Judeo-Christians, Part 1

Saturday we had a wonderful bris in our home (no, not our baby — we already have 8!). Many things were wonderful about it. First of all, a bris (circumcision ceremony) is always a joyous occasion (oo, maybe that anti-circumcision activist will post a comment again). Second, this was an intermarried family (mostly what we have in our community) and the Christian and Jewish family were present. Third, there was no disharmony between the Jewish family and Christian family. Fourth, I was able to see and enjoy the positive reactions of the Jewish mohel (the one who performs the circumcision and leads the liturgy) and the positive reactions of the Jewish and Christian families.

It was a beautiful thing: Christians and Jews together in harmony.

And the relevance of me bringing it up for this series of posts is simple: the event brought to the fore Christian reactions to Jewish ceremony and tradition. Christians are all over the spectrum on such matters. These were, for the most part, mainstream Christians and not Judeo-Christians. What do I mean by Judeo-Christian? How is it different from the designation Messianic Jew or Messianic Gentile? Should all Christians be Judeo-Christians? What is the phenomenon of Judeo-Christianity all about?

This is a big topic, somewhat like our long series on “Non-Jews and Torah.” If you love to read lots of material and think deeply, you can find the whole “Non-Jews and Torah” series quite easily here.

I started using the term “Judeo-Christian” while writing the “Non-Jews and Torah” series. Perhaps it will become evident over the course of this series why I found the term helpful. If you object to the term please feel free to politely state your reasons. We’ve heard from some that it sounds too much like the politically conservative language of the Christian Right (“Judeo-Christian values”).

A simple way of describing what I mean by Judeo-Christian is to locate Christians on a scale. Scales like this are always somewhat artificial. In this first post on the topic I want to address what a Judeo-Christian is and also discuss the word “Christian” in light of the myth that it is a poor word-choice to designate a follower of Messiah.

Christians in Relation to the Jewish People: A Sliding Scale
I will define some terms after I display this (seriously high-tech) diagram:


Supersessionist Christians
…………….. Non-Supersessionist Christians
……………………………… Actively Philo-Semitic Christians
……………………………………………………………… Judeo-Christians

“Supersessionist” – The belief that Christianity supplanted or replaced Judaism and that Christian people have replaced Jewish people as the chosen people of God. It is also known as “replacement theology.” It comes in many levels and shades of meaning. Many Christians are supersessionist in minor ways and the majority throughout history have been supersessionist in major ways. I sometimes get the theological objection, “The Church is holy to God and cannot have been wrong throughout history on such a major issue.” My answer, “Israel was and is also holy to God and the Jewish people have had their national errors and sins published for all the world to read; it is untrue that an elect people will be right about doctrine and practice.”

“Non-Supersessionist” – Some (very few) Christians are completely free of supersessionist thinking. But a fairly large number are “non-supersessionist” at heart. That is, they believe that the Jewish people remain God’s chosen people in various ways. This post is not about quibbling over details. If this issue matters deeply to you, I cannot more highly recommend a book than R. Kendall Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology.

“Actively Philo-Semitic” – These are Christians who have made it part of their mission to repair the centuries of damage and mistrust between Jews and Christians. It is not the duty of all Christians to get involved in this cause or any specific cause, as there are many causes that build the kingdom. Having said that, we Messianic Jews very much appreciate Philo-Semitic Christians. It will become clear how they differ in practice from Judeo-Christians.

“Judeo-Christians” – They exist in churches and Messianic synagogues. What sets them apart is that they incorporate Jewish practice into their life and worship. It would seem a minimum is Sabbath and holidays. Many learn Hebrew. Their practice of Christianity incorporates many Jewish elements. Some see themselves as part of Israel. Others recognize that Jews and gentiles are distinct. Some have identity confusion and some are very clear about who they are (“Not Jewish, but I keep Jewish traditions”).

On the Appropriateness of the Term “Christian”
This is a complicated issue. “Christian” is a word that carries a massive load of pre-conceptions based on history since the time of Jesus.

Some will argue, “Christian is a bad word to Jewish people because of the well-known history of Christian anti-Semitism.” I think Western culture has turned a corner on this. Since WWII, Jewish-Christian relations have been improving. Post-modernity has blurred boundaries and lessened divisions over such things.

When the word “Christian” is properly understood, it applies to Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus. The congregation at Antioch was mixed Jewish and non-Jewish and that is where the term originated (Acts 11:26). That’s right (take note Jewish anti-missionaries as you will love to hear me say this as though it is something to be ashamed of): Messianic Jews are Christian Jews.

If you will lay aside whatever prejudices you may have had against the term “Christian,” you will realize it means precisely the same thing as “Messianic” (of Christ, of Messiah).

In many contexts, people have used the terms ethnically. In discussing, for example, European history, many would refer to all gentiles as Christians.

On the Appropriateness of the Term “Judeo-Christian”
If you are a non-Jew and you observe the Sabbath and holidays, you have, no doubt, had a hard time explaining who you are to people who ask about your practice and beliefs.

No doubt you have used the term “Messianic” only to be asked if your were born Jewish.

But suppose you say to someone, “I am a Judeo-Christian.” Or you might explain a little more, “I am a Christian, but I practice a lot of Jewish customs.”

I would say that people will understand who you are and what you are about far more accurately than if you say, “I am Messianic.”

There are lots more things to discuss. Maybe some of you will give me more angles and questions than I had already thought of. Is there a difference between Messianic Jews and Judeo-Christians? Can Messianic Jews and Judeo-Christians be together in Messianic synagogues? Can Messianic Jews and Judeo-Christians be members of churches? Is it divisive to distinguish between Jews and gentiles, Messianic Jews and Judeo-Christians? Will certain sub-groups welcome the term Judeo-Christian or oppose it?

Lots to think about and more to come.

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65 Responses to Judeo-Christians, Part 1

  1. Wouter says:

    Good article, agree on most of the points made. I myself I’m probally a non-supersessionist at the moment, but want to work towards following abit more of the Torah, However my question would be as a Gentile believer from Paul writtings it seems we dont need to observe the distinction between unclean and clean foods or be circumcised. But how much of the Torah would a gentile Christian have to observe? Otherwise I will be interested in observing more jewish festivals and torah customs rather than “christian’, such as sometimes I would feel better celebrating passover in remembrance of Yeshua that celebrating easter. I also read your articles on passover and lord supper which makes sense.

    God Bless

    • Derek Leman says:

      Great question, Wouter.

      In my opinion (and others are free to weigh in but please make short comments and not treatises on your view of Torah and gentiles, please), and I am far from alone in this, certain commandments are covenantal signs of Israelite identity (Jewish identity). Sabbath, holidays, tzit-tzit (fringes), circumcision, and dietary law are examples of sign commandments for Israel and not universal laws of God.

      Passover is, in my opinion, a special case. I think the Last Supper places Passover in a special category for Christians. But the commandments about refraining from leaven lest you be cut off from the people and making the Passover sacrifice would, in my opinion, be limited to Jews.

      My series on “Non-Jews and Torah” at mjpassages.com explains all this at length and my book Paul Didn’t Eat Pork explains this in terms of Paul’s theology.

      Derek

  2. Donald Chase says:

    Very interesting article. I’m not quite sure how you would put my into your classification though. I am a gentile who was raise Lutheran by my mother. I later change over to being a Baptist after going to one of their Bible Camps as a teenager. Later I became a Pentecostal Christian after going to a few services at Jesus People Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There I met my first contact with the Messianic Congregation. Her name was Alby and I learned that she attended a Messianic Congregation as well as Jesus People Church. Over the years, I have been slowly learning more and more about those who classify themselves as Messianic Believers. I later learned the name of that congregation. They are called Abraham Seed. I also discovered the person called Zola Levitt on TV and followed his teachings until he passed on to be with Yeshua/Jesus. I now teach people that there is a major difference between calling yourself a Christian and actually being a Christian. By their fruits you will know them. My son came home one day many years ago telling me that the Jews had been forsake by God and that only Christians are God’s people. Boy did I have a major undertaking getting him straightened out on that one. It also seems that those same people who teach that Jews are not God’s people anymore are the same ones who teach that the 10 commandments are no longer applicable since we are under Grace. As I had a long discussion also explaining to my son, that if the laws of God are no longer applicable, then what did Jesus die on the cross for? It would seem to me that these same people are trying to rewrite God’s Word into their own image and beliefs. I can say that I still have a lot to learn, but I’m finally beginning to understand what the Bible is telling us about very few finding the way and truth and being able to enter into the Kingdom of God. By the way, when I use the term God, I use that only as a common reference as I realize that is not the name of the father of Yeshua/Jesus. I now understand, at least in part, what Jesus was saying when he said “I am”. I don’t practice the Jewish customs as I’m still not sure how much of it applies to us as Gentiles nor do I know much of it yet. One of my friends from Abraham’s Seed told me that it’s not required of Gentiles. I’m also learning that not all who call themselves Messianic followers or believers are teaching the same thing. This is a little confusing to me as the only Messianic believers that I have ever know are the ones from Abraham’s Seed. Just to let you know that I’m hear and learning and that I fully understand that all of those who call upon the name of Yeshua/Jesus are his people, whether Jew or Gentile. I look forward to more of your writings.
    A true believer,
    Donald Chase

    • Derek Leman says:

      Donald:

      You bring up many good issues. It sounds like you are philo-Semitic and that is great as far as I am concerned.

      I don’t completely understand what you intend to say in the sentence, “I realize [God] is not the name of the father of Yeshua/Jesus.” A puzzling statement. Maybe you mean that God has a name and it is not God. If so, you are correct obviously. We do not speak or write out God’s name in Messianic Judaism (and in Judaism). Referring to the Eternal as God is perfectly fine.

      I could discuss some nuances with you in the Ten Commandments, but I’ll save that rabbit trail for later. I wonder if anyone would be interested in a post some time on “Why the Ten Commandments Are Not Directed to Christians.”

      I like what you have to say and hope to hear from you again here at Musings.

      • Terenda says:

        Sounds like a good one “Ten Commandments” and Why the Ten Commandments Are not Directed to Christians. But I like the statement “Maybe you mean that God has a name and it is not God. If so, you are correct obviously. We do not speak or write out God’s name in Messianic Judaism (and in Judaism). Referring to the Eternal as God is perfectly fine.”

  3. “When the word “Christian” is properly understood, it applies to Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus. The congregation at Antioch was mixed Jewish and non-Jewish and that is where the term originated (Acts 11:26). That’s right (take note Jewish anti-missionaries as you will love to hear me say this as though it is something to be ashamed of): Messianic Jews are Christian Jews.”

    Arguable point. I would say that there’s no evidence that Jews who believed in Yeshua were ever at any point referred to as “Christians” Χριστιανός (christianos) , and in every instance we have on record this term is used to refer to Yeshua’s Gentile followers. This is to be expected since it was their fellow Gentiles in Antioch who have given these Gentile believers a new term (probably to mock them) to identify them and set them apart from Gentile pagans. Jews who believed, including Paul, never referred to themselves as Christians but always as “Jews”.

    Of course, the term “Messianic Jews” is a modern term.

    • Derek Leman says:

      Is there anything in Acts 11:26 which suggests the term was not applied to the whole community of disciples in Antioch? I know you know, Gene, how many Jews there were in Antioch. Thoughts? Are you sure that you are not carrying over things you heard from earlier MJ teaching (which often had an anti-Christian tendency)? You are a good thinker, so I will enjoy discussing this with you.

      • Derek… a few things to support my view.

        First of all, we can say that it is well established that it was the pagan Gentiles who “christened” believers in Antioch “christianos. According to scholar Bruce B. Barton it’s highly improbable to say the least that Jews who didn’t believe in Yeshua came up with this term or that they would call Yeshua-followers, either Jews or Gentiles using a term with Messiah in it (christos). Which leads me to conclude that since it is was the pagan Gentiles who gave a new moniker to those who believed, it is highly unlikely – and there’s no historical evidence of that occurring – that Jewish believers took up and adopted this term for themselves. They didn’t need to – they already called themselves “Jews”. Furthermore, to the pagan Gentiles, Jews who believed were no different than other Jews (they even went to same synagogues at the time), but the former Gentile pagans who refused to worship alongside their countryman stood out like sore thumbs and were an affront to them. Hence a need for a new term to mock them.

        In Talmud, those Jews who believed in Yeshua are referred to as Notzrim (which incidentally is the modern Hebrew term for any “Christian”!) – but of course it is simply a reference to Yeshua being from Nazareth. In Acts 24:5’s Paul is called “a ringleader of the Nazarene sect”. Therefore, Jews were more apt to refer to Jewish believers as “Notzrim” (I am sure worse term may have been employed!).

        Antioch was a major pagan city with many numerous pagan shrines, and by all accounts, the percentage of Jews among Antiochian believers was insignificant (if they even worshiped in the same congregations). To outsiders the Antioch community may have very well appeared to be composed of Gentiles in its entirety (and most likely it was). Which means it is a stretch to also apply the term “Christian” to the few Jews who may have been associated with that congregation just because pagan Gentiles referred with that term to the former pagans.

        • Derek Leman says:

          Gene:

          First, a problem with your logic. You say the Jews at Antioch who were disciples of Yeshua would not need to use the term “Christians” for themselves since they already called themselves “Jews.” I suppose that Pharisees, then, did not call themselves Pharisees because they already called themselves Jews?

          Second, you assume that Greco-Roman terminology would not be used by Jews in Antioch. Hellenized Jews often used Greco-Roman terminology.

          Third, you assume that “Christian” was a term of mocking. Followers of various schools of philosophy did not consider it mockery to be known by a label.

          These arguments have been around in MJ circles for a long time and I’m saying they don’t carry much weight. They made some people feel good in the 80’s when they wanted to argue, “Messianic Jews are not Christians.”

          But when the light of history and logic shines on them, they are at the least questionable and perhaps even flat-out wrong.

          The Jewish population at Antioch was large. We do not have any evidence of Jews and gentiles in Antioch forming separate congregations. As a believer in Bilateral Ecclesiology (along with you) I do not feel the need to make such assertions in order to defend the notion of separate Messianic Jewish congregations now.

          The Jewish pop in Antioch was large. I could find out more specific info on this if you’d like.

          Keep up the discussion. Who knows but I may have erred somewhere in my facts or reasoning.

          Derek

          • “These arguments have been around in MJ circles for a long time and I’m saying they don’t carry much weight. They made some people feel good in the 80′s when they wanted to argue, “Messianic Jews are not Christians.”

            I have not been been in the movement in the 80’s (have not even been in the states) or even in the 90’s and my exposure to the teachings from those days is very limited, but judging from the mere 3 instances of the word “Christian” used in the NT one finds it very hard to conclude that Jews who believed were also called “christianos”. Certainly, at a later time, as Christianity developed over next century or two, this term came to mean something more as we know it today – a broad description of believers in Christendom. But to use this term to refer to all Jewish believers at the time when only the Antiochians were called such (who were, no doubt, a Gentile majority congregation, if scholars are to be believed) is anachronistic. It also anachronistic and culturally inaccurate to refer to modern Jewish believers (that is those who have not officially joined a church, specifically) as Christians.

  4. James says:

    I had a feeling this blog post would attract some attention.

    Derek, your Not Jewish Yet Drawn to Torah series described people like me who are not Jewish and yet find great meaning and beauty in many of the “covenantal signs of Israelite identity” including the Shabbat and the festivals. I think there’s a difference between “obligated” and responding to some of the mitzvot (commandments) due to personal convictions. For example, I refrain from eating certain foods (this isn’t keeping kosher as such since that involves kashering a kitchen and a number of other activities) due to personal convictions on my part (of course, it helps that my wife is Jewish). This isn’t considered obeying the mitzvot related to kosher eating, but then, it doesn’t have to be. I can still choose to honor God in this way as a personal decision.

    The commandments of God as given through Moses to the Children of Israel at Sinai can have an almost magnetic attraction to some Gentile Christians (others avoid any mention of the Torah commandments like a flock of rabid bats). I think it’s possible for a non-Jewish person like me to respond to the Torah in a way that honors God and does not disrespect the Jewish people. That said, in about two months, I will conduct any “Jewish” response I have to God in an entirely private manner, as it has become impossible to practice my convictions publicly without offending at least some Jews in the Messianic blogosphere. Being a Gentile Christian who has an affinity for the Torah, Talmud, and even the Jewish mystic tradition creates a dynamic that can make it difficult to express such interests without appearing as at least annoying to some Jewish people. It also makes me something of an oddity in more traditional Christian circles. Yet from my current perspective, I really don’t see how anyone can truly understand the life and teachings of the Jewish Messiah outside of those contexts.

    I guess you could call me a “Judeo-Christian” since it’s the closest label that describes me.

  5. Derek Leman says:

    James:

    I am friends with some of the leaders who find making distinctions between Jews and gentiles most important and I can tell you they have no problem with the idea of well-informed Christians participating in Torah customs provided they make some modifications at times to avoid claiming a false Jewish identity.

    So, I just don’t think you — a well-informed non-Jew and especially an intermarried person — should think that anyone is offended if you keep Sabbath.

    Derek

  6. Lisa says:

    I’m not even sure where to begin…

    I was raised very strict Roman Catholic to which I ran from as soon as I was old enough to rebel effectively =)
    I currently worship at an orthodox Episcopal church (not to be confused with “the others”).
    What I know is this; there has always been this deep thread, way down deep inside, that has always drawn me to Israel; it’s history, present and it’s glorious future. The more deeply I am drawn into relationship with my LORD, the more I’m drawn to Messianic scholars and music.
    I also know that I’m not alone. I find more and more life-long apostolic Christians turning their eyes towards Israel.
    Our church will begin their newest study group tomorrow; it’s called “The Torah; Foundation of Faith”. There were 3 new studies; this was the one that made my heart leap.
    I can’t say for certain “why”; why now? why so many in these days? why does it matter?
    I have a dear friend who is Jewish. I led her as she traveled into the arms of Messiah and embraced Him. When she first came into the faith, I told her not to listen to any so-called Christian who told her she had abandon being Jewish to be a Christian. I said “They’re just jealous because you’ll always be a step ahead of them!” It’s very cool for me because now that she’s a Messianic Jew, she can take the lead and start teaching me a few things!

    • You’re not alone. What you describe is happening everywhere, frankly. People are drawn to Israel and Torah in a manner never before seen.

      I say it’s God’s doing.

      • And some folks feel so drawn to something, they go so far as to start claiming that THEY are Israel too. That too is sign of the times.

      • Rabbi Joshua says:

        Echoing Judah’s thoughts, I also think this is a move of HaShem. G-d is indeed restoring the missing Jewish roots to the Church. This, however, then raises the question as to What Next?

        Derek – Just to clarify, do I misunderstand you, or do you not see a category of ‘Messianic Gentiles’? IMHO, there is an additional category for these committed non-Jews within Messianic (or other) Jewish communities (sort of modern equivalents of godfearers). A category even beyond the Judeo-Christian.

        • Derek Leman says:

          Joshua:

          I think you misunderstood. I simply don’t think the term “Messianic gentile” is helpful. And by my definition a Judeo-Christian might be in a church or a Messianic synagogue. So let me ask you: do you think the term Messianic gentile is helpful? Better than Judeo-Christian?

          • Rabbi Joshua says:

            Derek,

            I think there is an additional category for committed non-Jews within Messianic (or other) Jewish communities.

            Although many non-Jews currently attending Messianic congregations could be categorized as Judeo-Christians, there are a select few for whom I am not sure Judeo-Christian best describes them, specifically for those living Jewish lives (appropriate for non-Jews) within the Jewish community – sort of modern-day equivalents of godfearers.

          • Rabbi Joshua says:

            … meaning, I can still see in addition to the category Judeo-Christian room for the category of ‘Messianic Gentile.’

  7. Derek Leman says:

    Gene:

    You said: “It is also anachronistic and culturally inaccurate to refer to modern Jewish believers (that is those who have not officially joined a church, specifically) as Christians.”

    Now that is a valid argument.

    And so when I say, “Messianic Jews are Christian Jews,” this is true to a point also. It is true if you define Christian based on its root meaning and not based on every whim of connotation the term has picked up over the centuries.

    But I can agree with you that Messianic Jews might prefer quite validly not to take the label Christian without provisos and qualifications.

    Now, what about non-Jews who keep some aspects of Torah? Should they object to the label Christian in your opinion?

    Derek

    • “Now, what about non-Jews who keep some aspects of Torah? Should they object to the label Christian in your opinion?”

      Derek, they could, but I don’t think they should, and here’s why. There have always been Christians who observed one aspect of Torah or another (in their interpretation, naturally). Some even gave themselves the label “Nazarines”, but culturally and for the most part even religiously, they still fall within the bounds of mainstream Protestant Christianity. Other than a few observances and pseudo-Judaic worship elements sprinkled into their worship services, other than the Torah-friendliness (not truly unique to them, but also shared by some Christian denominations), they are sola-scripture mainstream Evangelicals in every way.

    • Rabbi Joshua says:

      Derek,

      Although we’re mostly discussing semantics here, I would agree with Gene. For many who use the label ‘Messianic’ they are more accurately Jewish Christians. However, a Messianic Jew, even historically, is a little bit of its own category. We have different beginning reference points, beginning assumptions, and at times, even slightly differing conclusions.

  8. benicho says:

    What does Christian mean in modern nomenclature anyways?

    • Derek Leman says:

      Benicho:

      It is a squishy word usable for many things. Do you have any thoughts about what it means in modern times?

      • benicho says:

        Seems like it means something entirely different to all kinds of people, some associate Christianity with their culture and traditional practices, some associate it with values, some associate it with family history. The only common denominator I see is that a Christian is someone who believes Yeshua is the Messiah as prophesied in Tanakh, etc.

        The word has been used so much for so many things that it doesn’t mean much anymore, maybe that was the intention in the first place.

  9. James says:

    I am friends with some of the leaders who find making distinctions between Jews and gentiles most important and I can tell you they have no problem with the idea of well-informed Christians participating in Torah customs provided they make some modifications at times to avoid claiming a false Jewish identity.

    Actually, it’s not just Jews in the Messianic movement of whom I must be mindful. Given the people my wife studies and worships with, it’s also the larger Jewish community, both Reform and Chabad. “Judeo-Christian” wouldn’t be very understandable to them.

  10. Wouter says:

    Thank you Derek

    I will defenitely check out the discussion about non-Jews and Torah. Might even buy the book if you don’t mind sending it to Australia again.

    God Bless

  11. Derek Leman says:

    Wouter:

    Love shipping down under! Did you get Yeshua in Context yet?

    Derek

    • Wouter says:

      Thanks,

      Yes got the Yeshua in Context on last Thursday. Have read till the Beautitudes Chapter. Great book addresses many of the issue about Yeshua context and his teaching well. Explaineing many of the passages I’ve found puzzeling in the past. Probally cause I made the wrong assumptions.

      God Bless

      • Derek Leman says:

        Wow, I should have you write a testimonial for my book and send out an ad! Thanks, Wouter.

  12. Enjoyed the article remind me of an Article I just did responded to a Jewish brother who said there is no truly Judeo-Christian and I advocated that Both Messianic Jews and Judeo-Christian’s are both Jewish and Christian… Well practice a form of Judaism, not Jewish by birth in the case of Christians who aren’t Jewish. I was told that the early Church carried on “Jewish cultural trappings” and that they should not have. “Cultural trappings” I’m sorry the Torah is G-ds word and Christians who accept it as G-ds word and apply it, don’t believe its exclusive to national identity though it is in right context Jewish-Hebraic.

    Judaism being the religious practices of the Torah that have been identified with the Jewish people to whom they were given.
    Jewish being the term for the descendants of the Tribe of Judah also used to mean anyone whose Israeli.

    Gentile Judeo-Christians practice the Messianic form of Judaism however from accepting Yeshua they never would be accepted in a Orthodox community.

    Do you do a Brit Milah for Messianic / Judeo-Christians? Can I sign up? I’d been done it if there was one… I want to go through Brit Milah and make Aliya there is no Messianic Synagogue up doing Brit Milah or the offering B’nei Mitzvah.

    I definitely fall into the Judeo-Christian category / Messianic Christian since I’m not a Jew. Wait thats redundant… Messianic Christian is like Pearl White is still white. Oh snap…

    I recently ranted on Twitter that Messianic Christian is redundant… lol… I enjoyed the blog its kinda were I am… A gentile who does Jewish things. I identify with Israel and the Lord’s [blog owner note: I edited the reference to God’s name] Kingdom more than any earthly dwelling place, with the exception of Israel of course.

    Its a Judeo-Messianic take over… Wait I want to coin that phrase “Judeo-Messianic” I’m Gentile and it doesn’t include the title Xian… Pow… Take that Pope whoever you are… haha… JK…

    • Derek Leman says:

      Jeramiah:

      You bring up numerous issues. I am glad that you see the common ground between Judaism and Christianity.

      Brit Milah (the Jewish circumcision ritual) is something that is not appropriate for non-Jews. Many non-Jews wish to have their sons circumcised on the eighth day. I believe this is, in itself, a fine thing. However, the Brit Milah ceremony is all about the child being included in the covenant. The covenant in question is that between Israel and God. What should Judeo-Christians do about this? The answer is simple: for those who wish to circumcise on the eighth day, a ceremony is needed which has wording that is theologically appropriate for non-Jews.

      I have some of my own ideas, but I am waiting for a chance to work with some colleagues and benefit from their experience. I may blog in the future on this matter, especially if the MJRC provides some help (ourrabbis.org).

      When you say, “Christians who accept it [Torah] as G-ds word and apply it, don’t believe its exclusive to national identity though it is in right context Jewish-Hebraic,” you are making a common error, I would like to suggest. You assume that because it is in the Bible, it applies directly to you. But if you study Torah, you should be able to see the signs that Israel is a unique people and that more care is needed in applying Torah as a non-Jew. I wonder if you would consider reading my page on “Non-Jews and Torah” at mjpassages.com.

      Derek

  13. Lisa says:

    I’ve seen some growing speculation that eventually, Christianity (in its broad term) will be stripped from the gentile churches. The focus of this thinking comes from Romans 9-11. The “grafting” describing mere branches being stripped from gentile churches and re-attached to the “good” olive tree.
    I’m curious as to your thoughts.

  14. Derek Leman says:

    Lisa:

    That teaching sounds strange and I’m not even sure I understand it. Let me answer from what I know about grafting branches in horticulture and what I know about the Olive Tree verses in Romans 11.

    A grafted branch never changes DNA to become a natural branch. Take the example of red apples grafted on a green apple tree. They always produce red apples. Likewise wild olives on cultivated olive trees.

    In Romans 11, Paul is speaking to gentiles who have an attitude of superiority to Jewish people who currently reject Yeshua-faith. He warns them that Jewish people are the natural and they the wild branches. The root is Jewish (some say the root is God or Messiah, but study Rom 11:16 carefully). Grafted in branches are joined to the tree but never become natural branches. Gentiles are grafted into the greater promises of redemption to Israel but remain distinct.

    Paul is always careful to show both sides: gentiles have been brought near but do not become Israel. They are commonwealth, not Israel. They are wild olives, not the long-cultivated variety.

    This in no way implies inequality. First of all, Paul is using some good rhetoric to humble the gentile anti-Semites. Second of all, the fact that God’s redemption plan works through Israel to the nations does not make Israel paramount, but foundational. There is a difference. I like to use the analogy of the firstborn. Jews and gentiles are all children, but Jews are the firstborn.

    Derek

    • Lisa says:

      Thank you =) That is much closer to my own understanding.

      I find it more difficult to not feel “2nd class”. I suppose that has always been a struggle of mine. I remember the feeling of almost a “jealousy” when baptizing a Jewish friend (outweighed by joy, of course). Perhaps that’s what triggers some of the alternate understandings springing up; I suppose some just can’t be content with adoption. Despite the emotional struggles, I’d much rather be adopted than homeless =)

    • James says:

      While I agree completely with your interpretation Derek, I read Romans 11 as the door swinging both ways. Not only is Paul warning the Gentiles not to get “cocky” for being grafted in while some of the natural branches are being knocked off, he’s also delivering a message to his Jewish brothers about not being arrogant because they’re the natural branches (as opposed to we “grafted in” Gentiles). The same “glue” attaches both natural and grafted in branches to the root: faith.

      Whenever I consider Romans 11, I invariably think of John 15:5 (I am the vine and you are the branches). If this is Yeshua’s message to *all* his disciples, then none of us can do much without the Jewish Messiah.

  15. Samuel says:

    Hi Derek,

    You made the following comment about Brit Milah:

    “However, the Brit Milah ceremony is all about the child being included in the covenant. The covenant in question is that between Israel and God.”

    In regards to thinking covenantally, how do you view the new covenant in Yeshua? Is it a new covenant only for Israel or all who place faith in Yeshua? Also, does it…um…”replace” (I’m using this term loosely) the old covenant(s)? Does it build upon the old covenant(s)?

    On another note, I read your book “A new look at the old testatment” before I went to Israel last year and I was surprised that there wasn’t more on the Exodus (the book and the event) in your summary.

    Samuel

    • Derek Leman says:

      Samuel:

      The New Covenant portion in Jeremiah 31 refers only to Israel and Judah. There are only 7 references to it in the New Testament. Two of them are in Luke and Paul’s descriptions of the Last Supper. One is Paul referring to his work extending the covenant promises beyond the boundaries of the Jewish people (in other words to gentiles, see 2 Cor 3:6). Then there are four references in Hebrews which do not say anything with regard to gentiles.

      In other words, the term New Covenant is only applied clearly to non-Jews in one text (2 Cor 3) and it is assumed (with justification) that the “new covenant” in Yeshua’s blood would not be limited to Israel.

      What do we do with all of this language of a New Covenant? A simple answer is that “New Covenant” refers to one and only one agreement which God made. Problem: where did God make this agreement?

      I hope I am at least opening the possibility to you that a lot of things you’ve heard about the New Covenant are going beyond what the text says.

      My guess would be that Yeshua’s death is viewed by the apostles as the inauguration of a New Covenant (Hebrews makes this point and it makes sense). It is not hard to believe that Jeremiah would express something cryptic and spiritually revealed about this centuries before it happened (if you believe in miracles, as I do).

      But Yeshua’s death in many ways fits the paradigm of the Abrahamic Covenant, not the Sinai Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant blesses the nations through Israel.

      All this to say, Israel and Judah’s relationship to the Covenant is not the same as the status of the nations in the Covenant. The Sinai Covenant is not abolished (I’d have to do a long series on Hebrews to demonstrate that his rhetoric there is not an over-turning of Torah).

      BOTTOM LINE: Jewish disciples of Yeshua are in the Abrahamic-Sinai-New stream and non-Jewish disciples of Yeshua are in the Abrahamic-New stream.

      Derek

      • “Jewish disciples of Yeshua are in the Abrahamic-Sinai-New stream and non-Jewish disciples of Yeshua are in the Abrahamic-New stream.”

        Derek… very well put. Although, what would prevent a Gentile from making a claim that because they may fall within the Abrahamic stream they are too required to be circumcised under the terms of THAT particular covenant?

      • Samuel says:

        Thanks for the reply, Derek. One question on a reference in Exodus: Do you have an insight on who made up the “mixed multitude” that went up out of Egypt with the Israelites?

        • Derek Leman says:

          This question is brought up in the tradition and there is a tradition about them being “rabble,” but I don’t agree.

          The idea is that other peoples and likely some Egyptians came with Israel. Where did they go? I would say they assimilated into Israel (today we call it conversion).

          The One Law proponents often use this as an argument for “God did not distinguish between Israel and the nations,” but this goes against so many scriptures in Torah about the role of Jacob’s descendants it is not a view worth considering.

          Derek

  16. Derek Leman says:

    Lisa:

    Second-born children often struggle with not being the oldest. I have 8 kids. I know!

  17. benicho says:

    Nothing wrong with being born second, Jacob was kind of important.

  18. David Cook says:

    Derek,
    I think the term Judaic-Christian is a better fit. Judeo-Christian is a term that already has a very specific meaning.

    -David

  19. Bryant Starnes says:

    Matt 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, “ALL power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 “Go ye therefore, and teach ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to OBSERVE ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you: and , lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amein emphasis mine. It seems to me that Yeshua commanded his disciples to have all the world follow Torah.

    • Derek Leman says:

      Bryant:

      You don’t think I am familiar with Matthew 28:18-20? Let’s dissect your sentence: “Yeshua commanded his disciples to have all the world follow Torah.”

      What parts of Torah? Can a person who is not the high priest marry a widow or divorcee? Guess what: in Torah a high priest may not marry a widow but a priest can while a priest cannot marry a divorcee but a non-priest can. Do you see my point? We are commanded to keep the parts of Torah that apply to us.

      And what parts of Torah do not apply to gentiles? The signs of the covenant between God and Israel such as Sabbath, dietary law, circumcision, fringes, and more.

      Meanwhile, it’s better manners to say something like, “Derek, I don’t see how your interpretation fits with Matthew 28:18-20,” rather than throw the verse at me as if there is something wrong with my basic level of biblical knowledge.

      Derek

      • Bryant Starnes says:

        Sorry if you were offended Derek, I think you should be familiar with Matthew 28:18-20. (The reference was typed out for not only your convenience, but your readers.) There is probably no problem with your basic level of biblical knowledge – but perhaps the problem is theological. I’m no “theological scholar” obviously, however it seems pretty clear to me that Yeshua intended for all nations to follow the Torah. (His will done on earth as it is in heaven.) I’ve not seen anywhere in the word where Yeshua specifically deleted parts for some of us that weren’t “born Jewish” Your condescending attitude is a little off putting to say the least. But the word is very clear to me what Yeshua intended for his adopted brothers and sisters. I’m entitled to all rights and benefits as any natural born child of Yhvh. (This includes the father’s loving instructions) John 14:23-24 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. Matt 5:18-19 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and 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.

        The example of Torah I should not follow that you provided was for a high priest – I am not a priest. Yeshua is our high priest… do you not agree?
        I realize that I am not the most graceful speaker Yhvh created.
        However he created me for His purposes & I am not to apologize for how he made me. I hope you can receive this without offense (It is not intended. We should not fight in the family). Offense being one of Hasatan’s greatest tools for hindering God’s will.
        Do you think that the Torah is His Law to punish (as the early church fathers that began paving a road that led to anti semitism? Or loving instructions that leads us to a good life, and the full knowledge of a loving father who created us? Why would Yeshua want to keep that from some? Why would it be ok for gentiles to honor him in mixed holiday traditions that have pagan roots to honor His enemy? Are you kidding me? What makes this ok?

        • Derek Leman says:

          Bryant:

          Since you say you were being a smart aleck when you cited Matthew 28, I’ll believe you.

          Meanwhile, I hope you’ll do the same and not think I was being condescending. I will email you and maybe we can discuss the issue.

          Derek

          • Bryant Starnes says:

            Yeah, I’m not interested in your labels for whom I am or whom YOU think I am. I know exactly who I am. I am a servant of the most High God, Yhvh. I am saved by His son Yeshua’s sacrifice and am entitled to all rights and benefits as any other joint heir. As far as my ethnicity or what ever label of the month there is, I fail to see the significance of whether or not I’m a Jew or not. I lean on Yeshua’s promises and I believe him when he says He and His father will come and abide with me. Squabbling over if I’m a Jew, you’re not a Jew is really a distraction from the things that are more important and that is following His word and doing His will. I would have thought you would have known that. Guess not. You should consider it, its life changing. 😉

    • James says:

      Bryant, I’m almost finished teaching a 16 week course on exactly that point: What did Jesus Intend His Jewish Disciples to Teach the Gentile Disciples? We’ve been comparing the teachings of Yeshua as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew to the 613 commandments, or at least that subset the Jews are able to respond to today (no Temple, no priesthood, no Sanhedrin) and, although we haven’t arrived at our formal conclusions as yet (classes 15 and 16 which come up starting next week will do that), what we have informally found is that Yeshua didn’t teach (at least overtly) a lot of the things you might expect.

      Yes, he taught not to murder, to observe the Shabbat, to love God, to love your neighbor, and so forth. He didn’t, however, specifically teach wearing tzitzit, laying tefillin, and many other things that are also included in the Torah. Of course, this class isn’t the end all or be all of what Yeshua taught and what he expected, but it’s a pretty good place to start and I believe could well illustrate that the Matthew 28 mandate wasn’t a command to turn Gentile disciples into exact carbon copies of Jewish disciples.

      I’ve been struggling with these issues for quite some time, questioning my assumptions and challenging my class to question theirs. It isn’t always comfortable, but seeking truth never is.

  20. Herbwifemama says:

    As a Torah Observant (to the best of my ability) Gentile believer who grew up in the Messianic movement (my rabbi is one of the founding members of MJAA) I have been struggling with where I fit in. I intend to read your previous series. Expect more comments and many questions from me.

    • Derek Leman says:

      Herbwifemama:

      I look forward to some dialogue, then. I hope I can help people who have been drawn to Torah living not to think they must be Jewish in order to be close to God. There is so much identity confusion. I think there is a way for non-Jews to keep Torah as non-Jews, to make some distinctions and to protect the unique identity of Jewish people.

      • Herbwifemama says:

        Yes, I agree. I openly and cheerfully say I’m not Jewish, don’t wanna be Jewish. I’m very pro-Israel, with a big heart for Jews, but I’m not a Jew wannabe. 🙂 Yet I still feel that keeping Torah is right for me. Like I said, lots of trouble understanding where I fit in in the Messianic movement. I came back tonight to hunt down that series, and I do expect to have questions as I read through it.

        (And I feel silly, I didn’t mean “founding” member as I double checked and it was founded in 1915, and he’s not that old, lol. He’s on the board. Totally an aside, but I want to keep my facts straight.)

  21. Derek Leman says:

    Joshua,

    You said (way up above in the comments) that you think Judeo-Christian may not best describe some non-Jews who are highly involved in the Jewish community and in Messianic Jewish congregations. Your point is interesting and it sure would be fun if we were at Hashivenu or UMJC right now to talk this out for a while and get others involved.

    I see an advantage to seeing those in our congregations as Jews and Christians. We are a place where Jews and Christians come and are together in harmony. Many of the families in MJ are intermarried (one if Jewish, one is Christian).

    Using the term “Messianic” for everyone tends to ignore distinctions. Our intermarriages don’t seem like intermarriages (just two Messianics who got married). And why should one “Messianic” teenager have a Bar Mitzvah while another has a “Bar Avraham”?

    Therefore, I think it is a good practice to start having the non-Jews in MJ think of themselves as Christians (or Judeo-Christians). On the one hand, we can start tearing down the false barrier between Judaism and Christianity and at the same time we can improve the sense of distinction in our membership (which is healthy for the sake of identity, Jewish identity and Christian identity).

    Derek

    • James says:

      I see an advantage to seeing those in our congregations as Jews and Christians. We are a place where Jews and Christians come and are together in harmony. Many of the families in MJ are intermarried (one if Jewish, one is Christian).

      Yeah. I know a little bit about this topic. It’s different to be intermarried and we really are one Christian and one Jew in a marriage together. My viewpoint tends to attract me to the more Jewish side of things, but we are two different people with two different approaches to thinking about, relating to, and worshiping God. I suppose I “solve” the “Judeo-Christian puzzle” by us not worshiping at the same congregation. No “identity confusion” here. The “flaw” in the solution, if you want to call it that, is to solve the demands of “bilateral ecclesiology”, we, as a married couple, don’t worship together. That keeps the identity barriers unsullied, but what does it do for relationships and people?

    • Rabbi Joshua says:

      Derek,

      “I see an advantage to seeing those in our congregations as Jews and Christians.”

      I guess there are times when I don’t see it as being quite so black and white. Even if that were a general rule, I can definitely cite exceptions. Our practical challenge as pulpit rabbis is how to actually implement what we are discussing.

  22. Derek Leman says:

    James:

    Yes, alas, some couples cannot find a way to worship together. This is not merely a problem in interfaith (Jewish-Christian) marriages. It happens in Jewish-Jewish and Christian-Christian marriages too. And it is true that many mainstream Jews would find it difficult to make a Messianic synagogue their primary place of prayer. But it is also true that for special occasions, most mainstream Jews can join in without too much grief. And there are a number of mainstream Jews in Messianic synagogues (usually for reason of intermarriage). We have had some wonderful examples in the short history of our little synagogue.

    • James says:

      But it is also true that for special occasions, most mainstream Jews can join in without too much grief.

      I suggested to the missus that, on rare occasions, she could stop by our little group on Shabbat, if for no other reason than to say “hi” to old friends (she attended once upon a time), but she didn’t feel comfortable doing so. I think that entering into an active Jewish community at a later stage of life has left her feeling a tad insecure, and she doesn’t want to do anything that would give the impression she is “less-than-Jewish” to the local Chabad and Reform synagogues. If she had been raised in a Jewish household and lived as a Jew all her life, things might be different. In this case, I’m the one choosing to bend. As I said earlier today, there’s no guarantee that my plans will work out, but then God may not always leave breadcrumbs along the trail leading back home. Sometimes the journey is a mystery.

  23. Dan Benzvi says:

    “However, the Brit Milah ceremony is all about the child being included in the covenant. The covenant in question is that between Israel and God. ”

    Theologically incorrect.

    Abraham’s Household was the first “Covenant Community,” Yet it included starangers and slaves not only his immediate family. They were all commanded to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant. They were part of the community BEFORE they were circumcised.

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  26. Brian Hildebrand says:

    Dear Sirs,
    I consider myself as one that neither Jew non Gentile but the new creation called “one new man” which Heshem made from the two. I have seen many slanderous attacks on the Talmud but from what I have seen about the Talmudic way of thinking, Many gentile children would benefit to take this training. As a follower of Yeshua, can you direct me to a Talmudic source that would be helpful for me to learn this discipline?

  27. Brian Hildebrand says:

    Dear sirs,
    Can you tell me of a Talmudic teaching source that would be beneficial to a new man in Christ, learning to understand the depth of the “Word Of God” . I also beleive that the word contains the genesis of all truth and want to learn this discipline.

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