First Believers

Shalom friends,


I know that some of you have been waiting for the next episode of the Hidden Messiah series – and I will return to that subject very soon. In just a couple of weeks, we will begin studying the “hidden Messiah” concept in the New Testament. But for now, as promised, we will take a short break from this intriguing theme and look at some   posts on seemingly different topics – although they are all  definitely related,  they are all pieces of this fascinating puzzle that is called “Israel and Yeshua”.

There is a very deep and important statement  of John: He came to His own and His own received Him not – and in order to understand fully this statement, we need to see a broader picture.  Thankfully, there is a growing recognition on the both sides that Yeshua “came to His own”; not only that He was a Jew and was born and raised as a Jew, but also that the New Testament is part of 1 AD Palestinian Judaism. We need to understand also, why His own received Him not – and I hope and believe that my articles about Hidden Messiah, who was as though hiding His face from us, will help us in this understanding, However, there were many Jews (or Israelites, the actual terminology) who did receive and accept Yeshua, – and today I would like to tell you about these first Jewish believers.  It will be also an important part of this broader picture, one more piece of this puzzle.

As you probably know, the “first church”, the community of the early followers of Yeshua, was completely Jewish. With all the profound differences that faith in Yeshua would make, outwardly the gathering and the fellowship of the early church was no different from a synagogue. The synagogue was the place where Jews and God-fearing Gentiles would gather together to read the Torah. From the book of Acts we know that it was a regular custom of Apostle Paul to attend synagogue every Shabbat.  Paul explicitly states that his apostolic mission was to reach the Gentiles with the gospel – and yet, in every new town where he arrives (in predominately Gentile regions), he goes to a synagogue. It was in synagogues that he met with Jews and Gentiles alike who were interested in the Word of God.  Here are just some scriptures:


When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. (Acts 13:5)

But they … came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.( Acts 13:14-16)

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed (Acts 14:1)

They came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:1-3)

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue (Acts 17:10)

So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17:17)

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth… And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath (Acts 18:1-4)

And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. (Acts 18:19)

This situation lasted for quite some time. For at least a century after Yeshua’s death, there were people who believed that He was the Messiah, but who also attended synagogue, kept Shabbat, ate kosher and circumcised their sons. Unlike now, these people didn’t see any problem in being both a Jew and a Christian. So when did this period come to an end? When did the final “parting of the ways” happen?


Until recently, many believed that this period ended with the Council of Yavneh (around 90 AD): According to Jewish sources, there was a great Jewish council where all Jews agreed to follow mainstream rabbinic tradition, and those who didn’t were expelled. However this view has recently been challenged by different scholars (see Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels).  In reality, the Jewish believers and the Jews who didn’t accept Yeshua continued to worship together in synagogues at least until the Bar Kochba rebellion (132-136 CE), maybe even later. Most scholars now believe that Birkat ha-Minim (Heb. בִּרְכַּת הַמִּינִים, “benediction concerning heretics”, a Jewish curse on heretics (minim), the twelfth benediction of the weekday Amidah) was composed after the Bar Kochba revolt. The language of the benediction clearly demonstrates that it was specifically aimed against “Jewish separatists” and that the prayer was composed to expose those who  followed Yeshua and had accepted Him as Messiah. There would have been no need for such a prayer in synagogues if the Jewish followers of Yeshua were not amongst the gatherings there.

However, there were the later  Christian councils that drove a final separation line between traditional Jewish beliefs and practices, and the new religion of Christianity – especially the famous Council of Nicaea and its successor, the Council of Constantinople.  As Daniel Boyarin writes: “Nicaea effectively created what we now understand to be Christianity and, oddly enough, what we now understand as Judaism as well.  Across the seven decades between the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, options for ways of believing or being Christian were cut off through this process of selection, especially the option to be both Christian and Jew at the same time. One could not both believe in Jesus and go to synagogue on Sabbath”.

Thus, we arrive at a very sad conclusion: Even though the first cracks in the relationship between the disciples of Yeshua and Jewish mainstream could already be seen in the first century, it was only through the common efforts of the Jewish Rabbis and Christian scholars and writers (even though both sides would deny angrily any reference to the common efforts) that the process of delegitimization of Jewish believers who defined themselves as both Jewish and Christian, was completed. From that time on, one had to either: believe in the Nicene Creed, leave the synagogue, and be called a Christian; or, if one decided to stay in the synagogue, he would have to drop belief in Yeshua and then he would be called a Jew.

From that time on, we’ve had two distinct and very different religions: Judaism and Christianity – and as a good friend of our family, Boaz Michael, wrote: “All of us – all Christians and Jews – are children of this ugly divorce” between Judaism and Christianity. – “Let’s all become children of the reconciliation.”

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Jerry S.

    You bring up the Nicean Creed. As a gentile and speaking from that POV, I’ve found the overwhelming majority of what has become to be known as Christianity woefully untaught in the conception and history of what is their belief and the anti-semitism that was its foundation and the sword by which it was enforced. Perhaps your courses will help?

    Constantine the first Christian emperor, Origen Adamantius, Eusebius Pamphilus, Jerome, Justin Martyr and their writings that established the western church and its doctrine to this day are largely unknown and worse, the apathy for logic and thought in favor of emotion and chill bumps are the order of the day and the driving force instead of obedience to the Word.


    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your comment, Jerry, I totally agree: it is my great pain that Christianity is “woefully untaught” and unaware of “the anti-semitism that was its foundation and the sword by which it was enforced”. I don’t know about courses, i don’t think eTeacher plans to have courses on Christian history, but I personally had been dealing with it a lot, and maybe – God willing – in the future, I will post some articles here.

      1. Jerry S.

        If not e-teacher, and if I may-
        Daniel Gruber, as a resource.

  2. JOAN

    Hi Sheryl.
    To answer your question from my point of view. There was only one scripture in the early church and that was the Old Testament scriptures which was read in the synagogue. In order for believers of Jesus, Jews and Gentiles alike, to continue hearing the word of God they had to hear it at a synagogue

  3. jane z mazzola

    Thank you, Julia, for this enlightening post @ the separations of Israelites, Messiah-believing Jews, & gentile Christians, just to give words to define the basic groups under discussion. Considering those basic historical facts gives me an even greater appreciation into the shared, but distinct/distant history we have: the way it was, the way it is, often hateful & tragic & sad. Multiple interpretations of Scriptures, even here in the comments, have been shared of what it means.

    I marvel that God entrusted His Will & Word to humans, & that by the grace of God, It (Will&Word) have transpired to the present. Truly we have been given a Gift of supernatural portions. I conclude, also, & repeat from elsewhere, that “we all do need each other”.

    Blessings, Jane

  4. ND

    Interesting topic indeed! My question is whether each of the “divorced” sides regarded itself as the one still faithful to the scriptures and its opponents as heretic or not following the separation?

    1. Julia Blum

      Good question. Indeed, each of the “divorced” sides considered its teaching as the only true continuation and interpretation of the Tanach (Old Testament) – and its opponents, accordingly, as heretics .

  5. Sheryl Ferguson

    I think Ishmael is clearly Islam and Issac is the forefather of the Jews. God intends for there to be reconciliation between these brothers but this can not possibly happen unless Islam turns to the one true God.
    When we accept Christ there is no longer Greek nor Jew, slave nor free. We are a new creation. I wonder if the Jews that wanted to attend synagogue, did they intend to keep themselves under the law?? They must have had revelation of their freedom in Christ. I don’t know how they could continue to want to follow the law except culturally. I myself have been part of Christian church that was so legal that as a Spirit filled Christian I could not experience the presence of God at all. Couldn’t worship with abandon, couldn’t hear a nourishing sermon. Wouldn’t that be a similar situation? I am truly curious and obviously ignorant but I’d like to get clarification. Why would they want to worship with people who did not accept the Messiah? Fellowship yes but what would the worship look like ??
    I also believe that Christ is the head of the Church and He is not failing in His position. Man may seem to be messing up, but God is working His plan in spite of us. Jews and Christians alike have to learn to separate from mans tradition and come into Gods Culture.

    1. Ian MacMillan

      Excellent response. I find it curious how the new creature aspect is missed consistently and believing on Jesus is treated much like a philosophy to which one subscribes. Then there is confusing the historic actions of the Catholic church with “Christianity”, when they busied themselves with killing believers as heretics, as well as Jews, and whoever else opposed their militaristic expansion and subsequent political control.
      As can be seen from other comments allegory can be a slippery slope. Historical context is always good to preserve, and your point about Ishmael and Issac is right on.

    2. Dorothy Healy

      Sheryl I just want to respond to your first line, as it seems to be in response to my comment.
      How we view Ishmael and Isaac depends on whether we are viewing them as sons in the flesh – in which case, yes, Isaac’s descendants are the Jewish people – or sons according to the promise. Paul, in Galatians, brings this latter perspective to bear, in relating Hagar and Sarah to two Covenants. Here we are given a different lens see the ancient story through – believing Jews and Christians are related to Isaac: Gal;.4:28 “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.”
      To see Ishmael as ‘clearly Islam’ is not so straightforward. We tend to think ‘Ishmael is clearly Islam’ because of conditioning. Islam has always claimed that they are sons of Abraham through Ishmael, and that has become accepted as truth. Certainly, not all Arabs are descendants of Ishmael in the flesh – so do Moslems all become spiritual ‘sons of Abraham/Ishmael’ through faith? They may believe so, but that certainly contradicts our scripture.
      According to Paul’s logic, Hagar represents the Sinai Covenant, so how does Islam fit into that? Islam did not even exist until 632 AD, so certainly could not have been part of Paul’s understanding in Galatians.
      Of course, the ongoing conflict between two brothers goes back to Cain and Abel, continues with Noah’s sons, and so on, and certainly God does intend reconciliation between the ‘two brothers’, flesh and spirit, however we see them, through the one Messiah and true God. Please God, He will do it, and soon!

  6. Kat

    I believed in the trinity as a Christian, but I believed in it for the wrong reasons. I believed it because I had a two-fold revelation of Christ. One God + two revelations of Jesus in Judaism = 3 right? 🙂 The two-revelations I had were Christ’s death (God will provide) and His resurrection (only God can produce fruit in me). This makes me wonder if ‘elōhîm and El Shadda both represent the Hidden Messiah?

    Also I see something in John 1:1-4 that I can’t quite put my finger on.

    In the beginning was ‘elōhîm (cannot be fully understood)
    All birth histories were made by Yehovah Elohim
    In him El Shadda was the power/life of the covenant and the power was visible AS A light in men.
    “5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

    1. Kat

      I am replying to myself to see if I can fix a technical problem 🙂 So… is a creed similar to what we would call a statement of faith? It now makes sense to me that the Biblical language I learned did indeed retain Old Testament patterns of my thought (tested heart). And since I had no language I fell prey to replacement theology, in part, because “we believe” (statement of faith) started with Jesus and I started with Law.

      1. Julia Blum

        The more I read your comments, Kat, the more I am intrigued by your story. Maybe you can share it?

        1. Kat H

          Julia I was unable to receive comments from you via email- retrying. Basically “we believe” is a statement of belonging or a starting point. My starting point “law” didn’t jive with evangelism So…I read NOT belonging into the scriptures.

  7. Premkumar Samuel

    Even in the NT we see that the followers of Christ gathered to meet on the first day of the week. So I think Easter and Christmas should not be confused with Sabbath and first day of the week which coincides with the resurrection.

    1. Dorothy Healy

      Actually there is only one verse in the entire NT that says the disciples came together to break bread on the first day of the week – Acts 20:7. Since, on that day, Paul ‘continued his speech until midnight’ as he was departing the next day, we can assume that it was a Saturday evening – in other words after the close of the Sabbath. Even today, Jews recognize that the new day begins at sundown, in accordance with the account of creation in Genesis, so Saturday evening begins the first day of the week. (In fact, even today, the first weekly ‘Sunday’ Catholic Mass is held at 6pm on Saturdays). It makes sense that those who believed in Jesus as Messiah might have extended their Sabbath by breaking bread together in the evening. Interestingly, I don’t think we see any NT reference to Christians breaking bread on the first day of the week BECAUSE that was the day of resurrection.

      Apparently, Sunday actually made very little headway as a Christian day of rest until the time of Constantine in the 4th century. He decreed Sunday to be a day of rest in 321 AD, calling it “The venerable day of the Sun” (not Son)! Later, in 364 AD the Council of Laodicea declared:
      “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday (Sabbath), but shall work on that Day …. If however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ.”

      The very fact that this was decreed as late as 364 AD, seems to indicate that many Christians were still observing the Jewish Sabbath as a day of rest. Personally, I have no problem with Christians meeting for worship on Sundays, but the subject of the Sabbath is far deeper than that, being sanctified, as it was, by God Himself at the time of creation.

  8. jeffrey dent

    Excellent article MS Julia, I can tell you are a woman filled with the spirit. And I know GOD has never left his covenent people.Because he love Abraham, Isaac and Jacob( YISRAEL) and through your prophets, apostles and holy people, now the whole world have the Bible to read ( if they want to know the truth) of who GOD is; (ADONAY) and his SON( Yeshua Hameshia and his Chosen people; and the rest of of gentiles who have faith in Jesus will be grafted in with the Children of the promis

  9. David Hereford

    I have tried to read all that I can on this to get a clearer understanding of how we became so dis unified in walking before our Father, Holy God. This striving to understand and search out our history, I have been distracted from the very walking in His presence!
    Julie, I want to thank you so much for leading us in this study of His Scriptures. He is using this to shape me into the image of His unique Son, our Messiah!


    This separation between Judaism and the new religion called Christianity was foreshadowed in the Torah. Bear with me while I explain:
    Galatians 4 tells us that: Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. 24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants . . .

    As we would know, Hagar and Ishmael were expelled from Abraham’s camp by the will of God, but God did not abandon them. In Genesis 21 we read: 18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” . . . 20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.
    The Hebrew word, torah (תורה), is derived from a root that was used in the realm of archery, yareh (ירה). Yareh means to shoot an arrow in order to hit a mark.

    With the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, Rabbinic Judaism concentrated on the Torah and how to interpret the Laws without a Temple. Rabbi Judah the Prince reasoned that when the Jewish people were threatened with extinction, the Torah itself was in danger of being forgotten. Thus, the Mishnah, which is a legal commentary on the Torah, explaining how its commandments are to be carried out, was published in approximately 190 to 200 CE. In other words, those who did not embrace the New Covenant, became “expert with the bow”.

    Thus, from the Torah itself, I understand that it was in accordance with God’s will and foreknowledge that most Jews did not accept the ‘new religion’ which swept the Gentile world. But God was with them – He took them by the hand and made sure that they didn’t “die of thirst”. As a result of this clear separation, the Torah was preserved, treasured and studied as God’s most holy Word. The Torah kept the Jews alive as a distinct people.
    Meanwhile the Roman Christendom decreed that Christians were to have nothing to do with the “despicable” Jews and their ways – Passover became Easter, the Pagan festival of Saturnalia became Christmas, the Sabbath was changed to Sunday, and so on.

    1. Jerry S.

      By what I read of your comment, it appears you have the allegory contained in v. 24 reversed. Isaac (Hebrew) is the son of the Promise, Ishmael (gentile) is the son of the flesh, Gal 4:24 – 26.

      Are you attaching descriptions of Ishmael, “expert with the bow” and “die of thirst” to unbelieving Jews?

      If my understanding of your comment is correct, how would you describe believing Jews using this logic?


      1. Dorothy Healy

        You are reading me correctly Jerry. It might seem confusing at first, but clearly Paul in Galatians is bringing these two mothers, Hagar and Sarah, forward to represent two covenants. And yes, I’m suggesting that the description of Ishmael fits the unbelieving Jews at the time of the birth of the ultimate ‘Son of the Promise’, Yeshua. But God did not allow Judaism to die out – they remained alive (albeit without the true freedom and life that comes through Messiah), through the Torah – and conversely, they preserved the honour and unique holiness of the Torah in its original language.
        To answer your final question, I would describe believing Jews as sons of the Promise – of the New Covenant – which is how Christian Arabs see themselves, by the way. They don’t see themselves as sons of Ishmael.

        1. Julia Blum

          Hi Dorothy and Jerry, I just wanted to add a few words ( and to agree with Dorothy’s comment): when i was writing my book on Isaac and Ishmael, I spoke to many Christian Arabs and was absolutely astonished to realize that they didn’t feel any connection to Ishmael. They see themselves as sons of Abraham through Jesus – as any Gentile Christian , I suppose , -not as sons of Ishmael. I have my own thoughts about it, and I expressed them in the book, but this is the actual situation for now. (the book is called “Abraham had two sons”, and is edited by Dorothy, by the way)

        2. Jerry S.

          Galatians 4 clearly describes the Hebrew son Isaac as of the promise and free. There are two covenants described in allegory as free (spirit) and slave (flesh), but extending the allegory to Jew and gentile, or Judaism and Christianity would be stretching the allegory beyond its intent which causes the confusion.

          Paul wrote to “assemblies” (G. ekklesia, H. qahal) in Galatia, not “churches” (English). Those assemblies were predominantly dispersed Jews of the region. Like Paul’s other writings Christianity, church, Judaism as is commonly understood today did not exist at the time, so how could a covenant be made with a gentile Christian church? It could not have. The renewed covenant was made with Israel, not Christianity.

          Follow up question; are Jewish Messiah believing Jews then Christian or Jewish? Similarly, would Jewish Messiah believing Arabs no longer be Arabic?


          1. Dorothy Healy

            You are right Jerry, the allegory is not about Jew and Gentile, but about Jews who continued under the Sinai Covenant and all those who entered the New Covenant – whether they were Jew or gentile. In the beginning they (at least those were Jewish) were still a sect of Judaism, not called ‘Christian’, but people of ‘the way’. (e.g. Acts 9:2, 19:9, 22:4) And, yes, Paul wrote to the ekklesia (the called-out ones) – the term ‘church’ was not yet in the vocabulary.
            A Jew who believes in Jesus today remains Jewish – some don’t want to own the title ‘Christian’ and I don’t believe they need to – after all, they believe in the Jewish Messiah – and Jesus didn’t set out to start a new religion. Arabs are a different category, but of course believing Arabs are still Arabic.

          2. Jerry S.

            The allegory in Gal. 4 extends to all humankind and no particular lineage of it. Because Abraham’s life choices and experiences, whether those choices were derived from his faith in the promise of an heir from Sarah in there old age (spirit) or from the temptation to add to Hashem’s word by the manipulation of circumstances (flesh Hager, Havah Gen 3:4), came before existed any Israel, Judah or Sinai covenant. The allegory is not directed to just Jews who continue under the Sinai covenant. Jesus calls all those who believe to continue to obey his word and that includes what Jesus told Moses to write at Sinai. There in lies the contradiction and confusion from your first comment here. We should not extend the allegory beyond this point.

            So concerning my question, a believing Jew is still a Jew, of course, in that they would still be Torah observant as should any gentile be observant of Hashems words. There is no error in being Torah (Sinai Covenant) observant. There is only life from observing it.

            Believers are to model our lives after the life of Jesus and he followed Torah else he would not have rose from the dead.

          3. Paul Herman

            Jewish Messianic believing Jews are both in their belief, but separate in what religion calls them. I prefer to call Messianic Jews, Messianic Christians and Messianic Arabs: Believers. And people who only practice religion without believing that Yeshua is the Messiah are unbelievers.

    2. Israel do Nascimento silva

      It’s an interesting point of view, but I could not follow you, at some point I became confused.

      1. Dorothy Healy

        I can understand you becoming confused Israel – and I don’t know just when you became confused, but I will try to explain more clearly. Firstly, I recommend you carefully read Galatians 4:21-31, and also be familiar with the Genesis story of Abraham and his two wives – Sarah and Hagar – especially ch. 21:1-20.

        In Galatians Paul tells us that the story in Genesis is allegorical – that is, it has deeper meaning beyond itself. He says Hagar represents the Sinai covenant, and therefore her ‘children’ would represent the Jewish people who, according to Paul, were under bondage, in the sense that they slavishly clung to obeying the Law to be pleasing to God. On the other hand, Paul is writing to brethren who had been born of the Spirit through the Messiah, Jesus Christ and accepted the freedom of the New Covenant. He says “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. So we have two distinct people groups depicted here.

        Now, if we continue to see the Genesis story as allegorical, it becomes very interesting. God does care deeply for Hagar (she is privileged to be the only woman in the Tanach who God spoke to personally twice). He also cares for her son and does not let him die of thirst. He opens Hagar’s eyes to a well of water. (Wells speak of the truth of God – the Torah – which was there all along). God was with the boy, and he became ‘expert with the bow’, which refers, allegorically, to becoming expert in studying and walking according to the Torah. Meanwhile, Isaac, Abraham’s Son of the Promise, is offered as a sacrifice by his Father, Abraham – which a picture of the sacrifice of Jesus.

        Bringing this understanding into 1st C Judaism, which is what Paul does in Galatians, we see two distinct people groups: (1) Jews who remain faithful to Judaism and survive as a people through the study and adherence to the Torah, and (2) New Covenant believers (both Jew and Gentile) who are likened to ‘children of the freewoman’, according to Gal.4:31. (Note, this doesn’t mean the physical descendants of Ishmael are Jews)

        I am suggesting that the Hagar/Sarah story clearly foreshadows this and, very importantly, that God knew that the majority of Jews would not accept their Messiah when he came, but he still loved and cared for them. He made sure they survived as His unique people by clinging to the Torah. This was their lifeline, and it was vitally important in the long-term plan of God that they did survive as a people, and also that they preserved their knowledge and love of Torah. Their eyes will be opened to see their Messiah in God’s timing. I hope this helps, Israel.

        1. Israel do Nascimento silva

          Thanks for the answer! But as I can see, both groups were keeping Torah! Those ones that did not believe in Yeshua (Hagar) and Those ones that did believe (Sarah).

          But today we find Christians who reject Torah, Jerusalém, Jews as God’s people! What kind of allegorical category are those ones?

          Sorry for these words, but I was born as a Christian, I was told that Torah is bondage… but as I started studying the Bible I found out the Torah and the Commandments, and the Covenantal people of Israel, and the blessings! I’m so happy, pleased!

          How can people deny such truth?