Monday, July 02, 2007

Jews for Jesus

There was an article recently in the New York Post about evangelistic Messianic Jews. The organization, Jews for Jesus, has a mission of, "making the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to Jewish people worldwide." There was a couple of things I found interesting in the article. Let me start by saying that the only Messianic Jew that I personally know of is Judah Himango. We have disagreements from time to time, but that's alright. We are both very passionate about what we believe and don't mind sharing it with anyone who will listen. We both love Jesus and, by His Spirit, it will all be sorted out someday. He likes to use the Jewish names for God and Jesus and others mentioned in the Bible. I use the Greek names...I guess it comes down to tradition. Judah is bilingual, so communication isn't an issue.

That's why I found this statement in the article kind of interesting:

The group is loathed by many mainstream Jews. Washington area Jewish organizations and the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington have condemned the campaign, saying Jews for Jesus proselytizes too aggressively and misleads potential followers by using Jewish symbols, portraying their places of worship as synagogues and referring to Jesus by Hebrew names.

When Messianic Jews use the names and symbols that they are most comfortable with, they are accused of being deceptive. The ironic part is that they are using the actual Jewish names, not the transliterated versions that I use.

I also found this statement rather amusing:

"You don't dress up fundamentalist, evangelical Christian missionaries in Jewish clothing and call it Judaism,"

Just another way of saying "wolves in sheep's clothing." Calling someone an evangelical fundamentalist has become almost a universal insult...not that some of the criticism isn't deserved. I am not sure if the people that play that card even know what an evangelical fundamentalist is, they are playing the card to get the desired knee jerk reaction from the reader.

1 comment:

Judah Himango said...

Hi Gary,

We both love Jesus and, by His Spirit, it will all be sorted out someday.

Amen! That's a good way of putting it, Gary.

Judah is bilingual

I wish! I speak some Hebrew, but not enough to hold a conversation. I'm in the process of learning to speak it fluently, however.

Jews for Jesus [...] misleads potential followers [Jews] by using Jewish symbols, portraying their places of worship as synagogues and referring to Jesus by Hebrew names

Well, let's stop for a moment and return to reality. :-) I'm really in awe of the ignorance and backward-thinking spewed in that article. Let me address those points a bit...

Since Jesus was Jewish, and since all 12 disciples were Jewish, and since almost all the early church was Jewish, and since Paul was Jewish, and since almost every book of the New Testament was authored by Jews, it seems only natural to use Jewish symbols when believing in Messiah.

Believing in Messiah does not mean giving up one's Jewishness -- if that were the case, Jesus and his followers would've declared themselves gentiles and would've abandoned the Tenakh/Old Testament.

Instead, we read Messiah saying that anyone who breaks the least commandment in Torah and teaches others to do so will be considered least in God's kingdom. (Matthew 5)

The backwards part: the author seems to believe believing in Messiah makes one un-Jewish. But the reality is, believing in Messiah makes one part of Israel (Romans 11), it does not break you out of Israel. I understand the confusion by the author, however, given the current state of the western, gentile church, which is currently quite non-Jewish in nature and is confused as to whether it's replaced Israel.

On the topic of referring to Jesus by his Hebrew name, well, that's a no-brainer. Messiah's name wasn't Jesus. Y'shua (Hebrew shortened version of Yahoshua) was Messiah's given name, the name his followers would have used, the name is parents would've called Him by. The name Yahoshua literally means, "Yahweh Saves", or simply, "Yahweh's Salvation". That's cool. How fitting.

The name Jesus didn't come around until Middle English started becoming popular. Because ancient Greek has no 'Y' sound, the Greek translators did the best they could by replacing the Y with an I. So Yeshua became the Greek Iesuas. When Middle English rolled around, it became commonplace for masculine names to start with a J: James, John, and yes, Jesus. The Greek Iesuas became the English Jesuas, latter dropping the 'a', to finally become Jesus. Ironically, Hebrew has no J sound, so we've turned full circle now. :-)

Calling Messiah by his Hebrew name is simply natural, no deception or hidden agenda here.

For what it's worth, I have no problem with people calling Messiah by the name of Jesus, frankly I don't think God cares much either.

That the author misses this entirely in his ignorance of the real name of Jesus underlines further backward thinking.

As to Messianics referring to places of worship as synagogues, well, yeah. We're not churches, you won't see communion, big steeples, Latin Mass, Lent, Easter, or Christmas celebrations, big crosses or statues of Jesus in Messianic synagogues. If you're ever near Roswell, Georgia, check out my old Messianic synagogue and see for yourself. Most Messianic congregations I've been to follow the traditional Hebrew prayer recitals and rituals (lighting the Sabbath candles, Aaronic benediction, the Sh'ma, and so on). (Not saying those are all good things, frankly I don't care much at all for non-Scriptural ritual, Jewish or Christian.) The only real difference is that the people believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. They'll incorporate New Testament writings and Messiah-based songs into the service as well.

Meeting in synagogues is nothing foreign to Christianity, of course, although the author seems to think it is. The New Testament is filled with folks meeting in synagogues; take Acts 15, for example.

The "fundamentalist, evangelical Christian missionary" bit is absolutely knee-jerk journalism at its best. I can only imagine the sound of a thousand collect "ohhhhhhhhs" shouted by lost secular humanists as they read those lines about the terrible fundamentalist Christian missionaries. :-)