I have been drawn to the Hebrew Roots movement in the last few years. I find it fascinating, seemingly not unbiblical. Does anyone have any insight, experiences? It seems to blend Jewish traditions and the feasts with Jesus (Yeshua)
I’m not sure of this “movement” you speak of, but I have always really enjoyed Messianic Worship Music and kinship with the Jewish people and traditions. I was listening to a podcast recently and copied the exchange below. It’s kind of technical, I’m still digesting it. But it might be helpful to you.
Dear Dr. Craig, if the virgin birth of Jesus, as you told Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times , is logically confirmed by its unique departure from pagan and Judeo theology, how can the personhood and mission of Jesus be taught (typology) as a culmination of Judaic tropes, rather than a radical departure from a Christian perspective, a multidimensional and multi-balanced transformation of prior precedent? Would this not in-and-of itself be a counterproof, not to Christianity but to Messianic Jewish evangelism which proclaims the Christian savior not as de novo but as a logical extension of Judaism?
William Lane Craig response: I think that the Messianic Jewish evangelism does exaggerate the continuity between Jesus of Nazareth and the Old Testament concepts of the Messiah. I think it’s important to affirm what a radical departure Jesus of Nazareth does represent from typical Jewish messianic expectations. When you read the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, it’s no wonder that the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day disputed his authenticity and thought him to be an imposter. When he was crucified, they mocked him saying, If you really are the Messiah, the King of the Jews, then come down from the cross and destroy your enemies . This is the kind of messianic warrior and ruler that they were expecting. And for them, the crucifixion of Jesus was just a mockery of his claim to be the fulfillment of these messianic prophecies. So I don’t think that we should exaggerate the continuity here. There is a radical newness in Jesus of Nazareth that is vindicated by the resurrection. It is the God of Israel’s raising Jesus from the dead that vindicates this radical reinterpretation of the Jewish Messiah. Now, that doesn’t mean that we can’t present Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish tropes. In my work on the atonement what struck me was the way in which the Levitical sacrificial system of blood sacrifices to God prefigure Jesus’ own self-sacrificial death. When he celebrated the Last Supper, he broke the elements of the Passover bread and the wine and said to the disciples, “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.” He saw his impending death as a Passover sacrifice, as the inauguration of a new covenant, and as a blood sacrifice that would expiate the sins, not only of Israel, but of the Gentiles as well. So I think we can definitely see Jesus as a fulfillment of these Jewish hopes, especially these Levitical sacrifices, but I have to hasten to add as well of Isaiah 53 and the suffering Servant of Yahweh which Jesus saw himself to be as we see in his words at the Last Supper.
@Busdriver Great question! I think there are a few different categories of people that we need to recognize in relation to this question.
- Christians who are interested in having a better understanding of Jewish customs and practices
- Jewish people who have come to Christ who still want to express their Jewishness
- Christians who are trying to reach Jewish people by adopting some of their customs / practices (become a Jew to the Jews)
- people who are trying to say that Christians need to keep parts of the Mosaic law
The first three categories are fine - the last one is not… And it is my understanding that the Hebrew Roots movement specifically has a tendency to fall into this last category. That said, we should always ask people what they believe before labeling them. More details below.
Here are some other high level things to keep in mind:
- Christ fulfilled the law 100% - we are no longer under the law
- there is disagreement among Christians as to whether or not ethnic Israel still plays a significant role in God’s plans (I tend not to think so) and those who believe so must be careful to give an honest evaluation of the policies of modern Israel
- there is nothing wrong with wanting to understand the historical context of Christianity
Hope that is helpful. Christ grant you wisdom
Hebrew Roots Movement
My impression based on a bit of reading is that the Hebrew Roots movement is outside of Christian orthodoxy because it suggest that we return to practicing the Mosaic law / customs. Paul is clear that Christians must no longer rely on the works of the law and it is only by faith in Christ we are saved.
Galatians 3:10-14 - For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
The influence of this movement is working its way into our churches and seminaries. It’s dangerous in its implication that keeping the Old Covenant law is walking a “higher path” and is the only way to please God and receive His blessings. Nowhere in the Bible do we find Gentile believers being instructed to follow Levitical laws or Jewish customs; in fact, the opposite is taught. Romans 7:6 says, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Christ, in keeping perfectly every ordinance of the Mosaic Law, completely fulfilled it. Just as making the final payment on a home fulfills that contract and ends one’s obligation to it, so also Christ has made the final payment and has fulfilled the law, bringing it to an end for us all.
I thought this interview with a Rabbi at a Messianic Jewish congregation was helpful in understanding one expression of Messianic Judaism. However, as he says, each Messianic Jewish congregation is different. I would not personally agree with his view that ethnic Israel is still the chosen people of God - I believe the Church is the Israel of God. But I do believe many Messianic Jewish congregations are within orthodoxy and are seeking to reach Jewish people for the Lord.
Here are some folks who seek to reach the Jewish people with the Good News.
Some Christians believe that ethnic Israel is still God’s chosen people and that when Israel became a nation again in the 1948 it was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. As a result of this belief, they say that we should support the nation of Israel because God is fulfilling His end time promises through them during our generation. Others, like myself, believe that the Church is the new Israel and all are one, both Jew and Greek, in Christ. The old covenant is ended - the new has come.
Regardless of your belief on that topic, however, I think that we can all agree Israel has behaved in ways that are not in keeping with God’s commandments on occasion. Here is a podcast from Phil Vischer where he interviews a scholar Gary Burge who has a more balanced view on the topic of Israel and Palestine.
@SeanO That’s some good information. I think part of the appeal of this kind of church is the more exotic aspect of the music and traditions.
As a former 90’s hippie, regenerated 60’s typology, I tend to like different Christian music and Worship than the usual presentation of the pop/rock show with flashing lights or the traditional choir with hymns. I tend to like acoustic or classical style winds and percussion.
At any rate, it’s best to keep on solid ground Biblically and in regards to core Christianity. There are some churches where I really like the praise and worship, but the teaching goes off the rails a bit . Then I have to wonder if I’m just having an emotional experience. I have found that I can reproduce the same emotional high listening to secular music as I experience with some intense Praise and Worship.
But this is a whole other topic. Everyone have a blessed week!
@ReSound-TruckDriver Music certainly has the power to engage our emotions. One thing C. S. Lewis pointed out, though I cannot recall where, is that it makes perfectly good sense that God would communicate with us through our senses, since we are embodied creatures… And of course our senses / feelings are susceptible to other means of stimulation. That should not strike us as odd. That someone could play a bit of music or hook you up to some sort of device and stimulate similar feelings does not actually indicate whether or not God’s presence is causing one set of feelings.
Think of it this way. The presence of a spouse or close family member may cause powerful emotions to arise in our hearts. Those same emotions could likely be produced by watching a film or listening to a bit of music or, perhaps, even by some form of stimulation in a laboratory. That does not mean that our spouse or family member is not real or did not cause those feelings in the first place.
Likewise, it should not shake our belief in God that the same feelings can be produced by other stimuli. Common sense tells us that it is so. Our confidence is not rooted in our feelings anyhow, but in the finished work of Christ on the cross and the ongoing work of the Spirit in transforming our hearts, minds and lives!
However, I do agree we need to be cautious when trying to assess what God wants us to do. Even Jonathan Edwards, who emphasized feelings, made the point that even sincere, godly people can make mistakes when interpreting feelings. So I think there is a balance that must be struck in this area.
“I . . . know by experience that impressions being made with great power, and upon the minds of true saints, yea, eminent saints; and presently after, yea, in the midst of, extraordinary exercises of grace and sweet communion with God, and attended with texts of Scripture strongly impressed on the mind, are no sure signs of their being revelations from heaven: for I have known such impressions [to] fail, and prove vain.” Jonathan Edwards
@SeanO Thanks for taking the time for that thoughtful response. I agree on all points. I had a lot of confusion on this topic when I used to be part of a Charismatic church. The worship was very intense and emotional and I really felt the Spirit of God in this worship. I don’t doubt that.
But once I began to question some of the teachings of this church, I also began to question the worship experience. I began to realize that I would experience the same euphoria listening to the secular music I liked. And I’m also a musician so could compare the experience there also in singing and playing the guitar.
And while, as you mention, our Faith and beliefs are not rooted in feelings and euphoria. I think some churches take advantage of that. But then, there is also a real experience of the Holy Spirit in worship. And this comes from actually worshiping God through song, music, dance, and not just doing it unto oneself for ones own pleasure.
I’m going through a spiritual renewal currently and have begun playing music again and worshiping God with music and song in my prayer time. I forgot just how wonderful that is as a vehicle of communing with God.
@ReSound-TruckDriver Encouraged to hear you are going through a renewal Music is an important part of my own experience of prayer as well. I always think of Paul and Silas worshiping in prison - in that moment of struggle they reached out to God through worship. When it comes from the heart it is a beautiful expression of faith and invitation for the Lord to be present in a tangible way.