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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Judaism and New Testament Faith: Evaluating Mark Kinzer's "Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism"

Derek Leman is a young non-Jewish man of exemplary character and sharp intellect. He is a member of the Lausanne Task Force for Jewish Evangelism, a confederation of people involved in representing Jesus to Jewish people, mostly proponents of what I term on these pages "the Standard Jewish Missions Paradigm." Derek is one of those people who cannot seem to see the truth without honoring it and conforming to it. As a result, he has been gradually modifying his position on a number of issues, even though not everyone is happy with him for doing so.

At the most recent annual meeting of the North American wing of the Task Force, he gave a courageous, lengthy and perceptive review of Mark Kinzer's book, "Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People." In the process, he frankly critiqued certain commonly held assumptions and practices of the Standard Jewish Missions Paradigm.

Although I would say things differenly on a number of of points, I am in substantial agreement with his presentation, and more than that, I admire his integrity for speaking up for this newer paradigm, even though doing so didn't win accolades from some listening to him. As you read this, realize that it was delivered to an audience including people who strongly disagreed.

Derek: ya done good!

Judaism and New Testament Faith
Evaluating Mark Kinzer’s Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism
Derek Leman, Hope of David Messianic Congregation

A Chapter by Chapter Summary of Kinzer’s Argument


There are three convictions that require a fourth idea to hold together. The first is that Yeshua is the sole mediator between God and man. The second is that the church jointly participates with Israel in God’s blessing. The third is that Israel has a continuing place in God’s plan in spite of their majority rejection of Yeshua. Something seems to be missing when we look at church history if these three ideas are all true. The only way to hold these puzzle pieces together is a post-missionary form of Messianic Judaism—that is, a Messianic Judaism that lets Jews be Jews, respects Judaism, and has the blessing of the church as a link between both parts of the people of God.

Chapter 1: Ecclesiology and Biblical Interpretation
The Bible, like all written communication, is ambiguous in many ways. Interpreting the text based on historical, grammatical, and contextual data has certainly limited the range of meaning to fewer possibilities, but has not eliminated ambiguity. Texts can be read authentically in multiple ways. Regarding the Bible’s teaching about Israel and the church, this ambiguity can be greatly helped by looking at history subsequent to the Bible. God has been at work in history since the Bible was written and it is possible that history may clarify ambiguous ideas. Six areas in particular impact our interpretation of ecclesiology and Israel: 1. The loss of a visible Jewish presence in the ekklesia, 2. The survival of Judaism apart from Yeshua, 3. Christian anti-Judaism, 4. The Holocaust, 5. The rebirth of Israel as a nation, and 6. The reintroduction of a Jewish presence in the ekklesia through the birth of Messianic Judaism.

Chapter 2: The New Testament and Jewish Practice
The New Testament does not explicitly address God’s requirement of Jews to continue observing distinctive practices of Biblical law such as Sabbath and dietary regulation. This is because the New Testament assumes it. Several New Testament texts show that Torah observance was expected of Jews. Jesus’ own teaching nowhere contradicts and in some cases confirms Jewish Torah faithfulness. Most clearly, Acts 15 assumes that continued Jewish Torah observance is a non-issue—for it is only the Gentiles’ relation to Torah that is an issue there.

Chapter 3: The New Testament and the Jewish People

A communal presence of the Jewish people is part of God’s purpose in the world. Believing Jews have not been able to meet this requirement since their presence has been small and sporadic. It would seem, therefore, that the Jewish people as a whole have fulfilled this purpose of God in the world. The New Testament confirms this. From Matthew’s “lost sheep of the house of Israel” to Paul’s “all Israel,” the New Testament affirms the role of Jewish people—all Israel, not just the believing remnant—in God’s continuing plan. The apostles call the God of Judaism the “God of our ancestors” and call Jews “brothers.” These and other texts imply Israel’s role in God’s dealing with humankind.

Chapter 4: Bilateral Ecclesiology in Solidarity with Israel

Since the New Testament assumes that Jews in the Yeshua movement will continue to live as Torah observant Jews, and since such observance requires communal support, it is necessary for Yeshua-believing Jews to remain in distinct communities in fellowship with the whole Jewish community. This demands a pluriform ecclesiology so that Jewish Yeshua-believers can remain distinct. A Jewish wing of the larger ekklesia is called for. Much of Paul’s ecclesiology was specifically directed to the Gentile wing of the ekklesia and did not specifically address the needs of the Jewish wing. Nonetheless, nothing in Paul contradicts the idea that a Jewish wing of the ekklesia should exist to support Jewish life amongst the Jewish believers. Paul’s “one new man,” for example, is one new man “out of the two” not “in place of the two.” Distinction and unity can and do co-exist, just as a man and wife are distinct, yet called by God one flesh.

Chapter 5: The Christian No to Israel

The tradition of the church has almost uniformly been supersessionist. The church fathers spoke in supersessionist ways almost exclusively when addressing Israel. Recent scholars such as Oscar Skarsaune have deduced from this that Jewish expressions of Yeshua-faith actually continued longer and with more influence than previous models of church history surmised. That Israel and Torah-observance were obsolete was assumed and debate was over exact parameters. For example, Jerome argued that Paul faked Torah observance to win Jews, a view still held by many in Jewish evangelism today. Augustine countered that Paul was no fake, but that he merely was Torah observant to show that it had been fitting under the previous dispensation and as a transition into the next. Jews who were told to believe in Christ were told they had to turn their back on God’s commandments and their Jewishness, without exception. The church lost its solidarity with Israel.

Chapter 6: Jewish Tradition and the Christological Test
In spite of their apparent rejection of Yeshua, Judaism is not outside of God’s plan and purpose for the people of God. Judaism is very much needed in God’s plan for the Jewish remnant because it is Judaism, even with the rejection of Yeshua, that forms the communal support structures needed by Yeshua-believing Jews. Only rabbinic Judaism preserved Jewish identity and Torah faithfulness within Israel and in preserving these, the rabbis were doing God’s will. If the validity of rabbinic Judaism is denied, then the validity of Israel is being questioned, because it is only rabbinic Judaism that has maintained Israel in history. Yet we must also see that the legitimacy of Judaism cannot bypass Yeshua, so we must be able to see Yeshua in the midst of Judaism. As David Stern has said, “Yeshua is in union not only with the church, but also with the Jewish people.” Indeed, the gospel writers show Yeshua as Israel, as representative or ideal Israel, embodying in his own life the suffering and resurrection of the nation. Yeshua is mystically present in Judaism. Also just as Yeshua’s own body is a Jewish body, so the ekklesia—the Body of Messiah—exists only in relation to the Jewish people.

Chapter 7: Jewish Tradition and the Biblical Test
Is rabbinic Judaism consistent with the teaching of the New Testament in terms of a way of life? This is not to ask if rabbinic Judaism is seamlessly continuous with the religion of the Hebrew Bible or to claim that rejection of Yeshua is compatible with the New Testament. There is biblical precedent for something like the Oral Torah. Namely, God established the elders and priests of Israel to judge Israel’s observance of the law. Implied in this is a certain concept of Oral Torah, judged by the community leaders to establish communal norms about how to keep the Written Torah. Matthew is a good case in point. A solid case can be made that Matthew was in favor of Pharisaic precepts, but opposed to the specifically corrupt Pharisees of his day. Yeshua in Matthew says that the teaching of the Pharisees should be followed, in spite of corruption, except where such teachings contradict written scripture (Matt. 23:2-3 and 15:3). The New Testament upholds Jewish distinction, including the practice of Sabbath, dietary law, and circumcision. Nothing in the New Testament argues against the thesis that rabbinic Judaism has been God’s ordained way of preserving Israel and Jewish identity.

Chapter 8: From Missionary to Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism
The missionary posture toward Judaism may be defined as the desire to get Jews to renounce the errors of Judaism and accept the superior truth of Christianity. Missionary does not mean the desire to spread the name of Yeshua in appropriate ways to the Jewish community. Some early pioneers in the Hebrew Christian movement foresaw the development of post-missionary Messianic Judaism. Isak Lichtenstein, for example, refused baptism because of its association with membership in denominations and its implied separation of a person from Judaism. Joseph Rabinowitz received baptism from a group of men rather than a specific church for the same reason. The majority of Hebrew Christianity and the later Jews For Jesus movement, however, saw Jewish identity within the established churches as the norm and resisted any sense of Jewish obligation to observe the Torah. As Messianic Judaism emerged, theology and practice largely remained in the fashion of the established churches, but in recent years a sharpening of that ideology has been occurring. The UMJC in particular has defined Messianic Judaism in solidarity with the church and with Judaism. The UMJC has embraced Torah faithfulness as an obligation for Yeshua-believing Jews and not merely a missionary scheme. A Messianic Judaism that is pro-Judaism and pro-Yeshua is emerging and this is what a post-missionary Messianic Judaism should be.

Chapter 9: Healing the Schism

The restored Jewish ekklesia will see Judaism as a nationality and a religion and will find Yeshua mystically within Judaism. Yet it will also bear witness to Yeshua within Judaism, not hiding Yeshua or refusing to speak of him. Judaism and Christianity can heal their schism when Christianity recognizes the validity of Judaism in spite of disagreement about Yeshua. Also, for the schism to be healed, Judaism must recognize the Jewish ekklesia as part of Judaism proper. Three steps on the part of the church will help heal the schism: 1. The church should educate its people to respect Judaism, 2. The church should treat Jews in their churches as Jews and encourage them to live as such, and 3. The church must dialogue with Messianic Judaism.


I think we can all agree in LCJE that supersessionism is not biblical. God has a continuing place for Israel. He is not only planning in the future to restore Israel, but even in the present we would say that Israel is God’s Chosen People. He has not rejected his people.

Good theology integrates all of the facts and causes them to work together. A good theology of Israel and the Church would need to take seriously all of the Bible’s teaching about the subject. Integration is what is generally lacking in theological writing.

I believe Dr. Kinzer has achieved integration. Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism forces us to think about some key questions regarding Israel and the Church.

Last year, someone here in LCJE proposed a statement for us to consider. In that statement, he said, “We deny that Messianic Judaism is anything other than a cultural expression of our faith.” Messianic Judaism, he proposed, has no more significance or distinction than Korean Christianity or Romanian Christianity.

I think this demonstrates that supersessionism is still in our thinking. That we could propose such an idea shows that we have not grasped the continuing role of Israel in God’s plan. Did God make a covenant with Koreans or Romanians or Americans or Brits? Did he call them a treasured people, priests to the world? This is not a question of relative importance, as if God loves Jews more than Romanians. It is a question of roles and distinctions.

For me, Dr. Kinzer’s book has carried my thinking to another step. I was guilty of making an error. I agreed that the Jewish people were set apart as God’s Chosen People. Yet to me Jewish was a broadly definable word. I tried to limit Jewish to its ethnic meaning. I ignored sociological realities—Jewish life apart from Judaism the religion has no enduring value.

Who are these Jewish people that God is still working through? Who are these Jewish people whom God has not rejected and will someday restore? Who are these Jewish people who are beloved for the sake of the patriarchs and for whom Paul longed to see their salvation?

Dr. Kinzer has helped me to see that they are people whose identity has been preserved, not by lox and bagels, but by a religion—Judaism.

Many in LCJE are still infected with anti-Judaism while at the same time being pro-Jewish. It is as if we imagine you can love Jews and oppose the religion that has preserved Jewish identity. It is Judaism that has held Jewish people together, even though many do not practice it. Judaism the religion is what led to the succession of Brit Milahs through the ages, entering Jewish boys into the covenant of God. It is Judaism that led Jews to marry other Jews and not assimilate into the surrounding cultures. It is Judaism that has caused Jewish people to remain distinct, keeping Sabbath and dietary law as God commanded in the Bible. Without Judaism there would clearly be no Jewish people.

Thus, when God tells us, “All Israel will be saved,” we should ask, “Who is Israel?” If our generation is the one that receives the promise, how will God define Israel? If it is a generation hundreds of years from now, how will God define Israel? The only answer consistent through history since the time Jesus wept over Jerusalem and Paul declared that all Israel would be saved is rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism is God’s ordained instrument to preserve Israel for the last days and God’s restoration.

Seen in that light, rabbinic Judaism is not quite the enemy many of us have made it out to be. Ought we not to work with God and not against him? Should our methods encourage Jews to abandon the distinctives of rabbinic Judaism?

In case you think this point is merely historical reasoning, I do not agree. I believe there is at least one place where Jesus made a similar point. Of course there are many texts to consider in this question, but given limited time and space, let’s consider just one: Matthew 23:2-3.

Matthew 23:2-3
"The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.”

There is a sort of minimalist interpretation of this passage. That is, Yeshua is not saying that the scribes and Pharisees are valid religious authorities. He is merely saying that they have God-ordained governmental power analogous to the power of Rome and the Roman governor, Pilate. Yeshua is here merely making a similar point to Paul in Romans 13. The people should obey their governing authorities even if they are corrupt, as indeed Yeshua says the Pharisees and scribes of his day are corrupt.

Those in tune with Second Temple politics ought to raise an eyebrow at Yeshua choosing the scribes and Pharisees instead of someone else. The Roman-ordained authority over the daily life of the people was the Sanhedrin, not the scribes and Pharisees. And there is good evidence that the Sadducees dominated the Sanhedrin and not the Pharisees or scribes.

N.T. Wright, for example, notes that Paul, a prominent Pharisee, had to go to the chief priests for permission to persecute Yeshua-followers in Antioch. Before the temple was destroyed, it would seem that the Sadducees held the majority of the power in Israel. And it was the Sanhedrin that Rome authorized, not the Pharisees and scribes.

If the Romans authorized the Sanhedrin, why would Yeshua authorize the Pharisees and scribes rather than the Sanhedrin or the Sadducees? This raises an interesting possibility: it was the halakhah and not the courts or governance that Yeshua was authorizing.

In other words, it was the work the Pharisees and scribes were doing, making communally accepted standards for Torah observance, that Yeshua authorized. This had nothing to do with governmental authority. It had to do with a body of elders in Israel, like the seventy elders of Moses’ time and the judges of Deuteronomy 17:10, defining for the people the details of Torah faithfulness in everyday life.

God ordained Torah scholars in Israel to define and preserve the practice of Torah for the people. In spite of corruption, just as God-ordained governments also have corruption, Yeshua authorized the work of the Pharisees and scribes where it did not contradict the written word of God. Yeshua did not authorize their writings as infallible or on the level of scripture, but merely as a human institution for preserving Israel’s Torah faithfulness. Therefore, this is not a wholesale authorization of the entire Talmudic and midrashic corpus that followed, but of accepted halakhah as a communal standard for Israel.

This interpretation of Matthew 23 surely raises many questions. But it establishes one basic point: rabbinic Judaism, heir to the scribes and Pharisees, is God’s ordained institution to preserve Israel.


I believe Dr. Kinzer has clearly and with well-integrated theological writing taken our rejection of supersessionism to its logical conclusion. He has also attempted to address how Jewish rejection of Yeshua can possibly fit into the idea of Judaism as a God-ordained institution. If he is right, then to reject Judaism is to reject Israel. To regard Judaism as a false religion is to regard Israel as false.

This is not to say that Judaism is uniform in opinion or even close to infallible. But if you will think about it, neither is Christianity. Many criticisms of Judaism could be equally applied to the various forms of Christianity that populate our world.

In short, Dr. Kinzer is calling for us to stop converting Jewish people out of Judaism and into Christianity. Rather, we need to be leading Jewish people to Messiah within Judaism and within an observant Jewish lifestyle. I couldn’t agree more.

This is what Dr. Kinzer means by post-missionary Messianic Judaism. I only hope we will listen.

Excursus: Acts 15 and Jewish Torah Faithfulness

Another key text for considering the continuing role of Israel and Torah is Acts 15. Reformed, Dispensational, Lutheran, and other traditional views of Torah deny the continuing validity of all or part of the Torah. Acts 15 seems to operate under the opposite assumption: Torah is and always will remain the law for the Jewish people. Acts 15 assumes that Jews, unlike Gentiles, are expected by God to circumcise their sons and thereby remain faithful to the Torah, including such distinctives as Sabbath observance and dietary laws.
Consider what happened in Acts 15 and how it was assumed that Torah observance was incumbent upon Jews, but not Gentiles:

1. A group of Pharisees amongst the early believers stood up in the council and said that everyone who was to be in the Yeshua-movement had to be circumcised and observe the Torah of Moses.
2. James, Paul, and the other leaders did not rebuke these brothers for being Pharisees or for being Torah-observant. In fact, James was famous for his Torah faithfulness as can be seen in Josephus. Paul was a Pharisee himself.
3. It was Paul’s report of the good things happening among Gentiles that stirred these Pharisees to speak up. They were alarmed to hear of people entering the movement without conversion to Judaism.
4. Immediately Peter began speaking about his experience with Gentiles and the Holy Spirit. Nothing was said about the Torah of Moses being obsolete. It would seem that this would have been the time. Rather, Peter assumed that these Pharisees were correct about the necessity of Torah observance. The only issue was Gentile inclusion.
5. Peter goes on to affirm that Torah observance has never been complete in Israel and that salvation is based upon faith, not Torah observance. He does not say that Torah observance is a wrong way to live, nor does he condone Torah-breaking. He merely keeps Torah in its legitimate place—as a way of life, not a way of salvation.
6. James renders a judgment for the council based upon an interpretation of a prophetic text, Amos 9. James interprets Amos 9 to say that God would in the last days accept the Gentiles as Gentiles and not require them to convert into Israel. Thus, James rules, Gentiles do not have to circumcise and take the full yoke of Torah upon themselves.
7. James comes up with a list of four things he wants Gentiles in the Yeshua movement to be careful to observe. James does not limit Israel’s relation to Torah in any way.
8. Acts 15 makes no sense if Jews were, just like Gentiles, free to break the Sabbath and dietary laws to to refrain from circumcising their sons.

There is no sense whatsoever in Acts 15 that Jews should only circumcise their sons in order to win Jews to Yeshua. Missionary expediency is not an issue. That Jews will circumcise and obey Moses is rather seen as a given.
This has radical implications for Jewish outreach. Many of the Jews we reach out to are not observant of the Sabbath and dietary law. It would seem from Acts 15 that Peter, Paul, and James would not approve of Jewish Torah-breaking. Rather, as Paul had Timothy circumcised, and we know that Paul was never a hypocrite, so we could model our mission on Paul. We could and should help Jews who find Yeshua also find their Jewish identity, which is rooted in Mt. Sinai where Israel was set apart.

At 7/19/2007 1:46 PM, Blogger J. Lawrence said...

I came across your article while searching for something else entirely and, in all frankness, only skimmed it. As a Gentile I don't presume to understand the Jewish mind. But it seems to me that your assertion that missionary efforts to bring Jews to faith in Jesus should not attempt to also bring them into Christianity runs against both the teachings of Jesus and the other "New" Testament writers (cf. Mt.16:18; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Pe. 2:4-10). As I read Ephesians, Paul's conceived of the church as Christ's inclusive body of Jews and Gentiles, male and female, slave and free, etc. -- the walls having been broken down by the Messiah. This doesn't mean that there couldn't be various ethnic/cultural expressions of Christianity within his body; but as soon as the God's Spirit led Peter to Cornelius, it was obvious that the nature of the community of faith called "the way" would radically change. Evidently, this was God's intention and not a deviation from the ideal. Ultimately the church would not be either Jewish or Gentile, but the unique community of believers in Jesus with it's own unique identity.

At 7/19/2007 2:51 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Your perspective is widely represented, but fails, in my view, to honor the nuances of the text and the world view of Biblical authors. For example, in Ephesians Paul consistently addresses his hearers as "you Gentiles" and contrasts that with "we who were the first to hope in Christ" (the Jews). His recipients are already Christians, yet Paul preserves rather than abandoning the Jew/Gentile distinction. Even his comments about there now being neither Jew nor Gentile are properly understood as referring to equality of status in Christ, rather than abolition of distinctions.


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