Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, ch 1

WARNING: Reading Messianic Jewish Musings could cause you to spend money on books and to replace some TV time with book reading time. If you wish to avoid such a calamity, I’d suggest giving up all interest in the mysteries of the world to come and the nature of God.

Richard Harvey, Paternoster, 2009

There are a handful of books that everyone must have who is serious about knowing the history and theology of Messianic Judaism. Harvey’s Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology (MMJT) joins the ranks of such books as David Stern’s Messianic Judaism, Mark Kiner’s Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, and Dan Juster’s Jewish Roots.

To put it quite simply, MMJT will help you understand Messianic Judaism in one fairly easy read.

We’ll be working chapter by chapter through some of Harvey’s ideas and material here on Messianic Jewish Musings.

As I give a few highlights from each chapter, know that:

(1) I am not giving you enough book content that you can skip buying the book. Get it here or here.

(2) I am presenting a little bit of material and food for thought so we can have discussion about it all here.

(3) Note the tab on the top of the blog home page called “Ethics of Discussion.” I hope you and I will keep these ethical points in mind, since Harvey’s book will give us some ideas that we could argue about or we could dialogue about in a more constructive manner.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Harvey begins with a simple and very inclusive definition of Messianic Judaism: “Messianic Judaism is the religion of Jewish people who believe in Jesus (Yeshua) as the promised Messiah.”

This definition allows him to discuss what we might call Hebrew Christianity as well as Messianic Judaism. Harvey’s idea is to keep things broad and allow many voices in the conversation.

One of the greatest benefits of Harvey’s book is that he lays out the variations and theological side-paths of the broad movement of Jewish faith in Yeshua. The book could have the benefit of broadening and opening new possibilities for many in the greater Messianic Jewish movement who only know their little corner of the world and who look on all other ideas but those of their favorite teachers as outside the pale.

The introduction of MMJT goes on to discuss the some background to the formation of Messianic Judaism, with a little history (there will be more in chapter 2). This historical summary is valuable information. Let me outline a few broad points:

–The early MJ movement in the days of the apostles and the generations soon after.

–Some very limited identifications of Jewish faith in Jesus during the long interim of the Middle Ages and into modernity.

–The birth of the Christian Mission to the Jews movements, starting with Joseph Samuel Christian Frey in 1809 (The London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews). These movements resulted in such figures as Alfred Edersheim, Adolph Saphir, Augustus Neander, and Samuel Schereschewsky identifying as both Jews and Christians.

–The Jesus movements of the 1970’s, the emergence of Israel, and the rise of Jewish faith in Jesus. From this many in Christian missions to Jewish people and pioneers of Messianic Judaism emerged.

–The formation of Messianic Jewish groups such as the Messianic Jewish Alliance, the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, Jews for Jesus, and more.

Harvey goes on to discuss his constructive approach to mapping Messianic Jewish theology, some of the differing definitions of Messianic Judaism, some questions that are central, and a preview of chapters to come.

His first chapter leaves me with a few ideas for discussion here in the comments:

How would you define the segment of Messianic Judaism you are part of, or alternately the segment of Christianity or Judaism you are part of?

What are some elements of your sect within the broader movements that defines you and makes you unique?

Are these elements negotiable or worth separating over?


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, Yeshua and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, ch 1

  1. I’ll start of with my own answers, as perhaps this will help others see what I mean by the questions. BTW, it is not my intention to criticize anyone for the content of their answers to these questions. You are who you are and you are part of the movement you choose to be part of. The debates can come later as we get into more specific topics.

    I am part of the Hashivenu style Messianic Jewish movement and the UMJC ( We are best represented by the UMJC Definition statement, by MJTI (, and Hashivenu (

    Our core, unique defining points include: (1) ongoing Torah covenant faithfulness for Jewish followers of Yeshua, (2) recognition of freedom from Torah sign commandments for non-Jews in Messiah, (3) a commitment to traditions of Judaism, (4) a fellowship with Christianity as brothers and sisters in Messiah, (5) a desire to build a well-defined, well-supported, theologically astute Messianic Judaism for the future.

    I am both tolerant of other views and narrow about some. I respect most forms of Judaism and Christianity. I can worship in most synagogues and churches. I am narrow about things like supersessionism/replacement theology (I desire to help Christians get rid of all vestiges). I oppose the notion that Torah is obsolete when I encounter it in Hebrew Christianity and broader Christianity. I urge people away from expressions of Messianic Judaism that are not respectful of Jewish tradition and Torah. Yet, I recognize as brothers and sisters even those whom I vehemently disagree with.

    Derek Leman

  2. tiqun says:

    Derek Leman, you’re a dangerous man! i already am having enough trouble keeping at a reasonable level the money i spend on books… and have been counting and calculating for 2 months now on which books to get with the money i have… and now you add another book to that already too big list!

    no seriously, it sounds like something very interesting. i’m still new to MJ and am still sometimes tempted to go back to “normal” Judaism -it seems easier at first. but on the other hand, it’s exciting to seee MJ grow, with all the struggles it entails.

    the few MJ’s getting together to read a bit Torah i wrote to you about suddenly got its own life: there are a good dozen people, mostly Jews, who have a big need (that i was unaware of) of having jewish services, holyday celebrations, hebrew school for adults, counseling… and we even have a location we can use for free it seems. so i’m also trying to get my library together in view of this, so others can profit from it as well.

    i’ll be happy about any suggestions and hints and tips and tricks on how to get started, and also which books would be essential for a library. those who have ideas, just write to me.

    i think that what you wrote here is very important: Yet, I recognize as brothers and sisters even those whom I vehemently disagree with. i hope, wish, desire, that we should all think and act like that.

  3. dansangelflew says:

    Thanks for this post Derek.

    Right now I belong to a congregation that is part of the IAMCS ( ) I am still relatively new to MJ. But am very grateful to be a part of this movement. I am still trying to understand my place, and all I am focusing on now is serving,loving, being impartial and trying to learn as much as I can from the Scriptures and beautiful legacy of the Jewish people.

    What are some elements of your sect within the broader movements that defines you and makes you unique?

    Well, I’m not sure what makes us unique. Although my congregation is very family oriented, and driven by our love for one another. Which I love.

    Are these elements negotiable or worth separating over?

    I hope not :)

    Peace Brother!

  4. judeoxian says:

    Ultimately, I have no desire to be unique. My only desire to believe that which was “once for all delivered to the saints.” At my core, the Christianity in which I was raised stressed Christian unity and Biblical/Apostolic Teaching as the foundation of that unity. These are the principles that still guide me.

    In terms of Messianic Judaism, I would practice a self-described “FFOZ style” MJ-ism. Essentially, I would say that this is very similar to Hashivenu MJ-ism, but with a more proactive emphasis on non-Jews embracing Torah as part of their biblical heritage. Yet, this is tempered by the acknowledgment that the Apostles did not bind sign commandments on Gentiles. (I’m unsure whether I consider Shabbat to be in this category, or more universally binding).

    This inevitably effects my vision for congregational life, which would differ slightly from Hashivenu (perhaps only in emphasis). While Hashivenu emphasizes Messianic Jewish congregations as a place primarily for Jews, I would be more in favor of a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles, while still acknowledging the special place of the Jewish people. (Cohen, Levi, Yisrael, Bnei Avraham, Goy).

    The main issues I feel that warrant separation are theologies and practices that stem from anti-Judaism. This would include supersessionism within Christianity, and anti-traditionalism within MJ-ism. (Non-traditional is a different story, but I have little patience for reactionary anti-traditionalism). General neglect and ignorance of the OT bothers me, but its something I’m patient with if people are willing to learn.

    In the end, it’s all about glorifying God, through Messiah, by the Spirit.

  5. tnnonline says:

    My long and short answer is that I am anti-fundamentalist, and I think that there are too many strands of the broad Messianic world that sit a little too far to the Right for their own good. Most of the problems and controversies of the previous decade were caused by teachers and individuals with fundie roots. I want to see their numbers, if possible, balanced out with more moderates.

  6. issa29 says:

    How would you define the segment of Messianic Judaism you are part of, or alternately the segment of Christianity or Judaism you are part of?
    i am fairly new to the messianic world from a missions level evangelical involvement. although i have a range of messianic friends, i prefer this startup group that encourages us to continue to connect with our churches. i have to admit there is a slightly greater emphasis on ministry than in discipleship which i like since most of our members are able to self-feed. (the reason i describe my group is because i am not knowledgeable of the different group names within the MJ movement. it would help me a lot if someone can point me to a list of categories with their descriptions.)

    What are some elements of your sect within the broader movements that defines you and makes you unique?
    what i like about my group is its passion for blessing israel.

    Are these elements negotiable or worth separating over?
    ideally, nothing should be worth separating over when it concerns the people of God. after all, it is Christ’s prayer that all who believe would be one.

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