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.
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).
The Messianic community was established as a Jewish-only movement and remained that way for about fifteen years. Then Gentiles entered the movement, beginning with the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). Even with Gentiles grafted in, the movement remained under the control of Jewish followers of Yeshua throughout the first century, and was viewed as a sect within Judaism (Acts 24:14).
We find throughout the Book of Acts, the book that recorded the practices of the early believers, that the Jew and Gentile talmidim (disciples) did not abandon Judaism (including the Torah) for some new religion. Nor did the Jewish disciples abandon the Jewish community at large, to which they were closely tied. The Book of Acts tells us that Yeshua’s followers kept the Shabbat (Acts 13:14, 13:44, 16:13, 17:2, 18:4), met daily in the Temple (Acts 5:42), went to synagogue regularly (Acts 9:20, 13:5, 19:8), participated in the daily times of prayer (Acts 3:1, 16:16), ate kosher food (Acts 10:9-14), and kept the feasts of: Shavuot (Acts 2:1, 20:16), Pesach/Matzot (Passover/Unleavened Bread) (Acts 12:3, 20:6) and Yom Kippur (Acts 27:9).
We also learn that Rabbi Sha’ul (Paul), whose writings are cited by Christians and traditional Jews as evidence that believers are to no longer keep the Torah of Moses (Moshe), took a Nazirite vow (Acts 18:18, 21:23), held a Havdalah service (Acts 20:7), lived his life according to Jewish customs (Acts 21:20-22, 28:17), remained zealous for the Torah of Moses (Moshe) (Acts 21:20, 24, 24:14), remained a Pharisee all of his believing life (23:6, 26:5), was accused by Gentiles of teaching Jewish customs (Acts 16:20-21), and even attempted to offer peace offerings (animal sacrifices) in the Temple (Acts 21:26, 24:17). All this after having becoming a follower of Yeshua.
Acts 21:20 states that tens of thousands of Jews believed in Yeshua (around 55 A.D.) and remained faithful to the Torah of Moses (Moshe). Historians substantiate this claim with their estimates that over one million Jews believed in Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah in the first century. Of this number, the Book of Acts reports that Pharisees (Acts 15:5) and many priests (Acts 6:7) were included.
Today, Biblical Messianic Judaism is the modern movement that is bringing it all together, for Jews and Gentiles worshipping Yeshua together.