Divine Messiah and the Messianic Movement

This past week a number of renowned Messianic leaders gathered in New York for the Borough Park Symposium to discuss and present papers on the divine nature Messiah Yeshua.

One presenter commented,

[The divinity of Yeshua] is the issue that is most controversial in the wider Jewish community, the boundary-marker that the Jewish community has set for centuries to define itself. No matter how Jewish in all other ways a person might be, a Jewish gatekeeper might say, belief in the deity of Yeshua all by itself drives him or her out of Judaism into Christianity. And Messianic Jews are problematic (and even to be feared) because they refuse to accept that they’ve crossed this line and to label themselves clearly as other.

-Russ Resnik, leader within the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC)

Rabbi Resnik is highlighting a foundational issue blocking Jews from Messiah, a root-of-the-tree reason for Jews rejecting Yeshua.

Ironically, I’ve taken flak from UMJC and MJTI folks over the years for speaking the same thing. (Frankly, I feel a bit vindicated seeing one of UMJC’s own saying this! :-))

Last year, for example, one MJTI student told me,

The greatest charges to defame Messianic Judaism in the larger Jewish world are:

1) They are 90% gentile
2) They receive hundreds of millions of dollars to convert Jews to Christianity.
3) They are just Evangelical Christianity using Jewish symbols and liturgy to convert Jews.

Though the 2nd one is spurious, #3 is sadly true for many "Messianic congregations".
But #1 is fed by your approach. If you notice the Messiahship of Yeshua is a non-issue in the 3 above?

I hope you fine blog readers see the error in this statement: those things are smokescreens to the real issue. I responded,

As long as Yeshua is Lord, it wouldn't matter if we were 100% Jewish, more observant than the most pious Chassid, more zealous than the energetic Chabadnik. As long as Yeshua is exalted, the Jewish world will not accept us. Don't fool yourself otherwise.

Resnik echoed this when he said, “no matter how Jewish a person might be, [it is said], belief in the deity of Yeshua drives him out of Judaism and into Christianity.”

The real issue is Yeshua is Lord.

In case you missed that, the real issue is Yeshua the divine Messiah, worthy of being praised, one with the Father, the returning King of Israel who conquered death, who rose from the dead, who took our sins on himself, who is the doorway to the Father, who served as the all-time atonement for sins. Yeah, that guy. The Messiah. He’s the stumbling stone. Everything else is a smokescreen, don’t be fooled.

Kudos to UMJC for raising this important issue. I’ve seen so many Messianics who, out of sincere longing to be accepted by Judaism, end up compromising on the foundation of our faith, trading truth and life for human approval.


  1. Judah, you would have been truly vindicated ONLY if UMJC actually declared that the divinity of Yeshua should be discarded or that it is now of lesser importance to Messianic Jews than trying to appeal to the greater Jewish world. Of course, they said quite the opposite.

    However, what is NOT TRUE, is that by once again holding up the divinity of Yeshua UMJC now believes that we as MJs should stop focusing on living as traditional Torah-and-traditions faithful,recognizably-Jewish Jews or that this effort is of no consequence to our authenticity as Jews and as witnesses to our people. Far from it. We SHOULD indeed focus on the greater things, but without forgetting the lesser ones.

    In fact, as far Messianic Judaism goes our being and living as authentic Jews ranks only SECOND in importance in my book, right behind Yeshua's divinity - both of which combine to make us Messianic and Jews.

  2. Time will tell. In the future we will see what the UMJC will do. Remain steadfast as Judaism on their terms, or succumb to the terms of mainstream Judaism by ditching Yeshua.

    It will be quite interesting to watch.

  3. Gene, I think you are confusing my concerns with the Kinzer paper with my stance on the Jewish rejection of Yeshua. I feel vindicated about the latter. :-)

  4. "Gene, I think you are confusing my concerns with the Kinzer paper with my stance on the Jewish rejection of Yeshua."

    Come'on Judah, I don't think so - not from what I remember reading in your previous posts! Surely these two things are inseparably connected in your mind at this point.

    Not that I want to take away from your feelings of vindication, or anything:)

  5. Putting this issue into perspective, sometimes we need to remind ourselves that there are many more people who go to church every week who think that Jesus was just a good teacher--and that's it. The issue of a Divine Messiah is not limited to Messianic quarters.

  6. I know that the divinity of Yeshua, or lack thereof, is a hot topic, but not many Messianic organizations are willing to tackle it, if for no other reason than to avoid alienating their Gentile followers.

    I have to agree that in our theology, most Messianic congregations are more Christian than Jewish. Regardless of the percentage of ethnically Jewish vs. Gentile members, most Messianics come to our current worship practice by way of the Christian church.

    I continue to find it interesting that we struggle with our practice based on trying to get mainstream Judaism to accept us as a Judaism rather than a bunch of "Christians in kippot". Wasn't it Paul who said that we must please God and not men (Galatians 1:10)?

    Paul was a fellow who cared less about what other Jews and Gentiles thought of him than he did about unerringly obeying his directive...to spread the word of the risen Messiah to both Jews and the Gentiles. What do we need to be doing?

  7. Over the past few years, I am not totally sure as to how much "evangelical Christianity" has had a real influence on the Messianic movement--versus "fundamentalist Christianity." Many of the issues that matter to me as a Bible teacher do not seem to matter that much other Messianic teachers I interact with--even though they do matter to the colleagues I attended seminary with, as well as many of non-Orthodox Jews I know.

  8. "how much "evangelical Christianity" has had a real influence on the Messianic movement--versus "fundamentalist Christianity.""

    J.K - I've never been part of any "fundamentalist Christianity." And yet, because I oppose following the failed example of either liberal "Judaisms" or Christianity and their "innovations" that have more to do with political correctness than with biblical correctness, you somehow label people like me as influenced by "fundamentalist Christianity." That's stereotyping, because it's not based on reality.

    Well, as liberal Judaisms die out and their membership assimilates and low-births itself out of existence as is currently happening at an ever increasing pace, you may as well get used to a lot more traditional version of Messianic Judaism that I and many other like-minded Jews advocate.

  9. Gene, I am referring to the Messianic movement in broad terms here based on my family's experience since 1995; my statements on comment #9 were not directed to you personally.

    Fundamentalist Christianity, on the whole, tends to have a rather overly-conservative or hyper-literal view of Scripture, and is often not considered with Biblical writings in their original, historical context (be that in the Ancient Near East or the First Century Mediterranean). To this strata of religion, Bible verses are sound bytes.

    I hope this clarifies what I was trying to say.

  10. JG, I know this is not the correct place for this message, but I have no email for you. Dennis Prager is speaking at Living Word in BP tonight with A Night To Honor Israel. No doubt you have heard of these events.

    If you are able to attend ,y wife and I will look for a 6'7" C programmer. :-)

    Ken Thomas