One of the most challenging issues of our time is how Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity drifted so far apart. How did the split occur? This week we will address the split with Judaism.
Most Rabbi's, Scholars, & Pastors would agree that all three began with the same root: namely with the Patriarchs and the G-D of Abraham, Issac & Jacob.
From this beginning, all three branches move forward to Moses and Mt. Horev. All agree on Moses and the giving of the Torah to Isra'el.
Next came the Prophets, then Kings, captivity, and finally the silent years (no recorded Prophets, but definitely not silent for these 400 years). During the silent years, Isra'el saw Alexander, revolted against Antiochus, and were occupied by Rome.
During these silent years, Judaism begin to split into several factions: Sadducees (Priests who followed only the Torah), Pharisees who followed Torah, Oral Torah, and the other writtings of the Tanakh (1st Testament), Zealots who mainly wanted freedom from Rome, Essenes who believed the entire Temple Priesthood was corrupt, and other smaller groups.
Splits even developed between Pharisees, with some following the teachings of Rabbi Hallel, and others following Rabbi Shammai. Additional splits occurred geographically between Jerusalem and the Galilee.
Into this mix, we must add a high expectation for the coming of a deliverer - Messiah! The deliverer would throw off Roman occupation and restore righteousness to the House of Israel.
About 5 BCE, in a small town outside of Jerusalem, a young women gave birth to a small child. This seemingly insignificant child would shape the history of all mankind.
The life of Messiah is well documented in the Gospel accounts, and is referenced in both Roman writing and the Talmud. This Child, Who grew up into a Man, Who was crucified by the Romans for crimes He did not commit, created the beginnings of the split.
The first split occurred gradually between 29 CE (AD) and 135 AD. At issue were three key points: the resurrection, the Messiahship, and the divine nature of Yeshua Ha'Nazret (of Nazareth).
The early followers were all Jews, numbering in the 10's of thousands. While some isolated persecution existed, for the most part they continued to live within Jewish society, worshiped in the Synagogues, and even made sacrifices in the Temple. These believers lived a fully Jewish lifestyle.
Several events began to widen the rift: the influx of Gentiles into Messianic Judaism (belief in Messiah), the teachings of Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul) and the First Jewish Revolt.
The influx of Gentiles brought up the issue of whether Gentiles had to proselytize to Judaism to be saved, including circumcision.
The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 set-up 4 minimal conditions for fellowship with believing Gentiles (no fornication, no eating things strangled, no eating blood, and no idolatry). They then expected the new believers to go into the Synagogue and learn the Torah (see verse 21). By not requiring formal conversion (including circumcision), it became much easier for Gentiles to join into Messianic Judaism. This led to a rapid expansion of believing Gentiles and resulted in many Jews becoming increasingly uncomfortable with these new uncircumcised believers.
Rabbi Sha'ul's teachings came about during this critical time. His writings were very favorable toward Gentile converts, and He defended their not having to be circumcised to be saved. His writings were interpreted by some as being against Torah observance. This cannot be the case as we see in Acts 21 where Sha'ul goes to Jerusalem where he is accused of telling Jews not to be circumcised, a charge that is fully denied. Sha'ul then goes to the Temple to complete a Nazarite vow, which includes sacrifice. To this day, many Jews have a favorable opinion of Yeshua, but see Sha'ul as starting a new religion called "Christianity"
The revolt against Rome in 68-70 CE resulted in the split widening more. Having been warned by the Messiah to leave Jerusalem when they saw armies camped about it, the Messianic believers (through a great miracle) literally walked out of Jerusalem. This led the Zealots, and many other Jews to label them as traitors (even though the Pharisees actually survived by Rabbi Yochanan escaping Jerusalem disguised as a dead man).
The split between Judaism & Messianic Judaism worsened with the Council of Yavneh and the Bar Koshba (Bar Kochba) revolt.
In 90 CE, the Council of Yavneh altered the Amidah (18 benedictions) to include a 19th benediction against Heretics. This benediction when recited would result in a believer issuing a curse against themselves and other believers.
The Bar Kochba revolt of 135 CE placed the label of traitor on all Jews who believe in Messiah. The initial revolt met with some success. When Rabbi Akiva named Bar Koshba (son of a liar, changed to Bar Kochba, son of a star) Messiah, believers in Yeshua could no longer fight for him. Thus, they were labeled traitors for not following a false Messiah.
The final split occurred not because of the debate between Judaism and Messianic Judaism, but due to the new emergent Gentile-controlled Church. Calling themselves Christians (Greek for followers of the anointed one or little anointed ones), the Church issued a series of council decisions that forbade all Jewish observances (we will discuss more in part 2 next week). This lead traditional Judaism to reject all ties to belief in Messiah Yeshua, labeling it a new, non-monotheistic religion (this view is no longer held by most Jews).
Next week we will address how Messianic Judaism and it's Jewish root became separated from the Church.
Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el