Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

09/16/2009 (11:47 am)

Messianic Jews in Israel

This video, a 9-minute newscast from Israeli TV, is particularly meaningful to me, as these Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) are taking a leap that I took, myself, almost 40 years ago. I did have the option of continuing to call myself Jewish, and in fact I do at times, but I decided back then in 1973 that no truly valuable purpose was served by drawing attention to myself, making a huge issue among the Christians of the fact that I was raised in a Jewish home.

The situation of Israeli Yeshua-believers — Messianic Jews, they’re called, Jews who believe the Messiah has already come — is different from mine, though. Israel is predominantly Jewish with an attitude. Jews who welcome Jesus in any form are open to the charge of cultural treason. I faced a little of this, myself, but these folks don’t have a large, non-Jewish population into which they may escape.


As Christians go, I’m steadfastly and deliberately aloof when I encounter talk of the end-times, the branch of theology called Eschatology. Attempting to predict the future based on arcane prophetic utterances strikes me as an enormous waste of time, given that the batting average of man’s attempts to interpret prophecies before they have come to pass is .000. When people ask me what I think about the topic, I paraphrase Luke 12 at them: “Blessed is that servant whom the Master finds so doing when he comes.” I figure so long as I do what God commands me to do right now, and keep doing that, I’m as prepared as I can be for His return, and that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

That being said, the appearance of a Messianic Judaism in Israel is a remarkable event, and does comport with Biblical predictions about the end of times. Take that for what you will.

All four of my children attend a Messianic congregation in Philadelphia called Beth Yeshua (“House of Jesus.”)

I recognized only a handful of the songs in the video. The last one is not Messianic; it’s a traditional hymn from the Sabbath service, added, I’m sure, to emphasize that these Jews maintain traditional practice. I always liked that song; it welcomes the ministering angels on the Sabbath:

Peace unto you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High, the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

May your coming be in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High (etc.)

Bless me with peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High (etc.)

May your departure be in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High (etc.)

« « Signs of the Times | Main | The Audacity of Hos » »


September 16, 2009 @ 1:28 pm #


That was a very informative video. And I didn’t realize your background was Jewish as well. Thanks for sharing both.

What a wonderfully ‘dangerous’ idea for Jewish people to realize that belief in Yeshua is at its heart a very Jewish thing to do.

An easy prediction is that there will be an increase in the persecution as the numbers of believers grow. But, instead of it scattering these people to “Judea and Sameria” like in the first century, I think God has other ideas this time around.

September 16, 2009 @ 4:27 pm #

I didn’t realize your background was Jewish as well.

This would be because “Weingart” is so common a name among the Irish. 😉

Sorry, just tweaking. “Weingart” is actually an Ellis Island name, an Americanized version of a name given to immigrants because the real family name was too difficult for the Customs inspectors to spell or even hear properly. I’m told my real family name is “Vinogradov” and comes from Lithuania. My ancestors, both paternal and maternal, came over around the turn of the 20th century, driven out of Europe by pogroms (official persecutions of the “Christ-killers.”) My father’s mother’s father was one of the first Rabbis to translate the Talmud into English, or so family lore claims (and his headstone reads, in Hebrew, “Jacob Kadushin, the English Scholar.”) My mother’s mother’s father was considered “the Jewish Pope of Brooklyn.” Lots of piety in the family. My conversion was, as you might imagine, quite the scandal.

September 16, 2009 @ 1:29 pm #

That would be: ‘Samaria’

September 16, 2009 @ 6:00 pm #

As I understand it you are twice blessed. You are one of God’s chosen people who believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us have only been adopted, we will always be Gentiles. Messianic Jews must be those who follow the law as given by Moses but also still accept Jesus as their savior. This would seem right because Jesus himself said “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” The Law of Moses does not apply to Christians but it still would apply to Jews. I hope I have this right. Dale…

September 16, 2009 @ 6:38 pm #

Great stuff Phil and I loved the video. What is interesting is that our congregation is having a Messianic Jew come and speak in a couple of weeks, which got my wife and I talking about attending a Messianic Jewish Temple service in town. We found one to go to and they conduct their services on Saturday, so in a few weeks we are planning on going and fellowshipping with them. I’m pretty excited about doing that. 🙂

September 16, 2009 @ 8:28 pm #

Seems to me Dale’s got it just right. The first Christians were not identified as “Christians” at all; they were Jews who were followers of “The Way” of Jesus their true Messiah. They didn’t have to give up the form of their religion; they could in fact, through Christ, find the fulfillment of that form. For the Jews are still to be representatives of God in this world. And how much more so in the light of Christ?!

Even so, no one (including the Jews) should be putting their trust in the Law itself as their way of salvation. It’s to be more their way of expressing their salvation in Christ. (That would be my way of putting it at least.)

Gentiles specifically have no requirement or expectation of even having to keep the outward form of the Jewish religion. This frees us up to bring something of our own cultures into the light of Jesus Christ. And it’s going to make heaven most interesting.

September 17, 2009 @ 10:23 pm #

So, Phil, in these Messianic Jewish groups, what do they do differently from “ordinary” Christians? Do they baptize? Do they celebrate Holy Communion? Do they accept the New Testament? Or is “accepting that the Messiah has come” something else?

Perhaps the workings of the congregation in Philadelphia might be useful if a specific example is needed.

September 18, 2009 @ 7:18 am #

Dr. D,

I can’t speak for the Israeli groups, because I only know what I heard in the video. However, I do know that there are several confederations of Messianic congregations in America (some of which aim at a worldwide presence), and if the Israeli groups are associated with them, then what I say about the American groups applies to them.

The groups I know about in the states are all more or less traditional Evangelicals with a Pentecostal bent; you’d see something very similar in a lot of the churches people call “non-denominational”. Their theology will be plain vanilla Evangelical/Charismatic for the most part; if you’re a student of Christian theology, think “neo-Pentecostal.” I have seen a few fringe congregations that go overboard in the direction of the Jewish law and ought to be regarded as Judaizers, but they’re rare and not very successful. The mainstream Messianics do everything ordinary Protestants do, as far as core sacraments go. They believe the New Testament.

The differences are mostly in the liturgy: the Messianics that I know attempt to do as much of the traditional Conservative Jewish sabbath service as possible, but they blend in enough of the Evangelical liturgy to make themselves feel like they’re still holding a Protestant church service. The service will include traditional Jewish prayers and songs for the sabbath, responsive readings of the Psalms (leader reads a verse, congregation responds with the next verse, etc.,) lighting of sabbath candles, and reading from the scrolls of the Torah. However, they’ll also sing some songs you’d hear in any modern, Protestant service (think Michael W. Smith or Chris Tomlin), and there will be a more or less ordinary sermon, only the New Testament characters will be called by their Hebrew names (the Apostle Paul becomes “Rev Shaul,” for example.) Most of the men wear yarmulkes and tallises (prayer shawls,) and some of the women cover their heads during services in traditional Jewish fashion, but neither is required. A few of the families keep kosher, again not required. When my son got married, they performed the service under a traditional Jewish canopy, called a “Khupah.” So, they’re trying to keep the same traditions kept by modern, American Jews, but they think and believe like conservative American Protestants.

September 18, 2009 @ 1:05 pm #

Very interesting description, Phil. Judaizers was the first thing that popped into my head as I read about them and watched the video, particularly with the emphasis on circumcisions.

A couple of other questions, please.

Do they worship on Friday evenings, Saturdays, or Sundays?

What sort of Bible do they read that speaks of the Apostle Paul as Rev Shaul? What version would that be? Or do they simply transliterate on the fly?

How do they see themselves in relation to the early Church, the Church of the first five centuries that gave us the Creeds and the Ecumenical Councils?

September 18, 2009 @ 2:56 pm #

Dr. D,

The folks I know worship on Saturday, which is the traditional Jewish sabbath. I think they’ve also had Friday night services, again the traditional Jewish sabbath.

The use of Hebrew names for New Testament characters is done on the fly. They use standard English translations for the New Testament (NIV and so forth.)

I’m not sure what you’re after with your last question. They see themselves as modern Jews who love Jesus, but nearly all of them met Jesus in an American Protestant Evangelical (APE) setting, so they think and practice like APEs (not trying to be nasty with the acronym, it just came out that way.) Like nearly all of those, their knowledge of early, creedal Christianity is sketchy at best, but they hold to orthodoxy as they understand it, same as all APEs — closed canon, verbal and plenary inerrancy, trinitarian, strong Christology, and so forth. There are some who fashion themselves Rabbis among them, and I’ve run across a few who love to play with Eschatology, but to be candid, I’ve never met a Messianic who was all that much of a serious theologian.

September 18, 2009 @ 5:34 pm #

Again, thanks for the insight, Phil.

In the last question, I was trying to get some idea of how they might see themselves with respect to the issues that rocked the Christian Church during the first few centuries, the issues that led to the calling of the great Ecumenical Councils and their results. I suppose one way to get at that might be to ask where would they stand on something like the Nicene Creed? The Athanasian Creed? (I realize that a lot of Protestants choke on the last one.)

Why do you think that they were drawn to the Evangelical Protestant model rather than to either Eastern or Western Orthodoxy (Constantinople or Rome)? Is it the charismatic, pentecostal flavor that attracts? If so, why do you think that would be?

September 19, 2009 @ 12:13 pm #

Dr. D,

I think the charismatic factor is very powerful, yes. There’s no felt presence in Jewish worship, it’s all about tradition and personal preference, and there’s no power, it’s all about what you choose to do on your own. I know that in my own case, encountering the manifest presence of God was crucial; it represented something real that I had to incorporate into my belief structure if I was going to be honest. Jews are pragmatic; if they encounter something real and powerful, they immediately say, “Ok, what do I do about THAT?” Plus, it pretty much takes a power encounter to move a Jewish person into Christianity, because most of them are so hostile to the idea from upbringing, and won’t change unless given a very powerful kick that says “I’m God, I’m real, and I’m after YOU.” Even though Jews are cordial toward Christians (in a surly fashion,) and function well among them, they pretty much view Christianity as The Enemy, and feel that conversion is betrayal.

There’s another factor of upbringing, and that’s that most American Jews are brought up thinking “Christian = Pope,” and are much more comfortable, on the day they’re converted, when they learn that Protestants don’t have to pay any attention to the Pope. Seriously, what the average American Jew knows about the particulars of Christianity can be written on the back of a postcard.

The Greek Orthodox simply don’t reach out much, which is why they don’t come into the picture. That’s actually unfortunate, because it turns out that Eastern Orthodox liturgy feels almost identical to traditional Jewish liturgy, and Jews would naturally feel very comfortable in that setting. That’s not accidental, it’s INcidental — Eastern Orthodox liturgy is deliberately based on their understanding of 1st century Jewish temple worship.

As to the creeds, like I said, I don’t know any Messianics that are particularly strong systematic theologians, so I’ve never heard a discussion of the creeds in that setting. That may be a cultural disposition, as I suspect most Jews, being pragmatic by nature and training, care a lot less about whether their systematic theology is correct than about whether their conduct is correct. It might be a “moving to China” phenomenon: if you move from the US to China, you’re not likely to notice the differences between Nanking and Beijing, because it’s all so foreign — or if you do, it’s interesting but not particularly meaningful. I think Jews are more apt to be ecstatic over discovering that God is REAL and TALKS TO ME than they are over the particulars of how the Church expresses the nature of the God-Man. But I could just be describing myself, here.

September 20, 2009 @ 5:11 pm #

Thanks, Phil. That is very interesting.

July 1, 2011 @ 12:04 am #

We would like to make clear to all for the purpose of enlightening some of the misinterpretations made by many literal gentile scholars in the God master plan of the Holy bible and one of these misinterpretation concerns the commissionship plan of God, not knowing that it is not a universal ministry but was only covenanted to all chosen Israelites (both Jews & Israelites) the authority to minister the WORD or preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to disperse countrymen, Mt. 1:21 & Mt. 15:24 for the duration of the 2000 years. Acts 10:34-43; these preachers are the “remnant of Israel chosen by Grace” as testified in Rom. 11:1-7 and Rom. 9:3-7. These are the only “Baptized” disciples (Mt. 28:19) by Holy Spirit. And the complete number of these chosen disciples is found in Rev. 7:1-8 & 14:1-5, which was prophesied in Exo. 19:6, as the Kingdom of Priesthood . Now, to update your knowledge regarding the TRUTH of the God universal religion plan of the Holy Bible, we all knew that the first legal covenant religion of God was the Edenic covenant of God to Adam unto his righteous seed. And, the last legal religion of Old Testament was Judaism. Then followed by the N.T., the Messianic kingdom of priesthood, or Days of the Lord Judgment as the only legal religion by Jesus Christ Holy Spirit,which is also the Promised Covenant of God to Jacob Kingship Salvation (Lk 1:33), which ended last 1993. And after this, comes the 2nd Advent, Night Covenant, the Hour Judgment of God or Eternal Age (Mk. 10:30) and according to Moises was “Hour of Redemption”, wherein the Father (Adam) reign, who have the sole authority to reveal the “ Days and Hour ” (in God count) as judgment covenant Plan of God for one salvation (Mt. 24:36 & Jer. 33:20-22). Thus, the prophesy was fulfilled and we are proclaiming the Eternal Age or Night Covenant or Hour Judgment to all unto the end. And we also proclaim that the fulfilled 2nd Advent of the Son of Man is also the Adam & Enoch prophesied return for the salvation covenant of all literal gentile (?).

August 5, 2011 @ 2:26 pm #

I M back. Actually, I have been back for quite some time. Currently I M living in Michigan with my kin.

I read some of this blog before I got to this point. Some of y’all have some really screwed up theological ideas.

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