Messianic Judaism — The Past
Messianic Judaism—faith, practice, and identity that is in continuity with Judaism as a whole and firmly devoted to Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah—is not a new idea.
The original movement of followers of Jesus that eventually gave rise to Christianity was initially a Jewish sect, composed of devout Jewish people who practiced Judaism. In this sense, Messianic Judaism is thousands of years old, pre-dating Christianity.
As a modern movement, Messianic Judaism was reborn in the mid-1800s among Jewish followers of Yeshua. These pioneers endured intense hardship from all sides as they unwaveringly maintained their loyalty to Yeshua while clinging to Torah and their covenant responsibility as Jews.
The original Messianic Jewish community was vehemently opposed by Hebrew Christianity (those of Jewish descent who had embraced a Christian identity). The early generation of Messianic Jews included rabbis and men of importance in the Jewish community who gave up everything by refusing to recant their Messianic faith.
One such pioneer, Abram Poljak, eloquently expressed this struggle when he wrote in 1950 about the establishment of the first Messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem:
Our path is difficult and will become increasingly so. Whoever comes to us must carry a heavy burden, must wrestle inwardly and outwardly. The average person, the average Jew, the average Christian knows nothing about this wrestling, “not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in heavenly places.” One cannot speak publicly about this struggle. Those of us who overcome spiritual hindrances know what it means to come against invisible, intangible resistance. Resistance, that is stronger than walls and sharper than steel blades. Only those who understand this can comprehend our way, our waiting, and our silence.
Why do we walk this path? We walk here because there is no one else who wants to do it. For the Jews we are Christians. For the Christians we are Jews. Both groups see us as dangerous false teachers. What do we teach? We teach that the Gentile church is soon coming to an end, and the sun of grace is starting to shine over Israel. We teach that soon judgment will happen and the Messiah, Jesus, King of the Jews and King of Kings will return and establish His kingdom here on earth with Jerusalem as its capital. We did not create these teachings but obtained them from the Bible.
We live and work for a future which can only be seen by faith.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the term “Messianic Judaism” (already about a century old at that time) finally met with broad acceptance in the Hebrew Christian community. While this resulted in a surge of interest in Messianic Judaism, it also caused a fundamental shift of focus. The original vision of Messianic Judaism was primarily to promote commitment to Jewish identity and practice among Jewish followers of Jesus. As it merged with Hebrew Christianity it shifted into a cultural expression of Christianity focused on evangelism of Jews.
Messianic Judaism’s Original Vision
Vine of David seeks to promote the original vision of Messianic Judaism. We are working on bringing to light the writings and works of our Messianic Jewish forebears. These resources will serve to strengthen us, educate us, guide us, and inspire us. They show us how far the Messianic Jewish community has come as well as how much work there is yet to do.
Few of these works are known to the English-speaking world because they were written in other languages such as Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and Bulgarian. At Vine of David, we are in the process of collecting, compiling, translating, and re-publishing these inspirational and enlightening works.
Our hope is that through these resources, the Messianic Jewish world will be strengthened and energized, our sense of vision and purpose will be restored, and the nearly-forgotten memory of the fathers and mothers of our movement will be honored and brought to light.
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