I’m situated as a friend of folks in Messianic Judaism, the independent Messianic movement, Hebrew Christians, Hebraic roots gentiles, One Law Messianics, Two House folks, Bilateral Ecclesiology Messianics, regular Christians, some agnostics, a few atheists, and my family.
With these diverse friends, anything I say is bound to offend someone. This creates a problem for me; I want to avoid conflict.
Winston Churchill summed up my problem well:
The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning.
I don’t want to cause conflict. But, I refuse to strip myself of all sense and meaning. So I’m left to offending people.
This is one of those posts that is bound to offend people. But I feel this post is a necessary one, as a lot of misinformation has been thrown around, and a lot of folks are fighting over things they ought not be fighting about.
What is Two House?
This is recorded in the Bible and is recognized by biblical scholars, Christians, Jews, all flavors of Messianics, and your grandma. No controversy here. The Bible itself is “Two House” in that sense.
If this was all there was to Two House theology, there would be no controversy. But Two House theology is very controversial in the Messianic movement.
Why is it controversial?
Built atop this, there is the somewhat-contested belief that one of the houses never returned from captivity.
Quick historical recap:
Judah returned from captivity and rebuilt the Temple, but Israel never formally returned. Israel was essentially kept in perpetual captivity until assimilation.
Although occasionally contested, this, too, isn’t particularly controversial: the Jewish historian Josephus speculated on where Israel went after captivity, suggesting rabbis of his time knew their locations. Rabbis in the Talmud comment on these Israelites that never returned. The book of James in the New Testament is addressed to the “12 tribes scattered among the nations”.
The idea that Israel hasn’t returned isn’t particularly new or controversial.
No, the Two House movement is controversial, in part, because it holds that Israel never returned and that, per prophecy in the Bible, Israel will return in the eschaton.
Is that it?
For some, that is the entirety of “Two House”.
I include myself in this category: it seems to me that this Ezekiel 37 thing has never happened, and that, when Messiah returns, he will somehow, someway, regather Judah and Israel, make the restoration of all Israel a reality, maybe rebuild the Temple, and generally institute All Kinds of Awesome®. I believe the Messianic movement is part of that big plan. To me, this is the what Two House is.
But for some, there is another element to the “Two House” theology, and that is the belief that all or some of the gentiles in the Messianic movement are, in fact, blood descendants of Jacob, descended from those captives who never returned.
This is the most controversial idea, as you might imagine.
Messianic Jews, particularly those who are trying to legitimize the movement to the greater Jewish world, find this Two House idea embarrassing, as it further delegitimizes a Judaism that is already frowned upon by the Jewish world.
And many Messianic Jews consider the idea insulting. As one Messianic Jew recently wrote,
The troubling aspect of this latter incarnation were people with no genetic connection to Jewish people, the biological descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, claiming to be part of various tribes of Ancient Israel; one woman announcing to me that she was a Levite Princess. After five minutes of uncontrollably laughing, I was deeply grieved by her trivializing my heritage. As I look at this latter group, I am reminded of a minstrel show complete with Velcro peyos, and tzitzis tied to their belt loops, rather than anything that is genuinely Jewish, “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” I am as offended by their caricature as an African-American would be of a minstrel show.
Is that what most Two House people believe?
No, not in my experience.
Perhaps the largest Two House organization out there is Messianic Israel Alliance. I have friends in that organization.
Their focus seems to be not on blood lines, but on Jews and gentiles being co-heirs through Messiah. (Indeed, they just relabeled themselves to Alliance of Redeemed Israel, focusing on the redemption through Yeshua.)
In my experience, the focus of most Two House folks is this: because of Messiah, Jews and gentiles are one body, and that body is Israel. If you think “2 house” is something different, please understand this is the prevailing belief, this really is what we believe.
Maybe your local leader told you otherwise? Well, I’m here to tell you, first hand, this is really what we believe: 2 house is this: Jews & gentiles in Messiah as one body. Not about bloodlines. Not about gentiles being secret blood relatives of Jacob. Not any scary thing, really.
What about you, Judah?
On one hand, I believe in the restoration of all Israel, and that includes non-Jews through adoption and faith.
And yes, it’s true, we do know of some descendants of lost Israelites, some of whom have been verified with DNA testing: Bene Ephraim of India, Bene Israel of south Asia, Bnei Menashe of India, Beta Israel of Ethiopia, Bukharian Naphtali of Asia, Persian Ephraim, Igbo of Zevulon from Africa, and of course the Samaritans are all groups claiming Israelite descent, with varying degrees of validity. The Ethiopian Jews are unique in that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has deemed them descendants of Dan. It is plausible there are more descendants of Israel abroad.
On the other hand, I can’t take seriously someone who, out of nowhere, calls themselves a Levite princess. If all I have is your word that you heard it from God, well, that’s no more reason for me to trust you than, say, the Christian minister who thinks God told him to burn all Qur’ans.
“God told me so” is not particularly convincing.
You can dream you’re the head of 100 Yeshivas, but it is not so until 100 Yeshivas make you their head.
I am convinced God is doing something with the Messianic movement. The gentiles in the Messianic movement are here by God’s hand. It seems to me Ezekiel and Hosea and many others suggest something big is going to happen and God’s going to bring back and reunite all of Israel, and this will happen only when Messiah rules over them.
Until God makes that happen, I’m going to have strong opinions, weakly held. Especially on prophetic events which humans are famous for misinterpreting.
Thanks for listening.