A new translation of the Calvinist/Reformed Westminster Confession of Faith into modern Hebrew has been circulated among Messianic Jewish believers in Israel. Should this old creed, originally shaped by Scottish and English theologians around 1647, serve as a doctrine for contemporary Israeli Messianic Jews?
This is not the only credo that the historical churches have translated into Hebrew and promulgated locally in order to structure the theological thinking of Israeli believers. Many more man-made declarations of faith have been systematically introduced in the Land of the Bible, such as the Creed of the Assemblies of God, the Anglican 39 Articles of Faith, the Lutheran and Baptist Catechisms, Beliefs of Adventists, and a large variety of American “Messianic” creeds which simply copy Evangelical doctrines, to mention just a few.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, which is actually based on creedal foundations from the fourth and fifth centuries, mainly the Nicaean (325 AD) and Chalcedonian (451 AD), is an organized presentation of Calvinist orthodoxy. It includes many theological concepts that do not appear in the canonical text of the Bible. Among the terms one finds are “the Holy Trinity”; “Godhead and manhood inseparably joined together”; “God the Son”; Predestination; and the “Christian Sabbath,” namely Sunday, the first day of the week, which “replaced” the seventh-day Shabbat.
Additionally, part and parcel of Calvinism is the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Such a statement stands in clear contrast both with the words of the Lord Yeshua (Jesus) and the Apostles. For example, the Lord states that “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matt 24:13). And in the parable of the 10 Virgins, He teaches that 50 percent are rejected for not having collected enough “oil” (Matt 25:1-13). The Epistle to the Hebrews declares:
“It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” (6:4-6)
Interestingly, the Hebraic adaptation of the Westminster Confession does not include the Larger and the Shorter Catechisms, which were originally attached to the body text of the Confession.
These two series of formal questions and answers explain the doctrines of Calvinism. For example, both the Confession and the Catechisms refer to the Torah (Five Books of Moses) as the Law, saying that “all ceremonial laws are now abrogated.” This appears under the headline of “Christian Liberty,” which is described as “freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church (sic!) was subjected.” Thus, while stating that “true believers be not under the law,” it more than implies that circumcision is no longer relevant for Jews.
Nowadays, Hebrew-speaking Israeli believers must independently shape their own understanding of Scripture, directly with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is the needed and true spiritual pattern, rather than succumbing to bombardment by imported old church traditions and dogmas. This issue remains one of the more serious problems that local Jewish believers face in this land. Sadly, the ongoing efforts of multi-denominational churches to Christianize or “Churchianize” the Jews by creedal formulas aim to homogenize or assimilate them within non-Jewish ecclesiastical frameworks.
Strangely, the new Hebrew version of the Westminster Confession of Faith is published without mentioning the name(s) of the editor(s) or the editorial board, as well as appearing without the name(s) of the translator(s). Even the short foreword is presented anonymously, with no reference to an author. Only the technical name of the printer is revealed. Why hide the names of those who have labored so hard to bring this volume to the Hebrew reader?
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