MJ History in Messiah Journal 102

Count me among the people who are elated at what the organization First Fruits of Zion is becoming. A lot of their former readers and supporters have abandoned them, at least temporarily. The reason, as I see it, is a sociological tragedy in certain movements loosely associated with Messianic Judaism. Non-Jews, having discovered Torah and the falsehood of anti-Judaic strains of Christian thought, have loved Torah so much they wished to be empowered as Israelites. So they developed theologies in which being a follower of Jesus equates with being a Torah-yoked Jew in all but name. Then, when First Fruits of Zion repented of years of supporting this form of replacement theology, many people were hurt.

As the fallout happens over the months and perhaps years to come, I think that:

(1) First Fruits of Zion’s work has greatly improved now that it is not focused on defending indefensible ideas in New Testament theology.

(2) A certain quality of writing and research is coming into FFOZ materials, especially the Messiah Journal.

(3) I am hopeful than many of the naysayers will realize FFOZ is right, will reexamine their ideas about identity, and will come to helpful conclusions. I think there are some who will wish to be part of Jewish communities and who will convert. I think there are some who will realize they never wanted to become part of the Jewish people, but to support what God is doing amongst the Jewish community and remain as non-Jews. I hope that many of these who have abandoned FFOZ will come to realize that anti-church as well as anti-rabbinic attitudes are not from God, but that the godly support all things in which it is apparent God is at work.

Well, that was a long introduction to my topic this morning: Messiah Journal 102 and Seth Dralle’s article on the emergence of Messianic Judaism in history . . .

The Messiah Journal, now with its third issue published, is one of the signs of the maturing not only of First Fruits of Zion, but also of the broader Messianic Jewish movement (in which I include non-Jewish groups looking for the right way to be part of the Jewish renewal in Yeshua). All three issues of Messiah Journal have been not only meaty reading, but practically helpful and broadening in their inclusion of ideas and personalities that will benefit Messianic Jewish readers.

Issue 102, for example, includes the following:

(1) A translation of an excerpt from Auf dem Wege by Abram Poljak, one of the proto-Messianic Jewish pioneers (1900-1963), called “The Hebrew Christian Community and the Kingdom Brotherhood.”

(2) A must-read article by Seth Dralle on “The Emergence of Messianic Judaism,” drawing from several historical sources and summarizing Mark Kinzer’s view of the history of MJ’s emergence from Postmissionary Messianic Judaism.

(3) An article defending the practice of Torah holidays by Christians as a voluntary practice and setting a context in which this is done without implying replacement of Israel.

(4) A profile by D. Thomas Lancaster of Sabbatarian Christians from Transylvania, a needed addition to our understanding of the ways Christian traditions have interfaced with Judaism in history.

(5) An excerpt from the brand-new HaYesod program about the yoke of discipleship and living the ways of God in every area.

(6) An exploration, by Toby Janicki, of the ideas of the immanence of God in rabbinic literature, later kabbalistic literature, and in the New Testament.

(7) An article on “Mystical Hermeneutics,” reacting to a charge that FFOZ is promoting kabbalah and a dangerous method of interpreting the Bible.

(8) A devotional on faith and confidence.

(9) An article on Temple history.

Seth Dralle’s Article on Messianic Jewish Emergence in History
One of the things we need more work on is Messianic Jewish history, including the history of the Hebrew Christian movement of the 19th and 20th century as well as the late 20th century emergence of Messianic Judaism.

I am aware of several experts who have collected information in this area. Jorge Quiñónez is the unofficial documents librarian of this kind of research. Jim Sibley of the Pasche Institute at Criswell College and publisher of Mishkan is also a librarian of Hebrew Christian documents. Kai Kjaer-Hansen, author of the must-read biography of Joseph Rabinowitz and a Danish theologian of note, is also an expert. Rich Robinson of Jews for Jesus has forgotten more about this history since breakfast than most of us will ever know. David Mishkin has written a helpful compendium of saying by Alfred Edersheim, which I use regularly. I’m sure I’m leaving out some other experts, for which I apologize.

Writing surveys and biographies of Messianic Jewish history is something I hope will grow and flourish. We need to know more about such figures as Joseph Rabinowitz, Theophilus Lucky, Yechiel Lichtenstein, Paul Philip Levertoff, Alfred Edersheim, David Baron, Leopold Cohen, and more.

Some of these people were writing Messianic Jewish liturgy before anyone had heard of Messianic Judaism. Leopold Cohen was feeding Jewish immigrants and teaching them to sew so they could get factory jobs during the great waves of immigration in the early 20th century. David Baron was writing a Jewish perspective on the Israelite prophets before the emergence of modern Messianic Judaism, back in the Hebrew Christian days. Alfred Edersheim may have been a little harsh on his former religion, but in other ways he remained an apologist for his people as he wrote books about Jesus and the Temple still widely read today. And the late 20th century pioneers of Messianic Judaism, such as Martin Chernoff, Joe Finkelstein, and Manny Brotman, have stories we need to know and understand.

I have been reminded more than once by my MJTI colleague and New Testament scholar David Rudolph that we need more writing and thinking about the history of the early Jewish believers. Oskar Skarsaune’s works including Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries and In the Shadow of the Temple are fine additions as is Ray Pritz’s Nazarene Jewish Christianity.

All of that brings me to Seth Dralle’s article in Messiah Journal 102. His survey of the history of MJ’s emergence is the kind of summary we need to see more of. He helps readers understand some of the factors that led to the emergence of a self-identifying Jewish movement within Christianity. He highlights a few pioneers whose ideas and examples should continue to astound us. He accounts for the historical impact of the Holocaust on the movement of Jews following Jesus. And he summarizes, using especially Mark Kinzer’s book as a source, the early days of the modern Messianic Jewish movement.

I don’t know if Seth plans to make this an area for further research and writing, but I, for one, certainly hope so.

I believe that Messianic Judaism is one crucial part of God’s work to renew the people of Israel from within. Our movement needs its backstory to move forward.

Some Resources for Reading Messianic Jewish History

Just because something is on this list does not imply that I endorse its ideas or that the ideas within are compatible with Messianic Judaism as it moves forward. For example, though I am an Edersheim fan, he took the unfortunate stance of opposing much of the religion of his birth once he came to faith in Jesus. Also, I recommend below a journal from the Christian missions movement, though I have strong reservation about that movement and its stance toward Judaism and Jewish people. Nonetheless, the resources below are indispensable.

(1) Messiah Journal 102, available from ffoz.com

(2) Kai Kjaer-Hansen, Joseph Rabinowitz and the Messianic Movement: The Herzl of Jewish Christianity. Available used on amazon at http://amzn.com/080280859X

(3) David Mishkin’s The Wisdom of Alfred Edersheim. Available at amazon here: http://amzn.com/155635939X

(4) Oskar Skarsaune’s Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Available here: http://amzn.com/1565637631

(5) Mishkan, a journal of Christian missions to Jewish people, issue 60 is about Theophilus Lucky. Available here: http://mishkanstore.org/store

(6) Mark Kinzer, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism. Available here: http://amzn.com/1587431521

If you know of more resources that should be on this list, please comment or email me at derekblogger@gmail.com


About Derek Leman

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

9 Responses to MJ History in Messiah Journal 102

  1. davidbenavraham says:

    Here are some additional books on this subject worth reading:

    Messianic Judaism, by David Rausch, 1982
    History of Jewish Christianity, by Hugh Schonfield, 1936
    Formation of Christianity in Antioch, by Magnus Zetterholm, 2003
    Mystery of Romans, by Mark Nanos, 1996

    While Nanos’ book is a theological treatise on the book of Romans, his profound thoughts open a whole new way of reading Paul, especially in regards to our understanding of Romans 13. If Nanos is correct, it has a direct bearing on our undestanding of the history of the early community of disciples in the diaspora.

    -David Cook

  2. jorgequinonez says:

    The Schonfield book you can download off of archive.org.
    I too like FFOZ’s new Messiah journal. So much that I’ve submitted an article for publication there in the near future. Its good to have some variety besides just Mishkan and Kesher. I am happy to see others doing research into the recent history of organized groups of Jewish believers in Yeshua. (Antiquity is way too complex and broad for the average person, including me.) It helps to know German if you’re interested in 19th century Jewish studies. My website is afii.org/jorge.htm. My surname is spelled “Quiñónez.” Thanks for mentioning me, Derek!

  3. tnnonline says:

    Taking some of the bad with the good, what is the view of some of Messianic Judaism’s leaders toward Hugh Schonfield’s later–and much more well known work–The Passover Plot? Was he not a Messianic Jew who later reneged completely on Yeshua?

  4. Jorge:

    I fixed your name in the post.

    People who care about MJ history: bookmark Jorge’s site and stay tuned: afii.org/jorge.htm

    Derek Leman

  5. tripwire45 says:

    In a way, I’m also grateful for FFOZ’s theological shift. First, it shows that they are not above re-evaluating their own position and making changes based on subsequent study and revelation. Also, it shook a lot of the larger Messianic community out of their (our) complacency and forced us to re-evaluate ourselves.

    No one organization has the corner market on truth, which includes FFOZ. If any faith group or faith-related business can admit that about themselves, then learning and growth is still happening. It’s only when folks say that they know it all and close the door to dialogue that you need to be concerned.

    Interestingly enough, my wife has been doing some studying with the local Chabad, and when I described the “course correction” FFOZ initiated, she told me how close FFOZ’s position is with traditional Rabbinic thought on Jews, Gentiles, and the Torah.

  6. judahgabriel says:


    The arrogance in your opening statements was shameful. Reminded me of the arrogance you displayed recently at the Rosh Pina blog.

    The folks that have sought after God through thick and thin — despite opposition from family and Church and synagogue, these folks who have found righteousness and holiness in God’s commandments, being led by the Spirit — these people will be the ones to overcome and find vindication.

    These people have been frowned upon, marginalized, and have had names hurled at them by various religious organizations, including Derek’s: Wannabes Jews. Destroyers of Jewish distinction. Replacement Theology adherents. British Israelism adherents. Victims of sociological tragedies. All false titles meant to demean and marginalize. These people are looked at as the undesirables of the Messianic movement.

    So while Derek laments that some of these people have abandoned FFOZ due to their new theological shift, in the end, these people will be the ones vindicated, they’ll be the ones still here in 20 years, seeking after God. Why? Because God is at work in them, while the religious leadership will be busy finding new dogmas to bark on about.

    My prediction is one vastly different than Derek’s: the organizations that oppose these God-seekers will be the ones crumbling, while God will continue leading and lifting up the people that seek him, in spite of the objections, marginalization, and name-calling from religious leadership.

    I pray FFOZ won’t be counted among these crumbling organizations.

  7. mjb63 says:

    Judah, I know how you feel. Torah-loving Gentiles are being mischaracterized by some, but please know that the folks at FFOZ are not telling Gentiles to drop Torah. They are simply saying that Gentiles are not to be compelled to keep Torah and do not have legal standing as Jews.

    I urge everyone, Jew and Gentile, to read “Grafted In” by Daniel Lancaster at FFOZ.

    From the introduction, page 5 (speaking about Acts 15 and 21):

    “But they granted Gentile believers significant space. The Gentile believers were placed on a trajectory of Torah by Acts 15, the writings of Paul, and discipleship to Yeshua, but Paul and the other apostles were unwilling to place the Gentiles under the full obligation of conversion into legal Israel because that was wrongly understood as a prerequisite for salvation.”

    From pages 6 and 7:

    “As a member of the household of Israel, the Gentile believer should not be deterred from the practice of Messianic Judaism. Participation in Torah is the natural mode of faith expression for a member of Israel, whether a person be a member of Israel-according-to-the-flesh or Kingdom Israel.”

    And from pages 60-61:

    “This does not mean that Gentile believers are Jewish. But it does mean that we have as much a place in Israel as our Jewish brothers. It means that we have a right to celebrate the Sabbath. It is part of our inheritance in Israel. We have a right to keep the festivals. They are part of our inheritance in Israel. We have a right to follow the Torah. It is part of our inheritance in Israel. We have a right to say, “Abraham our father,” “Isaac our father,” Jacob our father,” becuase we have been joined to the family of Israel. The good news for Messianic Gentiles within Messianic Judaism is that we no longer should feel compelled to find that elusive Jew in our geneology. We don’t need to find some external validation for our participation in the community of Torah. The inheritance is already ours. We don’t need to pose. We don’t need to feel like pretenders. We have full participation.”

    These quotes are from the current edition of “Grafted In” presently offered by FFOZ. You will not find FFOZ telling Gentiles they don’t belong and that they shouldn’t keep Torah. Quite the contrary. Their entire ministry is geared to helping people learn and understand Torah and share in its blessings, Jew and Gentile.

    Before Gentiles abandon FFOZ and our Jewish brothers repeat the first century mistake of pulling in the welcome mat and changing the locks on the synagogue, please, please, please get a copy of “Grafted In” and read it.


  8. tnnonline says:

    While I appreciate FFOZ’ attempt to shift away from the far Right and toward the Center, we have to keep in mind that while their ministry materials are engaged with First Century Jewish perspectives, like most Messianics they are not that engaged with First Century classical perspectives or Greek and Roman history.

    I think much of what we debate over can be solved by making some points to specifically consider the complex social contours of the First Century Mediterranean, and how the cultural and religious backgrounds of the ancient non-Jewish Believers in Yeshua is not at all the same as any non-Jewish Believers involved in the modern-day Messianic movement. Doing this kind of cross-cultural and cross-millennium examination is not always easy, but is required for all parts of Scripture, and not only the Apostolic Writings.

    We also have to consider some of the new realities inaugurated by the work of Yeshua in this post-resurrection era. Likewise, even Jewish people are not saved by keeping the Torah (Acts 15:8-9, 11), because God’s commandments have always been a matter of holiness and proper conduct.

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