Messianic Judaism

Messianic Judaism
   Messianic Judaism is a Protestant movement that emerged in the last half of the 20th century among believers who were ethnically Jewish but had adopted an Evangelical Christian faith. Protestants had pursued efforts to evangelize Jewish people since the 19th century, but the Jewish missions always assumed that converts would be integrated into the larger world of Gentile believers, and would abandon Jewish culture and language. Jewish evangelists, however, continued to use many Hebrew words and names, for example calling Jesus Yeshua and the Hebrew scripture Tenach. They would also refuse to pronounce the name of the deity and instead referred to G-d or Y - h.
   By the mid-20th century, many ethnic Jewish believers had begun to think about culture as a separate category from faith. By the 1960s, a new effort to create a culturally Jewish Protestant Christianity emerged among individuals who began to call themselves Messianic Jews. such individuals considered themselves to be fully Jewish (though Jewish communities tended to disown any Jew who converted to Christianity). They continued to maintain a Jewish lifestyle, by celebrating traditional Jewish holidays such as Passover and observing those customs that did not contradict the New Testament.
   In 1975, the new movement captured control of the Hebrew Christian Alliance, one of the older organizations dedicated to evangelism among the Jewish population of America. The movement was influenced by Jews for Jesus, which is also interested in the Jewish cultural heritage, but unlike that organization, Messianic Jews form their own congregations, which they term synagogues. This development has most angered traditional Jewish leaders, who suggest that Messianic Jews deceive potential converts by implying that their synagogues still practice Judaism.
   Messianic Jews have adopted an Evangelical Christian perspective (some from the Reformed tradition and some from the Pentecostal). They emphasize EsCHATOLOGY, especially the role of the Jewish people in the end-time scenario. In the 1970s and 1980s, many of them joined in the speculation popularized by Baptist minister Hal Lindsey that the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 was the beginning of the last generation before Christ's return in 1988.
   The Messianic movement has been strongest in the United States and Canada, but has been exported to other countries with a significant Jewish presence, such as England, France, and Argentina. Believers have had a number of confrontations with Israeli authorities as individuals have unsuccessfully tried to become Israeli citizens under Israel's Law of Return.
   Messianic Jews have formed a set of congregational associations representing their various Jewish backgrounds (Orthodox, Reform) and Christian perspectives (Pentecostal, non-Pentecostal). The largest group is the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations. Non-Pentecostal congregations have affiliated with the Fellowship of Messianic Jewish Congregations.
   Further reading:
   ■ Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Hebrew Christianity: Its Theology, History, and Philosophy (Washington, D.C.: Canon, 1974)
   ■ Philip E. Goble, Everything You Need to Know to Grow a Messianic Yeshiva (South Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1974)
   ■ Carol Harris-Shapiro, Messianic Judaism: A Rabbi's Journey through Religious Change in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999)
   ■ Paul Liberman, The Fig Tree Blossoms: Messianic Judaism Emerges (Harrison, Ark.: Fountain, 1976)
   ■ David Rausch, Messianic Judaism: Its History, Theology and Polity (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edward Mellen Press, 1982).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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