Recently, Diane Bederman, a frequent blogger on the Times of Israel, posted an article entitled “The Spread of Messianics in the Diaspora and Israel.” The article appeared to be much ado about nothing and more about accusatory innuendo toward Messianic leaders in Jerusalem. The innuendo is mixed with demonization of one sort or another because Bederman’s “liberal brand” of Judaism happens to disagree with Messianc and Christian theology.
Unfortunately, the article also had some rather significant flaws and factual errors.
In her opening paragraph, to support her thesis, she quotes Bob Simon on his distorted views about Christian escatology. Simon, (recently deceased) of CBS “60 Minutes” wrote and narrated a demonizing Israel piece in which he promoted the worst of lies and innuendo about Israel against a backdrop of how oppressed, wonderful and helpless the Palestinians are. Luckily, the Jerusalem Post had a lot of bones to pick about the unfortunate Simon piece.
Bob Simon, in a 1992 “60 Minutes” program found the answer: Because the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland is seen by Evangelicals as a precondition for the Second Coming of Christ.
As a student and expositor of the Bible, I have never seen or heard anything like this statement from Christian theologians. Occasionally, you hear this kind of talk from Jews who misunderstand the Bible or who want to accuse Christians of the “evil deed” of talking about their faith at “missionary events.”
The Hebrew Bible (TENACH), however, does say that Israel will emerge again as a state and its people will return in the last days (Deut30). Many Jews and Christians commonly believe these “prophecies” from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Isaiah are “signs” of the coming of the “day of the Lord.”
There are many Jews who assert that the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 was a prophetic sign of the “end times.”
As a Bible-believer, evangelical and a friend of Israel, I have been teaching about and advocating for Israel for fifteen years. Mostly, I speak to Christians about their Jewish roots. My passion as a Bible believer is to uncover the roots of Christian anti-Semitism.
There is a lot of misleading innuendo in Diane Bederman’s article about Messianics and Christians.
“Messianic” Judaism is a primary topic in the New Testament. It just isn’t called that. It is called “The Way.” All of the New Testament writers were Jewish ( except perhaps Luke).
Unless you are among those who refuse to read the New Testament, you can find in those pages, an authoritative history of the second Temple period.
Between 35 C.E. and 67 C.E., the Apostle Paul (a Pharisaic Jew and member of the Sanhedrin) took the “Jewish gospel” message to the northern Mediterranean area from Jerusalem to Rome. He remained a faithful “observant” Jew till his dying day as were all of the writers of the New Testament.
In fact, all of the followers of Jesus (Yeshua) were never anything but “Torah observant” Jews. No one converted to anything called “Christianity” since the concept did not exist until much later. Jesus was thought of as Messiah (or “Christ” in Greek).
The movement (called “The Way”) was considered one of many Jewish sects among which are Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, Keraites, and others. These were recognized by both Jews and Romans until at least 135 CE when Jerusalem was plowed under after the Bar Kochba Revolt and every flavor of Jewish person was scattered, killed or sold into slavery.
Rabbi Akiva, by the way, attached the title of “Messiah” to Simon bar Kochba.
After 135 CE, the Jews who were part of the party of the Pharisees gathered together with Rabbi Yochanon Ben Zakkai. He gathered the brightest and best Jewish Talmudic minds and went to Yavneh to formulate much of what is the Judaism of today. Members of “The Way” went elsewhere. Many of the other sects just faded into oblivion.
The gentiles who later became followers of Yeshua ( Jesus) during Paul’s travels (30-60CE) were pagan Romans. It was they who created the Christian religious monstrosity we see today. This happened many years later (circa 130 CE to 325 CE) under the ante-Nicean church fathers and finally the Emperor Constantine (325CE).
Messianic Judaism is just a contemporary title for those Jewish followers of Jesus as the Messiah. They don’t call it “The Way,” but they are authentic Jews — no more or less than the Chabad who follow Schneerson as the Messiah. You may not agree with them, but they are still very much Jewish according to scriptures.
How would you know who is a true Messiah unless you studied Hebrew scripture to determine what was said about a coming Messiah? You wouldn’t. That is what Yeshua’s disciples did. They came to their own conclusions, which were, in the end based on their experience at Jesus’ Torah teaching, his miracles and his eventual resurrection.
The quote that Bederman throws in at the end of her paper is by yet another ‘unbiased observer’, Gershom Gorenberg. Gorenberg is described by the NY Times as “a leftist Israeli journalist of American extraction.” According to Wikipedia he, “self-identifies as ‘a left-wing, skeptical Orthodox Zionist Jew.'”
In other words, he is not an authority on Christian Eschatology.
Gershom Gorenberg evidently states that the Christians assert that in the end of days, “Jews will die or convert.”
Actually, the Hebrew Scriptures tell us more about Jews dying in the last days than the New Testament scriptures do. Gorenberg should read Ezekiel chapters 38-39 and Zechariah chapter 12-14 before he accuses Christians of pointing fingers about who will die.
The false idea that all followers of Yeshua (Jesus) think that the Messiah can’t come until all Jews live in Israel or all Jews are “converted” is as misplaced as the Neturei Karta who say contemporary Israel and Zionism are invalid until Messiah comes.
Neither the Hebrew scriptures (TENACH) nor the Messianic writings say anything of the sort. N-O-T-H-I-N-G.
Bederman’s whole article is a bit of a muddle. If you remove the opening shot across the bow from Bob Simon and the closing zinger from Gorenberg, the middle appears to be a more or less neutral recitation of the accomplishments and plans of various messianic organizations.
Ms. Bederman’s apparent animus strikes me as a bit odd in her role as a “Multi-faith chaplain.”
The last time I read the PR press from Israel, the nation of Israel lays claim to the only nation in the Middle East with freedom of religion. With some notable exceptions, this rule of freedom of or from religion has worked to protect Christians, Ba’hai, and some other minority groups in Israel.
Messianic Jews, however, are at every opportunity, harassed and persecuted by government offices, Israeli media, and the Haredi all of whom seem to want to run them out of town piling on them all kinds of accusations of how Messianic Jews are not Jews at all but converts to another religion and as such cannot make aliyah. Perhaps they should try reading their own scriptures.
Ultimately, we can affirm to Ms. Bederman that the world certainly can be a challenging place especially if you are not strongly anchored in your own belief system. In reality, there really is no need for people like Diane Bederman to panic when Christians and Messianics exercise their rights to freedom of speech.
You can reach me with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org