Messianic Judaism is a movement of people who identify as Jews and self-consciously embrace – although to degrees that can differ quite widely – Jewish culture and religious tradition, while at the same time maintaining a belief in the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the authority of the New Testament. Despite a wide range of contemporary response to the question of what constitutes Jewishness, all four major denominations of Judaism agree that Messianic Jews are not acceptably Jewish, and that Jewishness is utterly incompatible with belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. This research uses the unambiguous Jewish rejection of contemporary Messianic Judaism as a platform for thinking about the construction of heresy and its study. By examining mainstream Jewish responses to Jewish believers in Jesus, both in Israel and in North America, we see that this “heresy” is not primarily an issue of belief, but rather a form of discipline that speaks from and to particular social locations, historical relationships and distribution of power.
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Dr. Faydra Shapiro (Max Stern Yezreel Valley College) directs the Galilee Center for Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations. Today it is my honor to introduce you to my friend and colleague Dr. Faydra Shapiro. She is Jewish like myself, but unlike myself she is an Orthodox Jew. Faydra directs the Galilee Center for Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, in northern Israel. She grew up in Canada and completed her PhD at McMaster University. For many years she was a university professor in a department of Religion and Culture in Canada. Her wonderful family made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago and she now directs the first program of its kind in Israel. She is also a proud mother of six young children. I invited her to contribute to our Jewish Studies for Christians study group on regular basis because I am persuaded that her voice, in looking at the Christian movement today as an Orthodox Jew, offers a much-needed perspective. I know that she will offer a friendly, at times corrective but balanced insight about Judaism that Christians need to hear.