Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Ten Questions about Messianic Jews

Posted in: Theology

I often recieve questions about my Jewish 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.


Blogger M. Hipsley said...

You give a great example of begging the question (Doug would be so proud! - see his earlier post) When someone claims that a Messianic Jew cannot be a Jew religiously they beg the question by assuming a priori that to be Jewish religiously is to not belive in Yeshua. Fallacy! Great argument. Enjoyed reading it.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Glad you enjoyed it.

To be fair, I should point out that Jewish people do not always go the question-begging route on that issue. Some argue that it is objectively not the case that Yeshua is the Messiah, and only secondarily that believing in Him is a 'non-Jewish' thing to do. They'd argue that, even if it is not the case that He is the Messiah, it is okay, and even a good thing, that non-Jews believe in Him (if Christianity helps people be moral).

Usually, it boils down to the conventional use of the word "Jew" or "Jewish" in its religious context. This *would* also involve begging the question, but then again, convention doesn't always pretend to be an argument. Its just the way we speak. At that point, we'd note that convention isn't enough to sustain an objection against someone else's actual identity--ethnically, religiously, or otherwise.

12:49 PM  

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