“jesus For Jews” By Dr. Faydra Shapiro (max Stern Yezreel Valley College)

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.

The full text of the article is here.

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.

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  1. Nathan Garrison

    Blurring the Boundaries; American Messianic Jews and Gentiles; Patricia A. Power.
    (and); ISSN 1522-5668 Jesus for Jews Journal of Religion & Society The Kripke Center
    Volume 14 (2012) Jesus for Jews The Unique Problem of Messianic Judaism
    Faydra Shapiro, Wilfrid Laurier University.

    I have read both of these articles. I think they should be rewritten substituting something else for the words; Christian and Religion. The Apostles never used those words in the manner thought of Today. I believe both words represent pagan concepts.

    From Patricia A. Power; “Although on the surface he appears to support the Christian project, Dr. Jacob Gartenhaus delivers a stinging critique of the Gentile church’s 1,900 years of preaching by non-Jews to non-Jews.
    The disappointing result of all this effort, he argued, is that “while paganism has become ‘civilized,’ ‘Christian civilization’ has become paganized. This is what the Gentile church has achieved during 19 centuries.”

    (28) One of many ironic twists to this ongoing story of reinforcement and resistance is the admission by contemporary Messianic Jews that they have been no more successful than their Gentile predecessors in converting the world, let alone their Jewish brethren.

    From Dr. Faydra; “[14] … Messianic Jews assiduously reject the label “Christian” and any suggestion that they have “converted.” According to their way of thinking, a Jew who has come to faith in Yeshua does not convert to anything and does not “switch,” so to speak, either ethnically (into a Gentile) or religiously (into a Christian). Rather, she remains eternally Jewish, only moving from the category of “unbeliever” to “believer,” from lost to saved. Messianic Jews not only refrain from thinking of themselves as Christians, but often reject Gentile Christianity outright as associated with paganism and persecution – a faith expression felt to have deviated from the path of righteousness and thus requires a turn toward deep self-examination and correction. For Messianic Jews, Christianity is for Gentiles and is not necessary or even relevant for Jews and their salvation. Thus they are reborn not as Christians, but as (Jewish) believers in Yeshua.
    A very similar message was proclaimed by Herbert Armstrong beginning in 1934 to 1986.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      The terms people use in their writing are rarely perfect. We live in society that speaks a particular language and address ourselves to groups with entrenched terminologies that they understand. I do not like to refer to apostolic era Jewish writings ad New Testament. This term is a actually a theological paradigm, not the name of all those writings. I do not like it but I use it all the time. If we use unfamiliar terminology we risk being misunderstood or misinterpreted or even dismissed. So we have to speak the language of the people we are communicating to, understanding that the terms we use represent ideas and in and of themselves are not as significant. We have to make sacrifices to make our communication relevant to our audience.

  2. Jane Z. Mazzola

    That lady’s question in June 2015 seems relevant & a good one. I hope it was answered!

    This paper of Dr. Shapiro’s was posted in the blog in August 2014. Somehow I have missed it until tonight, almost 2 yrs. later. It answers many questions I have had, but felt it would be too impolite for me, a gentile outsider, to ask. I even had questions to ask the “Jews for Jesus” reps at a dinner when I was on an Israel trip in Fall 2014, because it seemed too public/social a venue to interject controversial questions or observations.

    It seems thatJews who believe in Yeshua/Jesus still reap discrimination, disassociation, & threat by the leaders/community of the mainstream Jewish community in the 21st c., just as in the 1st c. And yet, w/in the Messianic believers’ community there is such a strong effort, bordering on almost hostility to the gentile world that accepted Yeshua/Jesus as the Messiah, to restore Jesus, His disciples, & the early faith community to Israel, the same people who were hostile then & are still non-accepting, even toward their own Messianic believing brothers & sisters. I have no problem w/ Jesus being in the context of Hebrew; that is historically correct; but what I find interesting is still this strong desire to be accepted & acknowledged as “welcome as just another part of the family” by the Jewish mainstream. To the Jewish mainstream leaders/people, I would say, “you’re missing the boat & turning your backs on your most ardent supporters/brothers & sisters. You need each other for survival as a nation. God bless you all.

  3. Maria Elena Martinez

    Question referring to page 2 of the transcript. If the Torah teaches genealogical lineage through the seed of the fathers from the very beginning, how can ‘tradition’ supersede this teaching and how can it be justified that a Jew is only recognized when he/she comes from the maternal line? Thank you in advance.

  4. Jude

    What an amazingly compete exposition of the case of Messianic Jews, but also a very realistic confession of disharmony of belief, whatever one’s biblical understanding may be. I will need some time to digest this. I come from a Catholic father, and a mother born of a Jewish mother and Lutheran father (in Nazi-Germany). I prefer not to reveal what I became, but I would not deny that I had a most unexpected and merciful encounter with the Creator that has not lost its throbbing heart-beat even after 30 years of searching and obedience to the best of my ability. I have more questions than ever. Thank you for your contribution to my life.