Seduction of the Hebrew Root Movement Part 1 of 2
by James Jacob Prasch
Moriel has long urged the Body of Christ to rediscover the Hebrew root of its faith for four reasons.
The first is that the destiny of the church is bound up with God’s prophetic plan for the future of Israel and the Jews.
The second is that Christians need to evangelize the Jewish people, in recognition of the fact they remain the eternal people of God by covenant relationship and that the plan of God for the salvation of the nations is bound up with His plan for the salvation of Israel.
The third is that we need to understand the scriptures in their original Judaic con-text. We advocate that Christians familiarize themselves with the works of those who have understood this, from Alfred Edersheim to Arnold Fruchtenbaum. We have also tried to reacquaint the church with the lost art of Jewish hermeneutics in terms of New Testament uses of Midrash, and the illustrative Hebraic models of typology and allegory.
Fourth, the church needs to learn from Israel’s history and not repeat the same kind of mistakes as Israel. Israel’s history was written for our instruction. The church has replayed the mistakes of Israel and sometimes done worse.
Blinding the Church
Satan seeks to blind the church to the prophetic purposes of God for Israel in order to deceive the church about its own future. The exegesis of biblical prophecy that states that the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation is only about God’s rejection and judgment on the apostate nation of Israel and not about the Last Days, is demonic in origin and dangerous to the church.
Satan also knows that the eschatological mysteries surrounding the return of Christ are sealed up, and a key to this unsealing will be understanding a Judaic approach to biblical interpretation. Where Satan is unable to blind Christians to the need to return to its Hebraic root, his alternative strategy is to corrupt that trend.
True and false Philo-Semitism
There are various areas in which Satan is attempting these seductions of the trend back towards the Hebrew Root.
The Christian Zionist Movement is not a monolith. There are good factions, ones that do some good but no harm, and others that are simply dead wrong.
Some are “over the top” about Israel and the Jews, often focusing on every-thing except the Messiah of the Jews or His command that we bring His message of salvation to His ancient people. Such Christian Zionist groups are as unbalanced and unscriptural on one extreme as are the replacementists denying the prophetic plan of God for Israel and the Jews on the other.
They falsely claim that they can fulfill the church’s mission to Israel and the Jews with immigration programs, political and social programs, and inter-faith dialogue. This is not to suggest all of those involved in these organizations are intentional deceivers. On the contrary, while some of their leaders are plainly money grabbing heretics, many sincere people are misled into joining and supporting these deceptions.
Neither is it to suggest that all of what they do is wrong. The problem is that in trying to communicate Christian love to Israel to undo the damage done by Christian anti-Semitism, they leave out Christ and the whole purpose of God – they preach a Christless social gospel. The church must both proclaim God’s purpose in returning the Jews to their ancient land and the way of salvation. Some ministries indeed do both. Moriel endorses Church’s Ministry Among the Jews, Jews For Jesus, the Messianic Testimony, Chosen People Ministries, Ariel, the Lausanne Consultation On Jewish Evangelism, the Danish and Norwegian Missions To Israel, and Christian Witness To Israel, but warn against such deceptions as Bridges For Peace, Wings Of Eagles, the Ebenezer Fund, Christian Action For Israel, and above all the International Christian Embassy. Once examined biblically such agencies are deceptions and not of God.
The Messianic Movement, the true and the false
Messianic Judaism also has multiple trends within it, some scriptural, others not. Another aspect of Satan’s attempted seduction of the trend back to our He-brew root has been the lunatic fringe of the Messianic Movement.
This is characterized by so called ‘rabbis’ who are not, an emphasis that lifts up Judaism and Judaica, but rarely the King of the Jews, and seems good for little other than rebuilding the wall of partition that Yeshua died to break down.
To the detriment of seeing Jews saved, this unfortunate axis of Messianic Judaism has discredited Jewish belief in Jesus as being unJewish. Its make-believe rabbis have been debunked as charlatans by the orthodox (as happened in the case of Chuck Snow, an ex-messianic rabbi who renounced Yeshua after his ignorance of Judaism was demonstrated to him by a real rabbi), and in debates between real rabbis and the messianic fake ones.
Yeshua commanded believers not to use the term “rabbi” as a title (Matthew 23). This axis also ignores the fact that for all of the academic and apologetic value in studying it, the Rabbinic Judaism it imitates is a corruption of biblical Judaism that points people away from their own Messiah.
The Lord wants a Messianic Movement capable of pointing the Gentile Church back to a solid, biblical expression of what it is supposed to be, but instead many of the hyper-messianic extremists are into Toronto, Pensacola and the seductions destroying the Gentile Church.
Most Jews are skeptical of anything to do with Yeshua to begin with, and seeing the sick depravity of Toronto and Pensacola does not help.
While Moriel has sympathy for the more balanced and more biblical Hebrew Christian-Messianic Jewish Alliance, we must distance ourselves from the extreme lunatic fringe factions.
Women in leadership
What is perhaps most absurd is the fact that, contrary to both New Testament Christianity and Orthodox Judaism, the extreme axis of the Messianic Movement has women teaching mixed groups and in positions of senior leadership.
Both faiths allow women to teach other women, but to have women in leadership and teaching roles violates the teaching of the New Testament.
It also discredits the presentation of the gospel and offends the very orthodox Jewish community the messianic extremists supposedly try to imitate in order to reach with the gospel.
Moriel supports a biblical Messianic Judaism which is both Judaic and Christian. However, the issue of women in what observant Jews can only see as rabbinic roles, and, so functioning in these roles in rejection of the plain New Testament instruction, makes one question to what degree such extreme factions of the Messianic Movement can claim to be either Judaic or Christian.
There is hype, trappings, and trimmings but little substance.
Second class believers
The other thing that the extreme axis of the Messianic Movement appears good at is making non-Jewish believers feel like Second Class believers on the basis of race – as if Jewish birth, instead of New Birth, was a spiritual qualification.
In actual fact there are totally non-Jewish messianic writers, like Walter Riggins and Dwight Pryor, who are not only quite scholarly and adept in Hebrew rabbinics, but could very easily run rings round 90% of the Messianic Rabbis in terms of what they know about Hebraics and Judaism, not to mention the Word of God.
Judeo-Christian scholarship, the true and the false
The problems of Messianic extremism and non-evangelistic Christian Zionism are not new problems. What is new is Satan’s attempted corruption of Jewish hermeneutics and the use of the return to the Hebrew Root trend to undermine the Authority of God’s Word.
Liberal scholars are ci
ting Jewish mid-rash to justify dismissal of the historicity and doctrinal authority of Scripture, claiming midrash employed in the New Testament provides an alternative basis for establishing doctrine other than what is literally stated.
In no place does the Bible use allegory, typology, symbolism, or any midrashic material as the basis of doctrine. It is rather a mode of illustration of doctrinal truth.
In the Judaic midrashim we never see a denial of the historical authenticity of biblical accounts.
For decades the liberal theological establishment tried to dismiss the historicity of the Gospels and the authenticity of Apostolic doctrine on the basis that it was a creation of a later Gentile church. With the Dead Sea Scrolls supporting the compatibility of the gospels with First Century Jewish thought, and both conservative and Jewish scholars having demonstrated the familiarity of the gospel writers with the sitz im leben (cultural and life situation) of Second Temple Period Palestinian Judaism, the old liberal presuppositions are discredited. Since the newly demonstrated Jewishness of the gospels wreaks havoc with their old arguments, they must now invent seemingly Jewish (bogus) arguments to continue to argue against the historical and doctrinal truth of the scriptures. The lie is the same, but the method of telling it has changed.
The Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research
A further threat to the authority of scripture coming up through the Hebrew Root Movement is found within the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research.
This facility has expanded into a broader network of individuals looking for a better grasp of understanding of the scriptures from a Judaic perspective. I would not be prepared to dismiss all of the Jerusalem School as Satanic. I agree with the need for a scholarly investigation into the Hebraic nature of New Testament literature. There are things in the Jerusalem School with which I would agree. There are other aspects of it however that I can only regard as false and dangerous.
Bivin and Blizzard, in essence, argue that Jesus’ words, even affecting the meaning of His doctrinal pronouncements, can have a very different meaning from the way they are conventionally understood, because – they maintain – the original gospel documents are in He-brew, and the Greek translations are less than reliable translations in relating the actual meanings.
Indeed there is a credence in uncovering the underlying Hebraic thought pat-terns of the Greek texts, and this has as much to do with linguistics as it does sitz im leben.
However to suggest the reliability of Christian doctrine drawn from the Greek manuscripts must be brought into question is baseless.
No one reading the Greek text can determine linguistically if the manuscripts are translations from orally transmitted accounts of Jesus and His words from Aramaic or from Hebrew; both are similar semitic languages.
No one can tell an Aramism from a Hebraism by reading translations in a third language.
Only odd episodes record Hebrew being employed for vernacular purposes during the Second Temple Period. Most of the Qumran literature (apart from biblical manuscripts) are Aramaic, few are Hebrew and one Nabatean. The existing biblical manuscripts (with the possible exception of Matthew) tend to follow the Septuagint, and nothing akin to the Masoretic Hebrew.
The volume of codexes, manuscripts, and fragments of the gospels are astronomical in number. There are literally thousands, having no parallel in any of the Greek or Latin Classics. Yet not one is in Hebrew.
We do have an argument in Eusebius, which he traced back to the time of Heggisipus, that Matthew was originally Hebrew and there are source critical arguments for a Hebrew Matthew original.
But to suggest that the fundamental doctrinal meaning is therefore misunderstood, is absurd.
We have at least two good Hebrew translations of the New Testament. Neither determines a need to question again traditional Christian understanding of the gospels in a fundamental way based on linguistics.
We also have the Epistles, written to both Hebrew and Greek believers and communities of believers, which are inspired apostolic commentary on the gospels.
Traditional Christian understandings of doctrine in the gospels have never rested on the gospels alone, but how the Apostles understood, interpreted and applied them.
It is ludicrous how much time and effort has been wasted on the conjectures of the Jerusalem School. It is profitable for nothing other than casting unnecessary doubt on the credibility of an orthodox Evangelical understanding of the doctrinal content of the gospels.
The Jerusalem School trumpets the endorsement it receives from Rabbi David Flusser, admittedly a major scholar. Yet they fail to mention that his American counterpart, Rabbi Jacob Neusner dismisses their theory.
They also fail to note that David Flusser has an interest in giving a different meaning to the Words of Jesus. Flusser argues that Paul taught a different Christianity from Jesus, and seeks to establish a discontinuity between Pauline and Early Apostolic Christianity.