Revisiting Gentiles in Messianic Judaism

I want to reopen a conversation that was started in May. On May 23, 2007, I wrote a post called “Warning: This is a long post on Gentiles in MJ,” which was followed by “Carl Kinbar on Gentile in MJ” and “Leah on Gentiles in MJ.” Just today Martin wrote a thoughtful comment on the subject.

It seems to me that the role of Gentiles in the Messianic Jewish synagogues is crucial for our going forward. We don’t have anything like a consensus on the matter.

It seems to me the possibilities include:
1. Allowing only Jewish or mixed couples in the synagogue.
2. Welcoming non-Jews, but not in leadership and not to fully participate in ritual life (no Torah reading, no tallitot, etc.).
3. Full inclusion of non-Jews as equal partners in the synagogue life both as God-fearers and as converts (we need a conversion process that is widely agreed upon and properly administered).

I presented a paper in which I basically used the following lines of argument to suggest #3:
1. Sojourners in Torah were able to come right to God’s altar even though some texts suggest they were not converts (Exod 12:48, Deut. 14:21).
2. Second-Temple Judaism made a place for God-fearing Gentiles, though, admittedly, it was not even close to full inclusion.
3. The prophets radically include non-Jews in the Age to Come in Israel’s worship, even with some as priests.
4. The God-fearers of Second Temple Judaism, while not fully included. widely shared in Torah observance, especially Sabbath and Dietary Law.

I suggested the following policies:
1. Intermarriage is forbidden except with conversion of the non-Jewish spouse.
2. Conversion is an option for candidates with mature understanding.
3. God-fearers are accepted as non-Jews participating with Jews.
4. God’s continuing election of Israel and the importance of Jewish identity are clearly taught.
5. The non-Jewish members understand that they have chosen to cross the Jew-Gentile line and participate in a Jewish congregation.
6. The purpose of the congregation is to follow Yeshua together through a Yeshua-based Judaism.
7. Torah standards are maintained for communal functions, though non-Jews are not required to observe Torah distinctives at all times.

Carl Kinbar raised some problems with my suggestion. He pointed out that:
1. Converts (Gerim) in the Torah were to be a minority, not the majority, while in MJ it is true that Gentiles are the majority, not the minority.
2. Converts and God-fearers were no threat to Jewish identity at that time whereas in MJ the non-Jewish members have consistently made light of Jewish identity, assumed Jewish roles for themselves, and unwittingly worked for the demise of Jewish identity in Messiah.

I respect Carl’s objections and feel the only appropriate response is to say: something prophetic is happening in MJ. It is like nothing experienced before in history. God is bringing non-Jews into a Jewish movement. It is easy to be cynical and say God is bringing Jews into a Gentile movement that is only called Jewish. Too often that is true. So what are we to do about it? I think we must clarify our theology of Jewish identity and our theology of non-Jewish inclusion in Israel’s worship. Absolutely we cannot allow non-Jews in MJ to make light of Jewish identity and covenantal obligation. Non-Jews who love Torah but find no place for Jewish identity are welcome to form their own Torah-based congregations and leave Messianic Judaism. We are not a Torah movement founded in personal preferences but a Jewish Torah movement ordained by God.

Leah, a young and very promising scholar with an amazing knowledge of Jewish life made her voice heard with a few suggestions:
1. We cannot have an apartheid Messianic Judaism, but must find ways to include Gentiles without giving up Jewish identity.
2. We can and must modify liturgy that excludes Gentiles (there are models in some of the Reconstructionist prayers).
3. Gentiles who are in MJ must live according to the standards for a Sojourner, which means some Torah requirements but not as strict as Jews and converts.

Anyway, there is something of a summary. Now I hope to start a discussion.
What are some of the problems that have come from MJ being a mostly non-Jewish movement?
What are some of the blessings of the Gentile majority in MJ?
What are some arguments for excluding Gentiles from the movement?
What are some arguments for excluding Gentiles from full inclusion?
What are some of the reasons Gentiles must not be excluded from the movement?
How can we explain our movement as a Jewish movement when it is largely non-Jewish?
What are we to make of the precedents of God-fearers and Gerim?
What policies do you recommend for Gentile inclusion in MJ?
Comment on any or all of these. Please keep comments to a few paragraphs. It is better to make two short comments than one long one.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Messianic Jewish, Supersessionism, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Revisiting Gentiles in Messianic Judaism

  1. Ralph says:

    Shalom Derek,

    Your questions are ones that I know are being, have been and will be discussed. And you are so right that we do not have a consensus on this issue. And on top of that, with the varying theological approaches mixed with positive and negative experiences and demographical make up, it will be hard to objectively establish one answer that fits all. As an example, permit me to share on some of Carl’s conclusions, before attempting to answer some of your questions (which I may have to answer in another reply). Carl’s approach to what constitutes a “jewish” congregation weighs heavily
    upon the demographic of the congregation. For example, he states “…if one went into a Korean church and found 20% or 30% Koreans (and perhaps mostly non-Korean leaders), one would understandably question the Korean identity of that church …..no amount of rule-making will ever make that congregation Korean”. I understand Carl’s perspective and from a sociological, ‘racial’ approach he is correct. I agree with him that if someone invited me to a Korean church and I saw only a handful of Koreans, I would naturally question the Koreaness of the congregation. But this is only looking at the racial make up of the congregation and is not considering the cultural dynamic of what would give this congregation “Koreaness”. When one thinks of being “korean”, one thinks in terms of the physical make up of a person — more bluntly we are adopting the idea of race. But when we add the “cultural dynamic” to what is Korean, it is a little different. We can speak of Korean food, language, history, rituals, clothing, etc, etc — or as one person states, the things that a ‘group’ does. Other groups may even share in some of these things, but the things taken together, one could define what is a “Korean” culture and what is not. And likewise, one can do the same with identifying things that are considered “Jewish”. One could speak of food, language, history, rituals, practices, celebrations etc. that are identified as Jewish and not Korean.

    Since Carl used the Korean example, let me continue . If one was to walk into the back of a congregation of people where the faces of the worshipers could not be seen, yet one could see them davening with tallisim and kippot, praying the siddur, using well known established and timeless Hebrew melodies, and the Torah being lifted out of the Ark, the parasha being read, would not the visitor, if knowledgeable of Jewish culture, understand that what he is seeing is “jewish”? Yet when the people turn around to greet him, he finds that they are all are Korean people ‘racially’. Is this a korean congregation or a Jewish congregation? Or both? One can not tell from this description, because these Koreans may also be Jews. And even if they are not Jews, would not most describe this congregation in some form or fashion to be ‘Jewish’? This is the dilemma with the term Messianic Jewish. Although “Jewish” speaks to the people, it also speaks to the theology, lifecycle and culture of the term. A congregation of dispensational Baptist, even if its membership was 100% made up of Jews, would not be called a Messianic Jewish congregation in our circles. Just like one can speak of the Baptist view on a subject, one can speak of the Messianic Jewish perspective.

    Recently we had a new guest to our congregation. He is a Jew who had a synagogue upbringing. He became a Christian ten years ago or so and has been part of the Assembly of God church for all that time. Moving recently to the area, he has heard of MJ and wanted to check it out and find out what the MJ perspectives were on the Law and Paul and Jewish life. He first came to one of chavurah groups, before coming to Shabbat services, where he engaged me, a Gentile, about the place of Torah in New Covenant. I invited him to come share Shabbat with us. He came and his heart was touched. He said it took him back to his early years in the synagogue, but with a freshness that is allowing him to approach it with positive expectation. He saw the Jewishness of his early years in the congregation. (However, the thing is the majority in our congregation are Gentiles). He was not upset about it, but said a spark has gone off inside and that he felt a sense of homecoming. Yes, Carl is right that since the majority in the congregation are Gentile and based on his majority rule view, we should not be considered Jewish, yet this Jewish visitor would differ with him on this conclusion.
    (Ok, I got that off my chest, now I will attend to one or more of your questions in another reply).
    ralph

  2. Ralph says:

    Ok Derek,

    1. What are some of the problems that have come from MJ being a mostly non-Jewish movement?
    Being a part of this movement for over 27 years, I have heard and observed many different responses to this question. I will share some of them here with the understanding that all ideas may not represent my own perspective.

    The original purpose of the MJ movement was to reach Jews with the knowledge of Yeshua as Messiah and to build a household of Jewish believers in Yeshua. With gentiles joining the movement in such large numbers, it brings a question to the authenticity, purpose and success of the movement. In some cases, where the Gentiles have not adopted Jewish life, congregations have forsaken its Jewishness. And sometimes a ‘we’ versus ‘them’ mentality develops, where Gentiles have a difficult time as viewing the larger Jewish community as “us”, but views it as “them”. It is naturally for Jews to see the larger Jewish world as “our” people, while it is not natural for Gentiles to do so.
    In some settings, some Gentiles have pushed the congregation into abandoning Jewishness all together, even forsaking a concern for Jewish life and Jewish people.
    Some Jewish believers feel like a stranger in congregations that are predominantly Gentile.
    In the larger Jewish world, groups like Jews for Judaism use the fact that Gentiles are in the majority in lots of MJ congregations as an argument against authenticity; especially when the leader is a Gentile.

    2.What are some of the blessing of the Gentile majority in MJ?

    When the Gentiles are in the majority, but are still willing to cleave to, support, and show ahavat israel for the Jewish people, not only in the congregation, but to the larger Jewish world, it bears testimony of Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah. It becomes witness that Yeshua is the Messiah in that one sees that these Gentiles who have embraced Yeshua are a foretaste of the things to come, where Zechariah 8:3 states that it shall come to pass that ten from the nations will take the hold of the skirt (corner of the garment – fringe maybe) of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you”. It becomes a testimony of the nations who will love Israel and The Jewish people. Pauls speaks of Gentiles being grafted in and warns them to not boast against the natural branches. It is easy to boast when you are the majority and to demand your own way and your own culture. But when Gentiles accept the grafting and seek to uphold Israel and love it, when they are the majority it is fulfilling the provoking to jealousy that Romans 11 speaks.

    Okay two questions. I will try to respond to others later.

    Ralph

  3. Ralph says:

    3. What are some arguments for excluding Gentiles from the movement?
    4. What are arguments for excluding Gentiles from full inclusion?

    The issue of exclusion is a sensitive one. Some of the arguments that those who are in flavor of exclusion flow like this:
    The movement is for the household of Israel and therefore adding Gentiles will water down the Jewish witness and make the congregation unauthentic. Gentiles will introduce Gentile-ness to the congregation and destroy the Jewish fabric. Gentiles need to be Gentiles in Gentile congregations, MJ is only for Jews. Gentiles have no obligation to Torah and therefore should not come into a community where they will have to take on that obligation. Jews will marry Gentiles and the next generation will not be Jewish. There are plenty of churches for Gentiles to go to, leave MJ to the Jews. The witness of two ecclesia can only be achieved by Gentiles believers and Jewish believers maintaining distinct communities, who mutually acknowledge and respect one another in their own cultures on different sides of the tracks. Keeping Jewish identity safe and secure can only be achieved by maintaining Jewish space and Jewish distinctives. If Gentiles are included in the communities it causes logistic issues that end up in conflict between Jew and Gentile.

    However, some who may prescribe to some of the views above, have embraced conversion for Gentiles who feel strongly called to a MJ congregation. In doing so these communities can emulate other branches of Judaism and therefore maintain legitimacy by following similar practices.

    5. What are some of the reasons Gentiles must not be excluded from the movement?

    Scripture. We are so used to the split between Judaism and Christianity that when we talk about Gentiles and Jews, we have a tendency to develop our theological ideas based on the mutual borderlines established between the two as though this is the way it has always been. However, Scripture does not paint that view. Gentiles were joined to the Jewish believers in the beginning. There was no first baptist or On Fire Pentecostal GENTILE church for them to go. They submitted to the apostles teachings just like the Jewish believers did. We see over and over again in the book of Acts, Gentiles joining to the remnant of Jewish believers. We see Gentiles at the synagogues. We see Gentiles gather right along side of the Jewish believers. As Gentiles grew in numbers and the apostles moved into regions that had smaller and smaller Jewish populations, congregations that were more Gentile were established. However, these Gentiles still connected to the Jewish Apostles and look to their leadership. When Paul writes to the Roman believers, he acknowledge that there were Jews and Gentiles. However, he does exhort the Gentiles to not boast against the natural branches, but strongly reminds them to whom they had been grafted. It was not the vision of the apostles to establish Gentiles churches that were totally separate and unrelated from the Jewish believers. If Jews and Gentiles believers were in a region together, they were to work together and pray together. They were to be one body. Gentiles were not to see themselves as a separate new movement, but were to see themselves as no longer being strangers, but brought near, even to being members in the household of God.
    Also Gentile inclusion, shows best the unity of Jew and Gentile, who can work together, all with a love for Israel and the Jewish people. Loving the Jewish people is not an option in my mind, but comes with accepting the Jewish Messiah.
    Gentile inclusion will help to prepare a community that will link to the prophetic scripture that speaks of nations sending representative up to Israel at Sukkot(Zech 14) and to every man worship God from one Sabbath to another (Isaiah).
    Gentile inclusion will help to defeat anti-semitism as Gentiles live day to day with their Jewish brothers.

    Ralph

  4. Ralph says:

    6. How can we explain our movement as a Jewish movement when it is largely non-Jewish?

    Sociological and pychological that is a very difficult question, but theological it is not impossible. If one sees that it is the root of something that defines it, not the branches that receive it life from the root, then the movement finds its being in the root and not the identity of the branches. So when we look at the root of the olive tree and see that it is Jewish. When we see the Messiah is Jewish. When we see that the theological perspective and cause of the movement is Jewish, then the movement itself can be a ‘Jewish’ movement based on that premise. This is not tho play down the importance of the people part of “Jewish”. It is most crucial. But the fullness of it may be eventually seen in the physical land of Israel and not in the diaspora. But the movement in the diaspora, although sweeping in Gentiles, still should have at its root a Jewish heartbeat — a concern for the Land, the People and the Messiah (who afterall is a Jew). The Kingdom that the apostles preached is it a Gentile Kingdom or is it the restoration of the kingdom promised to David? Can the Gentiles be included in the New Covenant apart from Israel with whom the covenant is made? Can we remove the the names of the 12 tribes from the New Jerusalem and erase out the names of the Jewish apostles for a Gentile kingdom?

    7. What are we to make of the precedents of God-fearers and Gerim?

    In a nutshell, I think God has always left a hint that there was a way for the nations to joins themselves to Israel and be accepted along with his people.

    8. What policies do you recommend for Gentile inclusion in MJ?

    One man sows, another waters, but God gives the increase. If God gives the increase and he appoints elders to oversees and pastor the flock, I see no obligation except that the leaders of MJ communities require all who would be a part to submit to the teaching of the community and for those leaders to realize that they will be held accountable for those that God gives them.

    Ralph

  5. Robert Efurd says:

    What are some of the reasons Gentiles must not be excluded from the movement?

    Humanity is defined into these two general classifications- the Children of Israel and the Children of Noah. Now we in the MJ add Children of Messiah. We are partners in the world to come and must not forget that fact. As Ralph stated, “Gentiles were joined to the Jewish believers in the beginning.” We need to strive for that unity.

    I am currently reading a very good overview of some of the issues presented in The Path of the Righteous Gentile by Chaim Clorfene & Yakov Rogalsky. In this book, it examines the important aspect of inclusiveness to the nations of the world to G-d.

    “The Gentile as well as the Jew should not relate to members of the Non- Jewish nations of the world as Gentiles, but rather as Noahites. Seen as the Children of Noah, or Noahites, the non-Jewish nations of the world at once have a unique and specific spiritual role in the world, one that is exceedingly exalted. The Children of Noah are co-religionist of the Children of Israel. Together, they are peaceful partners striving to perfect the world and thereby give G-d satisfaction. By viewing himself as a Noahite, the Gentile becomes like the Jew, in that he is a member of people whose peoplehood (not just his religion) is synonymous with its relationship to G-D.”

  6. PB and J says:

    derek

    as someone from the outside looking in, i think there are a lot of good things being discussed here. i think it is important to discuss them in MJ and in the gentile bodies.

    i would like to talk a little about what ralph said in regard to the gentiles joining the jews and then over time the church became more and more gentile and eventually almost purely gentile.

    i think from the beginning (as best as we can tell) the gentiles did assimilate much more to judaism than the other way around. the Body wasnt a “new” religion, but a continuation and fulfillment of relationship with our LORD, through Yeshua.

    from a historical perspective, i think it becomes quite clear why the jewishness of early “christians” was lost. much of this had to do with the increasing gentile population as followers of Yeshua, yes, but there is something more. if one looks into the history of the “catholic” church in rome, one finds some pretty disturbing teachings that came as a result of the inclusion of secularism into the RC church.

    i am not trying to pick on RC christians, but the history does show something changed. let me just give one example:

    there were various authors from the early “church” who spoke of keeping Sabbath on the 7th not 1st day. there is much history that suggests the early followers of Yeshua kept the Sabbath. then by the 5th and 6th century, there are two separate writers who discuss the views of the “church” (mind you the Body is almost purely gentile by then). they both say that Sabbath is the 7th day, and has always been, and most importantly that the ENTIRE church keeps the 7th day, EXCEPT for the church in Rome and Alexandria. sure rome and alexandria were big churches, meaning a lot of people, but the majority of the Body wasnt in those two regions (at that time). the majority was in asia minor. so the “majority” of the church (if these historians are to be believedd) kept Sabbath on the 7th day.

    however, the bishop of Rome mandated that people not keep Sabbath on saturday and instead keep it on sunday. this was in the 5th century.

    now, i think the pt is that gentile followers of Yeshua with little jewish influence left, still kept Sabbath. however, over time, Rome become the primary influence in the Body, and over time, the bishop of Rome became stronger. and over time, the “pope” became rich and powerful and ungodly. and over time, the popes became murderous and perverted. and over time, the RC church gained power over almost everything. so is it really surprising that there are things that have changed from being “jewish” (Sabbath) to being “gentile” (Sunday rest day)????

    now, my pt isnt to say that the Body shouldnt be gentile and jewish, but that the Body of followers of Yeshua in the beginning, were much more “jewish” culturally in their practices than “gentile”. now, we see the opposite, except for in MJ.

    so maybe there is another possibility. maybe its ok to have MJ. maybe its ok to have a “separate” body for “gentiles”, but arent we all supposed to be following Yeshua. arent we all (originally) supposed to be culturally “jewish”? at least in regard to many practices. i know there are areas of debate as to whether gentiles must be fully Torah observant or not. but certainly the “gentile” churches have forgotten what it means to follow Yeshua.

    maybe MJ doesnt care about that. maybe Jewish believers dont want to help their brothers out. but what if yall helped guide us to a better understanding of what it means to follow Yeshua? why cant that happen? why must there be apartheid? why must there be an MJ movement and a “baptist” movement and a “pentecostal” movement and a RC movement and a “reformed” movement, etc. isnt the pt that we are all one in Yeshua?

    and as such, i think there is a need for “jewishness” at least culturally. but that really wont happen among the “gentile” churches unless MJ helps.

    peter

  7. Derek:

    Once again, I go out on a limb here and promote full and total equality in both practice, right, and ritual in Torah of both Jewish and non-Jewish Messianics, without any conversion ritual. I believe that Romans 11, Acts 15, James 4, Galatians 3, Ephesians 2, and several other places in the Apostolic Writings show us that we’re supposed to be an assembly of Believers who all keep Torah and all live equally. Torah alludes to this when it tells us that we’re to have one Torah and one Standard of Judgment for both the native-born and the righteous non-Jew. I would suggest that interpretations otherwise are the work of the Adversary working through tradition to re-erect that Wall of Partition.

    I accept non-Jewish Believers as full equals, in all respects. I do not exempt them from things, nor do I expect more from them than others. Only when the Messianic community at large does the same can we, I argue, be truly united and become a community that will provoke the mainstream Jewish community to jealousy.

  8. Carl says:

    Derek,

    I nearly vowed to avoid posting on these subjects because they involve so much controversy, for which I have little time. I must, however, correct a rather egregious misreading of my stance by Ralph.

    When I speak of Jews I am not speaking of us as an ethnic or racial group. I simply used an ethnic group as an example. I could also have used an example such as a veteran’s group that consisted primarily of non-veterans.

    No, I do not conceive of Jews as a racial group but as individuals comprising a group that is in a particular covenant with God, a covenant initiated by God. These individuals are descended from those in this covenant or wjp have been validly incorporated into the covenant. (No, I do not want to debate “who is a Jew” or conversion.)

    BTW, one look to the Israel museum’s wall of photos of Jews from countries around the world should be enough to convince anyone that we are not simply an ethnic group.

  9. G says:

    “Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz has suggested a better analogy for the Jewish people: We are a family. See the third essay in his recent book, We Jews: Who Are We and What Should We Do. But though this is a new book, it is certainly not a new concept: throughout the Bible and Jewish literature, the Jewish people are referred to as “the Children of Israel,” a reference to the fact that we are all the physical or spiritual descendants of the Patriarch Jacob, who was later called Israel. In other words, we are part of his extended family”

  10. Carl says:

    Adding to G’s post, I would say, “part of his extended flesh and blood family and those who have become part of it.” (So many have joined our family that I suspect none of us are 100% genetically descendant from the Patriarch.)

    Becoming a part of the family isn’t merely a theological insertion or the adoption of family practices, but a psychological, sociological, and even physical assimilation. IMO, those non-Jews in the movement who do not only take on religious practices but also have an inner, G-d-given urge to fully enter into the Jewish people hook, line, and sinker certainly belong in the movement, whether or not they convert.

  11. G:

    Who are you, you masked genius?

    Yes, I like the analogy of the family much better. Israel is a family. Jewry is a family. You can ignore the family legacy or give it only a half-effort, and you are not ejected from the family (secular and liberal Jewry). You can be adopted into a family (conversion).

    I must say, I like it very much.

    Derek

  12. Jon Olson says:

    I think that because liturgical adaptation to Gentiles praying with Jews can threaten the Jewish character of a MJ worship service, the capacity to include Gentiles on an equal footing (but with distinctions) while still maintaining a Jewishness will be greatest where the Jewish character of the service is greatest to start with. This is to apply the insight that Nixon was able to go to Communist China in the 70s because he had established himself as an anti-Communist during the 50s. Perhaps the MJ movement can learn from multicultural Christian congregations.

  13. Jan:

    I like your point and would love to hear some ideas you might have about this.

    Feel free to email me privately with some thoughts and ideas at
    derek4messiah@gmail.com

    Derek

  14. Dan Sichel says:

    I think it is interesting that Rabbi Adam posted scriptural references for what is essentially a theological argument. This has been settled before, by Av Yaakov and the elders in Jerusalem and is discussed in Acts. Also we should not forget Reb Shaul’s writings that ALL the branches got stripped off the tree, Jew and Gentile and that they are all grafted back on.

    I think the Messianic Congregation and the Messianic community should be people of one mind, we love Yeshua as saviour, Lord, and very G-d of very G-d, and we want to walk in His ways as He told us to do in the sermon on the mount. If you don’t want to be Torah observant, or if Yeshua is not your saviour and Lord, go someplace else. That is not a negative thing, reasonable people of faith can disagree without breaking fellowship, but please don’t come to my Messianic Congregation. You don’t agree and you don’t belong. If you do agree, then I don’t (and I don’t think Hashem does either) care what you were born. If you WANT to obey Torah, and love Yeshua, then please come. This is isn’t so hard you know.

  15. Dan:

    I certainly want to challenge the reading of Acts 15 that you seem to adhere to. The entire point of Acts 15 is that Gentiles need not keep Jewish dictinctives. The Torah itself teaches this. Deut. 14:21 permits unclean meat to be sold to the sojourner. Exod. 31:13 says Sabbath is between Israel and God. The apostles rejected the idea that Gentiles become Israel.

    People in the Hebrew Roots movement often make two assumptions I find false:
    1. Being grafted in means total identification.
    2. The comment in Acts 15 about Moses being preached in the synagogues means Gentiles can learn Torah later.

    Regarding the first, Paul is clear that wild branches are not natural ones. Regarding the second, this interpretation is not the best one and requires us to believe that the main point of Acts 15 is being controverted by one comment about synagogues.

    For a better interpetation, I would love for you to read my book, Paul Didn’t Eat Pork. Email me at derek4messiah@gmail.com if you are interested.

    Derek

  16. Marc says:

    Let’s go back in time to the Book of Acts. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes and try to draw a picture of what is was like.

    I’m a Jew in the Diaspora and obviously I keep the Sabbath. I congregate at my synagogue every Sabbath. My parents obviously raised me in Torah.

    In my town there are Gentiles coming into faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I was taught to not to mingle with Gentiles because it was ‘unlawful’ to. Now the Spirit and the Apostle’s have taught me when anyone comes to faith in the one true God they are not ‘unclean’.

    So now we are starting to have Gentiles attend our synagogue because of the Gospel and are worshipping the God of Israel. There are people being added to the assembly of believers, both Jew and Gentile.

    Let’s turn the tables now. I’m a Gentile who has come to faith in the God of Israel and I’m attending a synagogue every Sabbath in my town. I have heard the Gospel and have a zeal for worshipping the one true God. That God of Israel is not a respector of persons. I’m hearing that because of my faith in the one true God I’m not excluded like I was before.

    One Sabbath I happened to hear Leviticus 11 read in the Torah cycle.I have some questions about Leviticus 11 so I ask some of the Jews about it and they warmly explain to me. Hmmm I say to myself. What ever God says I will do. So I go home and throw away all that God said is unclean to eat. No one has forced me to do this as I heard the word of God my Spirit stirred me up to do so. The God of Israel said not to eat unclean foods so I’m going to what He says because I have faith in Him.

    Some time has passed and I hear about the Feast Days being preached in my synagogue according to the Torah cycle. I hear that the Feast Days are forever and everlasting. I’m going to obey because I believe and have faith in the one true God. I ask some Jews about the Feast Days and they invite me to their homes so I can learn. Again no one has forced me to keep the Feast Days but the God of Israel said they were forever ‘statutes’.

    My heart is circumcised and my flesh isn’t. Some time has passed and hear in this Torah cycle about Abraham and circumcision. I ask the well schooled Jews about this. I want to know if what’s more important; that my heart is circumcised or if my flesh is circumcised? They show me in scripture that if one isn’t circumcised they can’t eat the Passover. WO! I say, I can’t eat the Passover! Man I want to participate in the Passover because the Lamb died for my sins.

    So what do they tell me?

    Hopefully you get my picture?

    Marc

  17. Marc:

    If you were a Gentile in the first century Yeshua movement and you thought Leviticus 11 was incumbent upon you, the believers who followed James, Peter, and Paul would tell you the same thing the rabbis would tell you. The dietary law was never God’s law for Gentiles. Check Deuteronomy 14:21. How can God permit selling unclean meat to Gentiles if Gentiles are to keep dietary law? Check Acts 15. That is the entire point — Gentiles need not keep the boundary markers of Torah that make Israel a holy nation.

    Did you understand my point about Acts 15:21, Moses, and the synagogue? The one-law interpretation makes that a reversal of the meaning of the rest of the chapter (Gentiles don’t have to live like Jews at the beginning but as they go to synagogue they will learn and start living like Jews). This is nonsense. Acts 15:21 is a point about the PAST, not the FUTURE.

    Derek

  18. Marc says:

    Hi Derek I understand your point and I also understand the other point. As I said I’m wishy washy in this topic.

    I hear your point and I agree then I hear the other point and I agree.

    This is a topic IMHO that needs to be the first on the list in Messianic Judaism as we are all over the place.

    Marc

  19. Menachem says:

    Hi Derek

    I saw this dialogue a bit late. I am glad to see that Carl overcame his reluctance to engage in controversy to make some very important points. It is good to see knowledgeable and thoughtful people discussing these matters.

    Before I say anything I want to add the caveat that because I came late I am responding to an impression based on multiple posts. There has been too much said to recapitulate the former discussion so please forgive me if I conflate topics discussed in several posts or appear to take points out of context. I apologize for this in advance.

    I note in the responses made to the point about the makeup of congregations, ( the “Korean discussion” to give it a handle) at least one point that I dont think was addressed.It appears obvious to me and central to the discussion. The fact is that for the most part other groupings do not have this demographic problem. In other words one simply does not see large numbers of non Koreans Hispanics or African Americans in areas in which they out number the culture in question forming majorities within congregations that serve those ethnic groups. ( There may be exceptions in transitional neighborhoods but on the whole this does not constitute a movement). This problem is almost unique to Messianic Judaism, and by the way as some note this is tied in to the creation of Christianity at its inception. In other words there is a dynamic of ambivalence about the Jewish people at the root of Christianity which the Christian community has recently been attempting to resolve. Messianic Judaism adds a new wrinkle to this and as some have noted is part of a “new thing”.

    While there are aspects of this dynamic that flow from tensions within Judaism ( the quite obvious one of how the Jewish view of the redemptive process involves the non Jew) it is mostly as an outgrowth of the ( mostly) American liberal philosophical tradition that these issues have been embraced and addressed as Jewish ones. The Reconstructionis movement has been cited here as one which is wrestling with this issue. ( and one by the way which is part of a movement much of which finds the “particularism” of Judaism as problematic and which along with much of Reform has sought to redefine the liturgy to reflect beliefs and views which I think many Messianics would consider “unbliblical”. Despite, this, these movements represents movements that arise out of Judaism and the needs of Jewish people and therefore despite a seeming similarity to the kinds of things talked about here, I think we need to use caution. This is a case of parallel evolution not convergence.

    The essential difference between the two phenomena and the one which I think makes all the difference lies not in the participation or makeup of the congregants. It lies rather in leadership and the intellectual impetus behind the movements.

    At this time even the most liberal Jewish congregations are led either by rabbis who were born Jewish or who converted under criteria defined by Jews. Likewise the molders of opinion and teachers in seminary are Jews.

    This is not so with the Messianic Judaism and it is this in my opinion which renders its institutions so curiously anomolous to normative Jews. It is not in my opinion really so much relevant whether 25% or 75% of a congregation is Jewish as whether its leadership is Jewish and knowledgeable of what that means.

    In much of not most of Messianic Judaism, the leadership is Christian in training if not in ethnic background. And that leadership thinks in non Jewish terms about the questions we are dealing with. Most egregiously this can be seen in the discussion at hand here: Who is going to define who is and who is not a Jew? Who will define what is and what is not “normative Jewish practice”? In the rest of the Jewish community, thorny as these questions are, the answer tends to be “Jewish people”. And in point of fact for the other groups described, the answer ultimately is “Korean people” “Hispanic people” and “African American people”. In Messianic Judaism in general it is “the leadership” ( which is most emphatically not Jewish) which weighs in authoritatively ( and often in an authoritarian manner) on this question.

    I saw one writer asking this question.. <<<Is this a korean congregation or a Jewish congregation? Or both? One can not tell from this description, because these Koreans may also be Jews. And even if they are not Jews, would not most describe this congregation in some form or fashion to be ‘Jewish’?<<<<

    The answer to this question in my opinion would be that such individuals are not Jews and the congregation is not Jewish unless they met the standards that Jews set for being Jewish and being in any form or fashion Jewish. I suspect a cultural anthropologist would come to the same conclusion about any group whether they be Korean Jewish or otherwise.

  20. Menahem:

    Thanks for weighing in with a sobering comment. Yes, we have a long way to go in being authentically Jewish. Yet, I think some congregations are getting there.

    Are you familiar with the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council? I believe the work they are doing is the future of Messianic Judaism. Halakhah by the community, from Jewish leaders in Messianic Judaism, is the beginning of something better for MJ.

    In a matter of one generation, perhaps we will at last be seen as a Jewish movement. As I have said many times, I do not believe the charismatic and dispensationalist wings of Messianic Judaism will endure. Only the Jewish expression of Messianic practice will endure. I say this with some knowledge of the trends. The emerging generations want authenticity, not a show.

    Derek

  21. Menachem says:

    Are you familiar with the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council? I believe the work they are doing is the future of Messianic Judaism. Halakhah by the community, from Jewish leaders in Messianic Judaism, is the beginning of something better for MJ.<<<<

    I am familiar with them and I agree that they are the beginning of something better. As to whether they represent the future, this is in the hands of Hashem and to some extent unknown to us, the community as a whole as well.
    As I have said many times, I do not believe the charismatic and dispensationalist wings of Messianic Judaism will endure. Only the Jewish expression of Messianic practice will endure. I say this with some knowledge of the trends. The emerging generations want authenticity, not a show.<<<<<

    I hope you are right. I also hope that this does not take place because of catastrophe which affects the underpinnings of the charismatics and the dispensationalists and or their relationships with the Jewish people. Unfortunately you may be overly idealistic. I recall that Marx predicted the “withering away of the state”. The fact is that those other groups represent the numbers the money and the power in the “movement”. As members of the Halachic council have pointed out to me, theirs is a small incipient movement.

    In my opinion, action is needed and the drawing of boundries. Someone Jewish is going to have to point out that most of these folks are not “rabbis” and often are not even Jews. And by the way to dovetail with another of your excellent posts, this is not Lashan Hara. On the contrary it is required under Jewish law. It is the so called Messianic “rabbis” who presume to dictate to Jews what is and is not “Jewish” and what is and is not Biblical and who is and who is not a “Jew” who are often in fact guilty of serious slander of the Jewish people and it is the duty of all to make this fact clear.

    Happy New Year

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