By Marco van Putten
Christians with a Jewish background sometimes struggle with their Jewish identity, because for them the Jewish history & culture and God’s promises to the Jewish people are specific gifts. Within Christianity they find no way to express this. They are even reprimanded to give any attention to these matters. But still some are convinced that the Jewish identity is separate from the Christian. They have called themselves ‘Jews believing in the Lord Jesus as Messiah’. Christianity has responded modestly, but not without any indignation and question why this is necessary.
But, the Sjo‘ah (Holocaust) and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 brought Christianity also to a self-reflection. The dialog with Judaism started. The ‘Jewishness’ of Christianity was reevaluated. This resulted in the so-called Messianic Movement in all its diversity. This Movement is seen as Jewish, although its members are mainly non-Jewish believers. Meanwhile, some Jewish Christians radicalized on the issue of the national identity of the Jewish people. They no longer want to be called Christians and they view their religion as a solely Jewish religion. For them the Jewish people always remained God’s people. This branch of the Messianic Movement was therefore called Messianic Judaism. At first some of them did that with a missionary goal. But some have gone as far to embrace the teaching of the rabbis and denouncing Jewish mission (converting Jews to become Christians). One of their most prominent leaders is the American Jew Mark Kinzer. To confirm his believes he had himself ordained as rabbi.
According to Kinzer the New Testament (NT) reconfirms that the Jewish people are God’s people and therefore they will be saved as a people. Kinzer believes that the Lord Jesus has always been amongst them, but as a hidden presence. He understands that this taught is offensive for some Jewish and Christian traditions. When the Messiah in the future shall return, Israel shall be central in God’s Kingdom. He calls on Christians to ready themselves today for that moment.
When the Jewish people are God’s people then the Jewish traditions of Judaism belong to that, since the Lord Jesus also observed these. According to Kinzer the Judaism of the New Covenant (Messianic Judaism) is the fulfillment and even the highest form of these traditions. He believes that the Lord Jesus ordered to respect the teachings of the rabbi’s (Mt 23:1-3).
Kinzer has also found that from the beginning on (around the beginning of the 2nd century) Christianity has been bent on breaking the ties with the Jewish people. He strongly believes that this was against the will of the Lord Jesus. From then on Christians (Jew and non-Jew) were forbidden to observe any form of Judaism. He also has discovered that Christianity, despite this anti-Jewish stance, has repeatedly been struggling to keep excesses on this field in check, but also made sure that the bond with the Jewish people was not cut-off. For example, the Bible books of the ‘Old Testament’, which according to the rabbi’s make up the Hebrew Bible, were added to the ‘Christian’ Bible. Also, the NT over the ages of copying and translating has kept its original Jewish character. Since the Sjo‘ah became fact to all (from 1945 forward) Christians came to realize that some of their doctrines were not as obvious as they used to be and some were even unsustainable.
Kinzer is promoting a Jewish community of believers in the Lord Jesus within the Jewish religion. Outside of Christianity. Since God has made an eternal covenant (Hebr. beriet ’olam) with Israel. Therefore, according to him all Jews are eternally obliged to observe the Torah of Moses. He also believes that the Jewish traditional practice, according the rabbinic Oral Law, is inspired by the Holy Ghost.
The Messianic Jewish community, separate form Christianity, sees itself as the first-fruits (Hebr. bikoerej) announcing the coming of the Messiah. This community should have a bridging function between the Jewish people and Christianity. It is called to keep reminding Christianity that they are indebted to live in solidarity with the Jewish people.
Especially for two Christian teachings, which according to Kinzer are wrong, Messianic Judaism is supposed to bring restoration, namely for Replacement theory (Supersessionism) and Jewish mission.
Christian Replacement theory states that the Christian community has taken over the role as God’s people from the Jewish nation, because that nation is supposed to be rejected by God. Kinzer believes that God’s people (Jews and Christians) are one people with one religion, but that they are twofold in kind. Twofold as a people, since the Jewish people has a different, specific calling. Non-Jews should not become Jews. Twofold as a religion, since Jewish believers observe the Torah of Moses and non-Jews should not do that. This view takes away any thoughts about one replacing the other.
On Jewish mission Kinzer says that since the coming of the Lord Jesus Jews are invited to accept Him as their Messiah, but non-Jews were commanded to renounce their idols and convert to God. This is the great difference between the two groups of believers, Jews and non-Jews. Christian mission towards the Jews should be forbidden according to Kinzer. Mission is explicitly aimed at reaching non-Jews.
Messianic Judaism is an extreme form of Messiah believing Jewish faith, because it puts an over-emphasis on Jewish people & culture (Judaism). They see themselves first as members of their people and personal believe is subordinated to that. That is the Oriental view, so characteristic to Judaism. It is could also be a remedy against the exaggerated individualism of the West. However, Kinzer’s approach of placing the Messianic community outside of Christianity, confirms the traditional particularistic view (the centrality of the Jewish people) instead of the universal view (the worldwide Christian community). This goes against the Gospel that teaches the latter (Ef 2:15-16). His view on the twofoldness of God’s people is just a Two-way (Dualistic) theory which also is contrary to the NT (Jh 10:1, 9; 14:6; Hnd 4:12).
The Two-way theory states that the Jewish people have their own ‘way’ with God and the Christian community another, different way. This depreciates the multinational unity of God’s people (Is 19:24-25; Jh 10:16). According to Kinzer the whole of the Jewish people is holy regardless of their members believe in God or not. He seems to proclaim a kind of All-Reconciliation theory (All will ultimately be saved regardless whether they are believers/observant or not).
It is however fact that almost all Jews are non-believers. Only 10% are ‘believers’ in God and of those hardly 1% belong to Orthodox Judaism. Kinzer’s view on the Jewish people is too optimistic and problematic in light of God’s banishment (Diaspora; Hebr. galoet gojim (Lv 26:33; Is 41:16; Eze 5:10-12)), because of their rejection of the (teachings of) Lord Jesus. Because of that rejection God has diverted the Gospel and all that goes with it to the nations (Acts 28:28) as it was prophesied (Is 65:1). They have become Lo-Ammie (Not-My-people (Jr 3:8; Hos 1:9)), since they have broken God’s Covenant. Although this Covenant is eternal, only God gives meaning to it. God banished the Jewish people and with that the Covenant has lost its meaning towards Israel.
But it is also repeatedly stated in the Bible that God will lift their banishment, end it and restore them. The Jewish people will convert to God and the Lord Jesus will return also as their Messiah (e.g. Hos 2:23). Their national restoration will graft them back into God’s will, but then Spirit-filled. Kinzer has a point that this national restoration is problematic in the sense of a strict Replacement theory.
As is common in Judaism, Kinzer also puts no central emphasis on the banishment of the Jewish people. However, in the Bible this has central emphasis. He also lacks understanding that Jews who become Christian will enter into a special status. Likewise, Christians also lack that understanding. Jews that convert are personally redeemed of God’s collective punishment of the Jewish people. Because they become owned by the Lord Jesus (Rom 7:4) they have crossed-over (Hebr. ’avar) to the restored relationship – The New Covenant – with God. However, God’s banishment of the collective of Jewish people is not yet lifted. Through what they believe they have become members of God’s people – the Christian community. They await the lifting of God’s banishment and the restoration of the Jewish people before God’s Sight. Since the Christian community has not been banished, Jewish converts today have also no longer take part in that. They should not act as if nothing has changed (i.e. as if they are still within the Mosaic Covenant). However, for the Christian community the banishment of the Jews is a warning that God punishes.
It is thus important to note that Kinzer’s statement that “the Lord Jesus has always been among the Jewish people” doesn’t mention being owned by Him. Since that ownership has only become available on the basis of sharing in the completed redemptive work of the Lord Jesus which inaugurated the New Covenant. Kinzer seems to ignore this fundamental fact or he is actually not aware of it. Merely stating that God’s Messiah has always been with the Jewish people is simply not enough to ease the offense of the Jewish people against God in rejecting God’s Messiah.
However, Kinzer is again right when he concludes that the Christian identity is too Greek and too anti-Jewish compared with the Biblical teachings. Indeed, Jewish believers can in that sense be a blessing for Christianity. There has to be made room to explore the Hebrew, the Israelite of the Christian faith, through which Jewish believers can feel at home in Christianity. The Messianic Movement can also attribute to that blessing.
On the one hand Kinzer pushes the banishment away and uses the less offensive word ‘dispersion’ (Diaspora), although the dispersion is something different then banishment. Kinzer and many others create confusion in using the word ‘dispersion’. But he seems to want to ignore the banishment, just like the rabbi’s do. This point to a lack in realization of guilt, which is however so vital for conversion. On the other hand he makes the dispersion of the Jews part of his Christology (teaching about the Messiah) in a way through which it is viewed positively. He uses the rabbinical concept of the suffering of the Jewish people in the dispersion and brings that forward as a means of restoring creation (i.e. Tikoen ’Olam). In this suffering, which brings restoration, he sees the connection of the Jewish people with the suffering of the Lord Jesus.
However, the rabbi’s, like Kinzer, are wrong in this way of thinking. The banishment is God’s punishment for their apostasy from God and their current state is thus not freely chosen like in a Diaspora but enforced upon them by God. Thus, they suffer for no other reason than their own wrongdoings. This sort of suffering is not meant to bring forward restoration. Also, the suffering of the Lord Jesus was complete, perfect and unique. No one can add anything to it and it doesn’t need adding. Also, the restoration of creation is described in to the Bible as a sudden act of God. Man cannot add anything to that as well. The Bible does not allow room for any positive attributions by ‘good’ humans. This is leads to self-justification, which has no place in God’s Sight. So, Kinzer turns punishment wrongly into blessing. Proving that he reads the Bible like rabbi’s do (according Oral Law), but not as a Christian
Kinzer is right in stating that the Torah of Moses is still valid. But what he doesn’t mention and explain is that Jews can only fully uphold Moses whilst living in the Land of Israel from which God banished them. Also, he doesn’t mention that the New Covenant has put Torah into a radically different perspective. The New Covenant has its own Torah, but this Covenant came by forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation brought about by the Lord Jesus. His work conquered the power of sinfulness which weighed heavy on mankind. How can there still be a need for a Torah that is meant to be a taskmaster (i.e. the Torah of Moses) when the New Covenant Torah is complemented by the Holy Spirit which fulfills its believers? This is a reality of which Moses and the prophets could only dream. Kinzer neglects to address this Diathekology (the teachings about the Covenants). The Lord Jesus, Who is no longer on earth, performs as hakKohen hagGadol (the High Priest) the Temple service in heaven on the basis of the New Covenant which replaced any previous covenants between God and man.
To base the observance of Torah on the way the disciples of the Lord Jesus did that, as Kinzer proposes, is nostalgia and wrong. It seems that the leaders and ministers of the first community of believers (the Nazarenes) have not foreseen the long delay in the return of the Lord Jesus, but expected His return soon. There is progressive revelation and God reckons with time past.
He who denies that the Lord Jesus has fundamentally renewed God’s Covenant, like Kinzer, has misunderstood the NT (Hebr 7:12). Kinzer sees renewal, but not that the Lord Jesus based the New Covenant on another foundation than Moses (1 Cor 3:11; Hebr 3:3). Such fundamental change of Covenant also means a change of Torah. The Temple service that honors God and gives forgiveness and reconciliation is central to that New Covenant. However, the caste of coheniem (priests) is changed in that Covenant. With Moses it was restricted to a dynasty within the tribe of Levi. God made the Lord Jesus Cohen Gadol (High Priest) (Hebr 4:14; 8:1) although he was from the tribe of Judah (Hebr 7:12-14). However, Kinzer denies, like most (non-orthodox) rabbi’s, for obvious reasons that the Temple was central in the Jewish religion and makes that into a thing of minor importance. But not in the Hebrew Bible and thus also not in NT.
Kinzer states that the Oral Law is inspired and that Jewish believers should observe it, because this is required for their orthopraxy (the religious acts for the daily Jewish life). Doctrinally he suggests to combine two ways – that of the Lord Jesus and that of the rabbi’s – but their views are incompatible. Kinzer calls this inevitable syncretism; a mixture of Jewish and Christian doctrines. The Oral Law (partially) builds upon the Torah of Moses, but that implicitly suggests that Moses is still valid as it was before the coming of the Lord Jesus. However, the NT states that the previous Covenants are replaced (Hebr 8:13). This makes sense, since only one Covenant can be active. On top of this there is the fact that Pharisaic Judaism is also based on non-Biblical sources and fictional stories of man which trespasses the teachings of the Bible (e.g. Mt 15:3, 6, 9; Tit 1:14). Several rabbis in history have rightly and repeatedly warned Jews about that. The goal of the Oral Law is based on the principle of self-righteousness, on making acceptable which is crooked and on hypocrisy. Things that the Lord Jesus strongly rejected and condemned (e.g. Lc 7:30; 12:1).
Kinzer is right in stating that rabbi’s often have a better understanding of the Bible then Christian teachers. This indeed raises questions about inspiration of these ‘teachers’ whose thinking is far from the Hebrew roots of the Bible. This shows that every world religion – in this case Judaism – can add something to the knowledge about God (Rom 2:14). The fact remains however that each Oral Law, Jewish or Christian, is a work of man which demonstrates that man thinks he knows better than God. Even more so when the Oral Law is made to dominate Bible interpretation.
Kinzer states that Jewish mission should be forbidden because he thinks Israel represents God’s people. Mission should only go out to non-Jews since they need to stop worshipping idols. But in the Bible there are numerous instances recorded that Jews worship idols. For example the golden calf at Mount Sinai (Ex 32). It was also the reasons why the Israelites went into exile (Is 2:8; 10:11). Even today almost all Jews are atheists or follow some kind (mystical) religion involving idols and the occult, like Kabbalah. The banishment of the Jews has a very negative effect. They lack the blessing of God. Isn’t that all the more reason for Jewish mission (Rom 9:3)? But according to Kinzer, mission is not necessary because God will sustains His people. The latter is true, but should we hinder God when He wants to deliver some Jews from the misery and evil of the banishment?
Kinzer also states that Jews only have to accept the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. But why then is the Gospel, according to the Bible, specifically for Jews a stumbling block (1 Cor 1:23)? Is it not so that the Gospel rejects the ethical exclusiveness of Israel? The central concept of Judaism. Are not all man, and thus also Jews, lost under the power of sinfulness (Rom 3:9)? There remains thus every reason to pray for their salvation and mission to the Jewish people should have top priority. Even more so, because God had sent the Lord Jesus in the first place to them when they were headed for their destruction (Mt 4:17; 15:24). However, the expectations for them being willing to hear the Gospel must not be too optimistic. Jewish mission is quite different than that to the nations. It requires a special Missiology. There will be no mass conversion prior to the hardening based on their blindness towards the Gospel (Jh 12:40; 2 Cor 3:14). The synagogue will remain until then. This requires Christianity to be patient and respectful towards the Jewish people that is under God’s punishment. Taking pity and giving (financial) support is what is needed in the first place, as the apostles also instructed. This is also in accordance to their valuable attribution to Christianity (Rom 15:27). Here Kinzer has a just point.
Kinzer emphasizes that the Messianic Jewish community has a bridging function for Christianity to the Jewish people. This can be so. But what Kinzer and Messianic Judaism as a whole ultimately do is confuse Christians. All the more so, because it denies that Christianity is following the only right and better Way of God. The Way the Lord Jesus opened the door to. However far off from the original Hebrew roots Christianity still is, Kinzer also neglects to detail the (eschatological) purpose of Christianity. His teachings therefore have all the characteristics of being false.
The end of their banishment will mean that all the unfulfilled prophecies and promises of God will be realized. That is not just a great blessing for the Jewish people, but also for Christianity; for the whole of God’s people. Who doesn’t want the Lord to return to establish and fulfill the things that God said He would? But why would this happen any moment now as Mark Kinzer and many others in de Messianic Judaic world are proclaiming? When has God hinted us on that? Kinzer doesn’t say. That shows that something is wrong. Even more so, when Messianic Judaism is keeping the essentials of the Gospel down and making it into an exile Gospel. This leads to a dead-end.