Number 39. Between Church and Synagogue: The Dilemma of Hebrew Christians and Messianic Jews
Menahem Benhayim


It is only within the past two centuries that Jews who embraced New Testament faith could - or would - begin to struggle to reaffirm the original New Testament view of a Jewish distinctive as valid within the Church. In apostolic times and briefly afterward the Jewish believer in Yeshua, while subject to sometimes fierce opposition within the mainstream Jewish community, could also still live within the Jewish community, as the New Testament and early Church history demonstrate.1

For the entire Medieval era, however, and until the period of Jewish Emancipation (roughly beginning 1790), both Church and Synagogue and Jewish and Gentile establishments collaborated to make it physically and socially impossible for Jewish believers to remain in any practical sense within the Jewish community, or to maintain ties with it.

By the 19th century the power of religious establishments was broken, or seriously weakened, by reformation, disestablishment and secular revolution. It was inevitable that sincere Yeshua-believing Jews and their Gentile friends would seek to restore the ancient truths concerning Jewish identity; namely, that it is bound up with a divine program of vital importance to the Church and to the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds. They asserted that the unity of all members of the Messianic body does not require Jewish believers in Yeshua to sacrifice their distinctiveness, but rather to be a vital Jewish remnant within the life of Israel and the Church.

"SO TOO, AT THIS PRESENT TIME, THERE IS A REMNANT CHOSEN BY GRACE..." (Romans 11:5)

It was on the basis of the "Elijah remnant" (vv.2-4) that the apostle had affirmed Jewish continuity within the Church and within Israel.

During the 19th century and after, these Gentile friends, predominantly from West Europe and North America, also foresaw the imminent restoration of Jewish national life and the return of Israel's exiles to the national homeland.2

Indeed, modern Jewish national restoration has been the womb for the development of various schemes for Jewish spiritual renewal, among them modern Hebrew Christianity and Messianic Judaism. This essay will deal with these last two developments, which in the writer's view are but the forerunners of the restored remnant which had existed in the days of the apostle Paul. Just as the national restoration of Israel has involved an amazing complex of religious and secular ideologies, as well as various practical endeavours and often violent cross-currents within the movement, the struggle for a New Covenant restoration has not been lacking in complexity and cross-currents.

The Great Divide

The great divide within it has been the relationship between its two major components: Jewish and Messianic (or Christian). In principle, there should be no division between the two. Certainly, the disciples of Yeshua and the apostles and writers of the New Testament (as distinct from their later interpreters) saw no contradiction between the two. They did not see themselves as "former Jews". The concept of "completed Jews" is a modern term, but it was inherent in their thinking.

"FOR THE HOPE OF ISRAEL AM I BOUND IN THIS CHAIN.” (Acts 28:20)

This was Paul's declaration to the Roman Jewish leadership he had invited to meet with him upon his arrival in Rome as a prisoner.

Some 19 centuries of Jewish and Christian history, however, now stand between the New Testament principle and Hebrew Christian renewal. Aside from a few daring attempts to create distinctly Jewish fellowships in the Diaspora and Israel, until recently the main impetus has been to try to transmit Western Evangelical currents into Jewish cultural and religious frameworks.3

During this period the secularization of Jewish life, with its tendency towards pluralism and an often tolerant indifference to religious issues, has impelled most Hebrew Christians to assimilate into Christian churches. Only a small minority have opted for a loose affiliation with interdenominational Hebrew Christian alliances and similar fellowships. The fact remains that today most Diaspora Hebrew Christians are as un-affiliated to existing Hebrew Christian framework as most secular Jews are unaffiliated to existing Jewish mainstream frameworks. There have been ongoing massive national and religious losses to the forces of assimilation in both frameworks.

Well-meaning Jewish and Gentile Christians may whitewash the problem by simplistic pronouncements that "Christianity is Jewish"4. They ignore the things which have happened in the life of both communities which have polarized them. The Jewish world of today, like its Christian counterpart, is more than a mere extension in time of the New Testament era with only minor cultural and technological changes!

It is true that Christianity was born within the Jewish people and within a stream of ancient Judaism. Even when it went out among Gentile proselytes, Godfearers and pagans, it affirmed its Jewish roots in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the contemporary first-century Judaism conveyed by its Jewish founders.

The watershed decision of the strongly Judaistic Jerusalem leadership, as recorded in the Book of Acts (chapter 15), freed Gentile Christians from the demand by the "circumcision party" for Gentile conversion to mainstream Judaism as a condition for admission to the new movement. Jacob (James) counselled: "WE SHOULD NOT TROUBLE THOSE OF THE GENTILES WHO TURN TO GOD." (Acts 15:19-21) With the consent of the council, a few restrictions were added to accommodate Jewish sensitivities.5

Significantly, the apostle noted that "MOSES HAS IN EVERY CITY THOSE WHO PREACH HIM, FOR HE IS READ EVERY SABBATH IN THE SYNAGOGUE." It is intimated that Jewish followers of Yeshua were hearing Moses read every Sabbath and were expected to continue to hear him, as indeed Paul and his companions repeatedly did.6

Meanwhile, Gentiles were finding ways of relating their Christian experience to very different situations and problems. Some of these are dealt with in the Pauline and other epistles, such as sexual and marital relations, congregational order, attendance at pagan feasts, philosophical controversy, idolatry, and other aspects of non-Jewish lifestyles.7

By the middle of the second century the Jewish believers had experienced with other Jews the consequences of two failed Zealot revolts against Rome, the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the monopolization of Judaism by the Pharasaic-rabbinic party, with its claim to be the sole heir of Mosaic Judaism. It was that Judaism which was to become the stream that would shape Jewish life and religion almost exclusively until the 19th century.

At the same time, the Church was making powerful inroads into Gentile societies throughout the ancient world, and especially within the framework of the Roman Empire. New forms of Christianity were developing, often violently antagonistic to mainstream Judaism, Nazarene Judeo-Christianity, and most things Jewish. Christianity was becoming as distant as possible from everything Jewish. The Marcionite heresy, the logical extreme of this tendency, attempted to sever all ties between the Church and its Jewish roots (including the Hebrew Scriptures and whatever reflected them in the New Testament), but was formally rejected. A back-door Marcionism, however, re-entered the Church, and still prevails in many Christian circles, whereby the Church as the "true Israel" appropriates to itself everything positive about Israel in the Scriptures, and nothing but condemnation is left for the Jews themselves, or total assimilation into the Gentile Church. Similarly, the monophysite heresy - that there is only one divine nature in Christ, and his humanity is of no consequence - was rejected by most of the Church. It too crept back into the Church, with the Jewish humanity of Yeshua all but submerged in theological dogmas in Orthodox, conservative Catholic and Evangelical circles. He often appears as merely God in disguise as a man, and the very human conflict in his mission is all but concealed from view.

While the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, both in its literary and physical aspects, is not easy to hold in balance, Hebrew Christians and many Messianic Jews often lean theologically to the traditional Christian tendency to emphasize Messiah's divinity at the expense of his humanity.

This tendency may be understandable in view of modernist attempt to conform Christian faith to modem secularism with its abhorrence of divinity. At the same time there is a collaboration with the longstanding Christian avoidance of confronting the earthly life and teachings of Yeshua, which are relevant not only for Jews but for all people.

Evangelical Movements and Jewish Life

It is often claimed that the Reformed Church, especially the Evangelical movement within it, has restored the Church to its New Testament purity. Without minimizing the significance of reformation and renewal in the post-medieval Church, including some of the unreformed churches, much remains in Christianity which is alien to New Covenant Judaism.

Evangelical Christianity, for good reason and bad, is not a uniformly positive factor for Jewish life, whether in a Hebrew Christian or a Messianic Jewish phase. First of all, it expresses the historical experiences, the culture, the theological emphases of non-Jewish peoples, mainly from Western Europe and North America.

Indeed, it was the above-mentioned Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and the inspired work of the Pauline party which paved the way for a truly diverse international Church freed from the narrow vision of the Judaizers who saw only the Jewish aspect of the prophesied end-time. It was therefore inevitable that non-Jewish Christians would experience their faith, and the struggle to express it, within a variety of contexts outside Jewish life and experience.

We can even see beyond the serious theological issues in the Great Schism between Eastern and Western churches, as well as in the 16th century Reformation dividing Protestant North Europe from Latinized South Europe, which were to a large extent an expression of diverse peoples seeking to experience their Christian faith in harmony with their ethnic cultures rather than being forced into alien Latin frameworks.

Ideally, a strong Jewish body within the Church would have continued to provide, like the Jerusalem Church described in Acts, the checks and balances out of the Jewish experience to help the newer Gentile churches avoid the pitfalls of paganism, and continue in good rapport with the mother Church. For it was out of their Jewish national and religious experience that the Jewish apostles and teachers of New Testament times disseminated a universal message. Their sources were found in the Hebrew Scriptures, contemporary Jewish ways of handling them, and a Jewish lifestyle which was an essential part of their being.

This ideal was not to be realized, and the Jewish Christian component within the Church and the Synagogue was eventually extinguished. By the time the Church became a truly international presence and force in the world, there was no Jerusalem Church, nor any other vital Jewish entity within it, to inform, exhort, warn, counteract pagan inroads, and no less important, to combat the blatant rejection of the apostle Paul's appeal to the Church "to provoke Israel to jealousy" (Romans 10:19; 11:11,14), and to avoid boasting against the Jewish people:

"GOD HAS NOT REJECTED HIS PEOPLE WHOM HE FOREKNEW... BOAST NOT AGAINST THE (JEWISH) BRANCHES...FOR THE GIFTS AND CALL OF GOD ARE IRREVOCABLE..." (ROMANS 11:1,17,29)

Unfortunately, there have also been bad reasons which have persisted within Evangelicalism to make it a negative factor in the struggle for Jewish spiritual restoration from a New Covenant perspective. Evangelicalism retains within it remnants of medieval negatives towards the Jewish people which date back to the early Church Fathers. They may not necessarily be derived from conscious antisemitism, but reflect ancient unbiblical theological attitudes towards the Jewish people and its place in the divine program.

In 1974, for example, at a major conference of committed Evangelicals in Lausanne, Switzerland a wide range of issues, including evangelism, civil liberties, and cultural respect, ignored any reference to Jews in its comprehensive "Lausanne Covenant". This, despite attempts by several participants to include a totally biblical paragraph respecting the special relationship between the Church and the Jews. In 1989 at Lausanne II in Manila, the conference again ignored an earlier call to include a reference to the Jewish people in its initial draft of a Manifesto, but finally yielded to a call for Jewish evangelism and a denunciation of two-covenant theology only.

Why Not Evangelical Protestant Jews?

As in the medieval era, Jews who enter the mainstream churches today must for the most part accommodate themselves to a basically non-Jewish experience of Christian faith. For assimilated Jews not deeply involved in Jewish life this may not be critical. We may think of the millions of Jews since the Emancipation, beginning in the late 18th century, who have entered into non-Jewish secular societies and accommodated themselves to world views completely alien to Jewish tradition, such as Marxism, liberal agnosticism, religiously indifferent nationalism.

Many modern Jews have created within these frameworks novel forms of Jewish identity with or without Jewish religious affiliation. Logically, there was no reason for Hebrew Christians to be denied their patch in this age of Jewish pluralism, and to create acceptable novel forms of Hebrew Christian Evangelical identity. Most traditional Jews have, after all, accepted the reality of secular and non-Orthodox Jews.

Logic, however, has not prevailed in the case of Jewish mainstream attitudes toward Hebrew Christians. In any case, could Hebrew Christians who believe that their Judaism or Jewishness is only completed in a spiritual experience focused on Yeshua be content with mutual tolerance usually based on religious indifference?

Modern Hebrew Christians have more often chosen either full assimilation into a Gentile church and eventual surrender of their Jewish identity or have become engaged in a stressful conflict in sharing their basically non-Jewish forms of Evangelical faith. Theoretically, the possibility has existed that, just as masses of Emancipated Jews developed new forms of unorthodox Jewish life, so masses of Evangelical Protestant Jews would succeed in creating a vital Evangelical Jewish life.

During nearly two centuries of Hebrew Christian endeavour, however, the signs have not been too encouraging that Hebrew or Jewish Christian communities and fellowships of a strong Evangelical nature have survived more than a few generations. A pioneer evangelist to the Jews, John Wilkinson, already noted this fact sadly in his late 19th century master work, "Israel My Glory", relating to the eschatology of the Jewish people.

It is too early to evaluate the results of Hebrew Christian Evangelical fellowships in Israel, which for the most part are coping with their first and early second generations and many infusions of new immigrants.

Is Messianic Judaism New Covenant Judaism?

In recent decades new forms of Yeshua-related faith have arisen. Loosely known as "Messianic Jewish" and "Messianic Judaism", they also cover a diverse spectrum of beliefs and practices. Admittedly, for many it is only a matter of semantic change, with conservative Evangelical Protestant experience and emphasis wrapped in a more Hebraic envelope. For these the Jewish distinctive is often no different from any other ethnic distinctive within the worldwide Evangelical movement.

This fact is often compensated for by an intense emphasis on eschatology and the Jewish place within, usually, a pre-millennial scheme. Modern Zionism and the State of Israel are important linch-pins within this framework. Some accommodation is made for Jewish cultural and religious practices -Passover observance, Seventh-day (or Friday evening) Sabbath worship, Hanuka celebrations, Jewish music and some traditional Hebrew prayers.

More recent radical forms of Messianic Jewish expression have sought to move beyond semantic and contextual changes. Some, recognizing the staying power of rabbinic Judaism, have tried to be reconciled with the Synagogue, or to create a synagogue form of Judaism with Yeshua, including as much of traditional Judaism as they felt they or their fellows could absorb. Reasoning that Yeshua and the apostles regularly visited the synagogue, they might ask: "Why cannot Messianic Jews do likewise; or even create their own synagogues?"

Like classical Hebrew Christians who too blithely ignore what has happened to make Christianity seem so un-Jewish, or even anti-Jewish, to mainstream Jews, these Messianic Jews tend to ignore what has happened to make traditional Judaism so un-Messianic and even anti-Messianic in the New Covenant sense. A Gentile Christian movement cannot become Jewish merely by declaration and some external re-adjustments. Neither can a Messianic movement re-enter the Synagogue and the mainstream Jewish community by ignoring those elements which are alien or hostile to New Covenant Judaism.

Is Recovery of New Covenant Judaism Possible?

What then are the factors that inhibit the recovery of New Covenant Judaism by means of adapting a Gentilized Christian movement? Why is there a need to seriously rethink the relationship of the Hebrew Christian and the Messianic Jew to both the Church and the Jewish community? Is anything developing which, by God's grace, may help sincere Yeshua-believing Jews relate to God's purpose for the Jewish people and the Church in an era of Jewish national renewal and change?

The first question is answered by history. The hardening of PART OF ISRAEL toward the new covenant, to which the apostle referred (Romans 11:25), with a small remnant remaining within Israel and the Church (11:1-5), became the TOTALITY OF ISRAEL. Once the rabbinic party represented all Israel in the Jewish struggle for survival, no dissident element could survive within Jewry.

While two centuries of Emancipation have made it possible for Hebrew Christians and Messianic Jews to re-form on the fringes of Jewish community life, it has not gained them acceptance. The fact that their faith has been shaped by non-Jewish Christian experiences has only reinforced Jewish anxieties for national and religious survival.

Even in a sovereign Jewish homeland, they are able to function because of modern concepts of pluralism and religious indifference, but are still refused recognition as a legitimate Jewish stream except by radical few. Thus, the decisions of Israel's High Court to reject the applications of Hebrew Christians, Messianic Jews, and Catholic Jews, for immigrant rights under the Law of Return have been widely accepted. The fact that a public opinion poll indicated a willingness by a large proportion of a sampling of about 1,000 Israeli Jews to accept such Jews as new immigrants does not prove that they would be recognized as legitimately Jewish, nor that a majority would stand up for their rights in a public campaign.

Why is there a need to rethink the relationship between Jews and Gentiles within the universal body of believers for those who do accept the Pauline teaching that "God has not cast off his people," and that "the gifts and call of God are irrevocable." (Rom.1 1:2.29)?

The Debt to the Gentiles

First of all, it must be repeatedly emphasised: All Hebrew Christians and Messianic Jews owe a tremendous debt to the Gentile church for their knowledge and experience of New Testament faith. If Paul reminded his Gentile brethren that "to begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God" (Rom.3:2), and "to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants...and the promises," (Rom. 9:4), surely a similar debt is owed to the Gentiles for the preservation of the oracles of the New Covenant. Whatever the extent of Jewish participation in the creation of these oracles, it was primarily Gentiles who preserved them, and in good ways and bad made them, and the earlier Hebrew oracles, known from one end of the earth to the other.

Having acknowledged this debt, and continuing to acknowledge it, it must also be recognized that certain ways of handling these oracles have created imbalances, referred to earlier, and contributed to the widening of the gap between Israel and the Church rather than "provoking Israel to jealousy" and narrowing the gap.

The post-Holocaust churches have been making significant efforts to remove classical antisemitic uses of Scripture. There still remain strong pockets of replacement theology in both the Evangelical and Reformed world, and indifference to scriptural teaching concerning the destiny of the Jewish people nationally and spintually.8

It may be granted that such positions are not always motivated by a vulgar antisemitism, and that vast numbers of secular Jews today have also abandoned belief in Israel's election, desiring rather to be, like their spiritual ancestors, "like all the nations." (1st Samuel 8:5; Ezekiel 20:32) There remain, however, a strong core of committed Jews who have not abandoned these basic biblical beliefs, even if maintaining them in unenlightened ways. Ultimately, it will be committed Jews who will constitute the New Covenant remnant; and if at present they are alienated from Gentile forms of Christianity, whether believers in the New Covenant or still hardened against it, no unbiblical obstacles should be placed in their path.

Free and Equal Jewish Membership

Aside from the issue of distinctive Jewish survival within the Church and within their own people, no more difficult issue remains for Jewish believers in Yeshua than the unity of all believers in the Messianic body. Jewish believers are often almost assaulted with tendentious use of Scripture, which sometimes seems motivated by the desire to uproot their Jewish identity totally.

Passages such as "IN CHRIST THERE IS NEITHER JEW NOR GREEK" (Gal.3:28), "FOR HE IS OUR PEACE WHO HAS MADE US BOTH ONE..." (Eph.2:14) are taken out of context, ignoring the fact of an apostolic battle to affirm FREE AND EQUAL GENTILE MEMBERSHIP in an originally Jewish movement still rooted in its Jewish milieu. The fact is ignored that contemporary Messianic Jews are now engaged in a struggle to affirm their FREE AND EQUAL JEWISH MEMBERSHIP in what has become an almost totally Gentile movement rooted in a non-Jewish milieu.

For those who believe that Jewish survival within the Church has no theological meaning, the difference of context is irrelevant. For those who believe otherwise, the struggle for a balance between Jewish particularism and Christian unity is no simpler than restoring the New Covenant Jewish distinctive within Israel and the Church. It calls for candor and good will on both sides of the unity.

There are unities which require dissolution of the separate components into one another, such as denominational mergers. The unity referred to in Ephesians, however, is analagous to the primal unity described in Genesis (2:24) where the man and the woman become one but retain their social and biological distinctives. The Church has suffered because of the lack of a vital Jewish distinctive, as it existed in apostolic times. The Messianic movement would also suffer if it lost touch with the existing non-Jewish distinctives prevalent in the Church. Both components must learn to relate critically and lovingly to one another.

Creed and Deed

I would also refer to several other areas in which Evangelicalism has impacted on Jewish believers to compromise the New Covenant spirit and inhibit the development of a genuine New Covenant Jewish movement. Jewish critics have often remarked how CREED rather than DEED is central to Christian faith. This is of course an oversimplification of the faith and works controversy already reflected and resolved in the epistles of Paul and James.

The obsession of ancient and medieval Hellenism with definitions and creeds has been carried over into modern evangelism, so that it often appears that a simple declaration affirming a theological statement about Yeshua is a guarantee of salvation for all eternity. Yet in the Gospels, Yeshua is constantly talking about the way of the kingdom of heaven ("malkhut shamayim"), which is a Hebrew term for the reign of God on earth, and the Church in Acts is referred to as "the Way", a term similar to "halakha" ("the Walk") in Judaism whose central focus is not necessarily life after death.

It is true that creeds and statements of faith developed to meet felt needs to summarize Christian faith; but to make them the major focus of evangelism and salvation is unbalanced scripturally and alien to the Jewish experience. It often reduces evangelism to a cheap form of grace.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua warned that "NOT EVERYONE WHO SAYS TO ME "LORD, LORD' WILL ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN." (Matt.7:21) And in the picture of the Last Judgment, he portrays many who will be surprised at the verdict: "INASMUCH AS YOU HAVE DONE IT (or NOT DONE IT) TO THE LEAST OF THESE MY BRETHREN, YOU HAVE DONE IT (or NOT DONE IT) UNTO ME." (Matt. 25:31-46)

Creed and Community

There is a kind of Jewish evangelism which only focuses on individual affirmation detached from community. Sometimes it offers an alternative community that is totally alien to the new believer's natural community. This is another aspect of Evangelicalism particularly threatening to the Jewish development of believers within the New Covenant.

This fact has been one of the strongest incentives for the formation of Messianic-Jewish congregations and fellowships. It has also been one of the encouraging aspects of the modern Messianic Jewish movement. It addresses, practically, a major concern of Jewish believers who see the importance of a viable community for the restoration of the biblical vision of a dynamic and visible Jewish remnant within the Church and as far as possible within the Jewish people.

Such a community must tackle the theological and practical issues of Jewish life in its New Covenant phase in the light of Jewish and Christian teaching and experience. One major issue is the relevance of the Torah. What is its significance in a New Covenant framework to the people to whom the Torah was committed? The apostolic teaching concerning salvation apart from the works of Torah remains crucial for Jew and Gentile alike. Nevertheless, it remained a major reference point for the New Covenant community, especially its Jewish component. In his last recorded encounter with a Jewish community, in Rome, Paul stated:

"BRETHREN....I HAVE DONE NOTHING AGAINST THE PEOPLE OR THE CUSTOMS OF OUR FATHERS..." (Acts 28:17)

Again and again he cited the Torah and other Hebrew Scriptures for confirmation of his teaching and for the walk of all believers.9 The Torah was not a moulting skin which, like the chrysalis of the caterpillar, was discarded in order for the butterfly to come forth.

The apostle, in his reference to the Messiah as the END of the Torah (Rom.10:4), used a word - "TELOS" - which may imply either finality or aim. A check of this use in other texts indicates that in his first letter to Timothy it clearly means "end" in the sense of "aim" Both James and Peter use the Greek word in a similar sense; and are now translated as "aim" or “purpose". Three out of four Hebrew translations of the text in Romans 10:4 use a word which conveys the thought perfectly - "takhlit" -whose root ("kaleh") is consummation in the sense of purpose or aim.10

In his remarks to the Roman-Jewish leadership, the apostle affirmed his loyalty to the "ethos" - usually translated "customs" - "of our fathers". Earlier he had proclaimed before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem: "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees." (Acts 23:6) We know that at that time the concept of the so-called Oral Law was still a subject of debate within Judaism (including divisions among the Pharisees about interpretation, as between the disciples of Hillel and Shammai), and those like the Sadducees and Essenes outside the framework of the Pharisees.

Yeshua himself was extremely critical of the Pharisees, although some would argue that this was directed. at the Shammai party.11 Despite his harsh criticism of the misuse of their authority, he affirmed it as divinely derived.

"THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES SIT ON MOSES' SEAT; THEREFORE PRACTISE AND OBSERVE WHATEVER THEY TELL YOU BUT NOT WHAT THEY DO; FOR THEY DO NOT PRACTISE WHAT THEY PREACH." (Matt.23:2-4)

Messianic Jews and Rabbinic Tradition

To what extent should this statement bind Messianic Jews to rabbinic tradition today? The parable concerning the vineyard let out to tenants who prove unfaithful to the terms of the lease comes to mind. Found in each of the synoptic Gospels, the parable concludes with the observation:

"WHEN THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND THE PHARISEES HEARD IT, THEY PERCEIVED THAT HEWAS SPEAKING OF THEM, BUT WHEN THEY TRIED TO ARREST HIM, THEY FEARED THE PEOPLE, BECAUSE THEY HELD HIM TO BE A PROPHET." (Mt.21 :33-46; Mk.1 2:1-12; Lk.20:9-1 9)

Replacement theology has concluded that the landlord who would turn over the vineyard to other tenants refers to the Gentile Church, with Israel dispossessed from its election. Yet all the Gospels state that the parable was directed against the religious establishment while the Jewish multitude acted as a defence for Yeshua against them.

It would be more logical to conclude that the Jewish followers of Yeshua were in view as the new tenants of the vineyard who would have the authority to act as the ones to be the spiritual heirs of the kingdom in replacing the chief priests and Pharisees.

This indeed was what occurred when the Church in Acts sat to choose a successor to Judas Iscariot among the Twelve (1:1:15-26), proclaimed Yeshua as "both Lord and Messiah" on Pentecost (2:1-41), gathered those who responded to the proclamation into an apostolic communal fellowship (2:42-47), challenged the Sanhedrin concerning their right to proclaim the good news (4:1-22; 5:17-32), settled the dispute over the distribution of welfare between the Greek-speaking and Hebrew-speaking Jews in the fellowship by the appointment of deacons (6:1-6), decided on the conditions of admission of Gentiles (15:1-21), and approved the ministry of the apostle Paul and its relationship to the ministry to Jews. (15:22-35; 21:17-26; also Gal. 2:7-10)

Can a Jewish Component With Authority Rise Again?

As noted earlier, this authority was eventually lost to the Jerusalem Church as indeed was the very existence of a Jewish component within the Church. Is there any likelihood that in this age of prophetic changes in the Church, in the Jewish people, and in the nations, an authoritative Jewish component can rise again within the Church? If only to deal with the peculiarly Jewish issues facing believers from among Jews and Gentiles, touching areas such as Jewish evangelism, the relation to Torah, rabbinic tradition, Christian tradition within a Jewish context, fellowship, eschatology, the need for an authoritative grappling with these issues is evident.

This is not to suggest that nothing has been done along these lines, but the impact of both Jewish and Gentile cross-currents within the Church and within the diversity of contemporary Jewish life impacting on believers makes it realistically unlikely that such an authoritative body could rise in the foreseeable future. Perhaps to borrow a rabbinic phrase it must wait until Elijah comes! Nevertheless, the need for serious prayer, thinking and discussion is manifest.

If this essay has done anything to stimulate prayer, thought and serious discussion, it will have been a worthwhile enterprise.

NOTES

1. Acts 2:14; 3:1; 4:1-4, 32-35; 5:12-16,33-42; 13:2-5,14-43; 16:19-21, etc.

2. Crombie, Kelvin; FOR THE LOVE OF ZION, Hodder & Stoughton, 1992. (Now Available at Jerusalem Book Shop, POB 14037, Jerusalem 91140.)

3. Joseph Rabinowitz, founder of "Israelites of the New Covenant" (1885 to 1899) in Tsarist Russia; S. B. Rohold, founder of First Hebrew Christian Synagogue (1913), Toronto, Canada; Rabbi Yehezkiel Lichtenstein & Haim Lucky in East Europe remained within the mainstream Orthodox synagogue despite opposition. John Mark Levy, an Episcopalian priest in the early 20th century, tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Hebrew Christian Alliance movement to adopt Jewish rites. (B.Z. Sobol, HEBREW CHRISTIANITY: THE THIRTEENTH TRIBE, 1970 (OUT OF PRINT).

4. Schaeffer, Edith; CHRISTIANITY IS JEWISH.

5. It is widely believed that these were part of the so-called Noahide Laws ordained for Gentiles to obtain salvation apart from Torah. (See Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, 56a.)

6. Compare Matthew 4:23; Luke 14:16-21; Acts 13:14-16; 17:1-4; 28:17

7. For example, 1 Cor 3:1-9; 5:1-5; 6:1-8; 8:1-13; Col 2:8; 3:5-8; Titus 1:5-14.

8. This is not to belittle the fact that large numbers of Evangelicals have, often out of eschatological beliefs, long been staunch supporters of Zionism and the State of Israel. (See Note 2 above)

9. Acts 22:12; 28:17,23; Rom 3:31; 7:12,14,16; 1 Cor 9:8-10.

10. 1 Tim 1:5; James 5:11; 1 Peter 1:9.

11. Falk,Harvey, JESUS THE PHARISEE, Paulist Press, Mahwah, N.J.

Menahem Benhayim is former Israel Secretary of the International Hebrew Christian (Messianic Jewish) Alliance and of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel.

(Reprinted from Tishrei Vol 2 No 3, Spring 1994, The Nature of Scripture)