Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What are the primary theological differences between Judaism, Conservative Messianic Judaism, and Christianity?

What are the high-level differences?

A brief disclaimer. We do not believe everyone has to believe exactly as we do to have a relationship with G-d.

Theologically, Judaism, Conservative Messianic Judaism, and Christianity can be seen as (in our opinion) having started out as a common road, that around the 70 - 200 ce (AD) time frame split into 3 separate paths.

The primary differences can best be summed up around:

* The role of Torah
* The role of Oral Torah
* The Messiahship of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret
* The Deity of Yeshua
* The role of Works
* The role of Faith
* The role of Repentance
* The role of Paul (Shaul)

Let's examine each of these at a high level for the 3 groups.

Traditional Judaism

* The role of Torah - The core of Jewish life and thought.
* The role of Oral Torah - along with the teachings of the Sages and Rabbi's Oral Torah has become the dominate force behind Halacha (How you are to walk, Jewish Law). These teachings are summed up in the Talmud, Mishneh Torah, Shulhan Arukh, and other Rabbinic texts
* The Messiahship of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret - denied by traditional Jews, most now see Yeshua as a good Rabbi who taught Torah.
* The Diety of Yeshua - denied by traditional Jews, previously seen as a form of idolitry.
* The role of works - Important as concrete evidence of following the commandments of G-d.
* The role of Faith - Faith in G-d is the basis for all Torah belief
* Repentance - Key to forgiveness of sins, must be both to G-d and the person wronged. Thus if you steal, to be forgiven you have to make restitution.
* The role of Paul (Shaul) - Seen as a traitor, false teacher and originator of a new religion "Christianity".

Traditional Christianity

* The role of Torah - Little relevance for today as "Jesus freed us from the Law". The Torah is generally seen as a burden.  There is in many denominations a belief in the 10 Commandments.
* The role of Oral Torah - no relevance at all. However, it should be noted that the Church has similar rulings in the form of the Catacism, Works of the Early Church Fathers, and Denominational rulings.
* The Messiahship of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret - central doctrine of the faith.
* The Diety of Yeshua - central doctrine of the faith. Confusion exists within the Church as to exactly what this means, and the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (more on the confusion in the future).
* The role of works - varies depending on denomination, with Catholics putting great weight on works, while many Protestant denominations place little importance on them, with Faith and "acting in the Spirit" seen as superior.
* The role of Faith - Faith is taught as all that is required for a right relationship with G-d by many denominations, while others see a balance between Faith and action.
* Repentance - Key to forgiveness of sins for many denomination, seen as of little importance for others. Repentence is seen as almost entirely between man and G-d.
* The role of Paul (Shaul) - Seen as primary teacher and major authority in Christian doctrine.

Messianic Judaism

* The role of Torah - The core of Jewish life and thought. Central to living a life of obedience to G-d. Does not save us, but shows us how to live a life pleasing to G-d.
* The role of Oral Torah - along with the teachings of the Sages and Rabbi's are viewed as the basis for Halacha. The writings of the Tannim (Teachers prior to 200 CE) are regarded more highly than later rulings.  We subscribe to a Conservative interpretation of Halacha.
* The Messiahship of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret - Belief that Yeshua Ha'Nazaret is the Messiah Ben Yosef spoken of in scripture who will return as Messiah Ben David.
* The Diety of Yeshua - We do not see Yeshua as 1 of 3 "g-ds" running the universe. Instead we view Him as the Shekinah (visible part of G-d) totally subservient to HaShem.
* The role of works - Important as concrete evidence of "loving" G-d and "loving our neighbors as ourselves".
* The role of Faith - Faith in G-d is the basis for all our belief
* Repentance - Key to forgiveness of sins, must be both to G-d and the person wronged. Thus if you steal, to be forgiven you have to make restitution.
* The role of Paul (Shaul) - Seen as having less authority then the Beit Din (Jacov, Yochanan, Kefa), his writings must be carefully read and understood, for as Kefa said "some use them to their own destruction".  His writings cannot overrode Torah, Messiah, or the Beit Din.

Do you agree?  What are your thoughts?

Rabbi Gavri'el


Unknown said...

THE main theological difference is the identity of God and Yeshua. Everything else might as well be window dressing.

Jews as a whole have had a lot of extra-biblical ideas, but at least we have had the identity of our God correct. Yeshua affirmed this in John 4:22-23, Mark 12:28-29 and then what should end the debate about Yeshua's deity, we overhear Yeshua praying in John 17:3, calling his Father the only true God. Last time I checked, the word 'only' is very exclusive.

I dream of the day when Christianity and Messianic Judaism would get on board with true biblical monotheism and jettison all idolatrous notions and practices....then and only then will more people worship THE FATHER "in spirit and in truth"

Choosing NOT to be a Messianic Jew said...

So what is your point in listing these differences?...what conclusions am I suppose to draw from this?

Thanks Yossi

Unknown said...

Hi, just wondering if you want people to comment. I left a comment a few weeks ago that was never posted. Were my comments too controversial for this blog?


Unknown said...

“(le-havdil), A analysis (found here: www.netzarim.co.il (that is the only legitimate Netzarim)) of all extant source documents and archaeology using a rational and logical methodology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

The mitzwot (directives or military-style orders) in Torah (claimed in Tan’’kh (the Jewish Bible) to be the instructions of the Creator), the core of the Judaism, are an indivisible whole. Rejecting any one constitutes rejecting of the whole… and the Church rejected many mitzwot, for example rejecting to observe the Shabat on the seventh day in the Jewish week. Examples are endless. Devarim (“Deuteronomy”) 13.1-6 explicitly precludes the Christian “NT”. Devarim 13:1-6 forbids the addition of mitzwot and subtraction of mitzwot from Torah.

Ribi Yehoshuas talmidim Netzarim still observes Torah non-selectively to their utmost today and the research in the previous mentioned Netzarim-website implies that becoming one of Ribi Yehoshuas Netzarim-followers is the only way to follow him.

“The gospels” contains anti-Torah statements that the first century Ribi Yehoshua impossibly could have said. Since observers of “Messianic Judaism” don’t practise all of the mitzwot in Torah non-selectively, it is not proper to describe it as Judaism.

It is possible to be a Jew and believe that Ribi Yehoshua was the Mashiakh (the Netzarim Jews does that), but le-havdil to stick to Christian doctrines is not compatible with practising Judaism.

Anders Branderud

peter said...

Rabbi Bugg,

This is a wonderful, much needed, blog. Toda raba.

My name is Peter. I am an emergency physician and am involved with emergency services, law enforcement, and disaster planning.

I am not born of Jewish blood. I was raised in New York amongst Jewish friends, raised by parents who intrinsically knew that the sons and daughters of Yaakov were G-ds people and are special, and through my childhood attended two small nondenominational (thank G-d) churches that did considerable teaching from the Tanakh. From my earliest recollections, I intrinsically knew that the Jewish people and Israel were G-d's people and Jewish land, respectively. I had high school friends who were from Israel, and I distinctly remember as a 14 year old vocally cheering for the IDF during the 67 war. Two years after graduating fron high school, having just been discharged from the military (1973), I began inquiring into volunteering to go to Israel during the Yom Kippur war. Thankfully it was over before anything like that would even remotely become possible.

Although not giving it much thought when I was young, I sensed there was this subtle, ever present, wall between Judaism and Yeshua believing gentiles that just seemed so odd to me. That is where I come from.

Over the ensuing decades I went through the not uncommon phases of caring about, thinking about, praying about these issues to periods of indifference. I always sought in my mind to combine my world with that of Judaism with phrases such as JudeaoChristian, which I subconsciously (?) felt brought Yeshua believing gentiles into the fold of G-d's people (very naive). Then, a number of years ago I bumped into this thing called Messianic Judaism. My world changed.

Living in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, finding a Messianic Jewish congregation close enough to worship with and learn from, is not an easy matter.
But learn and study I did, and my wife and I traveled around the east coast and have attended a number of Messianic Congregations, always being blessed with hearing wonderful rabbis.

And now?

We presently attend a small congregation nearby which has been a blessing and a challenge, led by a wonderful rabbi who has taught me so much. However, he is the only Jew in the congregation, and much evangelistic Christianity seeps in from time to time, which is extremely frustrating.

Why the frustration? I have consciously entered the worship of HaShem, and his manifestation to humanity through Yeshua, with the Jewish people with scripture such as Numbers 15, the story of Ruth, and so many other verses, as my guidance as to how I am to fit in. The wall, for me, has come down. It is my burden (actually pleasure) to learn Jewish history, liturgy, and Hebrew. It is my blessing to sit among men and woman born of the blood of Yaakov and pray to G-d. I am well versed in the many criticisms both traditional Judaism and Christianity levy upon the Messianic Jewish walk, but as a gentile entering this wonderful faith, it is I who must change some of my ways, not the other way around.

Continued in Post 2

peter said...

Post 2 from Peter

Recently I traveled to Israel, not for the "obligatory tour", but to interact with the Israeli people on a professional level, and to at least start the process of learning about the Land. I participated in a disaster medicine training course given by the MOH and the IDF. I probably speak much better modern Israeli Hebrew (thanks to Rosetta Stone and much hard, ongoing work) than most American Jews. Due to this initial training course, and with good fortune and G-d's blessing, I may be able to return to Israel to do a brief work stint in the ER of one of their hospitals. I attended a Messianic Congregation in Tel Aviv on Shabbat and throughout the one week course, during long bus rides from one location to another, I had a first hand introduction to the many controversies in the Land, mostly between the religious and the secular. I befriended several American Orthodox Jewish physicians taking the course. Their clarity and dedication to loving HaShem and to the Land is inspiring. I challenged a few of them that we can agree on one thing for sure: when Messiah comes, we'll ask him if this is his first visit or his second.

The statements of faith on your blog mirror my beliefs, almost without exception.

I find the concept of the Trinity to be confusing, unnecessary, and more of a manmade construct to explain G-d's "structure" (as if anyone could) than anything else. Where is it in the Tanakh? The suggested plurality of scripture using the pleural "Elohim" is unconvincing. I was once given a small book "explaining" the Trinity. By the time I was done with it, every logic fuse in my head had blown and the circular reasoning was just too much to bear. However, most every Messianic Jewish Congregation I have been blessed with attending, believes and teaches the Trinity. If it does anything, it seems to me that the Trinity creates a very unnecessary and unfortunate barrier to curious nonmessianic Jews that might otherwise want to "take a peak" through the doors of a Messianic synagogue.

I recently heard a rabbi posit that he did not think that G-d believing Jews that did not believe in Yeshua would have eternal life. I outrightly reject that. I cannot even fathom G-D not loving his people who love him and strive to be righteous before him, but for who life's journey to date has not shown them G-d's manifestation through Yeshua. I think that your beliefs are similar to mine on this issue. Am I corect?

I know that Yeshua is a manifestation of G-d, but G-d entirely in and of himself? No. I believe that the Tanakh and Brit Chadasha can easily be interpreted to support this belief. It is so good to see something similar in your statement of faith. Again, this is more Christien creep into Messianic Judaism that is, if anything, another impediment to curious nonmessianic Jews wanting to take a look at their Messianic brethren.
It seems that Messianic Congregations that espouse these beliefs are shooting themselves in the foot.

Continued in Post 3 from Peter from Peter

peter said...

Post 3 from Peter

The congregation I presently attend has many deeply faithful members who love Yeshua and the Jewish people, and are dear souls, but there is so much Christian "mission creep"; indiscriminant blowing of the shofar, flags and banners being waived, talking in tongues (which I beleive is much abused), falling on the floor being "sleighed in the spirit", etc. More than once it was stated that it was Yeshua who created the world! I am not one to judge anyone's heart, and if that's their worship, so be it, but as I stated earlier, it is my belief that a gentile entering the worship of G-d with his people needs to be totally reverent (and grateful) for that worship. Thankfully, every other congregation we have visited, all predominantly Jewish, do not (at least to my observation) espouse those practices. I am grateful that I have been around enough to know what can be.

Finally, your thoughts on Paul are interesting. Recently, I attended a Christian church for the first time in several years for a baby's dedication. The entire sermon was "Paul says this, Paul says that". It reminded me of how much Christian doctrine is more about what Paul said, than what Yeshua said. I asked my wife, what would these Christiam ministers do if the only part of the Brit Chadasha was "the red ink"? They'd be lost, and in fact would have some of their doctrine challenged because Yeshua's utterances about Torah, his constant referring to Torah, and his statement concerning his very reason for coming (the lost sheep of the house of Israel) are at odds with much of what many interpret Paul as saying.

I recently sent a wonderful and wise rabbi at the UMJC a comment suggesting that it might not be bad if scripture stopped at the Book of Acts. No Pauline politiking to interpret anyway one wanted. He kindly, and with good explanation, disagreed with me. But again, I think Messianic Judaism would be perfectly fine in supporting its beliefs in such a hypothetical situation. Afterall, it has a Tanakh based perspective of Yeshua, not a Pauline one. Am I wrong about this?

Enough said. I noticed that this blog is so new that there are no other comments on it yet. I hope you don't mind a gentile being the first to comment. It's hard to stay silent in such a confusing world when one finds beliefs so similar to one's own.



Morley said...

This is a very old post but I will still give a quick comment. The main issue with Paul and the Jews at the time was the role of the Messiah and the real destiny of man. Paul was teaching that it was not just a matter of Jews dwelling in the land but achieving their spiritual potential of becoming part of God's family. To me the difference is that Jews see the religion as Jewish in terms of others becoming Jew while Paul presented it as all mankind accepting the Torah for its spiritual (and Practical) end game. It was not just about gentiles becoming Jews then becoming Christians. To Paul it was universal for both Jews and Gentiles to convert into this new faith. Paul did not abandon the Torah in its true form but tries to bring out its intent for mankind.

On the other hand, what is called Christianity today has actually abandoned the real faith that Paul taught and yes, they talk about Messiah but pretty much nothing else. In other words, it has become Romanized.

Anonymous said...

Great reading this post about messianic judaism, and the views of people throughou the world. You might find this website helpful also, http://michaelrood.wordpress.com. It has messianic videos and teachings that inspire the search for truth.

RGBG said...



Belief in the Shekinah being part of G-d is a Traditional Orthodox Jewish belief. To imply that in not "true" monotheism is the say Jews are not monotheists.


RGBG said...



Purpose, to explain differences and commonality. No more, no less.

Conclusions, that depends on your beliefs. I doubt this post or any other will alter them.


RGBG said...



To declare "(found here: www.netzarim.co.il (that is the only legitimate Netzarim))" as the only valid form is very opinionated. We do not declare ours is the only way.


RGBG said...



Thanks for the comments. Rabbi Bugg did not write this article, His blog is 'return of Benjamin'. We work together and I posted his article o Acts 15 here to share with his permission


RGBG said...



We do not follow Mr. Roods teachings and have several differing views from his approach. Like everything on the Web I recommend people "eat the meat and spit out the bones".

Thanks for the comments.