What is the nature of the relationship between Messianic Judaism and the Church? Should Messianic Jews praise the Church for its social triumphs or castigate the church for social offenses leading to the suffering of millions? The same unhealthy dynamic has existed in the thought-world of the church. Some doctors of the Church have illuminated many truths, yet these same theologians have also distorted and clouded truth by subjecting divine words to human systems of thought. The same glass that was intended to sharpen and focus a beam of light can obscure its source or even redirect it to an unintended purpose.
One of the most telling issues is how the Church and its theologians have treated the Jewish people. From the Medieval to the Modern Church, Christian leaders have had a kind of Dr. Jekyll – Mr. Hyde relationship with the Jews, from Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, who ordered the retaliatory killing and expulsion of the Jews in the fifth century to the Holocaust when countless professing Christians participated in the mass murder of the Jews only 70 years ago. (Although fraught with historical inaccuracies, the 2009 film Agora convincingly depicts the relational aspects of the rise of Christianity in Alexandria to the detriment of the Jews.)
In the 20th century a Christian leader emerged who was a game-changer in terms of Jewish-Christian relations. His name is Karl Barth. He led the Christian charge against the Nazis and developed a theology that surpassed prior theologizing in relation to the Jewish people. At the same time, remnants of supersessionism, antinomianism and anti-Judaism persisted in his theology. If you have not been exposed the theology of Karl Barth, I invite you to read the succinct and thought-provoking review of Barth’s theology from the vantage point of a Messianic Jew, Dr. Jennifer Rosner, who specializes in the field of Jewish-Christian relations. In Rosner’s analysis of Barth’s contributions and shortcomings, she provides an exemplar of a balanced and careful reading of Christian theology.
Messianic Jews need to avoid the extremes of simply adopting Christian theology as our own or rejecting such theology as wholly other. Let’s chart a clear course that eventually leads to our own Messianic Jewish theology, acknowledging truth wherever it is found.
For further related reading, see the article “”Salvation is from the Jews”: An Assessment and Critique of Karl Barth on Judaism and the Jewish People” by Dr. Jennifer M. Rosner at: