Reflections On Michael Wyschogrod’s Critique Of Jewish Christianity

Is there any merit in an Orthodox Jew’s theological objections to Jewish Christianity? Much, in every way! Can believers in Yeshua agree with all these objections, and still be faithful? By no means! However, in several instances, the objections are closer to the truth than what they resist. Resources for responses of faith­ful discipleship already exist within traditional Judaism, Christianity, and Messianic Judaism. The purpose of this article is to reflect on specific theological objections to Jewish Christianity by Michael Wyschogrod.

John Howard Yoder entitled one of his essays, “Judaism as a non-non-Christian religion,”1 meaning that early Christianity was a voluntary, messianic form of Judaism. I agree with Yoder about the Jewishness of the Free Church vision.2 A Free Church perspective is for this reason better suited to consider Michael Wyschogrod’s Jewish critique of Jewish Christianity than are other perspectives within Christianity. 3 Wyschogrod’s critique touches all disciples of Yeshua. Additional vantage on that critique can be gained from individuals within Messianic Judaism who are more inclined, than are Jewish Christians, to maintain a Jewish identity and some form of Jewish religious practice, while believing that Yeshua is the Messiah. Messianic Judaism in some ways listens to Wyschogrod’s critique better than other followers of Yeshua.

I partly agree with the critique of Jewish Christianity that I present under the headings Messiah and Redemption, The Trinity, Proof Texts, Sacrifice and Atonement, Conversion and Assim­ilation, and Ethics. Movements among disciples of Yeshua can use their own heritage and character to rework positions in these areas.

In none of these areas will they be, nor should they try to make themselves, completely acceptable to Jewish critics such as Wyschogrod. Thus I partly agree with Joseph Soloveitchik that each faith has its own words and forms that are uniquely intimate, reflecting its philosophical character, and that are incomprehensi­ble to people of other faiths.4

Wyschogrods Jewish Critique Of Jewish Christianity

For the critique of Jewish Christianity I draw upon the writings of Michael Wyschogrod, a professor of philosophy and an Orthodox Jew who is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies. The major part of the critique appears in a book (co-authored with David Berger) written to discourage Jews from becoming Jewish Christians. Yeshua-Messianists (my term for Jewish Christians, Messianic Jews, and Gentiles in these movements) profess many positions historically held in Christianity, and by many Christians today, so I sometimes do not distinguish between them. However, regarding assimilation I con­sider two theologians in Messianic Judaism who are trying to increase the Jewish character of their movement. Daniel Juster was the first president of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), and the spiritual leader of its largest congregation, and currently is director of Tikkun International Ministries. Mark Kinzer is the execu­tive director of the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, adjunct assistant professor of Judaic studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, and spiritual leader of a Messianic synagogue. In 2002, delegates of the UMJC affirmed a statement Defining Messianic Judaism,5 written by Juster and Kinzer and approved by the UMJC Theology Committee.

Messiah And Redemption

Berger and Wyschogrod assert that Yeshua is not the Messiah, because he did not bring the Messianic age.6 “Judaism could not accept a reinterpretation of the Messianic promise into a purely spiritual state without any historical and political consequences.” 7


Yeshua was reluctant to call himself Messiah, and his interpretation of his ministry differed from common Messianic expectations. Later, the concept of a suffering Messiah ben Joseph appeared in the Talmud. According to Raphael Patai, the Leper Messiah and Beggar Messiah derived from the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. These fig­ures appeared in response to Israel’s sufferings, just as Isaac Luria’s theology responded to the Jewish expulsion from Spain by conceiv­ing of a divine exile.

Scott Bader-Saye has outlined where writers in the early church located the kingdom of God.8 Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian held to the visible and material character of Israel’s redemptive hopes. Thus the kingdom was awaited in the future. The kingdom was visible but not present.

Origen spiritualized the references to Jerusalem and the land within scriptural prophesies, at least partly in response to Jewish criticism of the first view. Origin wrote that Yeshua had brought redemption which cannot be perceived by the senses. The kingdom was present but not visible.

When Constantine made Christianity the favored religion of the Roman Empire, a third theology of the kingdom became possible, and was articulated by Eusebius. The Christian Pax Romana was the Peace of God. The kingdom was visible and present, and located in Rome.

All three views find some support among contemporary followers of Yeshua. Many followers assert that Yeshua fulfilled all the roles of Messiah, which they support by spiritualizing biblical promises so as to deny their political meaning. Political meaning may be retained by looking to a violent future in which Yeshua upon his Second Coming will lead armies.9

I think it better to adopt the view that the messianic rule of Yeshua must appear in the visible world, through the formation of a peaceful and obedient community. This is compatible with one meaning that the kingdom of God had in Judaism during the time of Yeshua and still has today.

Robert Lindsey argued that the acceptance of God’s rule was understood by Yeshua and Jews of his time to be the means of enter­ing the kingdom.10 Yehoshua ben Korhah said, Why is “Hear O Israel” (Deut. 6:4-9) recited before “If, then, you obey the commandments” in the daily prayers? To indicate that one must first accept the kingdom of Heaven, and only afterwards the yoke of the commandments (Mishnah, Berachot 2:2). This kingdom is indeed hidden because, as Soloveitchik has taught, the recitation of the Shema is outward, but the fulfillment of the mitzvah (commandment) of accepting God’s rule is in the heart.11 However, the kingdom also has a visible aspect. The kingdom comes when and where God’s will is done. “Thy king­dom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ to me comes into the kingdom of Heaven, but he who is doing the will of my father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21).

I would agree, however, that the kingdom is not yet present in its fullness, as Christianity has classically taught. So followers of Yeshua need to strengthen their awareness of the kingdom both as a present reality and as a future reality. As I wrote above, these changes will not fully satisfy Jewish critics such as Wyschogrod, nor should the church or Yeshua-Messianism aim to fully satisfy their Jewish critics.

The Trinity

Berger and Wyschogrod write, “Teachings must be intelligible if they are to be believed, and it is precisely this that is questionable in the teaching of the trinity.”12 “A Jew who believes that Yeshua was God in the sense asserted by the Nicene Creed commits idolatry as defined by Jewish law.”13 Gentiles are held to a different standard, so that for them to believe Yeshua is God is not idolatry, though still in error.


In halakhah (Jewish law), conversion of a Jew to Islam is apostasy, even though Islam is considered a pure monotheism. Perhaps halakhah treats Jewish and Gentile belief in the Trinity differently due to the assumption that a Jew who believes so must abandon the Torah and the Jewish people. Wyschogrod writes that Judaism resists the concept of human incarnation because it does not hear scripture or Jewish faith testify to it. But authentic faith “does not prescribe for God from some alien frame of reference but listens obediently to God’s free decisions, none of which can be prescribed or even anticipated by man.”14

Wyschogrod charitably offers:

We still cannot accept that one Jew is God, but think… that as the church contemplates the incarnation of God into one Jew… it will come to contemplate the more diluted form of incarnation that was true in God’s relationship with the whole people of Israel.15

The doctrine of the Trinity may be no more difficult to ration­ally accept, apart from reliance upon authorities, than relativity or quantum physics. The Anglican priest John Polkinghorne, who previously contributed to quantum theory as a physicist, argues that just as the experimental results in physics at the beginning of the twentieth century required the metaphysical assertions of mature quantum theory, so did the church need to proceed beyond the New Testament through doctrinal discussions and to make metaphysical assertions about Yeshua and God in the ecumenical Creeds.16 In the Greek context of the church this is correct.

Larry Hurtado showed that angelic mediator figures existed in Judaism at the time of Yeshua, and that the Christian “mutation” (his term) was to worship or cultically venerate Yeshua, as early as the Aramaic-speaking congregations.17 Later, and today, this milieu would be considered heretical in rabbinic Judaism. Important changes in meaning occurred with the transfer of terms such as “Lord” and “son of God” from an Aramaic setting to a Greek one. Yet I suspect that, however translations vary, Philippians 2:5-11 will never be an acceptable monotheism, in the sense that Islam is, to non-Yeshua-messianic Judaism. The New Testament witness about who Yeshua is, and not just theological elaboration beyond it, is a stumbling block for Jewish concepts of God.

The patristic writers and church councils worked under the Greek assumption that a perfect being cannot change.18 The Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds expressed in Greek philosophical cate­gories (homoousia, hypostasis) the church’s conviction that in Yeshua, God is present.

The Greek notion that God cannot be influenced by anything in Creation is analogous to the notion that the planets move in perfect circles. Just as the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems had to accommodate the observations of astronomy by adding epicycles to the basic motions,19 theology based on Greek assumptions had to accommodate the biblical record in which God interacts with Creation. This was done by saying that something divine was in relation to Creation, but some part of God still remained perfectly untouched and unconcerned.

Paul van Buren discussed how shared assumptions shaped the debate between the orthodox Christians and the Arian Christians.20

Both agreed that God the Father does not suffer. The orthodox were concerned that the Savior who comes to us is really God, while the Arians were concerned that the salvation really comes. So the Arian Yeshua really comes, but is not the high God (although the Arians worshiped Yeshua), while the orthodox Yeshua is God, and so does not actually touch us. The need to protect God from imperfection led to teachings such as that when the passible Yeshua suffered and died on a cross, the impassible Word of God was not present.

If van Buren’s description of the debate is accepted, neither the orthodox nor the Arian solutions are satisfactory. The orthodox and Arian doctrines are like Ptolemaic and Copernican cosmologies, pair them as you like. Neither theology is like the Newtonian achievement.

Van Buren presented a Christology that starts from a different place. He developed a covenantal unity of Yeshua and God, rather than an ontological unity. God’s covenant with the people of Israel provides the foundation.21 Christians and other followers of Yeshua will need to reject supersessionism and better appreciate the strength of God’s covenants before they can find van Buren’s Christology adequate. Otherwise it will be like jumping from Ptolemy to Copernicus in cosmology.

Wyschogrod has criticized van Buren’s Christology as “Jesusology,” and both Alain Epp Weaver and Bader-Saye believe that van Buren fails to do justice to the New Testament witness to Yeshua’s identity. 22 However, I am not aware of any demonstration that covenantal unity of Yeshua and God is an inadequate frame­work for that New Testament witness.

Juster has a sense of the foreignness of Greek metaphysical categories from biblical thought, but he accepts traditional Trinitarian doctrine.23

Another Trinitarian alternative is the theology outlined by Kendall Soulen in “YHWH the Triune God.” 24 Soulen has rigorously rejected supersession of Judaism, which provides the necessary foundation for thinking about the Trinity.

Soulen’s theology in The God of Israel and Christian Theology25 has been generally applauded by Bader-Saye, who, however objects that while Soulen’s position is amenable to a higher Christology than adoptionism, it does not demand it.26 It is possible that in “YHWH the Triune God” Soulen has made moves that would satisfy Bader-Saye. However, I think that the critique is wrong-headed. It is the sort of thinking that, in a Jewish context, Soloveitchik called the causal method.

Had Maimonides adopted Saadiah’s reasons for the sounding of the sho­far and held that it is reminiscent of an ancient nomadic period when it served as a signal for alarm or as a summons to joyous celebration, he would have been trapped in the same causal maze as that of his Guide [of the Perplexed]. Yet, here [in the Code of Jewish Law] he ignores the historical motive and interprets the shofar purely from a symbolic aspect. His view that the shofar alludes to repentance and self-examination is not a classical causal interpretation based upon a two-valued logic which entails necessity…. The call to repent could have been realized in many ways and there is no necessary reason why the Torah selected the means of sounding the shofar.27

I think that reconstruction better preserves an appreciation of God’s freedom to act in unexpected ways. Reconstruction rather than construction is suggested by what H. Richard Niebuhr called Confessional Theology. 28 The New Testament witnesses are, and must remain, foundational for this.

Proof Texts

Berger and Wyschogrod assert that the Hebrew Bible does not in its plain sense contain the Christian concepts of Trinity, Virgin Birth, Incarnation, etc.29 Almah at Isaiah 7:14 means a young woman rather than a virgin. Immanuel means “God is with us.” Isaiah 9:5 means “A Wonderful Councilor is the Mighty God,” rather than that the person so named is God.30 


The translation of Isaiah 7:14 was a particular issue of dispute in twentieth century Protestant Bible translations. “The actual lexical problem… was a mere surrogate for debates over the possibility of prophecy-fulfillment, miraculous birth, and other phenomena whose reality in a precritical world had been taken for granted.” 32 Also, the New Testament often quotes from the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, to support readings that differ from the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text.

The Revised Standard Version (RSV) translated almah as “young woman.” Protestants dissatisfied with the RSV produced the New International Version, which rendered the key word as “virgin.” The reasoning behind the RSV was that scripture should be translated according to the meaning that it had at the time it was written, while that behind the NIV was that Old Testament passages should be translated so as to conform to their New Testament citations. The specter of competing translations tacitly conceded that scripture is not self-interpreting, but that a community has some degree of power over the text.

Hans Frei emphasized the shared assumptions of modern liber­al and conservative Christians, who confused literalism at the level of understanding the biblical text with literalism at the level of knowing historical reality. By contrast, Calvin and Luther were comfortable with typological understandings. Calvin conceded to Jewish interpreters that almah technically meant a young woman, but he translated it as “virgin” because he felt that no birth to a mere young woman in Ahaz’s day could be held out as a special sign. Luther translated almah as “young woman,” while adhering to the traditional Christological interpretation.33

The typological interpretation of biblical verses is characteristic for Judaism of the time of Jesus [Yeshua]. It is a heuristic method, whose results are not binding in Judaism, either practically or theologically…. The outcome of such interpretation is often understood in Christology and ecclesiology as a concrete historical fact.34

Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant, is hardly applied to Yeshua in the New Testament. It was not interpreted messianically before the time of Yeshua. Donald Juel concludes that, given the mode of scriptural interpretation in the first century, there is justification for “adopting” Isaiah 53 as messianic, namely verbal links to other passages.35

Juster has a sophisticated understanding of how the New Testament uses “fulfill” of the Old Testament.36 However, he defends the New Covenant reading of Isaiah 9:5 without acknowledging how far this violates the plain sense. Juster notes verses in Isaiah that are problematic for interpreting the Servant as a community, but he neglects verses that are problematic for understanding Yeshua as the Servant.

Henry Dueck allows for continued reference to the people of Israel in the Servant songs, while applying them to Yeshua-and his followers.

The servant is Israel, the called-out people with a mission. It is obvious that Jesus [Yeshua], more than any one individual or remnant-group, in complete obedience fulfills all the elements of these songs. But precisely because Jesus [Yeshua] is that perfect servant, his calling of a people to be his followers places them-the church-in the situation of Israel of old with reference to the servant.37

I think that Christianity and Yeshua-Messianism can best manage through a heuristic use of proof-texts, with the context I presented in the section on Messiah and Redemption. Kinzer seems to have a posi­tion similar to mine.

We believe and affirm the message of the Apostolic Writings, that the words of the Torah point to Yeshua (John 5:46), and that the Good News concerning Yeshua was “promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (Rom 1:2)…. This does not mean that in every case the traditional proof-texting apologetics of the missionaries bests the exegetical efforts of the anti-missionaries.38

Sacrifice And Atonement

Berger and Wyschogrod state that the faith of Israel cannot accept human sacrifice as conforming to the will of God.39 The prophets foretold the rebuilding of the Temple and resumption of sacrifices.40 Therefore, Yeshua’s death is not an atonement for the sins of the world which replaces Temple sacrifices. Also, forgiveness requires repentance.


While repentance does not occupy an important place in some theologies, it is never eliminated.

I doubt that whether God accepts human sacrifice is an essen­tial difference between Judaism and Christianity. There are various positions within each faith, even if Judaism answers predominantly “no” and Christianity, “yes.” The idea that a martyr atones for the sins of Israel appears in 4 Maccabees.41 Isaiah 53 appears to speak of such atonement. Soloveitchik thought that the Torah does not in principle forbid human sacrifice. While sacrifice of another human is obscene, God demands self-sacrifice, and only by God’s grace is this not death.42 Van Buren suggested that God did not plan that Yeshua’s death would have salvific power, but accepted the church’s interpretation in covenantal freedom.43 J. Denny Weaver has argued that God does not require violence for atonement.44

The Hebrew Bible does not teach that its system of atonement is defective. However, Flusser found Jewish literature of the time of Yeshua which omitted the Temple from a future Jerusalem.45 Juster argues that future sacrifices could be for other than sin (e.g. thank offerings), a view also found in the Talmud.

The Talmud accommodated differences between what various prophets saw by teaching that if Israel is worthy, such-and-such will happen, but if Israel is not worthy, another prophetic scenario will happen instead. Maimonides viewed prophecies about the future as not overriding human free will. I think that only in retrospect will the prophets’ statements about the messianic age be understood. This differs from claiming that the Hebrew prophets foresaw the Christian picture.

The Christus Victor model of atonement was the dominant one in the church prior to Constantine.46 In the model, the church exists in conflict with the social order. This model no longer made sense in the imperial church after Constantine, and faded away, except for the view that God either ransoms the souls of sinners from the devil or tricks the devil into killing Yeshua, thus freeing humankind.

Anselm of Canterbury was disturbed by the idea that the devil had rights or that God would resort to deceit, and so elaborated the Satisfaction Atonement model. The Magisterial Protestant Reformers modified this model and it is the dominant one today in Christianity. Either Yeshua had to die to satisfy God’s offended honor (Anselm) or the demands of the law for justice (Luther and Calvin). Anselm’s view accorded with feudal notions about honor, while the Reformers’ view accords with the modern penal system in which justice is defined as punishment. Yeshua’s teaching and life, and the ethical behavior of saved sinners play little or no role in this model. Atonement is an abstract transaction that takes place over the heads of humankind. The model has been criticized in Christian theology for allegedly condoning oppression because God needs to abuse an innocent victim. This may motivate the Jewish criticism of Wyschogrod and Berger.

In response to Anselm, Peter Abelard proposed the Moral Influence model of atonement, according to which Yeshua’s death shows God’s love for sinners. This has remained a minority view, though elements of both Anselm’s and Abelard’s models are often held simultaneously.

J. Denny Weaver develops a narrative Christus Victor model in which humankind is freed from captivity to rebellious social struc­tures (“Powers and Principalities” in biblical language). Yeshua’s death was not willed by God, but by evil powers. However, God uses Yeshua’s death for good. While in the Moral Influence model noth­ing changes until a person changes, in Christus Victor the resur­rection of Yeshua changes reality whether people realize it or not. In Weaver’s theology of atonement, Yeshua’s teachings and example of nonviolence play important roles, because the nonviolent king­dom of God is in conflict with the violent kingdom of this world.

In orthodox Christian formulation, all members of the Trinity participate in all attributes of God. If Yeshua truly reveals the Father, it is a contradiction for Yeshua to be nonviolent and for God to bring salvation by violence.47 It may however be argued, as Yoder does, that the psychic desire for punishment is so pervasive that it is better to accept the assumption of retribution and then argue that the death of Yeshua ended the need for retribution.48

Christopher Marshall agrees with Weaver in what he affirms, but not in what he denies. To accept that God willed or needed the death of Yeshua is not to say that God wanted or required it to satisfy his own holiness, as Satisfaction Atonement maintains. Rather, for sin to be defeated, violence must be overcome. To do this, Yeshua had to endure violence without desiring retaliation.49 Marshall’s formula­tion resembles the Moral Influence model.

Pamela Eisenbaum reads the apostle Paul to mean that Abraham is the ancestor to believing Gentiles in more than a figura­tive sense. Through the sacrifice of Yeshua, Gentiles are adopted into Abraham’s family. 50

I do not feel that one choice from between Weaver’s nonviolent atonement model and alternatives can be made a rational necessity. A follower of Yeshua could draw upon some or all three major Christian models of atonement as well as the view that sacrifice enables adop­tion. Marcus Borg likens Christus Victor, Moral Influence, and Satisfaction Atonement models in the New Testament to Exodus, Exile & Return, and Priestly models in the Old Testament. Guilt is not the central issue for some people. Instead they may have feelings of bondage or alienation.51 Soloveitchik’s discussion of the halakhic basis of pardon and forgiveness is relevant here, not because it fits one of the models above, but because Soloveitchik includes three distinct elements: a trace of something, exchange, and chance.52

Pinchas Lapide was unusual for being an Orthodox Jew who accepted the resurrection of Yeshua as a real event.53 Although he wrote a book about the Sermon on the Mount as a realistic program for action, Lapide did not become a Christian. He did not believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the traditional Jewish criteria for the appearance of redemption (world peace, etc.) not having been ful­filled. Neither did he accept the Pauline interpretation of the death and resurrection of Yeshua. Lapide, however, was able to fit Yeshua and the subsequent spread of Christianity into God’s messianic pur­poses, since Maimonides had already done so for both Christianity and Islam (Mishne Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim 11,4). For Lapide, the whole Christian movement is inexplicable without a real event that changed the disciples of Yeshua from cowards into evangelists.

It might be objected that the expiatory death and resurrection of a redeemer deity figure was already believed in mystery religions long before the time of Yeshua. Lapide in response cited Maimonides (Guide of the Perplexed, part 3), who wrote about the pedagogy of God. God instituted sacrifices out of regard for what people were familiar with, in order to achieve his first purpose, namely the knowledge of God and the irradication of idolatry. This pedagogy is suggested by verses saying that centralized sacrifices were instituted so that people would no longer slay their sacrifices to satyrs (Lev. 17:7), and that God did not bring the people of Israel directly into the promised land, lest they return to Egypt (Ex. 13:17).

Lapide argued that, in view of this pedagogy of God, it is possi­ble for God to use the myth of the resurrection, which was well known to all pagans, to eliminate idolatry in the pagan world through the true resurrection of a just person. Similarly, I think that God’s pedagogy could include using the widespread belief in blood atonement in order to achieve God’s ultimate purpose of teaching nonviolent atonement, a belief largely absent from his­toric and contemporary Christianity.

Diogenes Allen asks fundamental moral and ethical questions about the Christian teaching of atonement:

We can indeed be grateful for our escape from the consequences of our sins, but then it is hard for us to find lovable a God who would punish an innocent person. Not only does the action seem unjust, but why, we ask, does he have to punish anybody? Can he not simply forgive us? 54

Allen answers these questions by explaining the story that Yeshua told Peter about forgiveness (Matt. 18:23-35). A man owed the king an immense sum. When he could not pay, he begged the king to give him more time. Out of pity, the king forgave the man the whole debt. Later, the man came upon a neighbor who owed him a trifling amount. When the neighbor could not pay, he asked for more time. But the man had no mercy on him. When the king heard of this, he was angry and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay his debt.

The man in the parable was not able to receive the king’s for­giveness because it would require him to be changed and to become forgiving. He would have to understand what a great cost it was to the king to cancel the debt. God is generous, but he does not allow his generosity to be taken for granted. Using Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Allen explains the paradox of the criminal who is bonded to the victim. I think that for those who cannot accept Weaver’s nonviolent atonement, Allen offers a solution that allows a sensitive follower of Yeshua to love God.

Conversion And Assimilation

Berger and Wyschogrod state that the church, a Gentile community, does not tolerate the degree of Jewishness which can persist through the generations. A Jew who becomes a Jewish Christian “is opting for the dissolution of the people God wants to remain his eternal people.” 55


How Paul could appear to eliminate the Jewish ceremonial laws while continuing to write of an Israel with a separate identity? 56 Paul believed that Yeshua would return within a short time. Thus Jews could drop laws that created barriers to fellowship with Gentiles within the church, but would still identify as and be identifiably Jews.

Paul’s solution cannot be maintained over a long time. The church chose to eliminate parts of the Law that create Jewish identity, and thus its Jewish members either lost their Jewish iden­tity or were considered heretics.

Juster respects Wyschogrod’s scholarship, writing

Wyschogrod is one of the few Jewish scholars who, without following Yeshua, understands Paul and the Law. Even his book, which was written to counter Messianic Judaism and Christian missionary efforts among Jews… fairly presents Paul and the Law.57

Juster is aware of the charge that conversion destroys Jewish identity, and he agrees with Wyschogrod that Jewish people who fol­low Yeshua are still called to maintain a Jewish life. This is a large step outside the Christian mainstream, and is comparatively strict for Messianic Judaism. Juster devotes most of his book Jewish Roots to defining and defending his step. Jewish Roots is noteworthy for arguing that Paul observed the Law, for reinterpreting New Testament passages that appear to discourage or forbid Jewish Yeshua-Messianists from doing so, and for its Messianic Jewish classification of the 613 mitzvot (commandments of the Torah).

Both Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua are welcome in and integral to Juster’s messianic congregation, but there is an institu­tional commitment to preserve Jewish identity. Juster wishes the non-Jewish partner in a marriage to a Jew to make a public com­mitment to a Jewish life-style, but he says “Special recognition of Jewish identity for a non-Jewish partner (conversion) is presently a matter for each Messianic community to decide since there is no central authority to which Messianic Judaism looks.58 Juster defends the need for halakhah, but defers to the Spirit often. (In an accom­panying commentary to the Defining Messianic Judaism basic statement, UMJC General Secretary Russ Resnik says, “To speak of halakhah at this stage is prescriptive rather than descriptive.” 59)

Kinzer, Juster, and Resnik have gone further than Juster did in Jewish Roots. While Gentiles are welcome in Kinzer’s ideal Messianic synagogue, the unity of Jews and Gentiles in Yeshua takes place between and not within congregations.

Most of our congregations include a large number of Gentile believers. Consequently, many of us view our congregations as witnesses to the unity of Jew and Gentile in Messiah-just as many scholars view the Pauline communities as models of such reconcilia­tion. In the Pauline communities Jewish members were required to make certain compromises in their Judaism. In our congregations non-Jews generally adopt Jewish customs and identify with the Jewish people. In neither case is there a true witness to the recon­ciliation of Jew and Gentile. Such a witness only occurs when the integrity and identity of each party is respected and supported. This can only occur in an ekklesia composed of two ekklesiai (19, p. 42).60

The Hashivenu website contains the lament, “Too often the deep structure of Messianic Jewish religious life is indistinguishable from that of popular evangelicalism, and bears little or no resemblance to any form of Judaism, past or present” (24).61 I agree.

Defining Messianic Judaism represents an intentional move to primary Jewish identity rather than Christian identity. However, since “there is inherent tension in being a Jew who follows Yeshua,” questions about handling dual allegiances are unavoidable. Resnik links the roles of the Spirit and communal halakhah as follows.

The life of obedience will not just happen, but requires deliberate com­munal effort. This realization is a key factor defining Messianic Judaism as a form of Judaism rather than as a Jewish subgroup within the church. The communal discussion and application of Torah to the details of every­day life is a uniquely Jewish enterprise. Some would contrast the Christian emphasis on the guidance of the Spirit with the guidance of this communal norm. But a Messianic Jewish halakhic process will seek the Spirit’s guidance even as it embraces the human responsibility to articu­late the divine instruction for a specific community.62

I believe that God wants the Jewish people to keep their Jewish identity. 63 The basic statement in Defining Messianic Judaism adopts and quotes Wyschogrod’s view of Judaism as “membership in a people” and “a family identity” rather than as a religious or racial category (cf. Phil. 3:4-5).64 But no forms of Judaism or Yeshua-Messianism can maintain Jewish identity over the long term unless based upon the election (continuing covenant) of Israel and adherence to Torah.

In my opinion, most forms of American Judaism and Yeshua-Messianism do not include enough Torah. If Jewish Yeshua-Messianists were to increase their devotion to behavior widely acknowledged as Jewish (e.g. association with the Jewish commu­nity, Torah study using Jewish sources, kashrut observance, and Shabbat observance), they could increase their devotion to Yeshua

(e.g. taking instruction from the Sermon on the Mount, whoseJewish character is not widely recognized) without it threatening their Jewish identity. However, if a Messianic synagogue were to make the public changes necessary to maintain Jewish identity, it would be ideologically attacked even more severely by other Yeshua-Messianists and Christians than it already is. Also, if the Jewish and non-Jewish members of a Messianic congregation dif­fered in their private observance of Shabbat and dietary laws (as I think they should), they would need to pay attention to table fellowship and supporting one another in their differences. On the other hand, the American Jewish community uses inconsistent cri­teria in judging those already perceived to be inside and those understood as inevitably outside.65 I interpret that to mean that the several non-Orthodox communities have no convincing argument that all Messianic synagogues are non-Jewish or even less Jewish than they.

In part due to the influx of intermarried couples and adult chil­dren of intermarried couples, I foresee that the Yeshua-Messianic movement(s) will grow. In welcoming people with ambiguous or no standing in the Jewish community, Yeshua-Messianism reflects the practice of Yeshua. Yeshua himself was probably ostracized where it was known that Yosef, the husband of Yeshua’s mother Miriam and father to their children, was not the biological father of her eldest son.66 The presence and treatment of intermarried couples and their children, of both Jews and Gentiles, and of Gentiles converted to Messianic Judaism, will influence the degree to which Messianic synagogues become places for gaining, keeping, or losing Jewish identity.

“Messianic Judaism has functionally decided to agree with the Reform Jewish ruling that descent from either parent makes one Jewish, if one makes some connection with Jewish community, and practice.”67 Not stated in it, but surely known to those who wrote Defining Messianic Judaism, is that Conservative and Orthodox Judaism do not accept having a Jewish father as enough to make one Jewish. Resnik helpfully states in his commentary in Defining Messianic Judaism that Messianic Judaism must accept the broad norms of conversion prevalent within the Jewish community. He continues, “Thus, like all forms of Judaism, we see a convert, whether from a Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox context, as a Jew, and their offspring normally as Jews.” 68 However, this omits the point that Conservative and Orthodox Judaism do not accept Reform conversions, and Orthodox Judaism does not accept Conservative conversions. The issue in Orthodox conversion is not so much who is a Jew, but who is a rabbi.

Granted that the prevalence of intermarriages has created a cri­sis in Judaism which may require a fresh definition of who is a Jew, and dialogue across the branches of Judaism. If there are to be Messianic conversions,69 a first step would be to develop processes for conversion so that any Messianic synagogue could accept conversions performed in any other Messianic synagogue. This is fraught with particular danger while the movement is unsure how halakhically observant it will be. However, I think that if a Messianic congregation becomes truly “an ekklesia composed of two ekklesiai,” the rate of requests by Gentile congregants to be converted into Jews might diminish.


I treated the spiritualization of redemption under the section Messiah and Redemption, and take up here the spiritualization of ethics. Scott Bader-Saye summarizes the critique of Yeshua and Christianity in Wyschogrod’s The Body of Faith.

He [Wyschogrod] interprets Jesus [Yeshua] as a figure detached from the world and its concerns, as one who preached a transcendent spiritual gospel that blew through the things of the earth as if they were not there. Corresponding to this, he sees Christianity as primarily a matter of beliefs, that is, as an ideology that disregards the material and the political… . It is almost inevitable that this version of Judaism can no longer remain tied to the religious-political destiny of the Jewish people.70

In addition, Christian theology concentrated on the destiny of individuals rather than the present life of God’s people.


The Jewish critique of Christian ethics can be treated by concen­trating on the Sermon on the Mount, especially the renunciation of violence. While replying to Wyschogrod, I will also consider Christian views. This is because when Jews criticize the Sermon on the Mount for being impossible to live by, most Christian theolo­gians respond that it was never meant to be lived by in this world.71

To defend the Sermon on the Mount as instruction for the lives and behavior of Yeshua’s disciples I will show first, that it was so intended by the writer of the gospel of Matthew, second, that it has a social and political character, and third, that it aims to change the world. Thus I agree with Wyschogrod’s characterization of Christianity, including Jewish Christianity, and critique of it, but I argue that Christians and Yeshua-Messianists can be faithful to Yeshua by being less spiritual, in the pejorative sense of that term (elaborated below).

Richard B. Hays has analyzed the Sermon on the Mount in The Moral Vision of the New Testament. The Sermon is set on a mount in imitation of Moses’ instruction, “suggesting that Jesus’ [Yeshua’s] teaching is a new Torah, a definitive charter of the new covenant community.” 72 The Sermon is consistent with Matthew’s overall theological perspective. Hays summarizes his results by the following points73 (Jesus in the original for Yeshua):

  • The teaching of nonviolent enemy-love is not merely an eschatological vision or an ideal. Yeshua practiced it in his own death, and the Gospel of Matthew presents this teaching as a commandment to be obeyed by Yeshua’s disciples.
  • Matthew, writing at least fifty years after the death of Yeshua, is well aware that history is continuing and that the church must reckon with an extended period of time “until the end of the age.” During that time, he envisions the church’s mission as one of discipling all nations to obey Yeshua’s commandments, including the commandment of nonvi­olent enemy-love.
  • There is no basis in Matthew’s Gospel for restricting the prohibition of violence merely to a prohibition of self-defense. The example given in Matthew 5:39 (“Turn the other cheek”) certainly refers to self-defense- we might say even to self-defense. But the larger paradigm of Yeshua’s own conduct in Matthew’s Gospel indicates a deliberate renunciation of violence as an instrument of God’s will. That is part of the temptation that Yeshua rejects in the wilderness and again at Gethsemane. He does not seek to defend the interests of the poor and oppressed in Palestine by organizing armed resistance against the Romans or against the priv­ileged Jewish collaborators with Roman authority. Rather, his activity consists of healing and proclamation. He preaches love and submits to being persecuted and killed. Perhaps most tellingly, he does not com­mend the disciple who takes up a sword to defend him against unjust arrest; rather, uttering a prophetic word of judgment against all who “take the sword,” he commands that the sword be put away. Armed defense is not the way of Yeshua. There is no foundation whatever in the Gospel of Matthew for the notion that violence in defense of a third party is justifiable. In fact, Matthew 26:51-52 serves as an explicit refu­tation of this idea.
  • The suggestion that the teaching of the Sermon is intended only for a special class of supersanctified Christians is discredited by the Great Commission at the conclusion of the Gospel. All baptized believers are to be taught to observe all that Yeshua commanded.
  • The idea that the perfectionist teachings of the Sermon are intended merely to compel us to recognize our need of grace is decisively refut­ed by the conclusion of the Sermon itself (Matt. 7:21-27). These words are meant to be put into practice.

Glen Stassen sees the Sermon on the Mount as composed of triads (“you have heard,” “I say,” example), with emphasis on transforming initiatives, rather than dyads, with emphasis on impossible prohibitions.

It suggests a hermeneutic of grace-based, active participation in eschato­logical deliverance that begins now. The split between attitudes and actions, in which Jesus [Yeshua] allegedly emphasized intentions and not actual practices, falls away.74

I believe that the individual morality taught by Yeshua is to be realized within a social and political space which is the congregation. Richard Horsley argued that Yeshua’s proclamation of the kingdom appeared in the context of popular Jewish nonviolent resistance. Yeshua’s renewal of local community comes about through debt can­cellation, local cooperation, the resolving of conflicts while avoiding the courts, and reconciliation.75 Unfortunately, the church after Constantine rarely supported such an ethic within its midst. However, rabbinic Judaism did. “For over a millennium the Jews of the diaspora were the closest thing to the ethic of Jesus existing on any significant scale anywhere in Christendom.” 76

The spiritualization of Yeshua’s teachings may be illustrated by comparing the Passover seder in Judaism and the Lord’s Supper in Western Christianity. The seder is a commemoration of the redemp­tion of the people of Israel from Egypt. Within the social activity of a meal with highly symbolic foods and while telling the story, there is a place for individual spirituality. As part of the Haggadah one reads, “In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally had come forth from Egypt.” 77

The Lord’s Supper was placed by the synoptic gospel writers in the setting of a Passover seder. Paul warned that a person who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor. 11:29). The immediate context of this warning was divisions among the Corinthian church, with each one going ahead with his own meal, one being hungry and another drunk, and humiliating those who have nothing (1 Cor. 11:17-22). Markus Barth argued that to discern the body means to discern that the fol­lowers of Yeshua gathered for the Lord’s Supper are all the body of Yeshua, a social entity. 78

However, the dominant interpretations within Christianity about what it means to discern the body, focus on what metaphysi­cal way the elements of bread and wine become the flesh and blood of Yeshua. The distribution of the Eucharist in American churches today tends to emphasize the vertical relationship of the individual believer to God at the expense of the horizontal relationships within the church. This is a spiritualization in the pejorative sense.

Bader-Saye79 calls attention to the longing that was expressed to the unrecognized Yeshua on the road to Emmaus, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Yeshua responded to this hope first by explaining the scriptures, and second by revealing himself through the breaking of bread (Luke 24:21-31). Just before Yeshua’s ascension he was asked “Lord, will you at this time restore the king­dom to Israel?” Luke next narrates the formation of the Jerusalem church as a community sharing resources (Acts 2:44-47). This new social entity is Luke’s response to the question. Conversely, refusal of eucharistic fellowship has social repercussions. Bader-Saye asserts that apartheid had its roots in the decision of the Dutch Reformed church in 1857 to allow separate celebrations of the Lord’s Supper for blacks and whites.80

Disjunction between individual and social ethics is a prominent feature of Ernst Troeltsch’s The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, which claimed the church had no social theology but what it borrowed from Stoicism and other non-biblical sources, and introduced church/sect typology. Troeltsch accepted the ethics of the reigning pseudo-scientific philosophy known as Social Darwinism. He gave non-defensive war great value, because through this the German state was created, and the legitimacy of most nation-states required the legitimacy of such wars.81

Yoder developed sharply different views in The Christian Witness to the State82 and The Politics of Jesus.83 He did not admit to a division between individual and social ethics. Yoder wrote about the egalitarianism built into Christian baptism, the political importance of forgiveness, and the economic reality implied by the Eucharist.84 The community of God’s people,85 not the state, is the primary locus of God’s redeeming work in the world. The state is, rather, one of the many Powers that have been created by God, which serve their original purposes to a greater or lesser extent, but which sinfully claim sovereignty in God’s place. The task of the community of God’s people is to unmask the pretension of the Powers, to witness to the Powers that God alone is ruler.

It might be objected that the political character of the church or kehillah (Jewish community) is incomplete if it rejects violence, because it then depends upon a police power outside of itself to engage in coercion that creates and sustains the conditions for soci­ety to exist. Contrary to the claims of some, the problem is not one only for sectarians. The Constantinian church also depends on the unconverted secular realm to exercise the coercive violence that the church may not.86

Gerald Schlabach, however, argues that the most basic problem of Christian ethics is not Constantinian but Deuteronomic.87 While the warning to avoid sin is prominent in Deuteronomy, chapters 6-9, the temptation arises precisely because Israel is God’s people to whom he gives the land. The Deuteronomic challenge is to receive and celebrate God’s gift “without oppressing, violating, and hoarding in new ways.” 88 Schlabach notes that “Christianity has represented an argument with the more exclusionary and landlocked tendencies within Judaism.”89 The link to Wyschogrod’s critique of Christianity is clear when Schlabach writes,

If the only alternative that peace churches, free churches, and other reform movements within Christianity have to offer is a perpetual start­ing over with primitive forms of face-to-face community, then they are admitting that they really have no idea how to live long in the land that God would give them. And they should not be surprised if mainstream “Constantinian” Christians dismiss their witness as little more than an effort to avoid the most basic problem of Christian social ethics.90

Once a movement has begun to enjoy some good gift, it finds it now has something to preserve and protect. And so the issue of peaceableness and policing arises. With a nod to Troeltsch’s typolo­gy, Schlabach recommends that the Christian community be mixed, “kirche-like in its inclination to enjoy and celebrate God’s gift together, yet sect-like insofar as it understands that gift to be a qualitatively different social existence.”91 Schlabach has advocated “Just Policing, Not War,”92 and for going “Beyond Two- versus One-Kingdom Theology: Abrahamic Community as a Mennonite Para­digm for Christian Engagement in Society.” 93

Hays concludes his discussion of violence in defense of justice, based on the New Testament narratives,

Clearly it is possible for a Christian to be a soldier, possible for a Christian to fight. But if we ask the larger question about the vocation of the com­munity, the New Testament witness comes clearly into focus: the community is called to the work of reconciliation and-as a part of that vocation-suffering even in the face of great injustice. When the identity of the community is understood in these terms, the place of the soldier within the church can only be seen as anomalous.” 94

The advocacy of nonviolent resistance characterizes Walter Wink’s series on the Powers.95 The ultimate purpose is to change the enemy into a neighbor, but the proximate purpose is to resist. Yeshua taught in the Sermon on the Mount that if a person takes you to court for one garment, give him another as well. The purpose is to shame the evildoer and to expose his evil. For a modern illus­tration, when South African Boers came to bulldoze a shanty-town of black South Africans, the black women stripped and stood outside their dwellings. The Boers, being prudes, were ashamed and left.

But should not ethics be concerned about effectiveness? The community of Yeshua as depicted in the New Testament stood out­side the circles of power, but must it always? Yoder in places denied that effectiveness can be a measure of the church or kehillah, but only faithfulness. “The relationship between the obedience of God’s people and the triumph of God’s cause is not a relationship of cause and effect but one of cross and resurrection.” 96 However, the consid­eration of effectiveness requires a long view of history. Yoder wrote of patience as a method in moral reasoning. He listed 19 categories by which an ethic of discipleship is not absolute.97 The first category was pedagogical patience. “I cannot expect someone to discuss with care the meaning of discipleship who has never entertained the pos­sibility that church and world might not be identical, or that Jesus [Yeshua] was Jewish, or that God is person-like.” 98

Excursus: Supersessionism And Ethics

Soulen argues that the detachment of Christian thought from the material and political is a consequence of the logic of supersessionism.

In their [Justin Martyr’s and Irenaeus’] vision of the Bible’s coherence, the great bulk of the Hebrew Scriptures, and above all God’s history with Israel and the nations, is rendered ultimately indecisive for shaping conclusions about how God’s works as Consummator and as Redeemer engage creation in enduring and universal ways. One consequence was the logic of super­sessionism, according to which the “spiritual” church is destined from all eternity to replace carnal Israel in God’s plans. A second consequence was a certain tendency to contexualize the gospel of Jesus Christ [Yeshua ha-Mashiach] within metaphysically abstracted understandings of God’s purposes for creation. This in turn fostered a loss of creative theological contact with the Hebrew Scriptures and public history in the formulation of Christian doctrine.99

Soulen, by contrast, develops an economy of blessing in which redemption is for the sake of consummation. Bader-Saye agrees that “Soulen’s proposal properly reorients the Christian vision from a purely redemptive reading of the canon to a reading that places redemption within the context of God’s consummating work mediated through Israel.”100 Yet he objects that under Soulen’s account it is unclear “just how the Apostolic Witness, and thus Jesus [Yeshua] himself, adds anything new to Israel’s story.” This is the same preference for construction over reconstruction that I noted earlier.

Resnik’s commentary to Defining Messianic Judaism approvingly cites Soulen. Resnik asserts that Messianic Judaism, properly understood, however, is a decisive counter to supersessionism; it embodies the truth that God has revealed himself and his purposes within the story of the Jewish people and does not need to set then aside to bring mankind to its destination. Jews should remain Jews when they believe in Messiah, not in some technical or token sense, but in practice and outlook, in family life and community involvement.101

I agree that, understood as Resnik suggests, Messianic Judaism can indeed be a counter to supersessionism.


I have examined six topics in which Michael Wyschogrod criticized Christianity, including Jewish Christianity. In the topics of Messiah and Redemption, Proof Texts, Sacrifice and Atonement, Conversion and Assimilation, and Ethics, I argued that followers of Yeshua should substantially accept the critique. Resources for change already exist in traditional Judaism, Christianity, and Messianic Judaism, change which is compatible with increased faithfulness to Yeshua and God’s purposes. Even on the topic of the Trinity, for which there are definite limits to how followers of Yeshua can or should change, Wyschogrod’s non-Yeshua-messianic Jewish position contains valuable insights.

If Yeshua is Messiah, his kingdom must be social, political, and present, as Wyschogrod insists. I argue that a necessary sign of the kingdom is the people of God living as a contrast community in the midst of the world. Wyschogrod correctly objects to proof texts which deny the plain meaning of scripture. The best response from believers in Yeshua is to appropriate the New Testament’s Christological citations typologically, as midrash. The doctrine of the Trinity indeed separates Christianity from Judaism. Disciples of Yeshua can make fresh statements about how Yeshua relates to God, based in the New Testament, but without expecting to ever fully satisfy Jewish scruples about the limits of monotheism. Wyschogrod has drawn unreasonably sharp distinctions between Judaism and Christianity concerning sacrifice and atonement. Yet, Christians and Yeshua-Messianists should consider scripturally based doctrines other than, or in addition to, Satisfaction Atonement. Faith in Yeshua has historically entailed loss of Jewish identity. Messianic Judaism has taken steps toward preventing assimilation. It needs to become more authentically, particularly Jewish in ways that are credible to other Jews, and more authenti­cally Jewish in ways that Yeshua was exceptional. Finally, the Church has preached an unworldly ethic which it implicitly denied and which Wyschogrod did well to reject. Yet, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the body of Messiah can follow Yeshua’s call and exam­ple, his ethics in the midst of life, so that God’s healing and hope flow through that body to the world.


  1. John H. Yoder, “Judaism as a Non-non-Christian Religion,” in The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited, Michael G. Cartwright and Peter Ochs, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), pp. 147-59.
  2. John H. Yoder, “The Jewishness of the Free Church Vision,” in The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited, Michael G. Cartwright and Peter Ochs, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), pp. 105-20.
  3.  Jewish Christianity might be considered a Free Church movement, and may appreciate the Mennonite experience of carrying a Free Church vision.
  4. Abraham R. Besdin, Reflections of the Rav (Jerusalem: Ahva Press, 1979), p. 176. The position is in a lecture from 1964 by Soloveitchik, “A Stranger and a Resident.” Soloveitchik recommended inter-religious cooperation in civic matters of shared interest, but not inter-religious theological conversations. A prominent participant in Christian-Jewish dialogue who read my essay maintained (contra Soloveitchik) that dialogue is more fruitful when informed by our respective theologies, and explained that “we Jews” can relate to Jewish converts who claim to be Christians, but not to Jewish converts who claim to still be practicing Judaism. I understand the points, but think the second one supports Soloveitchik. While my essay converses respectfully with the theologies of persons of Christian and Jewish faith communities, it is not part of Christian-Jewish dialogue any more than Berger and Wyschogrod’s anti-missionizing book (see note 6). Wyschogrod supports inter-religious dialogue more than his teacher Soloveitchik. Writings on Judaism and on Christian-Jewish relations are collected in Michael Wyschogrod, Abraham’s Promise (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).
  5. Defining Messianic Judaism (Albuquerque: Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, 2002). Reprinted in Kesher 16 (Fall 2003) with Russell Resnik’s commentary.
  6. David Berger and Michael Wyschogrod, Jews and “Jewish Christianity” (Hoboken, NJ: KTAV, 1978), p. 19.
  7. Ibid., p. 24.
  8. Scott Bader-Saye, Church and Israel After Christendom (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999).
  9. Better, see Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), chapter 8, “Revelation: Resisting the Beast.”
  10. Robert Lindsey, “The Kingdom of God: God’s Power Among Believers.”
  11. Pinchas Peli, On Repentance (Jerusalem: Orot, 1980). Reissued by Paulist Press as Soloveitchik on Repentance.
  12. Berger and Wyschogrod, p. 29.
  13. Ibid., p. 32.
  14. Michael Wyschogrod, “A New Stage in Jewish-Christian Dialogue,” Judaism 123:31:3 (1982), p. 363.
  15. Wyschogrod, “Incarnation,” Pro Ecclesia 2 (1993), pp. 208-15.
  16. John C. Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).
  17. Larry Hurtado, One God, One Lord (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988).
  18. Paul M. van Buren, Christ in Context. Volume 3 of A Theology of the Jewish -Christian Reality (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), pp. 207-258.
  19. I. Bernard Cohen, Revolution in Science (Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1985). The earth-centered Ptolomaic cosmology agreed more closely with celestial observations than the suncentered Copernican cosmology until Kepler introduced a law of elliptical rather than circular planetary motion.
  20. Van Buren, pp. 207-258.
  21. Is there similarity to the concept that a rebbe could have the atzmut, essence of God dwelling in his body? Zalman Posner explains this to mean that there is no barrier or separation between the rebbe and God, but some Hasidim concluded from it the deification of the rebbe. See Zalman I. Posner, “The Splintering of Chabad.” Jewish Action Fall 5763/2002, no page number.
  22. Alain Epp Weaver, “Constantinianism, Zionism, Diaspora: Toward a Political Theology of Exile and Return.” Mennonite Central Committee Occasional Paper #28. Accessed at .
  23. Daniel Juster, Jewish Roots (Shippsenburg, PA: Destiny Image Publ. Rev ed. 1995).
  24. R. Kendall Soulen, “YHWH the Trinitarian God,” Modern Theology, 15/1(1999), pp. 25-54.
  25. R. Kendall Soulen, The God of Israel and Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996).
  26. Bader-Saye, pp.83-4.
  27. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Halakhic Mind (New York: Macmillan, 1986), pp. 95-6.
  28. H. Richard Niebuhr, The Meaning of Revelation (New York: Macmillan, 1946).
  29. Berger and Wyschogrod, p. 36.
  30. Ibid., p. 44.
  31. Ibid., p. 49.
  32. Peter J. Thuesen, In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles over Translating the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 11.
  33. Ibid, p. 125
  34. David Flusser, “Theses on the Emergence of Christianity from Judaism,” Immanuel, 5 (1975), pp. 74-84; Thesis #33.
  35. Donald Juel, Messianic Exegesis (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), p. 173.
  36. Juster, Jewish Roots. Here “Old Testament” is a better rendering than “Hebrew Bible,” as most New Testament citations are from the Septuagint.
  37. Henry Dueck, The Mennonite, (April 14, 1992), p. 155.
  38. Mark Kinzer, The Nature of Messianic Judaism (West Hartford, CT: Hashivenu Archives, 2000), p. 10.
  39. Berger and Wyschogrod, p. 56.
  40. Ibid., p. 57.
  41. I don’t argue that 4 Maccabees is the “mainstream.” However, for comparison, I commemorate the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving, not the historically earlier Jamestown settlement. One reader argued that finding a source within ancient Judaism does not make a belief authentically Jewish today, any more than finding an ancient Gnostic Christian belief makes that an authentic Christian belief today. This is a legitimate criticism; see later a lament from the Hashivenu website about forms of Messianic Judaism.
  42. Peli, p. 26.
  43. Van Buren, p. 171f.
  44. J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent Atonement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001).
  45. David Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1988), ch. 27.
  46. Weaver, pp. 14-19.
  47. Weaver, p. 203.
  48. Weaver, p. 181.
  49. Christopher D. Marshall, “Atonement, Violence and the Will of God: A Sympathetic Response to J. Denny Weaver’s The Nonviolent Atonement,” Mennonite Quarterly Review, January 2003. Accessed online at .
  50. Pamela Eisenbaum, “Paul as the New Abraham,” in Richard Horsley, ed., Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000), pp.130-145. Accessed November 5, 2003 at Eisenbaum adds in a footnote, “Stowers points out that people who are kin are also expected to manifest the same characteristics as their ancestors, which may render the contrast between Abraham-as-example and Abraham-as-ancestor ultimately meaningless.”
  51. Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (HarperSanFrancisco, 1994), p. 128f.
  52. Peli, p. 296.
  53. Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1983).
  54. Diogenes Allen, Love (Princeton: Caroline Press, 1987), p. 126.
  55. Berger and Wyschogrod, p. 66.
  56. Terrance L. Donaldson, Paul and the Gentiles (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997). Jews may have had to make compromises in congregations founded by Paul because of the particular Gentile character of the congregations. See Kinzer, The Nature of Messianic Judaism (West Hartford, CT: Hashivenu Archives, 2000), pp. 37-38.
  57. Juster, Jewish Roots, appendix.
  58. Juster, Jewish Roots, p. 235.
  59. Defining Messianic Judaism, p. 9.
  60. Mark Kinzer, The Nature of Messianic Judaism (West Hartford, CT: Hashivenu Archives, 2000).
  61. Accessed 28 May 2002.
  62. Defining Messianic Judaism, p. 9.
  63. Soulen, The God of Israel and Christian Theology; Kinzer, The Nature of Messianic Judaism; Jon C. Olson, “Synthesis of exegetical advances involving Jesus, Paul, and the law might contribute to rapprochement between orthodox Judaism and Christianity,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 33/1(1996):87-92; Jon C. Olson, “Which differences are blessed? From Peter’s vision to Paul’s letters,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 37/3-4(2000):455-460.
  64. Defining Messianic Judaism, p. 13.
  65. Carol Harris-Shapiro, Messianic Judaism. A Rabbi’s Journey through Religious Change in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999). However, Messianic synagogues have a higher percentage of non-Jews attending them, according to anyone’s definition of a Jew.
  66. Scott McKnight, “Calling Jesus Mamzer.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 1:1 (2003):73-103.
  67. Defining Messianic Judaism, p. 14.
  68. Ibid., p. 15.
  69. As has happened within the UMJC since this article was written.
  70. Bader-Saye, p. 50.
  71. Krister Stendahl, “Messianic License: The Sermon on the Mount,” in Meanings (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), pp. 85-97.
  72. Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 321.
  73. Ibid., pp. 323-4.
  74. Glen Stassen, “The Fourteen Triads of the Sermon on the Mount.” Accessed November 11, 2003 at . See this website for articles on Just Peacemaking.
  75. Richard A, Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence (New York: Harper & Row, 1987).
  76. John H. Yoder, “Jesus the Jewish Pacifist,” in The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited, Michael G. Cartwright and Peter Ochs, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), pp. 69-89. I have noticed in Yeshua-Messianism an attraction to Yeshua’s ethic being immediately limited by disavowals of pacifism, presented in an extreme form which Gandhi would not qualify under.
  77. David de Sola Pool, editor and translator, Prayers for the Festivals According to the Custom of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews (New York, Union of Sephardic Congregations, 1977), p. 78.
  78. Markus Barth, Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper (Atlanta: John Knox, 1988).
  79. Bader-Saye, p. 140.
  80. Ibid., p. 141.
  81. Arne Rasmussen, “Historicizing the Historicist: Ernst Troeltsch and Recent Mennonite Theology,” in Stanley Hauerwas et al., eds. The Wisdom of the Cross. Essays in Honor of John Howard Yoder (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 213-48.
  82. John Howard Yoder, The Christian Witness to the State (Newton, KS: Faith and Life Press, 1964).
  83. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus. 2ND ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994).
  84. Rasmussen, p. 247, citing Yoder, For the Nations: Essays Public and Evangelical (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), pp. 43-46.
  85. Yoder only said “church,” but elsewhere he asserted that God also works through Israel outside the church.
  86. Scott Bader-Saye, p. 92.
  87. Gerald W. Schlabach, “Deuteronomic or Constantinian: What is the Most Basic Problem for Christian Social Ethics?” in Stanley Hauerwas et al., eds. The Wisdom of the Cross. Essays in Honor of John Howard Yoder (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 449-71.
  88. Ibid., p. 454.
  89. Ibid., p. 463.
  90. Ibid., p. 465.
  91. Ibid., p. 470.
  92. Gerald Schlabach, “Just Policing, Not War,” America July 7-14 2003, pp. 19-21.
  93. Gerald W. Schlabach, “Beyond Two- versus One-Kingdom Theology: Abrahamic Community as a Mennonite Paradigm for Christian Engagement in Society,” Conrad Grebel Review 11 (Fall 1993), pp. 187-210. Accessed at Schlabach’s website at St. Thomas University.
  94. Hays, p. 337.
  95. Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).
  96. Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, p. 238.
  97. John Howard Yoder, “Patience” as Method in Moral Reasoning: Is an Ethic of Discipleship “Absolute”? in Stanley Hauerwas et al., eds. The Wisdom of the Cross. Essays in Honor of John Howard Yoder (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 24-44.
  98. Ibid., p. 25
  99. Soulen, p. 19.
  100. Ibid., p. 82.
  101. Defining Messianic Judaism, p. 8.


Jon C. Olson received a B.A. (Columbia University), a doctorate in podiatry (New York College of Podiatric Medicine), a Master of Public Health (University of Massachusetts at Amherst), and a Doctor of Public Health, in epidemiology (University of Pittsburgh). He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.