THE inspiration for this title comes partly from the “self-help” books for everything from computers to personal relationships and health with similar titles. Also, my sister got onto our website (WWW.PETAHTIKVAH.COM). She suggested that we should have something simple to help people get a better understanding of Messianic Judaism. Here it is!
What is Messianic
According to Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia, “Messianic Judaism is a religious sect whose congregants comprise both Jews and Gentiles who believe that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call Yeshua, is both their Savior and the resurrected Jewish Messiah. While Messianic Jews practice their faith in a way that they consider to be authentically Torah-observant and culturally Jewish, Jews, Jewish denominations, and most Christians do not consider Messianic Judaism to be a form of Judaism. Messianic Jews are not considered Jewish under the State of Israel’s Law of Return.”
This is, for better or worse, a fairly accurate definition of Messianic Judaism. I do believe that the day is coming when Messianic Judaism will be accepted by the larger Jewish community, hopefully within a decade.
Most people assume that Messianic Judaism came out of Christianity, or that it is a “mixture” religion, in which Judaism and Christianity somehow got mixed together, and – voila! – out popped “Messianic Judaism.”
In truth, Messianic Judaism actually predates Christianity by a few decades. Christianity evolved from the Messianic Judaism of the First Century. Christianity eventually began incorporating various holidays and traditions from the pagans to make Christianity more acceptable, so it is in truth, the “mixture” religion, as it mixed First Century Messianic Judaism with elements of paganism. We happen to believe that “Jesus” is both our Messiah and Savior of the world! However, the name that He had when He walked Planet Earth was “Yeshua.” During his lifetime, He never, ever heard the term “Jesus.” Jesus as it is pronounced today is a relatively recent invention. Even at the time in which the King James Bible came out in 1611, there was no “J” sound. In fact, “Jesus” wasn’t even spelled with a “J.” In the original 1611 KJV Bible, the spelling was “Iesus,” as there wasn’t even a J in the English language yet. Yeshua’s birth-name might have been something like “Yehoshua.” However, the name that He would have normally been called would be “Yeshua,”  meaning “salvation.”
It should be noted that Yeshua and his talmidim (disciples) were all Jews. Neither Yeshua nor his talmidim ever “converted” to another religion. They all remained loyal Jews. Yeshua didn’t come to earth to start up a new religion; He came to earth to be the prophesied Messiah of the old religion, which was, of course, Judaism.
In Acts chapter
2 of the Newer Testament, we have the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples.
This occurred on Shavuot, or “Pentecost,” as we know it in the Newer Testament,
or the “Feast of Weeks” as it is known in Christianity. Christians often
consider this outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the “Birthday of Christianity.”
However, nobody “converted” to Christianity at this time. It would never have
occurred to anybody that a new religion was being invented. If anything, the
events of Acts chapter 2 would have been the “Birthday of Messianic Judaism.”
Prior to this time, Yeshua’s talmidim were fearful and reluctant to share the
good news of Yeshua, out of fear of both the Roman authorities as well as the
Jewish leadership. The disciples received an empowering of the Spirit on this
particular Feast of Shavuot. Curiously, Shavuot (“Pentecost”) is also the occasion
on which the Eseret HaD’varim
(“Ten Commandments”) were given on
The very first
people to be called Christians were those from among the Gentiles in
However, in the
First Century, and for many centuries thereafter, the Messianic Jews continued
to observe God’s commandments. In Acts 21, Rav Shaul (Paul) was sharing among
the Messianic Jews in
“Think not that I have come to destroy the Law, or the Prophets: I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass, not one jot or one tittle shall in anyway pass from the Law (Torah), till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Messianic Judaism was presumed by many to have died out after the Council of Nicea. However, in the records of the Inquisition there are accounts of Jewish believers in Yeshua who were persecuted by the inquisitors well into the 1100s and 1200s of the Common Era. Needless to say, as persecution from the Roman church became stronger, Messianic Judaism had to go more or less “underground,” until eventually it disappeared for a few centuries.
For centuries, there was no viable and identifiable
“Messianic Judaism” until the latter years of the 1800s. One of the early pioneers
of modern Messianic Judaism was Joseph Rabinowitz. Joseph Rabbinowitz
was born into a Chassidic Jewish family in 1838 in
Rabinowitz visited what was called
Rabinowitz purchased a small New Testament
as a guidebook while there, and read the passage in John 15: “I am the vine,
you are the branches. Without me, you can do nothing.” From that point on,
Rabinowitz believed in Yeshua as the Messiah. He returned to
In the 1890s, he established what could be
considered a genuine Messianic synagogue of over 100 persons. However, in 1899,
Rabinowitz fell ill. He died on
There were others, such as Rabbi Lichtenstein
In the early 1960s, Rabbi Simcha Pearlmutter established a Messianic congregation in
For most of the 20th Century, the pattern for Jewish believers in Jesus was “Hebrew Christianity.” Jews came to believe in Jesus, and joined a church. They weren’t welcome in the synagogue anymore, and there weren’t any Messianic congregations. The first generation Jewish believer might have remained Jewish culturally and spiritually. However, the children almost invariably became like their peers, “normal” Christians, observing Sunday, eating Easter hams, and putting up Christmas trees.
Jews started coming to recognize Yeshua as
their Messiah in large numbers after the Six-Day War of 1967. However, it
wasn’t until the early 1970s that a vibrant, living Messianic Judaism with a
life of its own was established in the
In 1975, the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America changed its name to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. Many old-school Hebrew Christians (including some very scholarly gentlemen) left after the name change. They recognized that the name change was also a change in direction, not merely simple cosmetic change in terminology.
Messianic Judaism does not have a “pope”
directing the movement. It is widely diverse in theology and practice. However,
the common threads are a belief in Yeshua as Messiah, as well as a general
respect for the mitzvot (commandments), although the actual degree of
Torah-observance varies greatly from congregation to congregation. There is
also a variety in the observance of liturgy. Some Messianic congregations are
nearly like Orthodox Judaism, with a high degree of predominantly Hebrew
liturgy, while others have much less traditional liturgy. Also, some Messianic
Jewish congregations are very charismatic (“Pentecostal”), whereas other
Messianic congregations are non-charismatic, and some are even
anti-charismatic. Some Messianic congregations, particularly those in areas of
dense Jewish populations such as in
 It should be pointed out that the so-called 1611 King James Bibles of today are not the same as the original King James Bibles of 1611. The current “1611 King James Bibles” are actually the 4th revision. Those who want to order a reprint of the original un-revised King James Bibles can order it from Thomas Nelson Publishers. It is even much more archaic in language and spelling than the so-called 1611 KJV Bibles sold today.
 Likewise, “Joshua” led the Israelites into the Promised Land after the death of Moses. He is called “Yehoshua” in Joshua 1:10. However, the term “Yeshua” was often used for those whose actual name was Yehoshua, as is found on ancient ossuaries (“bone-boxes”).
 Acts ,21,26.
 Acts .
 Matthew 5:17-19.
 Rabbinic commentary of the “Older Testament.”
 Riot against the Jews.
Messianic Judaism: Its History, Theology, and Polity; David A. Rausch, 1982,
Edwin Mellen Press, NYC and