Brief History of Rise of Messianic Judaism – 1 Mar 2016


Redemption of Jewish Identity and Hope

Jer 29:11
For I know the purposes which I am purposing for you, says Yehovah; purposes of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Lk 2:34-35  And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also), so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

My identity as a Jew was settled in June 1967, during the Six-Day War. I saw once again that the Gentiles wanted to kill us, and I didn’t know why; and I identified with my people and our land.  Despite the Synagogue and the Church both historically telling me that a Jew cannot believe in Jesus, or that a Jew who believes in Jesus is no longer Jewish, the answer of the man whom God used in February 1981 to finally bring me back to Himself regarding the Jews and the Chosen People was good, it gave hope, and the Jewish people had a promising future.

–Judaism – Pharasaic, Talmudic, Rabbinic – rejects the Yeshua/Jesus of the Bible as being the Messiah.
–Juda-ism is self-oriented, culture-oriented (as is Christian-ity if separated from living faith and union with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ)
–Messianic Judaism does not mean only faith in Jesus/Yeshua as being Messiah, the Son of God; e.g., Chabad, Temple Mount Faithful, Bar Kochba, Shabbtai Tzvi

–YHVH God, though, gives hope to the Jewish people, and to “all Israel”
–He will be their God, and they will be His holy people
–the Land of Canaan/Israel as an everlasting possession and inheritance
–a rich heritage
–a kingdom of priests who will all know the LORD and serve Him faithfully, a blessing to other nations

–Yeshua came as the Seed of David, of the Tribe of Judah: Jesus came as a Jew, under the Law/Torah
–He fulfilled the Law perfectly, but also differently than other Children of Israel, in that Jesus never sinned, and had no sin. The Law is for sinners.
–the first believers and disciples of the Lord were Israeli Jews; until Cornelius, apparently all Gentile believers converted to some form of Judaism (Ex 12:43-49)
–app. 50 AD, the apostolic Jerusalem Council agreed with the Holy Spirit that Gentile believers in Yeshua could remain Gentile, but with some conditions regarding food and sex so as not to offend God or godly Jewish sensibilities (Acts 15)
–first Jewish believers were called Nazarenes (Notzrim) and Christians (Meshichi’im) (Acts 11:26Acts 24:5)
–God gave a weaning period to the early Messianic Jewish believers to come to terms with the New Covenant (Letter to The Hebrews)
–first persecution of [Jewish] believers came from Jewish unbelievers
–the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek, but a direct revelation from Yeshua the Messiah/Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12)

67-70AD   Jewish revolt against Rome and the destruction of the 2nd Temple brought a definite separation between Jewish people who believed in Jesus and what He said, and between those who did not: the former fled Jerusalem when it was surrounded; the latter committed suicide on Masada
–in the New Testament, there was already an excommunication of Jewish believers in Yeshua from the synagogue (Jn 9:22; Jn 12:42; Jn 16:1-4)
132-135AD   Final Jewish revolt against Rome, led by Rabbi Akiva and Simon Bar-Kochba: the former a false prophet; the latter a false Messiah
–both still celebrated today within mainstream Judaism at Lag B’Omer: fire; no Jewish weddings from that date until Shavuot/Pentecost
–final internal split between the Synagogue and Messianic Jews who believed in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior from sin(s), LORD, King of the Jews and of Israel

2nd CentAD   more splits within the “Gentile” Church over Jewish practices, Passover/Easter, Sunday worship

3rd Cent   the Synagogue codified directives in the Talmud against the minim (referring initially specifically towards Jewish believers in Jesus);

4th Cent   Constantine became a Christian and made Christianity the religion of the Empire
–Council of Nicea
–John Chrysostom: contempt and hatred towards Jews (Eight Homilies Against the Jews; )
–Canons of The Apostles: legislated unbridled anti-Jewishness (see, for examples, Canons #65, 70, 71 )
–the Roman Catholic Church becomes “Spiritual Israel”; the New Israel

1000 years of suppressed Jewish identity within the Church

632AD   Islam further weakened Jewish identity (became dhimmis, as did Christians)

787   Second Nicene Council, 8th Canon:  Jewish believers could no longer be Jews in any of their traditions;

15th – 18th Cent
–Spanish Inquisition
–the Marranos (“pigs”) and Christopher Columbus
–the new availability of vernacular Bible translations increased interest in Jewish-Christian links
–Martin Luther urges violent persecution of Jews, and proclaims Protestants to be “spiritual Israel”

19th C: Rebirth of Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish movements: intuitively connected with the return of the Jews to the Promised Land in preparation for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ
the desire and need to demonstrate and express God’s faithfulness to His chosen Jewish people, to covenant promises, to Jewish/Israeli aspirations and hopes as given through Moses and the Prophets, and through the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus and the Apostles
–1809 The London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews (CMJ today) founded by Joseph Frey
–1813 Benei Avraham formed in London by 41 Jewish believers
–1820’s Joseph Wolff pioneers Jewish evangelism to the Jews in Middle East and India
–1842 First Protestant (and Anglican) church – Christ Church – in the Middle East built in Jerusalem in Old City, with the first Bishop a Jewish believer, Rabbi Michael Solomon Alexander
–1866 Hebrew Christian Alliance forms in London
–1881 first Aliyah (wave of immigration of Jews) to Eretz Israel (Palestine then)
–1883 Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein of Tisza-Eszlar, Hungary, becomes believer in Jesus, and maintained his Jewish identity
–1884 indigenous Messianic Jewish congregation founded by Rabbi Joseph Rabbinowitz in Kishinev, Russia
–1885 first Hebrew Christian Church of America founded in New York by Jacob Freshman
–1894 Chosen People Ministries founded in Brooklyn, NY by Rabbi Leopold Cohn, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant
–1897 First Zionist Congress convened by Theodor Herzl in Basle, Switzerland, in face of severe European anti-Semitism; called for Jewish State to become a realty in Palestine

20th -21st C
–1904  second Aliyah to the Land
–1906  Azuza St. Pentecostal revival
–1915 Hebrew Christian Alliance of America established
–1917  Balfour Declaration proclaiming intent to reestablish Jewish homeland in Palestine
–large numbers of Jewish people come to faith in Europe by 1939; many die in Holocaust
–many Jewish young people come to faith during 1930’s
–effort to create Messianic Jewish identity
–1920’s and 1930’s short-lived attempt to establish Messianic Jewish fellowship in Palestine by Moshe Immanuel Ben-Meir and Hyman Jacobs, but many missions did not embrace the idea of a significant distinct Jewish identity outside of historical churches, which also did not understand the significance of maintaining an identity as Jew by Jewish believers in Yeshua
–1948 founding of modern State of Israel
–most Jewish believers left Israel during the War of Independence
–Moshe Ben-Meir, Abram Poljak, Haim Haimoff – who remained during the War of Independence — committed to Jewish identity
–began to promote term “Messianic Jew” (Yehudi Meshichi) rather than Christian (notzri)
–mostly non-rabbinic expression of pattern of life, but honoring Sabbath, Feasts, circumcision

–a Hebrew Catholic Movement was fostered by Fr. Daniel Rufeisen and Fr. Elias Friedman, Jewish believers who identified as Christians

–1967 a watershed year with the Six-Day War stimulating Jewish redemption and messianic expectations, with more Jewish people coming to faith in Jesus/Yeshua
–about 200 Jewish believers in Israel till then
–perhaps passing 1000 during the 70’s and 80’s
–large numbers of believers connected with huge wave of Russian-speaking immigration in 90’s
–today most evangelical believers in Israel have Russian as mother tongue
–between app. 10,000-15,000 believers today in Israel among Jews and those identifying with the Jewish people

–1972 Jews For Jesus (organization) founded by Moishe Rosen in San Francisco

Most of the Jewish believers today in Israel have come to faith outside of Israel, and are immigrants from many other countries on all the habitable continents. Most of the native-born Israeli Jews who are believers now are children born to immigrants. Native-born older generation Jewish believers are still a small minority.

Messianic congregations are mostly not connected with a mainstream denomination. Yet there is a sense of unity and mutual support – we are ‘family’! – despite great diversity of positions on important doctrinal and other issues.

There are still on-going efforts by some to shape and define what it is to be a Jewish believer in Yeshua/Jesus. In the U.S., some Messianic Jewish leaders estimate that there are 250,000 (?) Jewish believers in Jesus, and of those, only 22,000 (?) who belong to a Messianic congregation/synagogue.

Where does the NT truth of one new man in Christ Jesus come into all this?

When I first became a believer, I saw everything through Jewish eyes. I knew I was still Jewish, despite what the rabbis and preachers taught. I thought I should keep kosher, keep the Sabbath, and keep the Jewish holidays – now that I believed in the God of the Jews. The Holy Spirit said to me, “I didn’t tell you to do that.”  This in no way diminished or weakened my identity as a Jew; in fact, the Word of the Lord also came to me to “go to Israel”, and He made it home on Earth.  In Israel, of course, we are immersed in Jewish culture!

I thought that the Gentile Christians had stolen everything from us. Then the Lord opened my eyes and understanding and heart to the parable of the vineyard, where we killed the Son of the Owner, thinking to take the inheritance for ourselves without Him, and threw Him out of the vineyard. God took His kingdom [for a time] from the Jewish people, and gave it to believing Gentiles, most of whom have probably never met a Jewish person, know Jewish customs, or have any real sense of Israel as God’s chosen first-born nation! (Ex 4:22; Mt 21:33-45)
–God’s righteous judgment according to His covenantal conditions
–not many Jewish people for the small number of Jewish believers to fellowship with or to identify in a meaningful “Jewish” way
–the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek, and the New Covenant has brought in changes and differences to the Sinai covenant, e.g., food, priesthood, Law, complete equality between Jews and Gentiles as born-again believers in Yeshua/Jesus. We are a new creation, and one new man corporately.

Most information gleaned from MJAA, UJMC, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Gershon Nerel, Dan Juster, TJCII, Kelvin Crombie


  1. Stephen, thank-you for all of your remarks, and your concern for my eternal destiny. Without getting into a discussion which I am sure you and I have both been involved in many times with others, I will simply say that I can affirm the voice which I heard as being the Holy Spirit. My identity as a Jew was neither erased nor weakened; and, more than that, I can find much in the New Testament that confirms what I heard.

    You may have a different leading from God regarding your life of obedience to the Lord, and if you are also Jewish, I can see that, too, to some extent in the New Testament. God bless you. In a world in which the gospel is still the singular message we have until the end of the age, and which is God’s power to save any one who repents and believes it, the Lord Yeshua can send any of us any where He wants, and by His grace enable us to be effective. He sent me to Israel, which is my home on Earth, in accord with His promises to bring the Jewish people back here. And, I am immersed in Jewish culture, and am very appreciative of that!

    I know from the Scriptures that during the Millennial Kingdom, Israel will be keeping Shabbat, New Moons, Passover, Feast of Booths. But for now, all believers in Jesus are a different priesthood than given to the Levites (yet we can learn much from the Torah on what being a priest is and means); the New Testament, written almost entirely by Israeli Jews, brings in other changes and differences which affect ALL who are born-again now, and these differences will affect every one in their own natural culture in differing, but significant ways.

    These issues are always not quite resolved to every one’s satisfaction. It’s kind of like Stephen, the deacon, when recapping the history of Israel: all was fine and acceptable until he told them that they always resisted the Holy Spirit! My brief history of Messianic Judaism began with, and continued, showing my own certain identity as a Jew. All was fine until I say that the Holy Spirit told me not to keep certain things [in a rabbinic way] that seem to define “Jewishness”.

    As I headed my brief history, the rise of Messianic Judaism a redemption of Jewish identity and hope, and is connected with the return of the Lord, which we need to be alerted to. Judgment is coming, beginning with the household of faith. Israel’s troubles are not yet complete. The nations are but a drop in the bucket to YHVH. Our focus needs to be on those things which are eternal, rather than on those things which are passing away.

    My own testimony is what it is, as is my righteousness from God through my faith in Yeshua for who He is and what He accomplished on the cross.

  2. Interesting article. However I see one problem.

    Quote: “When I first became a believer, I saw everything through Jewish eyes. I knew I was still Jewish, despite what the rabbis and preachers taught. I thought I should keep kosher, keep the Sabbath, and keep the Jewish holidays – now that I believed in the God of the Jews. The Holy Spirit said to me, “I didn’t tell you to do that.”

    Here is what stood out for me… “The Holy Spirit said to me, “I didn’t tell you to do that.”

    Reply: So the Holy Spirit told you to not observe God/Hashem’s Sabbaths, Feasts or dietary instructions? I would like to point out that the Sabbath was given as a perpetual and everlasting covenant (ref. Exodus 31:16) that is applicable to Jews and foreign believers (Sabbath was given after creations and to the mixed multitude prior to Mount Sinai). We see multiple scriptures in the writings of the prophets showing the Sabbath, Feasts and dietary instructions were not done away with. Consider the following…

    Isaiah 66:23 “And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, ALL FLESH shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.” *NOTE: this passage is during the New Millennium

    Isaiah 56:6-7 “Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants— Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant—7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” *NOTE: this passage is during the New Millennium

    Ezekiel 20:20 “hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God.’”

    Ezekiel 46:12 “Now when the prince makes a voluntary burnt offering or voluntary peace offering to the Lord, the gate that faces toward the east shall then be opened for him; and he shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings as he did on the Sabbath day. Then he shall go out, and after he goes out the gate shall be shut.” *NOTE: this passage is during the New Millennium

    Feasts (specifically Feast of Tabernacles)
    Zechariah 14:16-17 “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain.” *NOTE: this passage is during the New Millennium

    Dietary instructions
    Isaiah 66:16-18 “For by fire and by His sword The Lord will judge all flesh; And the slain of the Lord shall be many. 17 “Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves, To go to the gardens After an idol in the midst, Eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse, Shall be consumed together,” says the Lord. 18 “For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory.” *NOTE: this passage is during the New Millennium

    I clearly hope your quote about the Holy Spirit telling you not to observe these things was a misprint but if it is is not then we have a problem. If the HS said to not observe these things then the HS (you heard) is in conflict with Hashem and we all know He is one (echad) and doesn’t conflict with Himself (He and His word is one). Remember that Yeshua said, He did not speak of His own authority or words but only the words of the Father. I think you need to adhear to scripture and test everything in accordance with the law and prophets. In the law/torah we see these things a perpetual. In the prophets we see zero prophesies stating that these things would cease, go away or become voluntary because the HS said we could. Remember that in Ezekiel 36:26-27 the Holy Spirit was given to us so we could be empowered to observe the commandments…

    Ezekiel 36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

    The HS was also given to lead us into all truth and scripture states all of Hashem’s word is truth.

    So the fundamental problem we have is this can be ‘figured out’ by asking these questions…

    1. Is the voice you heard the Holy Spirit from Hashem or not?

    2. Do we ever see the Holy Spirit going against Hashem’s word, torah or anything in the tanach?

    3. Do we see any prophesies that state the HS would teach or lead us into things that were against what Hashem commanded?

    4. Do we see any teachings by Yeshua or any New Testament author that the HS would command us to NOT obey the commands of Hashem?

    I have searched the scriptures and came to a conclusion; just because you hear a voice saying its the HS does not mean it is. Please be careful and choose this day whom you shall serve.

    Something to think about and test.


    P.S. Please forgive me – I forgot to add this scripture…

    “And he will speak words against the Most High, and he will oppress the high holy ones, and he will think to change the times and the law, and they will be delivered into his hand until a time, two times, and half a time.” Daniel 7:25

    The enemy, Hasatan, is on a mission to change how people think about Hashem’s times (feast days) and law (torah/commandments). If he can get people to ignore these things it is detrimental to believers. Consider the parable of the wise and foolish virgins…

    As you know some Jewish sages say the oil is the torah. If that is the case then the foolish virgins are believers that do not obey torah and they do not get into the wedding feast. Wow.

    I hope this helps.




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.