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.


MoeRab said...

In Question # 2
"Is that like a Christian?"
With a response "Um...I guess it would be *like* that, yes."
For Me, I am a Jew I will never do
Sundays - Easter - Xmas.
To be a Jew is to do the right thing, after all we should follow Halaka and the Mitzvot.
Let me ask . . .
Ananias Jew or Christian??
In Acts 9:10 The L_rd spoke to him in a vision . . .
But after much time had passes. . .
Acts 22:12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt.
Rav Saul (Paul) held to his Jewish background. Jewish? Of course Yes. Christian? Not...
Me too ():-)>

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be more like - a Christian is like that? They (Messianic believers) were first - and they were the only believers for about 10 years - until Cornelius - I guess some Lamb predecessor - but he played in an Italian band.

bgamall said...

Ariel, I have one point and one question. My point is regarding your identity as Jewish. I want to make it crystal clear that I do not want to take that identity away. However, unfortunately, the messianic movement makes the keeping of certain days manditory. I believe it is only scriptural for them to keep those days voluntarily. The reason is Galatians 2:14. Peter lived like a Gentile. It was ok for Peter to choose to live like a Gentile. It was not ok for Peter to force the Gentiles to live like Jews! I believe this scripture makes any keeping of days voluntary, and it must be so. See also Romans ch 14.

Now for my question. My father was Jewish. I was adopted at age 3 months and raised as a Gentile. I want to know what reasons you and the Reformed accept me as Jewish when the conservatives always look to Ezra and the casting out of those without Jewish mothers.

Ariel said...

To be clear, the Messianic movement does not itself "make mandatory the keeping of days," as you put it. Some will disagree on that issue, but we affirm a New Covenant approach to the matter. For more on our view, look at Messianic Wisdom by Sam Nadler.

As for your question (on what is admittedly a secondary issue), descent through the father was the pattern set from the Torah (e.g. thepatriarchs) onward. That it was assumed and normative is highlighted by special cases where the that descent was missing (see Lev. 24:10-16, where it is questionable how the son of Israelite woman and an Egyptian father should be treated for blasphemy--i.e. presumably whether he was truly to be numbered among the sons of Israel--as well as Num. 26:33, 27:4, allowing for the inheritance to be passed to daughters, but only in the case where there were no men, and only then for the sake of their fathers name). The reason for purging foreign women in Ezra was the correct the men's disobedience in marrying them; it was not to change the patrilineal pattern set in the Torah. However, matrilineal descent also seemed to be allowable, as in the case of Timothy. That briefly reflects some of the Messianic reasons for going by either parent. (I should also note the Reform would see fairness as the main issue, whereas we go by the Scriptural authority)


I didn't know Cornelius was so musical. ;)


Answering yes to the question "Is that like a Christian?" is to say that a Messianic Jew is to meant to designate a Jewish follower of Messiah Yeshua, which is also what the term Christian should mean. It was not to imply specific days one then is or is not to follow. For more on the Torah and Messianic believer, I refer you to the same chapter in Messianic Wisdom.

Thanks everyone for comments and questions.

bgamall said...

Ariel, it is refreshing to see your New Covenant view of days! You don't know how many Messianic fellowships and persons I have gone through to get one who has the right understanding on this. I also thank you for your info on patriarchal inclusions. I also want to invite you to read my website, to see where I am coming from. I believe that God will do a new thing with the Jewish people, and I firmly believe that Romans 11 is something that is taking place now. I would like you to feel free to email me at if you have any questions or disputes with my site. I want to link to you as well, and will do so shortly.

NB said...

Colossians 3:8-11 (below) makes the point that this is entirely irrelavent and only causes divisions between gentile believers and jewish believers. Why call yourselves messianic jews? if we have crucified the old man and put on the new Man, if we have gone from darkness into light, what difference do our old ways make? St. Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin, but he says in Philippians 3:7-8 that he counts all those things as a loss compared to the gain in Christ.

So enough with the Jewish identity questions for us believers. You are one in spirit with all believers, and the flesh counts for nothing. Only faith in our Lord Yeshua Christ will save us. Apart from Him, we have nothing.

Philippians 3:7-8
7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

Colossians 3:8-11
8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

Ariel said...


Thanks for your comments and questions. The reason for identifying oneself as a Jew is that it corresponds to the facts. It is not maintained for the purpose of creating divisions, and to argue that it might do so commits a slippery slope fallacy, unfortunately.

We affirm the unity that all believers have in Messiah. All these things are considered loss compared with the surpassing glory of Messiah. But this does not obliterate the existence of what you have labeled "old ways." The context for Col 3 is our spiritual unity (and thus spiritual behavior) flowing from the salvation in Messiah. Note that this also shows up in Gal. 3:28--"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua." Would you hold that your own gender is likewise obliterated, or does the text rather affirm that there is no distinction in spiritual standing between men and women before Messiah?

bgamall said...

I agree. I believe that the unity must come from correct doctrine, but also taking into the account the truths of Romans 11. I am for Romans 11 and also for a New Covenant Theology. There are not too many folks who support both.

ginaprays said...

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God. For you didn't receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Messiah; if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified with Him.
(Romans 8:14-17)
..."It is the Spirit Who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The Words that I speak to you are Spirit, and are Life."
(John 6:63)
You see, being Gentile, I thought I was adopted into the family of Abraham...have I not now also become the 'choosen'?
Am I not adopted and joint heir with my Saviour, Yahshua the Messiah, my Christ, my Redeemer? Therefore Am I not of the circumcision of the heart? It appears to me the question is wrong...shouldn't one ask instead...aren't we now of the family of Abraham, of the House of David, adopted by the Atoning Blood of Messiah?

... To the Jew was given the oracles of God, but by the grace of God and through my faith I am made the joint heir.
As it is written, there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; ....For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference:.......being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God has sent forth to be a propitiation through faith in His bloodk, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say at this time His rigfhteousness: the He might be Just, and the Justifier of hiim which believes in Jesus, (Yahshua the Messiah).
A man is justified by faith...seeing is one God, Which shall justify the corcumcision by faith, and uncircumcision throught faith.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.
(Col 2:8-12)
We are One IN Messiah and there is no longer any reason to ask the questions here...have we not died IN Christ? No longer Jew or Gentile, we are now the Redeemed....sancitified by the Blood...the Bride...amen

Ariel said...

While I appreciate your comments, I must you ask the same question asked the other commenter:

Is there any gender after salvation?

A direct application of your interpretation would, by analogy, seem to indicate that there isn't any gender in the body of Messiah (i.e. "there is neither male nor female..." Gal. 3:28). But that kind of position would be an absurd and contrary to the Scriptures. So perhaps the interpretation is off. Perhaps there are Jews and Gentiles, just as there are men and women, who participate in the body of Messiah as spiritual equals with respect to salvation, without losing their ethnicity as such.

Chag Sameah lekulam,
(Happy Holidays to everyone)


ginaprays said...

Ariel, thank you for responding so gracefully to my comments. Perhaps I am looking at this from a different "angle", let's look at scripture:....(this is where Marta had made the comment to Yeshua that she knew her brother, El'azar was dead and Yeshua had reassured her that He Himself is the Resurrection and the Life...let's read):
....Yeshua said unto her, "I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?" ..(John 11:25-26)

.............."But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn't have the Spirit of Messiah, he is not His. If Messiah is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him Who raised up Yeshua from the dead dwells in you, He who raised up Messiah Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit Who dwells in you.
(Romans 8:9-11)

.... Now we understand that we are still in the "flesh" in gender and in race, yet, we desire to walk in the Spirit and not the we crucify the flesh daily by prayer and faith, living in righteousness and in the spirit, by staying IN Messiah, in His Word, walking by faith...and we now understand we have entered into the marriage covenant with longer concerned with the lusts of this flesh we groan for the heavenly body we are given by the grace of God, through faith in the Risen Living Messiah Yeshua....

....For we know that if our earthly house of this tent is [fig., our bodies are] torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with human hands, eternal in the heavens. For also in this [body] we groan, longing to clothe ourselves with our habitation, the one from heaven. (2Cor. 5:1-2) you can see why I actually try my best to stay IN Messiah, regardless of gender, race or is difficult to maintain a spiritual walk everyday but we have a wonderful promise: In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don't know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can't be uttered. He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit's mind, because He makes intercession for the saints according to God. (Romans 8:26-27)
All my love to you...and Sha'alu Shalom Yerushalayim

Ariel said...


There are at least two senses in which one can use the term flesh (Gk. sarx; Heb. basar). One is to refer to the sinful or natural man. When Paul contrasts the "spiritual man" with the "fleshly" needs to consider this contrast in light of maturity and sin. However, it can also be used to merely refer to our bodily, material selves. There is nothing inherently sinful about this sense of the term. When Adam was created (male, human, with or without a belly button, etc.), he was without sin, but he was still definitely a fleshly body.

Thus, it is important not to confuse those terms in how they used in Scripture. For being Jewish is not a sin (nor is being a Gentile), nor is its occurance in 'flesh' a consequence of sinful activity, but it is rather the will of HaShem, just as is all ethnicity, gender, and so on. He wants us to be complete, lacking nothing (i.e. grow into spiritual maturity and not carry out the desires of the flesh), but this does not mean he wants us to lose any sense of gender or ethnicity or whatever other physical humanity that he has blessed us with. On the contrary, the diversity of nations, both Jews and Gentiles, found in the body of Messiah is a testimony to His faithfulness. Thank you for your comments.

--matt (Ariel)

ginaprays said...

Great study! Yea and Amen.

What a powerful testimony to His faithfulness..

Gensis 1:26-27 And YAHVEH said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
And YAHVEH created man in His own image, in the image of YAHVEH created He him; male and female created He them.

Gensis 1:31 And YAHVEH saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day

Baruch HaBah B'Shem Ad-nai

Anonymous said...

Hello, God bless you.

I would ask these questions:
If jew and gentile are one in messiah, then the only thing that seperates us is our flesh, why do people glory in the fact, or make a point of the fact that they are "greek" or "jew" in the flesh, when the only thing that matters is weather they are of Israel according to the spirit? that is of all Israel will be saved, unlike the phisical israel remant.
There seems to be a strong draw to a phisical jewish identity, i dont know why this would be important, especially shen paul conciders it nothing, and truely in christ, we see that these things are mere types and shadows, not worth comparing to the spiritual abundance we have in christ. there seems to be a mis-conception about promises to phisical jews, when Paul makes it clear enough for any child to understand in Galatians 3 that God did not make his promises to the "seeds" of Abraham, but that his promises are fulfilled in the "seed" of Abraham, that is Christ. So all we have to worry about is identifying ourselves with Christ! no endless geneologies, we dont need to concern ourselves with types and shadows! wake up jerUSAlem!! the time is drawing near!
my heart goes out to those who are persecuted in israel for doing rightousness, by those who call them selves jews, but are a den of vipers!
Give thanks and praise to the most high God!!

Anonymous said...

you will notice that there are different commands given to man and woman in the scriptures, but how is salvation any different for a jew or greek? you say that there is actually a phisical difference between jew and greek, didnt abraham come from a pagan nation? didnt john the baptist say god could make a phisical jew out of these rocks? how does anyone prove that they are "jewish" in the first place without end-less geneologies? i understand that there are oshkanazi jews and shephardic jews, and that the former outnumber the latter in the general population of israel, and are actually jewish converts, but who cares? again, the only way to find out for sure is to do endless geneological studies, but paul said, under the guidance of gods holy spirit, for us to not waste our time doing such things! he said do not judge according to type... obviously the jews of the flesh are a type and shadow of the spiritual jews, just as the sabbath is a type and shadow of the sabbitismos, the resting from our works in christ!
the only way to gain our life is to loose it. jews should not think it is important that they are a jew, and gentiles should not glory in the fact that they were not born a phisical jew! our identity in christ is too important for this! is there any REAL difference between even a shepardic jew and a gentile? is there any real difference between saturday and tuesday? werent these things given for us to grow up with, when i was a child, i thought like a child... ect.
put the things of a child away! become a child of the most high god. whats born of flesh is flesh, whats born of spirit is spirit. obviously man and woman have different roles, but there are no different roles for jews and greek, we have the freedom in christ to put the things of our childhood away and be justified by him alone, because if we try to justify ourselves by the law, we alienate ourselves from christ, who already fullfilled the law, not abolished it, but fulfilled it.
let us stay in the unity of the spirit, UNTIL we COME into the UNITY of the faith! salah
-your servant, disciple

Ariel said...


God indeed created a nation out of Abraham through Jacob. God does work through nations, and the spiritual in all nations; thus He recieves the glory through our diversity. In the body of Messiah, He does not eradicate that which makes us unique. our unity is not found in ethnic uniformity, but in Messiah alone. A study of the ethnic categories used by Paul (Jew, Gentile, Israelite, tribe, etc.) agrees with these truths.

Thanks for your comments.

Ariel said...

By the way, to know that one is Jewish is not a matter of tracing "endless genealogies" (and it has nothing to do with the passage you are referencing from 1 Timothy). The Jewish people have been kept as a people by God's grace for millennia, as a matter of fact. They have a history which is well-documented and so on. Moreover, it is not the case that Ashkenazi Jews are converts (at least, not by virtue of being Ashkenazi; there are those who have converted into Ashkenazi communities).