The place of Judaism’s traditions in the lives of Yeshua’s disciples

Last week, I pointed you fine blog readers to the post A Warning To Those Who Follow Yeshua. This post explained how following Judaism and Yeshua can cause problems in the faith of believers.

The post has now garnered enough attention that the sea of 100+ comments has shifted into a debate about Judaism’s role in a believer’s life.

Since most people cannot rightly navigate a sea of 100+ comments, allow me to summarize the arguments:

Judah’s summary of the arguments:


I have witnessed countless people, being studious in Torah and truly loving Hashem, nonetheless deny Yeshua because he is the ultimate obstacle for a “true” Judaic theology. We must be on guard against this.

The comments soon shifted, however, to a debate about whether Judaism’s traditions and rulings should apply to the life of a follower of Yeshua.

  • Yes, Judaism’s rulings should bind Yeshua’s Jewish disciples:

You can't keep Torah without the traditions and rulings of Judaism. Anything less is silly, self-defined Torah observance, where everyone is right in their own eyes. Furthermore, Messianic Judaism is not an authentic Judaism if we don’t keep the traditions, which can lead to people abandoning Yeshua for authentic Judaism.

  • No, Judaism’s ruling should not apply to Yeshua’s disciples:

Some of Judaism’s traditions actually nullify God's commandments. Still others cause a heavy burden. Look at the fruit: a significant number of Messianics who embraced Judaism's traditions and rulings ended up denying Messiah.


For the record, I fall in the latter camp, though I caution my side to avoid getting into anti-Judaism arguments, which can and has led to anti-semitism; hatred of Judaism often leads to hatred of Jews.

My argument isn’t an anti-Judaism one, but rather, one that puts all tradition – both Jewish and Christian – into its proper place: firmly below Scripture itself, and not elevated to a place of requirement for faithful living.

One last note: this has long been a contentious issue among Messianics. Jewish Christian Dr. Michael Brown wrote a landmark paper on this way back in 1988 (that’s a quarter of a century ago!) dealing with this very issue, touching on both sides. In that paper, Dr. Brown argues that we should not keep the traditions, but also that our congregations ought not be called a Judaism, and our leaders not rabbis. He essentially argues for a Jewish Christianity, a position held by many “Messianic” pioneers of the 20th century, rather than a Messianic Judaism.

32 comments:

  1. In that paper, Dr. Brown argues that we should not keep the traditions, but also that our congregations ought not be called a Judaism, and our leaders not rabbis. He essentially argues for a Jewish Christianity, a position held by many “Messianic” pioneers of the 20th century, rather than a Messianic Judaism.

    That's an interesting thought, Judah. A lot of "Messianic" congregations out there are fundamentally more Christian than they are Jewish, so it might be a "labeling" issue. This is particularly true if "Judaism" is in part defined by adherence to the Torah in both its written and oral records and recognizing Rabbinic authority.

    I think Derek Leman tried to "re-brand" One Law congregations with a primarily non-Jewish leadership and membership as "Judeo-Christian" or "Judaically-aware" congregations.

    I don't see a lot of congregations going along with this notion, but functionally, it would be quite accurate.

    I can see how Talmud study *might* convince some Christians/Messianics to abandon Christ and pursue traditional Judaism, but that would also be a reflection of the individual's commitment to the Savior. I'm not ready to "demonize" Judaism or various MJ organizations and congregations, just because they support study and practice of the Jewish traditions.

    My current blog is heavily laced with such references and even my Lutheran mother reads it avidly (and just try blogging when you know your mother reads every word).

    Studying Jewish history, Talmudic writings, mysticism, and the Chassidim isn't the kiss of death. There's an awful lot of the Messiah in those places.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "He essentially argues for a Jewish Christianity, a position held by many “Messianic” pioneers of the 20th century, rather than a Messianic Judaism."

    Dr. Brown's "Jewish Christianity" is dead in water, it had and has not future. In fact, there's no such thing. There's little "Jewish" about any of it, save for ethnic backgrounds of Jewish converts. Most Hebrew Christians attend mainstream churches (and not Jewish Christian one that would supposedly practice "Jewish Christianity") and their children identify as Christians. There will be nothing Jewish left of them in a generation (as history has amply shown).

    By actively alienating itself from Judaism in thought and deed, and in fact developing great antagonism toward it and opposing those believers who wanted to reverse the sad rift, the "Jewish Christianity" has served to cut off Jews who believe in Yeshua from the Jewish people no less than the "Gentile Christianity" has done throughout its history.

    It would been an altogether sad legacy, an anomalous blip in history of Christianity, if not for the fact that from its ashes rose a new generation of Jewish followers of Messiah determined to restore Yeshua to his proper place in Judaism and the Jewish people.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I like you re-summarization, thanks Judah! I dont understand how people can put pharisaic traditions on the same level as Torah considering the amount of anti Messiah Yeshua verses that are in the talmud!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Babylonian talmud, eruvian, 21b "My son! Be carefull concerning rabbinic decrees even more so than the Torah... The Torah contains prohibitions... But anyone who violates a rabbinic decree is worthy of death,"

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sanhedrin 107B of the Babylonian Talmud: "Yeshua... stood up a brick to symbolize an idol and bowed down to it. Yeshua performed magic and incited the people of Israel and led them astray."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sanhedrin 43A: "On Passover Eve they hanged Yeshua of Nazareth. He practiced sorcery, incited and led Israel astray...Was Yeshua of Nazareth deserving of a search for an argument in his favor? He was an enticer and the Torah says, 'You shall not spare, nor shall you conceal him!"

    ReplyDelete
  7. Gittin 57a He (the rabbi) then went and raised by incantations the sinners of Israel. He asked them...What is your punishment (for Yeshua)? They replied: With boiling (in) hot excrement."

    ReplyDelete
  8. Please continue to follow pharisaic judaism, you will get your just deserts gene!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jesse, I don't think you have to post six separate comments in a row to get your point across. You could have compiled your ( way out-of-context) quotes in a single message.

    I like you re-summarization, thanks Judah! I dont understand how people can put pharisaic traditions on the same level as Torah considering the amount of anti Messiah Yeshua verses that are in the talmud!

    Jesse, if you don't want to study the Talmud, don't. No one is forcing you to. Most Christians don't study Talmud and they get along perfectly fine in their faith. On the other hand, you don't have to keep hammering away at those of us who choose to study Jewish texts. There is much to be learned about the Jewish Messiah from understanding Judaism. Jews aren't evil just because they don't accept Jesus as the Messiah. Sadly, the church has given Jews many good reasons to be critical of Christian motives, at least historically, and those feelings about Jesus have made their way into portions of the Talmud. That doesn't make the Jewish sages bad, it just makes them people who were tired of being harassed, tortured, and sometimes murdered in the name of Christ. That's the context you need to understand when you read the very few, select passages from the Talmud that address Jesus from which you quote.

    Incidentally, Jews don't put the Talmud on the same level as the Torah. The Rabbinic rulings, while considered binding, particularly among the Orthodox, are of a lesser authority than the Torah. I find that said all through my studies.

    You might want to read a blog post I'm publishing tomorrow morning on my blog called "Who Are Our Teachers" (since I write "morning meditations", I try to post them in the morning). I think you'll see the other side of the coin, so to speak, about learning Torah and Talmud in a Jewish tradition and that it's not "evil" as you make it out to be. In fact, the Pharisees, who you continually criticize, weren't all evil either. Consider Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and a disciple of Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea, who was also a disciple as well as a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin.

    On a previous blog post comment in another of Judah's blogs, I said to you (but you may have missed it) that "you can either continue to choose to point fingers and blame others for your own pain, or you can start taking responsibility for your own emotions, seek wise help and council, and learn to move on. Beating a dead horse won't make it any more dead, it'll just make you more tired and frustrated".

    You are obviously in pain and I have compassion for that, but you seem all too dedicated to holding onto that pain and continuing to blame Judaism, or at least certain aspects of it, for how you feel.

    It's harder to learn to be at peace with God and other people than it is to have another go at stirring the pot, but for which one did God create your being and your existence?

    ReplyDelete
  10. One cannot deny that there are some bad statements present about Yeshua in Rabbinic literature. There are also bad statements made about the Jews in early Christian literature.

    We're dealing with *people* here. At the same time, whether it be Jewish or Christian theological works, each body of material bears witness to a wide array of opinions that usually has to be consulted--at least in an historical sense.

    Such literature should be merited a consultative authority in matters where Scripture is silent.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wisdom and balance as usual, John. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "Please continue to follow pharisaic judaism, you will get your just deserts gene!"

    Jesse, if what I am doing as a Jew means that I will perish alongside my fellow "pharisaic Jews", if that will be my "just deserts" for not leaving my people, may it be so according to your word.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Just to add a bit to the argument that halachah is somehow considered by Jews to be equal to Torah and an inflexible collection of rulings set in concrete and cemented in superglue, I came across something when studying the daf for Chullin 18.

    In this daf, "we find that there is sometimes no absolute halacha of how to act. At times both opinions have equal halachic validity."

    The commentary goes on to discuss the validity of Ashkenazic vs. Sefardic pronunciations in saying the prayers and if one, the other, or both are considered "l'shon hakodesh" (the Holy Tongue). Various authorities are consulted and the conclusion is that there can be no preference, since you have evidence of two large groups of Jews over the course of history who have spoken their prayers in both dialects.

    I think this illustrates that, rather than being a burden or straight jacket imposed by a group of religious authorities, halacha is designed to answer important questions about how best to worship God and to live out the Torah, being consistent with the words and the intent of Moses and the Prophets (and for our purposes, with Jesus). On our example here, the traditions of both the Sefardim and the Ashkenazim are accepted and honored.

    These rulings certainly have no impact on those people or groups who don't accept the authority of the Talmudic sages, so I don't apply them to Messianic groups as such, but it does (I hope) show that study can dispel myth and wipe away prejudice that are held about Judaism and Jewish traditions, rather than seeing such traditions as necessarily "corrupting" Christians and Messianics.

    I know I probably won't change anyone's opinion, but I am trying to present my point from a reasoned and measured point of view, rather than letting emotion make the determination.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Gene said, "Jesse, if what I am doing as a Jew means that I will perish alongside my fellow "pharisaic Jews", if that will be my "just deserts" for not leaving my people, may it be so according to your word."

    I stand along side you Gene.

    @Jesse, your selective quotes, out of context, are not helpful to your argument. There are plenty of sites that list such things in nice, neat, orderly... and anti-Semitic ways. Sorry to be so blunt, but that is exactly what ran through my mind when I read your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love these rare moments when theologically-opposed brothers find a moment of agreement. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Nothing to take out of context, only people who are trying to cover them up are taking away their context...

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nothing to take out of context, only people who are trying to cover them up are taking away their context...

    Good morning to you, too.

    As promised, here's today's "morning mediation": Who Are Our Teachers. Jesse, your mind is already made up and I can see that attempting to reason with you will not be successful. Nevertheless, I will try again to open up my perspective in the attempt to show that I'm hiding nothing. I don't understand why you accuse me of "covering up" something.

    Whoever you are (I have no idea who you are, where you come from, or what your experiences have been like), try to learn to be at peace with others, even if those others are not like you. Asher at the Lev Echad blog (Jewish and not Messianic in the slightest) offers one of the best messages I could imagine about this sort of disagreement. I was inspired by it. Someday, I hope you can be inspired by something uplifting, too.

    Good Shabbos.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is about the pharisees...
    Isa 29:13-14 Then Adonai said: "Because these people approach me with empty words, and the honor they bestow on me is mere lip-service; while in fact they have distanced their hearts from me, and their 'fear of me' is just a mitzvah of human origin — therefore, I will have to keep shocking these people with astounding and amazing things, until the 'wisdom' of their 'wise ones' vanishes, and the 'discernment' of their 'discerning ones' is hidden away."

    Master Yeshua the Messiah said this verse was speaking of the pharisees in Mathew 15. To argue the the pharisaic rabbis have any authority is in the same category as catholicism and their claim to authority. When will we as men stop trying to found religions and start following Him!? Also its funny how people think they are so intelligent when they follow the traditions of men (pharisaic or catholic) when in fact the wisdom of man is foolish in the eyes of Elohim! Now I know exactly what Yeshua meant when he said...

    Mat 11:25 It was at that time that Yeshua said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you concealed these things from the sophisticated and educated and revealed them to ordinary folks.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Jesse, I take it by your interpretation of Matthew 11:25, I, and anybody else who reads and studies, should have a lobotomy and stop pondering the lessons of the Bible and Talmud altogether. *sigh*

    I've already explained the issue regarding the Pharisees. You just don't want to give up your tasty chazir, as it were (sorry for the excessive links, Judah). Every blog post I write illustrates the numerous uplifting lessons we can find in the Talmud and indeed point to the Messiah.

    Many Christians, in their desire to avoid coming under anyone else's authority, believe that the individual is the only one who can rightly understand the Bible, from a plain meaning in the English and with no interpretation or commentary from a people who had been keeping Torah for thousands of years while the Gentiles were worshiping idols of stone and wood. We all want our way as opposed to facing the possibility that we could be wrong. 2 Timothy 4:3 has a description of this. We want no teachers to contradict our own personal beliefs or only teachers who will confirm what we've already decided. No learning need take place. I feel very sorry for you and hope someday that you learn you do not have to disdain the Jewish people in order to be a disciple of the Jewish Messiah.

    I described the antisemetic applications of the thought process you have been presenting in another blog post.

    Be well, Jesse. May God be with both of our souls. My you one day learn to have peace with your fellows. Blessings.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Judah said "I love these rare moments when theologically-opposed brothers find a moment of agreement."

    Rare moments? < grin >

    When it comes to overt or even "soft" anti-Semitism, I will always side with Gene.

    Always.

    To be anti-Semitic, is to be anti-G_d.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I am a long time friend of Michael Brown... longer than that paper is old. It should be kept in mind that Dr. Brown is a Hebrew Christian and not a Messianic Jew in the classical sense of that term, for the very reason his paper lays out. His opinions in that matter are not based on scholarship, but on his own proclivities. His area of expertise is linguistics and appologetics. He is not a Messianic Jewish theologian. I love him and deeply respect him, but in this area, his opinions are spurious.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Yes, I hoped to make that clear by describing him as a Jewish Christian, rather than a Messianic Jew.

    Technically, "Jewish Christian" and "Messianic Jew" are the same thing, but in practice, when the term "Messianic" is used, we think of Torah observance. And when it comes to Torah observance, I suspect Dr. Brown has the classic Christian stance on that.

    (That said, I really think Dr. Brown is an articulate and powerful voice for Messiah.)

    ReplyDelete
  24. "That said, I really think Dr. Brown is an articulate and powerful voice for Messiah."

    I suppose one can be "an articulate and powerful voice for Messiah" while misrepresenting that same Messiah to the Jewish people and the world by painting him as one who has supposedly rejected Judaism and Torah and now would rather shuffle all Jews into nice evangelical churches. One can be "articulate and powerful" and be convinced that they are doing service to Messiah and G-d, while accomplishing quite the opposite.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Wooooooooow.

    I mean that. Wow.

    You're implying Dr. Brown is not serving Messiah and God.

    See, most independent Messianics like myself, even though we disagree with Dr. Brown on Torah, we would never say he is not serving Messiah.

    The Bilateral Ecclesiology camp often claims they are friendly with the Christian world. Yet here is a Christian brother, a Jew, who has been a bold voice for Messiah, and you imply he's doing "quite the opposite" of serving God.

    Wow.

    ReplyDelete
  26. "See, most independent Messianics like myself, even though we disagree with Dr. Brown on Torah, we would never say he is not serving Messiah."

    Judah, take a deep, long, refreshing breath. I didn't SAY that Dr. Brown was "not serving Messiah" (YOU said that).

    Instead, I specifically said that because of his classic Christian stance on Judaism and Torah and by his painting Messiah as antinomian, by shuffling Jews he may reach into churches, he's "accomplishing quite the opposite", that is opposite of what he intends to do - presenting a JEWISH Messiah to the Jewish people.

    So, there are different ways to serve Messiah and I am sure some of what Dr. Brown does and teaches is indeed service. Not all of our service, however, is actually "service". A Christian may serve Messiah by telling Jews about Messiah's love for them. This is great service to Messiah. A Christian may also THINK he serves Messiah (but doesn't, in fact) when he tells Jews that Messiah did away with Torah and Judaism and that Jews need to join a church. This is NOT SERVICE to Messiah not matter what one calls it and how sincere one may be. It's a DISSERVICE.

    Do you disagree with that?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Dr. Brown certainly *IS* serving Yeshua and I don't think anyone would say he wasn't. I missed the statement about him being a Jewish Christian. The fact is, his work in appologetics has been invaluable, and I count him a very kind and good hearted brother in Yeshua whom I sincerely appreciate.

    No one is perfect, not me, not him, not whomever is reading this.... and if his imperfection is in regards to Messianic Judaism, thats between him and God, not him and us.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Technically, "Jewish Christian" and "Messianic Jew" are the same thing, but in practice, when the term "Messianic" is used, we think of Torah observance. And when it comes to Torah observance, I suspect Dr. Brown has the classic Christian stance on that.

    I wouldn't say they're the same thing exactly. As you pointed out, a "Jewish Christian" is a Jewish person who has converted to Christianity and who practices said-Christianity within the standard understanding of the church. They go to church on Sunday, they don't observe the Saturday Shabbat, they believe the kosher laws have gone bye-bye, and so on.

    A "Messianic Jew" is a Jewish person who has come to faith in Jesus (Yeshua) as the Jewish Messiah and who maintains that faith within the traditional framework of an observant, religious Jew. They observe the Shabbat, keep kosher, pray with a siddur, and so forth. Expressed ideally, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a non-Messianic Jew in prayer and worship and a Messianic Jew in prayer and worship.

    That's my understanding of the difference anyway. Beyond the behavioral markers, it's a matter of how you conceptualize Jesus, God, and Judaism as incorporated into your identity. That makes a Jewish Christian and a Messianic Jew somewhat related but in many ways, wholly different people.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I know this is an old conversation, but I just found a recent blog post titled Did Jesus Reject the Oral Law that gives a measured and researched argument for Jesus keeping the traditions. I recommend giving it a read.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Actually, we might find common ground here.

    My side is not arguing Yeshua followed zero traditions. Rather, that he at least rejected some traditions and thus, are not required for faithful living.

    That isn't too far from that author's opinion, where his summarized conclusion is,

    "No. No, Jesus did not reject the Oral Law and in fact seems to practice some parts of it. (emphasis mine)

    I would agree with that statement. Yeshua practiced some traditions, particularly where they did not conflict with God's law and did not cause a heavy burden. Likewise, some he rejected because they caused a burden or because they conflicted with God's commandments.

    That's a good model for us.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I read his latest blog post this morning and I really think he's a blog author we should be watching. As far as I can tell, he's the only one so far who seems to be doing anything like serious research into this matter. He also lists a series of resources that can be helpful in pursuit of understanding Jesus and the Oral Law.

    ReplyDelete