MembersIs There a Messianic Jewish Theology? (Part 2)

Will the Church stand in the way of Messianic Jews providing a more Hebraic interpretation of Scripture?

By Gershon Nerel | | Topics: Messianic Jewish Theology
The time is ripe for a genuine Messianic Jewish theology.
Photo: David Cohen/Flash90

The following is the second in a series of articles dealing with Messianic Jewish theology, or the lack thereof. Opinions and positions are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Israel Today as a publication.

The prophetic verse “Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24) is being fulfilled in front of our own eyes. In May 1948 the Jewish state of Israel was miraculously revived, and in June 1967 Jerusalem was miraculously reunified under Israeli sovereignty.

Israel’s national re-birth as a sovereign nation restored the Jews as an independent people. This unprecedented event greatly fulfilled Ezekiel’s prophecy about the comeback of the “dry bones” (Ezekiel 37:1-14). This monumental ethnic “blossoming” cannot be separated from Jerusalem’s reunification as Israel’s capital. The city’s territorial merging under Jewish control became a master-key to unlock the “door” leading to the fulfillment of the Lord Yeshua’s prophecy in Luke 21:24.


Jerusalem’s Liberation in 1967

The aftermath of Israel’s return to biblical Jewish territories, inside and around Jerusalem/Zion, is outstanding. Until 1967 only western Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, while the Old City and its surroundings belonged to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. With the astonishing victory by Tzahal, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in June 1967, also eastern Jerusalem came under Israeli sovereignty. The significance of this cannot be underestimated. Even the Hebrew University Campus on Mount Scopus, which is on the northern slopes of Mt Olives, was under Jordanian authority until it became part and parcel of the Jewish capital.

Nineteen years after the re-establishment of the Jewish State, the entire city of Jerusalem came under Israeli sovereignty. This took place for the first time since the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) ruled the city in the first century B.C.


The Professor and Prophecy

The late Prof. David Flusser (1917-2000) from the Hebrew University was among the earliest Israeli scholars who highlighted the linkage between Jerusalem’s re-unification under Israeli sovereignty in 1967 and the modern fulfillment of the Lord’s prophecy in Luke 21:24. In 1967 the ancient expectations for Israel’s national redemption together with biblical Jerusalem under Jewish rule were fulfilled.

Flusser emphasized the notion that Jerusalem cannot remain forever subject to Gentile trampling and treading. Thus, quite clearly, since June 1967 the prophetic clock displays that the time had indeed come – the holy city has been liberated from Gentile rule, and the “times of the Gentiles” has come to an end.[1]

Flusser also could not ignore the enthusiastic interpretation of Christian Zionists that Jerusalem’s liberation by Tzahalwas a proof that the End-Times are already present. Namely, that the same generation was now able to envision the imminent Second Coming of the Messiah.

At the same time, however, Flusser also realized that for many Gentile Christians it was very difficult to admit that the words “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” had a literal meaning. For them the termination of Gentile dominion, mainly political, over the people of Israel was hardly conceivable.[2]


Spiritual Mandate

On top of that, the meaning of the words “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” should not be understood merely in the geo-political sense. No less important is the issue of independent theological hermeneutics among Messianic Jewish Yeshua-Believers (MJYB). Alongside Jerusalem’s earthly liberation in 1967 the time has also come for MJYB to focus on their exegetical freedom and to implement it.

In other words, MJYB are given the spiritual mandate to re-examine the theological-dogmatic teachings of the Gentile churches which prevailed for two millennia, and when necessary even to challenge them. This is in fact part of what the apostle Paul had written about the acceptance of the Jewish people being “life from the dead” (Romans 11:15).


Restoration of Israel’s “Kingdom”

Within this context, Flusser also pointed to the question addressed by the early disciples to the Messiah: “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).[3] Flusser contextualized the restoration and referred it to the modern renewal of Jewish sovereignty in Jerusalem. He connected the ancient question of the disciples in Acts 1 with Israel’s modern geopolitical redemption in the Promised Land. Today MJYB belong to the Jewish community and benefit from Israel’s strategic sovereignty.


Liberation from Gentilized Theology?

Will the historic churches refrain from delegitimizing Messianic Jews when they interpret Scripture differently than their dogmatic doctrines?

Since the Reformation of the 16th century until our own days Protestants do challenge Roman Catholic beliefs relating to issues such as the supremacy of the Papacy, the role of Mary called “Mother of God” and the adoration of saints. But Protestantism remained silent vis-à-vis Christological creeds anchored in the resolutions of the Ecumenical Councils of both Nicaea in 325 A. D. and Chalcedon in 451.[4] These have not been revisited and were never formally discussed since then.

Therefore, at the threshold of the 21st century, as the Messianic Jewish movement is back again on the historical stage, why not start a serious discussion and re-evaluation of the uniform Protestant confessions of faith? Even the Trinitarian formula, which largely affects most dogmatic creeds, should not be excluded when coming to the issue with Jewish and Hebraic lenses. Who is afraid of a genuine Messianic Jewish Theological Reformation – yes, with a capital “R”?


Theological Debates

Currently only a handful of MJYB attempt to produce unconventional hermeneutics in Hebrew. These are like first fruits of theological thinking alongside the national revival of the Jewish people in their homeland. However, this development does not happen without internal debates and even the anathematized rejection of those who dare to challenge Hellenized creeds.[5]

A salient example for such a situation occurred in November 2009 when a small group of veteran MJYB from the Messianic village of Yad Hashmona near Jerusalem challenged some Christological doctrines. Consequently, its members were declared “heretics” especially by missionaries supported from abroad. This public declaration followed an orchestrated kangaroo court by certain “Messianic leaders” who accused the nonconformists for daring to raise “provocative” and even “dangerous” theological ideas.[6]

All articles in this series can be found here: Messianic Jewish Theology



[1]: David Flusser, “The Liberation of Jerusalem: A Prophecy in the New Testament,” in: Eretz Israel (Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies), Zalman Shazar Volume, Jerusalem 1971, pp. 226-236 (in Hebrew). An English synopsis of Flusser’s article: “The Times of the Gentiles and the Redemption of Jerusalem,”  See here

[2]: D. Flusser, Ibid. (Hebrew), p. 230.

[3]: Ibid., p. 234.

[4]: W. A. Jurgens (Selector & Translator), The Faith of the Early Fathers (Sourcebook of Theological and Historical Passages from the Christian Writings of the Pre-Nicene and Nicene Eras), The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 1970, pp. 272-299; 344; 397-399.

[5]: For example, Gershon Nerel, “Christological Observations within Yeshua Judaism,” Mishkan, 59 (2009) 51-62. Online: See here

[6]: Tsvi Sadan, “Unholy Fire,” Kivun, 72 (2010): 10-12 (in Hebrew).


Gershon Nerel