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10 reasons why (Messianic) Jewish Christians find it hard to leave Christianity

November 5, 2014

jesus-yokeBelow are 10 reasons why some Jewish Christians (Messianic Jews) find it hard to leave Christianity and Jesus behind. The list is composed based on my personal experience as well as years of observing other Messianic Jews/Jewish Christians (both current and former ones).

1. Fear of eternal damnation in hell that Jesus reserved for those who refused to believe in him.

The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)

2. After investing so much of one’s life into Jesus and Christianity, leaving the Jewish community for the Church and alienating one’s Jewish family and friends, after trying to convert others to Christianity, a Jewish Christian often finds it very hard to acknowledge being so wrong.

3. Appeal of universalism in the Christian message (as expressed in the New Testament, especially the letters attributed to Paul) vs. Judaism’s faith that is seen as only centered on Israel’s relationship with her G-d (although Judaism always had a universal message). A Jewish Christian / Messianic Jew looks around and is impressed with the spread of Christianity and its 2.5 billion followers, while Judaism is small and universally despised. He equates (and is awed by) the influence of the Western civilization and Catholicism on the world (e.g. the Gregorian calendar starts with the year of Jesus’ supposed birth!) with the influence of Jesus.

4. Rejection of ongoing validity of “rabbinic” Judaism, authority of its sages and its post-first-century Jewish writings. This is often contributed to by one’s secular upbringing, common among many Jews born in the last century or who attended liberal Jewish institutions. Also, after converting to Christianity, the Jewish Christian sees the Church (or the Messianic / Hebraic version of it) as having taken the mantle of authority from the Jewish leaders. Many Jewish Christians / Messianic Jews also can’t help but view Judaism through the lens of the New Testament’s animosity and vitriol toward Pharisees. They view Judaism as legalistic, backward, petty, unloving, racist, boring and in some cases, under New Testament’s influence, as demonic.

You [religious Jews who don’t believe in me] belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

5.  A Jewish Christian feels that he or shes owes Jesus his or her very eternal life for dying in one’s stead. To leave Jesus is to betray him, to spurn his “gift” and to grieve Jesus (a.k.a. “god”).

6. Appeal of New Testament’s romantic portrayal of Jesus and refusal to view Jesus critically. A Jewish Christian/Messianic Jew wonders how can a person that is portrayed as so “sinless”, so loving of the downtrodden, so condemning of sin and of wicked Jewish leaders, be possibly himself a gross sinner against the very G-d he claimed to be “THE SON” of (e.g. a false prophet who prophesied falsely and whose teachings led Gentiles world over to worshiping him instead of G-d of Israel alone).

7. Lack of Jewish upbringing, bad early experience in a Jewish community and ignorance of Judaism’s fundamentals often alienates a Jewish person and drives him or her toward other religions or no religion at all. An average Messianic Jew feels very out of place in a mainstream synagogue and in a mainstream Jewish community. Not being able to read biblical Hebrew, a Jewish Christian is forced to rely on Christian (mis)translations of the Bible. He places his trust in distorted, mistranslated and out of context New Testament quotes of the Jewish scriptures (looking for “Jesus prophecies”).

8. Not understanding the role a true Messiah is to play in Judaism vs the man-god Savior “messiah” of Christianity. Jesus/Yeshua is viewed as fully G-d in the flesh and loyalty to Jesus is put on the par with the G-d of Israel.

9. Believing that subjective happenings, spiritual experiences, “visions”, or feelings are “confirmations” of Jesus’ deity, truth and authority. This is especially common among those Messianic Jews/Hebrew Christians who are emotionally predisposed and who are entangled in the Charismatic Movement.

10. Intermarriage and assimilation into non-Jewish society and Christian environment. A Jewish Christian (Messianic Jew) is nearly always intermarried to a Gentile Christian. Even for Jewish Christians in Israel, and especially for their leaders (according to a survey that came out a few years back during one of the messianic conferences), where one would expect that Jewish Christians would at least find other Jewish Christians to marry, the intermarriage rate runs into the 80 and 90%+. Children (who would not be considered halachically Jewish if the mother is not) of Messianic Jews attend Christian schools and closely associate with other “believers”. Their circle of friends is also overwhelmingly not Jewish, including for those who identify as “Messianic Jews” and attend a messianic “synagogue” (since most of the membership is non-Jewish). The prospect of angering (or even losing!) one’s spouse, in-laws, friends and even children if one were to leave Christianity and Jesus behind is not something that a Jewish Christian would consider lightly.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. November 7, 2014 2:12 pm

    Gene…my good friend is (jewish) he was a follower of Christianity / Messianic Judaism and when he shared with me that he no longer believes Yeshua is the Messiah, I asked him to share why and your “Top 10” is similar to his… I saw/see where he was/is coming from , but I disagree with accusing the followers of Yeshua/Jesus as a way to discredit him (Jesus)…. Ghandi was quoted as saying “I like your Christ but not your Christians, your Christians are so unlike your Christ” …. Seeing and speaking with my friend who’s returned back to his Jewish roots, I will say he appears more focused then ever…. He also has the support of other Jews who ask for his services (His a Sofer or Scribe for those who don’t know)…. You guys do a great job of sticking together and a core base of understanding the tenants of your faith….. Not to mention the strictness/loving/joyous way you carry out Judaism …. I personally feel many Christians are pacifist and seek to compromise the truth to be accepted by the many or to “save souls” …. This goes beyond being “nice and respectful” because you have atheist who are more just and nice/respectful then most religious affiliations.

    But like I said.. It’s not proper to discredit The TORAH made flesh (not G-d) made flesh … Because the followers don’t fully understand or accept His Jewish origination.

    But I do agree with some of every point you made.

  2. November 7, 2014 2:28 pm

    BG, thanks for your thoughtful comment. It’s also refreshing to see that you are still good friends with the former Messianic Jew and that his returning to the faith of his forefathers has not soured you to him. For that I commend you!

    “It’s not proper to discredit The TORAH made flesh (not G-d) made flesh”

    I am fully aware that the Jewish rejection of Jesus as either G-d, Messiah or “Torah made flesh” is quite upsetting to many Christians. It used to upset me as well, and no doubt it also did your Jewish friend when he was a Jesus-believer. There’s, however, really no way to do away with such offense. You see, to Jews Jesus was a mere human being and one with a very poor reputation as a false messiah and an outright false prophet.

    Perhaps the actual person upon whom the NT’s Jesus was based did not teach or do many of the things New Testament attributes to him. There’s no way to know for sure this side of eternity. However, the Jesus that we do know from New Testament and Paul’s concept of him fully deserves the Jewish discrediting of him. It’s not only fully warranted it is in fact absolutely necessary in order to prevent idolatry, apostasy and chasing after futile things.

  3. November 7, 2014 3:10 pm

    In your opinion if most in christianity approached Jesus as Chabad does Rebbe Nachman of Breslov would the jewish community be more embracing of he (Jesus)?

  4. November 7, 2014 3:28 pm

    BG, it’s hard to tell today – there a lot of history “under the bridge”. Perhaps the Jewish community WAS already at one point, very early on, “more embracing”. I am talking of the time before the creation of the New Testament and before Paul propagated the new religion for the Gentiles, when there was such a thing as “Jewish Christianity” whose adherents were still very much within the bounds of mainstream Judaism and Jesus was viewed as merely another potential (if he proved himself by fulfilling messianic prophecies and other specific qualification) or failed messianic candidate (if he never qualified because of genealogy or died without accomplishing what a messiah was expected to).

  5. Concerned Reader permalink
    November 9, 2014 4:17 pm

    Gene, I agree with you definitely that there is a lot of history under the bridge, but don’t you think it’s a little historically fragile from a pure evidence based standpoint to say that Paul invented Christianity (christologicaly speaking) whole cloth based on the dating of the sources? Paul’s texts are the earliest we posses, 60s-70s (deity of Christ is almost entirely explicit) John written in the 90s, has John 1:1, then we have the Torah Observant ebionite gospel,

    “c. 100-150 C.E. The only remaining fragments of the Gospel of the Ebionites are preserved in the form of citations by the church father Epiphanius in the latter part of the fourth century. Unfortunately, he is a rather hostile witness to the traditions contained therein, and his statements are at times confusing or contradictory.

    The Ebionites were Greek-speaking Jewish-Christians who lived east of the Jordan, though Epiphanius oddly refers to the work as the “Hebrew” gospel and considers it to be a modified version of Matthew. More accurately, it appears to be a harmony of all the synoptic gospels, with some subtle changes to reflect the writers’ theology. Most importantly, the Ebionites believed in an “adoptionist” Christology—that Jesus was fully human, but was chosen as the son of God at his baptism. However, Epiphanius also states that they believed Jesus to have been “created like one of the archangels.” The gospel also makes vegetarians of Jesus and John the Baptist by modifying Luke 22:15, and changing the Baptist’s diet from locusts (Greek=akris) to cake (egkris).”

    It seems at least plausible in light of the dates, and also in light of the later replication of Jesus like messianism, ie Breslov and Chabad, that this theology developed very early in an observant Jewish setting.

  6. November 10, 2014 12:49 pm

    “The Ebionites were Greek-speaking Jewish-Christians”

    CR, did I mention Ebionites in my comment? (although doesn’t even NT speak of Greek-speaking Jews present in the “Jerusalem Church”, Acts 6:1)?

    “It seems at least plausible in light of the dates, and also in light of the later replication of Jesus like messianism, ie Breslov and Chabad, that this theology developed very early in an observant Jewish setting.”

    As I already told you elsewhere, Jesus’ messianism is not replicated by anyone (except by the numerous Christian cult leaders who claimed to be Jesus). That he or his first followers were Jews who put him forth as messianic candidate within a Jewish milieu is quite obvious and is not news to anyone. But although he tried to play a Jewish messiah, he was not the “model” on which other false “messiahs” were based (to your comment, neither Breslov and Chabad Rebbes ever claimed themselves to be messiahs), except in the minds of Christians like yourself. He followed the pattern of other failed messiahs before him – a charismatic personality, gathering followers around himself, being confronted by both authorities and the Romans, having wild stories written about him, being executed as an insurrectionist etc. What separates JC from other false messiahs which came before him and the ones after him is his deification by the Roman Catholic church. And that’s when Christianity went from Jewish messianism and into Gentile idolatry.

  7. Concerned Reader permalink
    November 10, 2014 7:58 pm

    So there aren’t chabadniks who hold similar messianic ideas concerning the rebbe? This is just flat inaccurate information on your part Gene. I mean that respectfully btw. The messianism surrounding Abraham Abulafia, rebbe Nachman, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, all bear striking similarity to Christian messianism.

  8. Concerned Reader permalink
    November 10, 2014 8:00 pm

    The only problem with your hypothesis about “gentile deification,” is that sources predating Constantine all speak of Jesus in these terms.

  9. November 10, 2014 8:25 pm

    There is no such thing as “Christian messianism”, CR. Christianity rejected the Jewish messianic understanding and replaced it with a dying man-god who came down from heaven. There is only Christian demigod savior religion. Also, the “messiahs” you listed have nothing to do with the actual future messiah, since they were not messiahs, nor even saw themselves as such, and neither did the majority of their followers. Therefore, any passing resemblance to Jesus that you seek to find in them is irrelevant.

  10. November 17, 2014 5:55 am

    Gene

    Point 10 is interesting. If the messianic Jews continue intermarriage with non Jewish people, how exactly are they going to continue the idea that they are even (however vaguely) Jewish? Perhaps they’ll ditch the Jewish bit from the title “messianic Judaism”? That’d be a good and refreshing start and it’d just formally become -as it is already-a branch of evangelical Christianity with some Jewish references (I’ve read that there are more gentiles than Jews belonging to this religion). Of course this would hurt their proselytizing viz the Jewish community, but all the better as far as I’m concerned.

    As to how Jews respond to those who have been lost to us and wish to return to Judaism(or even those who wish to know about Judaism who are gentiles). I think there needs to be a willingness to embrace these people, if they in turn do genuinely desire to embrace Torah Judaism, to do teshuvah (return) although some may have to formally convert (e.g. if not born Jewish under halakha ). In a slightly different context ,but perhaps there is a general principle applicable here as well, Rabbi Benzion Uziel said the following:

    “Not only if they are children of a Jewish mother whose children are complete Jews, but even if they are children of a non-Jewish mother behold they are of Jewish seed and are like lost sheep. I am afraid that if we reject them completely by not accepting their parents for conversion, we will be brought to judgment and it will be said of us, ‘Those who went astray you did not return and the lost you did not seek’ “(Ezekiel 23:4).

  11. November 17, 2014 12:30 pm

    Sam…. I absolutely agree with you that we should welcome with open arms all those who were born to Jewish fathers and express strong desire to officially join the Jewish fold through a halachic conversion. In fact, I know a number of men, former MJs who came out of “Messianic Judaism”, where both their Gentile wives and their children (some of whom were in their teens) underwent Orthodox conversions with very few obstacles being placed in their paths by a beit din.

    “If the messianic Jews continue intermarriage with non Jewish people, how exactly are they going to continue the idea that they are even (however vaguely) Jewish? Perhaps they’ll ditch the Jewish bit from the title “messianic Judaism”?”

    Yes, and many are already doing just that, that is dropping the “Jewish” part. I agree that this is a good development so far as it may reduce the identity confusion that permeates that “messianic” community and lessen the chances that a Jew may get entrapped in these groups by thinking he or she has joined a real Jewish community.

  12. November 17, 2014 1:50 pm

    Have you ever read about this Jewish sage? ?

    http://ffoz.org/blogs/2014/10/a_rabbi_for_the_whole_messiani.html

    He never joined Christianity and never compromised Judaism. His writings can be found here

    http://vineofdavid.org/remnant-repository/isaac_lichtenstein/

    He even has a article about Judaism and Christianity.

    Also organizations like FFOZ aren’t proselytizing but are presenting well sourced information about Yeshua and those who “discovered” the real him, compared to that of what christianity portrays him as.

    I totally hear your arguments but its hard to discredit organization like FFOZ when they bring proof to the table about Yeshua and His practice of Judaism.

  13. November 17, 2014 1:53 pm

    Though a bit pricey at $65 per book (unless your a FFOZ Friend its free), you should take a glance at the material here….

    http://torahclub.ffoz.org/resources/torah/unrolling-the-scroll/

  14. November 17, 2014 2:09 pm

    “He never joined Christianity and never compromised Judaism. His writings can be found here ”

    BG, have your read that book, The Everlasting Jew, which is a collection of Lichtenstein’s writings published by FFOZ a few years back? It was sent to me by FFOZ when it first came out. Many of the included texts were once part of missionary pamphlets he was commissioned to author by various missionary societies for conversion of Jews to Christianity. In the same book one can read that he also advocated conversion of non-observant Jews to Christianity, saying that it was better for them than simply leaving Judaism. He was also a Trinitarian, as is clear from reading his writings, although in his writings he tries to justify it to Jews by citing supposed analogies within Judaism. (And at least in one case he provides a blatant mistranslation of a biblical text to support Jesus’ deity).

    “I totally hear your arguments but its hard to discredit organization like FFOZ when they bring proof to the table about Yeshua and His practice of Judaism.”

    I am very familiar with FFOZ and personally know Boaz Michael quite well, having met and talked at length with him on many occasions, face to face, phone and email. It’s true that as far as I know they are not directly targeting Jews for conversion to Jesus-worship, but I am sure that they would rejoice should Jews embrace their version of Christianity as a result of having read their literature. I also know that FFOZ has become a sort of a gateway OUT of Christianity / Messianic Judaism for many, especially their core audience – Hebrew Roots Gentile Christians. A good number of them, including some of FFOZ’s very own former staff (or associates), have converted to Judaism.

  15. November 17, 2014 3:01 pm

    Gene,

    If the comments system allowed I’d “up vote” the reply to me. I’ve got more to say, but I’m keeping my powder dry for the forthcoming blog posts you’d said you are going to write…. in anticipation….

    Yours Sam

  16. November 17, 2014 3:07 pm

    Thanks, Sam, looking forward to interacting with you!

  17. November 17, 2014 4:02 pm

    BG,

    Not sure if those posts were meant for me or not, but as it happens, no I’ve not come across this “sage” before.. I’m a [Sephardic or Mizrahi] Jew, so I’m more familiar with the Tanakh, the Talmud & rabbinical works such as those written by Moses Maimonides, Yoesf Caro and Judah ha Levi(albeit my fiancee is from a Hasidic background, as was my brother’s first wife). And at $65 I’m not gonna find out about this guy(even the Mormon missionaries gave us a free copy of their Canon,no strings attached). I have no idea what FFOZ is or stands for, but I didn’t mention them at all in my initial post… however what is it that was “discovered” about Jesus that Christians have got wrong? However, any group which is trying to promote Jesus to Jews is surely by definition proselytizing? Also why refer to Jesus as yeshua? It doesn’t make much difference to me. My name in Hebrew is shmuel(Samuel in English), but my nickname is Sam. So calling Jesus by his Hebrew equivalent provides bemusement, as if messianic Jews are ashamed, if not coy, of the Jesus they worship.

  18. November 17, 2014 4:07 pm

    Gene,

    It’ll be a ball I’m sure!

  19. November 23, 2014 7:33 pm

    @Gene I found a quote from you during your messianic days in the rosh pina project “I represent Judaism that recognizes Yeshua as the only true Messiah that our people ever had or ever will have. Judaism and faith in Messiah do not cancel each other out, regardless of the present, but temporary blindness and obstinateness of majority of Israel toward Yeshua as being the one.” – Gene

    I will also re-read that fez luminary book…. @Sam my comments were for gene, thanks though.

  20. November 23, 2014 7:34 pm

    not “fez” but ffoz

  21. November 23, 2014 7:45 pm

    You can find a LOT of my comments from my messianic days. The funny and sad part is, although in a typical Christian fashion I accused Jews of “blindness” for not seeing Jesus as I then did, it was I who was “temporarily blinded” by my idolatry, and not my people. Oh, the irony!

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