Referenced Messianic Jewish Review Blog

The official blog of the Referenced Messianic Jewish Review. The Referenced Messianic Jewish Review studies the history, composition and theology of the Messianic Jewish movement.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

International Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is International Holocaust Memorial Day. I occasionally get comments from various people in the Messianic movement who try to defend their status as Jews by making statements such as, "If Hitler was around, he would send me to the gas chambers just like you."

There is an inherent problem with this argument. Whether a person is Jewish or not is a Jewish legal issue. Non-Jews are not able to make Jewish legal decisions. As an analogy, let's say that France states that a particular person is an American citizen. Does that make the person an American citizen? Of course not. The person is only an American citizen if the American legal system decides so. French opinion is meaningless on this issue. Similarly, non-Jews do not have the legal right to decide who is Jewish under Jewish law.

Jewish legal decisions are made by knowledgeable religious leaders of the Jewish community. Ultimately, whether Hitler would have decided that someone was Jewish or not is irrelevant. Whether Hitler would have killed someone "as a Jew" or not is irrelevant. The only relevant issue is whether Jewish law defines a person as Jewish.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Psychological Value of Messianic "Judaism" to Christianity

Why is Messianic "Judaism" so popular among so many denominations of Christianity? The most obvious answer is because Messianic "Judaism" is a creation, and a branch of, Christianity designed to convert Jews. That is true but most Christians do not know that Messianic "Judaism" was created by the Church of England in the 1800's so this does not answer the question fully. Another answer is because so many different Christian denominations sponsor Messianic "Jewish" ministries and congregations. Again, this is true but it does not answer why these denominations would have decided on this sponsorship to begin with. A further possibility is because Paul said that Christianity should be spread "to the Jew first and then to the Romans." This claim certainly motivates Christians but it does not answer why Paul would have wanted the Jews "first." It lacks the nuance of the psychology behind this desire and why this desire is so strong, still 2000 years later while other early Christian concepts have disappeared. Further, it does not explain why post-conversion to Christianity, many of these new Christians are still identified with Judaism (e.g. former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, whose family converted when he was a child.) One more possibility is because Christians want to get back to their "Jewish roots." This response is also valid despite the fact that Messianic "Jewish" practice does not look similar to the likely practice that Jesus and his followers would have engaged in on a daily basis. This response highlights the general ignorance of the majority of Christians to the Jewish Bible and Jewish practice. Further, it does not answer the question as to why these "Jewish roots" are even valuable to Christians when Christianity has so many different beliefs from Judaism.

To understand the real psychological reason behind this popularity, we must look at the conflicted historical relationship that Christianity has with Judaism. This is probably best illuminated in the famous "Jewish Question." The "Jewish Question" was based in the following conundrum; on one hand, Christians cannot fully denigrate Judaism since Christianity claims to come from Judaism and be based in the Jewish Bible. If Christianity attacks Judaism too roughly, Christianity cuts out what it believes to be the basis of its own faith. On the other hand, the very presence of Jews stands out as a clear rebuttal that the Christian view is wrong. After all, if Christianity is correct, why does Judaism still exist in its midst? This "Jewish Question" has motivated countless debates, enactments and actions throughout the course of history. For example, in the early 1900's the Russian government mulled over a 1/3 policy: kill 1/3 of their Jewish population, push out 1/3 of their Jewish population out of their country and force 1/3 of their Jewish population to convert. Though this policy never came to fruition, it certainly demonstrates the depth of the conflict in the hearts and minds of Christians.

So then, of what value is the conversion of Jews beyond that of any other convert to Christianity? When a non-Jew converts to Christianity it is merely one more member to join the Christian "flock." However, when a Jew converts to Christianity, many Christians view it as a legitimization of Christian belief. Since Christianity came out of Judaism, a Jewish convert is viewed as a validation of Christianity's split from Judaism. For instance, this attempt for validation is seen in Reformation and post-Reformation era desires in England to bring Jews back to England following centuries of expulsion. If the English could bring the Jews back and then convince them to join Christianity, then the English churches could see this as a proof of their religious correctness.

This brings up an obvious question, namely why the use of Messianic "Judaism" to convert Jews appears to be so much more loved by Christians than other missionary methods? I believe that the reason is because the "Jewishness" in the presentation of Messianic "Judaism" is a present rather than a past activity of the convert. In more typical methods of conversion, once the Jew converts and is assimilated into the greater Christian congregation, the perceived validation received by the conversion fades quickly. For a brief period of time the Christians may feel validated in their belief by having a Jew convert but what is there to remind the Christian that this person was once a Jew after their conversion? The convert looks, acts and behaves like a Christian. With Messianic "Judaism", the Jewish-style practice serves as a regular reminder of the convert's Jewish past, and subsequently it serves as a more consistent perceived justification of the Christian's belief system.

Throughout history there is an abundance of Christian writings on the importance of converting Jews as proof of the correctness of Christian belief. I believe that the method of Messianic "Jewish" presentation functions to causes Christians to emotionally receive this "ego boost" of belief more often than other methods of conversion and this is the underlying psychological reason to Messianic "Judaism" popularity in Christianity over other methods of Jewish conversion.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Laws Are Not Details

Over Shabbos lunch, I talked with a friend about a conversation I once had with a Messianic. He was trying to convince me that Jesus' death was a sacrifice. I reviewed Biblical sacrificial law, demonstrating clearly that Jesus' death did not match Biblical sacrificial law. His argument back to me was that I was getting caught on "details." I was baffled by this ignorant response. The Bible spends multiple chapters going over the laws of sacrifice. Again, these are laws....not "kind of nice things to do", not "it would be special if you do" but Biblical laws. By ignoring the Bible in his argument, the Messianic was demonstrating how little the Bible truly mattered to his beliefs. My friend was as stunned as I had been at the Messianic's attempt to belittle Biblical law as "details."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Are All Christians for the Messianic Movement?

Through reading my blog and website, you may get the impression that all of the Christian movements and their leadership are supporters of the Messianic movement. This impression is false. The fact is that there are many Christian leaders who are quite horrified and disgusted with the Messianic movement. Here is a link to an article in which Presbyterian leaders such as Reverend Eugene Bay and Reverend Cynthia Jarvis decry the Messianic movement:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shannon Orand in the Jewish Herald-Voice

The Jewish Herald-Voice is the Jewish community newspaper of Houston. Here is a link to an excellent to a JH-V article that explains, in details often missed/ignored in the blogs, as to how Shannon Orand was being victimized by Leib Tropper:

For many of us in Houston, we greatly admire Shannon's activity in defending Israel and the Jewish community. The JH-V provides just a few examples of this activity. Here is a link in which she is quoted by the JH-V in a pro-Israel rally; her statements begin in the 4th paragraph under the heading "Israel support":

Here is another JH-V article showing how Shannon helped organize a counter-protest at the Holocaust Museum in response to a anti-Israel hate protest staged there; she is credited in the fifth paragaph of the article:

So how many of the people who are currently talking badly about Shannon Orand have contributed as much as she has to their Jewish community? Am guessing that the answer is not too many....

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Shannon Orand is Jewish!

Shannon Orand, who has been smeared in many parts of the internet world despite doing nothing wrong, has officially been converted to Judaism! Multiple Chief Rabbis of cities in Israel were part of her conversion process. Read more about the good news of Shannon's conversion and learn more about what was really behind the tapes that created the controversy:

Monday, January 04, 2010

Isaiah 53

One of my favorite sets of essays on Isaiah 53:

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My Friend Shannon

Recently I have seen many people taking shots at a friend of mine, Shannon Orand. Shannon is a wonderful person who is going through the conversion process to Judaism. Rabbi Leib Tropper tried to take advantage of her in this process. Shannon recorded Tropper engaging in this horribly immoral behavior.

Let me be clear: Shannon has done nothing wrong. She is not the "mistress" of Tropper. Nor she is part of a secret conspiracy trying to get at Tropper. She is simply a woman who refused to be taken advantage of.

Those of us who know Shannon do not find her at fault for anything in this process. Shannon is a bright, caring, hard-working mother who is passionate about Judaism. She was formerly in the Messianic movement and now works hard to counter the Messianic missionaries. She also is very involved in countering anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred. Shannon uses a significant amount of her free time to help different Jewish groups. I personally look at her as one of the up and coming young leaders in the Jewish community.

Too often in our society, we attack the strong women who stand up for themselves rather than support them. Shannon Orand deserves our support.

Operation Judaism

Operation Judaism is a counter-missionary effort by the Chabad movement in the UK. Click on the link below for more information: