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Hum 130 - an Outside Perspective of Messianic Judaism

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An Outside Perspective of Messianic Judaism

John W. Stroud


November 28, 2010

Terry Barnes

An Outside Perspective of Messianic Judaism

Many people are born and raised in a religion without ever feeling complete or whole. There are those born and raised Jewish but never felt Judaism provided the answers for which they sought. These unsatisfied Jews have often looked to other religions for their answers. Many of those answers have been found in a form of Judaism that is often looked down upon by the more traditional Jews. This Messianic Judaism combines the core beliefs of Christianity with the traditional Jewish lifestyle. This combination of two distinct religions has shown the world that a religion can allow its members to maintain their traditional lifestyle while providing them with the spiritual nourishment they long for.

Messianic Judaism

Messianic Judaism is a branch of Judaism that believes Yeshua or Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah as foretold by the prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible. Messianic Judaism also believes that the Bible, which consists of the Tenach or Holy Scriptures and the B'rit Hadasha or New Covenant, is the only infallible and authoritative word of God (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, 2008). This belief includes that the Bible comes from divine inspiration and its teachings are the final authority in matters of faith and how to practice that faith (International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues, 2010). The significant difference between Messianic Judaism and traditional Judaism is the inclusion of Yeshua as the Messiah. According to Messianic Judaism, this gives validity to the B'rit Hadasha, which is not recognized by traditional Judaism as part of the word of God.

Messianic Judaism has been in existence since the time of Jesus. Early followers of Jesus were Jewish and many left behind their Jewish customs and traditions to bring the message of Jesus to the Gentile population (International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues, 2010). It was not until the mid 1970s that Messianic Judaism experienced a rebirth and return to some of the more traditional ways of Judaism. Dan Juster was leader of the First Hebrew Christian Church in Chicago and wanted to express his faith in Yeshua in a more Jewish fashion. This was accomplished by shifting worship to Shabbat, observance of Jewish holidays and inclusion of Jewish style worship songs in their services. These changes allowed for the development of the messianic synagogue (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, 2008). This allowed Jewish believers in Yeshua to incorporate their Jewish identity into their worship lives and freed them from the Christian church structures and customs that often were at odds with another part of their Jewish lives. This new incorporation of traditional Jewish customs into Jewish believers in Yeshua reflected a shift back towards the Judaism practiced at the time of Jesus. Chicago's First Hebrew Christian Church renamed itself Adat Hatikvah to show their Jewish heritage and their belief in Yeshua (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, 2008).

This religious group is slightly different from traditional Judaism and Christianity although their beliefs combine certain elements from both religions. The group is Jewish, although non-Jews or Gentiles are welcomed into their ranks without the necessity of conversion to Judaism. The group allows members to convert to Judaism if they so desire, but it is not a requirement to belong to the group. The belief in Yeshua as the Messiah is a point of conflict between the group's Jewish members and traditional Judaism. Traditional Judaism does not recognize Yeshua as the Messiah and tends to look suspiciously on any Jew who does recognize Yeshua as the Messiah. This often leads to divisions between families members as many of the Jewish members of the group were raised in traditional Jewish households. The holidays celebrated by the group are in accordance with the Bible, specifically Leviticus 23. This often leads to a conflict with some of the families of Gentile members of the group because although Christmas and Easter are recognized Christian holidays, they are not recognized by Judaism or members of Messianic Judaism (Reinckens II, 2005).

Remnant of Israel

The building at 3700 E. Pawnee in Wichita, Kansas, looks very similar to many others in the city. Subtle differences are noticed as one enters the parking lot on a rainy Friday evening. The small, lighted sign mentions this is a Messianic Synagogue in English and offers words unknown in what is assumed to be Hebrew. The marked parking spot with the blue mini-van simply states Rabbi. Entering the foyer one is greeted by two young ushers wearing kippahs and a "Shabbat Shalom." The usher nearest the sanctuary door opens it and motions for one to be seated. Walking into the sanctuary is similar to most Christian churches. Pews align both sides of the hall with walkways on the sides and center. Music fills the air as young adults and small children perform a rhythmic dance in a circular motion near the front of the sanctuary. The words are foreign but the music is familiar to many hymns heard in any Christian church. The adults in the congregation sing along with the dancing children and teenagers. Some of the adults are wrapped in prayer shawls and hold their hands toward heaven. This continues for several minutes until the end of the song is reached. The song leader changes the overhead display to show a new song - one side of the display is Hebrew, the other is English. The music starts again and the children resume their dance.

The end of the music signifies a break in the service. Children leave their dance circles and return to their parents. The rabbi mentions a few words and parents take children to their classes. One is greeted by smiles, welcoming handshakes, and "Shabbat Shalom" repeatedly as invitations to attend the after service festivities are extended. The rabbi signals the beginning of the next part of the service and everyone returns to his or her seats.

The rabbi begins his sermon and speaks of Moses, the Exodus from Egypt, and how his lack of faith denied him entry to the Promised Land. The rabbi mentions the life and teachings of Yeshua and how it relates to today's world. As one listens, additional items about this synagogue are noticed. A baptistery is located at the far end of the sanctuary. Menorahs



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