Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, ch 2

MAPPING MESSIANIC JEWISH THEOLOGY: A CONSTRUCTIVE APPROACH
Richard Harvey, Paternoster, 2009

Buy the book here or here. This is one you will want in your library if you are involved or plan to be involved in Messianic Judaism or Jewish-Christian relations.

As I said in my review of Harvey’s first chapter, my intent is not to give away so much content from MMJT that you will find the blog discussion a replacement for buying the book. Simply put, MMJT along with Stern’s Messianic Judaism, Kinzer’s Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, and Juster’s Jewish Roots is part of an essential library of Messianic Judaism.

In the second chapter of MMJT, the topic is previous studies of Messianic Judaism. You may be surprised to find out how many PhD dissertations, monographs, and books have been written already about Messianic Judaism by Jewish, Christian, and Messianic Jewish scholars (even one Jewish-Buddhist scholar).

Chapter 2 is only about historical, anthropological, sociological studies of Messianic Judaism. Theological treatments of Messianic Judaism are reserved for chapter 3.

Questions raised by the writers surveyed in MMJT chapter 2 include:

–What is the relationship between fundamentalist Christianity, evangelical Christianity, and various Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish groups that have emerged?

–Are Messianic Jews Christians, Jews, or neither?

–Will Gentiles in the movement dominate and remove Messianic Judaism from the sphere of Jewish life?

–Will Torah observance and Jewish tradition lead to a departure from Yeshua-faith amongst Messianic Jews?

–Will Messianic Judaism emerge as a religious tradition in its own right, distinct from both Judaism and Christianity?

–Is Messianic Judaism primarily about reconstructing 1st century practices of faith in Yeshua (a la the book of Acts, what many scholars call early Jewish Christianity) or about structuring a modern Jewish movement for Yeshua which has its origins in first century Messianic Judaism? (In other words, is Jewish tradition since the first century vital or alien to the aims of Messianic Judaism?)

–Has Messianic Judaism transcended its origins in Christian missions to the Jews? If so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

–Is the Hebrew Christian, parachurch organization, mission from within the church to the Jews approach a part of Messianic Judaism or to be regarded as a passing stage, a failed project, a separate continuing stream, or what?

–One element in the formation of Messianic Judaism has been a repudiation of pagan-syncretistic elements in Christian tradition. What role does this repudiation play in the formation of Messianic Judaism?

–Is Daniel Cohn-Sherbok right that Messianic Judaism is a seventh branch of Judaism and should be recognized by all Jews who believe in pluralistic tolerance?

–Is Walter Riggans right that Messianic Judaism must develop more into the Jewish hermeneutical models (ways of interpreting Bible texts) instead of dwelling in Reformational Christian models (contextual exegesis)?

Summary and Discussion
The many studies summarize in chapter 2 span the period from the early 1970’s into the 2000’s. They cover a spectrum all the way from early congregations barely emerged from Hebrew Christianity and Christian missions to the Jews to pentecostal-charismatic forms of Messianic Judaism to non-pentecostal, evangelical Christian style Messianic Judaism to emerging Messianic Judaism more of the Hashivenu, Jewish-traditional approach.

Theological studies of Messianic Judaism are reserved for chapter 3.

What questions from the above list interest you most and what are your thoughts about them?

This discussion is to be a place for free exchange of ideas and ethical dialogue (see tab above, “Ethics of Discussion,” if you want pointers for ways to dialogue without insulting).

I am not interested in merely hearing ideas similar to my own. If you are not Messianic Jewish, but you are interested in the discussion, don’t hesitate to join in.

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.

13 Responses to Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, ch 2

  1. christian4moses says:

    Will Torah observance and Jewish tradition lead to a departure from Yeshua-faith amongst Messianic Jews?

    I find this the most important question and think it would be interesting to see a survey of how many Messianic Jews gave up on believing in Yeshua’s Messiahship after getting in touch with Judaism and taking on commandments.

    I personally think this number could shock us, especially when including Messianic non-Jews as well.

    Daniel

    • sidefall says:

      I’d also be interested to see some statistics on this. If the numbers are significant (and I’m not sure that they are), I think it shows the importance of developing a messianic judaism that is both genuinely Jewish and genuinely messianic. As I suggested in another comment, much of MJ fails in this regard, and I’ve sadly been to numerous messianic gatherings that are in that category. The issues involved are still being worked out, but it’s been exciting to see it start to take shape in recent years. But there’s still a lot more work to be done.

  2. “…would be interesting to see a survey of how many Messianic Jews gave up on believing in Yeshua’s Messiahship after getting in touch with Judaism and taking on commandments.”

    From what I’ve witnessed firsthand, a lot more non-Jews from within the MJ movement (or its various renegade offshoots) have given up on Yeshua after being engrossed in Judaism than Messianic Jews.

    However, also as interestingly, of those Gentiles who did move into mainstream Judaism (usually via a conversion), many more of them seem to return to Yeshua, Christianity (or Messianic Judaism in some cases) than the former Messianic born Jews who returned into mainstream Judaism (meaning the Jews tend to leave for good once they turn their backs on Yeshua, while Gentiles tend to return after a stint in Judaism – probably because non-Jews still have stronger connection to the Christian world via family and friends).

    Just from my personal observations.

    • Ovadia says:

      I agree with Gene. It seems that non-Jews are more likely to foresake Yeshua, and are more likely to do so temporarily (the second is actually my personal experience).

  3. This is one of the things that worries me the most when I see some Messianics who have left the Church become Messianic and eventually even give up their belief in Yeshua (Jesus). Is it possible to be Messianic and not believe in Yeshua as Messiah. While I am not Torah observant myself (I am a Christian) I have no problem with it. But I do have a problem when it leaves people from a faith in Jesus. I have even heard some groups refer to (I don’t want to use the true name of God incase I offend someone so I will use the word God for it) God of the Tanach as the greater God and Jesus as the lesser God. For me this was way too much and I stopped reading their stuff for that and many other reasons.

    Because of some of the debate and controversy over who Jesus is among Messianics I have recently started to do more studying into the subject myself. I would suggest that people who are able to among Messianics should produce in depth publications into this subject which may prevent people denying Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God altogether.

  4. Thanks for the observations about people leaving the path of Yeshua. It is interesting that of all the questions, commenters so far have only selected this one. I’m sure hundreds of readers were interested in other questions as well. I suppose I will come up with posts in the future about some of them.

    Peter, thanks for the suggestion about Messianics writing more about Yeshua. My Yeshua in Context book should come out by the end of 2010 and meanwhile I have the podcast. I am using a storied approach, sharing sketches of the life and times of Yeshua the Messiah. Although I love the many types of Jesus books I have in my library (I buy lots of historical Jesus research books), I think that we need more than historical criticism on the one hand and more than apologetics for faith in Yeshua on the other. I think we need the stories of Yeshua and his context told in ways that connect modern people with the ancient setting of Yeshua. Apologetics approaches seem to me to be limited in value, assuming a common set of beliefs which no longer exists. The storied approach, I think, can speak to anyone regardless of their position with regard to Yeshua.

    I also think good books exegeting the apostolic teachings about Yeshua are good. These also assume a shared faith in the apostles, but at least they call out faulty readings of Yeshua which pretend to be compatible with the New Testament but are not.

    Derek Leman

  5. cweinblatt says:

    Messianic Jews are Christians who enjoy some aspects of Judaism. They are, “wannabe” Jews. But, in reality they are, and always will be, Christians. Here is the ultimate test question.

    Was Jesus a messiah?

    If the answer is YES, you can NEVER become a Jew. If the answer is “NO,” then you can be a Jew. A “Messianic Jew” is not a Jew, by any measure of Judiasm (inclusing Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed Judaism), as long as he or she believes in Christ as a messiah. It’s very simple.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, Jacob’s Courage
    http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

  6. sidefall says:

    Charles, I must respectfully disagree with you, and even if I accepted your statement that “messianic jews are christians…”, the halacha doesn’t support your opinion. The sages are clear – once a Jew, always a Jew. A Jew that follows another religion is an apostate Jew, but still a Jew. I would agree that many parts of the messianic jewish movement are actually a judaised form of christianity, but what Derek and numerous others are doing is putting together an authentic and mature form of messianic judaism that keeps Torah whilst acknowledging Yeshua as mashiach. This isn’t an easy task and there’s a lot of historic inertia to overcome, but it’s slowly coming together.

  7. Mr. Weinblatt:

    There is a generally accepted principle that it is (1) bad manners and (2) a fool’s errand to go into someone else’s space and denounce their religion or ideology. With regard to (1), your comment is similar to me walking into a Conservative synagogue and criticizing the rabbi in front of the congregation over matters we disagree about. With regard to (2), what do you accomplish by denouncing Messianic Jews on a Messianic Jewish blog?

    Derek Leman

  8. Pingback: Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, ch 2 | Religions of India | ReligionofIndia.net

  9. siseleanor says:

    I don’t see what is to be gained by Messianic Jews disregarding the Jewish hermeneutical principles, these need to be taken into account and carefully understood (I’m a beginner!) in order to make sense of the flow of rabbinic thought and therefore halachah and how this has and will develop. At the same time, we need to be able to engage with Gentile theology and therefore need a broad range of ways of approaching texts, including reflection on context, genre etc. The main worry that emerges from this for me is how a community with such a broad responsibility will manage to also remain outwardly focussed, serving suffering humanity and seeking social justice, rather than becoming wrapped up in itself and lost in internal bickering over things that in the bigger and simpler perspective of simply following Yeshua are not that important.

    With regard to people being drawn away from Yeshua, as a giyores who lived within the orthodox community for many years, I saw many people come to convert to Judaism. Those who considered conversion but who remained faithful to Yeshua remained simply because of who Yeshua is. It is this that brings home to us the importance of keeping him at the heart of all we are and do. To dismiss Torah study because it might lead us away from Yeshua is surely to misunderstand who Yeshua is.

  10. issa29 says:

    Mr. Weinblatt,

    I understand you are frustrated with the idea of a Messianic Jew but with all due respect, you cannot change the existence of a blue sky by denying it. We are here. And maybe we can help you get over it if you are willing to learn about what we are really about. That would surely clear up a lot of misunderstandings you might have ^_^

    Sincerely,
    Larissa Llave

    now for the questions! im still fairly new and still need to learn a lot so i will have to answer with questions as well. (i really should read the book before posting but im still waiting for it from an interlibrary loan. feel free to ignore stupid questions pls.)

    –Is Messianic Judaism primarily about reconstructing 1st century practices of faith in Yeshua (a la the book of Acts, what many scholars call early Jewish Christianity) or about structuring a modern Jewish movement for Yeshua which has its origins in first century Messianic Judaism? (In other words, is Jewish tradition since the first century vital or alien to the aims of Messianic Judaism?)
    > biblical kosher falls under this right?

    –Is the Hebrew Christian, parachurch organization, mission from within the church to the Jews approach a part of Messianic Judaism or to be regarded as a passing stage, a failed project, a separate continuing stream, or what?
    >i think any effort to bless Israel in obedience to the Lord can be considered Messianic. i have no idea why it should end or be separated at all.

    –Is Walter Riggans right that Messianic Judaism must develop more into the Jewish hermeneutical models (ways of interpreting Bible texts) instead of dwelling in Reformational Christian models (contextual exegesis)?
    > i dont know anything about the Jewish model but am interested in how they do it. i think it would depend on how those were developed. i would want to avoid committing the same mistakes that the pharisees did in Jesus’ day though. isnt it possible to reconcile/ use both methods?

    @siseleanor: good one! no matter how complicated life gets, the answer can be found in Yeshua so we need to keep our eyes on Him.

    question re: Judaism converts – are they really disowning Yeshua? maybe they just want to be called Messianic Jews instead of Messianic Gentiles or something like that. im being silly i know, but hey – you never know.

  11. issa29 says:

    btw, i have just checked out Mr. Weinblatt’s blog. his book is a Holocaust love story you might want to check out http://www.amazon.com/Jacobs-Courage-Holocaust-Love-Story/dp/9657344247/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1298806825&sr=8-1

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