The recent media and fuss surrounding so-called Messianic Jews really has me troubled. The concept of Messiah has been central to Judaism for thousands of years. The daily prayers are full of references to the current exile and subsequent redemption through the Messiah (in particular as the restoration of the Davidic kingdom). The State of Israel is described as “the beginning of the sprouting of our redemption”. The last of the thirteen principles of faith, articulated by Maimonides, states “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah”, and this is recited daily by many Jews.
So naturally I am bothered when one group of Jews decide to label themselves as “Messianic”, as if to suggest that the rest of us aren’t. But it gets worse. Not only do they proudly proclaim by their name that they have it right when it comes to Messiah, who do they say the Jewish Messiah is? None other than Jesus, of all people!
Last time I checked, Jesus was the figurehead of another major religion, Christianity. And guess what? he still is! And while all would agree that Christianity had its origins in Judaism, and that Jesus himself was Jewish, the two religions are very different in their theology, their view of the nature of G-d, and indeed the nature of the Messiah. Jewish theology is very firm on the Messiah being human, and not the son of, or a manifestation of G-d. Indeed, the Christian concept of the trinity renders it non-monotheistic, according to Jewish law. So suggesting that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah is a bit like saying that employees at Coca Cola should all start drinking Pepsi!
Should Messianic Jews be considered Jewish? Well, anyone born Jewish or converted according to Jewish law remains so for life, so the answer is yes. However, since their beliefs are fundamentally incompatible with Jewish theology, they might just struggle to be accepted as a member organisation of the JCCV.
At least Jews for Jesus, who actively attempt to convert Jews to Christianity, don’t make claims that they are a Jewish group. Messianic Jews, on the other hand, seem to want to have a bet each way: “We’re Jewish, but we believe in the Christian Messiah”. Further, if that is what they believe, then they shouldn’t hide behind a name that suggests otherwise. This smacks of misrepresentation to me – is there an action under the Trade Practices Act here?