Messianic Judaism combines Judaism and Christianity into a hybrid religious movement. Jesus, whom they call Yeshua, is considered diving by those who practice this belief system. They also cling to the rituals and restrictions of the Jewish Shabbat, just as Jesus was a Jew.
This faith has been rejected by mainstream Judaism but accepted, to a large degree, by Christians. A belief in Jesus as Savior often is considered the dividing line between Jews and Christians, and Messianic Jews qualify as Christians under that criteria. Even the Supreme Court of Israel has so ruled, in a case involving the Law of Return.
One major difference, however, is that while Christians believe adherence to the Bible is the path to heaven, Messianic Jews continue to focus on the Torah, as well as observing Jewish holidays and dietary requirements.
One Messianic Jewish congregation, the synagogue Baruch Ha Shem, offers a typical statement of belief:
“The Jewishness of biblical faith in Messiah Yeshua is expressed at Baruch Ha Shem through Torah reading, observance of the Biblical feast and fast days, teaching of Scripture from a Jewish perspective. Messianic praise music and Davidic dance. We seek to explore the Jewish roots of our faith and to foster a loving sensitivity to the Jewish people. Our desire is to daily seek first the kingdom, of G-d and His righteousness, and to share our faith with all men in a culturally sensitive way.
“BHS provides an environment where believers can be edified and encouraged in Messianic belief as well as equipped to do the work to which we have been called: first, to be a light to a lost world, and also to bring a message of reconciliation to the Church so that both Jew and Gentile may know the spiritual reality of being one in the Messiah.”
The Messianic Judaism movement, interestingly, began not in the Holy Land, but in England. Founded in London in the mid-1800s, the first Hebrew-Christian congregation was called Beni Abraham. In 1866, the Hebrew Christian Alliance of Great Britain came about, soon spreading to several European countries and the United States. The International Hebrew-Christian Alliance took root in America in 1915.
At the urging of HCAA president Martin Chernoff in 1973, the name was changed to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. David Raush, who has written a book on Messianic Judaism, stated the name change “represented an evolution in the thought processes and religious and philosophical outlook toward a more fervent expression of Jewish identity.”
Some American Messianic Jews wound up moving to Israel, creating their own village outside of Jerusalem.
Although they are drawn to the Torah, Messianic Judaism adherents also believe that the Old Testament was divinely inspired. Hence, they consider Jesus Christ to be a fulfillment of Old Testament predictions — unlike mainstream Jews, who are still waiting for the Messiah to arrive.
There is also an evangelical side to Messianic Judaism, although it tends to be more muted than that of Christianity or Islam. This quote, from “The Basics of Messianic Judaism” is typical:
“Since Messianic Judaism is Jewish, it deems all Jewish people as its siblings. Also, since Christianity professes the Jewish Messiah as their Savior, Messianic Judaism deems all faithful Gentiles as its siblings (and no longer to be pagan Gentiles). This does not mean Messianic Judaism agrees with all the doctrines, traditions, customs or practices of either traditional Judaism or Christianity. We believe it would be the best and is ultimately necessary for all Jewish people to know their Messiah Yeshua, but we do not believe that God has called any Jewish person to become Gentile or Western Christian in custom. Rather, we believe it would be best and is ultimately necessary for Christianity to remove its pagan influences and return to the roots of Judaism, that is, to return to the way of Yeshua as He walked by example and set forth in His entire Word.”
This movement is slowly growing. In 2003, a survey listed 400 Messianic Jewish congregations worldwide and around 150 in the United States.
Like their estranged Jewish “siblings,” most Messianic Jews do not observe Christmas.