Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Ten Questions about Messianic Identity

I often recieve questions about my identity. Here are some.

1. What is a Messianic Jew?

A Messianic Jew is a Jew who believes that Jesus (henceforth Yeshua) is the Messiah.

2. Is that like a Christian?

Um...I guess it would be *like* that, yes.

3. So you're not Jewish anymore.

That's a declarative sentence. What shall I do now.

4. Oops. So how are you still Jewish, then?

Because belief in Yeshua does not remove Jewish identity, and we happen to think its the most Jewish thing you can do. He is the Jewish Messiah.

5. How do other Jews who don't believe in this Yeshua feel about you guys?

For the most part, not so well. The Orthodox consider us 'meshumdim', or traitors, and many more think we have abandoned the true Jewish faith, deceptively dressing up Christianity as a valid Jewish option, whereas they argue that its anything but. Some more 'liberal' Jews are willing to tolerate us, some even engaging in dialogue. But that's more an exception to the rule.

6. Aren't they right? About you being traitors and decievers and all that?

No. We have been rejected by the mainstream Jewish community, to be certain. Also, it is true that they do *feel* betrayed by us. But the feelings of the majority do not determine truth. We serve in the Israeli army (for those who live in Israel), celebrate the Jewish feasts, circumcise our sons, and want to see our children grow up Jewish.

7. Yeah, but they will be fake Jews.

You're doing it again.

8. Right. Sorry. Won't they just be fake Jews?

No. For Messianics, if your mother or father is Jewish, you're a real Jew (Orthodox and Conservative Jews go by the mother only; Messianics and Reform go by either parent). You can hide, pretend it isn't there, but it won't change the facts. Belief in Jesus doesn't alter it either.

9. You are just equivocating on the word "Jew," right? Everytime we ask, we mean religiously, and when you answer you go by ethnicity. Isn't that illogical?

There might have been equivocation, so let's fix that now. Ethnically, a Jew is defined according to the above. Religiously, there is a debate. Messianics think that Yeshua's claims to be the Messiah actually correspond to the facts--for Jews and everyone else. Jews who don't believe in 'that man' obviously differ on this point. So the question is whether what the New Covenant (also called the New Testament) says about Yeshua is true. If it is, Messianic Jews are Jewish religiously. If it isn't, then they aren't. But, ethnically, they would be Jewish in either case.

So, in the end, it is those who would say that Messianic Jews somehow *can't* be Jewish who are confusing you. Either they mean we cannot be Jewish religiously (and so avoid the real issue behind the claim, which is whether or not Yeshua actually is the Messiah), or they mean we are no longer Jewish ethnically (in which case their claim is wrong).

10. What's your problem? Why do you waste your time trying to say you're Jewish?

Because its a fact, and we seek to speak the truth. Moreover, we find what the Bible says about God's love and promises toward the Jewish people to be compelling. Therefore, it is part of an authentic testimony for Jewish believers to maintain their identity in Yeshua.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Messianic Jews persecuted in Israel

The following article appeared in the largest Hebrew newspaper in Israel, Yediot Acharonot. Translated by Maoz Israel with permission.

Caleb Myers (see interview below) is representing our case in Jerusalem (whereas we were unjustly harrased for our faith by the Ministry of Interior--in my case, deported; in my father's case, attempted and official deportation, though he was let in a day later.) We praise God for this article--illustrating the unique difficulties of Jewish democracy trying to understand its religious identity. Click here.