Coming up on Messianic Jewish Musings: It happens occasionally that I have so many topics for the blog and so few days. Look for the following this week and next. (1) A series on a crucial paper by David Rudolph, MJTI professor and a New Testament scholar of note about “Paul’s Rule in All the Churches” (see Yahnatan Lasko’s write-up here), (2) a theology of Torah and election from Deuteronomy 4, (3) a theology of redemption and election from Acts 3, (4) an interview with Mark Kinzer about the Helsinki Consultation on Jewish Identity, (5) more on our J-BOM selections for July and August, and (6) podcasts on the resurrection narratives.
A good bit of history has been made, in my opinion, in recent weeks. A group of Messianic Jews and Jewish Christians met in Helsinki, Finland, and resolved together to work on faithfulness to the covenantal identity of Jewish people who follow Yeshua (Jesus). That Jewish followers of Yeshua in churches and in Messianic synagogues (and in mainstream synagogues) could work out theologies and practices for continuing the unique calling of Jewishness is a major advance from the Reverse Galatianism of the past (Galatianism = requiring Gentiles to live as Jews, so you can imagine what Reverse Galatianism has been).
David Rudolph has published a paper which breaks new ground, even restoring to Christian theology Paul’s “rule in all the churches,” an idea you would not think could have been lost by a church so devoted to Paul’s writings. Yet, as Rudolph shows in his paper, Paul’s rule has been forgotten and the consequences have been disaster.
And history, I believe, will look back on the MJTI summer intensives of 2010 in Beverly Hills as a turning point as well (see more about MJTI here).
Seven students gathered including a congregational rabbi (myself), a candidate due to receive rabbinic ordination this summer (Joshua Brumbach of the Yinon blog), two students working on ordination requirements, a long-time Messianic Jewish lay-leader and teacher of Hebrew, a much-beloved rebbetzin whose work in Messianic Judaism has touched scores of lives, and a brilliant Jewish physician from Brazil who is also a budding scholar of rabbinics.
MJTI’s Rabbi Carl Kinbar and Rabbi Rich Nichol poured their lives and knowledge into us with some help from Rabbis Stuart Dauermann and Paul Saal.
What was potentially historic about this week-long intensive class?
(1) When in MJ history has there been a trajectory set for study of the Tradition (rabbinic literature) in the original languages by a group capable of engaging the ideas and creatively forming them into theology and practice? We read Eichah Rabbah texts in the difficult language of early rabbinic Hebrew and found in midrash a place in the tradition which affirms the immanence and emotional involvement of God in his creation and among his people. The midrashic conceptions of God are very amenable to Messianic Jewish faith and counter the rather deistic tradition of much modern Judaism. It will not be easy for Jewish opponents of Messianic Judaism to claim that our faith is un-Jewish as our scholars (present and future) delve deeply into the more immanent and mystical parts of the Tradition.
(2) With great wisdom the course was set for MJTI’s educational pattern to blend the practical/spiritual with the academic/theological. The afternoon course was about the prophetic and spiritual power and endowment of God upon his people. MJTI’s students will not simply be readers of Hebrew texts, writers of theology, and teachers of ideas. If the power of God is not made known among us, if we do not have the sense of immediacy that characterized the sons of the prophets in Elisha’s day and the Yeshua-community in Acts, then our message will fall on deaf ears.
The week-long class was a turning point.
MJTI is making the future, I believe, through the blessing of God upon us. He has brought together the intellectual and spiritual leadership of key people. Rabbi Mark Kinzer is leading the way in dialogue with Jewish and Christian scholars. David Rudolph is intimately involved in this Jewish-Christian relations work as are a few others (whose names I am not sure I should publicize). Jewish scholars whose names are well-known (but again, until there are press releases, I am not sure I should name them) are talking with us and even delivering lectures at events MJTI is sponsoring. Christian leaders and scholars of equal note are involved.
Messianic Judaism is functioning as it ought to, as the bridge of peace between the parts of the Congregation of Yeshua, bringing Jewish and Christian leaders together.
Rabbis and other leaders in the future will be equipped as never before, with a Jewish and Christian education of depth and breadth that will help us restore ancient divisions and equip and empower many people for a vibrant and active faith.
Truth time: Messianic Judaism is a small movement. The actual numbers in our movement are misunderstood. Our survival as a movement is very much in question. Many competing ideas exist including models in which Messianic Judaism is Christianity practiced with a veneer of Jewish tradition or in which Jewish identity is lost in a universal Torah movement. The large influx of Jewish people toward faith in Jesus came to a virtual stop after the 1970’s. Jewish interest in Jesus is largely expressed through assimilation in churches or through private and uninvolved interest by postmoderns who refuse to identify and join.
Will the year 2020 see a vibrant Messianic Judaism? Our leaders mostly come from the Jesus movement of the 1970’s that caught up many Jews in the Jesus-fever. Most will be retired by 2020. What will replace current structures? The number of rabbinic students is small. The prospects for a paid rabbinate are small.
Will there be a new influx of Jews and intermarrieds looking to bring together Yeshua-faith and Jewish identity and tradition? Will it be a God-initiated movement of power like what we saw in the 1970’s?
I hope so. But in the meantime, those who share the vision need to come together around the vision of a faithful Messianic Judaism: faithful to Yeshua and faithful to the covenant between the people of Israel and God. Perhaps by 2020, people will point to events such as this class in midrash and Spiritual endowment as a watershed. The studies will continue. Those joining us for the studies will increase. The voice of Messianic Jews and Christians who support the vision will broaden and the old discourse of anti-missionary vs. missionary will diminish.
May it be true, the ability of Jewish people to ignore or dismiss Yeshua as a foreign deity will fade.