Is the Term “Messianic Judaism” Biblical?

You may be surprised to find out that the original Jewish followers of Yeshua were NOT “Messianic Jews”. As Daniel Juster writes:

No form of Judaism or Christianity… has used the term “Messianic Judaism” as its appropriate designation.
(Jewish Roots; 1986 edition, p. viii)

The original followers of Yeshua were a sect of Judaism known as “Nazarenes” (as we read in Acts 24:5).

The term “Messianic Judaism” was invented in the late 60’s and it is a human invention. David Stern writes in his Messianic Jewish Manifesto:

According to Scripture the word “Christian” does not denote Jewish believers in Yeshua at all. The New Testament calls them followers of “this way” (Acts 9:2, 22:4) and “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5)… the New Testament does not call Jewish believers “Christians”. According to New Testament usage the term “Christian” is reserved for Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah Yeshua.

Acts 11:19-26 tells how in Antioch some Jewish believers… did not limit their proclamation of Yeshua as the Messiah to Jews, as had been the norm previously, but broke new ground… Many of these Gentiles came to believe… the other Gentiles in Antioch… coined the word christianoi (Christians),… Thus the term “Christian” was invented by Gentiles to describe Gentiles in a Gentile environment. The New Testament tells us explicitly that “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” [Acts 11:26]
(Messianic Jewish Manifesto; David Stern; p. 32)

Now it is important here to note that David Stern himself in his Jewish New Testament and Complete Jewish Bible, translates Acts 11:26 with:

…it was at Antioch that the talmidim for the first time were called “Messianic”.(Acts 11:26 JNT)

In his commentary to this passage in his Jewish New Testament Commentary Stern writes:

“Messianic,” or “Messianics,” Greek Christianoi, which could be rendered… as in other translations, “Christians.” …the name “Christianoi” was applied to Gentile believers by Gentile nonbelievers. The name nonbelieving Jews gave to Jewish believers was “Natzaratim”… (“Nazarenes”),…

Again in Messianic Jewish Manifesto Stern writes:

“Messianic” comes from the Hebrew mashiach, which means “anointed.” “Christian” comes from Greek christos, which is the [Greek] New Testament’s translation of mashiach AND MEANS THE SAME THING. …in the New Testament the term “Christian,” which appears only three times, apparently denotes being a Gentile believer in Yeshua, so that scripturally “Jewish Christian” is a contradiction in terms.
(Emphasis and brackets added)
(Messianic Jewish Manifesto; David Stern; p. 20)

Now we can see from David Stern’s own words above:

  1. The terms “Christian” and “Messianic” are alternate translations of the Greek word “Christianoi” “and mean the same thing”.
  2. The term “Christianoi” or “Christian” is used in the scriptures only to denote a GENTILE believer in Yeshua, so that scripturally the term “Jewish Christian” is “a contradiction in terms”.

Therefore we may conclude that:

  • The term “Messianic” is used in the scriptures only to denote a GENTILE believer in Yeshua, so that scripturally the term “Messianic Jew” is a contradiction in terms.
  • The logic is inescapable… the term “Messianic Judaism” is scripturally invalid, it is a human invention and a contradiction in terms.

So what were the original Jewish followers of Yeshua called if they were not Messianic Jews? Stern admits:

The New Testament calls them followers of “this way” (Acts 9:2, 22:4) and “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5)
(Messianic Jewish Manifesto; David Stern; p. 32)

In fact if we quote Stern, but substitute the word “Messianic” for “Christians” (since Stern admits “they are the same”) we read:

According to Scripture the word “MESSIANIC” does not denote Jewish believers in Yeshua at all. The New Testament calls them followers of “this way” (Acts 9:2, 22:4) and “NAZARENES” (Acts 24:5)… the New Testament does not call Jewish believers “MESSIANIC”. According to New Testament usage the term “MESSIANIC” is reserved for Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah Yeshua.

So the BIBLICAL term for Jewish believers in Messiah is NOT “Messianic” but “Nazarene”. We should be seeking a restoration of “Nazarene Judaism” not creating “Messianic Judaism” which, being “Christian Judaism” (i.e. “Christianized Judaism”) is a contradiction in terms.

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