This weekend our Connections group met. At these meetings, we have a discussion question submitted by our group. This month the question was “Is there a difference between Messianic Judaism and Christianity? If so, what is it?”
Some said there wasn’t a difference, others said there was. I was very surprised to hear among the group statements like, ‘The only reason for the Torah was to show us we can’t keep it’. But as I suspected, the question brought to the surface all our various understandings. Perhaps it would be better to describe it as our varying degrees of growth as Messianics.
In preparing for this discussion, I found a good series of articles by Rabbi Gavri’el at Beth Ha’Mashiach, presenting the theological differences between Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity. What I particularly liked was their opening statement to this series:
Before we begin, a brief disclaimer. We do not believe everyone has to believe exactly as we do to have a relationship with G-d, and for that relationship to result in that person spending eternity with G-d. We also believe strongly in the promise that Rabbi Sha’ul (Paul) stated that “all Israel will be saved”. We do not want to be dogmatic about exactly what that means as differing views, which all have creditability, can be held. We also want to say that both Christians and Jews will make up the Kingdom. As for our Sunday brothers and sisters, whether Protestant or Catholic, many truly love G-d and will inherit the Kingdom.
Ravi Gavri’el, goes on to say, “Theologically, Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity can be seen as (in our opinion) having started out as a common road, that around the 70 – 200 ce (AD) time frame split into 3 separate paths.”
He then presents the primary differences, delving into each separately. These are
* The role of Torah
* The role of Oral Torah
* The Messiahship of Yeshua Ha’Nazaret
* The Deity of Yeshua
* The role of Works
* The role of Faith
* The role of Repentance
The series was easy to read, and enlightening, though we didn’t have the opportunity to get into the meat of it during our discussion. What we did get into, however, were the topics of being grafted in and replacement theology. After all, what conversation about Messianic Judaism versus Christianity would be complete without these? (Did you notice I said ‘versus’? The evening was getting a bit adversarial.)
Now, not everyone was from our congregation (or kahal, as my friend Proclaim Liberty might say). One gal, who is Jewish by birth, referenced Dr. Schiffman’s article, ‘Messianic Judaism and Christianity: Two Religions With the Same Messiah‘. Dr. Schiffman made some valid points:
- Messianic Judaism is not Christianity dressed up like Judaism
- Messianic Judaism does not believe that Israel is just another country, but God’s chosen nation, His own people
- Messianic Judaism does not follow the Christian religious calendar nor celebrate the Christian holidays. It is God’s calendar and appointed times that are celebrated
- Jewish faith has always been real. They do not pray to a false god, but the God of the Bible.
About half past midnight we finally called it a night, worked together to clean up, and left after lots of hugs. (If you caught a glimpse of us earlier, you would swear some of us weren’t going to make it out alive!)
Though the night was over, a nagging question remained with one of the ladies. You see, someone said, ‘you can’t call yourself a Messianic Jew’ but it was lost in the midst of several other statements, so she was left puzzling, ‘if we aren’t Messianic Jews, what are we?’
The following night several from the meeting met at my house for FFOZ’s Torah Club study. So my friend took the opportunity to voice her question. I suggested we use the terminology posited by FFOZ and call ourselves Messianic Gentiles. (Though to be honest, when people ask me what I am, I simply say I’m Messianic. Leaves them just as puzzled as my dear friend, but opens the door for a good conversation.)
However, our friend who first made the statement had a different take. After an extremely lengthy explanation that took us through history from the destruction of the Temple up through the Holocaust, the answer emerged. His main point was that when the world looks at us, they see Jews. Even if we don’t don a kippah or wear the star of David, the fact that we worship on Saturday, don’t eat pork or shellfish, possibly dress more modestly, speaks to the world of us being Jewish (or at least Jewishly). So we really need to take these steps responsibly, with the full knowledge that the world hates the Jews – God’s chosen people.
Bottom line is this: If you are going to call yourself a Jew, you have to be prepared to go to the furnace with your Jewish brethren.