Is Messianic Judaism a Form of Judaism?
Jewish people who reject Messiah Yeshua often say that Messianic Judaism is not a form of Judaism. Whether or not Messianic Judaism is a form of Judaism depends on how 'Judaism' is defined; therefore, we will start with considering what 'Judaism' means.
Since we are dealing with a religious system that God himself started, we must take care not to read definitions from ideas that are not directly from God into the discussion. This means that ideas that originated from man, though not always evil, must not be any part of the foundation of the definition of Judaism.
The Torah was given to the Jews to tell them about the promises God had made to them and what was expected of them. Simply put, Judaism was founded upon the promises God has given to his people. Judaism, in summary, should be considered the belief that God will keep his covenants that He has given to Israel.
Why Messianic Judaism is not Recognized by other Sects of Judaism
The most common argument given by Jews who do not accept Messianic Judaism has to do with allegations of origins. Many websites will claim that Messianic Judaism did not come around until the earily 19th or 20th century.1
This objection commits the genetic fallacy by rejecting a belief system due to its origins; however, this argument is a misrepresentation of Messianic Judaism that hinges on the obfuscation of semantics. Many believe that the Jews did not accept Yeshua as Messiah. This, however, is not true.2 The accounts of the New Testament tell us that many Jews came to faith in Yeshua. When we look at historical accounts in the New Testament and historical documents from early congregations, we will see that Yeshua's audience was predominately Jewish. Over and over, the Apostle Paul, who was Jewish, has said that the Gospel would come to the Jews first then to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). Messianic Jews believe in Messiah Yeshua, even though this terminology was not used until recently, the belief system was still the same.
One might ask, where did all of the Messianic Jews go? Because there are significantly more Gentiles in the world than Jews, Gentiles began to outnumber Jews in the faith. The Jewish Rabbis that accepted Yeshua as Messiah were put under a lot of pressure by Jewish people who did not accept Messiah Yeshua.3 These Jews that did not accept Yeshua, like the Pharisees that did not accept Yeshua, were determined to get the Jews out of this religion.
In 1967, Israel was occupied by the Gentiles, but was given back to the Jews. This lead to many Jews coming to faith in Yeshua. Now, Messianic Judaism is rapidly growing, and Jews are quickly turning back to the Messiah that was promised to them. For any discerning Jew, the numerous prophecies that have been fulfilled concerning Yeshua should be a wake-up call. There has always been a remnant of Jewish believers in Yeshua whether they were in Messianic Synagogues or in Churches, the argument that Messianic Judaism is a term that only surfaced recently, is, therefore, nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The origin of a term is not relevant to the veracity of the belief system it espouses.
What Constitutes as Adhering to Judaism?
An adherence to Judaism is not necessarily about bloodline. There is another aspect of Judaism that denotes spirituality. Indeed, even Jews that don't accept Yeshua understand that Judaism (which is sometimes referred to as 'Jewishness') in a theological context, has more to do with what you believe than bloodline4.
We cannot appeal to Rabbinic tradition because the nation of Israel was established by God and not by man. Traditions are not always bad, but attempting to rewrite the theology that God has given us in the first place is never a good thing. Did God not say through Prophet Jeremiah, "They will be My people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, so they may fear Me forever; for their good and for their children after them (Jeremiah 32:38-39)."? What does it mean for God to be our God? We must do as he says, and what has happened when Israel has not acknowledged God's commands to them? He brought them under judgment.
In Genesis 17, God promised to Abraham that he would be a father of many nations, in particular, the father of what would eventually become Israel (through God's promise of the Land of Canaan). Is it then unreasonable to ascertain, in this context, that being a practitioner of Judaism denotes being spiritually descended from Israel? If both Jews and Gentiles, by the admission of both Jews that don't accept Yeshua and those who espouse Christianity or Messianic Judaism, can be a part of Israel in a spiritual sense, and if even some Jews can be cut off from Israel, we know, in this particular theological context, that Judaism does not necessarily have anything to do with bloodline. So then, Judaism denotes the belief in the promises that God has given to his people, both Jew and Gentile.
Messianic Judaism is the Most Legitimate Form of Judaism
The entire faith that God has given to us revolves around two things: The establishment of a nation that would be God's people and the promise of a Messiah. Messianic Judaism is the only form of Judaism that fully accepts both of these propositions. Reformed Judaism, by and large, along with Reconstructionalist Judaism, does not believe that there will be a Messiah. Given what God has promised us, how could these belief systems be considered Judaism? Reformed Judaism and Reconstructionalist Judaism should certainly not be considered Judaism by their peers. After all, if a belief system that misidentifies the Messiah is not Judaism, certainly, the idea that there is no Messiah at all is not Judaism either. Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, on the other hand, is more like Judaism than the other two aforementioned systems of Judaism, but they reject Messiah Yeshua, who was certainly the Messiah foretold in the scriptures (an article will be written on this later). Thus, though they affirm the necessity of a Messiah, they deny the Messiah. This leaves us with Messianic Judaism as the most legitimate form of Judaism (along with forms of Christianity that believe the nation of Israel is central to God's promise). We can also conclude that adherents to Judaism are not being logically consistent when they deny Messianic Judaism being a form of Judaism, yet they tolerate Reformed and Reconstructionalist Judaism.
1. Fox, T., & Fox, T. (2010, June 16). Who Are Messianic "Jews"? Retrieved March 14, 2019, from https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/messianic-judaism//
2. Messianic Jews: A Brief History • Jews for Jesus. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2019, from https://jewsforjesus.org/jewish-resources/community/messianic-jews-a-brief-history/
3. Messianic Judaism. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2019, from http://www.bethyeshuainternational.com/shalom/messianic-judaism/
4. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2019, from http://www.jewfaq.org/whoisjew.htm