Category Archives: Messianic Judaism



Note: this Table of Contents list contains a description of our most recent articles.  Please see to the right for a list of all posts.

  1. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah — Jews and Gentiles in Land — the first article in the series, shedding light on Jewish understanding of the Land and the fundamental differences between the Galilean Jews of the North and the Judean Jews of the South
  2. Sketches of Jewish Social Life at the Time of Messiah – Introduction – an intro to a new, extended series of articles that places Jesus and His teachings within their Jewish context and sheds invaluable light on passages that could not be fully understood otherwise.
  3. The Company Dinner – another modern parable
  4. The Talmud – now available in English, free and online – Now available to anyone for free and online, tools include the ability to click on a verse of Scripture, see where it’s quoted in the Talmud, and read it in full in with explanatory notes written in plain language. Most surprisingly, the very passages that today’s rabbis deny as being about Messiah, were understood by the Jewish sages to be about Messiah.
  5. New Years and the Parable of the Ten Virgins – The lighting of the oil lamps for the 8th day of Chanukah on New Years Eve brought to mind the Parable of the Ten Virgins and some thoughts for the Church.
  6. Boundaries of the Land of Israel – as set by God: Christians need to understand that the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 which was just passed declares that where David was first crowned king is not Israel, nor is Bethlehem of Judea, where Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1). Yes, the “little town of Bethlehem” that you sing about in Christmas carols as being the birth place of the King of the Jews is not in the land of the Jews. This is a battle for truth.
  7. Questions and Answers about Jews and Christmas: People often want to know what Jews do at Christmas time and some Christians want to know what Messianic Jews do. This article provides some background on “Jews” and some answers to the questions. Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
  8. Gehenna – Jewish Origins of Hell: Some think of “hell” as the one place God is not and to others, it is the place where God pours out His judgment on “those who do not believe”. Is this what the Scriptures teach? Where does this concept of Hell come from? That is the subject of this article.
  9. The New Perspective – second phase of the Reformation? The Reformation restored the Word of God to the ordinary people and called them out of an obligation of submission to the papacy to one of submission to Scripture.  But Was the Reformation all that was required to restore the Scriptures to their first century understanding?
  10. The Last Day of the Great Feast –  Sukkot has two  ” last days” — Hoshanah Rabbah and Shiminei Atsaret. The “last day and greatest day of the Feast” mentioned in John 7:37 is Hashanah Rabbah. This article helps explain why Jesus said what He did that day.
  11. Who is Abraham’s Seed – Understanding who “Abraham’s seed” is, is to understand God’s plan of redemption to ‘all nations of the earth’ since the book of Genesis! This article follows the previous 3 which covered the promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant, the promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant, as well as Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in Romans.
  12. God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant  – What were God’s promises to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and do they still apply?

  13. God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant; 

    There are those that say that Gentile Christians, along with Jewish believers in Messiah form what is now termed “true Israel” and replace the Jewish people (physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God’s covenant people. In this article is part of a series of articles, taking a deeper look at God’s promises to the Jewish people and God’s promises to the Gentiles, through Messiah. This article focuses on God’s promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant.

  14. Paul’s Use of the term “Israel” in the Book of Romans –   Some say that Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah are not “true Israel” — but rather Gentile Christians and Jewish believers in Messiah form what is termed “true Israel“.  Does the Scripture teach that “Israel” is part Jewish by descent and part Gentile by descent — and if not, what do the passages in question really mean? In this article, we will explore how Paul uses the term “Israel” everywhere else in Romans and then look at what he is saying in Romans 9:6-8.

  15. It’s Time We Had a Talk – another modern parable – It came to pass one day, that the older brother felt that it was a fitting time to share matters of the family with his younger brother. This is that story.

  16. Shavuot – Counting of the Omer from Passover to Pentecost -Today, June 12, 2016 is Pentecost Sunday! Yes, we know that the Church celebrated it on May 15th this year but according to how God commanded the Jews to determine the date of Shavuot (Pentecost). it is today. The Church’s Pentecost falls on a different date than Biblical Pentecost.

  17. Miquedem – Songs from Scripture; Listen free to a brand new album of Jewish music, with songs taken directly from Scripture. Complete lyrics posted in Hebrew, Hebrew-English transliterated phonetics & English.

  18. He Who Believes – Mi Shemaamim; This is a song written by Israeli Eyal Golan which you will probably catch yourself humming later.  It is very catchy!  The lyrics are beautiful, and appear in Hebrew, transliterated Hebrew-English phonetics and English;

  19. What did Paul Mean by “May it never be!” ? – When Paul said in Scripture ‘may it never be” (me genoito / μένα genoito is the Greek equivalent) he was using a very common Hebrew expression as many other Jews of his day would have — not surprising considering Paul was Jew.

  20. Biblical Pentecost and the Church’s Pentecost – few Christians realize that the date that the Church celebrates as “Pentecost Sunday” is different than the day that God established in Scripture. This blog explains how the date of Pentecost (Shavuot) is determined from the date of Passover and how the giving of the Holy Spirit is tied to the day Jesus rose from the dead!

  21. A Jewish Perspective on Counting Days of Lent and Easter Egg Hunts – As we’ve been working on the 3 upcoming posts (Part 2, 3 and 4) that follow Part 1: The Significance of Passover to the Church, we thought we’d take a bit of a divergence and look at two Gentile Christian customs related to the Church’s celebration of “Easter” that we thought our readers might find it interesting to look at through Jewish eyes.

  22. A Jewish Roots Update – More than 11,000 visitors from 212 countries or territories in just 10 months.  Who would have thought.

  23. UNESCO Resolution Erases Jews Connection to Temple Mount – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has passed a resolution erasing the Jews connection to the Temple Mount.

  24. Passover – Significance to the Church – Most people know “the Last Supper” occurred during Passover, but have never had just two of the Passover elements — the “bread” and the “cup”, explained in that context.  When Jesus took “the bread”, what did the disciples understand it to signify before He spoke? What prior meaning did the cup(s) of wine have to them?  Given it was Passover, what might the Disciples have understood Jesus to be saying?

  25. INTRO: Passover, Pentecost and Booths – significance to the Church : God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people where they were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth.

  26. Canadian Prime Minister Ignores Mention of Jews in Holocaust Statement – on January 27 2016,  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Most notable was the Canadian Prime Minister’s blatant omission of any reference to the Jewish people or to the anti-Jewish ideology which fueled the Nazi’s systematic extermination of 6 million Jews.

  27. Understanding Matthew’s Genealogy – an Old Testament Overview – The genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew starts with Abraham and culminates with the birth of Jesus; which is a uniquely Jewish perspective.  To understand who some of the individuals are that are named in this genealogy requires some understanding of the Old Testament and so in this article, we provide an overview of the Old Testament to lay the framework for our next study. This article is a summary of the first study in a series called the “Gospels from a First Century Jewish Perspective” from our Jewish Roots of Christianity LifeGroup.

  28. Jewish Sects of the Second Temple Period – introduction to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Nazarenes during the Second Temple Period (introduction to Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child);

  29. Christianity and Judaism – siblings, not parent and child – We’ve often heard it said that Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism; as if Judaism is the parent and Christianity, the child. A more accurate analogy is to see Judaism and Christianity as siblings, twins in fact, born out of the same event.

  30. Christmas and the Coming of the Messiah – Growing up in the Jewish areas we lived in, the expectation of Messiah was all around us. Christmas, however was a “Gentile holiday” which we had no connection to. Jesus, as portrayed by most Christians has no connection to most Jews, as the Jewish Messiah either. The Jesus of Scripture tells a very different story.  Jesus of the Gospels is Jewish.

  31. Holy Days of Israel – with Scriptural References: Jewish Holy Days are observances set out by God in Scripture — more than celebrations. This article describes our main Holy Days and what they commemorate.

  32. Holiday Observance from a Jewish Perspective: The Jewish concept of ‘observance’ of a holiday is quite different than the idea of ‘celebrating’ one and this difference becomes quite apparent to us at Christmas.  It is not as though there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way, but we thought it might be helpful for our readers to understand how we as Jewish believers regard holidays, in particular Christmas.

  33. The Abrahamic Covenant and the 12 Tribes of Israel – In this article, we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and whether the covenant God made with Abraham also applies to the descendants of Ishmael.

  34. The 12 Tribes Ishmael and Their Land – We’ve heard people say that since the land of Israel belongs to both the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael and that the solution to the tension in the region is to divide the land between them.  But few people realize that the land of the 12 Tribes of Ishmael is northern Saudi Arabia and the south-eastern part of Assyria (Iraq) — far from the 12 Tribes of Israel! In this article we outline from Scripture who are the people and where is the land belonging to the descendants of Ishmael (with maps).

  35. Objections to a Religious Ideology or Doctrine is not Xenophobia – We hear a lot these days about xenophobia — with people being accused of being xenophobic or being a xenophobe when they object to a religious ideology or to the doctrine of another’s religion or belief system. That is not Xenophobia.  Xenophobia is to show fear or contempt towards a person because they hold to a specific ideology or holds to a given religious doctrine. There is a difference.

  36. How Israel Came to Possess the Land it Currently Occupies – Israel is often portrayed in the media as ‘land-grabbing’, so we want to clear up where the land that Israel currently occupies came from.

  37. Where is Ancient Palestine and Who are the Palestinian People? Does the idea of an ancient Palestinian homeland belonging to the Palestinian people have any basis in history? There were 3 such places with that name, none of them belonging to Arabs; one belonging to the Romans, one a province of the Byzantine Empire and one under British administration.  So what is “Palestine” and who are the “Palestinian” people?

  38.  1948 – The Fullfillment of the Second Gathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel – When God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people, was it conditional on their obedience? If so, how would we explain that the Jews have been returned to the land not once, but twice — and the most recent time was in 1948? What do the Scriptures have to say about God’s covenant with the Jewish people with regard to obedience to His commands and how that related specifically to the Land?

  39. Montreal Bagel and Smoked Meat – [a break from our usual articles]. Sometimes, the world is all too serious and what we need is a little distraction — such as food or music.  For Jews, both food and music are integral to who we are.  There is the food and music of home; not our ancestral home, but the Jewish community in which we grew up and for us, as Montreal Jews that food is epitomized by bagel and smoked meat.

  40. Jesus born at Sukkot / Festival of Booths / Feast of Tabernacles – People have asked us why we believe that Jesus was born at Sukkot (the Festival of Booths / the Feast of Tabernacles) and this article is about how theologians have arrived at this conclusion.  It is also about how Sukkot has already been set apart by God to be the only Feast of Israel that all the nations of the world will one day celebrate.

  41. Remembering and Preparing to Remember – Jews are a people called to remember and with that remembering comes preparation. This article elaborates on the the Jewish concept of preparing to remember which has been passed down to the Church in the observance of The Lord’s Table.

  42. The High Holy Days and the Ten Days of Awe – The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are commonly known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance. These are the holiest days on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur, and the requirements of God in observing this day have important significance to New Testament believers today, both Jews and Gentiles.

  43. God’s Calling on Gentiles, His Calling on Jews – We have pondered writing this article for a while and the reason is simple. How can the (predominantly Gentile) Church fulfill God’s specific calling on them mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament if they don’t know and understand what it is?’s_calling_on_Gentiles/

  44. ‘The Parable of the Vineyard Workers’ in Matthew 20 is part of Jesus’ reply to Peter’s question given Matthew 19:27 but without understanding the reference Jesus is making to Old Testament concepts that would have been very well known to the disciples, one can easily miss what Jesus is saying.  This article elaborates on those concepts so that the meaning of the parable becomes clear.

  45. New Testament Dietary Laws – Different for Jews and Gentiles’ – Most have heard of Jewish dietary laws but not what made foods ‘unclean’ or what role these laws served but few are aware of the dietary laws set out for Gentile Christians in the New Testament. How did these differing food laws impact social interaction between Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the first century? What about today?

  46. ‘A Visit from the Mormons’ – It’s not every day that the Mormons come knocking and find a mother and son engaged in Scripture study in their living room; with a four volume Hebrew-English Interlinear and Strong’s Concordance at the ready. Talk about catching a couple of Mormon missionaries off guard! Daniel answered the door and invited our visitors in.

  47. What does Paul mean that he became “as a Jew to the Jews and to the Gentiles, a Gentile”: In this article we look at what Paul meant by being “under” the Law, “outside” the Law and “within” the Law and what that meant in terms of the call to be “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9).

  48. Status quo  in the First Century Church vs Today – There was no need for the Gospel writers or Paul to explain Jewish practice because the vast majority of believers at the time were Jews and Jewish practice was understood.  But two thousand years later, most Gentile readers of the New Testament have little understanding of these Jewish practices. In this article we discuss the implications of this.

  49. Historic Perspective Affects New Testament Interpretation – This article looks at how the historical perspective of the Church after the death of the Apostles has shaped understanding of Israel and the Jewish people.

  50. Jesus – a Prophet like Moses – what does it mean for Jesus to be ‘a prophet like Moses’? What would the implications be for Jesus to have taught something different than what the Law of Moses taught?

  51. Creation of a Palestinian State – the “Two State” Solution – the idea of a “two state” solution is often proposed as a means to resolve the ongoing tensions between Israel and the ‘Palestinians’, but few realize there have already been two “two state” solutions. This article documents those.

  52. Different Sects of Jews – from the Pharisees and Sadducees to the Sects of Today – to understand what Jesus was saying to the Jewish leadership and why, one needs to understand who the Jewish leadership was and what they believed. What are the Jewish sects of today and how are they related to those of the first century?

  53. The Keymaker’s Sons – A Modern Parable – This story was written with the desire to help Gentile Christians understand how Jewish believers perceive our relationship with Gentile Christians within the Church.

  54. Is there a Difference between Jewish Believers and Gentile Christians – and if so, what is it?  This article seeks explores the ways in which Jewish believers look at their faith and the Scriptures from a slightly different perspective than Gentile Christians.

  55. Shavuot (Pentecost) and Jesus being the “firstfruits from the dead” – this article explains from Scripture the timing of the events related to the crucifixion of Jesus and the Jewish holiday of Passover and how the timing of the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) is tied to the timing of Passover.

  56. “A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in” – the Apostle Paul has much to say about whether God has rejected the Jews and in Romans 11:14–25 he speaks directly to Gentiles about the unbelief of much of physical Israel. Paul exhorts the Gentiles not to brag (:18), not to be arrogant (:20), not to be conceited (:25) and not to be unaware (:25) of God’s plans of redemption of physical Israel. Why Paul said this and what the Scriptures say with regards to the future salvation of the Jews is elaborated on in this article.

  57. The Early Church [including Polycarp] continued to celebrate Passover – few Gentile Christians realize that both Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in the early Church at Jerusalem and Antioch including Polycarp, a Church Father (80-167 CE) continued to celebrate the Passover according to the Biblical requirement (on the 14th of Nisan) and did so for the first two centuries, possibly until the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  This article is fully referenced for the more scholarly and skeptical reader.

  58. The Temple and Synagogue in the Early Church – is an article about the role of the Temple and the synagogue in the life of Jesus and the early Jewish believers at the beginning of the Church as we know it.

Questions and Answers about Jews and Christmas

INTRODUCTION: This article stems from some wonderful, lively discussion around a post on Facebook about what not to ask Jews at Christmas.  The comments and inquiries were sincere and thought provoking; so much so, that it was felt that this would be the best place to answer those, as well as the original questions.  We trust that this will be of interest to those that follow the Jewish Roots of Christianity.

Here is the original post from Facebook:

Ten questions not to ask Jews this time of year:
1. I know you’re Jewish, but you do have have a Christmas tree, right?
2. But you had one growing up, right?
3. Then what did you put your presents under on Christmas morning?
4. Does that mean you don’t get presents?
5. So how *do* you celebrate Christmas?
6. Do you at least eat a Christmas ham?
7. You must be envious of everyone that *does* celebrate Christmas, right?
8. Don’t you feel really left out that you’re missing out on all the fun?
9. Don’t you wish you had holidays and special food to look forward to?
10. But Chanukah is like a Jewish Christmas, right?

Here are 4 of the comments and questions that were posted which we will attempt to answer below:

  1.  “Hahaha to #9…how many holidays and how much special food we have!”

  2. “I once got that “everyone” celebrates Christmas because it’s not a religious holiday.”

  3. “Why not ask these questions? I didn’t have the privilege to grow up around a Jewish community, I don’t know the answers to a lot of these questions. There are more subtle ways to ask some of the questions, sure, but I hope someone who’s genuinely interested and not intending any offence wouldn’t be judged for just trying to understand someone else’s experience at this time of year.”

  4. “The real question is what do you ask Messianic Jews??”

The answers to these questions are as diverse as Jews themselves!

Two Jews, Three Opinions

First of all, it is impossible to speak of “the Jews” — both in Biblical times as now, as a homogeneous group with unified beliefs.

In the New Covenant (Testament) when “the Jews” are referred to, Scripture identifies which Jews were being spoken of; whether they are Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, or ordinary Jews who followed Yeshua (Jesus) from the Galilee, the Decopolis, Judea and Samaria and from beyond the Jordan (Matt. 4) .

It is very important for Christians to keep this in mind when studying the teachings of Jesus or of Paul, because the things that they said were to a specific group for a specific reason.  Reading “up” in a passage to find “which Jews” where being spoken to is required to understand what was being said, and as importantly what was not being said.

It is equally impossible to speak of “the Jews”  today as if they were a homogeneous group. 

Jews range from Orthodox to secular  — and everything in between and within each category there are many subgroups.  As well, there is a great deal of variation as to how each group would define itself as well as how it would define other groups of Jews — or whether some of those “others” would be even be considered “Jews” (such as Kairaites or Messianic Jews).

The expression “two Jews, three opinions” captures this well.

To begin to comprehend how “Jews” would answer the above questions, requires knowing a little bit about the different sects of Jews and what they believe relative to each other.

Here is a brief sketch of the main sects of Jews;

The term Orthodox Jews is synonymous with the term Rabbinic Judaism and originated with the biblical Pharisees. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Pharisees who had already established and led and taught in the synagogues were the only group who retained their influence. The Essenes and Nazarenes (term for the first “Messianic Jews”) were considered “heretics”.  For the first 3 generations after the death of Yeshua (Jesus), the Jewish believers were still able to attend the traditional synagogue but in 72-73 CE (40 years after Jesus’ death), the addition of the Birkat ha-Minim forced the Jewish believers from the traditional synagogue.

[see the section on the “Blessing” of the Heretics” in the previous post titled “The Temple and synagogue in the Early Church”:]

The Orthodox Jews of today includes the Masorti (traditional Orthodox), the Chasidim (one form of “black hat” Jews including the Lubavitch and Breslov that originated in Eastern Europe in the 1700s), and the Israeli Haredi (also “black hat” Jews, non-zionists — believing only Messiah can establish Israel) and Dati (modern Orthodox, zionist).

Simplistically put, Orthodox Jews believe that the Torah has two partsthe “Written Law” (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) that was given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, along with the “Oral Law” needed to understand and practice them. The “Oral Law”, as the name implies, was originally not written down, but is said to have been passed down from Moses, and from there from father to son, and from teacher to disciple. “Oral Law” dictates everything from the wearing of phylacteries (tefillin) and the colour of their straps, to how many walls and the size of those walls, required to build a Sukkah (booth for the Feast of Tabernacles).

Halakhah (literally “the path that one walks“) is the complete body of rules and practices that Jews are to follow, including Biblical commandments and the commandments instituted by the rabbis, based on “Oral Torah”.

The Talmud

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Rabbinic authorities were concerned that the “Oral Law” would be forgotten, so it was written down in the form of the Mishnah, a shorthanded collection of the oral teachings. That is, the “Oral Law” was “oral” from 70 CE until 190 CE (2nd century after Yeshua’s (Jesus’ death), when the Mishnah was completed.

It was believed by the rabbis that important information was missing from the Mishnah, so this material was compiled in the Gemara (also spelled Gemorra), which comprises rabbinical commentaries on the Mishnah. The Gemarra includes the Melchilta (exegesis on the Book of Exodus) , Safra (exegesis on the Book of Leviticus),  Sifri (exegesis on verses in Numbers and Deuteronomy) as well as the Beraisos (commentaries on the Mishnah) and Tosefta (an appendix to the Mishnah).

The Talmud, is the compendium of Jewish law and thought, including the Mishnah and the Gamara.

Regardless of the sect they come from, Orthodox Jews recognize the authority of both the Written Law and Oral Law.  How those are interpreted and expressed, may vary however between the different groups of Orthodox.

Reform Jews do not believe that the Torah, even the Written Law, was given by God. For the most part, they seek to practice the ethics and values of Judaism without any obligation to God.  As such, they do not seek to practice the commandments attributed to God in the first five books of Moses  (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or Halakhah

Conservative Jews grew out of the tension between Orthodox and Reformed Judaism and began as an American movement in the early 1900s. They generally accept the binding nature of Halakhah, but believes that the Law should change and adapt — absorbing some of the practices of the predominant culture around them, while remaining true to Judaism’s values and ethics.

The Kairaites — literally “people of the Scripture” originated with the Sadducees.  As mentioned above, after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Pharisees who established, led and taught in the synagogues were the only group with influence. The Kairaites do not accept the concept of “Oral Law” given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai along with the “Written Law”. They only recognize the written Law, as recorded in the first five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). The Kairaites distinguish themselves from the Rabbanites (Rabbinical Judaism, derived from the Pharisees) and believe it is their responsibility to study the written text in Hebrew and to interpret the texts of Scripture, without rabbinical interpretation.

The first thing to know about Messianic Jews is that they are Jews. Messianic Jews did not ‘convert’ to Christianity.  Like the Nazarenes of the first century (i.e. Paul, Matthew, Mark, etc.) who were referred to as the ‘Jews that believe’, Messianic Jews believe that God’s promised Messiah has come.  Many Messianic Jews, like the early Jewish believers of Scripture, continue to set themselves apart as Jews, a distinct people, because God called the Jewish people to.

Torah-observant Messianic Jews don’t follow the Law because it will “save” them, but because God called them to. While this may come as a surprise to some Christians, Jesus followed the Law.  While this may be obvious once it is thought about, He followed the commands of Moses (not the “Oral Law” of the Pharisees) and had He not, He would have been committing sin and would no longer have been the Lamb without blemish.

It is also important to understand that what He taught was not different than what was taught in the Law of the Old Covenant (Testament). If it was, He would have been a false prophet, not the Messiah.  

Likewise, He didn’t give ‘new meaning‘ to what was taught in the Law as that would have been causing us to rebel against God and His commands; a most grievous sin.

Yeshua (Jesus) not only upholds the Law but speaks of the Law’s continued relevance and practice to Jews in the kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. If one “reads up” from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew to see “who” He was speaking to, it says!  He was speaking to the ordinary Jews who followed Him there from the Galilee, the Decopolis, Judea and Samaria and from beyond the Jordan (Matthew. 4).

To these ordinary Jews He said;

“anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matt 5:17-19

It should come as no surprise that many Messianic Jews are Torah-observant. Messiah was.

Questions and Answers

Perhaps now it is easier to see that depending which sect of Jews are asked, the answers to the above questions will be very different!

To Orthodox Jews, Christmas is a Gentile holiday. God in His Law commands the Jews not to follow the practice of the nations around us, so while they would have no issue with Gentiles celebrating it, Christmas and anything to do with it are foreign practices. Conservative Jews would hold a similar position. Reform Jews don’t believe that the Scriptures were inspired by God, so anything attributed to God is not binding. They would have no issue with decorating a tree or celebrating the secular version of Christmas — with Santa Clause and mistletoe. Since Kairaites follow the written Law, they would not follow any of the practices of the nations around them.  That said, they would have no issue with Gentile Christians celebrating it. Torah-observing Messianic Jews are not that different from Kairaites, except that they believe Messiah has already come. Most Messianic Jews would not have any problem with Gentile Christians celebrating Christmas in whatever way they wish, including Christmas trees and ham! While we certainly can’t speak for “all” Messianic Jews, we can say how we view Christmas. We believe that Yeshua (Jesus) was born during Sukkot (see previous blogs) and we commemorate His coming to “tabernacle” among us, during the Feast of Tabernacles.  We are fine with Gentile Christian celebrating their Savior’s birth at Christmas and take no issue with them having Christmas trees, or mistletoe or Christmas hams. There is nothing in Scripture defining what Gentile Christians can do or eat, outside of Acts 15 (see previous blog).

We mean no offense to our Gentile Christian brothers and sisters by not having a Christmas tree and we hope they will understand that God called the Jewish people not to follow the ways of the nations around us, so we don’t.


For His own reasons, God called us to be a distinct nation and a peculiar people and we choose to honor Him by maintaining the Jewish practice and observance that He called us to. We are not better for not doing so, just distinct.

As Messianic Jews, raised in Jewish families, here are our answers to the ten questions:

1. I know you’re Jewish, but you do have have a Christmas tree, right? nope

2. But you had one growing up, right? nope

3. Then what did you put your presents under on Christmas morning? Since we didn’t celebrate Christmas we didn’t get any presents on Christmas morning. So we didn’t need to put the presents we didn’t get under anything.

4. Does that mean you don’t get presents? On Chanukah (which falls at different times relative to Christmas each year because ours is a lunar calendar), our parents would give us a gift of money and chocolate coins. 

5. So how *do* you celebrate Christmas? We don’t. We commemorate the birth of Messiah at Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). 

6. Do you at least eat a Christmas ham? nope. We do not eat pork because God listed a few foods in His Law that were “to be unclean to us” (not that they are inherently unclean). Since pigs do not have a cloven hoof and chew the cud, we don’t eat pork. 

7. You must be envious of everyone that *does* celebrate Christmas, right? nope. We have so many holidays that God called us as a people to observe “from generation to generation” that we are not in the least bit envious that you celebrate Christmas. Actually, we feel a little “bad” that Gentile Christians only have Christmas and Easter.

8. Don’t you feel really left out that you’re missing out on all the fun? nope. We have many holiday and special foods and observances. If you are would to include us in your celebrations, please feel free to invite us, but please don’t mind if we don’t eat the ham.

9. Don’t you wish you had holidays and special food to look forward to? nope.  We are still recovering from all the food from the several Fall Festivals and have 8 days of sufganiyot (Israeli donuts) and potato latkes (fried potato ‘pancakes’) to eat during Chanukah. Then we have a bit of time to recover before Passover and the Feast of Unleavened bread. We have no shortage of holidays and special food.

10. But Chanukah is like a Jewish Christmas, right? nope. It is a commemoration of when the Jews, led by the Maccabee brothers defeated the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV (~ 165 BCE) after he had plundered the Jewish Temple of its gold objects of worship then and desecrated it by sacrificing a pig on its alter.  As sons of Mattityahu, who was a priest, the Maccabee brothers were also Levites and therefore permitted to rededicate the Temple after it was cleansed, but once the flame was lit, it had to remain lit.  But there was only enough oil for one night and it would take another 8 days to make new oil for the Temple. They lit the flame anyways, and went about making the new oil.  The miracle that occurred on Chanukah (called the Feast of Dedication, in English) is that the tiny bit of oil that was only enough to burn for ONE night, lasted EIGHT nights — long enough for the new oil to be ready.  So we commemorate that “a great miracle happened there”, by lighting an 8-branched Chanukiah and eating foods fried in oil, such as sufganiot and latkes.

Did you know that Chanukah (the Feast of Dedication) is mentioned in the New Covenant (Testament)? 

“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple courts in Solomon’s Colonnade.”

John 10:22

With respect to asking questions about another person’s culture or practices, from our experience, it’s best to ask open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions, such as the ones above can be perceived as judgmental, as the one asking them presumes that the reference point is there own — that “everyone” celebrates Christmas.

Here are some open-ended ways to ask Jews you meet what, if anything they do at this time of year.  These would likely be welcomed by just about any Jew — from the most observant to the most secular;

1. I know you’re Jewish so I’m curious if Jews put up Christmas trees.
2. Did you have one growing up?
3. Do Jews get presents at Christmas, and if so, do they put them under that Jewish candelabra thingy…what’s it called?
4. Do Jews give presents to their children or to each other on Chanukah?
5. Why do Jews not celebrate Christmas?
6. Do you eat any of the holiday foods we eat at Christmas time, like ham?
7. Were you ever envious of everyone that *does* celebrate Christmas?
8. Do you ever feel really left out that you’re missing out on all the things we do at Christmas?
9. Do you have other holidays and special food to look forward to on those holidays
10. I’ve always wondered, is Chanukah sort of like a Jewish Christmas?

Final thoughts…

No, not “everyone” celebrates Christmas and even to some of those that do, it’s not always a religious holiday.

To many, it is about getting and decorating a tree, about giving presents to kids and blaming it on a fat guy in red underwear and drinking rich alcoholic drinks and eating foods that have no affiliation to any religious observance.

As correctly pointed out in the Facebook discussion,  the real St. Nicholas made a point of secret gift-giving.

To observant Christians, while their celebrations may have some of the above,  the main focus is on celebrating the birth of their Savior (whether or not they believe that occurred on December 25th, or not). It is an occasion with deep theological significance, as well as a time to gather with friends and family.

We understand the idea of a holiday being tied to the “commemoration” of an event, as this is very much a part of every one of the Biblical holidays, so whether December 25th is actually the date of the incarnation or not, we understand the importance of commemorating that the Messiah was at one point, a very real human baby. There are “Christmas carols” about “sweet baby Jesus” and the little baby “asleep in the manger”, but He did not remain a helpless baby — and someday, when His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, He will not be a helpless baby, but the ruling Messiah come to judge the world.

There is a day spoken of by Zechariah, the prophet — after the nations of the world come against Jerusalem, where the Scripture say;

“Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle.  On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east”

“On that day there will be no light; the sunlight and moonlight will diminish. It will be a day known only to Yahweh, without day or night, but there will be light at evening”

Zechariah 14:3-4, 6-7

Yes, He came as a baby, but He is returning as Messiah and King.

To you and yours, we wish you and wonderful and meaningful Christmas...

...and from our house to yours, Happy Chanukah!

The Last Day of the Great Feast

In a sense, Sukkot has two  ” last days” — Hoshanah Rabbah and Shiminei Atsaret. The “last day and greatest day of the Feast” (John 7:37) is Hashanah Rabbah (also translated ‘the last day of the Great Feast ‘, mentioned in John 7:37.

During the Temple service, it was customary to make one procession around the altar on each day of Sukkot, and seven on the seventh day”. The priests would carry palm or willow branches in their hands — two of the four  ‘species’ used to celebrate Sukkot, and contained in the “lulav”. The Temple ceremony was one of rejoicing and gratitude for a blessed and fruitful year.

Jesus and the “last day of the Great Feast”

Another ceremony, called the water libation ceremony also took place during Sukkot.

“On the last and greatest day of Feast [of Sukkot], Yeshua stood and cried out loudly ‘if any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scriptures has said, out of his belly will flow streams of living water. “

John 7:37-38

Just below, is an excellent article , written by Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz , about this ceremony .

” The Eighth Day”

The day after Hoshanah Rabbah is the so-called “8th day” of the 7-day Feast of Sukkot called Shiminei Atzaret.

After commemorating so many significant occasions, including Yom Teruah (referred to currently as Rosh Hashanah), the ten days of Awe followed by the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, then the seven day Feast of Tabernacles called Sukkot,  G-d asked for one more day as a sabbath.  There are no special activities – no shofar, no fasting, no sukkah, no lulav. Just one more today together – just Him and us.

Tonight at sundown (Sunday October 23, 2016)  until tomorrow at sundown, is this ‘last day’ of the great feast, which we take for- and with Him.


PHOTOS: Reenactment of Ancient Water Libation Ritual Revives Part of Temple Service

Biblical Pentecost and the Church’s Pentecost

Someone told us last night that today is Pentecost Sunday; “a time to remember when the Holy Spirit was given to us“.

My first reaction was “no, its only day 21, there’s another 29 days to Pentecost“!

We looked at each other blankly.

You see, the date the Church celebrates as Pentecost is not the anniversary of the date that it occurred in Scripture. The Church’s Pentecost is on a different date than Biblical Pentecost.

Based on God’s command to us in Leviticus 23, Jews actually count 50 days from Passover to arrive at the timing of Pentecost. The commencement of this 50-day period was marked in Temple times by the bringing of the Omer offering and ended on the 50th day with the festival of Shavuot, as described in the Book of Leviticus:

“And you shall count from the morrow of the Sabbath from the day you bring the Omer [sheaf] of waving; seven complete Sabbaths shall you count… until the morrow of the seventh Sabbath shall you count fifty days… and you shall proclaim on this very day, it shall be a holy convocation for you.”

Leviticus 23:15-16,21

During the Second Temple period there was a well-known debate between the three different Jewish factions (Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes) about the meaning of the Hebrew phrase “morrow of the Sabbath” . All three groups agreed that the “morrow of the Sabbath” was associated with the Passover / Feast of Unleavened Bread, but the different interpretations resulted in it being observed on different days by each of the sects.  The highly contested issue was “which Sabbath” do we start counting from? 

The Sadducees who made up the Temple Priesthood, believed the 50-day count to Pentecost began on the weekly Sabbath that falls during the seven-days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. According to their reckoning, the counting could begin anywhere from the 15th to the 21st day of the first month of Nisan — depending on what day of the week the Feast of Unleavened Bread began.Taking a plain reading of the text as the Sadducees used to [and as the Karaite Jews still do today], count from the day after the Sabbath of Passover [a Sunday], which was the day that the wave offering was brought in Temple times (also called the Feast of Firstfruits), until the day after the seventh Sabbath.  Based on this way of determining the date, Pentecost (Shavuot) always fell on a Sunday.

The Pharisees (who wrote the Mishnah and the Talmud and from whom today’s Orthodox rabbis descended) argued that Pentecost is to be counted from the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is designated as a “Sabbath” (where no work is done). There is a problem with the Pharisees way of counting, however. The 1st day day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread could theoretically be called “Sabbath,” (which is what the Pharisees do) but the 49th day of the Pharisee’s way of counting is does not usually fall on the weekly (7th day) Sabbath. As a result, the Pharisee’s Shavuot was rarely the “morrow of the seventh Sabbath” as required by Leviticus 23:16. Only about once every seven years, did the Pharisee’s Shavuot fall on a Sunday, i.e. the “morrow of the seventh Sabbath”.

We know from Josephus that the Pharisees interpretation was the one that prevailed as he writes that “all prayers and sacred rites of divine worship are performed according to their [the Pharisees’] exposition” (Antiquities 18:15), and that the Sadducees “submit to the formulas of the Pharisees, since otherwise the masses would not tolerate them” (Antiquities 18:17).

[Note: as Messianic believers, we have reason to be able to say that the Saduccees had it right — because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday! More on that below]

Pentecost got its name because there are 7 “weeks of weeks” (7 x 7 = 49 days) from after the wave offering — so when one day is added to the 7 “weeks of weeks” it totals 50 days (49 + 1 = 50 days). Pentecost (50 = Pente). The name of this feast day in Hebrew is Shavuot, meaning “weeks”.

As you may recall from an earlier article,  the date that Passover fell each year wasn’t known until the “new moon” appears that month. Once the “new moon” was sighted, the date of Passover was set for 14 days later.

Biblically, and based on the sighting of the New Moon which occurred this year in Israel on April 9th, Passover fell 14 days later], and today is Day 22 of that “counting”.

Coincidentally, based on the fixed Jewish Calendar adopted by Rabbinic Jews in the 4th century — long after the destruction of the Second Temple and the scattering of Jews throughout the known world, today is also Day 22 of that “counting”.

Crucifixion of Jesus – the ‘same day’ as “the Last Supper”

We have often been asked how it is if Jesus was crucified on a Friday, how He rose from the dead “on the third day”, given that was a Sunday.  In the explanation of how Pentecost was determined the year Jesus died, the “3 days” will become clear.

The night of Jesus’ “Last Supper” (more accurately, Last Seder) with His disciples, the Feast of Passover fell on the evening of the fifth day of the week.

[Note: Sunday is the first day of the week (see Mark 16:9, Matthew 28:1), the Sabbath is the 7th day of the week]

Therefore, the evening of the fifth day was what non-Jews would have called Thursday night.

[Note: By the Jewish reckoning of days, Thursday night is the beginning of Friday, as days begins at sunset, the night before – based on Genesis “evening and morning were the first day”].

Biblically, by the Jewish reckoning of days, Jesus was crucified later the same day as He shared the Passover meal with His disciples. That is, after sundown on the fifth day (Thursday night), the sixth day (Friday) began.  By a Jewish reckoning of days, Jesus was crucified later on the 6th day, a “Friday” to Gentiles. This is what the Church has come to call “Good Friday“.

Now here is where it gets very interesting…

Jews started counting the days to Pentecost (Shavuot) from the day after the “Sabbath of Passover” — so the year Jesus went to the cross, the “Sabbath of Passover” was the Saturday between Jesus’ crucifixion and Resurrection. 

It was the day after that Sabbath — the “Sabbath of Passover” from which the Sadducees would have begun “counting of the Omer“.  Of course, the “morrow after the Sabbath [a Saturday] of Passover“, is a Sunday (as it is required to be according to Leviticus 23:16)

On the year that Jesus was crucified, it was that Sunday, that the “counting of the Omer” began. Jesus rose from the dead on the Sunday (“Resurrection Sunday”) – which was the “morrow after the Sabbath” of Passover — the day of the wave offering, which is called the “Feast of Firstfruits” and the Scriptures say that Messiah (Jesus) is the “first fruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:23).

Counting the 50 days of the Omer from the day that Jesus rose from the dead [a Sunday, following the Sabbath of Passover] brings us to another Sunday… Pentecost Sunday! 

The Holy Spirit fell on Shavuot (Pentecost), 7 weeks after the Sunday that Jesus rose from the dead!

The Church’s Pentecost

“Christian Pentecost” does not fall on the same date as “Biblical Pentecost”, which is why to the Church, Pentecost is tomorrow and by Biblical reckoning, it is 29 days from now.

As we developed at length in an earlier blog on Passover, and its celebration by the Early Church on the 14 day of Nisan (including Church Father, Polycarp), this was changed by the Church leaders of the First Ecumenical Council (4th century CE). At that time, they adopted the secular Roman solar calendar (Julian Calendar) and “fixed” the date of “Pascha” (forerunner to Easter) to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on, or after the vernal equinox (set as March 21st).  Therefore, Christian Pentecost falls 50 days after Pascha (or Easter).

Biblical Pentecost is tied to Passover based on a lunar calendar, and which falls 14 days after the sighting of the New Moon in the first month (called Aviv before the Babylonian captivity and Nisan, afterwards).

In the 4th century, the Church abandoned the date of Passover established by God in Scripture [which was based on the sighting of the New Moon on a lunar calendar (354 days)] – in favour of a fixed solar calendar of 365 days. Their reasons for doing so were much the same as the reasons for the Jew’s adoption of the ‘fixed’ Jewish Calendar— so that the dates of all the holidays were known in advance.  With a fixed solar calendar, Christians throughout the known world could celebrate the holidays, especially Pascha (Easter) on the same date.

Which Pentecost, then?

As Messianic believers, we continue to celebrate the Passover, and commemorate Messiah’s Last Seder with His disciples and going to the cross on the 14th of Nisan, as the early Church did and as the Church father Polycarp, did (as the Apostle John taught him, see earlier blog).

Since the timing of Pentecost is tied to Passover, Pentecost (Shavuot) for us, falls on the same date as it did in Scripture; 50 days after the “morrow of the Sabbath of Passover” — which is always a Sunday and which is the actual anniversary of the giving of the Holy Spirit.

That being said, we don’t for a moment think that the Church changing the dates of Passover and Pentecost has any importance to Gentile believers. The matter of Gentiles not being required to keep  the Law of Moses was resolved in Acts 15:5. Halacha (“the way to walk”) for Gentiles is simple;

“(1) abstain from things polluted by idols, (2) from sexual immorality, (3) from eating anything that has been strangled and (4) from blood”

Acts 15:20

We don’t believe that it is somehow ‘wrong’ for the Church to celebrate “Easter” on a date other than on the date of Passover, or for the Church’s Pentecost to be on a different date than the Biblical Pentecost.

We trust you will understand, that for us as Jews, we continue to do as we always have, and see no reason to adopt a different date.

Final Thoughts

We think that the important thing is what Paul said in Romans 14 — if the Church commemorates Pentecost tomorrow, then observe the day — for the honour of the Lord;

“One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord. Whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat it, yet he thanks God. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”

Romans 14:5-8

So, Happy Pentecost to our Christian brothers and sisters!

Meanwhile we’ll keep counting. . .until June 12th.

Sunday May 15, 2016:
Today is the 1st day of the 4th week of seven weeks. Today is the 22nd day of the counting of fifty days from the day of the waving of the Omer on the morrow after the Sabbath.
שבוע 415 מאי 2016:
הַיּוֹם יוֹם רִאשׁוֹן‏ לַשָּׁבוּעַ רְבִיעִי מִשִׁבְעָה שָׁבֻעוֹת. הַיּוֹם עֶשְׂרִים וּשְׁנַיִם יוֹם מִסְפִירַת חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם מֵהֲנָפַת הָעֹמֶר מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת.


Passover’s significance to the Church


God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people that were occasions that all the men were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth.

To understand the significance of any of the three pilgrim festivals to the Church, one first needs to understand the significance to the Jews, so we’ll cover that first.

This article is on Passover; the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant.

Last Supper vs Last Seder 709 x 803

Passover (Pesach) falls on the 14th day of the first month on the Biblical calendar and is the first day in the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nowadays the term “Passover” refers to both.

“The Passover to the Lord comes in the first month, at twilight on the fourteenth day of the month.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord is on the fifteenth day of the same month. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you are to hold a sacred assembly; you are not to do any daily work. You are to present a fire offering to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day there will be a sacred assembly; you must not do any daily work.”

Leviticus 23:5-8

While months in Scripture are numbered; first month, second month, etc. they also have names.

The names of the months that appear in the Old Testament are split between the names used before and after the exile of the Jews under the Babylonians.  As a result, in some passages, Passover is said to fall in the month of Aviv — in the parts of the Old Testament written before the Babylonian exile, and to fall in the month of Nisan in the parts of Scripture written after the exile. The first month is still called Nisan, today.

Passover is the commemoration of God bringing the Jews out of Egypt, our deliverance from slavery, God’s redemption of us, and His taking us as His people, as He said He would in Exodus 6;

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.”

Exodus 6: 6-7

I will bring“, “I will deliver“, “I will redeem“, “I will take”  from the verse above are referred to as “the four ‘I wills’” and play a central role in framing the commemoration of Passover, called a Seder (for “order”). These four “I wills” correspond to the 4 cups of wine that are poured during the Passover commemoration and have significance to the Church, as well as to the Jewish people. More on that below.

The Feast of Passover commemorates the night when the Angel of the LORD passed over the households in Egypt where the blood of a perfect lamb was applied to the doorposts and lintels of the house; sparing the first born son (Exodus 12:1-13; Leviticus 23:5).

The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates that the Jews left Egypt in such haste that they did not have time to let their bread rise and had to bake it quickly by grilling it, as opposed to baking it.

Passover is quite literally, the account of how God saved His people by the shedding of the blood of the perfect Passover lamb. Sound familiar?  It should.

The 4 cups of wine that are poured during the Seder, the commemoration meal of Passover and which correspond to the four “I wills” are called;

Cup of Sanctification
I will bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians

Cup of Judgment
I will deliver you out of their bondage

Cup of Redemption
I will redeem you with an outstretched arm

Cup of Praise
I will take you to me for a people

It is believed that it was the third cup, the Cup of Redemption that Jesus took with His disciples and with which He instituted the New Covenant.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the [1] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

[1] some manuscripts insert "new"

Matthew 26:25-28

Here is Luke’s account;

“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:20

If there is a “new” covenant there must necessarily be an “old” covenant.

Most Gentile Christians think of the “old covenant” as the “Law” given to Moses at Mount Sinai – but God says in Jeremiah 31:32 that the “old covenant” is the one that He made with our forefathers in the day that He took us by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt”.

The “New Covenant” – promised to the Jewish People

It may come as a surprise to learn that the New Covenant was promised by God beforehand to the Jewish people.

The “new covenant” that Jesus instituted at what the Church calls the “Last Supper” (more accurately called ‘the last Seder’) — was promised to the Jewish people in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31.

It is a Jewish covenant – one He said He would make with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (the Jews).

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

Jeremiah 31: 31- 33

Why did God need to make a “new” covenant?

Hebrews 8 explains why He needed to make a new covenant with us.  We broke the first covenant:

“if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one. But finding fault with His people, He says:

 Look, the days are coming, says the Lord,

when I will make a new covenant

with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah—

not like the covenant

that I made with their ancestors

on the day I took them by their hands

to lead them out of the land of Egypt.

I disregarded them, says the Lord,

because they did not continue in My covenant.

But this is the covenant

that I will make with the house of Israel

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put My laws into their minds

and write them on their hearts.

I will be their God,

and they will be My people.

And each person will not teach his fellow citizen

and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,”

because they will all know Me,

from the least to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing,

and I will never again remember their sins

By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear.”

Hebrews 8: 7-14

God needed to make a new covenant with us because we broke the “first covenant” (the one He ratified with Abraham and that He swore by Himself to uphold) and which He implemented when He led us out of Egypt to bring us into our own Land, which He promised to Abraham. He was a husband to us and we were unfaithful.

While the New Covenant is a Jewish covenant promised by God to the Jewish people in the Old Testament, it was also God’s  means to fulfill the promise He made to the Gentiles back in Genesis 12:3;

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those that curse you, and in you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.

In this passage, God speaks of His promise to Abraham (developed more in Genesis 17:1-8) that He will make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and given them a specific land . He then goes on to say something incredible — that through a descendant of Abraham’s “all the nations [Ha-Goyiim, in Hebrew, meaning “Gentiles”] on earth will be blessed”. 

This is referred to as “the all-nations clause of the Abrahamic Covenant”

Wow! God planned right from the beginning that the Messiah, a Jew — would be a blessing to the Gentiles.  On the cross, access to all — Jew and Gentile was provided.  The veil was torn.  Whosoever will, may come.

Jesus is the mediator of this new covenant (Hebrews 8:1-6).

The “Bread and the Cup”

Some people think that Jesus was implementing  a new ritual, a “Holy Sacrament”, an Ordinance, when He took the “bread and the cup”,  gave thanks, broke it and said “take eat all of you, for the forgiveness of sins“. Let’s look at this in its context…

Jesus was sitting at the Passover meal with His disciples.  As Jews, in accordance with the Law of Moses, they were keeping the memorial feast (Seder) to remember that night that the Angel of the Lord passed over the houses of the children of Israel when He saw the blood of a perfect lamb (“a lamb without blemish”] — painted on the doorposts and lintel of the Jews’ houses. When He saw the blood, He passed over — sparing the first born of the Jews.  It was in THIS context, that Jesus took the “bread and cup”.

It was not “any bread” that He took.

It was not “any cup“.

Taking, Giving Thanks and Breaking the Bread

In the account in Luke (Luke 22:14-20) it says:

He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Luke 22:19

Let’s break down the account of what Jesus did in

(1) taking the bread

(2) giving thanks and

(3) breaking it

The “Bread” Jesus Took

Have you ever seen what matzoh, unleavened bread looks like? It is hard, dry and very crumbly.

Here is a picture;

passover cup and echad

Matzoh is made of only flour and water and is baked very quickly over an open fire — because it symbolizes the the Jews had no time to let their bread rise (with yeast) when they fled Egypt. Holes are pierced into it in stripes to allow more even heat flow during the baking process and to keep it from puffing up while it is cooking.  The flames leave these little brown spots that look like bruises all over, because matzoh are grilled over an open fire.

Matzoh is pierced, striped and bruised — like the Messiah was prophesied to be in Isaiah 53:4-6.

This is the “bread” that Jesus took !

“Giving Thanks”

Scripture says that when Jesus took the (unleavened) bread from the Passover Seder, He “gave thanks“.

As a Jew, having a meal with His Disciples who were Jews, “giving thanks” meant something very specific.

There is the “blessing on bread” and the “blessing on wine” — bread and wine are two elements that are found at every feast meal, including the Sabbath (Shabbat) meal. The only difference is, at Passover, the “bread” is unleavened.  So matzoh is used.

These are specific blessings.

When Jesus took the “bread” and “gave thanks” He prayed the “blessing on bread” over the matzoh;

“Blessed are You, O LORD, God King of the Universe, who brings bread from the earth. Amen”.

“Breaking” the Bread

Remember, the “bread” Jesus took was hard and pierced with holes in stripes. “Breaking” the matzoh means it would ‘snap’ along one of the lines of pieced holes.

After He took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it, He gave it to them and said;

“This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

He was saying, this broken pierced, striped, bruised matzoh — is Me. He was saying that He was going to be ‘broken’ for them, that He is the One spoken of in Isaiah 53.

Then He said;

“Do this in remembrance of Me”.

Was He implementing a new ritual? A Holy Sacrament? An Ordinance of the Church?

Or was He taking elements that are found at the Passover meal — elements that already had a specific meaning and relating THAT to what He was about to do?

Like the perfect Passover lambs on the night the Jews left Egypt, He was about to be sacrificed — broken for us.

“The Cup”

It is believed that the cup that Jesus took was the 3rd cup — the Cup of Redemption, as it was a cup He took “as they were eating”.   As you will see below, the 4th cup was taken “after supper”.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:25-28

By way of background, it is important to know, is that the wine served at the Passover Seder meal must be red wine, because it is represents

“the blood of the lambs that was placed on the doorposts and lintels of the homes , the night we left Egypt — so that when the Angel of the Lord saw it, He would “pass over”.”

Jesus took an element fundamental to the Passover Seder meal — a cup of red wine that already had a very specific meaning and told His Disciples what He was about to do;

“When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.  Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

Luke 22:14-18

He took the cup and after “giving thanks”…  i.e. He said the “blessing on wine”:

“Blessed are You O LORD, God, King of the Universe, who brings forth the fruit of the vine. Amen”

Since He said the “blessing on the cup”, he would have taken a sip of it. Then He passed the cup around for everyone to take a sip, which is what is done after “Kiddish”, the “blessing on the wine” is said.  He would have passed the cup to the eldest male there, who would have taken a sip and then passed it to the next eldest.

Then He said:

“I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

He knew what lay ahead and that on THIS Passover, He was the Lamb that was about to be sacrificed — so that they (we) could be spared the penalty of death.

Then Jesus said He would not drink of the fruit of the vine (i.e. would not drink the 4th cup of wine of the Passover Seder meal) until He drinks it with us in the Kingdom of God (cr Matt 26:29, Mark 14:25).

The Fourth Cup  — the Fourth “I will”

We know that this was the fourth cup, because it says in Luke 22:20 that it is the one that He took “after supper”. This cup represents the fourth “I will” – “I will take you to me for a people”.

Of this cup, Jesus said;

In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said,“This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.” “

By saying this, Jesus was telling His Disciples that THIS Passover it would be His blood that was going to be the sacrifice and more than that, He was saying that His blood would be the sacrifice that would ratify the New Covenant — the covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31.


The “first covenant” was the one that was ratified with Abraham — the SAME Covenant with the “all-nations clause” in it.

This was the Covenant that was ratified when God alone passed through the split carcasses. This meant that if that Covenant was broken by the Jews, only God would have to pay the penalty for it having been broken.

Referring back to Hebrews 8:7-14, a “new covenant” was needed because we (the Jews) broke the “first covenant”.

Jesus was saying when He took the 3rd cup — the Cup of Redemption, that just as God swore by Himself to do when He passed through the cut carcasses alone, He was going to “pay the required price” for us breaking the first covenant. He was going to redeem us — buy us back.

In just a few hours, He would do, just that.

While the New Covenant was promised to the Jews and He would be the sacrifice that would soon ratify it — God planned from the beginning, that ‘all the nations — the Gentiles, would be blessed through this descendant of Abraham‘…the Jewish Messiah. In this new covenant — both Jew and Gentile would be full and equal partakers of.

When Jesus took this cup, He was comparing His blood to those of the lambs’ that were put on the doorposts and lintels of the houses the night we left Egypt — to spare us from death.

The reason that Jesus won’t drink the 4th cup yet — is because He is still gathering His people — both Jews and Gentiles to Himself.

Paul speaks of this in Romans 11:25-17;

“I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,

he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

“and this will be my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

As regards the gospel, they [the Jews] are enemies of God for your (the Gentile’s) sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Romans 11:25-27

[for an in-depth explanation of this passage, p]

Paul also speaks of His future redemption of the Jews in Romans 11:11-15;

“So I ask, did they [the Jews] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their [the Jews] trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

Now if their [the Jews] trespass means riches for the world, and if their [the Jews] failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their [the Jews] full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. In as much then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

For if their [the Jew’s] rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Jesus is coming back for His Bride, comprised of both Jews and Gentiles and at that time He will again drink the fruit of the vine, the Cup of Praise, in the fulfillment of the fourth “I Will” – “I will take you to me for a people”.


INTRO – Passover, Pentecost and Booths – significance to the Church


God set apart 3 specific times of commemoration for the Jewish people that were occasions that all the men were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These 3 days also coincide to significant days to the Church — namely (1) the day of the “Last Supper” of Jesus and His disciples, where He instituted the New Covenant, (2) the day the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and (3) the date that many Biblical scholars believe to be the date of Jesus’ birth.

Jewish ‘holidays’ are not simply nice traditions that we celebrate as part of our cultural identity — but dates of commemoration set by God Himself for a specific purpose. Of the holidays set apart by Him as His “appointed times” — three were occasions that all the men were required to appear before Him in Jerusalem.  These are often called the “pilgrim festivals”. These three are of significance to the Jewish people of course, but also have a great deal of importance to the Church.

Before getting into what these three occasions are and what they signify to both to the Jews and the Church, we need to provide some background on the calendar, itself. The Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles (not solar cycles, like the Western calendar); specifically, on the timing of the “new moon“.

new moon over Jerusalem April 9 2016
new moon over Jerusalem April 9 2016 7:16 PM – courtesy of Nehemiah Gordon

At the beginning of the moon’s cycle, it appears as a thin crescent shape. This is the “new moon” and signals the beginning of a new Jewish month. The first day of the month is called Rosh Chodesh (gutteral “ch” sound) — the “Head of the Month”.  During the remainder of the lunar cycle, the moon grows until it is a “full moon” (of no special significance in Judaism) in the middle of the month, and then it begins to wane, until it cannot be seen at all. It remains invisible for approximately two days until the “new moon” reappears, and the cycle begins again. The entire cycle takes approximately 29½ days and since a month needs to consist of complete days, some months are twenty-nine days and some thirty days. Knowing exactly when the month begins is very important to the Jewish people, as God set the dates of Jewish observances according to the phases of the month.

Before God delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt, God told Moses and Aaron that this month shall be to you the “beginning of months” — that “it shall be the head of months” for you.

“And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: ‘This “chodesh” (new moon) shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the head of months (first of the months) for you.'”

Exodus 12:1-2

God tells Moses that the year will begin on that month — for the purpose of counting months…but not for the purpose of counting years. “New Years” is a different time, see below.

The “first month” referred to above is the first month of the Biblical Calendar. 

Months in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar are numbered, with the first month being the one with the commemoration of God’s delivery of the Jews from bondage (Passover). This month is called Nisan by Jews today, and used to be called “Aviv” before the Babylonian exile. It is the start of the Biblical Calendar.

Years are counted from Rosh Hashanah — the Civil New Year, which occurs in the seventh month of the Biblical calendar and which according to Rabbinic tradition commemorates when Adam and Eve were created.  Rosh Hashanah is the “head of the year” — in contrast to the first month which is the “head of months“.

Rosh Hashanah is what Jews celebrate as “New Years” and is set out in Scripture in Exodus 34 where it is referred to as “the turn of the year“;

“Observe the feast of Pentecost with the first-gathered produce of the wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the turn of the year.”

Exodus 34:22

The feast “at the turn of the year” is after Pentecost, and is the “feast of Ingathering” — also called Feast of Booths (Sukkot) or Feast of Tabernacles and is one of the three pilgrim festivals. The other two are Passover (Pesach) and Pentecost (Shavuot) and coincide with very important dates to the Church, as well as to the Jews.

It is important to keep in mind that it is the sighting of the “new moon” that signals the beginning of a new Jewish month (Rosh Chodesh) and the sighting of the “new moon” on the first month which begins a new calendar of months. The timing of Passover is set as being on the 14th day of this month. 

There are several challenges to setting the beginning of any new month relative to the timing of the “new moon”.  Firstly — what if it isn’t visible?  What if it is overcast? It does happen in Israel; what then?

Multiply those challenges with the need to confirm the sighting of the “new moon” before a new year can begin – by which the date of Passover is set. Remember, Passover is one of the three times a year all the men of Israel had to go to Jerusalem. There was no way to know when Passover would be — until the sighting of the “new moon” occurred, and then all the men and their families had 14 days to get packed and to arrive in Jerusalem.  Quite the “road trip”!

To put this in context, that means that none of the disciples knew in advance when the “Last Supper” would take place until 14 days earlier, when the “new moon” was sighted.

The Pilgrim Festivals

None of the Jewish ‘holidays’, including the pilgrim festivals of Feast of Booths (Sukkot), Passover (Pesach) and Pentecost (Shavuot) are “holidays” in the same way commonly thought of by non-Jews. These are times of commemoration that God Himself set apart in Leviticus 23, along with Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Firstfuits (which we touch on below) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  He calls these “My designated (or “appointed” times)”

“Tell the people of Israel: ‘The designated times of the LORD which you are to proclaim as holy convocations are My designated times.’ “

Leviticus 23:2



Holiday Observance – from a Jewish perspective

Christmas is one of those occasions where us being Jewish comes into play in how we understand and relate to events around us. While we do ‘celebrate’ occasions such as weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, Brit Milahs etc., holidays are more a time of observance than a time of celebration.  Of course, round the observance is great food and family gatherings, but how and when we observe is not something left up to us — but set out by God in Scripture.

The Jewish Concept of Observance

God was quite specific as to when and where and how to the Jewish people were to worship Him.  Days of commemoration and how those days are to be observed were appointed by God, rather than chosen by us. Feast days and holy days are times of observance where we remember what God has done for our forefathers.

Observance – remembering God

As you can see, we have lots of holy days and feasts — in addition to the weekly holiday of Shabbat (the Sabbath) and all of them except for Chanukah are established by God as to how they are to be observed and when.

This may come as a huge surprise, but the commemoration of these observances was not restricted by God to Jews!

Under the Law, God set out how the “foreigner among us” (Gentiles) were to be treated — that when we commemorated feasts and festivals, that the “foreigner amongst us” was to partake with us — as equals!  When we celebrated Sukkot (Feast of Booths / Tabernacles), so did the Gentiles who lived amongst us (Deut. 16:4)’

“and you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your towns.

Deut. 16:14

On the Sabbath, the Gentiles who lived amongst us were also to rest, as we did (Deut 5:14). There was no such thing as the “Sabbath Goy” (Gentile) who could do work on the Sabbath while the Jew did not.

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. ‘You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day”

Deuteronomy 5:13-15

When we commemorated Passover, the Gentiles who lived amongst us were not to be excluded — Numbers 9:14 says that there is “one statute, both for the alien and for the native of the land” and ‘if an alien sojourns among us, he is to observe the Passover to the LORD the same as we do‘.

[In exception to other commemorations, to celebrate the Passover, Exodus 12:48 specifies that the Gentile must first be circumcised but Exodus 12: 49 reinforces that “the same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you“.]

Contrary to what many think, Gentiles who lived amongst Jews were to be considered no different than native born Jews! 

‘When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. ‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity.”

Leviticus 19:34

Doing and Not Doing – Positive and Negative Commandments

God not only defined how we were to worship and when we were to worship — but also how we were NOT to worship!

God instructed us not to worship foreign gods or bow down to them, or course — but more than that, He told us not to imitate the practices of the nations around us in how we worship;

“You must not bow down to their gods or worship them. Do not imitate their practices. Instead, demolish them and smash their sacred pillars to pieces”

Exodus 23:24

Furthermore, God specifically instructed us that we are not to worship Him — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the manner that the nations around us worship their gods (Deut. 12:4) but were to seek Him the way He said;

You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God. “But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come..”

Deuteronomy 12:4

Gentiles,  living amongst Jews under the Law were to be treated no differently than the native born Jew and were to participate with us as equals in the observance of the feasts.

For Gentiles under the New Covenant, the Jerusalem Council determined that as Christians were not required to keep any of the feast-days.  Acts 15 makes it clear that Gentiles that came to faith in Jesus did not need to be circumcised, observe the Sabbath, keep the dietary laws or any of the other commands of the Law except for abstaining (1)  from things polluted by idols (2) from sexual immorality (3) not eating anything that has been strangled and (4) and “from blood” (Acts 15:20).

There are no specific ‘feast days’ or ‘holy days’ for Gentile Christians outlined in Scripture – except the observance of His death for both Jewish believer and Gentile Christian which Jesus Himself, instituted (more on that below).

As Gentile Christians, you can observe (or not) any day you wish as you feel is appropriate.  As Jews, we are called to remember the specific days that God established “throughout our generations”. This does not merit us anything — it does not “save us” — but it honours God as God and honours Him in what He did for our forefathers.  And so we observe…

This brings up something that would be good for us to mention here. When Gentile Christians tell Jewish believers that under the New Covenant they no longer should acknowledge the days of remembrance as proscribed by God, as well-meaning as it is, it’s actually asking us not to acknowledge something He has done for us, and limits the glory due His Name.

Not remembering God and what He has done is as significant as remembering Him.

In Jeremiah 18, God said through the prophet that not only had the Jews gone after foreign gods and engaged in the practices of the nations around them, but they had forgotten Him;

“Yet My people have forgotten Me. l
They burn incense to false idols
that make them stumble in their ways m
on the ancient roads
and walk on new paths, not the highway.”

Jeremiah 18:15

Not doing is as important to God, as doing.

Positive commandments (to ‘do’) go hand in hand with negative commandments (to ‘not do’).

He has called us as Jews to ‘do things so that we remember’… piling up stones in a river, commemorating feast days, resting on the Sabbath. 

It may come as a surprise to you, but God calling us to “do this in remembrance of Me” is not something that started in the New Testament; it continued from the older covenant, which leads us to our next point.

New Covenant Observance

The one observance that Jesus required of all of us (Jewish believers and Gentile Christians) is to remember is His death;

“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

Luke 22:18-20

Jesus was referring to remembering His death during the commemoration at Passover — which explains the practice of Polycarp, an early Church Father (80-167 CE) that we mentioned in an earlier post.  Polycarp commemorated the Lord’s death on the Feast of Passover as he said the Apostle John had taught him to “and the other apostles with whom he had associated”  [Irenaeus, “Letter to Victor” (bishop of Rome), quoted in Eusebius (chapter 24), in Schaff, Church History]. For the first two centuries of the early Church, both Jewish believers and Gentile Christians in Jerusalem and Antioch, including Polycarp continued to commemorate the Lord’s death (the Paschal Supper) on the Jewish feast of Passover. The celebration of “Easter” on the first Sunday after Passover was instituted by the Church around the time of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, in 325 CE [Eusebius, “24”, in Schaff, Church History, book V, CCEL; cf].

However in the largely Gentile church of Corinth, Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 refers to the practice of “the Lord’s Supper” where the Christians would remember His death when they gathered.

” For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

1 Cor 11:23-26

The Difference between Observance and Celebrating

The difference between “celebrating” a holiday and “observing” it is significant.  The end-goal of celebrating is a time of enjoyment and festivity stemming whereas the end-goal of observance is remembering and commemoration. Of course, as Jews we enjoy gathering to observe the feast days as set out by God, but that is not our focus.  Our focus is  remembering the things God has done.

The difference between these two views is rooted in the fundamental difference between the cultural background of Jews and Gentiles in Jesus’s day. In Greco-Roman Hellenism, holidays are celebrated with revelry. In second-temple Judaism, feast days are commemorated with reverence. This does not necessarily change what is done — but how and why.

Relating Observing and Celebrating to Christmas

We were called to commemorate His death — both when we celebrate the Passover and when we remember it together, as we gather. We were never called to remember or commemorate the anniversary of His birth.

There is nothing in Scripture that indicates that “Jesus’s birthday” was celebrated at all – or even known commonly, outside of perhaps His family members — but certainly the anniversary of Jesus’ birthday was inconsequential for the disciples to celebrate because there is no mention of it in Scripture.

The Passover Lamb

Let us give you an analogy that we think will be helpful..

In the commemoration of the Passover, the Jews were required to choose a lamb from their flock, a perfect lamb, a male without blemish and set it aside until the 14th day of the month, at which time, it would become the Passover lamb .  The choosing of the lamb and the requirements of it are set out in Scripture (Ex. 12:3-7).  That is, when the lamb was to be chosen and when the lamb was to die, was established by God, but there is nothing about the day the lamb was to be born.  It was to be a certain age (“a year-old” male) but the precise day of its birth isn’t important.

Scripture says of Jesus that “He was chosen before the foundation of the world“(1 Peter 1: 20)  and the time of His death was according to the “the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23), but there is no mention of the date He was born.

Just as you could derive the approximate date or time period in which the Passover lamb was born by it being a year old and working backwards, the date is implicit rather than explicit.  Likewise, the date of Jesus’ birth is implicit, rather than explicit. In Matthew 2  (the famous so-called “nativity” passage) it says;

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king”

Matthew 2:1

The only fact that is mentioned is that it was during the reign of King Herod, not even the year, the day or even the season.

In contrast, when the Passover lamb was to die (14 day of Nisan), just as the Passover that Jesus was to die was explicit — and spoken of in great detail beforehand. In Matthew 26 it reads;

“Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”

Matthew 26:17

While the year is not specified, the season, holiday and exact day of the holiday is explicitly specified. Based on the amount and type of detail that is given in the Scriptural accounts,  when He died is important. When He was born is not.  There is no information about the date or timing of His birth, other than it occurred during the census of Herod.

Certainly scholars have taken the events of Herod’s census, when Elizabeth conceived John, when Zecharias served as High Priest and worked backwards to derive the date of Jesus’ birth (falling at the feast of Sukkot).  While interesting, it is still not significant for us to celebrate His “birthday”.

[for more on this, read]

December 25th as Christmas

Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.  It is not “His birthday”. December 25th is a day that was set aside by the Church based on the writings of Augustine of Hippo, who around 400 CE came upon a splinter Christian sect called the Donatists who kept a festival on December 25th to honour Jesus’ birth. Since the Donatists emerged during the persecution of the Church under the ruler Diocletian in 312 CE, Augustine thought that this group may have established that Jesus was born on that date.

We do know that the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast on December 25th celebrating the birth of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus ) in 274 CE – so perhaps the Donatists sought to reclaim this date to celebrate the birth of the Son. However it came about, it is not a Biblical festival.

There is nothing in Scripture indicating that we should celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ birth.  As Jews, the importance is that He came, in fulfillment of hundreds of Messianic prophecies, not what day it occurred on.

That does not mean that it is somehow “wrong” for you as Gentile Christians to pick a day to commemorate His birth.  You are free to do so!  But please understand, that for us as Jewish Believers the idea of picking a day and choosing a celebration is foreign to us.

Christmas and Sukkot

As mentioned earlier, our holy days and observance of them are established God.  Remembering the the great things He did our forefathers brings honour to His Name and continues to set us apart as a distinct people. We have no need to create a celebration around the anniversary of His birth or to put undue emphasis on the date that many scholars believe He was born .  At the same time, we have no objections to you celebrating His birth — by all means!

In addition, as Jews we feel it it is important that we continue not to worship God in a manner of the nations around us.

We have many days of commemoration, that we as Messianic Jews continue to observe.  We feel that if it were important to God for us to commemorate the anniversary of Jesus’ birth, He would have set that day apart in Scripture. In the absence of that, we are content not to create one — or even to observe the one we believe it occurred on in any grand manner, apart from how God instructed us to observe it.  We do find it amusing however, that the only feast that Gentiles will be required to celebrate in the age to come, is Sukkot.

Then all the survivors from the nations that came against Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to celebrate the Festival of Booths.     Should any of the families of the earth not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, rain will not fall on them. And if the people of Egypt will not go up and enter, then rain will not fall on them; this will be the plague the Lord inflicts on the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Booths.

Zechariah 14:16-19

Why Sukkot?

Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Booths) – is when many historians believe that the Son came and dwelt (tabernacled) amongst us (John 1:14). We won’t elaborate on that here, as we dealt with this at length in an earlier article.

2 Corinthians refers to our bodies as “earthly tents” or “tabernacles” (literally “sukkahs”). Jesus came and tabernacled amongst us — laying aside the privileges of His deity and came and

“…made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

He humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death –

even death on a cross!”

Philippians 2:6-8

Given the evidence that He was born at Sukkot – do you see how different commemorating His incarnation in association with Sukkot is from celebrating His birthday? It is not the celebration of the anniversary of His birth that we focus on — but the fact that He came!

It is God having come in the form of a man — taking on the same frail “tabernacle” (sukkah) as we have!  It is His coming, in fulfillment of hundreds of Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (Old Testament) that we commemorate.

Which brings us back to Christmas…

A Messianic Jewish perception of Christmas

“Christmas” is one of those times that is awkward for us, as Messianic believers.  We don’t celebrate December 25th as “Jesus’ birthday” because it wasn’t – and while we remember His incarnation during Sukkot, no special celebration needed.

Please also understand that God did not want us as Jews to worship Him in the ways that the nations around us worshipped, so we are not endeared to Christmas trees or mistletoe.

As mentioned above, we have absolutely no issue with you as Gentile Christians having these in your celebrations because there is no requirement on you to worship God in a specific way — or not to worship Him in a specific way. Please understand that it is important for us to continue to bring honour to His Name in the manner He gave us.

We understand many Christians make Christmas “all about Jesus’s birthday” and forgo anything to do with Santa Claus — but for us, the whole idea of creating a holiday to celebrate something is foreign.

Christmas trees, Advent candles and sweet songs about the ‘sweet baby Jesus’ being born in a stable with light beams radiating from His face and cattle mooing is detached from Jesus coming in fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.  In fact, we relate more to the Scripture verses read during “Advent” then we do the celebration of Christmas, itself.

We have been puzzled why the only time we every hear about Jesus being “King of Israel” is at Christmas and Him being “King of the Jews”, is at “Easter”.  It seems these are overlooked the remainder of the year.

Advent and Easter Egg Hunts

We thought you might find it interesting to view Advent and Easter-egg hunts from a Messianic perspective.

The Church tradition of counting the 5 Sundays before Christmas as Advent is a little amusing to us. It is somewhat reminiscent of the “counting of the omer” that occurs between Passover and Pentecost. We don’t mind if you want to ‘count’ something, that’s fine with us and you are certainly free to do so, but we hope you can understand that by starting to sing Christmas carols and light “Advent” candles 5 weeks in advance of the date, extends the period by which we as Jewish believers feel out of place.

Like Advent is to the “counting the omer” so “Easter egg hunts” seem like a pale reflection of the Jewish custom of searching for the Affikomen.  You see, at Passover, children under the age of 13 years old search for the Affikomen (the broken piece of the middle matzoh at Passover, that is wrapped in a white linen cloth, ‘buried’, searched for by the children present and once found, redeemed). We understand it is fun and all for kids to participate in and makes the “celebration” of “Easter” festive, but we hope you will also understand if we continue to commemorate His death in association with the Passover.

“One Day Above Another / Each Day the Same”

In the book of Romans, after Paul established that God has allowed a “partial hardening” to come to our people “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Romans 9:23) and has not rejected Israel (Romans 11) — both covered in earlier articles, he talks about the different ways in which believers approach ‘special days’, in Romans, Chapter 14.

“One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord”

Romans 14: 5-6

As Paul exhorts earlier in that same chapter, we don’t “look down on” Gentile Christians for celebrating Christmas. We are totally fine with this being a day where you celebrate the birth of Jesus in however manner you feel is appropriate to do so.

We hope as family, you won’t mind that we don’t.



Different Sects of Jews – from Pharisees, Sadducees to sects of today


In the New Testament, we hear a lot about two of the different sects of Jews, namely Pharisees and Sadducees but except for remembering that one believed in the resurrection and one didn’t, many people know little about these sects. Who were they and what did they believe? What about the Pharisees beliefs elicited such strong words from Jesus ?  What happened to these groups? This note will be about that, as well as how these sects relate to sects we see in Judaism today.

SADDUCEES – (Tzadokim, plural Hebrew – meaning ‘descendant of Zakok’) were the party of high priests, aristocratic families and merchants; the wealthier people of the population and flourished for about two centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

During the Persian period, the Temple became more than the center of worship after its reconstruction in 516 BCE; it also served as the center of society. As a result, the priests, who were Sadducees held important positions as official leaders outside of the Temple. During the Hellenistic period, the influence of democracy shifted the focus of Judaism away from the Temple and in the 3rd century BCE, the scribal class, known as PHARISEES began to emerge (see below).

Not much is known with certainty of the Sadducees’ origin and early history, but their name may be derived from that of Zadok, who was high priest in the time of King David and King Solomon. Ezekiel later selected this family as worthy of being entrusted with control of the Temple and Zadokites formed the Temple hierarchy until the 2nd century BCE. The Sadducees found merit and claimed authority based on birth into this high social class and in their economic position (whereas the Pharisees found merit and authority in their piety and learning) and made up the Temple priesthood.

The Sadducees held only to the Law as recorded in Written Torah i.e. the first five books of the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament) – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Because of their strict adherence to the Written Law, the Sadducees acted severely in cases involving the death penalty and they interpreted literally the Mosaic principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. The Sadducees refused to accept any precept as binding unless it was based directly on the Written Torah. (The Pharisees belief system was very different, as you’ll see below. )

The Sadducees did not believe in immortality of the soul, bodily resurrection after death or the existence of angels or demons.

Though the Sadducees were conservative in religious matters they were staunch defenders of the status quo. Their wealth and social position based on birth as well as their willingness to compromise with the Roman rulers resulted in them being greatly disliked by the common people.

The Sadducees are believed to have died out sometime after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, as without a Temple and it’s rites, there is no need for priests. It has been speculated that the later KARAITES (see below) may have stemmed from the Sadducees.

THE PHARISEES – The Pharisees (Perushim, plural Hebrew – meaning ‘separated’) emerged as a distinct group shortly after the Maccabean revolt and are thought to be a branch from the Hasideans, a religious party during the time of the Maccabean wars. The Pharisees were the ruling religious party during the latter part of the Second Temple period (515 BCE–70 CE) and were predominantly laymen and scribes.

Very different from what the High Priests, the SADDUCEES believed, the Pharisees believed that the Law (Torah) that God gave Moses consisted of two parts; the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.

Written Torah (called “Torah Shebichtav”) were the first five books of the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament); including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Oral Torah (also called “Torah Sheba’al Peh”) were the explanations of the Written Law that were believed to have been given by God to Moses during the 40 days and nights he was on Mount Sinai and that are said to have been passed down orally in an unbroken chain from Moses to Joshua and in an unbroken chain generation to generation from there.

In addition to the Written Torah and Oral Torah, the Pharisees held to the principle of evolution in the Law and believed that men must use their reason in interpreting the Torah and applying it to contemporary problems. They interpreted Written Torah according to what they believed the text suggested or implied and when they felt a law was no longer appropriately interpreted because circumstances had changed, they reinterpreted its meaning, seeking scriptural support for their actions through a system of hermeneutics. This progressive tendency of the Pharisees to interpret Torah continued to develop and continues right up until today in Judaism (see ORTHODOX JEWS, below).

Note: When Jesus was challenging the Pharisees and their practices, it was sometimes their hypocrisy in saying one thing and doing another that He was addressing or that what they were teaching focused on the what others saw (the outward man) and not what God concerned Himself with (the inward man).  At other times it was their “traditions of men” that He was addressing — where their interpretations were elevated to the same status as Written Torah .

[addendum – July 7, 2015: The Scribes and Pharisees were tasked with the responsibility to “sit on Moses’ seat” (Matt 23:2) which was generally understood to mean that they had the authority to teach Moses.  According to Jesus in Matthew, the religious leaders taught the commandments of men which make void the commandments of God (15:6) and these teachings are plants which will be uprooted (15:13) since they were not planted by God, but by an enemy (13:37-39). The issue, it seems was an emphasis on human ordinances which affected the outer man while leaving the inner man untouched (23:25-28) and miss the deeper spiritual truths which Moses intended; i.e. they “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (23:24).  Jesus considered the teachings of these leaders to be leaven, which left unchallenged, would leaven the whole (16:11-12) lump.  He also said that the leaders erred because they “knew not the Scriptures” (22:29) and their traditions had led them away from the weightier matters of the Torah (23:23).]

The Pharisees were a society of scholars and enjoyed a large popular following right up to New Testament times.

About 100 BCE, the Pharisees tried to democratize the Jewish religion and remove it from the control of the Temple priests (Sadducees). They believed that God could and should be worshiped away from the Temple and outside Jerusalem and that worship of God was not to be found in the offering of sacrifices (which were the heart of the practice of the Temple priests; the Sadducees); but in prayer and in the study of God’s law. It was out of these beliefs that the synagogue was developed by the Pharisees, promoted and  given a central place in Jewish religious life.

After the destruction of the Second Temple and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, it was the synagogue and the Torah schools of the Pharisees that continued to function and to promote Judaism in the centuries following the Diaspora.

When the Mishnah (the first constituent part of the Talmud) was compiled about 200 CE, it incorporated the teachings of the Pharisees on Jewish law.

The Pharisees insistence on the binding force of “oral tradition” (a synonym for Oral Torah, or Oral Law) remains a basic tenet of Jewish theological thought as embodied by ORTHODOX JEWS right up to the present time (see below), as does the dynamic nature of Scriptural interpretation in the face of changing historical circumstances and devotion to education.


The Orthodox claim that their sect goes all the way back to when Moses received the commandments from God on Mount Sinai and the very nature of what it means to be Orthodox within Judaism is the insistence on the binding nature of both Written Torah and Oral Torah. To the Orthodox,

Written Torah (called “Torah Shebichtav”) are the first five books of the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament); including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Oral Torah (also called “Torah Sheba’al Peh”) were the oral explanations of Written Torah given by God to Moses during his 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai that were passed down orally in an unbroken chain from generation to generation until its contents were finally written down in the Talmud and Gemara as a means to preserve them following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. “Oral Torah” consists of Midrashim (plural of Midrash) and includes exegesis of Written Torah along with homiletic stories as taught by the Rabbinic sages of the post-Temple era and the Tosefta which is considered a supplement to the Midrash and is a compilation of the Jewish Oral Law from the late 2nd century period.

Orthodox Judaism is not a single movement or school of thought. There is no single rabbinical body to which all rabbis are expected to belong, or any one organization representing member congregations. In the United States for example, there are numerous Jewish Orthodox organizations, such as Agudath Israel, the Orthodox Union and the National Council of Young Israel; none of which can claim to represent a majority of all Orthodox congregations.

In the 20th century, a segment of the Orthodox population took a stricter approach with their rabbis viewing innovations and modifications within Jewish law and customs with extreme care and caution. Some observers and scholars refer to this form of Judaism as “Haredi Judaism“, or “Ultra-Orthodox Judaism” ;  embodied by the black cloaked and wide brimmed hat-wearing men of Hasidim (also called Hasidic Jews).

Contemporary Orthodox Jews believe that they adhere to the same basic philosophy and legal framework that has existed throughout Jewish history, whereas the other denominations depart from it. Orthodox Jews believe that Orthodox Judaism as it exists today, extends from the time of Moses, through the time of the Mishnah and Talmud until the present time, essentially intact and unchanged.


The grandfather of Reform Judaism was Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786).  Although Mendelssohn never publicly rejected Written Torah or Oral Torah’s divine origin, it is believed that his decision to reform Judaism stemmed from four out of six of his children becoming believers in Jesus.  Abraham Geiger (1810-1874), the most influential of Reform’s second generation proclaimed at the first Reform rabbinical conference in Germany that “the Talmud must go, the Bible, that collection of mostly so beautiful and exalted human books, as a divine work must also go”.

Reformed Judaism denies even Written Torah’s divine origin i.e. according to their beliefs, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are nothing more than human inventions. Nor do they believe in a personal messiah or in bodily resurrection; both of which are pillars of the Jewish oral tradition. Their prayer book did away with traditional prayers for a return to Zion, the rebuilding of the Temple and the Reform seminary, the Hebrew Union College did away with Jewish dietary laws.  Having already freed themselves from the observance of “kashrut” (kosher) in 1885 they denounced the Scriptures as “the work of men”, circumcision; the mark of the Jewish covenant as “a barbarous cruelty” and abolished the concept of matrilineal lineage established by the ORTHODOX JEWS.

Note: Orthodox Jews (based on the interpretations of the rabbis) deem a child to be Jewish by the blood of the mother (in contrast to written Torah which is patrilear i.e. descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Reformed Judaism decided that if either parent is Jewish, the child is Jewish.

Seeking to “emancipate themselves from Rabbinic legality”,  the denomination completely abandoned the practices outlined in the Shulchan Aruch (literally “set table”) also known by various Jewish communities as “the Code of Jewish Law“.  Not only were Reformed Jews no longer considered bound to any Jewish observance, Jewish observance was discouraged. Since marriages between Jews and those of other religions are readily performed by Reformed Rabbis without any need for the non-Jew to adhere to any Jewish practice, assimilation takes place without much notice or care.

According to surveys, most Reformed Rabbis consider themselves agnostic, atheist or secular humanist with a small percentage believing in a ‘supreme being’ but certainly not the God of the Scriptures.


Zacharias Frankel, whom many cite as the Conservative movement’s intellectual ancestor believed that rather than the leadership of a movement stipulating what practices should and shouldn’t be adhered to (as in the case of the REFORMED JEWS), the task at hand was to confirm the abandonment of those ideas and practices which the community had already set aside. The goal was to have transformation from practice to non-practice occur in such a way as to proceed in such a way as to be “unnoticed’, and “seem inconsequential to the average eye”.

Many preferred Frankel’s more subtle approach to the REFORMED JEWS accelerating leaps away from Jewish tradition and these “conservatives” branched off to form a new movement – Conservative Judaism.

In 1886, they founded the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) and an article printed in the new institution’s magazine declared that JTS would steer a course between “stupid Orthodoxy and insane Reform”.

Not that the Conservative Movement had any more affinity for the Law of Torah or Jewish customs, only the rate at which these foundations of Judaism were abandoned.

The Law of Moses (Torah) according to JTS Professor of Jewish Philosophy Neil Gillman “represents the canonical statement of our myth”.

As promised at the outset, observance of Jewish customs within Conservative Judaism was left to disappear at the “rate at which the community sets them aside”.


Reconstructionist Judaism is a modern American Jewish movement based on the ideas of Mordecai Kaplan (1881–1983). The movement views Judaism as a progressively evolving civilization and originated as a branch of Conservative Judaism. The movement developed from the late 1920s to 1940s, and it established a rabbinical college in 1968.

There is substantial theological diversity within the movement. Halakha, the collective body of Jewish laws, customs and traditions is not considered binding but is treated as a valuable cultural remnant that should be upheld unless there is reason for the contrary.

The movement emphasizes positive views toward modernism, and has an approach to Jewish custom which aims toward communal decision making through a process of education and distillation of values from traditional Jewish sources.


Karaite Judaism (from the Hebrew meaning “Readers of the Hebrew Scriptures”) – also called Karaism – is reported to have started in Baghdad circa 7th–9th centuries CE under the Abbasid Caliphate in what is present-day Iraq. Historians have argued over whether Karaites have a direct connection to the SADDUCEES dating back to the end of the Second Temple period (70 CE) or is a novel emergence of a sect with similar views.

Karaites have always maintained that while there are some similarities to the Sadducees, there are also differences, and that the ancestors of the Karaites were another group called Benei Sedeq during the Second Temple period.

Karaites were at one time a significant proportion of the Jewish population however estimates of the Karaite population are difficult to make because they believe on the basis of Genesis 32 that counting Jews is forbidden.  Some 30–50,000 Karaites are thought to reside in Israel, with smaller communities in Turkey, Europe and the United States. Another estimate holds that of the 50,000 world-wide, over 40,000 descend from those who made aliyah from Egypt and Iraq to Israel.

The Karaites are characterized by the recognition of the Tanakh alone (i.e. only the Old Testament) as its supreme legal authority in Halakha (Jewish religious law) and theology.

[Recall that Rabbinic / Orthodox Judaism considers the Oral Torah, as recorded in the Talmud and Gemara to be as authoritative as Written Torah, as outlined in the first five books of Moses].

Karaites maintain that all of the divine commandments handed down to Moses by God were recorded in the written Torah without additional Oral Law or explanation.  As a result, Karaite Jews do not accept as binding the written collections of the oral tradition in the Midrash or Talmud.

When interpreting the Tanakh, Karaites strive to adhere to the plain or most obvious meaning (“peshat”) of the text; this is not necessarily the literal meaning, but rather the meaning that would have been naturally understood by the ancient Israelites when the books of the Tanakh were first written.

[Rabbinic / Orthodox Judaism relies on the legal rulings of the Sanhedrin as they are codified in the Midrash, Talmud, and other sources to indicate the authentic meaning of the Torah.]

Karaite Judaism holds every interpretation of the Tanakh to the same scrutiny regardless of its source and as a result would consider arguments made in the Talmud or Midrash without exalting them above any other viewpoints.

Karaite Judaism teaches that it is the personal responsibility of every individual Jew to study the Torah, and ultimately decide for themselves its correct meaning.


Messianic Jews are Jews (physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) that believe Jesus (Yeshua , His Hebrew Name) is the Messiah of Israel of whom the Law and Prophets spoke. The Early Church (ekklesia) was comprised largely of Jews and it wasn’t until Jesus’ death and resurrection that Gentiles came into focus.

From the record in Acts and other historical evidence, it is believed that hundreds of thousands of Jews followed Jesus’ teachings (Acts 2:41, 2:47, 4:4, 6:7, 9:31, 21:20) and continued to live as “Jews that believed” – just as Jesus did during His life in keeping the Passover (John 2:13-22, John 5), Succoth / Feast of Tabernacles/Booths (John 7), Chanukah / Feast of Dedication (John 10) and the Sabbath where He was in synagogue “as was His custom” (Luke 4:16).

The Apostle Paul, went to the synagogue as well (Acts 13:13-15) and not just on isolated occasions. Like Jesus, Paul went to the synagogue “as was his custom” (Acts 17:2).

The early Jewish believers were no different.

Jewish believers along with Gentile believers in the Church at Jerusalem and Antioch, including Polycarp, a Church Father (80-167 CE) continued to celebrate the Passover on the 14th of Nisan and did so for the first two centuries, possibly until the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.  For more information on that see

The Nazarenes (as the early Jewish believers were also called) were seen as a Jewish sect by the Romans and fared no better than non-believing Jews during the siege of Jerusalem. With the destruction of the Temple, the Nazarenes fled Jerusalem in 70 CE, along with the other Jews.  With the Temple destroyed, the Jewish believers continued to be able to attend synagogue to hear the Law and the Prophets read, until changes in the synagogue liturgy made by Gamaliel II (grandson of the Gamaliel referred to in Acts 5) in 72-73 CE made it impossible for them to do so. These changes in liturgy were designed to expose what Gamaliel considered “minim” or heretics, including the Nazarenes (Jewish believers).  By adding a prayer to the Amidah (the central prayer of the liturgy) cursing the “mimin”, the Nazarenes could neither say the prayer nor respond ‘amen’ to it.  Forty years after Jesus’ death, the traditional synagogue was no longer open to Jewish believers. For more on this, see

Whether the Jewish believers formed their own synagogues at this time or stopped meeting on the Sabbath altogether is unknown although there may be archaeological evidence of a Messianic synagogue in Jerusalem from this period.

We do know from Scripture that the Jewish believers met together in homes (Acts 2:46) and it is thought that some began to meet on the first day of the week after Jesus’ resurrection.  While we often think of this as Sunday morning, in Jewish understanding the first day of the week begins Saturday after sunset. It is thought that the early believers may have gathered at the end of the Sabbath, on Saturday night for fellowship and breaking of bread.

The early Church consisted of two distinct but united corporate bodies; Jews and Gentiles but in time, as more and more Gentiles followed Jesus, the proportion of Gentiles in the Church far outweighed that of Jews. With the death of the original Jewish Apostles and proportionately less Jews in the Church, Jewish expression within the Church essentially disappeared from view until the resurgence of the modern Messianic Jewish movement in the 19th century.

In the early 1800s, some groups created congregations and societies of Jewish believers with some started by Jewish believers themselves, including the Anglican London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews started by Joseph Frey (1809) — which also published the first Yiddish New Testament, the Beni Abraham Association established by Frey in 1813 with a group of 41 Jewish believers who started meeting at Jews’ Chapel, London for prayers Friday night and Sunday morning and the London Hebrew Christian Alliance of Great Britain founded by Dr. Carl Schwartz in 1866. The establishment of Frey’s Beni Abraham Congregation in September 1813 at the rented “Jews’ Chapel” in Spitalfields is considered by some to be the birth of the semi-autonomous “Hebrew Christian” movement with the later Episcopal Jew’s Chapel Abrahamic Society being registered in 1835.

In Eastern Europe, Joseph Rabinowitz established a Hebrew Christian mission and congregation called “Israelites of the New Covenant” in Kishinev, Ukraine in 1884 and was supported by the well-known Jewish believer Franz Delitzsch, translator of the first modern Hebrew translation of the New Testament. In 1865, Rabinowitz created an order of worship for Sabbath morning service based on a mixture of Jewish and Christian elements.

In the United States, a congregation of Jewish believers was established in New York City in 1885 and in the 1890s, immigrant Jewish believers worshiped at the Methodist “Hope of Israel” mission on New York’s Lower East Side while retaining some Jewish rites and customs. The first use of the term Messianic Judaism occurred in 1895, with the 9th edition of the Hope of Israel’s magazine Our Hope carrying the subtitle “A Monthly Devoted to the Study of Prophecy and to Messianic Judaism”.

In 1894,  Jewish believer and Baptist minister Leopold Cohn founded the Brownsville Mission to the Jews in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York.  After several changes in name, structure and focus, the organization changed its name to Chosen People Ministries and continues to operate to this day around the world.

Missions to the Jews saw a period of growth between the 1920s and the 1960s during which time the term meshichim (literally “Messianics”) became popular to counter the negative connotations amongst Jews of the term notsrim (from “Nazarenes”, meaning “Christians”).

Messianic Judaism as a denomination took root in the 1960s and 70s with Jewish believers committed to maintaining their Jewish lifestyle within their belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Martin Chernoff, who was president of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America (HCAA) from 1971 to 1975, led the effort to change the name of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America (HCAA) to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) which was accomplished in June  of 1975.

The name change was more than semantics; it represented the desire of Jewish believers to live out their faith in the Messiah promised in the Law and the Prophets in a way consistent with the expression of the early Church.

From 2003 to 2007, the movement grew from 150 Messianic congregations in the United States to as many as 438 Messianic Congregations in the US and over 100 in Israel — with more worldwide. Most congregations affiliated with larger Messianic organizations or alliances. As of 2008 the movement was estimated to have between 6,000 and 15,000 members in Israel alone.

A 2013 survey by Pew Research Center determined that there are about 159,000 Messianic Jews in the United States with estimates of the number worldwide of 350,000.

[Note: It is important to note the Supreme Court of Israel rejects Jewish believer’s claims to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return on the basis that they assert that Messianic Judaism is a form of Christianity.]

Often seen as “too Jewish for the Church and too Christian for the Jews” Jewish believers continue to strive to find their place as Jews within the congregation of Israel’s multinational extension — the Church.

Messianic Jews – who we are and who we are not

[DISCLAIMER: to my Jewish friends who are not Messianic, to my Arab friends of Muslim and Christian background and to those of my friends who are atheists, this is not meant in anyway as an offence to you. This is really written for those that are Gentile Christians; to better understand what a Messianic Jew is and is not].

This is also not meant as a theological discussion as to who is or isn’t a Jew or one about who are the “children of Abraham” with respect to covenant promises.  If you are interested in that, please look at my earlier blog on this topic.

In light of yesterday’s article about the discipline of an IDF soldier for how he responded to a presentation by a Messianic Jew, this seems as good a time as any to clear up some confusion about Messianic Jews. While not by any means a homogeneous group, what I am about to describe pertains to most of the Messianic Jews I know, including myself and my family.

Firstly as Messianic Jews, we didn’t ‘convert’ to anything. We are Jews. We are, as the Jews in the first century were (like Paul, Matthew, Mark, etc) ‘Jews that believe’ that Jesus (Yeshua as many of us call Him) is the promised Messiah. We were born Jews, are Jews and will die as Jews. The term “Christian” is only used 3 times in the New Testament in reference to Gentiles who came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16).

When Jews believe in the Jewish Messiah we become part of the Kehillah (or congregation of believers) what the New Testament refers to as the the Church. Gentile believers who also believe that Jesus is the Messiah become grafted into salvation and are one (equal) with Jewish believers; and together form “one new man”; the unified Kehilah, the Church.

[Note: for a fuller understanding of this, I highly recommend DG Dunn’s book “New Perspective on Paul”]

It is this equality that Paul is speaking about when he says there is no Jew or Gentile; we are equal.  That is, Gentiles are not second class citizens in the Church (Dunn does a beautiful job explaining this).  Just as there is no difference between male and female (same passage!) there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in Messiah. Clearly there is a “difference” between male and female (“vive la difference”!) and likewise between Jewish believers / Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians; we are equal but distinct. Gentiles are ‘grafted in’ with respect to salvation; but don’t by virtue of this, suddenly inherit the promises made to physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Neither do they need to keep the Jewish ceremonial customs by virtue of belief in the Jewish Messiah. This was dealt with clearly in Scripture.  As well, Messianic Jews don’t become something other than Jews. They are ‘Jews that believe’; free to keep any part of their cultural heritage just as any other person and remain inheritors to the promises given to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; nothing to do with salvation — but the promise of an everlasting people and everlasting land.

When a woman marries and becomes part of a new household with her husband, she still has her inheritance in her birth family. Messianic Jews are one with Gentile Christians; equal yet distinct and don’t in any way forfeit their identity and inheritance as an everlasting people and having an everlasting physical land (see Genesis 17) under the Abrahamic Covenant. The nations of the world (Gentiles) are grafted in under the “all nations clause” of the Abrahamic Covenant (“in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed”) — actually the word in Hebrew for “nations” here is literally “gentiles” — ha goyim).

Jewish believers (Messianic Jews), as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remain inheritors of the Land under the Abrahamic Covenant the same as non-Messianic Jews; a land given to those descended from the offspring of Israel (Jacob) — a Covenant God swore by Himself to keep. The Jewish people will always be a people as long as their are stars in the sky and will always have a land (although have been exiled 3 times for our disobedience, as He said would happen — and were returned just as He promised in the Old Testament). This does NOT mean that Gentile Christians or Arabs or people of other faiths aren’t welcome. By no means! The Jewish people have always welcomed amongst them any person who desires to live with them in peace. That’s never changed. It is for this reason that the General in the news story below would not allow the Jewish IDF soldier who discriminated against the Messianic one, to remain in training to become an officer.

Messianic Jews are just that; Jews; Jews that are part of the everlasting people and part of those that have the land as an everlasting possession; indistinguishable in that respect from non-Messianic Jews. We are not better or less than our fellow non-Messianic Jews and not better or less than our Gentiles brother and sisters.

I do hope this helps clear up some confusion.

Mezuzah & kassam Gen 17 7-8