A Christian can wear tallit

Jewish Christians - Jewish Christians - "Messianic Jews"

A determination of the position of the joint committee "Church and Judaism" on behalf of the EKD Council. 2017

2. The phenomenon of "messianic Jews"

2.1 history

After Jews had discarded their Jewish identity for centuries with baptism and were absorbed in the church, which was no longer differentiated into Jews and Gentiles, in which their origins often no longer played a role, individual converts began to call themselves "Jewish Christians" in the 19th century - a term that was previously used exclusively for the early Christian era. The Hebrew Christian Alliance of Great Britain (Founded in 1866) who Hebrew Christian Alliance of America (1915) and the International Jewish-Christian Alliance (1925) served to network and exchange among the members who stayed in their respective denominations and advocated a better understanding of Judaism there. The proposal to found an independent Jewish Christian church was rejected in 1937. Only since 1945 did the International alliance independent Jewish Christian communities.

At the same time, in the 19th century, Christian mission societies began to found "Jewish Christian" congregations in areas with a large Jewish population (Galicia, Hungary and southern Russia). Joseph Rabinowitsch's "Israelites of the New Covenant" congregation was active in Kishinev (today Moldova) from 1884 until the Shoah. The organization founded in New York in 1894 by Rabbi Leopold Cohn Chosen People Ministries saw itself as a work for Jewish emigrants from Russia (later the Soviet Union).

After 1920 the missionary activity was extended to Palestine, England, Germany and Poland. After the end of World War II, the organization concentrated again on the North American continent. Their success there stemmed essentially from the fact that Jewish Christian missionaries preached a "Jewish" form of the Gospel to Jews. In the environment of the Chosen People Ministries Messianic congregations and congregations were established in the United States and Palestine (after 1948 Israel). In the 1960s, a group arose within the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America - although this was initially controversial in this organization - which respected its Jewish roots and looked for common Jewish forms of expression for their faith.

In addition to the enthusiasm for the unification of Jerusalem in 1967 - this was seen as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies - the charismatic one contributed to the growth of this movement Jesus PeopleMovement in the USA. Among the Californian Jesus People there were young Jews who were attracted to Jesus of Nazareth but not to established Christianity. Markus (Moishe) Rosen (Jews for Jesus) developed a mission style that addressed youth culture and propagated the compatibility of faith in Jesus with Jewish identity. These impulses led to the characteristics of many messianic-Jewish groups that can still be observed today: personal testimony, zeal for mission, charismatic worship services. Under the influence of this movement the named itself Hebrew Christian Alliance of America 1975 in Messianic Jewish Alliance of America around and declared the formation of their own communities to be their main goal.

After missionary activities were possible again in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, individual Jews in the former Soviet Union found faith in Jesus. Some of them (e.g. Vladimir Pikman, Mischa Braker, Anatoli Uschomirski) came to Germany as contingent refugees and, with the help of their support organizations, founded messianic-Jewish groups and communities, around two-thirds of which still consist of Russian (and still predominantly Russian-speaking) immigrants. Many members of these groups are not recognized as Jews by the constituted Jewish communities because of their patrilineal origin; In addition, there are Russian-German emigrants, Israel enthusiasts from evangelical congregations and free churches and other religious seekers. Through their supporters, these groups are integrated into an international network that exists independently of recognition by Christian churches or Jewish communities. [1]

In terms of numbers, messianic Judaism is a marginal phenomenon in Germany. The stability of these groups is currently not foreseeable in terms of the sociology of religion (low membership base, immigration phenomenon, high mobility of members, charismatic character of the communities with a certain distance from fixed structures). In addition, there is the unresolved question of whether messianic congregations in Germany can exist for a longer period of time or whether they will become part of congregations or churches in the foreseeable future and thus lose their Jewish identity. [2]

2.2. Appearance

"Messianic-Jewish" worship services combine Jewish and Christian design elements in different ways, such as lighting the Sabbath candles, wearing a kippah and tallit, reading the weekly section (possibly from a Torah scroll), and prayers from the Siddur (Shma Yisrael , Kaddish and Hawdala) and - on the other hand - the cross in the worship room, the Lord's Prayer, intercessions, readings from the New Testament (with special emphasis on the Gospels) and the appreciation of the sermon. The elements intended as "Jewish" are often given an additional meaning (Sabbath candles as a reference to Jesus as the light of the world, etc.). Many elements such as the free form of preaching, spontaneously formulated prayers, worship songs with catchy melodies, short texts and many repetitions are reminiscent of evangelical worship services.

The baptism, occasionally too Mikveh Yeshua called, is performed on adults - rarely or rarely on children. It happens by going into hiding "in the name of Yeshua the Messiah" and occurs in boys alongside circumcision, which, however, is not regarded as "necessary for salvation". Baptism is not considered a conversion to (pagan) Christianity, but is intended to reinterpret Jewish identity. Before the act of baptism, the person baptized gives his personal testimony of faith and makes it clear how he has found the messianic-Jewish faith and turned away from his old sinful life.

The Lord's Supper is celebrated roughly monthly in congregations that emphasize Christian elements, quarterly in other groups or only annually in connection with the Passover.

They are also celebrated Jewish festivals, especially Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Purim and Simchat Torah - this latter festival apparently only if there is a Torah scroll. All festivals, especially the Passover festival, are given a messianic-Jewish interpretation. Other Jewish-religious customs are also partially received by some groups and associated with Jesus and reinterpreted in a messianic-Jewish way.

2.3 Theology

In the German-speaking context, “Messianic-Jewish” theology is to be understood in terms of its Protestant-evangelical background. Although she wants to express her statements in Hebrew rather than Greek terms and combine them with the Jewish interpretation of Scripture, she mostly claims to correspond in its content to the traditional Christian teaching (doctrine of the Trinity, Christology). In addition, however, there are statements according to which it is a matter of purifying the faith in Jesus of "pagan influences" that have penetrated through "Greek thinking". [3]

In order to determine their place as part of the Jewish people and their connection to the Gentile Christian churches, "messianic-Jewish" theology in the USA has developed two models that start with the permanent election of the Jewish people.

The Enlargement Theology[4] opposes a theory of substitution widespread in Christian theology as well as the concept of two covenants or ways of salvation. Due to the prophetic promise of the eschatological pilgrimage to Zion, the peoples of the world are called through Jesus to the God of Israel. Israel, which trusts and obeys God, is continually growing from the other nations - the "Gentile Christians" become in fact part of the "enlarged" Israel.

The bilateral ecclesiology[5] of post-missionary messianic Judaism, on the other hand, represents the concept of two separate but related communities. The ekklesia of the Jewish believers in Jesus serves the larger Jewish people by being their eschatological firstfruits, sanctifying the Jewish "whole" and revealing the eschatological meaning of Jewish identity and destiny. It also serves the Jewish people as a whole by connecting the redeemed of the people to Israel's life and spiritual heritage and by enabling the Jews to fulfill their mission as light to the people. "Post-missionary" refers to an attitude that goes beyond the Gentile Christian mission to the Jews, which tried to dissuade Jews from their error of not having recognized Jesus as the Messiah. The preaching of the gospel among the Jews takes place through the Jewish ekklesiawhose model is the early church in Jerusalem.

Behind both models stands the hope of regaining the Pauline model of the church as the body of Christ from Jews and Greeks and of overcoming the "first schism in church history" between Jews who believe in Jesus and Gentile Christians. The question of the extent to which the rabbinical commandments are binding is disputed. Representatives of the binding nature of the entire Orthodox Halacha, who refer to Mt 23.3 ("everything that they tell you, do and keep"), are opposed to liberal positions, which Eph. 2,14f or Gal. 3.23 as a basis and do not see the meaning of the Torah in the commandments formulated there, but place the Abraham and land promise at the center.

2.4 Support groups

In Germany, the "messianic-Jewish" congregations and groups were founded in 1971 in Leinfelden in particular Gospel ministry among Israel (EDI), who have been working in Germany since 1985 Association for the Messianic Witness to Israel (AMZI) as well as from Beit Sar Shalom Gospel Service supports, a branch of the Chosen People Ministries (Beit Shomer Israel, Berlin; Beit Chesed parish, Düsseldorf). In addition, the "messianic-Jewish" groups are supported by evangelical-charismatic circles in individual free and regional churches. For them, the support of messianic Jews is a "substitute" for the mission to the Jews because they do not support the no to mission to the Jews, which is expressly formulated in church declarations, but consider an active mission to the Jews by Christians from Germany to be impossible for historical reasons. The supporting works follow the consensus that has grown in church declarations with regard to the recognition of the Jewish roots of the church and the churches' guilt for anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism, in the willingness to see the establishment of the State of Israel as a sign of God's loyalty to his people , in the rejection of Marcionism and the recognition that the New Testament can only be understood against the background of the Hebrew Bible. From the affirmation of the permanent election of Israel and the rejection of the doctrine of substitution, however, it does not follow for them that Judaism was in an intact relationship with God even after Jesus Christ: »Jews and non-Jews alike can enjoy the full benefit of the promised blessing ... only through faith to Jesus. "[6]

The supporters, like most messianic Jewish communities themselves, therefore consider non-Christian Judaism to be deficient and accuse it of not having recognized the Messiah Jesus. This is a fundamental difference to the declarations of most regional churches, which emphasize God's loyalty to his people Israel, in that they do not generally bind them to the consent of Jews to the confession of Christ.

This explains the high sensitivity and concern of Jewish communities with regard to missionary activities. They expect the churches to clearly distance themselves from messianic Jewish groups and their Christian evangelical supporters, insofar as these cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Jewish existence if this is not accompanied by a confession of Christ.


  1. Richard Harvey (Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, Carlisle 2009, 2) assumes around 150,000 Jewish believers in Jesus worldwide, more than 100,000 of whom live in the USA and around 5,000 in Israel.
  2. An example of the poor stability of these groups is the messianic-Jewish community "Schma Israel" founded in Esslingen in June 1998. In December 2015, Anatoli Uschomirski, the former pastor of this congregation, announced in the news organ “Sent to Israel” of the Gospel Service for Israel e.V. that it no longer exists because the generation after the Russian-speaking founders no longer had access to the church culture.
  3. "Messianic-Jewish" self-understanding is documented in the German-speaking context, e.g. in the 13 "Articles of Faith"; printed by S. Pfister, Messianische Juden in Deutschland, Münster 2008, p. 380f.
  4. Alex Jacob, The Case for Enlargement Theology, Saffron Walden 2010.
  5. Mark S. Kinzer, Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism, Grand Rapids 2005.
  6. Tuvya Zaretsky, The Gospel - also for Jews. Impulses from the messianic movement, Basel-Gießen 2006, 22f.
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