Jewish believers in Jesus is a broader category than Messianic Jews. The former category includes all Jewish people in churches, in Messianic Jewish synagogues, and even unaffiliated who profess faith in and allegiance to Jesus.
Throughout history since the time of Yeshua, there have not failed to be Jewish believers in Jesus. What is new about Messianic Judaism is not the idea of Jewish people turning in faith to the Messiah of Israel, but to do so as even more than self-identifying Jews, but as participants in Judaism, recognizing that in coming to faith in Yeshua, it is not necessary to leave Judaism and join another religion called Christianity. The ultimate arc of Messianic Judaism is faithfulness to Torah and connectedness to Jewish tradition, which is where, at last, many of us have been arriving during the past decade.
But there are far more Jewish believers in Jesus (the broader category) than Messianic Jews (the narrower category). In fact, to compare the numbers (theoretically, since no one has actual numbers) is to realize Messianic Judaism is not merely outnumbered, but dwarfed by the swell of Jewish believers in Jesus.
Helsinki Consultation on Jewish Continuity in the Body of Messiah
MJTI’s president, Mark Kinzer, is in Helsinki now with David Rudolph, an assistant professor of Bible and theology at MJTI and a group of fifteen scholars from a variety of denominations: Lutheran, Catholic, Orthodox, Messianic Jewish, and more.
This body of scholars has issued a press release. The full text will be posted later today on www.mjti.com.
They deliberated for several days and settled on a few points of agreement. I will summarize some points here in my own words and then quote a bit of the press release. The purpose of my summary is to highlight some meaningful resolutions from this diverse group of Jewish believers in Jesus:
–They do not believe their Jewish identity is something forfeited by means of turning in faith to Jesus (Yeshua).
–They do not believe that their Jewish identity is something forfeited by means of membership in Christian denominations (for the ones who have joined with Christian denominations).
–They do believe their Jewish identity serves a purpose in the healing of humanity in Messiah (Christ) as the divide between Israel and the nations (Jews and Gentiles) is to be healed in the work of Messiah.
–They do believe that as Jews, not having surrendered their identities either through joining Christian denominations or in forming Messianic Jewish synagogues, there is a “distinctive” calling for Jewish believers in Jesus in terms of lifestyle.
They did not say that observance of Torah and tradition was exactly what they meant by this “distinctive” calling. I can only hope that this is the trajectory they are considering.
The papers delivered at the conference will be published in November/December in Kesher: A Journal of Messianic Judaism (www.kesherjournal.com).
Excerpts from the Press Release
The full press release will be posted later today on www.mjti.com. For now, here are a few excerpts as well as a complete list of participants:
The first ecumenical conference of Jewish believers in Jesus in modern times met in Helsinki, Finland June 14-15, 2010 to affirm their Jewish identity, their faith in Jesus and their desire for unity.
Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Messianic scholars – all of them Jewish – met to discuss the global growth of Jewish believers in Jesus in a conference jointly organized by Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI) and the Helsinki Studium Catholicum. They issued a statement affirming the significance of Jewish continuity in the Church, as an ongoing link between its historic beginnings, its present life, and its future hope.
This was an unprecedented conference bringing together Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah from a very wide range of communities and traditions. We met together to discuss the presence of Jews in our respective congregations and the issues we face. The increasing number of Jewish followers of Jesus is a phenomenon of great importance, impacting the worldwide Church as it rediscovers the Jewish roots and character of its faith. The presence of Jews in its midst is a resource and means of blessing that the historic churches can not afford to ignore. –MJTI President, Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer
Fifteen scholars and theologians from eight countries met for two days of open conference and two days of working sessions to issue a document, the Helsinki Statement. Topics discussed included Jewish identity in the Messiah; responding to anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism; the place of Messianic Jewish worship and observance; the Jewishness of Jesus; the biblical, theological and historical background to the present situation of Jewish believers in Jesus; and future plans. The papers presented are due to be published in the journal Kesher, an academic journal of MJTI. A similar event is planned for 2011.
We thank God for bringing us as Jews to the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah, and we express a debt of gratitude to those from the Nations who have transmitted the knowledge of Christ from generation to generation. While we seek to speak on behalf of those who share our Jewish identity and faith in Christ, we have no official mandate from our respective communities. In what follows we are expressing our own deeply held convictions.
At this unprecedented event, we have experienced the depth of our bond, and at the same time we have wrestled with the diversity of our ingrained theological and cultural constructs. In spite of church divisions, we have come together as Jews who believe in Jesus. We hope that sharing the fruit of our common efforts will benefit our brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not aim to issue a definitive declaration, but to initiate an ongoing process of discussion.
There are many Jewish people in the body of Christ. We believe that this reality reflects God’s intention that Israel and the Nations live as mutual blessings to one another. In fact, the Church in its essence is the communion of Jews and those from the Nations called to faith in Christ.
In light of this truth, we think that the life of Jews in the body of Christ has theological significance for that body as a whole. Their presence serves as a constant reminder to the body that its existence is rooted in the ongoing story of the people of Israel. This story resounds throughout the celebration of the liturgical life of the community. We believe that this story finds its center in Israel’s Messiah. We believe that Jews within the body are a living bond between the Church and the people of Israel. Accordingly, we would like to explore concrete ways in which Jewish people may live out their distinctive calling in the body of Christ.
Finally, we wish to express to our Jewish brothers and sisters who do not share our faith in Jesus the Messiah that we consider ourselves to be part of the Jewish people and are committed to its welfare.
–From “The Helsinki Statement” (June 14-15, 2010).
PARTICIPANTS AND PAPERS PRESENTED
Boris Balter, Orthodox (Moscow), Researcher in Physics at the Russian Academy of Sciences -“Self-Identification of Old Israel within New Israel as a Problem: the Experience of Jewish Orthodox Christians in Russia”.
Steve Cohen, Lutheran (St Louis, USA), founder of the “Apple of his Eye” mission society -“Expressing Jewish Identity in a Lutheran Setting. Obstacles and Opportunity in the Modern Era”.
Deacon Leonid Djalilov, Orthodox (Moscow), specialist in Lev Gillet´s theology – “The Sabbath Day in the Liturgy of the Orthodox Church”.
Dr. Richard Harvey, Messianic (London), Director of Training at All Nations Christian College, author of “Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology” – “Lessons from the History of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance”.
Dr. Mark Kinzer, Messianic (Ann Arbor, USA), President of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, author of “Postmissionary Messianic Judaism” – “Israel, the Church, and Bilateral Ecclesiology”.
Fr. Antoine Levy, OP, Catholic (Helsinki), Director of the “Studium Catholicum”, adjunct-professor at Helsinki University Faculty of Theology, “Messianic Ecclesiology: the Ecumenical Factor”.
Dr. Iulia Matushanskaja, Messianic (Kazan, Russia), Professor of Bible – “The Messianic Movement in the Russian Empire”.
Fr. David Neuhaus, SJ, Catholic (Jerusalem), Patriarchal Vicar General for Hebrew speaking Catholics in Israel – “The Implicit Ecclesiology of the Catholic Kehilla in Israel”.
Rabbi Vladimir Pikman, Messianic (Berlin), Vice-President of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance, Executive Director of “Beit Sar Shalom” ministry – “The Russian Messianic Movement and the Body of Messiah: Its Significance and Implications for the Church”.
Jennifer Rosner, Messianic (Los Angeles), Instructor at Azusa Pacific University – “‘Salvation is from the Jews’: An Assessment and Critique of Karl Barth on Judaism and the Jewish People”.
Dr. David Rudolph, Messianic (Los Angeles), Assistant Professor of Bible and Theology, Messianic Jewish Theological Institute.
Dr. Anna Shmain-Velikanova, Orthodox (Moscow), Prof. of Jewish Studies, Russian State University for Humanities (RGGU) – “Khurbinek: Some thoughts on the Church of Israel”.
Joseph Shulam, Messianic (Jerusalem), Director of the Netivyah Bible instruction ministry – “Jews and Gentiles within the Messianic Movement: the Concrete Situation and Its Ecclesiological Agenda”.
Yuri Tabak (Moscow), lecturer on Jewish-Christian relations and Judaica, Russian editor of the International Council of Christians and Jews´ website – “Christianized and Messianic Jews – Real Problems and Prospects from the Point of View of Religious Sciences”.
Fr. Olivier Zalmanski, OP, Catholic (Paris), Center of Studies “Istina”.