For as long as I have been teaching and writing about Yeshua, it has been primarily to a Messianic Jewish audience, knowing all the while that many Gentile ears were listening. But one thing that has boggled my mind for more than a decade has been the attraction that certain believers—both Jewish and Gentile—develop for “the Jewish (or Hebrew, or Hebraic) roots of the Christian faith.” While I perfectly understand why a Jewish believer in Yeshua would continue in faithfulness to the Torah, retaining an ethnically Jewish identity in the Messiah, I have often wondered why believers who were formerly immersed in Christianity would begin gravitating toward all manner of things “Jewish.” What motivates people to pursue Christianity’s “Jewish roots”?

And then it dawned on me: just what are the Jewish roots of Christianity? Perhaps if I asked around, I could locate them and be able to better understand the hearts and minds of my brothers and sisters in Messiah. As it turns out, what I thought to be a relatively simple question to ask was not quite so simple for others to answer. Indeed, after considering all the responses, it seems that the “Jewish roots of the faith” is actually a vague, elusive, ethereal concept that each individual is invited to envision and determine for himself. Not the results I was hoping for.

After some probing, however, I believe I have uncovered the common motivation that leads believers to want to “discover their Jewish roots,” and the common influence that has landed us in a pool of Judaistic confusion: without exception, everyone I spoke to said that they were simply seeking the truth. They felt that what they had been taught in Christianity was not primarily based on Scripture—and even when it was, the first two-thirds of the Book was almost entirely overlooked (or spiritualized away). So what does this explanation mean? It means that what people are actually looking for when they stumble upon the “Jewish roots of Christianity” is the truth of God’s Word. They are passionate about abiding by the Scriptures and doing only what the Word of God says. Doesn’t that ring true to you?

The problem, however, is that many—in their zeal—overshoot the Scriptures and plunge instead into the realm of Judaismnot realizing that there is a major difference between the two! Somehow, people have become convinced that Scripture requires an assistant or interpreter, and that the collective traditions and teachings of Judaism (or a subjective, selective, “messianic” conglomeration of them) is the authentic, reliable prism through which the truth can once again be seen. My brother, my sister—this is not the truth, but a lie! You aren’t looking for the “Jewish roots” of your faith… you’re looking for the truth of the Scriptures, and you’ve run right past it!

There is no wisdom, spiritual insight or mystical secret that Judaism (or any other traditional institution, or any so-called “new revelation”) can supply that will shed light on the plain instructions of God’s perfect Word. If you feel robbed or duped by unscriptural teachings, the solution is not to look to ancient Judaism—the answer is to read your Bible! The truth hasn’t been hidden from you because it’s Jewish; it has been omitted because men hide themselves from the intense, revealing light of the Word of God.

My friend, devote yourself to the truth of the Scriptures… certainly, they are Jewish; but most importantly, they are all you need.

What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

This “Word from Kevin” was previously published in Messianic Jewish Issues.

13 replies
  1. Don Norris
    Don Norris says:

    Kevin – I must have missed this article in Messianic Jewish Issues; however, you are spot on. As a gentile believer in Yeshua and as a congregational leader, my heart is to develop a heart for Messiah and to share with others, to the Jew first, what God’s Word reveals to me. Yes, in our congregation we do follow a similar pattern of worship that you would find in a traditional Jewish Synagogue; not because it is the only way to worship, but to make Jewish seekers more comfortable while we present to them the Besorah (Good News) of Yeshua. Fortunately, much of what we recite is right out of scripture.

    May God continue to bless you and keep you on the narrow path He has laid out for you.

    Reply
  2. Aggie Henley
    Aggie Henley says:

    I very rarely disagree with you Kevin,and this is one area in which I do.
    Much of the Tanach, so rooted in Jewish culture, must be put into context. To do so, one must have a working knowledge of the historical culture at the time. I have heard and read Christians butcher portions of scripture because they lack understanding of the context. The conclusions wrought from such an approach are therefore faulty.
    I have read Rashi, and many other commentaries not because I am convince that these commentaries are the final authority, but because Jewish approach to scripture will most definitely differ from, say, Mathew Henry’s commentary on the bible. It doesn’t hurt to educate oneself.

    Although we cannot expect to read about Yeshua as the interpretation of Messianic scriptures by Orthodox Jews, we can see what they believed scripture was revealing to them as God’s chosen people. Jews who don’t believe in Yeshua still accept these interpretations, and that is good to know, especially if you are called to witness to them. I can now see where they are coming from.

    There are many Christians who don’t even know that the Jews in general don’t accept Yeshua. It helps if you can explain it to them in a way that doesn’t point to them merely as “Jesus-Killers” which induces persecution, but places things in historical context and point out also- hind sight is 20/20.

    I am very careful to distinguish between the scriptures and the Judaic traditions that go back centuries. This is simply what we must do. If we do not give these considerations due diligence, we will always rely on someone, somewhere, to tell us, and we need to search these things out for ourselves. Turn the TV off and get to it.

    Kevin, by your own standards, there is no reason to read any of your books if we ought to just read the Word………

    No matter how much I respect and trust you in general, it is my job as a believer to seek and knock and find out for myself. In the workbook edition of The Messianic Life, I look up every scripture you reference to see if what you’re saying stands up to scripture., as the Bereans did daily. I highly doubt that God wants me to simply take your word for it……

    We are not meant to go it alone. We need other people. That is how God formed us. So yes, I will read your books because I want to know what the questions are. And often I do agree, but just as often, I ask, how are we to go about this or that issue, and that is where we must meet to collaborate or butt heads. It’s good to butt heads, as long as we do it in Love. It’s how we work through, in prayer, how we move forward in like-mindedness, no?

    I am anxiously awaiting you new book. Much love to you and yours.

    Reply
    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      Shalom Aggie. Thanks for your comments. I agree that we need one another to work through things together! We are the Body, after all.

      My assertion (which is implied here, but made explicitly elsewhere, and is the premise of my new book) is that the Scriptures are sufficient and supreme. They are fully authoritative, and don’t require anyone’s commentary or interpretation (including mine), but are the perfect, written revelation of God.

      The main point of this particular article, however, is that many who pursue Christianity’s “Jewish roots” go too far into Judaism, not understanding that Judaism and Scripture are not the same thing, and, ironically, miss the Scriptures, which is what they were really after in the first place.

      The points you are making, to me, are a different subject altogether. Of course we have to understand historical contexts to Scripture, but these are not subjective interpretations in and of themselves. And, of course, we have to read Rashi and the Talmud if we really want to understand the mindset of Judaism (if one feels it necessary to do so). But as you say, you’re careful to distinguish between Scripture and tradition. So, I’m not really sure what you’re disagreeing with in my article. 🙂

      Thanks again for commenting!

      Reply
  3. Dan
    Dan says:

    All believers are seeking the truth, because they are heavily burdened by the curse that came upon man by failing to believe the truth in the garden; and they want to escape the curse, by returning to the truth which is the source of blessing. Ironically, even unbelievers “want the truth”, inasmuch as they desire to escape the curse; nonetheless, they cannot seek, let alone find, what they do not first believe, and grow to love; and they cause much destruction and suffering, as they wallow in such a hopeless and miserable condition—“living among the tombs”, void of the hope and light of the Truth. Why the tendency to “romanticize” Judaism? Because gentile believers were “engrafted” into the nation of people— not to whom the truth was first given (for when the truth was first given, mankind was one, there were no “nations”, Adam and eve being not “Jews”), but through whom, after the fall, the truth flourished, and the blessings manifested, BECAUSED THEY BELIEVED. .

    Reply
  4. John Whittington
    John Whittington says:

    Hello Kevin! If I understand correctly, a body of works such as your books are important mainly because they motivate the reader to open the Bible and return to Scripture. Yes, we can use them to glean amazing insights into the cultural background of God’s Word, but if they arouse a desire for the perfect Word itself they have fulfilled their primary purpose! Continue to be blessed, Brother!

    Reply
  5. June Volk
    June Volk says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I so apprciated what you wrote, and understand your concern for ‘turning back’ to the ‘traditions’ of Judaism to find the ‘root’ of our faith.

    With that said, here are my thoughts:

    For a Jewish believer, the Scriptures are not clear what we do with the ‘law’ the ‘Sabbath’ ‘The Feasts’ etc… The Scriptures are clear for the Gentiles in Acts 15 what is required of them. Then again, Paul writes in Romans to know what is in your heart to follow (Sabbath, foods etc…) … and exhorts us not to go against our conscience, or conviction.

    The Truth, The Word, is more than a concept – it is a Person. To find The Truth – To Understand – The Word – you need to pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation for knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1). To find Yeshua/Jesus is to find The Truth, and The Word then comes Alive. When He lives in our heart, He directs us into ALL Truth. I know we agree, just writing my thoughts for your readers 🙂

    When He becomes our ALL in ALL then how we walk before Him with the Sabbath Day, Foods, Feasts, is a conviction of the One Who leads us into ALL Truth.

    These are the days of preparation for the return of the Lord – and traditions – Messianic or Church – will Not deliver us or bring us peace when ‘tribulation’ comes our way. It is only The Person and the spirit of Truth which He sent to us that will guide us and lead us into ALL Truth, and bring us peace.

    I Jesus have sent my angels to testify to you these things for the churches – I AM the Root and The Offspring of David, The Bright and Morning Star (Reveleaton 22:16).

    Reply
  6. John Michael Hart
    John Michael Hart says:

    HI Kevin, Gentiles are turning to Jewish thought on Scripture because they feel the traditional Christian understanding of Scripture is wrong. It takes a Hebraic mind to explain to gentiles what the Word means through all those Hebraic idioms, as it was with Yeshua, Shaul, Kefa, Ya’akov, Jews bringing the Word to Jews first then to the Greek.
    Abba’s intentions were not to make a religion called Christianity. Nor was it to bring about Orthodox Judaism as we know it today.
    Please keep on feeding the sheep Kevin 🙂 thank you brother.

    Reply
  7. Terry Newman
    Terry Newman says:

    Kevin, as usual, you are on target. I appreciate your candor and explanations. Unfortunately, many out of a lack of understanding, do turn to “Judaism” as the roots of faith. The many and varied traditions are beautiful and lend to the spiritual depth of true understanding and worship, but by no means are the traditions scripture. When G-d gave detailed specifics for something, it is not tradition, it is His requirement (such as Passover) and only when something is added to that, then that part is a tradition. It is as you have shown, hard for some to separate the two.

    Ultimately, the “Jewish roots of faith” as we call it, is in a nutshell, G-d’s fluid plan, pattern and purpose (first addressed in Genesis) for bringing mankind back to Him, giving us the means to draw close to Him again and getting us prepared for the return of our now warrior King and High Priest, Yeshua, cleansing the world of evil and restoring G-d’s Kingdom on earth as it is Heaven.

    G-d set aside, set a part a nation to be the light to the world/nations, who would be the first corporately to receive and learn about G-d, His plan for salvation, His expectations and requirements for moral and ethical conduct and living, His requirements for worship, atonement and drawing near to Him. Thus we have G-d’s written word for our guide. In our favor, we have the “whole playbook” now, since the ministry and ultimately the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua HaMashiach.

    As it has been since before Yeshua’s earthly time, we have to strive for and understand balance, using G-d’s written word and instructions. I believe it is why we have works of study such as your books and others who publish studies. Studies and sharing of thoughts should create a hunger to be in G-d’s word, finding for themselves the evident truth and being able to share it with others. Understanding the background and meaning of G-d’s word as given to each “generation” so to speak, will give us the necessary understanding to make the proper application of His instructions today. Only mankind and his way of speaking and thinking has changed over the generations, NOT G-D nor HIS WORD.

    Continue to ignite that fire for the truth and the fire to be in G-d’s word and His ways. We have to be in the word, for the Word to be in us.
    Shalom and Blessings, my Brother in Yeshua!

    Reply
  8. Barbara S.
    Barbara S. says:

    My husband and I began “exploring Jewish roots,” after a long 18-month bible study of the old testament. After that study, we were convicted to pray a heartfelt prayer that we wanted to live BIBLICALLY.

    Little did we know that God would answer that prayer so abundantly. Exploring the “Hebraic Roots” segment of Messianic Judaism wasn’t doing it for us because the group that we were exposed to relied heavily on the teaching that torah observance was:

    1. Only for Jews
    or
    2. Required as a right relationship with God.

    We could only find FAITH and GRACE as what established a “right relationship” and frankly, what can any of us do that would match what Yeshua did for us?

    And only for Jews? No. It was non-Jews who joined Israel/biblical Judaism – not the other way around.

    So we gravitated to full-fledged mainstream Messianic Judaism. And this is where G-d wants us to be.

    NOW. I totally get that there is no one Messianic POV anymore than a singular Jewish POV or a Christian POV. We Messianics are as opinionated as everyone else! In our congregation we have men who wear tallit and kippot and we have men that do not. We have women that cover their hair and women that do not. Some have opted to take on more tradition and custom of traditional Judaism, and some who listen to Christian radio and go on mission trips with churches.

    We are, however, united by Yeshua. One faith. One Baptism. One G-d. Torah observance is a RESULT of our faith in Yeshua Messiah, not a prerequisite or a requirement for fellowship.

    Granted, we have a few from both sides of the coin come in and out and declare we are not “Jewish enough.” They want the culture – not the G-d of Yisrael.

    So my point is that we all approach Messianic Judaism/torah observance through the lens of our own experience as well as the place we are now in our walk with G-d. I suppose we can all pull a Jew out of our pedigrees to claim Jewishness, but the reality is that when we claim Yeshua – we claim heritage with Him – the Word made Flesh.

    Shalom B’Shem Yeshua

    Reply
    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      Shalom Barbara. Thank you very much for your comments!

      Perhaps you can help me start a side-thread here. I am wondering: how do you define “Torah observance”?

      Reply
  9. Aggie Henley
    Aggie Henley says:

    Kevin, I must have misunderstood what you wrote in the article.
    Your point then, that both Jews and Gentiles ,seeking truth, simply trade in the trappings of Christianity for the flavor of Judaism. And the Word is set aside.
    As for my Gentile self, I often identified the Christian problem as one of a disconnect between the Old and New Testaments- as you say, it is spiritualized away. Its treasure remained largely un-mined, and when the teachings did enter that territory, the relevance for today was glossed over.
    Secondly, the concept of “to the Jew first” was something you never heard in Christian congregations. Nor do many Christians care to embrace it, even when pointed out.

    But any believer seeking the truth does so by communing with God for guidance by the Holy Spirit and staying in the Word. So, are you identifying the problem of Jews and Gentiles alike, jumping into Judaism and by passing the truth as one of lack of prayer and time in the Word?

    I guess I have a hard time believing that if someone is sincerely searching for Truth, they won’t find it. Perhaps some believers aren’t devoted enough, are not diligent enough- or something is amiss. Maybe it’s not truth they are after, but a place to fit in, or a simple desire to follow the latest trends. I suppose I am unclear as to what the motive is, as you understand it.

    Reply
  10. victoria Hinton
    victoria Hinton says:

    That is, indeed what drew me’ the whole truth of the scripture.

    How can you believe and LIVE in Jesus, if you do not understand the whole reason of why and how he came?

    I do not “keep” the holy days, but I honor them as points of teaching and foreshadowing.

    Good insight.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *