Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ancient Evidence of Messianic Jewish Beliefs


While doing some research I found some early quotes from Early Christian Leaders on Messianic Jews and thought I would share them.

Jerome (4th Cent CE.) - "...who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the old Law." (Jerome; o­n. Is. 8:14).

Epiphanius (4th Cent CE.) - "But these sectarians... did not call themselves Christians--but "Nazarenes," ... However they are simply complete Jews. They use not o­nly the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do... They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion-- except for their belief in Messiah, if you please! For they acknowledge both the resurrection of the dead and the divine creation of all things, and declare that G-d is one that his son is Y'shua the Messiah. They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew. For among them the entire Law, the Prophets, and the... Writings... are read in Hebrew, as they surely are by the Jews. They are different from the Jews, and different from Christians, o­nly in the following. They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in Messiah; but since they are still fettered by the Law--circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest-- they are not in accord with Christians.... they are nothing but Jews.... They have the Goodnews according to Matthew in its entirety in Hebrew. For it is clear that they still preserve this, in the Hebrew alphabet, as it was originally written.
(Epiphanius; Panarion 29)

Note some key points:
1. As late as the 4th century (and even later), Messianic Judaism was a valid form of belief. This dispels the idea that the Messianic movement is just a creation of the church to "trick" Jews.
2. Observance of the Torah (here called entire Law).
3. Attitude of Epiphanius towards Torah - He says fettered by the Law. The anti-Torah bias of the Church is that old.

As we can see, Messianic Judaism has existed from the beginning, and is clearly being practiced in the 4th century, as these writings show. While Messianic Jews will be persacuted by the Church, and by other Jews, for the next 1600 years, we now see G-d's plan unfolding with the reemergance of the Movement. No longer in hiding, but growing, Like Yochanan "one crying in the Wilderness...Make the way straight" for the L-rd is coming.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How did Rabbinic Judaism come into being?


Just how did Rabbinic Judaism, the current dominate for of Judaism, come into being? Is it the only form of Judaism today?

Judaism of the first century was expressed in many flavors, including that of the Tzadakim (centered on the Temple service), Pharisaic (centered around Halacha), Zealots (a Zionist movement wanting freedom from Rome), Messianic (believers that Yeshua of Nazareth is Messiah, and Essenes (an almost monastic sect, from whom we get the Dead Sea Scrolls). These and other sects lived and competed in Jewish culture during the 1st century until the destruction of the temple, and subsequent diaspora.

Three groups, the Tzadakim, Zealots & Essenes, ceased to be a force in Judaism after the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. This left 2 primary groups both of which succeeded in establishing themselves outside of Jerusalem, and subsequently being spared from destruction by the Romans. The Messianics, thorough a miracle of G-d (in my estimation), were able to escape Jerusalem (which later brought about accusations of being traitors by some Jewish authorities) when the Romans surrounding the city split their lines (recorded in Josephus). The Messianic’s heeding their Messiah’s words, fled the city. The Pharisee had significant numbers outside Jerusalem, and thus were able to continue on.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, the 2 groups grew increasingly apart, until, in 90 CE, at Yavneh, the Pharisee’s added the 19th benediction to the Amidah, forcing Messianics to curse themselves if they wished to stay in the Synagogue. The split continued, and was made greater in 132-135 CE in the 2nd revolt, where Rabbi Akiva names Simon bar Koshba to be Messiah. This resulted in a greater polarization. Messianics would, over the next 200 years become overshadowed as Gentiles came to dominate the movement.

Pharisee’s succeeded in evolving Judaism from a Temple based movement to a Synagogue based movement. Sacrifices were replaced with Prayer, Charity & Repentance. As the Diaspora grew, this system gained dominance. The Talmud, with the Oral Law and Rabbinic rulings (Halacha) were compiled and governance was established. The rulings of the Rabbi’s became supreme, to the point that Oral Torah and Rabbinic writings were treated on the level of Torah.

Great Sage’s like Rashi, RamBam, RamBan, etc. compiled volumes that added to the Rabbinic interpretation and strengthened what became Modern Judaism.

Is Rabbinic Judaism the only form today? Most certainly not, even with non-Messianic Judaism, there are groups like the Karaite who reject Oral Torah & the Talmud. The largest group of Jew’s today are not Orthodox, but secular, many atheist, who do not even believe in the G-d of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. One of the fastest growing forms of Judaism is Messianic, Those who believe Yeshua is the Messiah. Currently Messianic Jews worldwide number about 500,000 or 2-3% of the total Jewish World population.

It is important to note that the Orthodox do not accept Messianic Jews as Jews. They also reject other expressions of faith such as the Karaites, and even Conservative and Reformed Jewish conversions are not recognized in Israel.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

When the Rabbi's stray from the truth


I'd like to begin by saying that I have great respect for the Rabbi's & Sage's of our people. Having said that, we must remember that they are men, not G-d, and are capable of error. While many in the Jewish community want to treat Rabbinical decisions as equal to the Word or G-d, we do not agree with that level of authority. We see the Rabbi's and Sages as learned, wise men, providing commentary on scripture. We also view the Oral Torah as Commentary, not having the weight of G-d breathed scripture. This is very similar to how Protestants view the Catacism.

Rabbinical statements which stray:
1. In 132 CE, Rabbi Akiva named Simon Bar Koshba (son of a liar) the Messiah, renaming him Bar Kochba (son of a star). The result, in 135 CE the revolt ended, 1000's were killed, Jerusalem was destroyed and rebuilt as a Pagan city.
2. RamBam in His 13 articles of Faith declared G-d yachid, not echad. Yachid means the only one, not one as scripture states. Why the big deal, this was done to counter the concept of Messiah as G-d. Echad means simple one, and is used in B'rsheet to say Adam & Eve became one. Thus two became one flesh.

Rabbinic statements have tremendous impact in the Jewish Community. We must be knowledable enough to know the origins of these statements, and show, using Hebrew texts, the problems they create.

Blessings in Messiah

Monday, April 10, 2006

Why was the Temple destroyed in 70 CE


While traveling in Israel, we had the privialge of visiting the "Rabbinic Tunnel" that runs under the Moslem Quarter, right next to the Temple mount. This is the same tunnel that sparked the intafada in the 90's when Moslem extremists claimed it had gone under the dome of the rock (it did not, as no part is under the Temple Mount).

During the tour, we were privilaged to see the closest spot to the Holy of Holies that Jews are allowed to visit. Our guide, a bright eyed young Israeli woman, explained that the Rabbi's taught the first Temple had been destroyed because of unjustice & idolitry. She proceeded to tell a story of why the second Temple was destroyed.

The paraphrased story is that a man held a huge feast, inviting everyone to come. His best friends invitation was mistakenly delivered to his enemy, who showed up at the feast. The man saw his enemy, and went to have him thrown out. The man, not wishing to be shamed, begged to not be thrown out, even offering to pay for the entire feast, but instaed he was shamed, and cast out. Thus hate was the cause of the destruction of the second Temple.

It is ironic that the Rabbi's have come up with an simple explanation for why the Temple was destroyed, ignoring the fact that the Talmud clearly teaches that the Yom Kippur sacrifices were not acepted by G-d for 40 years before the destruction (Yoma 39b). What happended 40 years before? The Messiah came, and offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice, thus a mere goat would no longer suffice.

It was not hate that destroyed the Temple, it was that it was not longer needed, as a more perfect sacrifice had been made.

Blessings in Messiah

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mercy & Grace


I currently am reading "Rabbi & Redeemer" by David Mishkin (see to order). This walk through the book of John gives good insight on the Jewishness of the scriptures and explains the cultural and historical context of the writings. If als0 does an excellent job of helping us see Yeshua as He claimed to be, the Son of G-d.

One key point made is the difference between Grace & Mercy, I'd like to share this here:
Grace is getting what we do not deserve, namely eternal life, the ability to live according to Torah, and have G-d's Spirit dwelling inside of each of us granting the strength to overcome.
Mercy is not getting what we do deserve, punishment and eternal seperation from G-d.

Thus G-d, through mercy, forgives our sins, and through Grace gives us eternal life and the ability to walk according to His will.

What a beautiful concept, not only forgiveness, but tha ability to walk as "Children of the King". This is what was meant when G-d said He would give us a new heart, and write His Torah on our heart!


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Back From Israel!


My wife and I are now back from Israel. It was an excellent, inspiring trip as we traced the route our ancestors traveled from Egypt to the Promised land.

Several things struck me as we traveled: from how difficult the terrain was on the way to the promised land (not smooth desert as many imagine, but hills, rocky soil, and barren expanses), how lush the vegetation was in the Galilee region (truly a land flowing with milk and honey), and most of all, the pervasive sense of being home.

Over the next several weeks, we will be posting pictures and short video clips of our travels. For those who prayed for safe passage, and safety for our family while we were gone, you have our sincere thanks.

Blessings in Messiah