Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations

“A splendid introduction both to the history, beliefs, and practices of various groups of Messianic Jews and to the biblical arguments for the ongoing presence of Jews, as Jews, among the followers of the one they call ‘Messiah Yeshua.’ Readers may well wrestle with the arguments, but such wrestling would be an appropriately Jewish response."
- Amy-Jill Levine, Vanderbilt University

The general editors have assembled a thorough examination of the ecclesial context and biblical foundations of the diverse Messianic Jewish movement. This book uniquely brings together a team of respected Messianic Jewish and Gentile Christian scholars, including David Rudolph, Joel Willitts, Seth Klayman, Jennifer Rosner, Richard Bauckham, Craig Keener, William Campbell, Markus Bockmuehl, and Daniel Harrington of blessed memory.

Excerpt from the Conclusion by Joel Willitts:
What does Introduction to Messianic Judaism have to say to us? What a great question. First, this book informs the church of a modern move of God’s Spirit of which it is largely ignorant. Learning about the Messianic Jewish community should result in resounding praise and glory to the God of Israel for “making good his promises” to his people (Rom 15:8 CJB).

Second, Introduction to Messianic Judaism introduces a post-supersessionist reading of the New Testament. Most Christians naturally read the Bible in a supersessionist way. Such an approach is largely unintentional for most. It is the by-product of uncritical assumptions concerning what the Scriptures teach about the Jewish people. Introduction to Messianic Judaism offers a new paradigm for reading the Bible, one that is more consistent with its message of the fulfillment of Israel’s story in the story of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah.

Third, Introduction to Messianic Judaism presents a robust ecclesiology that strengthens evangelical Christian ministry by reimagining church planting and mission. An Israel-centered reading of the Bible makes room for a New Testament ecclesiology that celebrates diversity, fights cultural hegemony, and supports diverse ethnic expressions of faith in Jesus, whether they be Jewish or Gentile (one of the over sixteen thousand ethnic people groups among the nations).

This is of particular concern for Jewish believers in Jesus because Jewish ethnicity is wrapped up with God-given markers of identity like circumcision, food laws, and Sabbath observance, practices that the Gentile Christian church, from the patristic period, stigmatized because of the belief that these practices had been set aside with the coming of ‘Christ’ and replaced with a new Christian identity. By making normative this perspective in church teaching and practice, Gentile Christian leaders ensured that there would no longer be an ethnic representation of Jews in the body of Messiah – a most egregious irony since the Messiah lived as a Torah-observant Jew. The church cannot champion a message of ethnic diversity while at the same time maintaining a theological perspective that strips God-given ethnic boundary markers of identity from Jewish people who follow Jesus.

Fourth, the book reminds Gentile Christians of the Jewish [heritage] of their Christian faith. It reminds us that, in the language of Paul’s olive tree analogy (Rom 11:17-21), we are not the root of the tree, but “wild shoots” that in God’s kindness have been “grafted” in. The more we appreciate the Jewishness of our confession that Jesus is Lord and Messiah, the truer we will represent Israel’s God to the world and the more authentic we will be as the people of Messiah in our unique historical and cultural contexts.

Finally, Introduction to Messianic Judaism helps to inform Christians about how they can help meet the communal and individual needs of Jewish people who believe in Jesus. This book makes the argument that Jews who find themselves in Gentile Christian churches should be encouraged to maintain their Jewish identity and lifestyle in keeping with their calling from God. While Jewish identity and lifestyle can take shape in a variety of ways, Christian leaders should view it as their pastoral responsibility to help Jewish believers in Jesus remain Jews and become better Jews.

Introduction to Messianic Judaism offers [every] church the opportunity to grow and be stretched in the areas of worship, hermeneutics, mission, Christian identity, and spiritual formation. It is our hope that the relationship David and I share, which resulted in the fruit of this book, will inspire other “Jew and Gentile” partnerships for the sake of Messiah and the gospel of the kingdom.

Select Endorsements
“Folks who think they know what Messianic Judaism is all about need to read this book.” – Richard J. Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary

“An extremely rich and important book, certain to stimulate fruitful discussion for years to come and covering a topic that the church can no longer ignore.” – Michael L. Brown, FIRE School of Ministry, Concord NC

“This is a must-read for anyone interested in Jewish-Christian relations.” – Howard Silverman, Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations