Messianic Judaism is Like a Box of Chocolates

Forrest Gump had it right. You never know what you’re going to get.

Messianic Judaism is nothing more than a name and it’s a name applied to many kinds of groups with radically different agendas.

To me, Messianic Judaism should mean Messiah and Judaism integrated. As Rabbi Dr. Kinzer said in one of his booklets, Judaism is the genus and Messianic is the species. That is, Messianic Judaism is a Judaism of the Messianic variety. For us, Messianic means following Yeshua, Messiah who came and will come again.

My wife hates those chocolates that have coconut in them. This is great for me, because she first nibbles at each piece of chocolate and, if there’s coconut in it, she gives it to me. When it comes to chocolates, I tend to like them all. But when it comes to Messianic Judaism, I have to say I like some of the varieties much better than the others.

I won’t mention all of the varieties of Messianic Judaism in this post. I won’t talk about all of the issues that separate us. But I will talk about one of the largest groups within the label Messianic: the Two-House Movement.

I’m blogging about this today because I had a chance to meet with one of the leading teachers in the Two-House movement, a man whose name is well-known. I found him to be a gentle man, even a gentleman, but to be very different in his view of Jewish identity and the people of God. Though he is a gentleman, I cannot find his views anything other than offensive and narrow.

I am talking about Monte Judah. You can see more about him at http://www.lionlamb.net

I tried to find out more about the Two-House movement from Monte and to make sure I understand it properly. I had heard that there is a very large movement with a successful annual conference, called the M.I.A. I had that right and found that Monte is not a member of that organization.

To help you understand the Two-House movement, let me very simply explain the difference between my version of Messianic Judaism and theirs.

I believe that God gave the Torah to Israel. I believe that God called Israel to keep certain identity markers separating them out from the nations (circumcision, dietary law, Sabbath). I believe that God has a plan to bless the nations through Israel, keeping Israel and the nations distinct. Jews should be Jews, but Gentiles need not be. I am pro-Judaism (with faith in Messiah) and pro-Christianity (for non-Jews).

Two-House believes God gave the Torah to Israel but invited all the world to join Israel. Only in joining Israel are people connected to God. It is God’s will that all people join Israel by faith and practice the Torah. One of Monte’s sayings to me was, “There is no Baptist Gate or Pentecostal Gate into the New Jerusalem. Only Israel can enter.” Two-House is not pro-Christianity.

Monte was a gentleman in our meeting, but he did several times put me through a monologue for ten minute stretches on what he believed and why. He is very confident that his beliefs are the only right interpretation of scripture.

He has been under fire lately because he published his view that Hebrews does not belong in the Bible. Interestingly, that one does not bother me nearly as much as his stance toward Christians. Many people are unaware that Luther also believed Hebrews had no place in the Bible (along with James). Yet people do not think of Luther as a heretic (I think of Luther as an intolerant, unkind man, however).

No, it was not Monte’s view of Hebrews that inspired me to blog about him today. It was his view of Jewish identity, Christianity, and the nature of salvation that motivated this post.

I tried a few times to poke a hole in Monte’s thought. I said, “It seems you would run into trouble in Romans 11 with Paul’s view of the Olive Tree. Paul said the non-Jews are wild branches grafted in. Wild branches never become natural ones in a graft.” I thought this might be a good argument against his view that all true followers of Yeshua are adopted into Israel and start keeping Torah. They essentially become Israel in Monte’s view.

He didn’t bat an eyelash. He said, “No, the wild branches are not Gentiles. They are the Ephraimites [meaning the lost ten tribes of Israel]. The Olive Tree image comes from Jeremiah and is talking about the ten tribes being reunited with Judah in the days of Messiah. Ephraim is pictured as a wild branch.”

If you’re familiar with Romans 11, perhaps you recognize how untenable Monte’s interpretation is. Monte says Paul is not talking there about Gentiles, but about the lost ten tribes. This doesn’t fit well with the fact that Paul addresses this chapter and all of Romans to the congregation at Rome, a mostly Gentile congregation.

Monte was using what is sometimes called special pleading. When you don’t like a particular piece of evidence because it doesn’t fit your theory, you plead special circumstances to explain why this evidence doesn’t really hurt your theory.

A lot of things like that happened during our talk. But the decisive moment was when I objected to something I had heard from a local Two-House teacher. He had stated that Christians, who do not follow Torah, are not as close to God as Messianics who do. I believe Acts 15 and Galatians are clear. Non-Jews in Messiah remain non-Jews and are loved as non-Jews and need not take on the full Torah. There is no such thing as God placing Christians on a lower level than Messianics.

Monte said, “No, that teacher was just saying something I say all the time. I tell my Baptist preacher friends, ‘You are going to be least in the kingdom of heaven.’ That’s what Yeshua meant when he said that whoever loosens the smallest word or letter of the Torah will be least.”

I said, “Monte, that’s what I find offensive. At least we understand one another now.”

Messianic Judaism is like a box of chocolates. You may walk in the door of a Messianic congregation and find anything inside. You may find a place where Judaism is practiced and Yeshua is followed. Or you may find a place where everybody has taken on themselves identity as part of the house of Israel, where Christians who do not live as Jews are looked down upon.

It’s good to know the difference.

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About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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