You can find a more comprehensive treatment toward many of these important questions in the Resources section of our website.
What Is Messianic Judaism?
Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish people who believe that Yeshua (Jesus' original name in Hebrew) is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world. 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 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 never stopped being Jewish. On the contrary, we remain strongly Jewish in our identity and lifestyle! The Tenach (the Old Covenant Scriptures) provides the foundation of our Jewish faith, and the New Covenant Scriptures the completion of our Jewish faith in the light of Messiah Yeshua. 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 God established and ratified this New Covenant by means of Yeshua's death and resurrection. Yeshua 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 Other Branches Of Judaism?
In general, we view the primary streams of Judaism as Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism is centered around the teachings and writings of rabbis who rejected Messiah Yeshua. Its earliest formation began during the Babylonian Captivity (around 550 BC) and solidified approximately 2,000 years ago when the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Prior to that, “Judaism”, or the faith of the Jewish people, was centered around the Levitical priesthood of the Temple and the sacrificial system, in accordance with Scripture. After the destruction of the Temple, the rabbis who rejected Messiah Yeshua, developed a fundamentally different means for atonement from what we find in the Tenach. The rabbinic writings and commentaries (e.g. the Talmud) form the foundation of these several branches of Judaism: Orthodox, Chassidic, Conservative,Reform, and to a lesser extent, Reconstructionist. Messianic Judaism significantly differs from Rabbinic Judaism in that we fully rely on the Old and New Covenant Scriptures for our faith and practice. Our faith is the Judaism of Scripture and is centered on Messiah Yeshua. We are brought into personal relationship with God because of the atoning work of Yeshua, the King of the Jews.
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. Christianity (the faith of the Gentiles in Messiah Yeshua), which originally began within the context of Messianic Judaism, is the same faith, although it’s primary expression is culturally different than Messianic Judaism. Theologically, the major between difference Messianic Judaism and Christianity lies in keeping the Torah. Clearly, the early Messianic Jews followed after Messiah Yeshua, who kept the Torah perfectly. Consequently, Messianic Judaism continues today to have a favorable view in keeping the Torah, and are zealous to live in accordance with it (see Acts 21:20). The Gentile Believers were not required, in the same manner as the Jewish Believers, to observe the Law of Moses (see Acts 15:5,19-20).
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 all Jewish. The apostles were all Jewish. The writers of the Brit Chadashah (New Covenant) were all Jewish (with the possible exception of Luke, and a very good case can be made that he was also 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, Acts 4:4, Acts 21:20). This is how Messianic Judaism began.
If, At First, Messianic Judaism Was Made Up Entirely Of Jewish People, How Did Gentiles Come Into The Faith?
It was always God's will for the Gentile nations to share in His salvation (Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 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. As a result of the witness of the first Messianic Jews, many Gentile people came into the faith.
How Did The Jewish Belief in Messiah Yeshua Come To Be Regarded As Not Jewish?
When the early Messianic Jews presented the faith in God through Messiah Yeshua to the Gentiles, many became Believers. By the end of the first century, not surprisingly, Gentile Believers outnumbered the Jewish Believers since there are far more Gentile people than Jewish people. However, as more and more Gentiles came into the Messianic faith, a “de-Judaizing” process (a separation from the Jewish roots of the faith and from the Jewish people) set in when the Roman Empire established Christianity as the dominant religion. Then, in what can only be regarded as one of the great tragedies of history, Christianity under the Roman Empire made it impossible for a Jewish person to practice their faith as Jews!
MODERN MESSIANIC JUDAISM
When Did The Modern Messianic Jewish Movement Begin?
Though Messianic Judaism as a distinct and identifiable movement of Jewish people who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel faded away many centuries ago, there has 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 late 1960s and 1970s. We believe that this resurgence of Messianic Judaism is a partial fulfillment 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 150,000 Jewish Believers in Messiah Yeshua today. In 1948, when Israel was reestablished as an independent nation, there were fewer than 100 Messianic Jews living in Israel. Today, there are approximately 15,000 Messianic Jewish people in Israel and Messianic congregations throughout the Land! The Messianic Jewish movement is also growing in other countries.
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. Before the Hebrew name "Yeshua" was transliterated into English, it was first transliterated into Greek. As to the name Jesus, it would appear that an error was made in the earliest translations from Greek into English. The first syllable of the English version of Yeshua came to be pronounced "Jee" instead of "Yeh".
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 Jewish Believers Prefer To Identify Themselves As Messianic Jews Rather Than As Christians?
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 some Jewish Believers do identify as Christians and call themselves 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 Jewish, but as a Gentile-Christian. For all intents and purposes the term “Christian” has become synonymous with “non-Jewish” or “Gentile”. This is simply not true. For a Jewish person nothing could be more Jewish than to follow Israel's promised Messiah, who is Yeshua! Consequently we choose to call ourselves “Messianic Jews”, which identifies us more accurately as Jewish people who follow Messiah Yeshua in our Jewish identity and practice.
If I’m Jewish And Believe in Jesus, Will I Stop Being Jewish?
As stated above, 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 stop being Jewish? Contrary to those who think otherwise, the Jewish identity of many Messianic Jews has been strengthened by their faith in the King of the Jews. Faith in Yeshua is Jewish, no matter what the prevailing attitude may say, because the truth is determined by God - not by the current culture! If you are Jewish, it is because God made you Jewish 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, James 2:2; Hebrews 10:27). Messianic congregations help foster community life. They enable Messianic Jews to worship the God of Israel within a biblically Jewish context, observance and heritage. Messianic congregations help us to nurture and maintain our Jewish identity and pass it on to the following generations.
Do Messianic Jews Believe They Should Keep The Law Of Moses?
The covenant upon which the Torah is based is the Old Covenant that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is impossible to keep all the laws of the Mosaic Covenant today since the Temple was destroyed, along with the proscribed sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant, by which Israel was able to draw near to God and obtain eternal life. Today we have entered into the better New Covenant through the promised Messiah of Israel, Yeshua. We read in the book of Hebrews that this New Covenant was ratified through the willing sacrifice of Yeshua, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 (see Hebrews 10:1-4). Nevertheless, the laws that are part of the covenant mediated by Moses, which we are able to keep, are still relevant for the Messianic Jewish Believer to observe. The Torah continues to inform and guide the life and practice of Messianic Jewish people. The Torah enables us to live an authentic Jewish lifestyle that the early Messianic Jews were zealous to keep (see Acts 21:20-26). History documents that Messianic Jews continued to live a distinctly Jewish, Torah-based lifestyle for centuries after the arrival of Messiah Yeshua, as it is today. We recognize that all Believers (Jewish and Gentile) are in some sense to fulfill the Law (see Romans 8:4), but that the Gentile Believer is not obligated to fulfill the same requirements of the Law as the Jewish Believer (see Acts 15:5,19-20).
Do Messianic Jews Celebrate The Jewish Holidays And, If So, Why?
Yes, 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, Leviticus 31, Leviticus 41; Exodus 12:14). Yeshua observed these festivals, as did the early Messianic Jews and the apostles such as Paul (Acts 20:16, Acts 27:9; 1 Corinthians 16:8). We also believe that when Messiah Yeshua returns to Earth, some of these holy days 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 Firstfruits of the resurrection, who came back to life on the holiday of Firstfruits. He is our Atonement on Yom Kippur, etc.
Can Gentiles Be Members Of A Messianic Synagogue?
Yes, and most Messianic congregations are blessed to have Gentile 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.
Are Messianic Jews Zionists?
Yes, most Messianic Jews strongly support Israel, not only because we believe the Jewish people need a national homeland, but also because we believe the reestablishment of Israel is an awesome direct fulfillment of ancient Biblical prophecies (Ezekiel 36:24, Ezekial 37:1-14, Zechariah 12).
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT YESHUA IS THE MESSIAH?
The prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures assure us that Yeshua is the Messiah. God wanted us to be able to recognize the Messiah when He came:
✡ The Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:1-2). See Matthew 2:1-6, Luke 2:1-20.
✡ The Messiah would be more than a man. He would be God in human form (Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Psalm 110:1, Proverbs 30:4). See John 1:1, John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8.
✡ The Messiah had to come before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD (Daniel 9:24-27). See Luke 1:5, 2:1-7.
✡ The Messiah had to be a direct descendant of King David, a member of the royal family of Israel (Jeremiah 23:5-6, Isaiah 9:6-7). See Matthew 1.
✡ The Messiah was to be tried and unfairly condemned, even though He was perfectly innocent (Isaiah 53:8). See Matthew 27:1-2, Luke 23:1-25.
✡ The Messiah would die to make atonement for the sin of Israel and the world (Isaiah 53:5-6, 8, 10-12; Daniel 9:24-27; Zechariah 9:9, 12:10; Psalm 16:10, 22). See John 1:29, 11:49-52; 1 Corinthians 15:53.
✡ The Messiah was to be a light to the nations, so that God's salvation could reach to the ends of the Earth (Isaiah 49:6). Yeshua is the most popular, the most studied and the most influential figure in the history of mankind. He is the most famous Jew who ever lived: more famous than Abraham, more famous than Moses, more famous than King David or any of the prophets, more famous than Freud or Einstein! If people throughout the world know about Israel, or pray to the God of Israel, or read the Holy Scriptures of Israel, it is because of Yeshua. No Jewish person should be indifferent to the fact that the Jewish Messiah has had such a tremendous part in the history of mankind. The love He has inspired, the comfort He has given, the good He has engendered, the eternal hope and joy He has kindled are unequaled in human history. He truly has become the light of the world!
✡ The Messiah would rise from the dead (Isaiah 53:8-12; Psalm 16:10, 118:21-24; Zechariah 12:10). The New Testament records that after His death and resurrection, Yeshua appeared to a wide variety of Jewish people in varying numbers and under varying circumstances. He appeared to Mariam (John 20:11-18); to some other women (Matthew 28:8-10); to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34); to two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35); to 10 of the apostles (Luke 24:36-43); to all 11 apostles eight days later (John 20:24-29); then to seven by the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee - see John 21:1-23). Yeshua appeared to 500 people at once, most of whom were alive and could verify the event when the New Testament was written (1 Corinthians 15:6)! Yeshua appeared to His brother James, who became the leader of the Jerusalem Congregation (1 Corinthians 15:7), and to Saul of Tarsus, who became better known as the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-16). Since the first century there have been millions of people, both Jewish and Gentiles (including some of the greatest thinkers, philosophers and scientists), who have claimed to have encountered the resurrected Yeshua. What transformed all of these people? Only one explanation makes sense - He is alive today!
History tells us that only one - Yeshua of Nazareth - fulfilled these prophecies and many others. No other in history even comes close. The probability that one could fulfill all these prophecies by chance is infinitesimally small. There is only one rational conclusion: Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel whom the prophets told us to expect.
WE WELCOME YOUR INVOLVEMENT!
We are encouraged by the growth of Messianic Judaism in our day. We invite you to join us through your prayers, support, encouragement and participation. We appreciate all of you who stand with us. May the God of Israel bless and reward you for your faithfulness! From the bottom of our hearts - thank you!
If you are interested in knowing more about our faith or have questions, please contact us and we will try to be of help to you.
Shalom, in Messiah Yeshua, the Prince of Peace!
Congregational Leader of Beth Am Messiah