Introduction to Messianic Judaism with Joel Willitts
Here is an interesting story from a few months ago which you may have missed. I look forward to the results of the research, especially on some of the world’s oldest and most rare biblical texts, including portions from the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Ezekiel, Micah, Daniel and the Psalms.
A 1,200-year-old parchment Jewish prayer book that is billed as the oldest in existence was introduced Sept. 27 by a prominent private collector of Biblical artifacts.
The complete 50-page book with original 13-by-10 centimeter binding features early Babylonian vowels, which are a precursor to modern Hebrew vowels. Those, along with Carbon-14 dating, helped scholars arrive at the 9th-century date, which would make the prayer book several hundred years older than the oldest Torah scrolls, although later than the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“This is the oldest Jewish prayer book known to exist in the world,” said Steven Green, the president of the retail chain Hobby Lobby, announcing the identification at the Religion Newswriters Association conference here.
Christian Post article claims that Messianic Jews are facing less ostracization than before. However the article does come across a bit like a missionary report meeting in a church rather than an analysis of the statistics. The claim of a third wave in Israel, that 800 Israelis were open to sign-up to take a New Testament, must also be interpreted by Brickner’s prior claim that just because 34% of American Jews believe Messianic Jews are still Jews, it does not mean they are on the verge of that belief themselves. The claim that “it’s almost like a pre-evangelized community” seems to be rather dismissive of the life and testimony of the Israeli Messianic Jewish community present in the land since before the reestablishment of the State in ’48.
A new survey by the Pew Research Center shows that over a third of the Jewish community accepts those who believe in Jesus as still Jewish. Leaders of the Messianic church, however, disagree as to whether or not this shows that Jews are more open to Jesus than in the past.
“A less hostile climate, a more open-minded climate” is pervading American Jewry, Messianic Jew Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday. While he said that this doesn’t mean Jews are hungry for Jesus, he said that this shift represents a unique opportunity for Messianic Jews to spread the Gospel.
Glaser explained that, “more than anything, the number one objection Jewish people have to believing in Jesus is that if they do, they have to stop being Jewish.” While more than half of American Jews still consider Christianity incompatible with Judaism, Pew found that 34 percent do not. That number is even higher among ultra-Orthodox Jews, at 35 percent, and among ages 18-49, at 38 percent.
Nevertheless, “Jewish people today are defining themselves in non-religious terms,” Glaser added. 68 percent of Jews think that not believing in God is compatible with being Jewish, and 47 percent of Jews who practice no religion say worshipping Jesus is compatible with being Jewish. “Belief in God is not as important to being Jewish as identifying with the ethnic or cultural identity,” the president of Chosen People Ministries said.
“In general, the Jewish community is becoming more secular, but no less spiritual,” Glaser argued. He claimed that this presents an opportunity. “I would say that Jewish people – particularly the younger people – are searching for a more personal spirituality that is not bound to any traditional Jewish denomination,” he explained.
That means, Glaser argued, that “the bulk of the Jewish community is open to a Gospel presented in a Jewish way.” He pushed for American Christians to present “more of a first century, Messianic Jewish Gospel to the Jewish people,” and credited the work of Messianic Jewish ministries like Chosen People for this opening of minds and hearts.
Thanks to his ministry and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, the Messianic Jewish Alliance, and Jews for Jesus, congregations in the United States and Israel “are not just saying you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus, but they are living it.
David Brickner, executive director for Jews for Jesus, disagreed that this recognition translates into more openness to the Gospel. Brickner acknowledged that “the 34 percent figure demonstrates that Messianic Jews have now just become more recognizable as part of the Jewish landscape,” and he admitted that it is a positive sign. However, he warned that the numbers are easy to misunderstand.
“You know that phrase about statistics,” Brickner quipped. “The 34 percent, that’s wonderful in that it means we’re on the map, but I don’t think it means that 34 percent of the Jewish community are ready to receive Jesus.”
Brickner reported on the work of Richard Harvey, visiting lecturer on the Hebrew Bible at All Nations Christian College in the United Kingdom. Harvey worked with the Pew researchers behind the poll, and he gave a more nuanced view of the 34 percent figure.
“The less affiliated the Jewish person is, the less educated they are, the more likely they are willing to acknowledge that there are Jews who believe in Jesus and that doesn’t conflict with Jewish identity,” Brickner explained. While a growing percentage of Jews welcome Messianics, they form the least connected, least educated, least influential sort. “The more engaged someone is with the Jewish community, the less likely they are to say that belief in Jesus is compatible with Jewish identity.”
Even among the ultra-Orthodox, 35 percent of whom acknowledge Messianic Jews, still consider believers in Jesus as “absolutely not a part of the community.”
Nevertheless, Brickner did share good news as well. Looking back, he mentioned two “amazing waves of the Holy Spirit.” In the 1960s and 1970s, he noted, thousands of American Jews turned to Jesus. In the 1980s and 1990s, tens of thousands of Russian Jews came to Christ.
“Now we’re witnessing the start of a third wave – in Israel among Israelis,” Brickner argued. He recalled over 800 Israeli Jews who signed up to receive a Hebrew New Testament at an evangelistic campaign in Beersheba. “Israelis are hungry for the New Testament – it’s almost like a pre-evangelized community,” Brickner said.
Hat-tip Mike’s Musings who has this to say about it:
Palestinian Child SacrificeDuring the Cold War, Sting hoped ‘the Russians loved their children too.’ Sadly, if Australian Darly Johns is right, Israel cannot entertain the same hope about their Palestinian neighbours .Johns was so affected by media pictures of dead and wounded Palestinian children, allegedly the victims of Israeli aggression that she decided to do something about it. She went as a volunteer peace activist in the Palestinian Authority but when she arrived she was greeted by a far different reality. Johns discovered to her horror that Arab children are actually the victims of child abuse from their own society.The following video is one of the most moving and disturbing I have ever seen. In it, Johns tearfully recounts how she came to realise that many of the children whose pictures she had been presented as evidence of Israel’s cruelty had in fact died while attacking Jewish men, women and children at the behest of their elders.The video includes clips of Palestinian children reciting hatred for the Jews and expressing a deep desire not for peace, but for war and Israel’s demise.
At this year’s Yad L’Achim’s Hanukkah party for “survivors of The Mission” (which looked like a cheerful event!), we can see Yad L’Achim’s ongoing veneration of The Rebbe. Yad L’Achim is still a Chabad mission group taking Jews from, their perspective, an unacceptable worship of a rabbi as Moshiach, to a more acceptable worship of a rabbi as Moshiach.
Here is Christianity Today’s report of the Barry Barnett story here.
(MSN) An Israeli immigration judge has ordered the deportation of a Messianic Jewish man from England who was arrested last week for taking part in an evangelistic event in southern Israel.
Barry Barnett, 50, a worker with Jews for Jesus UK, was ordered on Sunday (Nov. 24) to leave the country by Dec. 3. Barnett, who is based in England, was volunteering at the Jews for Jesus “Behold your God Israel” campaign around the city of Be’er Shiva when he was arrested Wednesday (Nov. 20) at about 4 p.m.
According to his wife, Alison Barnett, six immigration control officers took him from Be’er Shiva, 125 kilometers (78 miles) south of Jerusalem, to an immigration office in Omer, just outside of the city. He was held there for several hours without charge, then transferred to an immigration-holding unit of a prison in Ramle, near Tel Aviv. He spent four days in jail before his court hearing.
The team present at the time of the arrest was made up of Israeli citizens except for Barnett. Dan Sered, Israel director for Jews for Jesus, said in a press release that the arrest was “outrageous.”
“As an Israeli, I have been proud that our country allows for freedom of religion,” he said. “Yet those who seized Barry and took him to prison have done a shameful thing.”
According to Sered, the presiding judge ruled that Barnett was not allowed to engage in “missionary activity” while in Israel.
“They did not really give a reason why they detained him,” Sered told Morning Star News. “All they said is that he was doing ‘missionary activity.’ That is correct, he was doing missionary activity, and that is legal to do in Israel.”
The reason the state of Israel gave for his deportation, he said, was that Barnett was engaging in missionary activity and not regular tourist activity on a B2 tourist visa.
“But the global ethics code for tourism, which the state of Israel signed and even advertises on its own Ministry of Tourism Web page, states that tourism for the purpose of exchanging religious beliefs is not only valid but also should be encouraged,” Sered said. “Therefore, his deportation and arrest by the state of Israel was done without a real legal cause.”
Sered said Jews for Jesus would fight the deportation order. If the order is not overturned, there is a risk that it will become a legal precedent that could be used to expel missionaries or any expatriate engaging in religious activities deemed unacceptable by the Israeli government – or by government officials acting alone.
The immigration officers who arrested Barnett seized a banner he was holding with a group of Israelis who were campaigning with him. Julia Pascoe, UK branch leader for Jews for Jesus, said there was nothing inherently offensive on the banner. The banner read, “Salvation equals Jesus,” which Pascoe said was an explanation of Jesus’ name and declared him the source of salvation. It also had a telephone number to contact Jews for Jesus.
Pascoe conceded, however, that, “The gospel is an offense to those who don’t want to hear it.”
Alison Barnett said that the ultra-Orthodox, anti-Christian group Yad L’Achim had followed the Jews for Jesus teams to their campaign sites in Israel since the event started. Yad L’Achim has a long-standing history of links with sympathetic government officials who issue legal actions on their behalf.
Jews for Jesus members fear there is a troubling possibility that immigration officials under the influence of Yad L’Achim may have an unwritten directive to arrest foreign religious workers as part of a general crackdown on missionaries.
Yad L’Achim has worked to deny Messianic Jews (who believe Jesus is the promised Messiah) the right of return to Israel and to deny spouses of Messianics immigration visas. They also picket and severely harass Messianics at their homes and their congregations and have been linked to different government agencies revoking the licensing of Messianic-owned businesses.
Informing on Barnett would fix a pattern of cooperation between Yad L’Achim and the government that has been well documented by the Israeli media. On Yad L’Achim’s website, the organization reported about interfering with the Jews for Jesus outreach’s “spiritually poisonous propaganda.”
“Yad L’Achim has been dispatching beefed-up teams of activists wherever the missionaries are taking up positions in order to alert the public as to their nefarious goals,” the ultra-Orthodox, nationalist organization stated.
Jews for Jesus is an international organization whose stated purpose is to, “Make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.” This is the first time a Jews for Jesus member, either a worker or a volunteer, has been arrested in Israel, Pascoe said.
“We have enjoyed freedom of religion in Israel over many campaigns similar to this one; the treatment we received was atypical of the way the law is usually enforced,” she said. “We have never experienced this before.”
Pascoe added that she doesn’t believe whoever directed the arrest is “a representative of the majority.”
Barnett’s wife, who wasn’t with her husband when he was arrested, said she was surprised about it as well.
“This is the first time we have had any problem like this at all, and we have done eight campaigns,” she said. “It was quite a shock.”
Nevertheless, Alison Barnett said she expects “opposition” when in Israel.
“And quite frankly,” she added, “if we don’t get any [opposition], we probably aren’t doing our jobs right.”