Daniel Juster, Th. D., director
Recently a person who had become somewhat well known in American Christian Circles for teaching on Jewish roots abandoned faith in Yeshua and became an Orthodox Jew. This was a person who apparently had experienced deep and wonderful things in the Holy Spirit. Now many who knew this person or were supporters of the ministry are shocked at the public announcement of conversion to Rabbinic Judaism. How is this even possible? It is not the first time that a Christian or Messianic Jew has abandoned Yeshua and become a Orthodox Jew. However, this is one of the rare occasions where a Christian who was so well known in a national ministry has done so. The reasons that were given were mostly of a theological and historical nature. It was asserted that there were contradictions in the New Testament that prove it is not the Word of God. It was also asserted that the worship of Yeshua as God is idolatry. I will address the theological issues, but in my experience, even though the person believes that such matters are primary, I place them only in fourth place as reasons for abandoning Yeshua. As I have watched those who have abandoned Yeshua for Rabbinic Judaism, I have noted that a clear pattern is usually discernable. I express this in terms of four categories.
The first is failure to maintain a vivid and lively fellowship with Yeshua Himself and with those realities I call New Covenant realities. When one's experience begins to fade and one's heart grows cold, one is subject to error and a more legal approach to religion. Most Jewish believers in Yeshua come to him in very dramatic experiences. Visions, miracles; or overwhelming in- breakings of the Spirit are very common. If we recall our early days of passionate love, we can often see that a drift has slowly taken place. However, if we maintain this passion by pursuit of the Lord, the realities of the New Covenant remain so vivid that we can not accept their replacement by even something good but in reality is much less. Though not addressing the matter of a wrong Rabbinic Jewish focus, but any false religious prioritizing, Paul calls any wrong emphasis of focus as "Losing connection with the Head, from whom the whole body (is) supported and held together." When one is rightly connected to the Head, Yeshua, one realizes that pre-New Covenant ministry is like a candle light in comparison to the light of the Sun, so great is the superceding glory of the New Covenant. "For what was glorious has no glory in comparison with the surpassing glory." The loss of the right orientation here is the key to all else and the most important reason why it is possible for people to abandon Yeshua. Other reasons only reinforce this one. In addition, one's sense of primary identity as a new creation in the Messiah is crucial to not having an identity crisis which seeks to find greater importance to ethnicity that is Biblically warranted. Jewish calling is important, but not superior to other callings in the Body of the Messiah.
The second reason is what I call rabbinic idolatry. Rabbinic idolatry gives adulation to Rabbinic sages and their teachings which is out of proportion to a balanced appraisal. We must always bear in mind that Rabbinic Judaism inherited the stance of the first century Rabbis at the end of the second century who said no to Yeshua and rejected the apostolic witness. This should lead us to suspect that Rabbinic Judaism is skewed. In its dimensions of legalism, the weightier matters of the Law are not practiced and the heart intent of the Law is often obscured. Failure to embrace Yeshua has produced a religious stance that is at best inadequate and at worst in terrible error. Yet when one immerses oneself in Rabbinic literature and legal reasoning, one can lose perspective. For many who were not raised in the culture, the very foreignness and newness of the culture fascinates. One slowly drifts from Yeshua and becomes more fascinated with Rabbinic thought than with Yeshua. Lest I be misunderstood, I want to make it clear that the answer to Rabbinic idolatry is not the wholesale rejection of Rabbinic ideas and culture. There is much that is good and beautiful. The test, however, is through a renewed mind that is full of "Yeshua fascination," which weighs all by the Word of God in a New Covenant fulfillment emphasis. (Romans 12:2) When this is solidly in place, one can appropriate good and beautiful traditions as one is led by the Spirit. However, the intensive pursuit of Rabbinic study is only for the few and very spiritually strong who have a call to do so. . This, by the way, is the right and only consistent approach to any culture and was brilliantly argued in H. Richard Niebuhr's classic, Christ and Culture which I recommend to all as one of the most important books of the 20th century. During my days at Wheaton College, this book served as the foundation for our approach to study.
The third reason for the loss of faith in Yeshua, is the failure to maintain accountable fellowship. The person is not submitted to wise elders and strikes out in an independent way that is often unfairly critical of the Church or the Messianic Jewish Congregations. When I came back to solid commitment to Yeshua in my early 20s I had some knowledge of sociology and anthropology. These studies show that people conform to their primary social fellowship. A century ago, anthropologists went to primitive tribes and lived among them with no outside communication. Some became bushmen! Without outside communication and fellowship, they became like the very people they studied. Outside communication became normative for such researchers after this! When I came back to the Lord, I knew that I would not grow and maintain in my faith without deep and lasting fellowship among those who shared like faith. In addition, I knew I would need accountability to elders for my spiritual development. I needed mentors to warn me of dangers, for I would need to live my life in openness before them. This is God's order. People leaver accountable fellowship fellowship usually a long time before they finally abandon Yeshua. They make their primary community of identification one that does not share in the fellowship of the Spirit in the New Covenant. Our primary fellowship must be with fellow believers. Only then are we in sufficient right order to develop significant relationships with those of different persuasions. For Jewish disciples, sometimes the feeling of alienation from the Jewish community and family are very painful. They need to be prepared for this. This preparation includes developing strong and deep fellowship with on fire believers in Yeshua.
The fourth reason is being led astray by foolish arguments. There is now an anti-missionary and anti Messianic Jewish literature. Their arguments are foolish and stereotypical. First they seek to point out contradictions in the New Testament, which are not really contradictions, but are very capable of various solutions. Then they point out that New Testament quotes are not consistent with the Hebrew Bible. They fail to point out that the New Testament usually quotes what was considered the authoritative Jewish translation into Greek in the first century, the Septuigent. Because of its popularity in the Christian community, centuries later, the Jewish community abandoned this translation. However, the text tradition of the Septuigent is valid. The differences for most quotes are minor and none change doctrinal conclusions in a significant way. Then some anti-Messinaic Jews make a big deal of radical liberal "Christian" scholarship (and I do put Christian in quotes) admitting to the contractions and mythic quality of the New Testament. It is then said that Christian leaders suppress this information.
These arguments are an example of unjust weights and measures. Why? First of all with regard to quotes, one needs only to pursue Rabbinic interpretation to gain a sense of the level of fancy that is beyond anything that followers of Yeshua even imagine. Does Rabbinic Judaism often veer from the text in context? Wow! Does it ever!
In addition, if one is going to appeal to radical liberal scholarship, let's apply it to them. Such scholarship rejects the divine origin of the Torah and presents us with a Torah that is merely the product of primitive story telling and transmission around tribal campfire gatherings and then compiled centuries after the purported time of Moses. They point out many apparent contradictions in the Torah and the other Hebrew Biblical books. In addition, Jewish and Christian liberals absolutely reject the view of the origins of Rabbinic Judaism as presented in Orthodox Jewish teaching. Every Christian and Messianic Jewish seminarian has studied the radical liberal theories; it is not suppressed. However, we find these theories of unbelief to be of no use for edifying our people and spend little time teaching about them. We are not convinced that they are based in good evidence.
We have far stronger evidence for the authenticity of the New Testament than we do for the Torah. I fully believe in both. However, one of the great reasons to believe in the Torah is that Yeshua taught its authority and divine origin, and He rose from the dead. However, without the teaching of Yeshua, we must depend on manuscript testimony from copies that are at the earliest 1200 years after the time of Moses. I think there is adequate evidence from archeology for the integrity of the Torah. However, it is much weaker than the evidence for the New Testament. For the New Testament, we have thousands of manuscripts that are based on first century originals. Almost all scholarship aggress that the New Testament is a first century product. Almost all agree that the disciples died for their testimony of the resurrection of Yeshua. We could hardly have better evidence for such an ancient person than we have for Yeshua. Actually, it is the best evidence for any ancient personage. Lastly, that God would reveal himself in human form is foreshadowed in many Torah passages and contradicts nothing in the Hebrew Bible but only Rabbinic presuppositions.
My heart grieves for those who abandon Yeshua. They have drifted from the truth and have sold their birth right for a pot of stew. May they find their way back.
Tikkun Ministries International
P.O. Box 2997
Gaithersburg, MD 20879
Phone: (301) 977-3515
Disclaimer: Please note that Tikkun International Inc. is not affiliated with Tikkun magazine, the Institute for Labor and Mental Health or Rabbi Michael Lerner
We at Mayim Hayim Ministries would like to thank our brother Daniel Juster for giving to us these four categories to watch out for. This is valuable information we should all take to heart. And please pray for anyone you know who has abandoned Yeshua. God's arm is not so short that He can not draw them back into the fold. God bless you for caring.
Rev. Barbara Di Gilio