Jews and Gentiles in MJ: A Discussion

Someone emailed me today asking about the question of Gentile roles in Messianic Judaism. If you are new to this issue, here is a woefully short summary: Messianic Judaism started as a Jewish movement (in numbers and purpose), became a predominantly Gentile movement (in numbers), and is trying to become a Jewish movement (in purpose) again without losing the many friends who have come alongside who are not Jewish.

Okay, don’t get angry when you read below and please, no ranting. I would like to hear your opinion about the way I present the issue below. It does not answer all questions, but what do you think of the general approach? NOTE: I edited this post a bit with suggestions from a friend.

Here is the POV of many Jews in MJ: Messianic Judaism is about the renewal and restoration of the people of Israel according to the scriptures.

Here is the POV of many Gentiles in MJ: We like Torah and Jewish customs, so you Jews had better accept us. MJ is about Torah, not restoration for the people of Israel and this movement belongs to us.

Some other Gentiles: We know MJ is about the renewal and restoration of the people of Israel and we want to be a part of that.

Here is my POV: Messianic Judaism is about the renewal and restoration of the people of Israel according to the scriptures and we should expect that Gentiles will come along for the ride and insist that MJ needs to regain the mission of Jewish renewal with the cooperation of all, Jew and Gentile. We need to work out the solutions and expect them to take a generation.

About Derek Leman

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

61 Responses to Jews and Gentiles in MJ: A Discussion

  1. judahgabriel says:

    Here are my thoughts:

    MJ did start out as a Jewish movement, however, it was one in which Jews joined the Church. It was called Hebrew Christianity.

    At some point, we realized the Church isn’t the place for Jews. We recognized there was a problem with the Church: it had largely abandoned Torah, and in some cases, was anti-Judaism. We formed Messianic Judaism.

    After this, the gentiles called to Torah life realized the Church wasn’t for them, either, and for similar reasons. They, too, joined Messianic Judaism.

    This created an identity problem for Messianic Judaism: if we’re a real Judaism, why do we have so many gentiles?

    Because of this, there was a renewed desire to be accepted by the Jewish world. This meant making MJ more Jewish. Often, it also meant sweeping gentiles under the rug, making them second-class citizens that operate only peripherally. This has led to gentiles leaving, or converting. Indeed, some misguided Messianic leaders have suggested this is the only path for gentiles in MJ: convert or go back to the church.

    The latter is an grave error I hope the Messianic movement can correct before the wall between Jew and gentile is built any further.

    I see Messianic Judaism as something larger than Jews believing in Jesus. I see Messianic Judaism as an extension of the Reformation, restoring Messiah and Torah to God’s people. Gentiles, then, aren’t a problem to be dealt with, but are a result of God’s move among the nations.

    • Jeruz says:

      I agree with Judah, I know many gentiles who came to Torah observance outside of MJ, they just realized they had a “home” or similar people to share there Faith with in MJ… When anyone whether a Jew making Teshuvah or a Gentile coming to the understanding of Torah, see the wisdom, righteousness, holiness and goodness of the Torah, they cannot walk away… It is to good, it is sweeter than honey… Many Gentiles love the Torah, and no one should turn them away… quite honestly, no one can, so the real issue is how to deal with Gentiles loving Torah, they can either be shunned away or they can be accepted…

  2. Thanks for sounding in Judah–I think you articulated your view well.

    You wrote: “making MJ more Jewish…meant sweeping gentiles under the rug, making them second-class citizens that operate only peripherally.”

    I’m curious: are you primarily against MJ marginalizing Gentiles, or do you see yourself as against MJ becoming Jewish? If the people who you’re standing up against were to admit that the “sweeping” and “peripheralizing” was a mistake, would you consider whether the goal of making MJ a Judaism is still a good goal?

    Put another way, do you think it’s possible to make a Jewish MJ without sweeping gentiles under the rug or making them second-class citizens that operate only peripherally?

    • judahgabriel says:

      >> If the people who you’re standing up against were to admit that the “sweeping” and “peripheralizing” was a mistake, would you consider whether the goal of making MJ a Judaism is still a good goal?

      Yes, I think so. MJ being more authentically Jewish is a good thing. However, we should keep in mind that — barring divine intervention — we will likely be outcasts over our trusting in the only authentic Jewish Messiah.

      • >> However, we should keep in mind that — barring divine intervention — we will likely be outcasts over our trusting in the only authentic Jewish Messiah.

        Certainly. However, I would like to point out that you’re the most vocal person saying that people want MJ to be more Jewish in order for our communities to win acceptance from the larger Jewish world. This assessment doesn’t ring true for me (has it for anyone else?).

        I’m not trying to grow in my understanding and practice of Judaism in order to make my community more acceptable in the Jewish world. I’m doing it because (a) I think Judaism is God-given and valuable, and (b) in my experience, I was the one who did the rejecting–I rejected many opportunities to be a full participant in the life of the wider Jewish world, because my ignorance made it too uncomfortable.

        This really had nothing to do with Yeshua–the problem was that I grew up in a community which had isolated me from Jewish norms, things which weren’t harmful in and of themselves. The fact that this community was Messianic and believed in Yeshua was incidental.

        I think being outcasts for Yeshua is what we’re called to do. Making ourselves outcasts because we don’t want to be uncomfortable or we’ve developed a superiority complex towards the rest of our people that says “we don’t need you” is just lame.

        (Curious that where you perceive an inferiority complex on the part of some MJs, I just suggested there might be a superiority complex on the part of other MJs. Interesting…but not worth writing a blog article over… :-D)

      • I also think that your statement “barring divine intervention — we will likely be outcasts over our trusting in the only authentic Jewish Messiah” sounds pretty glass-half-empty. After all, isn’t Israel’s acceptance of her Messiah what we’re working for, and what the prophets and the apostles have led us to believe will happen? Where’s you’re emuna, bro? Try this statement on for size: “one day all Israel will join us in acknowledging the only authentic Jewish Messiah”?

      • judahgabriel says:

        >> However, I would like to point out that you’re the most vocal person saying that people want MJ to be more Jewish in order for our communities to win acceptance from the larger Jewish world. This assessment doesn’t ring true for me

        I’m vocal because I’m passionate about the subject matter. :-)

        Being accepted by the Jewish world is an acknowledged goal. (Right? Anyone here contesting that?)

        So I guess the point you disagree with me on is, the recent push to become more authentically Jewish being connected to the goal of being accepted by the Jewish world. I say it is, and you disagree. Ok.

        >> I also think that your statement “barring divine intervention — we will likely be outcasts over our trusting in the only authentic Jewish Messiah” sounds pretty glass-half-empty.

        Heheh. Well. I speculate there will never be a time, short of Messiah’s arrival or some other amazing thing from heaven, when the Jewish world embraces Messiah Yeshua en masse. In the meantime, we can work towards this goal.

  3. ckinbar says:

    Derek, you wrote that “we should expect that Gentiles will come along for the ride and insist that MJ needs to regain the mission of Jewish renewal with the cooperation of all.”

    Very well put. Holistically understood, Judaism is way more than a set of beliefs and practices. Reducing Judaism to Torah observance would be a huge mistake. It’s important, yes, but far from the whole picture. From a MJ perspective, Jewish renewal involves Jewish engagement with God and one another in every conceivable way that is consistent with BOTH the Jewish past, present, and future AND Messianic realities. See “Is Judaism a Religion?” at http://bit.ly/cu691H.

    • Jeruz says:

      Very well put. Holistically understood, Judaism is way more than a set of beliefs and practices. Reducing Judaism to Torah observance would be a huge mistake. It’s important, yes, but far from the whole picture. From a MJ perspective, Jewish renewal involves Jewish engagement with God and one another in every conceivable way that is consistent with BOTH the Jewish past, present, and future AND Messianic realities. See “Is Judaism a Religion?” at http://bit.ly/cu691H.

      Hmmm, I read the article, and your comment about “reducing Judaism to Torah observance would be a huge mistake”, as the article states, ‘Religion, Nation and Family is what defines Judaism’, the problem is, that Torah defines all of these, so your logic doesn’t make any sense…. maybe it is just a confusion of terms or did I miss understand you?

      • ckinbar says:

        “Torah defines all these. . .” I’m wondering if we’re working with the same definition of Torah. So before I answer that, how do you define “Torah”?
        I’m not trying to be cute, but the definitions of Torah range from the five books of Moses all the way to everything that has been said by any traditional sage from Sinai until now.

  4. I think what is being overlooked is the fact that with Gentiles transforming the Messianic Jewish movement into the “back-to-Torah” movement, it is the Gentile CHRISTIANS who have been made into second class citizens in the Kingdom (because they are not “Torah observant”). I often hear things like – “don’t send Gentiles back to churches!” – as if churches were some inferior, second-rate institutions, incapable of satisfying non-Jewish spiritual and fellowship needs! This is wrong and has to stop!

    Most early Gentiles within the Messianic Judaism have entered the Jewish movement BEFORE Torah observance ever became a desirable value in the movement. These early Gentiles were there to support their Jewish brethren in what they saw as G-d’s restoration of the Jewish part of the ekklesia. There was unity.

    However, with the the current trend of Gentiles joining MM for Torah-observance reasons alone, some join even while harboring antisemitic or antijudaic feelings. Most of them are not even entering the mainstream MJ to begin with, but instead are directly joining non-MJ Torah-for-Gentiles movements such as One-Law and Two-House (with few or no Jews in their congregations.) With this turn of events it is invevitable that some turn to resentment against their Jewish brethren not seeing things the same way.

    I think that this needs to be remedied. The only way to do this is to acknowledge and proclaim that non-Mosaic-Torah Christianity is a G-d-ordained, completely valid, Yeshua-faith expression for the vast majority of non-Jews.

    I think that Seth has the right idea, where he advocates for Messianic Gentiles returning to and enriching churches with what they learned in MM:

    http://judeoxian.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/weekend-update-with-seth-and-amy-part-2/

    I agree!

    We need to counteract this idea that G-d wants Gentiles to become defacto Jews, adopting Jewish customs and laws – as if being a non observant Gentile means being second class! We need to seek new dialog with our brothers in churches, where the majority of Gentile followers of Yeshua faithfully serve our G-d.

    • ckinbar says:

      “The only way to do this is to acknowledge and proclaim that non-Mosaic-Torah Christianity is a G-d-ordained, completely valid, Yeshua-faith expression for the vast majority of non-Jews.”

      It seems to me that Gentiles who (1) are attracted to Torah and (2) deeply value the distinctiveness of the Jewish people would consider forming such groups, some of which already exist. They start with Torah in the Scriptures, fleshing it out with creative cultural approaches to the feasts, the Sabbath, etc. They may consult, but do not adopt, post-biblical Jewish traditions, garments,or symbols. They don’t claim to be MJs and aren’t involved in the MJ movement.

      Is that the sort of thing you’re thinking of?

      • Carl, I think what you are describing would be ideal. Although my wish is that this change would take place within existing Christian groups, instead of forming yet another set of Gentile messianic-style groups just for that purpose – we already have this – independent groups of Gentiles feeling they are superior to other Christians because of certain (mostly self-defined) Torah observances.

        This scenario would both remedy the current “Old Testament” minimization as prevalent in most of Christianity, while drawing Gentiles closer to Israel and Jewish believers at the same time – all without appropriating the Jewish identity.

      • umm, that doesn’t sound any less weird than what goes on today under the banner of MJ.

      • “umm, that doesn’t sound any less weird than what goes on today under the banner of MJ”

        True:) What do you propose instead, Monique? I propose that Christianity, in all its flavors, be validated as G-d’s ordained instrument for Gentiles (Gentile Ekklesia) – sans Torah observance for Gentiles (but without hostility to either Israel or Jews’ observance of Torah).

      • ckinbar says:

        Gene, I didn’t express my self clearly enough. I was trying to grasp what you were saying. I agree with your #13. Christianity is not an aberration, however odd some of its forms. Likewise, MJ.

      • Well, Gene, since you asked … I think we should partner with pastors who have come around to R. Kendall Soulen’s way of thinking, and help them whet the “Jewish roots” appetites of their congregants within the four walls of their own churches.

  5. waltonbill says:

    Derek thank you for the explanation, i think it cleared some issues of how your movement views things.

    Gene thank you for what i feel is a balanced view. What i feel is said here, more in comments than Derek’s post, is that churches have no affiliation with with the MJ movement. So that you know, I am not a Jew nor am i looking to follow Torah. I am a Gentile looking to serve Jesus for who i am, not on my own terms but in relation to my identity. I have been studying through the letter to the Galatians and it is clear there is a difference in life style worship but our faith is the same no matter what the background is.

    I think it could be interesting to see the MJ POV on the Gal 3 discussion of Abraham.

  6. tnnonline says:

    I think people need to remember that there is never going to be one definitive Messianic Judaism or Messianic movement or whatever you want to call it. Denominations are becoming less and less relevant to the Christian world, and so to think that all Believers rallying around a flag called “Messianic” is possible seems a bit unlikely. There is an overall trend in the religious world to go independent.

    We need to recognize that with so many different points of view or “visions” out there, to give one another lots of space and lots of grace! Focus first on what we can agree on, so that we can respectfully work through differences.

  7. ckinbar says:

    Being accepted by the Jewish world is an acknowledged goal. (Right? Anyone here contesting that?)

    Said with a smile (REALLY): Well, I’m damned if I say it’s a goal and damned if I say it isn’t. If I say it’s a goal, then every move I make will be interpreted as being motivated by the desire for acceptance. (Actually, that happens anyway!) If I say it isn’t a goal, then I’m a fool–I’ve just told my extended family that I have no particular interest in being accepted by them.

    Seriously, the issue is whether my/our life is dominated by the desire for acceptance, not by whether is it A goal. Wouldn’t you say?

    • Carl, I think that the first underlying reason for this accusation (of us seeking acceptance) is the rejection of Rabbinic Judaism as Judaism within which G-d himself has operated for the last two thousand years. The second reason is inability to appreciate the real and palpable need that most Jewish believers have for connectedness to their own people. The two red herrings which have been cited and which mask the above two reasons are as follows:

      1) Don’t get too close to Rabbinic Judaism – it has turned it back on Messiah (therefore it’s invalid as religion of the Jews and has little value). You, as an MJ risk ending up rejecting Yeshua, or divinity of Yeshua to procure that acceptance. (This accusation is common among some Christians, Hebrew Christians as well as messianic Gentiles).

      2) Don’t get too close to Rabbinic Judaism – if you do, you will start focusing too much on your Jewish identity, too much on being part of Jewish community, too much on reaching out to Jews, and you will be bending over backward trying to make Jews feel at home in your synagogues (as if this were a bad thing). If you start doing that, you would be risking making the Gentiles in your movement feel like second class citizens – after all, many of them are not too keen on “man-made” Rabbinic Judaism and some will feel that the heavy focus on Jewish outreach should be balanced by a more lofty goal of promoting universal Torah-observance.

    • judahgabriel says:

      >> Seriously, the issue is whether my/our life is dominated by the desire for acceptance, not by whether is it A goal. Wouldn’t you say?

      Agreed. The reason I’ve spoken up about the Jewish acceptance issue is, your colleague suggested we must gain acceptance or we’ll perish in a generation. That is over-elevating the matter to an unhealthy level, one which would dominate our lives and the Messianic movement. That’s why I spoke up, and why I continue to.

  8. I have been waiting for a post like this for a while. I’m a gentile who is interested in MJ and here’s why. For years I went to a great church with great people. I began to get deep into the theology of my church, which is basically laid out in a book called “Systematic Theology” by Alva Huffer (given to me by my pastor). The book kind of takes the Jewishness out of everything. The church this, the church that, all the teachings are from the NT. I felt, while not an anti-semetic work, it was leaving me with more questions than answers. I used to ask about the “old law” and the festivals etc, and when I could actually get a direct answer, was given a few versus, then “that was that.”
    MJ just makes more sense for me personally. I don’t think ill of churches, or the wonderful people who go there. Sometimes I get the feeling of “anti-gentilism” from some, although I admit I have little contact with anyone in the movement, as I live in the middle of nowhere, and the nearest MJ church is hundreds of miles away. Just a thought. Let the hammering begin!

  9. Really great thoughts, Rabbi Carl.

    I think that people with theological and identity baggage have been allowed to dominate the discourse in our movement primarily because we haven’t been clear and confident about our unique purpose.

    What if Nike hadn’t clearly defined itself as the go-to source for athletic footwear and apparel? Anyone off the street with enough cash and influence could turn it into a direct competitor to Jimmy Choo and begin cranking out stilettos by the millions. A year later, they’d expand into handbags. Five years later, another shmoe could come along and say “enough with the high heels and handbags. The real money’s in makeup.” Give it another decade, and “Nike” would be hawking perfume and nail polish!

    My point is that our failure to clearly communicate our essential purpose, also known as “what we have to offer the world and the unique role we play within it,” has provided space for ridiculous mission drift.

    We are a Jewish renewal movement for Yeshua. If we can make that clear, those who are dissatisfied will move on, and those who are in agreement can link arms with us and move forward.

    • ckinbar says:

      “We are a Jewish renewal movement for Yeshua.”

      I agree with tnnonline that diversity will always be with us. But congregations and networks need to consist of those who are passionate about those goals. It saddens me that many otherwise healthy leaders undermine their God-given goals (whatever they might be–I’m not just talking about MJ) by forming the community core with people who are not fully in agreement with those goals. Our communities desperately need more open-set approaches, but the core needs to be 100% committed to the goals (from the kishkas).

  10. robdigsin says:

    I am a Gentile who is interested in observing the Holy Days, not because I believe I am bound to observe them, but because I believe it is beneficial to my Faith in Yeshua.

    I am constantly amazed by the indignation of my fellow Gentiles over my observing Passover. Many of them become furious, which is beyond me.

    Gentile believers have been grafted into the Olive Tree which is Israel. Why would we not want to know about the roots of our Faith? How can we truly know what we believe if we don’t understand the origins thereof?

    I am grateful to have found this post, and will be following it intently.

    My family believes we are about to be moved geographically and spiritually. I am on the lookout for an MJ assembly to become a part of.

  11. For the most part, my post “We Must Never Forget” today is my response to what has been said here. But, here is my advice for the several Gentiles who have said that they are coming or want to come to MJ to learn their Jewish roots:

    In a way, you have been deceived. You have been given the idea that MJ is here as a place for Gentiles to discover their Jewish roots. There is nothing wrong with your desire. In fact, it is a good desire. It’s just that MJ is about what God is doing to restore, renew, and redeem the people of Israel.

    So, if by learning you mean that you see yourself as a visitor, an occasional attender, fine.

    Or, if you actually find yourself drawn to what God is doing for the people of Israel, then, in my opinion, Messianic Judaism could be a home for you. I am not among those who wish to keep Gentiles out of MJ. I think that God is calling non-Jews to be part of the Jewish congregation of Messiah in several roles.

    But learning your Jewish roots or trying to learn how to keep Torah is not a worthy purpose for Messianic Judaism. It is simple for Gentiles to form fellowships that are Torah observant if that is what they want to do, but they should not be called Judaism. Judaism has the idea of Jewishness in the name. And MJ did not begin as a Jewish roots movement for Gentiles. So you are taking over, corrupting the original purpose, if you perpetuate this.

    Or you could discover the purpose of MJ and maybe you will find that is actually what excites you. Is it about the Sabbath or about the prophecies? Is it about pork or the great future hope that Israel’s restoration brings Messiah and the healing of the world?

    Please resist all assertions that in Messiah you are essentially a Jew. The apostles were more subtle than that. If you read them carefully, observe their pattern in Acts, consider that the audience of the epistles is a Gentile audience (with a few exceptions that prove the rule), you will find a bilateral ecclesiology in the New Testament (with some different requirements for Jews in Messiah than Gentiles in Messiah).

    The Gentiles in Paul’s time needed encouragement. The synagogues were telling them they had no hope, Yeshua was a fraud, and only through conversion could they be kosher to God. The Gentile teachers of Torah in our day are doing the opposite. They say conversion is a fraud. Jewish identity (“grafted in” and other terms used as code language) is yours to claim by right. They say that Christians have no hope, being deceived into thinking their Torah-free way of living is wrong.

    You should learn the truth of who you are. There is neither Jew nor Gentile in the level of blessing and love of God. The distinctiveness of Israel has never been about diminishing the importance of any person from any nation. You do not need to keep the Sabbath to be loved by God. You do not need to abstain from pork to be loved by God. These commandments are not required of you and they never were. This is what the Torah teaches and is what I have been saying again and again.

    There is a place in MJ for non-Jews, but things have become so confused, it will take re-education. Before conversion, I was a Gentile sold on the purpose of MJ: the work for the restoration of the people of Israel in Yeshua. If that message excites you, then perhaps you belong.

    Derek Leman

  12. I see from many posts the problem many gentiles must have is a need for Identity, which I see as a bit strange. Personally, I was never close to any of my extended family, Grandparents long passed away, uncles or cousins, the few I met as a child, Are scattered across the country and I havent had contact with them in decades. My mom was adopted, So I know nothing of that part of my heritage, or much about my fathers for that matter. One might think this lack of “ethnic identity” would drive me to latch onto something to define who I am. Quite the opposite is true, I sort of embrace the Lone Ranger mentality, and the need for Identity seems strange to me. I do feel the need for acceptance like everyone I suppose.
    I view the Jewish people as a chosen people, I am not as much in love with the Torah as I am with the man who wrote it. Being chosen, why would I not want to stand with them as a fellow believer? I would like to be accepted by Jewish believers in our messiah, and understand that this movement is theirs. I don’t want to be seen as trying to be Jewish, I’m not. Knowing a nation of people is a chosen nation, does not hurt my “ethinic pride”, since I really have none. I think “Man, those people are lucky God chose them.” Why would I not want to be part of the celebration of His people? Doesn’t mean I want to act as if I am one, I know I’m not. I don’t have any Jewish roots. But I believe in the prophecies involving the Jewish people and Israel, and that excites me. I can root for them sincerely, and want to be seen as a “fan” of the Jewish people, not as one who is trying to grasp at something to define myself. In my own opinion, many churches are fans of themselves, or at best acknowledge the Jewish people rarely. Seems a bit strange to believe in God, without believeing his chosen people are here for a purpose i guess. Most people commenting here seem to be much more educated than I, so I apologize if I have said anything foolish or out of line. I am open to correction.

  13. robdigsin says:

    derek4messiah :It is simple for Gentiles to form fellowships that are Torah observant if that is what they want to do, but they should not be called Judaism. Judaism has the idea of Jewishness in the name. And MJ did not begin as a Jewish roots movement for Gentiles. So you are taking over, corrupting the original purpose, if you perpetuate this.Derek Leman

    Thank you for that.

    My ignorance is apparent, I’m afraid. Of course, it could be that I have, indeed, been deceived by this “taking over” (or attempt thereof) which you describe.

    I guess my next question is: Is there place for Jewish and Gentile believers to regularly worship together, with each group understanding their difference from the other, or are we better off only joining together physically on occasion to celebrate the common bond we have in Yeshua?

    I suppose I know the answer to my own question, since a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

    I’m enjoying this discussion and I ask forgiveness from those of you who are burdened by my infantile questions.

  14. So I guess the point you disagree with me on is, the recent push to become more authentically Jewish being connected to the goal of being accepted by the Jewish world. I say it is, and you disagree. Ok.

    Judah, I’m not quite ready to agree to disagree here. It would be one thing if this was something like interpretation of Scripture where it’s possible to reach two different conclusions. But here we’re talking about people’s motives. You’re saying, “X is what motivates a certain group of people to do Y.” And I’m saying, “I’m one of people motivated to do Y, and you’re not describing X accurately for me.”

    See, I’m trying to give you honest information (i.e. comment #5) about what is truly motivating me. I would love it if, instead of saying, “Messianic Judaism has an inferiority complex,” or “MJs who want a Jewish MJ are motivated by their desire for acceptance,” you would simply copy and paste what I wrote there. Then you’d be representing me accurately (a good thing, no?), instead of misrepresenting me in a way which feels like a dis or a mini-slander.

    If you choose to “disagree” with (or disregard) what I’ve said about my true motivations, I feel like you’d be choosing to believe that I’m lying to you, rather than believing that I’m telling you the truth.

    In summary: I think we can agree to disagree about interpretation of Scripture, philosophy and values. But when we’re speaking about what “the other side” thinks or feels, isn’t it better to make it our goal to represent them as accurately as possible, in their eyes? I certainly think it is. How does it make you feel when people say, “Messianics who don’t want a Jewish MJ have identity issues?”

    • judahgabriel says:

      You’re desire to be more authentically Jewish is not tied to the desire to be accepted by the Jewish world. Acknowledged.

      I am speculating that, for greater Messianic Judaism, the two are very much related. Cause and effect.

      But you are talking about side-issues. The crux of my post was that certain Jewish followers of Yeshua are shooing away gentile followers of Yeshua. That is not the New Testament model. It is opposing a work of God among the nations, in which he has drawn gentiles to a Torah lifestyle.

      • “It is opposing a work of God among the nations, in which he has drawn gentiles to a Torah lifestyle.”

        Judah, this about sums up why many MJs find your views contradictory to our own vision of Messianic Judaism. You believe that the presence of Gentiles in MM is all part of G-d’s plan to draw Gentiles to Torah lifestyle. Even a cursory reading of NT will show that this view has nothing to do with any explicit or implicit New Testament model, since NT never advocates for Mosaic Torah-observance for Gentiles. Adoption of such a view by Messianic Judaism (G-d forbid) is not only unscriptural, divisive and confusing for the Gentiles who find their home in Christianity, it will draw away much needed and very limited resources that would be much better utilized to reach out to unsaved or assimilated Jews.

        Gentiles have already found the Messiah by their millions – the One-Law movement simply cannibalizes Christianity. Instead of preaching Messiah to Jews or Gentiles, its main focus has become Torah for the already saved Christians.

      • judahgabriel says:

        I say gentiles being drawn to the Torah life is from God. You don’t, and suggest Messianic gentiles return the church. Fine, I prefer clarity over agreement.

      • >> You’re desire to be more authentically Jewish is not tied to the desire to be accepted by the Jewish world. Acknowledged.

        Thanks.

        >>But you are talking about side-issues….

        These may be side issues to you, but they’re not to me. This is the beauty and power of having these dialogues–both of our views will be strengthened if we can find ways to affirm and integrate the other’s concerns.

        >> I am speculating that, for greater Messianic Judaism, the two are very much related. Cause and effect.

        I believe that my desire to be more authentically Jewish is connected to a work of God among the Jewish people, in which he is drawing Jewish people to a Torah lifestyle.

      • Responding to Gene:

        >> Even a cursory reading of NT will show that this view has nothing to do with any explicit or implicit New Testament model, since NT never advocates for Mosaic Torah-observance for Gentiles.

        Gene, I worry that you may be overstating your point here. The Rambam wrote (in Mishne Torah, Laws of Kings, chapter 8, law 11):

        One who accepts the seven commandments and is careful to uphold them is one of the hasiday umot ha’olam / the pious of the nations of the world, and he has a portion in the world to come. That is, if he accepts them and performs them because they were commanded by God in the Torah.

        IMO, the issue is not whether or not Gentiles obey the Torah, but why and how. R’ Hanan Schlesinger’s overview of the halakha concerning non-Jews doing mitzvot (Messianics, Evangelicals, and Us) has influenced my thinking here.

      • Yahnatan Lasko :
        Gene, I worry that you may be overstating your point here.

        Yahnatan – not at all. Here’s why: note that I was careful to specifically mention “Mosaic Torah” – meaning the one given to Israel on Sinai. Naturally, Torah includes the Noahide Laws as well – which is what your Rambam quote is referring to (when is says “One who accepts the seven commandments”) and what both the Apostles and the modern Jewish authorities agree Gentiles should observe as well.

      • IMO, the issue is not whether or not Gentiles obey the Torah, but why and how. R’ Hanan Schlesinger’s overview of the halakha concerning non-Jews doing mitzvot (Messianics, Evangelicals, and Us) has influenced my thinking here.

        Yahnatan… I’ve listened to the link you posted. One thing I would agree – Torah is indeed good for EVERYONE to learn from, Jew or Gentiles, because it’s G-d’s Word. Also, the Torah does indeed include commands for BOTH, Jews and Gentiles (although not all of these commands apply to both groups). However, the rabbi goes on to cite ONE rabbinical opinion that claims, based on Leviticus 18:1-5, that focuses on the word “man” in those verses as being interpreted to include EVERYONE, Jew or Gentile, men and women – implying, if not stating outright, that G-d wants everyone to obey the same exact commands. Of course, in the context we read that Moses is specifically told to address the children of Israel. Likewise, there are many other instances where the word “man” is used in relations to commandments, but where making it a universal application would make it downright ridiculous (such as commandments to run to a city of refuge in Israel, etc.)

        Other opinions of sages disagree with that view, and the rabbi-teacher in the audio acknowledges that as well.

        I would reiterate that Torah (meaning G-d’s commandments) does apply to everyone because it includes both Noahide Laws and great moral truths, but it does make a distinction about which commandment applies to whom (all the various categories of people that are listed there).

      • judahgabriel says:

        Another interesting bit is how Messiah may have broadened Torah’s application, or at least broadened it as far as some later sages were concerned.

        Maimonides’ interprets one particular command of the Torah as, “Love other Jews”. Fair, because Leviticus 19 is speaking about “the children of thy people”, e.g. Jews.

        But Messiah interpreted it in a broader way. By commanding his followers to “love your neighbor as yourself”, he set an example for all, Jew and gentile.

        I think many Torah commandments are like that. They are directed to Israel, but Jesus intended his followers to keep them. I think this may be related to gentiles being part of the commonwealth of Israel.

      • >>I would reiterate that Torah (meaning G-d’s commandments) does apply to everyone because it includes both Noahide Laws and great moral truths, but it does make a distinction about which commandment applies to whom (all the various categories of people that are listed there).

        Gene,

        Thanks for listening to the talk; R’ Schlesinger obviously can present the relevant texts way better than I can.

        What I learned from the talk is that there is a tension running straight through the halachic texts on non-Jews observing mitzvot. On the one hand, some texts seem to indicate that it is fully permissable. On the other hand, other texts say that it is completely forbidden–because the Torah is an inheritance of Jacob (Deut. 33:4), and thus taking that inheritance is akin to stealing.

        R’ Schlesinger’s conclusion is that there are ways in which Gentiles can take on mitzvot which do no harm to the Jewish people, and in these ways they should be taught. But there are ways to take on the mitzvot which do harm the Jewish people (in R’ Schlesinger’s eyes, this would include the purpose of converting Jews to Christianity)–these ways are forbidden.

        Of course some might question why these texts should influence us at all and insist that we base our practice only on the scriptures as we interpret them. That’s a different argument, but in this case I think it should be noted that even in a traditional, halachic context, there seems to be room for non-Jews to take on mitzvot to which they are not obligated.

        And of course harmonizing that traditional view with the apostolic writings is another task.

      • I think it should be noted that even in a traditional, halachic context, there seems to be room for non-Jews to take on mitzvot to which they are not obligated.

        Or, and in some halachic opinions – you can take on mitzvot, but I’ll have to kill you when you do:)

        And of course harmonizing that traditional view with the apostolic writings is another task.

        I believe the apostolic opinion does not view Gentile Mosaic Torah observance as a value to be promoted among the Gentiles – in fact, one could cite many verse where it is discouraged or de-emphasized (agreeing with the sages) or even admonished against. On a more practical level and in keeping with the overall Biblical theme of keeping Israel distinct in perpetuity, I think that most Messianic and mainstream Jews would agree that for Jews and Gentiles to be indistinguishable in every way, whether it be obligations, actions, traditions, or appearance (religious dress code) but name is not a good thing for the Jewish nation and simply a continuation of the One-Law problem that has gotten the Movement into the fine mess it is into right now.

  15. robdigsin says:

    This is awesome. I’m still reading. Just thought I would let you all know that I’m learning and contemplating some valuable things through your discourse.

  16. Dan Benzvi says:

    If MJTI is not for joining judaism, then why call them Messianic Judaism, wouldn’t “Messianic Indonesia” be better?

    give us a break, who are you trying to kid?

    • Dan, be nice. Wouldn’t you want to see a Messianic Judaism with more Jews in it or it doesn’t matter for you?

      • Dan Benzvi says:

        Gene,

        When you can show me where in Scriptures a thing called “Messianic Judaism” is mention I will answer your question.

      • Dan, is the official name of your movement “The Way”? No? That’s strange, I never heard you mention that your congregation is part of “The Way Movement”. I thought you wanted to be scriptural…

  17. Dan Benzvi says:

    Yahnatan,

    but how do you apply it to the real world?

  18. Dan Benzvi #44:

    What I say below is not a “proof.” It is just evidence that Acts makes a distinction.

    Well, Acts 15:19 differentiates “those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles.” Acts 21:19 makes this distinction also while 21:20 speaks of those “among the Jews who have believed.” Then in 21:25 it says, “concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote…”

    What was written “concerning the Gentiles”? A letter explaining a different set of divine requirements than for those “among the Jews.”

    Paul and Barnabas had a mission to the nations. Peter and James to the Jewish people.

    The name Messianic Judaism, as you well know, is modern. The distinction between the Jewish community of Yeshua-followers and the multi-national church is not new.

    Derek Leman

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Derek,

      Here are some more evidence: “…and He made NO DISTINCTION between us and them…” (Acts 15:9).

      ” Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Cor.7:19).

      Last time I checked the commandments of God were written in the Torah, no?

      I can agree with you on ethnic distinction, but not on that God has different classes of people, this is unbiblical.

      • Jeruz says:

        Agreed, looks like were just gonna have different denominations of MJ… lol.

      • “Agreed, looks like were just gonna have different denominations of MJ… lol.”

        Yes, but let’s eloborate.

        There will be Messianic Judaism (with many Jews and some Gentiles who want to see Israel renewed and Jews restored to Yeshua and obedience to G-d) and then there will also be a pseudo-Messianic movement (a Torah for Gentiles movement/church recreating what the World Wide Church of God failed to do, meaning with all Gentiles in it thinking they are Israel and Dan Benzvi as their fearless leader and token Jew to give them some credibility).

  19. Jeruz says:

    Gene Shlomovich :
    “Agreed, looks like were just gonna have different denominations of MJ… lol.”
    Yes, but let’s eloborate.
    There will be Messianic Judaism (with many Jews and some Gentiles who want to see Israel renewed and Jews restored to Yeshua and obedience to G-d) and then there will also be a pseudo-Messianic movement (a Torah for Gentiles movement/church recreating what the World Wide Church of God failed to do, meaning with all Gentiles in it thinking they are Israel and Dan Benzvi as their fearless leader and token Jew to give them some credibility).

    Pseudo? Lol, according to the movement of Gene! No way my son…

    Dan Benzvi as leader? At least he has some sense…

  20. Dan Benzvi says:

    Gene Shlomovich :“Agreed, looks like were just gonna have different denominations of MJ… lol.”
    Yes, but let’s eloborate.
    There will be Messianic Judaism (with many Jews and some Gentiles who want to see Israel renewed and Jews restored to Yeshua and obedience to G-d) and then there will also be a pseudo-Messianic movement (a Torah for Gentiles movement/church recreating what the World Wide Church of God failed to do, meaning with all Gentiles in it thinking they are Israel and Dan Benzvi as their fearless leader and token Jew to give them some credibility).

    Gene Shlomovich :“Agreed, looks like were just gonna have different denominations of MJ… lol.”
    Yes, but let’s eloborate.
    There will be Messianic Judaism (with many Jews and some Gentiles who want to see Israel renewed and Jews restored to Yeshua and obedience to G-d) and then there will also be a pseudo-Messianic movement (a Torah for Gentiles movement/church recreating what the World Wide Church of God failed to do, meaning with all Gentiles in it thinking they are Israel and Dan Benzvi as their fearless leader and token Jew to give them some credibility).

    Well, Gene, maybe your plan is better…Since you cannot get authentic Jews, you now are willing to take proselytes like Derek….OY VEY….

    • Dan Benzvi :
      Since you cannot get authentic Jews, you now are willing to take proselytes like Derek….OY VEY….

      I will take proselytes like Derek any time, Dan. Not in place of Jews, but to help us BRING IN MORE Jews.

  21. Gene:

    Thanks. And Dan’s comment was actually made some time ago, before his apology, but shows up only now because it got caught in the spam folder of wordpress. So he is not guilty of “bashing” me after the apology (just for the record).

    If this discussion has firmed up anything in my mind, it is the urgency of connecting those in the Jewish community whom we may be able to influence with Yeshua and with MJ. The days of feeling apologetic or trying to prove we are not converting Jews to Christianity must come to an end. Although kiruv (outreach) is more difficult than ever in an age where people are indignant at being contacted in any way, shape, or form by any religion, company, political candidate, etc., it is time for MJ to find something better than a “y’all come” approach toward the Jewish community.

    Stuart Dauermann (whom Dan has wrongly, IMO, pegged as some sort of extremist in terms of attitude toward non-Jews) has some excellent and useful thoughts about Kiruv. I think I will have to draw from the well of Dauermann and talk about Kiruv here on Messianic Jewish Musings.

    Derek

  22. Dan Benzvi says:

    Derek,

    All is forgotten, when you come to Vegas I will give you a big hug…promise….LOL!

    I would like to hear your thoughts on Kinbar’s comments that the movement should not be called “Messianic Judaism?” As you know I am saying this for years. Does it make any sense to call a group with 90% Gentiles, a “Judaism?”

  23. Dan Benzvi:

    I think that synagogues which follow the tradition of Judaism and which are on the trajectory of being a renewal movement through Yeshua for the Jewish people should be called Messianic Judaism.

    I think that congregations and groups which do not both follow the traditions of Judaism and have as their purpose to be renewal for Jewish people in Yeshua should settle on some other names.

    I am interested to know, do some groups call themselves “Hebraic Roots Congregations” or “Two House Congregations”? There is a group here in our town which is in no way a Messianic Jewish synagogue, but they use that name. I suspect these groups want to use the name Messianic Judaism because it draws people. It is dishonest.

    Of course, you may feel I am dishonest to call the synagogue I lead Messianic Jewish. We are not majority Jewish. Our leadership is not completely Jewish.

    But, as I said, I am much more open to non-Jewish participation in MJ than some others. I feel we need to work out goals to make our leadership completely Jewish over the next decade or so. And, meanwhile, our synagogue is firmly rooted in the tradition of Judaism (not Orthodox, but we respect and engage the tradition in our own way).

    Derek

  24. Dan Benzvi says:

    Derek,

    I see a few flaws here.

    1)A group can call itself by any name they want to, but in this case, since God is showing us what “a renewal movement through Yeshua should look like (Jew and Gentile), the “Judaism” of MJ should be dropped. God has spoken!

    2) What are you going to do with the 90% Gentiles in your midst? Tell them to leave and “settle on some other names?”

    3) Here in Las vegas we dropped the title “Messianic Jewish Congregatio” from our name. For two reasons: a. We have a Gentile majority. b. We do not want to be identified with any group that do not accept Gentiles as “fellow heirs” only as “scond heirs.” Therefore we now go by the title: “Messianic Torah community.” This is honest.

    4) Question: Do you think that Paul left the congregations he planted in Corinth, Galatia, and the likes with a “complete Jewish” leadership?

    Blessings

    Dan

  25. Dan:

    You know very well I don’t agree with your assertion in (1) so I’m not sure what you hope to gain by asserting it to me as fact and saying “God has spoken.”

    As for (2), I didn’t say that there were 90% Gentiles in my midst. I did say that I am more in favor of non-Jewish participation than some others in the Hashivenu stream of MJ (although I am not alone). I believe many non-Jews on MJ have been living as Jews for quite a long time and I would like to see conversion open to them. But presently conversion is a very limited option in MJ. I also think many non-Jews will choose to be part of MJ without seeking conversion. I think that over time, the sooner the better, non-Jews will need to cede leadership to Jews. But we have a shortage of Jewish people in MJ in general and in Jewish leaders in MJ in particular. Too many Jews who follow Jesus prefer the church (and no wonder when the history of MJ has been anything but healthy).

    I applaud you for (3). Since you do not see your group as being about Jews renewed in Yeshua, a distinct people fulfilling the promises of restoration and awaiting the full restoration of the people of Israel, then you are being unusually honest in your choice. I would ask: does not using the label Messianic Judaism hurt your “marketing” as it were, your ability to attract new people?

    As for (4), you know very well that I do not think Galatians or Corinthians were written to Jewish congregations, but to Gentile ones. The NT does not tell us what Jewish communities who followed Yeshua did in the diaspora. But I do think Acts establishes a pattern of two congregations of Messiah: Jews in Messiah and the multinational congregation in Messiah.

    Derek

  26. Dan Benzvi says:

    Derek,

    1) Here is what you wrote on your: “we must welcome” post: “It is not somekind of accident that Messianic Judaism has drawn a large Number of Gentiles; it is the purpose of God, and it is prophetic and biblical….” Am I missing something?

    2) I didn’t say that you said anything. I just stated a fact that cannot easily be dismissed. (MJ is comprised of 90% Gentiles). As far as Jewish leadership is concerned, see my comment on the other post.

    3) We are not at all concerned with attracting new people. we think that it is God’s place. We do not “market,” we trust God to bring new people. we rather have slow growth but with the right people, then just a revolving door (if you know what I mean). It has to do with the difference between a congregation mentality, and a community mentality. we are a community.

    4)We have to agree to disagree on that.

    Blessings

    Dan

    3)

  27. raanana63 says:

    As to the purpose of the Gentiles in MJ…one person once told me (as Paul said below) that we Gentiles are to provoke the Jews to jealousy: when they see how God’s favor is upon us because of Yeshua, then they’ll want what we have. However, I pointed out that wanting what we have is not jealousy; it’s envy. There is a difference between envy and jealousy.

    Envy is wanting what others have…wishing that they, too, could “be so lucky.” For instance, one man might have a gorgeous girlfriend and another man, seeing this, may wish he, too, had a gorgeous girlfriend. But jealousy comes when what someone already has gets claimed by/used by someone else. For instance, the man with the gorgeous girlfriend is going to get pretty steamed if another man starts flirting with/dating his girlfriend that he sees as being exclusively his.

    My thought is (and I’m not at all claiming to be knowledgeable) that it may not be enough to just be among the Jewish people and show them how happy we are to have found Yeshua. But if we begin to observe Torah, keep the feasts, keep the Sabbath, use the things the Jews use, claim a place among them as brothers/sisters…THEN we get them angry…then they become jealous because we begin to use/claim what they believe belongs exclusively to them.

    Of course, we shouldn’t do this with a deceptive or arrogant spirit. It should be our love for, and relationship with, God that drives our desire to be Torah observant. We must be genuine in what we’re doing.

    These are just my thoughts. What do you think?

    Romans Chapter 11: 11-15 (Amplified Bible)

    11 So I ask, Have they stumbled so as to fall [to their utter spiritual ruin, irretrievably]? By no means! But through their false step and transgression salvation [has come] to the Gentiles, so as to arouse Israel [to see and feel what they forfeited] and so to make them jealous.

    12 Now if their stumbling (their lapse, their transgression) has so enriched the world [at large], and if [Israel’s] failure means such riches for the Gentiles, think what an enrichment and greater advantage will follow their full reinstatement!

    13 But now I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I lay great stress on my ministry and magnify my office,

    14 In the hope of making my fellow Jews jealous [in order to stir them up to imitate, copy, and appropriate], and thus managing to save some of them.

    15 For if their rejection and exclusion from the benefits of salvation were [overruled] for the reconciliation of a world to God, what will their acceptance and admission mean? [It will be nothing short of] life from the dead!

  28. raanana63:

    Over the years I’ve heard a number of references to Paul’s statement about “the Gentiles making the Jews jealous.” But I can’t find any such statement–in which ‘Gentiles’ is the subject, ‘Jews’ are the object, and ‘making jealous’ is the active verb which the Gentiles are performing on the Jews.

    In verse 11 Paul says “salvation has come to the Gentiles…to make [the Jews] jealous. In verse 14, Paul says, in the hope of making my fellow Jews jealous, I magnify my ministry and magnify my office. In the first sentence, it’s salvation (to the Gentiles) making the Jews jealous. In the second sentence, it’s Paul making his fellow Jews jealous (by magnifying his ministry and office).

    So I don’t think this passage supports your idea here. In your defense, it may not be entirely your fault, since, as I said, many people in MJ (Jew and Gentile) mistakenly refer to this imagined statement of Paul about “the Gentiles making the Jews jealous”…it seems to be a mini-doctrine in MJ.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s