Messianic Jews

Are Messianic Jews really Christians or Jews?

Or should this be in Great Debates?

Are these folks an offshoot of “Jews for Jesus?”

Most Jews wouldn’t consider them to be members of the community. Barring the simple fact of matralinial descent that is…

Jewish identity can be a real prickly problem, with Orthodox Jews not recognizing Reform Jews and such. (In certain instances, I’m not speaking for two entire sects.)

Messianic Jews = Jews for Jesus as far as I’m aware. Mostly, these are Christians who play Jewish dress up. Messianic Jews (who are not born to a Jewish mother) are not Jews, as recognized by any member of the Jewish community, from Orthodox on down to Reform. See below for more about matrilineal descent.

Jews for Jesus was founded by a Baptist minister and is undeniably an evangelical Protestant group with a goal of bringing Jews to Christ. Since belief in Christ as the Messiah (with a capital M – son of God and that business, clearly distinct from the little-m Old Testament messiah) is antithetical to the core concepts of Judaism and forms the core concept of Christianity, I think the definitive answer to the OP is “They are Christians.”

Second thing, to Finn Again. Orthodox Jews do recognize Reform Jews, provided they are born to a Jewish mother. Jewish matrilineal descent = Jewish no matter who is recognizing. If your mother is Jewish, it doesn’t matter if you are atheist, Messianic “Jew”, Catholic, Wiccan, or Lubavitch. Yer a Jew, albeit sometimes misguided. Now people converting to Judaism is a whole other ballgame, as are children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers. The be-all-and-end-all is an Orthodox conversion of you our your mother (before you were born). Everyone accepts that. Conservative and Reform conversions are highly dicey and unrecognized up the chain, including with the government of Israel.

This sounds like a GD to me.

Anyway, the Messianic Jewish movement (AKA Jews for Jesus) is an effort by the Baptist Church to convert Jews. The movement keeps just enough resemblence to actual Judiasm so that Jews may not realize what they are getting into. As this is not (yet) in GD, I won’t give my opinion on this strategy.

That said, Jewish law states that anyone who has a Jewish mother is Jewish. There is no mechanism for changing religions. Therefore, if someone with a Jewish mother joins the Messianic Jewish movement, they are still Jewish.

In general, Messianic Jews would be considered an odd Christian sect. Christianity, with its belief in the divinity of Jesus and the whole concept of the Trinity is in stark opposition to the Jewish religion.

Now, you will get an argument from several groups of Messianic Jews who were raised Jewish and have not given up many of the cultural (and, in many cases, liturgical) practices of Judaism, but you will not find any other Jewish groups accepting their claims to Judaism. Other Jews, who may fight among themselves, would pretty universally declare that Messianic Jews are apostates.

(We should also note that there are two “flavors” of Messianic Jews: the general group identified by that term are either Jews or Jewish converts who have chosen to adopt some Christian beliefs, either for their own reasons or after being evangelized by a Christian group. On the other hand, the Jews for Jesus group is explicitly a Christian group that was created for the express purpose of converting young Jews to Christianity. Its leader is a Baptist preacher whose grandparents may have been Jewish who claims to have returned to his Jewish roots, dragging his Chrisitianity with him. However, all his education and upbringing were Christian and he is pretty thoroughly despised by the Jewish community as dishonest.)

(I don’t think this needs to go to Great Debates unless some Messianic Jew or Jew for Jesus shows up to contest the consensus. The Jews reject them and the Christians (sometimes reluctantly) accept them; they are not a part of Judaism.)

Thanks for the replies so far!

I’m wondering WHY they don’t call themselves Christians and prefer to be associated with Judaism. I found a few Reform Jewish sites that made it seem like they accepted them as Jews.
I have found Messianic sites explaining that they are Jewish because they believe in the salvation of the world instead of personal salvation, but in the end isn’t that what Christianity is about also? But they believe in loving kindness and study of the Torah in addition to Jesus’s sacrifice for this salvation, but wouldn’t that be the same as “works”, which some Christians believe are necessary in addition to faith?

I’m just trying to understand their beliefs. I’m a heathen myself! :wink:

Thet can and often are ethnically Jewish but religously they are Christians. They are not recognized as Jewish by any of the established schools of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative or Reform) and they are not recognized as Jewish or granted right of return by the State of Israel.

A belief in a divine Jesus is theologically irreconcilable with Judiasm.

They don’t call themselve Christians because the whole thing is really just a tactic for converting Jews to Christianity.

So they are definitely not Jews, but does that make them definitely Christians? If so why are they denying it?

Then again are they really Christian if they don’t believe in personal salvation?

Really I’m not trying to start any debate, I just don’t understand. Are they ashamed? I was reading about how they were following the Nazarenes. Why don’t they just call themselves Nazarene?

So in effect they really are all Jews for Jesus, the Christian organization? I guess I had it in my head they were all just ethnic Jews that had converted to Christianity and that Messianics were a different lot.

really stupid question:

What’s a “Messianic Jew?”

Someone who believes that the messiach will re-establish the Temple, or someone who believes that person was Jesus?, or what?

There are Messianic Jews who are not associated with the Jews for Jesus organization. However, they are a rather scattered lot with no strong organization. I have not encountered any who claimed to not be Christian; they simply emphasized that (in their minds, rather than in the view of the Jewish communities) they had not “given up” Judaism.

Given their disparate natures, I suspect that you would have to talk to each group individually to determine their exact views on various topics–and I suspect that you would find any number of inconsistencies among their views. (Not that any individual group would hold self-contradicting doctrines, but that under the “Messianic Jew” umbrella, you would find different groups whose beliefs were in conflict with other similarly identified groups.)

True. A Jew could at most hold Jesus was a prophet, and his message was distorted by followers.

Not a stupid question. If you drop “messianic Jew” into Google™ you will come up with several sites that offer somewhat different versions (which is what leads to the problems addressing the OP, since there is not one “official” version of their beliefs). Generally they accept some version of the story of Jesus of Nazareth as having been a true prophet and the messiah, with somewhat variant ideas of just what that means in terms of their “Jewish” faith.

Messianic Jews are Christian because they believe that Jesus (sometimes spelled Yeshua or Y’shua) is the Messiah. To the best of my knowledge, the Messianic Jewish relationship with Jesus does not differ in any significant way from the Christian relationship with Jesus - “he’s the Messiah, you’d better believe it.”

Regarding the term “Nazarene”, isn’t there already a “Church of the Nazarene” that explicitly identifies as Christian? The founders of JFJ might also have felt that “Nazarene” was a rather obscure term, unlikely to attract modern-day Jews to their movement.

I think another poster put it best in describing the movement as Christians playing Jewish dress-up. I can think of two reasons why Christians might be attracted to this movement:

Cynical: Some Christians regard Jews as conversion fodder, and they may believe that by appearing Jewish, they gain greater access to people who practice normative Judaism.

Less cynical: Some Christians may reason that since Jesus was a Jew, they can be more like Jesus, and therefore more authentically Christian, by adopting some Jewish practices. Some avowedly Christian denominations do in fact impose upon themselve restrictions similar to those found in (normative) Judaism, such as avoidance of blood products (or blood in food) and a Saturday Sabbath.

That’s why I included the qualifier.

Wikipedia artcle on the mainstream Jewish belief in the future messiah:

And ‘below’ means a rather long article on the differences in belief among Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews. There is also a very brief note on why Jews don’t consider Jesus to have been the Real Thing.

Aside from the question of whether Jesus was the Messiah, the larger issue for Judaism is that the Jewish Messiah is not supposed to be God, but just a human kin, specicifically the heir to the throne of David. The worship of any Messiah as God, be he Jesus or anyone else, is antithetcal to Jewish belief and is essentially regarded as idolotry.

Just to throw an anecdotal data point in here, I have a friend that would loosely conform to the above. He considers himself ethnically Jewish ( well…Scottish-Jewish, anyway :wink: ) as his mother is Jewish. Since his conversion to Evangelical Protestantism, he has a tendency to occasionally self-describe as a Messianic Jew.

But he was never Jewish by religion ( he was raised in a loosely ‘culturally Christian’ household and was an agnostic/atheist as a younger man ) and feels no particular ties to it, beyond his belief that Jews are the chosen people of God. He is intensely interested in his Moldavian-Jewish heritage in terms of genealogy, but feels no particular cultural affinity beyond that. He is also not associated with Jews for Jesus in any way. Though he attends a conservative Baptist church, he is surprisingly liberal politically ( he still considers himself an at least quasi-socialist ), quite out of step in that regard with almost all of the rest of his congregation and theologically/denominationally considers himself closest to conservative Quakerism ( though he does not share a pacifist credo ).

  • Tamerlane