Messianic Judaism is a Biblically-based movement of people who, as committed Jews and Gentiles, believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah of Israel of whom the Torah and Prophets spoke.
In the first century A.D., tens of thousands of Jewish people followed Yeshua, believing Him to be the promised Messiah of Israel. They didn’t renounce their heritage, their customs, nor their people. They remained Jews.
Two thousand years later, hundreds of thousands of Jewish people still follow Yeshua, also believing that He is the Messiah. They, too, have not renounced their heritage, customs, nor their people. Today, Biblical Messianic Judaism is the modern movement that is bringing it all together, for Jews and Gentiles worshipping Yeshua together.
FIRST CENTURY BELIEVERS IN YESHUA
Two thousand years ago Yeshua was a Jew living among Jewish people. “Yeshua,” by which Jesus was called during his time on earth, is itself a Hebrew word for “Salvation.” Yeshua kept Torah, or the Law of Moses. He studied the Jewish Scriptures that many now know as the “Old Testament,” and read them aloud at the local synagogue on Shabbat (Luke 4:16). He was called rabbi (Teacher/Master) by his followers.
“Think not that I came to abolish the law and the prophets: I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Yeshua, Matthew 5:17
After His death and resurrection, His following increased. From the book of Acts and other historical evidence, many believe that in the first century A.D. hundreds of thousands of Jews followed His teachings (Acts 2:41, 2:47, 4:4, 6:7, 9:31, 21:20), and established Messianic Synagogues throughout the Roman Empire and beyond (James 1:1, 2:2).
One of the first debates these early disciples faced seems ironic to us now: Could non-Jews participate in the community of Yeshua’s followers without becoming Jews? At the very birth of Judaism, God had told Abraham that He would bless all nations of the earth through Abraham’s offspring (Genesis 12.3). Accordingly, the apostolic council in Acts 15 decided that non-Jews could follow Yeshua without converting to Judaism.
Many factors intervened in the following years. Believers in Yeshua suffered increased opposition from both Roman authorities and Jewish synagogue leaders. As more and more Gentiles came to accept this faith and as the original Jewish apostles passed away, the Jewishness of that first-century faith was gradually lost.
MODERN MESSIANIC JUDAISM
Though Messianic Judaism itself dates back to Yeshua’s twelve apostles, its “resurrection” is a relatively new phenomenon.
In the late 1800s, after several large-scale “revivals” among protestant believers in the United States and Europe, many Christians sought to tell Jewish people about Yeshua, or Jesus. Even as some Jewish people in Europe began to desire to return to the land of Israel and establish a permanent Jewish homeland there, the Lord stirred many Jews to look at the so-called “Christian Bible,” or New Testament Scriptures, for themselves.
Centuries of continuing anti-Semitism in the name of Jesus had left the Jewish community skeptical. But some Jewish men and women did become followers of Yeshua during this time. In the following decades whole congregations of Jewish believers in Jesus were born. This movement was dubbed “Hebrew Christianity.”
“They are the Israelites, and to them belong the Son-ship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Messiah!”- Rabbi Sha’ul (Apostle Paul), Romans 9:4-5).
“Hebrew Christianity” has since become known as “Messianic Judaism.” There are now tens of thousands of Messianic Jews in the United States alone; some estimate as many as 1.2 million. Messianic synagogues are springing up in almost every major city across the U.S., and Messianic Judaism is quickly growing in other nations throughout North and South America, Europe, Oceania, and the former Soviet republics.
Christianity later became the state religion of the Roman Empire. Eventually an anti-Semitic view of the Messiah’s life and death became accepted theology in Christian Europe for hundreds of years.
Messianic Jews recognize that their existence is entirely due to God’s intervention on behalf of His Jewish people. Messianic Judaism is part of the fulfillment of God’s many Scriptural promises of eternal love and faithfulness to Israel.
“Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah- not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19 Complete Jewish Bible
“Yeshua came and talked with them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 Complete Jewish Bible