Did Gentiles Hijack the Messianic jewish movement?

By Marshall Beeber
March 21, 2021

Early this March Rob Holding of the “Know My Faith” Christian podcast ministry of New Zealand recorded me in an hour-long interview session.  During the interview he asked me a provocative question that prompted me to write this article.  The question he asked was “Did Gentiles hijack the Messianic Jewish Movement?”.  I answered him “yes and no!”  While the topic is still fresh in my mind I think it appropriate to give a thorough explanation to my answer.

Before explaining I also think it necessary to provide a short history of my life as a Messianic Jew.  In 1973 I accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah while in the Navy, stationed in Philadelphia.  I attended both Messianic Jewish congregations and Hebrew Christian fellowships as well as numerous Christian churches as a bachelor and family man.  In 1998 I created an internet Messianic poetry ministry that eventually expanded to become the Messianic Literary Corner, providing grace-oriented teaching, basic prophesy studies, scientific and archaeological apologetics and poetry. 

Early on as a believer I noticed a divergence in Messianic Jewish teachings towards Torah observance that also refrained from teaching and preaching the gospel of grace so prominently taught in churches and Hebrew Christian ministries.  I later saw the emergence of Gentile groups that splintered off from Messianic Jewish congregations to create movements of their own.  In an attempt to retain many Messianic Gentile members who financially supported their congregations they encouraged Gentile membership.  The problem with many new Messianic Gentiles was that they were mostly indoctrinated into “Sacred Name” and “Hebrew Roots” teachings from heretical teachers before they joined Messianic Jewish congregations.  Their influence on Messianic Jewish congregations changed the culture of the Messianic Jewish Movement to such an extent that many congregations today are over 90% Torah observant Gentiles.  By the end of the 1990s, a doctrinal dispute arose at many Messianic Jewish congregations with numerous Messianic Gentiles leaving to form Hebrew Roots groups completely denying the “gracious freedom” of the New Covenant.

After the departure of many Hebrew Roots movement members from Messianic Jewish congregations these Gentile believers stole the term “Messianic” which previously was a term used only for Messianic Jews and created a parallel “Messianic Gentile” movement whose doctrine was essentially Hebrew Roots teachings espousing a loose form of Torah observance.  This “Messianic Gentile” movement also stole Christian biblical terms , redefining them to suit their own false theology.  So when one uses the term “Messianic’ today, it seldom refers to “Messianic Jews” , but rather to Gentile "Hebrew Roots" groups.  To make matters worse quite a few of these Messianic Gentile congregations were accepted back into Messianic Jewish umbrella organizations without being screened for undoctrinal beliefs

The question “Did Gentiles hijack the Messianic Jewish Movement?”, would therefore have to be answered as a “Qualified YES”.  But there is also an aspect of culpability among Messianic Jewish leaders that would lead one to say “NO, not entirely!”.  My answer of "No" is not so much accusative but rather an effort to save what is left of the Messianic Jewish Movement and help transform it into a movement empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The answer of "No" then leads one to question: “Is the Messianic Jewish Movement” biblical in most aspects?  The most glaring contradiction in Messianic Jewish theology is their loose interpretation of a verse in the New Testament book of Ephesians chapter 2, verse 15.  Ephesians 2:15 states: by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.  According to Paul, the purpose of Yeshua’s atonement was to create “One New Man” out of the two.  But the “One New Man” only can exist in gracious freedom , rather than Torah observance.  By Messianic Jewish congregations incorporating Torah observance among both Jews and Gentiles the predominant culture incorrectly espoused a "One New Man" theology united in Torah observance rather than gracious freedom.  Any consideration of foregoing Torah observance in worship and daily practice was rejected by many Messianic Jewish leaders.  In doing so, Messianic Jewish congregations actually became “incubators” for future “Messianic Gentile” and “Hebrew Roots” cults.  It was just a matter of time for a Gentile rebellion to take place, and it did so in the 1990s. One may look at the recent history of the Messianic Jewish Movement that began in the 1970s as a grand experiment that was not likely to succeed because it's leaders did not seriously consider the warnings in New Covenant doctrine. Thus with the influx of Gentiles and erroneous doctrine an inevitable Gentile rebellion occurred.  This rebellion should never have occurred if the Messianic Jewish Movement did not embrace Torah observance , adorning themselves with liturgical garb and renaming their leaders rabbis. Instead, they may have embraced a basic “One New Man” worship format devoid of rabbinic liturgy, and stressing “gracious freedom” rather than encouraging Torah observance. If that would have taken place the movement may have been turned around twenty years ago, but it probably would not have been called the "Messianic Jewish Movement", but rather a type of “One New Man” movement.  Today though adopting a "One New Man" (ONM) movement and calling it so, would be difficult since most believers would find it hard to differentiate a "grace oriented" ONM movement from a "Torah observant" ONM movement  since the ONM term was already hijacked and redefined by the Hebrew Roots Movement. So one would have to use a different term other than “One New Man” to establish itself  as a movement.

Another very disturbing trend is Torah observant Messianic Gentile congregations being established internationally by well meaning but heretical Torah observant Messianic Jews.  These Torah observant Gentile congregations appear to be most popular in third world countries.  Their theology is based on erroneous doctrine asserting a Torah observant revival of belief among Gentiles must occur before the "Second Coming of the Lord".

Lastly, there is also an incorrect mindset that exists in Messianic Jewish congregations that assumes most Messianic Jews are attracted to a rabbinic form of worship and observance.  To a large majority of believing Jews that may not be not the case. Many Messianic Jews would be happy worshipping in a congregation that retained some Jewish culture, like music and holiday celebration but also incorporate New Testament grace teachings and Gentile Christian music and holiday celebrations (Christmas, Easter, etc.).  In the USA many Jewish believers are children of mixed Jewish and Gentile families.  Most Messianic Jewish leaders need to be informed in how their Jewish members perceive a less rabbinic form of worship and daily practice.  Such a change may assist in attracting new Jewish members and will also be helpful in reeducating Gentile believers in what a true "One New Man" congregation is all about.  It may cause a departure of Gentiles indoctrinated in Hebrew Roots error, but it may be all for the better to create a unified body of believers holding to "gracious freedom".

In summary, the answer to the question “Did Gentiles hijack the Messianic Jewish Movement” may help us all find a better way to understand and correct the mistakes of the past.


     Commentaries On Legalism In the MJM & Hebrew Roots Movement

The Messianic Movement & It's Perpetual Identity Crisis (Rev. Dr. Alan Poyner-Levison, Beit Shalom Ministries, UK)

The Law of Moses and the Law of Messiah (Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Ariel Ministries, USA)

The Jewish Roots Movement: Flowers and Thorns(Jews for Jesus Article by Stephen Katz)

About Torah Observance - by Rich Robinson, Jews for Jesus

Grace Oriented Messianic Jewish & Hebrew Christian Ministries