The Unique Joys and Challenges of Being a Jewish Believer in Jesus

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I’ve heard the same thing for years when I tell someone, “I’m a Jewish believer in Jesus.”

They reply, “You were Jewish. But if you believe in Jesus, you’re no longer a Jew.”

Really? Try telling that to Peter or Paul or John or James (actually) Jacob, all of whom were Jews, along with all the first followers of Jesus (whose Hebrew name was Yeshua.)

This is underscored in the translation of Matthew 10:1-4 in the Complete Jewish Bible:

“Yeshua called his twelve talmidim [meaning, disciples] and gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits and to heal every kind of disease and weakness. These are the names of the twelve emissaries: First, Shim‘on, called Kefa, and Andrew his brother, Ya‘akov Ben-Zavdai and Yochanan his brother, Philip and Bar-Talmai, T’oma and Mattityahu the tax-collector, Ya‘akov Bar-Halfai and Taddai, Shim‘on the Zealot, and Y’hudah from K’riot, who betrayed him.”

As for Paul, more than 20 years into his ministry, he made a public demonstration in Jerusalem to indicate that he was not teaching fellow Jewish believers who lived in exile “to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs” (Acts 21:22, NIV).

As Jacob (James) said to Paul, then “everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law” (Acts 21:24).

The fact is that no one questioned whether these first followers of Jesus were Jews.

The debate among the Jewish people was whether He was the Messiah. As to the Jewishness of His followers, the only debate had to do with to what extent they observed Torah, a debate that was common in other Jewish circles as well. 

Sadly, as the Church became predominantly Gentile and lost sight of its Jewish roots, Jewish believers (called Messianic Jews today) found themselves between a rock and a hard place. The Christian community said to them, “If you want to be part of us, you must deny your Jewishness!” The Jewish community said to them, “If you want to part of us, you must deny Jesus!”


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