Our Jewish Identity
James Scott Trimm
I have noticed that there is an identity crisis in the movement. Part of this identity crisis seems to be a fear and even an aversion by some, of embracing a Jewish identity. Many have been hesitant to embrace a Jewish identity, in favor of terms like “Israel”, “Ephraimite” etc.
Some will insist that the term “Jew” only applies to one of the twelve (or thirteen) tribes and others that is applies only to the three tribes of the House of Judah (Judah, Benjamin and Levi) but should not be used to refer to those of the Lost Ten Tribes or of the Gentile nations who embrace the faith of Torah and Messiah.
I myself came out of Rabbinic Judaism, and I did not leave Judaism and embrace some other faith when I accepted Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah of Judaism. My own ministry of well over 20 years has been centered around the restoration of the ancient sect of Nazarene Judaism. Through this ministry, I believe YHWH is restoring the ancient sect of Nazarene Judaism. Those who practice Judaism now should feel absolutely comfortable accepting Yeshua as the Messiah and becoming a part of this restoration, without fear that they are becoming a part of something that is not “Jewish”.
I want to emphasize in this article that Yeshua did not come to create a new religion. The original followers of Yeshua as the Messiah were a sect of Judaism. The Scriptures use the term “Jew” to refer not only to members of the Tribe of Judah, but to members of the Lost Ten Tribes and even those of the Gentile nations who embrace Messiah.
For example, in the Book of Tobit we read about a group from the House of Israel who had been taken from the Northern Kingdom and were living in the Assyrian Exile, who were faithful to the Temple in Jerusalem and its Priests:
1 This is the book of Tovi, the son of Toviel, the son of Chanunel, the son of Ariel the son of Gav[ri]el, the son of Asael, the son of Nantiel from the tribe of Naftali.
2 Who was carried away from Samaria with the carrying away which was of the exile in the days of Hoshea the son of Elah who were carried away in the days of Shal’man’eseer King of Assyria. And he was an inhabitant of a city of Naftali which is in Galil upon the western border.
3 And Tovi did, remember me well my Eloah because of the manner I walked in all the days of my life, in the way of perfection, and the much alms and good mercies which I did unto my brothers and to my people in exile in Ninevah in the Land of Assyria.
4 And it came to pass when I was a lad in the Land of Yisrael, all the tribe of Naftali apostatized in [regards to] to the House of David, and ceased going up [to] Jerusalem, the City which YHWH appointed from all the tribes of Yisrael, and placed the Alter of YHWH, the holy place to all the tribes of Israel. And the Temple of YHWH is built in her midst to offer burnt offerings that shall be fulfilled to YHWH three times in a year.
5 And all men of the Tribe of Naftali sacrificed sacrifices and offerings to a calf of gold which Yerevoam the son of Nevat, King of Yisrael made in Beit-El and in Dan.
6 And I went to Yerushulayim at the appointed times as it is written in the Torah of YHWH concerning Yisrael in firstfruits and tithes and firstlings.
7 To the priests, sons of Aharon and new wine and fat and labors and pomegranates and from all fruits of the ground to the sons of Levi, ministers before, the presence of YHWH in Yerushalayim, and the second tithe.
8 And the third tithe to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow. And I would go in every year with all these, to Yerushalayim by the commandments of YHWH and according to that duty upon me, Devorah mother of my Father.
(Tovi 1:1-8 HRV)
Later in the book, these same Israelites of the Ten Northern Tribes are called “Jews”:
And they and all the Jews who were in Nineveh rejoiced with great joy at this great kindness which YHWH had shown to Tovi and his son. And they gave Toviyah many precious gifts.
(Tovi 11:17 HRV)
Moreover after the events of the Purim story recorded in the Book of Ester we are told that Gentiles who had become proselytes as a result of these events “became Jews”:
And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had gladness and joy; a feast and a good day. And many from among the peoples of the land, became Jews: for the fear of the Jews was fallen upon them.
(Ester 8:17 HRV)
It should be noted that Paul refers to those to whom he wrote in his letters as “formerly Gentiles” (Eph. 2:11; 1Cor. 12:2) implying that they had also “become Jews”.
THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM
After the death of Solomon the Kingdom of Israel was divided into a Northern Kingdom and a Southern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom became known as the House of Israel; Joseph or Ephraim. The Southern Kingdom became known as the House of Judah. The Northern Kingdom rebelled against the rightful king, High Priest and Temple. They established their own non-Davidic King, their own High Priest and their own Temple at a new location in the Northern Kingdom. They were unwilling to submit to the rulership of the House of Judah. They, in effect, started their own new religion. An Ephaimite religion, under Ephraimite authority.
EPHRAIM GOES THEIR OWN WAY APART FROM JUDAH
In Jeremiah Chapter 3 the two houses of Israel are discussed. Notice that Israel and Judah are allegorical sisters in this prophecy (Jer. 3:6-7) In Jer. 3:8 YHWH says:
And I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Yisra’el
had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her
a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Yehudah did not fear,
but went and committed whoring too.
(Jer. 3:8 – The Scriptures Version)
However YHWH did not divorce Judah as well, as that would have left no remnant. Instead the Prophet Hosea compares the two Houses of Israel this way:
“Ephrayim has surrounded Me with lying,
and the house of Yisra’el with deceit.
But Yehudah is still wandering with El,
and is true to the Set-apart One.”
(Hosea 11:12 – The Scriptures Version)
While the House of Israel abandoned the one true faith, a remnant of the House of Judah remained faithful to the one true faith. Since the one true faith had now become the faith of only the House of Judah, it had come to be called “Judaism”.
No one knows just when the one true faith came to be known as “Judaism”. The earliest known usage of the term “Judaism” in written literature is 2Maccabees 2:21 where it is said that the Maccabees, fighting the Greeks are described as “those who strove zealously on behalf of Judaism”:
19 The story of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, and the purification of the great temple, and the dedication of the altar,
20 and further the wars against Antiochus Epiphanes and his son Eupator,
21 and the appearances which came from heaven to those who strove zealously on behalf of Judaism, so that though few in number they seized the whole land and pursued the barbarian hordes,
22 and recovered the temple famous throughout the world and freed the city and restored the laws that were about to be abolished, while the Lord with great kindness became gracious to them —
23 all this, which has been set forth by Jason of Cyrene in five volumes, we shall attempt to condense into a single book.
(2Macc. 2:19-23 RSV)
The term Judaism was in common use well before the first century being commonly used by writers such as Josephus and Philo to describe the faith.
Although Paul identifies himself as a member of the Tribe of Benjamin, he regularly refers to himself as a “Jew” (Acts 21:39; 22:3) and even in the present tense as a “Pharisee” (Acts 23:6) a first century sect of Judaism.
Paul himself uses the term “Judaism” in Galatians 1:13 to describe his own faith:
For you have heard of my way of life that was from before, which was in Judaism:
that I especially persecuted the assembly of Eloah and was destroying it.
(Gal. 1:13 HRV)
Was Paul comparing his former live in “Judaism” with his current life outside of “Judaism”? Or was Paul comparing his former life in “Judaism” with his current life in “Judaism”? His plain statement “I am a Pharisee” in the present tense in Acts 23:6 would seem to make it clear that Paul still regarded his faith as “Judaism”.
THE REMNANT OF THE HOUSE OF JUDAH
In the first two chapters of Isaiah we see a prophetic rebuke of each of the Two Houses of Israel. Isaiah 1:1-23 contains a prophetic rebuke “concerning Judah and Jerusalem” (1:1) while Isaiah 2:5-22 contains a prophetic rebuke directed at the “House of Jacob” (2:5).
The House of Judah (“Judah and Jerusalem”) is observing Torah in some way… they are offering sacrifices and incense and observing new moons and sabbaths and the calling of assemblies (1:13). But note that Isaiah 1
calls them “YOUR new moons” and “YOUR appointed feasts” but the Torah calls them “My appointed feasts” etc..
This is why YHWH’s nefesh (soul) HATES their appointed feasts (1:14). The House of Judah is observing Torah, but in an empty way (because they have violated Deut. 18:15-18 in rejecting Messiah). Their Torah observance is
empty and meaningless because it has lost the Soul of the Torah the Messiah himself.
The House of Israel (also called the “House of Jacob”) is rebuked for having turned from the “light of YHWH” (2:5) (i.e, the Torah see Isaiah 8:20); forsaking “your people” (2:6) and turning to idolatry (2:7).
But in Isaiah 1:9 there is a key passage:
Except YHWH of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant,
we should have been as Sodom,
and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
Note that this verse takes place in YHWH’s rebuke of the House of Judah. While the House of Jacob abandons the Torah and their own people (the House of Judah) and turn to idolatry, and most of the House of Judah observes Torah in an empty way (having rejected the Messiah) there is a remnant of the House of Judah which has not rejected Torah or the Messiah.
In a footnote to Isaiah 1:9 the Ryrie Study Bible has the following comment:
“Quoted in Rom. 9:29 with reference to Christian Jews.”
Now I do not always agree with Ryrie’s comments and I certainly do not agree with the usage of the term “Jewish Christians”, what Ryrie would call “Jewish Christians” I would identify as “Nazarene Jews”. However it is very important that Romans 9:29 does quote Isaiah 1:9 with reference to Nazarene Jews. The “remnant” of the
House of Judah in Isaiah 1:9 does in fact refer to Nazarene Judaism.
ONE FAITH ONCE AND FOR ALL DELIVERED
Now at this point I want to establish that their is only one true faith (Eph. 4:5) which was once and for all delivered to the set apart ones (Jude 1:3) and that one true faith is the Nazarene sect of Judaism.
This brings us to the encounter between Yeshua and an Ephraimite woman (a Samaritan). There is no doubt that this Samaritan woman is to be counted as an Ephraimite because she refers to “our father Jacob” (Jn. 4:12) and
Yeshua makes no attempt to correct her on this point. (Note she mentions the two different places of worship on different mountains in 4:20). Then Yeshua tells her her religion is false and that the Jewish religion is the one true faith saying:
“You worship what you do not know.
We worship what we know,
because the deliverance is of the Yehudim.
“But the hour is coming, and now is,
when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth,
for the Father also does seek such to worship Him.
(Jn. 4:22-23 – The Scriptures Version)
Yeshua makes it clear that the “true worshipers” are the Jews who practice Judaism “in spirit and truth” as opposed to an Ephraimite religion. (“in spirit and truth” – a reference to the Torah – see Ps. 119:142, 151; Ezek. 36:27).
Moreover Paul writes:
“…what is the advantage of the Jew? Or what is the profit of
circumcision? Much in everything!…”
EPHRAIMITES TAKING HOLD
Now the question is: What is the prophetic hope of the House of Israel? Is there to be a last days restoration of a distinct and separate House of Israel (as opposed to the House of Judah) or is the hope of divorced Ephraim to be joined to the House of Judah?
One of the most beautiful prophecies of the reunion of the two houses of Israel is the “two sticks” prophecy in Ezekiel 37:15-20. In this prophecy each of the two houses of Israel are symbolized by two “sticks” which are brought together and made as one (Ezek. 37:15-18) the text goes on to specify that YHWH will:
…take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim,
and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him,
even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick,…
Now lets look at another prophecy in Zech. 8:23:
Thus said YHWH of hosts, ‘In those days ten men
from all languages of the nations take hold,
yea, they shall take hold of the edge of the garment of a man,
a Yehudite, saying, “Let us go with you,
for we have heard that Elohim is with you .
Now lest anyone think that the “Jew” (Yehudite) in this passage is a certain Jew, such as the Messiah, I must point out that in the Hebrew the word “you” in “let us go with “you” and “Elohim is with you” is PLURAL and therefore refers not to an individual Jew, but to the House of Judah. No doubt the number “ten” here implies the lost ten tribes of Ephraim. Not that Ephraim says to Judah:
“let us [Ephraim] go with you [Judah]
for we [Ephraim] have heard that YHWH is with you [Judah].”
GRAFTED INTO JUDAH
Finally let us look at the olive tree prophecy of Romans 11. This prophecy parallels the two “sticks” prophecy of Ezekiel 37 (note that the word STICK in Ezek. 37 is ETZ which also means “tree”).
Rom. 9 begins the contrast of the “Jews” and “Gentiles” by quoting Hosea 2:25(23); 2:1 (1:10) in Rom. 9:25-26. But if we look up the context of the people “which were not my people” which he calls “my people” in Hosea we find that they are the “children of Israel” (Hosea 2:1 (1:10)) as opposed to “the children of Judah” (Hosea 2:2 (1:11)) So if Paul is quoting Hosea in context and contrasting Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 9:24) using Hosea 2:1-2 (1:10-11) then the “Jews” of Rom. 9:24 are the “Children of Judah” of Hosea 2:2 (1:11) and the “Gentiles” of Rom. 9:24 are the “children of Israel” of Hosea 2:1 (1:10). If this is true then as this contrasting pair advances into Rom. Chapter 11 the two trees are the two Houses.
Now the uncultivated olive tree in Romans 11 is clearly therefore Ephraim and the cultivated olive tree is clearly that of Judah. This prophecy tells us that branches from the tree/stick of Ephraim will be broken off and grafted into the tree/stick of Judah, are to be fed by the root of the tree/stick of Judah and are not to boast against the natural branches (Jews).”
The House of Judah is the cultivated olive tree that Ephraimite branches are being grafted into.
Judaism is the one true faith that was once and for all time given. Messiah did not come to create a new religion whether Christian or a new Ephraimite religion. Messiah came to be the Messiah of Judaism.
Many of those of Ephraim and the Gentiles being drawn to Torah truth and taking hold of Judah are being troubled by those wishing to discourage them from being grafted into Judah. These would have Ephraim return to the initial Ephraimite error of creating an Ephraimite faith apart from Judah and Judaism.
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