinical, non-Messianic rabbis] as the only path to becoming a Jew. Therefore in practice, other branches of Judaism seem to be more authentic or authoritative than Messianic Judaism. How is it that “non-believers” are considered more authoritative than believers? If conversions by other branches are “authentic” how is it that the Messianic Judaism branch does not perform such? Are we less “authentic” than the others? This perceived impotence by some may be one reason why Messianic Judaism cannot shake itself from being viewed by non-believing Jews as a mis-named sect of Christianity.” [CTOMC]

It would appear that the main thrust of this argument is that the primary reason that Messianic Judaism should provided a “conversion” process is that all the other Jewish “denominations” do, so in order to be accepted as a “true Judaism” by the other Jewish “denominations,” the Messianic community must “get in line,” in spite of the clear teaching of Scripture. All the other Jewish “denominations” reject Yeshua as Mashiach, so perhaps the Messianic community should also reject Him in order to be accepted as “true Judaism?”

Now does that sound as if I were trying to win human approval? No! I want God's approval! Or that I'm trying to cater to people? If I were still doing that, I would not be a servant of the Messiah. (Galatians 1:10)

The other part of this argument is that if Messianic Judaism doesn’t provide a conversion process, non-Jewish Believers in Messiah will go to non-Messianic rabbis in order to become Jewish. Would it not be a more correct approach to teach non-Jewish Believers what the Bible teaches about them, that they already are “full citizens in good standing” of the Commonwealth of Israel?

In personal discussions with a number of Messianic rabbis who support the concept of Messianic gerut, they have told me that any certificate of conversion issued by a Messianic beit din would avoid all mention of Messianic belief in order to be acceptable to “mainline” Judaism. That sort of deception is exactly what Rabbinic Judaism accuses Messianic Judaism of — secretly infiltrating Judaism in order to win converts. But what did Messiah say about that?

“And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”

How is hiding the convert’s Messianic faith in a certificate of conversion any different than outright denying Messiah?

The CTOMC argument that is cited immediately above also says:

“… presently no other branch of Judaism will accept a Messianic Jewish conversion. … Aliyah is presently not available to Messianic Jews.”

If no other branch of Judaism accepts Messianic gerut, and aliyah is not available to Messianic Jews, what possible reasons for gerut remains? The CTOMC position provides three additional possible reasons:

 1. Unification of a mixed marriage. A married couple might find it to be a unifying help for both of them to be considered Jewish.

 2. Unassimilated Jewish ministry. A non-Jewish person called for ministry to the Jews may want to make sure that their work does not think to remove Jews from their Jewishness.

 3. Ambiguous Jewish heritage. A person may have strong indications that they have Jewish heritage, but no “proof,” so the gerut serves as a point of assertion and commitment to their Jewish heritage.

In answer to these points we offer the following advise: teach them what the Scriptures say about the condition of non-Jewish members of the Commonwealth of Israel.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. (Romans 10:12)

… there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Messiah is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)

One of the primary defining principles of the greater Messianic Movement is that “the wall of partition” has been broken down, and that in Messiah there is no difference between Jew and non-Jew. Providing a method of “converting” from non-Jewish to Jewish demonstrates that fact that those who propose such a process actually believe, in spite of what they say, that there IS in fact a difference between Jew and non-Jew, and that “the wall of partition” has NOT been broken down.

While I might possibly be convinced to admit that a formal “conversion” process might be appropriate for a person coming to faith in Messiah from paganism and/or idolatry (defined as any non-biblical world religion which serves “other gods”), I must insist in the strongest possible terms that any formal “conversion” of a “Messianic non-Jewish person“ to ”Messianic Judaism” serves no practical purpose and is not only unbiblical, it is patently anti-biblical. Why would Messianic Judaism be so careful to proclaim itself as “Torah observant” (or better, “Torah pursuant”) and then promote such an anti-Torah process as gerut?

[Oct. 29,2016] After considerable additional thought, it occurs to me that if a non-Jewish Christian believes that the Church (Christianity) is pagan, than Messianic gerut might be an appropriate witness to that belief. But is he/she believes that he/she is already in a proper union with Messiah, I think it would probably not be appropriate.

Page revised on Saturday, October 29, 2016
Page revised on Sunday, May 8, 2016

Page last updated on Saturday, 29 October 2016 09:22 AM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes after May 3, 2015 are identified as "Revisions”)