• Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Derech Yeshua

  • Siddur Sar Shalom

On Messianic Judaism

I’m really excited, and somewhat nervous, to announce my new Podcast, called On Messianic Judaism. Search for it wherever you listen to podcasts. It is a series of relatively short discussions of Messianic Jewish history in the main, with a smattering of interviews and theological and philosophical episodes.

If you prefer the written text, here is the draft text of my next episode, Texts and Stories: What They Said About Messiah.


Welcome to the Messianic Jewish Life Podcast. Hi, this is Daniel Nessim and today we’ll continue our series on the History of the Messianic movement by exploring what people imagined about the Messiah in the year he was born.


In the year Yeshua was born, what were people saying about Messiah? What were they learning about him? What were they reading, and what were their hopes and what were their stories?

Amidst all the complexity of Jewish life in Israel, religious and political ferment combined to produce a Messianic hope. Thus the first century witnessed “a remarkable outburst of Messianic emotionalism.”[1] That was the expectation of a Messiah, an anointed one, who would fulfill many expectations and hopes raised by the predictions of the prophets and Israel’s desire for freedom from foreign oppression.

Today, Jewish and Christian scholars disagree about the kind of Messiah that Yeshua declared Himself to be, or even that He declared Himself to be the Messiah. The question that begs to be asked however, is whether Yeshua was the kind of Messiah that the people of His day were hoping for. What did their reading of the Scriptures and tradition lead them to believe about Messiah? What effect did the domination of foreign powers in the nation’s life have on their ideas about His role as a deliverer? The answers to questions like this are far from simple, and as one might expect. They varied from segment to segment of Jewish society.

It is self-evident to most scholars that Jews of the first century who were looking for the Messiah were looking for a deliverer from the oppression of the Roman administration. That is actually a given, so it is not this point that we will prove here. What can and should be shown is that other streams of Messianic expectation existed, and maybe even flourished in certain segments of Jewish society.[2] To be sure, we are going to briefly look at these expectations for a ruling Messiah, but we have to look at the possibility that there were also different ideas floating around about the role of the coming Messiah in Jewish society in the year that Yeshua was born. While of course the idea of King Messiah conquering Israel’s oppressors was in the forefront, what we want to look at are the nuances, the other viewpoints and expectations that were being expressed in his day.

To go one step further, when in future podcast episodes we get to his years of teaching in Galilee and Judea, we will see that it was not such a leap as many suppose for Yeshua’s followers to acknowledge Him as the Son of God, or even, going just one step beyond commonly accepted thought, to patently attribute some sort of divinity to him.

Yeshua made His appearance in the Galilee early in the second quarter of the first century CE. In His time He was far from being the only one people thought might be the Messiah. Claimants to the title abounded. Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver in his book that lists over seventy Messianic pretenders, that is seventy would be messiahs in Jewish history, writes that popularly, “the Messiah was expected around the second quarter of the first century CE, because the Millennium was at hand. Prior to that time he was not expected, because according to the chronology of the day the Millennium was still considerably removed.”[3]

Various writings such as the Sibylline Oracles and the Book of Enoch circulated and raised the hopes of the people. Josephus attests to this. He asserts that this expectation contributed to the Jews taking up a war against Rome, based on “an ambiguous oracle that was found in their sacred writings, how, ‘about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.’”[4]

1.        Messiah the King

The most evident of all assertions about first century expectations of the Messiah is that he was expected to come as a king and deliverer the Jewish people from their ruthless, foreign, and illegitimate oppressors. The Sibylline Oracles, a collection of Jewish writings written both before and after the life of Yeshua, speaks of Messiah in glowing terms as a coming king. It is the third book in particular, one of the more ancient parts of the collection that is most of interest. Oxford scholar Alfred Edersheim wrote over a hundred years ago that “In these Oracles, 170 years before Christ, the Messiah is ‘the King sent from heaven’ who would ‘judge every man in blood and splendor of fire.’ Similarly, the vision of Messianic times opens with a reference to ‘the King Whom God will send from the sun.’”[5] Later another passage in the Sibylline Oracles declares “For a blessed man came from the expanses of heaven with a scepter in his hands which God gave him, and he gained sway over all things well.”[6] This picture of a Messianic ruler who acts as a judge over all men and things is not confined to the oracle alone. It was a common expectation that the Messiah’s kingdom would have a universal and spiritual aspect to it. It would not be a kingdom over Israel alone. Thus the great philosopher Philo wrote in his Life of Moses “A man shall hereafter come forth out of thee who shall rule over many nations, and his kingdom shall increase every day and be raised up to heaven.”[7]

Messiah the King had to be, as shown by the dialogue in Matthew 22:42, the descendant of king David, the archetypal Jewish king. Yeshua asked the Pharisees “What do you think of Messiah? Whose son is he?” They replied, “The son of David.” Other New Testament passages demonstrate again and again that the Messiah was expected to be a descendant of David. Outside of the New Testament, the 17th Psalm of Solomon, written about 50 years BCE, draws a detailed picture of the coming Davidic Messiah. Here he is portrayed not only as a mighty deliverer, but also as one pure of sin, announcing: “And he will be a righteous king over them, taught by God. There will be no unrighteousness among them in his days, for all shall be holy, and their king shall be the Lord Messiah.” The writer of the Psalm went even further, with a theological bent: “He will be pure of sin, to rule over countless nations, to recover the nations and destroy the sinners, by the might of the word.”[8] That this man should be of Davidic descent is again seen in 2 Esdras 12:32 which says that “the Messiah . . . will arise from the posterity of David.”

There is almost no one who would dispute that just like today, those Jews who believe in a personal, human Messiah, were looking for one who would fulfill certain predictions of the Hebrew Bible, especially those that would bring Israel deliverance from its enemies. The question, of course, if often “which one”?

2.        Messiah the Son

Amazing writings anticipated that Messiah would be more than a mere man. Even if deity were not ascribed to Him, certainly some of these writings expected He would be super-human or a super-human with extraordinary authority and abilities.

A fragment found among the Dead Sea Scrolls asserts that “Over the poor His spirit will hover and will renew the faithful with His power. And He will glorify the pious on the throne of the eternal Kingdom. He who liberates the captives, restores sight to the blind, straightens the b[ent]. . .  for He will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor.”[9] This fragment echoes the same interpretation of the Scripture made by Yeshua when He proclaimed in the Synagogue that He Himself was the one who had come in fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1 (Luke 4:18).

Another Dead Sea Scroll fragment suggests, in terms strikingly familiar to those who have read New Testament account of Yeshua’s conception and birth, that Messiah is somehow descended physically from God. It says: “When God engenders (the Priest-) Messiah, he shall come with them [at] the head of the whole congregation of Israel with all [his brethren, the sons] of Aaron the Priests, [those called] to the assembly, the men of renown; and they shall sit [before him, each man] in the order of his dignity. And then [the Mess]iah of Israel shall [come], the chiefs of the [clans of Israel] shall sit before him.”[10]

While this fragment indicates that the Messiah is to be a great ruler, it also states that Messiah was expected to be fathered (yolid) by God! The word that the Jewish Oxford scholar Geza Vermes translated (maybe reluctantly I should say) as fathered is from the same root as yeled, or “child” in the Hebrew. Perhaps, one might speculate, it is the word Yeshua used when he spoke about the only begotten (μονογενῆ ) son. Translations that express this word μονογενῆ as “one and only” miss this sense and misportray what the original writer of John was saying. He was saying what this Dead Sea Scroll fragment was saying. Vermes himself confirmed that a computer enhancement of the manuscript verifies the accuracy of the reading.

Bolstering this connection between the Father and Messiah as His son were numerous terms including the idea of sonship were current in pre-Christian Judaism. The phrases “Son of God” and “Son of Man” were not unknown in the first century BCE.  The Psalms of Solomon 17:23 for example, refers to “the Son of David,”[11] emphasizing Messiah’s kingly ancestry. A second Dead Sea Scrolls fragment, 4Q246, refers to one who is the expected “Son of God . . . The son of God he will be proclaimed and the son of the Most High they will call him.”[12]

If this second source were the only text we had, it might be dismissed as an anachronism, because it makes the strongest of links between him and the Most High, even if it is not expressly asserting deity as an attribute of the son. There are many sources though, such as the well-known Book of Enoch which repeatedly emphasizes the same theme. The book of Enoch, clearly written some time before the first century CE, has been found complete in the Ethiopic language. Its early dating has been conclusively shown by the fact that fragments of it were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. There a number of chapters foretell and anticipate one to come who is called the “Son of man,” a term used frequently in the New Testament.[13] There we read that “at that hour that Son of Man was named in the presence of the Lord of Spirits, And his name before the Head of Days . . . . And he shall be the light of the Gentiles.”[14] A later chapter states that “from the beginning the Son of Man was hidden,” and all the kings shall “worship and set their hope upon that Son of Man.”[15] So similar is this language to that of the New Testament, it becomes more than a stretch that the writers of the New Testament and the participants in the Gospel accounts were familiar to it. Further, it is likely that not only they were familiar with these terms, but so were their audiences. Was it so far-fetched then for Simon Peter to declare “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God?”[16]

From the perspective of the New Testament, which presents Yeshua as both God and man, a further question has to be asked: Did Israel expect a Messiah who was himself a possessor of the attributes of Deity? A super-human with ties to the Most High was expected by some, even many, as the documents show. But was God Himself expected to be the Messiah?

The New Testament texts indicate that Yeshua’s general audience in His time did not.[17] Nevertheless, a hint that the Jewish monotheism of the first century was not so absolute as that of today are provided by the first century Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo. In writing about Genesis 9:6 he asks, “why is it that God says He made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own image? . . . no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the patter of the second deity, who is the Word of the supreme Being.”[18]

3.        Messiah the Servant/Priest

Another expectation some people had of the Messiah was that he would be a servant, or even a priestly figure. While this was not a prominent tradition, it is still attested to in the Testament of Judah. Therethe reader is told

And after this there shall arise for you a Star from Jacob in peace: And a man shall arise from my posterity like the sun of Righteousness, walking with the sons of men in gentleness and righteousness, and in him will be found no sin. And the heavens will be opened upon him to pour out the spirit as a blessing of the Holy Father. And he will pour the spirit of grace on you. And you shall be sons in truth, and you will walk in his first and final decrees. This is the Shoot of God Most High; this is fountain for the life of all humanity. Then he will illumine the scepter of my kingdom, and from your root shall arise the Shoot, and through it will arise the rod of righteousness for the nations, to judge and to save all that call on the Lord.[19]

This text is so explicit, and so in line with what Yeshua’s disciples came to believe about him, that more than a few scholars came to the conclusion that it was added in to the Testament of Judah by Christians at a later date. There is quite a possibility that this is true,[20] so let’s not hang our hat on this peg, shall we? Still, there are other possibilities.

A second source, 4Q285 which means that it is the fragment 285 from the fourth Dead Sea Scroll cave, can be read as “A staff shall rise from the root of Jesse,  . . . and they will put to death the Leader of the Community, the Bran[ch of David].[21] If this is the correct reading of the ancient scroll fragment, it becomes even clearer that some Jews were open to the possibility of a Messiah who would suffer before He would rule. For the writers of this fragment, this Leader of the Community may have been the leader of the Essene community, or their “Teacher of Righteousness” but here we see some remarkable connections. The root of Jesse is connected to the Branch of David, and both are connected to the Leader of the Community. David, of course, is a messianic figure, and so when the Leader of the Community is prophesied as being killed at some point, this is a messianic prediction of sorts. Maybe more than “of sorts” because the Essenes viewed themselves as having an important role in the messianic kingdom.

Of course, this view was in noticeable contrast to the image of Messiah as a coming king. Nevertheless, from the viewpoint of Messianic Judaism, it is in harmony with the Servant spoken of by Isaiah the prophet. From our perspective, the tension that these different views of the Messiah created in people’s minds eventually gave rise to the tradition seen in later texts that there would be two Messiahs. One would be a victorious ruler, and one would be a righteous Tzadik who in many of those accounts would suffer injustice.

The Israel of Yeshua’s day, in which Messianic Judaism had its genesis, was ripe for the Messiah’s coming. As has been seen, nascent Messianic Judaism was birthed not only in the person of Yeshua, but also in a nation rife with nationalism, religious speculation, and expectation regarding him. As we recount the history of Messianic Judaism it is important to see its origins in the second temple period and it’s thought.

As we come to the end let me list just a few of the important writings of that time, and hints that they include about their Messianic expectations.

The Temple Scroll, which describes the future Temple, its priesthood, festivals and sacrifices in the Messianic Kingdom. In this Temple God would dwell with Israel for all eternity (29.7–8). They would cleave to God and God would call them His people, a theme also found in Jubilees 1.

1 Enoch 46 speaks:

And there I saw One who had a head of days, And His head was white like wool, And with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man, And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels. 2And I asked the angel who went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning that Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was, and why he went with the Head of Days? 3And he answered and said unto me:  This is the Son of Man who hath righteousness, With whom dwelleth righteousness, And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden, Because the Lord of Spirits hath chosen him, And whose lot hath the pre-eminence before the Lord of Spirits in uprightness for ever.

Daniel 7 speaks of the Son of Man who was “given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.”

The Serek, the Community Rule of the Essene community, saw themselves as a “holy society” in “an eternal fellowship” (2.25). They had “secret” teachings (7.18) revealed to them by their “Interpreter” (8.11–12). There too, in the second column of one fragment of it (1QSA 2.11–21) the prospect of a banquet with the Messiah is discussed at length. Here it seems the Messiah was expected to be one of their community.

Another writing of interest is the Damascus Document, in which there is a really curious reference to “the men who entered the new covenant in the land of Damascus.” This covenant is seen as the “fountain of living water” (19.33). in this book, however, as in other writings found in Qumran, there is often mention of the “teacher of righteousness,” a role which Yeshua doubtless fulfilled in his own way.

As we can see there are many texts and stories that were written and told about our Messiah. They tell a lot about the thought and range of ideas about who he would be in his day. This is the end of the time that we would call the cradle of messianic Judaism. We have seen the religious map of his day, and in this episode we have seen the writings that expressed the aspirations and hopes of the Jewish people for the Messiah who would come. This is the stuff from which Messianic Judaism would be born upon the recognition of many Jews of Yeshua as the Messiah. We are at an exciting point in our journey through the history of messianic Judaism as now we are ready to discuss Messiah Yeshua in his day and in his Jewish context. Join us next week as we begin to explore this next phase in Messianic Jewish history.


Thank you for joining us and listening to our podcast. 

Do me a favour. Take a minute to like this podcast and leave a positive review wherever you are listening to it. Support our podcast by going to onmessianicjudaism.com. My email address is daniel@nessim.org and I’m looking forward to your feedback. I am Dr Daniel Nessim, and this is On Messianic Judaism.

[1] Abba Hillel Silver, A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1926), 5.

[2] Because of the defensive posture of Jewish scholarship vis-à-vis the claims of Christianity, these expectations that might encourage people to make a connection between them and Yeshua of Nazareth are generally neglected or disparaged.

[3] Silver, A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel, 7. Considerably later, the dating of the Jewish calendar was changed to what it now is, so that year 5000, marking the start of the sixth Millennium, no longer corresponds with 30 CE.

[4] Josephus, Wars of the Jews, VI, v, 4 (Vol. 1, p. 456).

[5] Edersheim, Life and Times, Vol. 1, p. 172. Quotes Sibylline Oracles, 3: 285-286, 652. The Sibylline Oracles were written by unknown authors in the pre-Christian era. They are considered Jewish, and were collected by the Romans about 85 BCE. The emperors Augustus and Claudius, as well as the historian Josephus and various church fathers, quoted them.

[6] James H.  Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Vols 1-2: Vol. 1. Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments Vol. 2. Expansions of the “Old Testament“ and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic, 2 vols. (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1983-1985), Sibylline Oracles 5:414f.

[7] Yonge, Philo, “On the Life of Moses.” I:290.

[8] Psalms of Solomon 17:32, 41

[9] 4Q521, Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p. 392. See Isa. 61:1; Ps. 146:7-8; Luke 4:18.

[10] IQSa=IQ28a, the ‘Rule of the Congregation’ or, ‘The Messianic Rule’, Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p. 159.

[11] Psalms of Solomon 17:23

[12] 4Q246, Vermes, p. 577. While Vermes characteristically plays down the import of “Son of God,” Eisenman and Wise say “There can be no denying the relation of allusions of this kind to the Lukan prefiguration of Jesus: ‘He will be great, and will be called the son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the Throne of his father David . . . For that reason the Holy offspring will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:32-35).” The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, New York: Barnes & Noble, 1992.

[13] The term Son of Man occurs over 80 times in the New Testament, including the famous pericope  in Luke 22:67 When Jesus is asked “Are you the Messiah?” (67) and He replied “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.”(69) to which the Sanhedrin queried (v. 70) “Art thou then the Son of God?” This passage shows that there was clearly a link between all three terms in the minds of Jesus and His interrogators.

[14] Book of Enoch, 48:2,4. cf. Daniel 7:9, 13, 22, which refer to the Son of Man in the presence of the “Ancient of Days.” Clearly Enoch 48 echoes these verses and their Messianic theme. The Book of Enoch, which was long found only in a complete Ethiopic translation and a Greek rendering of certain chapters (along with quotes in various authors of antiquity) is so close to the New Testament in many respects, that some scholars were convinced it had to have been a writing of the early church. The discovery of fragments from the book among the Dead Sea Scrolls proved that they were written some time between 200 BCE and the end of the pre-Christian era.

[15] Book of Enoch, 62:5,9.

[16] Matthew 16:16

[17] Peter’s exclamation in Matthew 16:16 “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” stands in apposition to the views of the multitude. His disciples evidently had a more complete understanding of their master than the crowds. Yeshua was ultimately crucified on the charge of blasphemy, or claiming to be God, Matthew 26:65.

[18] Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis, II, (62), p. 834.

[19] Testament of Judah 24, OTP.

[20] M. de Jonge, “The Transmission of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs by Christians,” VC 47, no. 1 (March 1993 1993).

[21] Robert Eisenman & Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered, p. 29. “This might also be read, depending on the context, ‘and the Leader of the Community, the Bran[ch of Dave’], will put him to death)” Vermes (The Complete DSS in English), p. 187, prefers this reading in light of  4Q161, frs. 8-10, an Isaiah commentary, but neither reading is by any account certain.

Rabbis and Fathers

matthew 23.12

May Messianic Jews appoint Rabbis?

Messianic Jews have a natural predisposition and tendency, as Jews who care about our people and our peculiar calling, to maintain the traditions and culture of our ancestors. This means that in our lives, traditions and prayers it is most natural and fitting for us to follow the ways of our people’s lifestyles, traditions and prayers which are founded in the complete Jewish Bible and secondarily in the sea of Jewish holy writings and literature that we have inherited.

It is therefore with great surprise that many Messianic Jews have considered the words of Yeshua which seem to prohibit calling anyone ‘rabbi’ (= ‘teacher’), ‘father’, or even ‘leader’. Does this mean that Messianic Jews may not ordain rabbis, or may not call their teachers by that title? Christians call their pastors ‘pastor’, or their teachers ‘teacher’, don’t they? Why are rabbis in particular singled out?

The immediate context is the first place one should look for an answer:

In Matthew 23:1-12 (CJB), Yeshua addressed the crowds and his talmidim: “The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim,” he said, “sit in the seat of Moshe. So whatever they tell you, take care to do it. But don’t do what they do, because they talk but don’t act! They tie heavy loads onto people’s shoulders but won’t lift a finger to help carry them. Everything they do is done to be seen by others; for they make their t’fillin broad and their tzitziyot long, they love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and they love being greeted deferentially in the marketplaces and being called ‘Rabbi.’
“But you are not to let yourselves be called ‘Rabbi; because you have one Rabbi [here ‘Teacher‘ in the original], and you are all each other’s brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father.’ because you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to let yourselves be called ‘leaders,’ because you have one Leader, and he is the Messiah! The greatest among you must be your servant, for whoever promotes himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be promoted.

These terms: teacher/master/Ῥαββί (=’διδάσκαλος’), and father/πατέρα and leader/καθηγηταί are innocuous enough. It is their use in the realm of the community – synagogue and marketplace that is a problem. The problem is their use as a basis for pride and elitism (versus Yeshua’s egalitarianism).

What is Yeshua saying?

First, we must note the content of what he says:

  1. Yeshua notes that these people do sit in Moses’ seat. This is a place of authority and prestige.
  2. Yeshua notes that these people do not help others with the burdens that they impose upon them.
  3. Further, these people glory in the prestige they are accorded.
  4. Yeshua teaches:
    a. equality among the people
    b. the fatherhood of God
    c. the leadership of Messiah
    d. the necessity of humility.

Here, Yeshua is opposing elitism and the honouring of persons. As he does elsewhere in Matthew, Yeshua teaches servant leadership where the leader does not self exalt nor is exalted by those he or she serves. Thus no one is to be called rabbi, father, or leader. But it is interesting that there are few who would quibble about calling their fathers ‘father’ or leaders ‘leader’. Innately, it is understood that Yeshua is teaching regarding what is behind the use of these terms, as the context shows: The leaders he castigates are those who love the honour accorded them. This is what is unseemly. As Yeshua’s followers, we should not be enamoured by titles but together, equally, give all honour to God and Messiah.

After looking at the immediate context, we must look at it in the context of all Scripture. No major teaching stands alone or should be asserted on the basis of one passage.

If this were the only Scripture that we have that bears on the topic, it would be case closed: Don’t use the terms rabbi, father or leader. Yeshua decries the elitism that these terms engender.

Other Scriptures show that against the problem of pride and elitism, a statement of fact in a way that does not glorify individuals other than God or Messiah is appropriate. Yeshua himself did not hesitate to call teachers by their title, as was the case with Nicodemus (John 3:10).

Teachers and leader in the New Testament are also frequently addressed as such. Thus Paul asserts his apostleship too many times to mention (e.g. Gal 1:1). He does this for the purpose of establishing his God-given authority rather than to exalt himself. Likewise he calls himself the father of the Corinthians (1 Cor 4:15). Again, he does not do so in such a way to glorify himself but as a statement of what is known.

The real message of Yeshua’s teaching is that The greatest among you must be your servant (Matt 23:12). This is also what He says in Luke 22:26-27: let the greater among you become like the younger, and one who rules like one who serves. For who is greater? The one reclining at the table? or the one who serves? It’s the one reclining at the table, isn’t it? But I myself am among you like one who serves. Yeshua is to us the supreme example of servant leadership, and that is what He asks of us. He asks us to serve one another. 

The result from a look at Matt 23:1-12 as a whole, and its relationship to the rest of Scripture is that titles are not to be used by individuals to exalt themselves nor by others to exalt those individuals. On the other hand, titles such as rabbi (teacher), father and leader are indeed appropriate when used in a descriptive sense or as a statement of fact.

Messianic Jews have good reason to use the term rabbi of their ordained teachers and leaders. It is not that that teachers should be called rabbis if they are not appointed as such by a reputable body. Abuses of this abound, and remind one of the doctoral degrees that are proverbially offered via cereal box tops for a sum of money. It is in fact a statement of fact. It asserts to the community, the Jewish community and the world at large that Messianic Jewish communities are in fact Jewish communities.

Titles are widely used in the Christian world. Elder, Pastor, Father, Brother, and so on. These too find their genesis in the complete Jewish Bible. They also perform a role in their communities to provide a sense of order. Yeshua says to the use of such terms: Do not use them to aggrandise. We are all siblings, we all look to God and His Messiah, not to others.



The Way of Life: The Rediscovered Teachings of the Twelve Jewish Apostles to the Gentiles – Book Review


Toby Janicki

The Way of Life: The Rediscovered Teachings of the Twelve Jewish Apostles to the Gentiles

Marshfield, MO: First Fruits of Zion / Vine of David, 2017. 581 pages. $35.00 ISBN 978-1941534243



For over a century, scholars have discovered in the Didache an intriguing ‘window’ into the lives of the earliest Christians. A short discipleship and church manual for gentiles, it was written sometime around the first great Jewish War in 70 CE. Apart from a few decades in the early 20th century, before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed its very early date, scholars have generally been keen to notice the very Jewish nature of this book. What the Didache is, is a manual written by early Messianic Jews to new disciples as part of what is sometimes called the ‘gentile mission’ – the rapid explosion of the Good News of Messiah’s advent and redemptive work around the Roman Empire and beyond. The title of this famous manual, written in Greek, is translated as ‘Teaching of the Lord through the Twelve Apostles to the Gentiles‘. This is where Janicki has found a model for the subtitle for his substantial commentary. In case any might think the Didache is pseudepigraphic – falsely attributing its writings to a famous author – the Didache simply claims that its teachings are representative of the teachings of the Twelve Apostles, and its author(s) remains unnamed and anonymous.

One would think that with an ancient book full of teachings collected and presented by early Messianic Jews, their modern counterparts would have been all over it to discover what the perspective of their predecessors might have been. Such has not been the case apart from an Aberdeen PhD dissertation by E. Spivak in 2007. This is where Toby Janicki has made a remarkable contribution. While he makes no claim to being a Messianic Jew himself, as a member of the Movement he examines the Didache from a thoroughgoing Messianic Jewish perspective, in what is the second largest and most extensive commentary on the Didache ever published.

The introduction sets the tone, with a relatively brief but comprehensive overview of the history and background required to understand the background of the Didache. Janicki demonstrates that he has come to grips with the full body of Didache scholarship and has his own specific contribution to make. Thus already a Messianic Jewish perspective comes to the fore as Janicki proposes that the Didache ‘is a Mishnah for Gentile believers. It addresses key halachic issues of everyday life and community’ (pp. 16-19). The introduction is followed by the text of the Didache in Greek, with Janicki’s own translation into English.

The commentary deals with the Didache chapter by chapter. The Didache has 16 chapters. Each chapter begins with the English of the Didache cross-referenced to quotations and allusions in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, but not to extant Jewish literature or other early Christian literature. The focus then is, as through the commentary, on the practical value of the Didache.

Each chapter translation is followed by an overview in which Janicki grapples with the general questions raised by each chapter, with reference to the comments and observations raised by scholarship thus far. Janicki does so in a way that while not easy for the casual or elementary student or reader, is not difficult at all for someone who has mastered the basics.

In turn, the overview is followed by verse-by-verse commentary on the Didache. This is where Janicki’s contribution shines. Each verse is dealt with in depth, with reference not only to Didache scholarship but also comparable writings of the early church. Especially useful is his careful incorporation of insights from the Talmud and other Jewish writings. While somewhat questionable, because the Mishnah and Talmud were not committed to writing until later centuries, the insights do provide a Jewish frame of reference from which to view the teachings of the Didache. Further, they accentuate the Didache’s affinity of thought to that of other Jewish literature, as opposed to that of Christianity in those same later centuries, which was rapidly distancing itself from Jewish modes of thinking.

One of Janicki’s own distinct contributions is important to highlight. Page after page, Janicki treats the Didache as a book of value for directing the life of Jesus’ disciples today. There is a distinctly pastoral tone to the book, and the Didache is not merely exegeted, but potential applications to the lives of modern Christians are highlighted for consideration. Thus we are told ‘According to the Didache, idle and lazy members of our communities who rely on the benevolence of believers are not true followers of the Master’ (p. 442).  It is strong language, but a logical application of the Didache’s teaching in Didache 12. This is nothing less than the re-incorporation of the Didache into the tradition of a church that has long forgotten its precepts in favour of those of later church writers.

Two appendices include the text of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1782. A bibliography is also included but no comprehensive indexes of references or subjects, items which are admittedly an option for commentaries. The layout of the book is excellent and the typeset clear and readable, which helps in making it an accessible resource for all. Jesus is consistently referred to as the ‘Master’, a usage that seems somewhat awkward, but also appropriate. Footnotes unfortunately do not flow from page to page, which sometimes causes problems in the page layout (as in page 9, which is half blank), but in general the book is very well produced.

For those who want to get an idea of how at least some early Messianic Jews taught regarding personal and congregational life, in more than just a dry, scholarly way, Janicki’s book is well worth the $35 asking price. I have a suspicion that Janicki’s contribution will be welcomed not only by laypersons but also Didache scholars for his fresh contribution and integration with contemporary Messianic Jewish thought.


Titus, the Temple, and the Fire of Judgement

Titus and his armies destroy Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

Titus and his armies destroy Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

Was it judgement? In 70 C.E. the then general Titus captured Jerusalem. Although Josephus (possibly disingenuously) disclaimed Titus’ responsibility, the Temple was destroyed and burned to the ground. In witnessing the event Josephus recalled:

the roar of the flames streaming far and wide mingled with the groans of the falling victims; and, owing to the height of the hill and the mass of the burning pile, one would have thought that the whole city was ablaze. And then the din–nothing more deafening or appalling could be conceived than that. There were the war-cries of the Roman legions sweeping onward in mass, the howls of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the rush of the people who, cut off above, fled panic-stricken- (Jewish War 6.272-3)

Titus was the general in who took the city and was responsible for these events. His father, who had been charged with putting down the revolt had gone to Rome, having been elected as Emperor. Nine years later, Titus would take his father’s place. It would be 79 C.E. when Titus became Emperor himself. In exquisite irony, it would be that very same year that Vesuvius would erupt, engulfing Pompeii in burning ash, extinguishing the vast portion of the population of that great yet decadent city. Titus, while visiting Pompeii to assess the damage would get yet further bad news. Back in Rome, the great fire of 80 C.E. had broken out. While less destructive than that of Nero’s day, this fire would result in an equal loss of life and the destruction of many great structures – notably on Capitoline Hill, the Temple of Jupiter, the Pantheon, and the theatre of Pompeii.

The destruction of Pompeii as Mt Vesuvius erupts in 79 C.E.

The destruction of Pompeii as Mt Vesuvius erupts in 79 C.E.

Could it not have been noted in that day, what the comforter Eliphaz said: As I have observed, those who plough evil and those who sow trouble reap it (Job 4:8).

Maybe Hashem was saying something.

Our daily prayer is May it be your will, Hashem our God and the God of our forefathers, that the Holy Temple be rebuilt, speedily in our days. Grant us our share in Your torah, and may we serve You there with reverence as in days of old and in former years. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Hashem, as in days of old and in former years.


Neo Nazis in London?

On Passover, Jewish people read in the Haggadah (Passover Story Guide) that  ‘In every generation they rise up against us.’

This week has already seen a lone gunman in Kansas kill three people at Jewish community centres in Kansas City. It has driven home the truth of the Haggadah‘s saying. On top of that, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket the funerals of the victims.

Never mind that the gunman, reportedly an ex member of the Ku Klux Klan and shouting ‘Heil Hitler’ failed in his attempt at killing Jews, killing non-Jews instead. Jews again have one of those all-too-frequent reminders that no matter where we are in the world, no matter how enlightened the country, province or city, there are always those who ‘rise up against us’.

This month, just two blocks from my home in London, a store historically linked to Neo-Nazis opened in the heart of London’s Jewish world.

Thor Steinar North FinchleySteps away from the office of the Chief Rabbi, close to a Jewish school, synagogues and – my family, a shop by the Thor Steinar Nordic Company has opened up.  The Independent has summed it up: ‘A German clothing brand favoured by neo-Nazis in Europe, whose goods were banned because of their similarity to logos worn by SS officers, has opened a high-street store in the heart of London’s Jewish community.’
When I went by, a man wearing a WW2 Nazi-style helmet with skull and crossbones on the back was handling the merchandise inside. Very nice. Wearing a kippah, I wasn’t about to go in and enquire further.

This is the company that in 2012 opened a store called ‘Brevik‘ – right after the coward Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 unarmed, mostly young, people in a rampage against Islam, Zionism, Feminism and more.

The Independent reports that ‘Users on the white power website Stormfront claimed “London gets its first white nationalist clothing shop”. This can be seen here: Capture

However, Stormfront has removed the offending posts at this time.

I’m aghast and don’t know what to write more. As the executive director of Chosen People Ministries (UK) what can I ask? I would like to see Christian street preachers take this as their favourite spot for street preaching. I would like to see Christians standing up for the Jewish community. But none of that will really and truly make any difference.

The shop owner, maybe unaware of his brand’s dodgy history (he is now!) said he is appalled and is not ‘Nazi’ nor a racist. Still, there is the very real concern, as evidenced by the Stormfront post, that this shop will become a magnet for those very undesirable elements.

Those who frequent the shop need to be prayed for, as my Yeshua, my Rabbi, instructed (Matthew 5:44). Hate cannot be met with hate, but we are reminded to speak up, love our enemies, and be a light to the world come what may. And please, pray for the safety of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom, where every Jewish institution of any significance has to have serious security provisions in place because of the constant threat we are under……..

Introduction to Messianic Judaism

Thank you Drs. Rudolph and Willitts!
Willitts and Rudolph have done a great Mitzvah for Messianic Judaism, providing a resource that supersedes a few ‘introductions’ of a previous era and reflecting the tremendous growth in theological capability in our movement of Jewish people to our Jewish Messiah. I see great value in I2MJ on a number of counts:

  1. While not perfect, and as was mentioned by Seth in the Rosh Pina Project, a ‘mixed bag’ it reflects the growing credibility and theological acumen of the Messianic movement (MJM).
  2. The ‘mixed bag’ further reflects where we are as a movement. We have yet to see many monographs demonstrating first-rate scholarship from our midst. However, we have a lot more than we did and we know more is on the way, giving the MJM a voice into the Jewish and Christian worlds.
  3. Published by a mainstream Christian publisher, it gives astute Christians a contemporary resource by which to understand the movement. Someday – Messianic authors will be found in the mainstream, and even Jewish press. Today, this is a step forward.
  4. Some of the published material is original research, adding to our body of knowledge of the MJM. Rudolph’s historical piece comes to mind.
  5. Because of the publisher and the reputation of some of the contributors, this book will be found in every theological training institution of any credibility. This will mean that students, pastors and scholars will use this as a key text to understand the MJM and so we should be glad that we have a word that is so much more advanced than anything we have had until now.
  6. A couple links that show how Messianic Jews are maturing theologically in the English speaking world: The Messianic Jewish Theological Symposium – http://www.messianicsymposium.eu (next in London, February 2014) and the Borough Park Symposium – http://www.boroughparksymposium.com.

A work like I2MJ is… a lot of WORK. And there is no money in it. My thanks go to Rudolph, Willitts, and all the contributors, each sterling in their own right.

The Miracles of Jesus and the Miracles of the Early Hebrew Prophets

Here’s an interesting new book, just brought to my attention by a friend in Geneva. I thought you might like to know. Its only $16.95.


Rabbi Herbert M. Baumgard D.H.L., D.D.
Millions of people have long admired the miracles attributed to Jesus in the New Testament. In his study of comparative religions the author was stuck by the similarity of many of these miracles to those performed by the Hebrew Prophets hundreds of years before Jesus. Accordingly the author compiled a study comparing these miracles which are discussed in this book.

This study, among other things, reveals the intimate relationships of Jesus to the Jewish community.
This close relationship has been discussed by other authors who studied the teachings of Jesus.
Reading this book, the Christian reader will discover many things about his religion, while the Jewish reader will develop a greater sympathy with Jesus.

It is the authors’ hope that the Christian and Jew will be brought closer together by this book.

Rabbi Dr. Herbert M. Baumgard served for 35 years as the founding Rabbi of Temple Beth Am, Pinecrest, Florida.


דרך ישוע / Derech Yeshua: The Way of Salvation

Publication Announcement

Derech Yeshua picIs Yeshua the hoped for Messiah? Is he Salvation as his name implies? What makes Yeshua different from all the other would-be Messiahs scattered about Jewish history?

As a Jew who believes that Yeshua was and is King Messiah, a number of years ago, I attempted to teach a course on the Good News about Yeshua, and predictably found a tremendous lack of appropriate material, so I began to write up my own explanation of the דרך ישוע: the Way of SalvationDerech Yeshua being an obvious play on words, I yet felt it to be a convenient title, and so have stuck with it. Since that time on the University of Washington campus other contributions have been made. Thankfully. Since then Sam Nadler, Derek Leman and others have produced great literature, but I still needed something I felt that I could comfortably put in the hands of Jewish person who I was talking to. I wanted something that would answer at least some of their questions about my faith that Yeshua is Messiah. At the end of a long, slow process, with the help of an excellent proofreader (thank you Meirav!) and a talented Messianic Israeli graphic artist (thank you, Steve at www.giantjellyfish.com!) and Lois Gable (thank you, too!) who did a great cover, not to mention generous donations that helped to cover our many costs, Derech Yeshua is now in print.

One of the issues that needs to be addressed, and I hope that I have at least partially done so, is that Jews who are considering the claims of Jesus are also implicitly required to accept a whole truck load of other baggage. This ‘baggage’ is a load of cultural and communal expectations. In many cases this culminates in a rejection of the Jewish people in favour of the church. Derech Yeshua says that yes, you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. It is my heartfelt desire that this might be at least one spark that will help to ignite an acceptance, turning to, and recognition of Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel from within the Jewish world.

If you are in the UK, you can order the book from this link. Derech Yeshua is 128 in paperback.

Every chapter concludes with discussion questions, making this book suitable for small study groups.

Lastly, if you are a Jewish person who wants to know more about Yeshua – or if you have a Jewish friend who is enquiring and wants to know more about Yeshua – please just email my office at info@chosenpeople.org.uk or call +44 208-455-7911 and we will send you a copy for free!

Jewish Continuity in the Body of Messiah

In the interests of the Messianic Jewish Movement, I am posting this recently published statement on Jewish Continuity in the Body of Messiah, that I believe is of critical importance and reflects the growing self-awareness and maturing identity of the worldwide community of Jewish believers in Yeshua. In light of the theological and geographical diversity of the participants, one should doubly take note.

Helsinki Consultation on Jewish Continuity in the Body of Messiah
2012 Berlin Statement on Torah
(July 3, 2012)

The third Helsinki Consultation on Jewish Continuity in the Body of Messiah met in Berlin, Germany June 29 – July 3, 2012. Building on statements formulated in the meetings of the previous two years, Jewish scholars from France, Germany, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, belonging to Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Messianic traditions, deepened their relationships and advanced in their discussion of crucial issues concerning Jewish life in the Body of Christ.

The theme of this year’s consultation was “Jewish Believers in Yeshua and the Torah.” Papers presented at the conference underlined the paradoxical richness and depth of Torah, and the way its fulfillment in Yeshua reinforces rather than undermines its enduring relevance. Following the conference, members of the consultation met together and developed the following common statement:

We, the members of the Helsinki Consultation, bear living witness to the recent emergence of Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) who affirm their Jewish identity and acknowledge its theological significance. We are increasingly recognizing the intrinsic connection between this identity and Torah, the dynamic reality that has shaped the life of the Jewish people throughout its historical journey. We are also increasingly challenged to understand the continuing significance of the Torah encountered in the light of the gospel within the life of the Body of the Messiah.

The complex nature of Jewish existence reflects the multifaceted and paradoxical character of the Torah. Torah is both the historical revelation of God to Israel, and Israel’s window to the eternity of God; once-for-all transmitted truth, and ever new process of discovery; the fashioner of human institutions, and the secret of the cosmic order; the absoluteness of the Divine Word, and the relativity of its human interpretation; the vulnerable letter of the written text, and its invulnerable spirit; defining mark of Israel’s singular path and destiny, and wisdom for all nations of the earth.

From an early period, many Christians have not fully grasped the Torah’s paradoxical unity. They have limited its relevance to what they deemed “moral precepts” whilst rejecting the so-called “civil” and “ceremonial” practices that are foundational to Jewish life. They have frequently viewed Torah through the dualistic lens of grace and law, contrasting faith and works, and thus overlooking the Torah’s enduring value.

Recent scholarship has shed new light on the Jewish context of Yeshua and the early Yeshua-movement which challenges traditional Christian understanding of the Torah and brings renewed appreciation for its positive significance. Many now recognize that Yeshua, Sha’ul (Paul), and the other early Jewish followers of Yeshua were Torah observant. This historical reality carries significant theological implications.

We as Jewish believers in Yeshua acknowledge the special bond that unites us with Israel’s Torah. This bond with Israel’s Torah witnesses in the Church to the irrevocability of God’s gifts and call to Israel (Rom 11:29). For Yeshua said, “Think not that I have come to destroy the Torah, or the prophets: I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). We believe in the continuing validity of the Torah even as it is fulfilled in Christ. Moreover, we see Christ as the incarnate Torah, the eternal wisdom of the Father in human flesh. He alone lived out the Torah in perfect form, and he calls his disciples to walk in his ways.

As Jewish believers in Yeshua we are in the process of working out the meaning and concrete implications of this bond that we collectively experience. We find ourselves in a variety of different ecclesial and Jewish communal contexts, and we hold different understandings and definitions of Torah observance. Some of us consider the observance of mitzvot such as Shabbat, Jewish holidays, and the dietary laws as an essential component of fidelity to Torah. Yet we all understand that our attempt to live in radical discipleship to Yeshua (in conformity to teaching such as that found in the Sermon on the Mount) is the foundational principle of Torah observance. Furthermore, we all understand our faithfulness to Israel’s Torah as a commitment to promote an awareness of the Jewish roots of the Church.

In the midst of our different approaches we have experienced through our deliberations and fellowship the dynamic and unifying power of Christ as Torah. Continuing to reflect on the Torah’s role in our lives, we desire to grow together as Jews and as disciples of Yeshua. We hope these insights will resonate with other Jewish believers in Yeshua, and we invite them to join us on our journey.

Consultation Members:

Boris Balter (Russia)
Jacques Doukhan (USA)
Richard Harvey (Great Britain)
Mark Kinzer (USA)
Fr. Antoine Levy (Finland)
Lisa Loden (Israel)
Fr. David Neuhaus (Israel)
Svetlana Panich (Russia)
Vladimir Pikman (Germany)
Jennifer Rosner (USA)
Dominic Rubin (Russia)

Roland Allen a century on…

In my youth (a long time ago!), my father recommended an already old work to me: Missionary Methods: St Paul’s or Ours by Roland Allen (London, 1912).

As an employee of, and in some capacities a leader within, Chosen People Ministries it would be duplicitous of me to claim that I am not a missionary. Nevertheless, I do not use the term as I do not believe it is appropriate without severe qualification. Fortunately, I have the example of my father who worked with Christian Witness to Israel from the mid-sixties to 1986. He too dislikes and has persistently eschewed the term missionary. The term I prefer and would use is that used by the orthodox community – Shliach (emissary). This is an acceptable translation of apostolos and links us to Rav Shaul and the twelve.

Shaul the Shliach believed that Messiah was able and willing to keep that which he had committed to Him. Is the present day missions movement willing to do that with the Messianic community? Are we ready to let the Spirit guide and lead the Messianic community? As with Shaul, this does not mean to plant communities and just walk away. Shaul planted communities which rapidly became self supporting and self-governing… ah, there’s the ‘rub’ in my opinion. Shaul’s methods do mean to plant, water and nurture Messianic communities that because of their place within the world and church are under pressure at a hundred different levels (no, you don’t want me to enumerate them!).

It is my passion that the missions community should stop making the Jewish Messianic movement towards Messiah Yeshua less than an addendum to its strategy. Rather than an embarrassment to the ‘Jewish Mission’ the Messianic community should be its crown jewel, encouraged and helped but in no way controlled or kept in financial servitude (Messianic Jews are in danger of becoming the ‘rice Christians’ of the Western world). This even involves quietly letting us ‘get on with it’ and not overwhelming our congregations with a preponderance of non-Jewish attendees.

On our part as Messianic Jews, we need to come up with a ‘business model’ that will allow us to employ and send our own shlichim around the Jewish world, men and woment beholden not to church purse strings but to the Spirit of the Almighty.

As a ‘reluctant missionary’ I am extremely grateful for those Christians who support me in reaching my own Jewish people. I thank the Lord for those who, with great vision, commit their Canadian dollars, US dollars and Pounds Sterling to the cause of helping Jews come face to face with the Jew from Nazareth.

Your thoughts and feedback are valuable to me. Please feel free to comment.

Messianic Marzipan

Thoughts of a Messianic Jew

On Messianic Judaism

The On Messianic Judaism Podcast

Daniel Nessim

Daniel Nessim PhD

On This Day In Messianic Jewish History

Prophecy is the history of the future, and the future of history

Egypt and the Bible

David A. Falk - Egyptologist, Bible Scholar, Author

Egypt and the Bible

Thoughts of a Messianic Jew

Kehillath Tsion - קהלת ציון

Vancouver's First Messianic Congregation

Messianic view

A Messianic Jew in the Orthodox World

Morning Meditations

"When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness." -Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

%d bloggers like this: