Hashivenu 2011, Day 3

Today was the controversial day. The issue here is community. What could be controversial about that?

Mark Kinzer read his paper today, the second and last major paper of the conference: “Messianic Jewish Community: Standing and Serving as a Priestly Remnant.” It is a long and complex paper. Of course I am only going to summarize some concepts at the heart of it. It’s essence is that Kinzer calls Messianic Judaism to its primary scriptural role: to exist as the priestly nation. Doesn’t sound controversial does it? That’s because many people have not through through the implications of Israel’s priestly calling.

As part of this exploration, Kinzer considers the relation of the Jewish people to the multi-national Church (meaning here the universal church or the set of all believers in Jesus in all nations and through all time). And he considers the role of a Messianic Jewish community to exist and to be authentically Jewish. And, of course, the controversial part is that Messianic Jewish congregations at present, except for a very few, are not Jewish. Most are at most half Jewish. What did Kinzer say about all this?

The beginning of the paper develops thoroughly the theological underpinnings. Kinzer beautifully meditates on the writing of Franz Rosenzweig, a Jewish philosopher, who wrote, in his Star of Redemption, to describe the nearly paradoxical relationship between the Jewish people and the Church. The Jewish people are defined by begetting; the Christian people by being reborn through faith every generation. Jews are born; Christians enter by believing. A Jew is a Jew by existing; a Christian by believing. The Jewish people are one people, unique; the Church is a people from many peoples, universal.

Rosenzweig described the Jewish people as the burning core of a star and the Church as the light and heat coming from the star. The core, the Jewish people, is folded in upon itself, but from it come the rays that birth the Church. There is no Church without the Jewish people (most historic churches forgot this, but many theologians since the Holocaust have made this point repeatedly).

Kinzer next explores the language of the Siddur (Jewish prayer book) about Israel as a goy echad, a unique people, and a goy kadosh, a holy people. Lest anyone complain that Kinzer is not using scripture, I should make sure to point out that Rosenzweig’s star of redemption model is based on scriptural ideas about who is a Jew and who is a Christian and the goy echad, goy kadosh ideas of the prayer book come from scriptural language as well.

He then explores Ephesians 1 and 2. It is important to consider the reading, which I have blogged a about before, in which the “us” and “we” of Ephesians 1 is the Jewish people (Paul speaks as part of the Jewish people), describing the Jewish people with sayings like: he chose us [Israel] in him before the foundation of the world, we [Israel] who were the first to hope in Messiah, and so on. You may think this reading wrong, but likely you have not considered it as a real possibility. Kinzer’s theology is not dependent on this reading, but it adds a striking point to what he has to say. I was convinced by this reading the first time I heard it (and I’m pretty sure it is reflected in Markus Barth’s commentary on Ephesians, but I am away from home and cannot check the reference).

Ephesians describes the multi-national Church as “fellow citizens” with Israel, once far away but now brought near. Israel as a concept is now expanded and reconfigured.

Let me say that again, because it is at the heart of so much misunderstanding by supersessionist Christianity (the Church replaces Israel) and One Law/Two House groups (Yeshua-believers become de facto Israelites): Israel after Yeshua is reconfigured and expanded.

Israel now includes the multi-national Church as fellow citizens, in a relationship of dialectic tension (Christians are not Israelites, but are fellow citizens) which Rosenzweig’s star image describes well.

From there, Kinzer explores the nature of the Church. The Church is catholic and apostolic (no, catholic does not mean the Roman Catholic Church, but universal or general and is the word used in creeds to describe the fact that a person from any ethnicity may be in the Church). The difference between Israel and the Church is what makes it hard for people to understand Messianic Judaism (Jewish people who follow Yeshua just as the Church does). Teh Church is universal but the Jewish people is unique. Messianic Jews are part of the Jewish people but share the faith of the Church.

Messianic Jews must be the remnant of the Jewish people, Kinzer says, existing as a holy and unique people. The tend to democratize and say there are no distinctions anymore goes against Israel’s calling as a people, a holy calling from God to be the priestly people.

This leads Kinzer to some practical recommendations that are controversial:

(1) MJ must follow the mission of Peter and James primarily and let the Church follow the mission of Paul primarily (in other words, MJ must be part of the Jewish people).

(2) MJ must be the first fruits (see Romans 11:16) within Israel and so must be Jewish communities, but most MJ congregations are not Jewish, but are more than half non-Jewish.

(3) Conversion should be seen as a rare miracle.

He says more, but the upshot is that the present reality of gentile congregations with some Jews needs a model for change.

In the discussion after the paper, it became clear that Kinzer is not opposed to a Judaically informed practice by non-Jews as long as such practice clearly distinguishes Jews and gentiles (as in my Part 8 of “Not Jewish Yet Drawn to Torah”). It was also clear that Kinzer is not calling for MJ congregations to break up, cast out non-Jewish members, or anything of the sort.

The solution may be found in a number of forms. New congregations that are solely Jewish can form. Existing mixed groups could find ways to be on a trajectory toward Jewish congregations. My own suggestion, well-received, was that many existing MJ congregations think of themselves as Judeo-Christian congregations with a Jewish minyan within. Over time, we can work toward an independent life for the Jewish minyans within our congregations.

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. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Hashivenu 2011, Day 3

  1. Great post Derek, and thanks for sharing. I love to hear what the leaders of the MJ movement are thinking and discussing. You indicated that Kinzer’s comments might seem controversial. That might be true for some, perhaps those of the One-Torah persuasion. However, they don’t seem controversial to me at all.

    • Seth says:

      Ditto. No controversy in my mind. Peter to the circumcised, Paul to the uncircumcised, both proclaiming the Good News.

      Sounds like exciting stuff.

  2. Will Kinzer’s paper be available to the public?

  3. James says:

    Sorry Derek, but I’m about to comment. Brace yourself. ;-)

    A Jew is a Jew by existing; a Christian by believing.

    I certainly don’t dispute this, but relative to Romans 11 I don’t think this can mean that a life of faith and trust in God for a Jew is irrelevant; that is, I think it matters if the Jew has faith in God vs. being a Buddhist or being an atheist. Probably not what Kinzer was saying, but I thought I’d lay it on the table anyway.

    MJ must follow the mission of Peter and James primarily and let the Church follow the mission of Paul primarily (in other words, MJ must be part of the Jewish people).

    The metaphor of the core of a star (MJ) and the light that radiates (the multi-national Church) from that core seems to suggest a relationship between the two. If MJ must be Jewish and associate exclusively with Judaism, does the star disassociate itself from the light it has radiated after that light has “escaped the star’s gravity”, so to speak? This is an area of Kinzer’s theory that is difficult to grasp probably hasn’t been sufficiently explored up until this point. I see further on in the article, there is some continued hope for MJ/Gentile believer relationships.

    The solution may be found in a number of forms. New congregations that are solely Jewish can form. Existing mixed groups could find ways to be on a trajectory toward Jewish congregations. My own suggestion, well-received, was that many existing MJ congregations think of themselves as Judeo-Christian congregations with a Jewish minyan within. Over time, we can work toward an independent life for the Jewish minyans within our congregations.

    I’m glad to see this in print. It seems to represent an expansion on the concept of “Bilateral Ecclesiology” beyond what exists in Kinzer’s PMJ book (now going on six years old). I’m also encouraged to hear that MJ, at least as far as today’s presentation is concerned, isn’t dedicated to excising the non-Jewish believer from the Jewish community for the sake of MJ’s Judaism. As you pointed out, there is no reason why there can’t be fully Jewish congregations, fully Gentile congregations, and those communities with a co-existence of both.

    • “As you pointed out, there is no reason why there can’t be fully Jewish congregations, fully Gentile congregations, and those communities with a co-existence of both.”

      Yes, especially in areas where there’s no viable Jewish community or not enough Jewish believers to form an MJ congregation, having a Jewish minyan (or at least a group of Jews) within a Judeo-Christian congregation that [very important!] respects identity boundaries and encouraging Jewish continuity may be the only way to go.

  4. Many have asked if Dr. Kinzer’s paper will be available to the public. It will. The Hashivenu dot org site is a bit of a mess right now, but should be fixed soon. And usually the papers are posted within a month or two there.

    Also, Kinzer has a new book, edited and with introduction by Jen Rosner (one of the most delightful people on the planet and brilliant, a young scholar at Fuller Seminary and a Messianic Jew).

    You can see Kinzer’s new book here:
    http://wipfandstock.com/store/Israels_Messiah_and_the_People_of_God_A_Vision_for_Messianic_Jewish_Covenant_Fidelity

    Derek

  5. benicho says:

    I always figured it natural that a gentile Messianic congregation seek out MJs to include in their congregations. Or at least to keep in close contact with.

  6. James:

    A Jew does not have to believe in God to be a Jew. A Jew does not cease to be a Jew for believing in Buddhism. Jewishness is by birth. That is scripture.

    I don’t understand what is difficult about this concept.

    A Christian must believe in God and Jesus. A person who abandons faith in Jesus is no longer a Christian.

    The question who is a Jew is very different from the question who is a Christian.

    Romans 11:25-29 ought to clear this up for those who may have doubts.

    Derek Leman

  7. benicho says:

    Which passage is Paul quoting in that Derek?

  8. benicho says:

    Paul (NKJV):
    And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

    “ The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

    Isaiah 59:20
    20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” Says the LORD.”

    Some translations have “those who repent” rather than “who turn from transgression”.

    Isaiah seems to suggest only those who repent, as where Paul says all of them will be saved.

    I’ve also talked to many Jews (not Christian or Messianic) who have told me it’s taught that all Israel will be saved. Are there more verses that support Paul?

  9. benicho:

    I didn’t say anything about who is or isn’t saved. I was talking about who is a Jew.

    People read too many things into other people’s words. You guys are bringing up issues that are not related.

    A Jew is born a Jew and even not believing in God does not remove his or her status and identity as a Jew. That’s all.

    I did not say a Jew is “saved” or “not saved” based on any faith or lack of faith.

    Please be careful not to degrade things into some kind of religious debate we are not having right now.

    Derek Leman

  10. benicho says:

    Forgot to add the NIV:

    20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the LORD.

    The NIV version seems to show that only people who repent (even Israel), quite misleading.

  11. benicho says:

    I’m not trying to turn it into a doctrinal debate and I’m certainly not trying to get you to say who is or is not saved (G-d forbid), but you mentioned Romans 11: 25-29. Paul clearly says that all Israel will be saved. It fits in with what you said about Christians who fall away from Christianity no longer being Christian. On the other hand a Jew doesn’t necessarily have to believe in G-d to be saved (as Paul mentions).

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