With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, a spiritual awakening continued taking place as Jews began returning home. This was the second of three waves of the awakenings, the third being the 1967 war that unified Jerusalem. During these awakenings, it was discovered that Messianic Judaism had not died out, but had in fact managed to survive. Messianic Jews had to choose between assimilating into the Christian church, or assimilate back into the Jewish church. Resisting this assimilation and recognizing the need to remain distinct, many “Hebrew Christians” began to meet together. By the 1970’s, they began forming their own congregations and building their own synagogues. In the quest to maintain (or reclaim) their Jewish identity, they opted for a name change and began using the term “Messianic Jews” in lieu of “Hebrew Christians.” Today, Messianic Judaism has spread around the globe and may be found in almost any area with a significant Jewish population.
Mar 7, 2015 | Posted by
What is it? What is it rooted in? Who started it? All good questions, and I’m sure there are many more, but I’m not going to answer every one because I can’t. I’m still learning about Messianic Judaism as I’m a wee bit green on the whole thing, but I’ve already gotten a firm grasp on the basics that this faith is built upon. Apparently, I’ve had them all along but I just didn’t know it. This is my description of Messianic Judaism as I have come to understand it.
A Wee Bit of History
Yeshua was born into Judaism. He was raised as a Jew, spent time in the synagogues and the temple, had his bar mitzvah, then began teaching in the temple. He honored and kept the sabbath, he observed Pesach (Passover), he obeyed the Torah, observed the laws of Moses and did everything that all Jewish males did. Not one time did Yeshua ever rebuke Judaism, convert from it to something else, nor did he ever speak against it. In fact, he spoke in favor of it and even declared that he did not come to destroy the law (of Moses) but to fulfill it. Yeshua was, in the flesh of a human, a Jew.
When Yeshua began building his church with the talmidim (disciples), he did not set out to start a new religion, but rather to bring fulfillment to Judaism as the Messiah of G-d’s chosen people. In every instance of his teaching the talmidim, Yeshua was building upon and enhancing the religion of Judaism. Yeshua’s Messiaship fulfilled prophecy and thus fundamentally changed the entire religion of Judaism, or at least, it should have. When the sanhedrin learned that the Messiah had come, they should have accepted him with open arms, but that did not happen because Adonai had hardened their hearts. Two things happened as direct results of this; first, Judaism as a whole did not fundamentally change (which lead to the second) and second, Messianic Judaism was born, because there were growing numbers of Jews who recognized and accepted Yeshua of Natzeret (Nazareth) as the legitimate Messiah.
In short, the Jewish church that already had several different sects (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, etc.) splintered into creation another sect originally called Nazarenes. These Nazarenes were considered heretics by other Jews because the Nazarenes dared to believe that Yeshua was in fact the Messiah. Yeshua’s followers would eventually become known as Messianic Jews. Unfortunately, the heretical attitude still exists to this day.
Throughout time the number of Gentiles following Yeshua increased greatly, far surpassing the number of Nazarenes who maintained their Jewish identities and remained active in the broader Jewish community. By the 7th century, however, Messianic Judaism had virtually disappeared.