The purpose of this article is to defend Messianic Judaism against what I believe to be an unfair and unscriptural attack. While this of necessity requires a certain amount of “counter-attack,” I will try to keep the focus on the arguments rather than the person, though some comments about Vicki’s general tendencies in her writings are necessary.
Answering Vicki’s Specific Objections
Having established that many of Vicki’s arguments are misdirected due to her failure to discern the fringe from the core, let us deal with some of her arguments that actually do touch on the core of the Hebrew Roots and Messianic movements:
She quotes Larry Rowland of Messengers of Truth as saying, “In order to correctly understand the Newer Testament, it is beneficial to have a working knowledge of the world from which it was birthed.” She responds,
We have always understood that the Bible was a revelation of God himself. It encompasses His unending love, mercy, justice, patience and most of all, His plan for humanity and our salvation through Jesus Christ.
That does nothing to answer or disprove Rowland’s statement. Yes, the Bible was written for all mankind, but it was written through the lens of a particular culture, and that culture is Jewish! All Christian scholars acknowledge that our culture today is nothing like that of the Biblical world—take for example apologist J.P. Holding’s comparison of Biblical culture to Japanese culture in its honor-shame paradigm. While the major truths of the Bible, such as salvation by faith, are apparent in any decent translation, there are many passages that can only be fully understood by learning about the original culture and situation of the authors. Indeed, the very fact that we have to translate the Bible from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into English proves Rowland’s point!
Do we indeed have to become Jewish in thought and custom in order to fully understand the Word of God and be pleasing before Him?
Okay, without accepting the “prophecy” as such (I don’t know Cozzen well enough to judge his “credentials” as a prophet, nor do I consider the question important at the moment), Cozzen’s essential point that we have accepted the Bible in general and the NT in particular as filtered through Western, Hellenistic culture rather than through its original Hebrew culture is essentially correct. Just as a Japanese person must become somewhat American in thought in order to fully understand an American book, we too must become Jewish in thought in order to fully understand a book written by Jews, the Bible. Why should that seem strange to anyone? (We do not, however, have to become Jewish in custom in order to please God, per Acts 15 and Gal. 2.)
Are we to accept that we have been lacking and even deliberately misled as some will say, by the New Testament and many orthodox teachings?
Few Messianics claim that the New Testament has misled us! What we are saying, just as Martin Luther said to the Church of his day, is that the NT has been misunderstood and some of its teachings ignored or distorted by preconceptions of what constitutes “orthodox” teachings.
What of the needed reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles they say will take place if we embrace our Hebrew Roots?
What of it? I’m not seeing a contradiction here.
Is there any truth to the charges of anti-Semitism towards Jews on the part of Christians in general, and from the New Testament?
From the former, there is no doubt. From the latter, no—but our misreading of the NT has certainly been used to justify anti-Semitism both great (blood-libel, pogroms) and small (forcing Jewish converts to Christianity to stop keeping the Torah).
She next objects to this “teaching of Jew and Gentile reconciliation” on the basis of Gal. 3:26-29. How exactly this passage is supposed to counter the Messianic movement is not stated; she simply assumes as a given that “There is neither Jew nor Greek,” negates the Bible’s distinctly Jewish—rather than Greek—origins. One wonders if she also sees this passage, which goes on to say, “there is neither male nor female,” negates the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality, for example, or Paul’s own teaching about the distinctions between men and women (e.g., 1 Co. 11:4ff).
After a brief criticism of the Sacred Namers (which we would agree with in general, though Vicki simply doesn’t provide much in the way of an actual argument to be considered), she writes,
Besides removing or changing the Name of Jesus Christ, many would eliminate the term Christianity. Uri Marcus, of Nehemiah Trustees Covenant Fund, in an email regarding "A Vote For "Jesus"?, insists that converted Jews must retain their Jewish identity and refuse the Christian name so as not to offend their fellow Jews
Vicki fails to recognize that there is a good reason for this: For the better part of sixteen centuries, Christianity has been the persecutor of the Jewish people. Even today, every time a Jewish person comes to faith in the Jewish Messiah, we tell them to become like Gentiles rather than remaining in their own Jewish culture. Messianic Jews wish to be considered part of the larger Jewish community, just as the Apostles were, not part of a Gentile religion—and frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that.