There have been a great amount of books, articles and essays written on the topic of Judaism and Christianity. All of them discuss the most important aspects of both religions, however, a clear comparison of Judaism and Christianity is given in the book How Jewish Is Christianity: 2 Views on the Messianic Movement. The book was published in 2003, and the editors of it are Stanley Gundry and Louis Goldberg. The main goal of the authors, who participated in the creation of the book, was to give and discuss several perspectives concerning the Messianic movements in Judaism. The book is written as a discussion, in which six authors took turns in writing about the necessity of Messianic movements and congregations to the Jewish people. However, they pose a question if the followers of Judaism do not need Messianic movement, and if it brings only harm to the Jews, should they be separated as the different church? This matter will be discussed further in this paper.
All scientists and researchers, who studied Judaism and Christianity, came across the issue concerning the relationship between Christian Jews and Christian Church. As the second part of the title says views on Messianic Movement, the book indeed gives two views on this point, as the authors contributing to the book take different sides while discussing the problem.
Major characteristics of Messianic Movement
The book How Jewish Is Christianity: 2 Views on the Messianic Movement focuses on religious concerns of the modern world. It is well-known that such religion as Christianity has large congregation, however, there are a lot of so-called sub-congregations inside Christianity, which include, for example Orthodox, Conservative, Ultra-Orthodox and other movements. Messianic Movement is a movement of ethnic Jews, whose beliefs are different from the above mentioned movements. And the principle difference, which they posses, is the belief in the Messiah. Though all Jews believe in the Messiah, however, most of them think that the Messiah has not come yet, but he is to come and save them and Israel in future. However, Messianic Jews believe that the Messiah has already come. They believe that Jesus Christ or Yeshua was the Messiah sent by the God to save the people of Israel. So, a Messianic Jew is a person, who believes in Yeshua, who was born Jewish or was converted to this religion later in life.
The issue addressed in the book has been important for the world of Jews as early as the first century. At that time new believers did not know, but wanted to find out to what extent they should be Jewish, meaning what devotions they should practice in their religious life. As the time went by the conflict continued to arise, and by the twentieth century more Messianic congregations and movements started to appear, for example, such movement as Jews for Jesus. The authors of the book give such a number as 200 Messianic synagogues existing in the United States, while in Israel there are only about 60 of them. Thus, the main issue that arises is whether Jews, who believe in Jesus Christ as their Messiah, should be considered as truly Jews, or they give up on their prime religion and stop being Jewish.
There are several different opinions concerning the relations of Jewish and Christianity, however, the authors of the book How Jewish Is Christianity: 2 Views on the Messianic Movement concentrate their attention upon the two opinions. The first one is that there is no need for Messianic movement at all, and that the Jews can practice their religion without this movement. The second opinion rejects the first idea, and assumes that Messianic movement can exist separately from the rest of the Jews, creating its own congregation. However, it is necessary to emphasise that the majority of authors contributing to the study supported Messianic movement, and only one of them was anti-Messianic. That’s why it is somewhat difficult to understand the anti-Messianic movement, since only one author supported this idea.
Speaking about the Jewish world nowadays, it is necessary to emphasize that Messianic Jews, also named Jewish Christians or Hebrew Christians, still experience opposition from the side of Jews as well as from Christians. At first, Messianic Jews opposed to some of the Jewish customs and traditions, which caused a strong reaction to the growth of Messianic movement from the side of some missionary groups of Jews. That’s why it is possible to say, that Jewish people also opposed the movement. The roots of modern Messianic Judaism go back to the 19th century, to the foundation of the Hebrew Christian Alliance and Prayer Union of Great Britain, which was formed in 1866. In the USA a parallel group named the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America was established in 1915. By the end of the 20th century there had been about 165 independent Messianic congregations established all over the world. After the World War II Jewish Christians as they used to be called before, adopted another name for their congregations and started to be called Messianic Jews. As it has been mentioned above, there are a lot of congregations of Messianic Jews in the USA, Israel and other countries. It attracts married couples, who possess Christian and Jewish religious beliefs, because it provides them with comfortable religious environment for both a husband and a wife. Among the largest Messianic Judaism organizations is such movement as Jews for Jesus, which is now doing everything possible in order to attract new members among the Jews. The members of the Jews for Jesus consider themselves as Christians, however, they don’t accept any other religions, and treat non-Messianic Jews as unbelievers. The organization possesses an estimated $10 million dollars as its budget, and has nine branches across the USA and also in other countries.
Though Messianic Judaism still remains a part of Jewish religion, it is strongly opposed by the Jewish community as well as Christians. People who were converted to Judaism are considered to be lost for Judaism. Usually, the members of Messianic organizations are rejected by the families and excluded from the Jewish communities. Jews that believe in Yeshua are forbidden to return to Israel according to the law, and are considered to be belonging to another religion.
Some of Messianic organizations and movements have been blamed for controlling people’s minds, however, no exact evidence to prove this was found. But still, Messianic movement very much intrudes in the personal life of its members, and controls their behaviour. Though, the members of the movement deny this fact, employees of some Messianic groups are required to adhere to strict rules concerning their private life.
Having spoken about the book How Jewish Is Christianity: 2 Views on the Messianic Movement and some of the aspects concerning Messianic organizations and Jewish community it is necessary to make a conclusion. The contemporary Jewish world still faces some major issues, and conflict between the ordinary Jews and Messianic Jews appears to be one of them. Further propagation of Messianic Judaism will have a sizeable effect on Israel and Jewish community. From my point of view, if a person was born Jewish, he/she will remain Jewish if he wishes to in spite of what type of Judaism he/she believes. However, it is important to note that Messianic movement may have a detrimental effect on the culture of Jews, because some of Jews are called Messianic Jews, when indeed their religious beliefs remind more beliefs of Christianity rather than Judaism. As the amount of members in Messianic movement increases, there will less Jewish people that follow the beliefs of truly Judaism.