Response To My Messianic Article

Over at The Kvetcher, David Kelsey has the following to say about my defense of Messianic Jews:

Roi Ben-Yehuda is hand-wringing over on Jewcy about the way Jews for Jesus are being treated in Israel. He is upset that the Jews for Jesus are not being accepted as Jews, and notes,

“If we are going to say that Hitler and not Halacha determines who is a Jew, then we need to make room for Jews who also believe in Jesus — as Hitler would have done.”

Ben-Yehuda has a good point, and I would note that when the Zionist Entity first decided that Hitler was the ultimate authority on who is a Jew, no one could have predicted this problem specifically, or that there would be problems generally. After all, why should there be problems when the Zionists reasonably decided to express their Jewish pride both religiously and as a nation by embracing Hitler as grand posek? Clearly, for their time, the Zionist Entity did the right thing, just…Jewish history took an unpredictable turn, and this ostensibly reasonable choice for an ultimate Jewish authority proved to have shortcomings…but you can’t blame the impeccable reasoning of the Zionists for its time.

One response to “Response To My Messianic Article

  1. Roi,

    I’m an online friend of David’s and I just read your article on Jewcy. I wanted to post a comment here so that I could be sure you would see it. I take exception to Messianic Jews who wish to claim the Right of Return, and it has nothing to do with their belief in Jesus.

    Firstly, I’d like to say that I don’t altogether trust the figure of 350,000, if we’re going to define a Messianic Jew as “a person who was born Jewish or converted to Judaism, who is a ‘genuine believer’ in Yeshua [Jesus], and who acknowledges his Jewishness.” I don’t know what the situation is like in Israel, but, here in the States, most people who identify as Messianic Jews aren’t actually of Jewish ancestry. In many Messianic congregations, especially in the South and Midwest, more than half of the members are gentiles who have simply taken to calling themselves “Messianic Jews”. They are evangelical Christians who have taken the current fad of Judeophilia to its extreme. They tire of “vanilla” Christianity and are attracted to the Messianic subculture because it seems exotic, but allows them to remain safely under the banner of Christianity – so, in their view, they aren’t endangering their “salvation”.

    Regarding the issue of Messianics of Jewish ancestry being allowed to make aliyah: It is certainly true that there are many Jewish Atheists, Buddhist, Pagans, etc., and no one questions their Jewish credentials; however, Christianity, as others are pointing out, constitutes a special case, due to our 2,000 year shared history, much of which has been tragic. Unlike the other traditions, Christianity historically has had as an integral part of its agenda the elimination of Judaism as a separate faith tradition, as the Church sees itself as the “New Israel” and as the true beneficiary of God’s promises in the Old Testament.

    As a belief system, Messianic “Judaism” isn’t really a form of Judaism at all; it is conservative evangelical Christianity. They’ve taken their theology in its entirety from the Christian fundamentalists; in fact, a number of their “rabbis” have graduated from Southern Baptist seminaries. If they were attempting to build a faith community based upon the beliefs of first-century Jewish followers of Jesus (not an impossible task, given the historical data now available), I could see that as legitimate – but this is not what they are doing (frankly, most of them, in my experience, simply aren’t bright enough). They are practicing Christianity with a thin veneer of Jewish liturgy and symbolism. They basically want to be Christians without giving up the bagels.

    In any case, none of this is what troubles me. If they want or need to believe that Jesus was the Messiah – fine. I don’t even care if they believe that he was God incarnate; as an atheist, I don’t give a damn about the issue of avodah zora. What weighs with me is their adoption of the doctrine of salvific exclusivism. There are exceptions, but the vast majority of them believe that everyone who fails to acknowledge Jesus as messiah will spend eternity in hell (it’s in the doctrinal statements of both of their denominational organizations). Eternal damnation in the Christian sense was never a Jewish belief, and is an abomination, in any case – a concept so obscene that it ought to be considered beneath the dignity of a human being to believe it. In my opinion, a Jew who adopts and is comfortable with the belief that millions of his fellow Jews (not to mention billions of his fellow human beings) will be tormented in hell for all of eternity – and that this is somehow in perfect concert with the idea of God as supremely compassionate, merciful and just – has violated the concept of k’lal Yisroel and has separated himself from the Jewish people. It is not we who have excluded them; rather, it is they who have excluded themselves, a situation they seek to modify when it becomes inconvenient.

    On this basis, I have absolutely no problem with denying Messianic Jews the benefits associated with membership in the worldwide Jewish community, including but not limited to the Right of Return.

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