Follow-up on religious approval

Yesterday’s post, Our Survival Depends on Jewish Approval?, has generated quite a bit of debate in the comments.

Derek Leman, a Messianic rabbi who works for the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI) and is currently undergoing formal conversion to Messianic Judaism through an MJTI-affiliated organization, has responded to my post on his blog.

I want to clarify a few things and respond to Derek because, invariably, things get lost in translation. Know what I mean?

Leman said,

[Judah’s] stance is that MJ should not desire to be recognized by the wider Jewish community as a Judaism.

No, that’s not it. I wish the Jewish world would recognize us as a legitimate Judaism, if only more of Israel would come to know Messiah. It’s a noble desire.

Let me lay this out as plainly as I can, so that there’s no confusion.

The thing I object to is this paraphrased statement:

We must be accepted by the Jewish world, or perish.

What’s the problem with this, you ask?

First, it’s an unachievable goal. Really. Short of Messiah reaching down from heaven, and short of us denying Yeshua, we’re not going to be accepted by the Jewish world, guys. I know this is hard news to swallow. I know this smacks of Debby Downer. But we’ve got to be realistic. Talk to me in the comments if you disagree.

Second, it places as high priority this unachievable goal. Do this, or perish. This places an insurmountable human task – changing men’s opinions of us, many of which are currently hostile, grounded in 2000 years of embitterment – as a top priority of the Messianic movement! We must do it, or we’re screwed!

Third, it smells like inferiority complex. We’ve got to fit in with the in-crowd – the Jewish world, which mostly hates us – or there’s no point in our existence.

This is a real problem.

It leads to Jews and gentiles leaving Messianic Judaism for the “real” thing, whether that’s heading back to the Church to become a real Christian, or heading back to the synagogue to become a real Jew. Not this half-assed Messianic teeter-tottering.

Fourth, it’s a faithless statement. Fit in, or perish? It’s like saying, we must get acceptance in the Jewish world, or we might as well die. Where’s God’s preservation? Where’s God’s saving hand, and his leading us?

Leman objects,

Judah objects that God would not let this happen. [Let us perish.] He already has let it happen in past history, as Jewish followers of Yeshua fizzled out by the sixth century.

And yet, here we are, 1500 years later, and we exist, perhaps stronger than we ever have been, barring only the 1st century. Isn’t that God-at-work? Won’t he continue this work, even if the Jewish world continues to despise us?

Fifth, Yeshua and his disciples were never accepted by the whole assembly of Israel. Instead they were scourged and beaten and persecuted and killed by Israel’s religious authorities, and they prophesied to us the same fate.

Yet, despite all this, they never said, “We must gain their acceptance, or we’re toast.”

Seriously. Never said it.

Whatever you think of Kinzer’s ideas for acceptance in the Jewish world, you must admit, Yeshua and his disciples never had the same goal.

One of you fine blog readers commented yesterday, protesting,

Yeshua, THE JEW, himself longed to be accepted by his own people, he even cried over them…

I thought about this and came to a surprising revelation.

Ok, yep, true statements. Maybe I was wrong after all?

But I discovered something: what we’re doing is actually the inverse: instead of Yeshua longing to gather Jerusalem to himself, we’re longing for Jerusalem to gather us!

Had Yeshua belonged to the MJTI sect, Matthew 23:37 might read quite differently!

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed for you to gather me and my disciples. We’d run back to you like a chick running back to her mother’s wing. We’re going to perish in a few decades if you don’t let us in!

-Imaginary Yeshua

Sixth, it promotes compromise. Like the nerd trying to fit in with the in-crowd, the one who has to ditch her friends, get a makeover, and put on a façade in order to be given even the time of day, likewise Messianic Judaism will inevitably compromise, and for the worse. That’s my fear.

It may try its hand at abandoning Yeshua-as-Lord, compromising on the gospel, denigrating Yeshua as a small theological detail, in order to gain this coveted acceptance. And even then, most of the in-crowd will still despise us for our “dead-Jew-on-a-stake” ideas. Even then, we’ll be looked down on as traitors: those people that left Judaism, then betrayed their own base just to get back in. Nobody likes a traitor.

Already, we’ve seen compromises: particularly in the shunning gentiles, whom God has drawn to Israel and Torah, shooing them back to the church, or letting them operate only peripherally. “We can’t have too many gentiles, after all!”

And we’ve taken that idea as Scripture, even though Scripture has no such model of separate-but-equal ekklesia comprised of Jews over here, gentiles over there.

Compromise will only get worse if we make high priority our acceptance by the Jewish world. Those compromises will only dilute our purpose: the restoration of all Israel to God through Messiah.

Final responses:

Derek commented yesterday,

[Y]ou took a rather quick-to-condemn without asking questions stance. I could have answered you if you had asked. It's alright. I love you anyway, even if you rush to judgment sometimes.

Man, I don’t think so. I actually asked honest questions in my post. And I underlined a possible end result of this idea, one which has negative consequences for the Messianic movement.

Of course I’ll speak up about it. Like Derek, I consider it important to challenge harmful ideas and actions, but in a manner consistent with love.

And I did do it in love – in fact, if you read yesterday’s comments, I ended up defending UMJC and MJTI as God-molded movements, and their leaders as God-fearing, longtime servants of Messiah who’ve done more work for the Lord than I’ll likely ever do.

I’m no mud-slinger, please.

Derek made one final comment:


Judah is a great guy, but he has some buttons that when pushed set him off. The idea of MJ insecurity and need for approval sets him off. I understand why. But I wish he had read me more charitably.

Hahah. Well, I didn’t write in anger. I usually associate “set him off” as in, goes into an angry tirade. That wasn’t it at all. I highlighted a problem with this idea. I spoke up, I challenged, I warned.

Could I have read Derek and Mark Kinzer more charitably? Dunno! Sticking with Derek’s ethics of discussion, I spoke gently but truthfully, and never once considered Kinzer, Leman, the MJTI as enemies, but as servants of Messiah.

If I could have been more charitable, maybe Derek or you fine blog readers could show me how. (I’m not being sarcastic. Show me how, and I will fix future challenges.)


  • It’s a noble desire to see the Jewish world accept Messianic Judaism, if only more of our people would come to know Messiah.

  • Messianic Judaism won’t be accepted by the Jewish world as long as Yeshua is Lord. Unless God intervenes, or we compromise on Yeshua, the Jewish world won’t accept us. It’s an unachievable goal.

  • We should not feel inferior, or somehow less than a real Judaism, just because the Jewish world hates us. That inferiority complex leads to real problems. 

  • God preserves his people, even if things look bleak. He’ll preserve us, because he started this. The Jews and gentiles in the Messianic movement today are here by God’s doing.

  • Yeshua and the disciples were never accepted by all of Israel. They longed for Israel to be gathered to Messiah, not for Israel to gather Messiah’s flock.

  • The high priority placed on the unachievable goal of gaining acceptance in the Jewish world will almost certainly lead to compromise on Yeshua and the gospel. That’s the only human way to accomplish this otherwise-unachievable goal.

Bottom line: the goal of being accepted by the Jewish world is a poor choice of priorities for the Messianic movement. It will lead to serious problems in the Messianic movement, it will ultimately lead us away from Messiah.


  1. "Bottom line: the goal of being accepted by the Jewish world is a poor choice of priorities for the Messianic movement. It will lead to serious problems in the Messianic movement, it will ultimately lead us away from Messiah."

    Judah, Messianic JEWISH movement.

  2. No, the Messianic movement. The Messianic movement is comprised of both Jews and gentiles, and I praise God for it.

  3. The Body of Messiah is comprised of Jews (Messianic Jews) and Gentiles (Christians), while the Messianic Jewish movement and Messianic Judaism is comprised of Jews who seek to live covenantally obedient lives as we work toward spiritual restoration of the Jewish Nation firstly, and restoration of the world secondly, and Christians who love Israel and have selflessly joined us to assist us in that goal.

  4. Judah,

    Again splendid post. You made all the covincing points.

    Our styles differ. As an Israeli Sabrah I was taught to tell it like it is in your face manner. It wakes people up. Yeshua was not so polite to the money changes, and the Pharisees.

  5. On the other hand, Judah, I think you are on to something with your "no compromise" idea. I would take a bit further - I think that those of us who are Messianic Jews should not compromise with the mainstream Judaism over the divinity of the Messiah, we should also not compromise the vision and the tenets of the Messianic Judaism as expressed in Tanakh and Brit Hadasha by embracing either the resurrected neo-British Israelism (repackaged by its founder Batya Wootten as the Two-House movement) or the modern day Judaizers of the Gentiles (the One-Law movement.)

  6. "Gene, spoken like a true fundie!"

    J.K. McKee, such personal characterizations seem out of character for you, I am a bit surprised, frankly.

  7. Gene, you often epitomize the kind of attitude that should not make up the future of the Messianic movement--I have certainly not been impressed.

    Yet, your common attitude is the same I have witnessed among many Two-House and One Law people as well, as much as you dislike them. Rigidity and an inability to really dissect issues from the Scriptures is seen. Personal prejudice and opinion guides the discussion, with self-interest more important than the spiritual needs of others. No real concern for greater human wholeness.

    Don't worry, God is bigger than all of us.

  8. "Yet, your common attitude is the same I have witnessed among many Two-House and One Law people as well, as much as you dislike them."

    J.K. McKee, I am not sure that you've realized that yet, but you've set yourself up as an example of theological perfection and tolerance, elitism that views just about everybody else as country bumpkins (fundies), including folks in your own movement. As a Two-House advocate with the biggest Two-House resource site on the web are you above "personal prejudice and opinion"?

    "No real concern for greater human wholeness."

    You don't know me or my work, and yet you feel free to make such a statement.

  9. Gene, I recognize that as humans we all have limitations. I am just as susceptible as the next person. But the two of us have a track record of examining various issues--where I have often referred you to additional resources or scholarship--which I know you just disregard. That is something that rigid people have a tendency to do, and they are littered all over the Messianic movement. It is even found among a few people I know with theological degrees.

    I hope the Lord blesses you greatly today, in all your endeavors to serve Him!

  10. Judah, you're grasping at straws here, having created a supposed controversy out of a second-hand paraphrase of a twenty page paper.

    You seem to be under the impression that MJTI and Hashivenu are dangling on the razor's edge of abandoning faith in Yeshua's deity. A "fly on the wall" experience at Hashivenu this week would have quelled those fears.

    You might have been surprised to hear just how consistently and vocally the scholars in attendance affirmed their faith the deity of Yeshua. You might have been impressed by the rigorous research presented demonstrating just how much support they see for this concept in the Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament, and other Jewish literature. In fact, they see the task of persuading their fellow Jews of the legitimacy of a divine, incarnate Messiah as a critical part of their life's work.

    Was not this very task undertaken by Yeshua's own disciples?

  11. "I have often referred you to additional resources or scholarship--which I know you just disregard. That is something that rigid people have a tendency to do"

    J.K. McKee, over the past two years I've examined more Two-House and One-Law theological papers, resources, faqs, arguments, counterarguments, counter-counterarguements than most people I know and then some. Not only that, I've even read probably half of your website (admittedly, some of the enormously large portions you've penned I'v had to skim through, and only viewed some of the videos, because I only have so much time to spend on this stuff).

    So, your assumption of me not examining the issues is not valid to say the least. In fact, I spend most of my days going through various theological materials and discussing them with others. This I've done for the past 15 years.

    Besides all that, who offers their own research as proof? Give me independent third parties.

  12. Gene, I apologize if I spoke out of place about you. But have you honestly looked at some of the books (less than $5) I have reccomended you purchase (such as those dealing with women in ministry or the New Perspective on Paul)? Other than on different blogs, we have not really discussed anything.

    As I have said elsewhere, every person has a freewill to believe what they want. And there are various streams out there under the lablel "Messianic." I think Messianic Judaism will achieve a great deal in the future. But, time alone will determine if we are able to achieve all of the mission of God, or only some of it.

    Again, have a blessed day! I myself have to attend to other matters.

  13. Monique,

    You misunderstood my concern. Nevermind about that, though, let me just ask you straight out:

    Did Kinzer say this? If we don't gain acceptance by the Jewish world, the Messianic movement will perish.

    If Leman misquoted or misunderstood Kinzer, my concern disappears, and I'd jump on a new post and say, "Hooray! I was mistaken about all this."

  14. My take on another aspect of this:

  15. This is where I saw this heading 3 years ago and was condemned as anti-Semitic for saying it. It us as Yeshua said , "you make them twice the sons of he'll as you are. It comes down to who's voice you will hear and who you join yourself to and follow; Judaism or Messiah according to His Word and by the power of His indwelling Spirit? Proselytizing to rabbinic authority, sad to say, is alive and gaining lawless strength. People are being conditioned and prepared to accept the coming man of lawlessness. It is Torah alone apart from man's additions and subtractons that bring saving and sanctifying faith. If we hear His Voice and obey His commandments we will be HIS special possession above all people, whether Jew or Gentile; joined to Messiah Yeshua, not joined to rabbinic Israel.

  16. "This is where I saw this heading 3 years ago and was condemned as anti-Semitic for saying it. "

    You are still an anti-semite, Banner Kidd - nothing changed from three years ago.

  17. Judah, to answer your reply to me from the last blog post:


    The exalted Son of Yah is spoken of in the Zohar by the exact title "Son of Yah", he is further identified as Metatron (meaning "Our Keeper" in Aramaic), he is the highest in Heaven besides the throne of HaShem.

    So I would disagree that one would have to deny anything about the Son of Yah if they were to take hold compeltely of Judaism. I would agree, though, that there is confusion in the Jewish world about the above-mentioned, and at the same time, most Messianics don't know that the above-mentioned exists.

  18. Kinzer's paper, which will soon be posted on the Hashivenu website (maybe a week or two delay) says this:

    "We exist as a movement in part to protest this negative border. Such a protest constitutes a crucial element in our prophetic calling. Moreover, our long-term viability depends on the success of this protest."

    The border he means is that separating the potential harmony and mutual blessing between the Church and the Jewish people. The Church maintains a border saying that Torah and Jewish life are foreign to faith in Jesus and Judaism maintains a border saying that belief in Yeshua as divine Messiah is idolatry.

    Sociologically, Messianic Judaism will not survive several generations as a banned little community. Now, Christians practicing Jewish roots may go on for quite some time.

    Great leaders do consider the human side of their endeavors. It is not sufficient to say, "If we just believe, God will do it for us." The apostles did not think that way. They obeyed God and created realities on earth as well as heaven. That is all I am saying we must be about. You actually agree with me more than you know, but, IMO, you are sensitive to any suggestion that Messianic Jews belong with the Jewish people. I think you see MJ as a microcosm of the church and imagine it can survive all on its own. I don't. I believe we need to be in right relationship with the Church and the Jewish people. I believe we are a tiny movement and if cut off from the world we will fizzle.

    If I am wrong, then please tell me how in 50 years MJ will be thriving without a good relationship with the broader Jewish community. Are there any Jews in your vision for 50 years down the road? My guess is that they will all be Christian Jews if MJ is still a marginal, confused movement.

    Derek Leman

  19. Within 50 years Yeshua will straighten this all out Himself. His Kingdom will have come by then according to Bible prophecy. (Actually within half of that time by Scriptural reckoning.) What are we doing to get ourselves ready for that day? What if this IS the last generation! Would that make a difference in the goals and objectives of Messianic Judaism? Should we not be coming together rather than building barriers to fellowship one with another?

  20. "Scripture has no such model of separate-but-equal ekklesia comprised of Jews over here, gentiles over there.

    Compromise will only get worse if we make high priority our acceptance by the Jewish world. Those compromises will only dilute our purpose: the restoration of all Israel to God through Messiah."

    Very much in agreement!

  21. Tandi:

    Scriptural prophecy does not give us dates. I hope the days of Messiah are upon us before much longer, but 2 Thessalonians addresses this. We are to live and plan as though the parousia is far off while hoping it is near.

    Derek Leman

  22. Um...wait a minute. I got stuck at "a Messianic Jewish Rabbi is formally converting to Messianic Judaism?" How does that work.

    In 1st Century Messianism (if that's a word), the only people "converting" were the pagan Gentiles to faith in the One true God through Messiah Yeshua.

    Today, if you are a believer in Yeshua, let's say from a traditional Christian setting, you don't really "convert" to anything. I suppose you could consider a traditional Jewish person's acceptance of Yeshua as "converting", but I'd argue that a Jew accepting the Jewish Messiah isn't converting to anything. How does a Jew convert to Judaism?

    Sorry...I get stuck on issues like these. I think we make our faith more complicated than it really is.

  23. Derek,

    The "border" you are painting is false. Kinzer does not see MJ as the Church, he sees it as Judaism. His border is between MJ wanting to become a part of Judaism and Judaism that want no part of MJ.

    Either you are ignorant of Kinzer's points, or you are delibertly trying to deceive.

  24. Dan Ben Zvi:

    Well, I just spent six days with Mark Kinzer, read his paper in its entirety twice, and blogged about it giving it even more though. I will let the blog readers decide who knows better what Kinzer means: me or you (who did not spend any time with Kinzer or read his paper).

    Derek Leman

  25. Surely Kinzer's paper is open to interpretation?

    Derek may have one interpretation of it and Dan another, both thinking they're right. Kinzer himself may have an intepretation of his own paper, but it doesn't mean his interpretation is the correct one.

    I guess we can wait till it comes out and judge for ourselves, as Derek says.

    My thoughts so far are this:

    Kinzer expresses an admirable desire not to be in constant conflict with the mainstream Jewish community, and he is right to be positive. All of us with ahavas yisrael would back Kinzer's sentiments.

    However, how does Kinzer hopes to achieve this communion with the mainstream Jewish community?

    This is what concerns people.

    Judah worries about the theological implications - that the MJTI will end up compromising on the divinity of Yeshua.

    I worry about the danger of ecumenicalism here - does Kinzer consider Messianic Judaism one of many Judaisms, or the only true Judaism?

    I'm worried about some of the sociological implications - will we speak up against persecution and defamation when our Israeli brothers and sisters are hurt, or will we be reluctant to in case we harm our image or damage our relationship with the Jewish establishment?

  26. Joseph:

    My point was that Dan Ben Zvi hasn't read the paper. What, you think he's psychic? :-)


  27. Maybe the scroll has been revealed to him :)

  28. My point was that Messianic Judaism UMJC, and Kinzer style already settle the Gentile problem UNILATERAY, not bilateraly with their 2003's infamous definition of MJ. They solved the Gentile problem just there and then. Everything else is just shmaltz they are trying to smear on our faces.

  29. Will be interesting to see how MJTI/UMJC respond to what you've said, Dan.

  30. Joseph has my concerns down pat.

    I think it would be best, now that we've all expressed opinions on it, to wait and read the paper first hand. I am going to keep quiet about this until I read the paper for myself. All I have right now are 2nd hand quotes from Derek and the Yinon folks.

    After I read the paper, we'll revisit this issue.