Non-Jewish Messianic Judaism?

Today I really wanted my blog to be about finding early Israel (see the post below this, which is really the focus for today).

But I saw something on iTunes and had to bring it up. I was looking over other podcasts in Judaism in iTunes and found one by a “Messianic Jewish Senior Pastor.” My first thought is, “Jewish pastor?” Hmm, seems we are encountering non-Jewish Messianic Judaism here.

Then one of the reviews reads as follows: “Baruch Hashem! Finally a podcast that actually discusses the written Torah rather than the oral traditions of men!” And the name of the guy who wrote the comment? Zeke ben Michael. I don’t make this stuff up, I promise.

So, people have said to me many times, “Derek, where is the evidence that non-Jews in Messianic Jewish groups sometimes cause problems? It all seems peaceful to me.”

I am sharing this one example because I see similar ones routinely. Here is a non-Jew who gives himself a Jewish name and denounces Judaism as a false religion. Anyone should be able to say. “Something is wrong with this picture and these people are seriously confused.”

So, comments?


About Derek Leman

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

11 Responses to Non-Jewish Messianic Judaism?

  1. judahgabriel says:

    Since no one cared to comment, I’ll throw in my 2 cents.

    As far as gentiles giving themselves Jewish names, I don’t have a problem with this. Gentiles that convert to mainstream Judaism do the same, and aren’t criticized. Likewise, gentile leaders in the Messianic movement have changed their names to signify a change in lifestyle and beliefs, as they shed their former outlook and take hold of the commandments. It goes the other way, too, where Jews that came to Christianity changed their name to signify their change in outlook and faith. I can cite examples if you’re unconvinced of any of this.

    So, name changes aren’t a problem.

    I’m thinking the reason this incited you so much, is that this man doesn’t respect Judaism like you do. He’s more concerned with the Torah than with Judaism as a religion.

  2. Judah:

    But taking a Jewish name is sort of like . . . not biblical. It seems rather traditional. So why do people like this act like Jews in some ways and then denounce Judaism in others? It’s a mixed message, a living contradiction: “Hi, my name is Mordechai ben David and I think the rabbis are false teachers leading the unwary astray. So, can I get an aliyah at shul this week, huh, Messianic Senior Pastor?”

    • judahgabriel says:


      I looked up Zeke’s comment on iTunes. (And readyour discussion with the one law folks on the forum, BTW.)

      I politely suggest you have read too much into Zeke’s words. He doesn’t like the Talmud, maybe, ok. He’s an anti-traditionalist, probably. Saying he “denounces Judaism as a false religion” is reading too deeply into a short blurb on the internet, IMO.

    • judahgabriel says:

      By the way, Derek, don’t automatically assume that anti-traditionalist believers are all gentiles. One prominent Jew-turned-Christian musician is quite vehemently anti-traditionalist. I assume you know who I am talking about.

  3. tnnonline says:

    Derek is right in pointing out that there is a lot of treif on the Internet. Wikipedia itself is a huge problem if you go there for credible info. The web can be no different than the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

    I’m not too big into religious titles. It seems to me that the least controversial titles in the Messianic community would be either Dr. or Prof.–and getting those require a huge amount of work, usually beyond either Rabbi or Pastor. Such is a huge goal we should all put before ourselves to reach toward in life.

    People can obviously change their names to whatever they want, be it Zeke ben Michael or James T. Kirk. The challenge is that in so doing, they really run the risk of violating the Fifth Commandment and in dishoring the parents who named them (perhaps for another relative). Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25; 4:18) was never made to change his name, which was undeniably from the goddess Aphrodite. So, even though I might not name my kid this, if someone is named Robert or Charlotte or something that has no Hebrew origins–no one should feel presurred to change their name.

    • judahgabriel says:

      >> Derek is right in pointing out that there is a lot of treif on the Internet.

      Heheh. Of course this is true. The internet has given a voice to anyone wishing a soapbox. (Hey, I’m guilty!) Lots of voices = lots of crap. Come to think of it, the junk-to-gem ratio on the internet is about 100:1. Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, blogs, all of it.

      >> no one should feel presurred to change their name


  4. people4people says:

    I’m not jewish or part of a messianic synagogue, but I don’t see any problem with a person who is ethnically jewish and a leader of a messianic congregation calling himself pastor, within the frame work of apostolic teaching it seems pretty doctrinal to do so. If a shepherd of a particular flock desires to be called rabbi rather than pastor thats a personal decision and within his liberty within the New Covenant. As for taking on a new name thats also within his liberty also, though as tnnonline mentioned one should take into consideration whether this maybe a stumbling block to some people or an offense to parents. If this person on itunes, assuming he actually is jewish doesn’t agree with mainstream judaism or the talmud…it is within his liberty. So personally I see no problems with that. You may see the value in studying the talmud and judaism and to you it may be profitable, he however may not and to him study of the tanakh and brit chadashah are sufficient in and of themselves and so talmudic study would be to him meaningless; its in both your liberty. Perhaps I misunderstand the whole situation?

  5. cjlid says:

    Hi Derek,

    You may be perfectly correct in your perception of this person, but can you please explain to me if/how these verses fit in this conversation:

    Jeremiah 3:15, Ephesians 4:11 (What’s wrong with being called pastor? Isn’t it analagous/synonymous/interchangeable with “shepherd”? AKA, it’s Jewish? Maybe not “mainstream 21st century” Jewish, but Jewish nonetheless?)

    Matthew 23:8 – I’ve been wondering about this one for awhile…it’s “mainstream” Jewish to be called “Rabbi”, but it seems it’s “un-Yeshua-ish” to be called “Rabbi.” Isn’t it breaking a commandment to be called this? Please correct me if I’m wrong…


  6. people4people:

    My point is this: if a religious leader wishes to lead a Messianic Jewish (emphasize the word Jewish) community, then there should be solidarity with the Jewish people. Why be Messianic if you don’t agree with Judaism? You and I both know the answer: because there is a myth out there that everyone should keep the Torah and many so-called Messianic groups are not about Jewish people at all, but are Torah movements for Gentiles. I am offended that people take the name Messianic Jewish and then reject elements of what it means to be Jewish. Such people should get their own names and quit using words that mean something they do not respect.

    Derek Leman

  7. Jeannie (cjlid):

    About the saying of Yeshua, “you are not to be called rabbi,” you are familiar with the fact that Yeshua’s words are often rhetorical and not to be taken woodenly. He speaks of things like hating your mother and cutting off your hand. Always with Yeshua we should ask, “What is the intent of his teaching?”

    The intent here is to warn against the human love for places of honor and seeking titles and dominion over others. It is not about the title used for a clergy person, but about titles of honor.

    So here are a few points that might make you reconsider a wooden interpretation of Matt 23:8:

    (1) He says also not to be called father. This is a reference to religious use of the word, calling respected teachers father. But to not use the word father for the father of a child would be an abuse of Yeshua’s words.

    (2) The context is not about avoiding all titles for religious leaders. If it is, then pastor and preacher and clergy and all such other words should be avoided as well. There are some Christian communities where the leader is just called “brother.” I don’t see this as necessary.

    (3) Using words like “rabbi” and “pastor” (to be fair, all honorific titles need to seen as potential abuses) as titles of honor promotes a false sense of pride.

    (4) Therefore, I actually do not see rabbi as a title for people to call me by. Some people do speak to me that way, “Rabbi, what do you think?” I would rather be called Derek.

    (5) But just as an engineer is called an engineer, if I tell someone what I do in life, I feel fine saying I am a rabbi. It is not an honorific title, but a name for an occupation.

    (6) A father is a father and a rabbi is a rabbi. Yeshua’s words are not about ending all use of the term. He himself was called a rabbi (and don’t think Yeshua excepted himself from rules of humility because he was divine). The problem is the pride that comes when we use such titles to dominate others or to give ourself a high place. The issue is pride, not nomenclature.

    Derek Leman

  8. cjlid says:

    Thanks Derek, that makes sense.

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