Biblical Messianism versus Rabbinical Judaism versus Christianity

Biblical Messianism
versus Rabbinical Judaism versus Christianity

One time, I asked a guy who called himself a “Messianic” what the essence of Messianism was. He answered me: “Well, we wear talit and kippah…”
I was sorry the lad had not understood I asked about the essence of the Messianism. Maybe the college of Christian theology he was attending had brain-washed him, till he came to believe that Messianism is a Christian crow who dyed itself and claims it is an exotic parrot…
Yet, the question remains. In times past, some asked more directly what had Yerushalayim to do with Athens (and Ekklesia with Akademia, but I do not pursue now this idea). In this little essay I’ll present few distinctions among the Rabbinic (Orthodox) Judaism, Christianity and Biblical Messianism, i.e., the rare form of Messianism that believes in the Bible more than in the Jewish cultural elements. The distinctions will be tackled following as much as possible the doctrines revealed by the systematic (or even dogmatic) theology.

About the Holy Scripture (Bibliology):
The Rabbinic (Orthodox) Judaism believes that the Bible is composed just of the books of the Tanakh, that is, the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim).
The Christianity believes that this corpus is called The Old Testament and adds to it one more corpus: “The New Testament”.
The Biblical Messianism says that it accepts the Tanakh made up of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim) as falling into the categories set up by the Rabbinic Judaism, and not with an “Old” Testament; the lambs sacrificed in times afore would not draw up any testament, they used to be sacrificed with a view to validate the Covenant or to confirm it. At this corpus, the Biblical Messianics accept one more corpus, made up of the books of the “Renewed Covenant”; in the night before His arrest, Jesus, Yeshua, wasn’t writing His testament; therefore, we do not have a “new” testament, but a renewed covenant, the Covenant mentioned, exempli gratia, in Jeremiah, 31:31-34. (Some Messianics call this literary corpus “The Memories of the Apostles”, but it is clear that not all the apostles have written, that not all existing in the “New Testament” is written by the apostles, and that some of the authors of the “New Testament” were preachers without being apostles.)

About God:
Based on the statement from Deuteronomy, 6:4: „Listen, o, Yisrael: YHWH, our God, YHWH is one” (literary translation) and other passages, the Rabbinic (Orthodox) Judaism upholds the strict monotheism. (Actually, to be very accurate, it is not only monotheism, but even monolatry.)
The Christianity reads the “New Testament”, too, and, in addition to some Trinitarian allusions in the “Old Testament”, in the “New Testament” it discovers some other ideas, which seem to sustain better the Trinitarianism. Thus, Christianity asserts itself as being a Trinitarian monotheism.
Generally speaking, the Messianism (weather inclined more to the Bible or to the Jewish cultural elements) is Trinitarian monotheistic, but encompasses some more nuances, and not few.

About Jesus (Christology or Messianology):
The Rabbinic (Orthodox) Judaism considers that Jesus was a charlatan and does not call Him Yeshua, as it was His name, but Yeshu, according to the initials of some Hebrew words that translated mean: “May His name be blotted out forever!” In the best case, some of the streamline Jews believe that He was a remarkable rabbi, but the religious Jews wouldn’t conceive that God could ever “enman” Himself, i.e., He could have become man.
„Jesus was fully God from fully God, begotten, and not made, the Son of God!” claim the Christians in a large choir. “And he who does not believe this is a heretic and is anathema!” would some add, but rather in a whisper. (Why disturbing the process of ecumenization just because of a central truth?…)
All the Messianics are deeply convinced that Yeshua is the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets of the LORD in the Tanakh (it is the central doctrine of their theological system), and many believe he was the Son of God, too, but not all believe He was fully God from fully God, sharing the same essence with the Father and co-eternal with Him. (Certainly, the ultimate theological implications of each of the conviction are extremely serious and affect the eternity, but it’s not what I discuss now.)

About the Holy Spirit (pneumatology):
The Rabbinic (Orthodox) Judaism assimilate the Holy Spirit (Ruach ha-Qodesh) with God Himself, as the Christians believe the Spirit has His own personality, being even the third Person from the Godhead. They would question something more, that is, whether the Spirit proceeds both from the Father and the Son, Jesus, having, thus, two sources of ekporeutic procession, or just one, proceeding only from the Father.
As the Christians do, most Messianics consider that the Spirit of God is, indeed, God, but distinct from the father. Very few Messianics, of Russelist or rationalist extractions, do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a Person but, somehow, the direct manifestation or even an impersonal force.

Hamartiology, or the doctrine of sin, is another bone of contention between the streamline Judaism, on one side, and the other two schools of thought, on the other side. The Rabbinical Jews believe that in each human being there is a good propensity (yetser ha-tov) and a bad propensity (yetser ha-ra) and that, ultimately, it is essential to follow the promptings of the good propensity. After all, the Creator has made man good, according to His image, to His likeness and the command to master over sin was uttered by Him after Adam had fallen into sin, isn’t it (Genesis, 4:7)?… Therefore, the Jews do not consider themselves sinners from birth, but emphasize the Imago Dei in the human beings.
„This is definitely not the case!” would oppose the Messianics and the (New-) Protestant Christians. “From the Fall into sin of our forefathers, man was born having the virus of sin in all the compounding parts of his being”, would they add.

About salvation:
The conception about man, the anthropology each of these schools uphold, determine definitely a certain soteriology, that I will introduce a little more detailed.
Today, many Jews are atheists and they would interpret salvation looking at the Bible (the book of the Exodus is the classic example), but not from a theological, but from a historical and corporative point of view: the God who then rescued the people of Israel has granted a national salvation, a release from a calamity, He has set free, has liberated a people. But this liberation is not personal, but corporative, and has nothing to do with the re-making of a relation, with the restoring of a personal relationship.
Yet, the religious Jews observe the precepts of a Judaism that is less Mosaic and more Rabbinic. They do have any longer the Temple, a High Priest and sacrifices, but are aware that sin must be atoned for. They believe that the personal sins every human being has committed can and should be atoned for by regretting them, by confessing and abandoning them and by compensating for them by fasting, by good, graceful, deeds, and they reject the belief the Messianics and the Christians have, that a Man could die as atonement, as a substitutive sacrifice for the sins of others.
As far as prayer is concerned: the Jews believe that their prayers reach God directly, they uphold it is no need for a Mediator between man and God.
In short, the Jews believe that the salvation of man is within him, within the scope of his abilities, which are to be exerted.
On the other side, the Messianism, as well as the (New-)Protestant Christianity are convinced that, since man is intrinsically a sinner, he needs a salvation that comes from his exterior…and that, if this salvation is external to him, he needs to somehow appropriate it, to make it his, otherwise he remains lost forever. Thus, the declaration that the Messianics and the (New-)Protestant Christianity make together is as it follows: “Man is a sinner and any of his endeavours to atone for his sins is but imperfect. The salvation of man exists outside of him, being offered only by Divine grace and appropriated through repentance of sins and the faith placed in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus/Yeshua. When man accepts in his being and life Jesus/Yeshua as a Lord, a Master that he obeys, and as a Saviour, in the old, sinful nature of man, a new nature is grafted, which brings him to a new, righteous relationship with God.”
In other words, the Gospel, the Good News the Messianics and the (New-) Protestant Christians believe in says that, in order to be saved, man needs the graceful intervention of God, Who regenerates man and offers him the mending of the relationship man has broken by sinning.
In addition to this, the Messianics and the (New-)Protestant Christians believe that their prayers do not reach God, the Father, directly, but are mediated by an Intercessor, Yeshua/Jesus.
Yet, the distinction between the Messianics and the (New-)Protestant Christians emerges when some Christians stand up and preach that salvation is only by grace and that the Law is no longer valid, as the antinomians would preach.
The Messianics, paying attention to the Law given by the Most Holy One in the Tanakh, say: „The Good News say that salvation is not THROUGH works, but it isn’t WITHOUT works” and, pleading in this way, they bring in the proof-text of the Epistle of James, which, for the antinomians, is disturbingly canonical…

About the things to come (Eschatology):
The modern rabbinic eschatology is not dogmatic in this domain, but some hope in a tikun ha-olam, a restoration of all things, in their renewal, but through collective, conjugated human efforts.
Certainly, the Messianics and the Christians have distinct expectations: the Christians expect for the so-called Rapture, as if Lord Jesus would come and snatch them and they would go in heaven and reign on Earth, a star, a planet or, at least, an asteroid. Some others believe that Jesus (or, Jayzus, as some would say?…) would come, but maybe as the UNO Secretary General, in New York or at least as mayor in Bucarest, and He’d start to eradicate the corruption from there.
„No way!” the Messianics would shout. „Yeshua will not come in a forlorn, long-deserted hamlet, getting involved into politics, but will descend on the Mount of Olives and will reign from the earthly Yerushalayim, on which the Heavenly one will be lowered. Then will be fulfilled the promises of the Father toward Yisrael and the Messianic promises yet unfulfilled yet!”

Israelology:
The final and ultimate disagreement between the Rabbis, the Messianism and the Christianity is the “Israelology”, videlicet, the set of convictions regarding the people of Yisrael. The israelology has multiple facets, but here we stop to mention just one of them.
Firstly, directly or indirectly, many Christians have been taught to believe that God doesn’t have any longer in His plan of salvation “the evil Jews, who crucified Lord Christ. Now we, the Church, are the true Israel, the spiritual one.”
The Messianics do not accept this de-nationalizing theology and consider it a heresy called „replacement theology”. They try to be believers endowed with common sense, who believe in the decency of saying that they have been only engrafted in the Jewish olive-tree, and not being the ones who cut it down. Moreover, they continue to observe the Sabbath, the Feasts of YHWH from the book of Leviticus, chapter 23 etc, have a kaşer diet, most of them wear talit, kippah and some of them accept the circumcision, as obeying a Biblical prescription and as element as identification with the Israelites.
The large majority of the Jews are atheists, but this doesn’t prevent them from being very good family people, a rather united ethnic group who strive to maintain their ethnic identity. Accordingly, the israelology the Jews uphold toward the Jews who came to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah is essentially one: a Jews who accepts Yeshua as Messiah, is no longer considered a Jew, but it is believed that he died, he was cut off from Judaism.

Figuratively speaking, it seems to me that the Rabbinic Judaism is a very old, ceremonious stiff-necked lady, who thinks she is sufficient for herself and has the deep conviction she doesn’t need fresh air.
On the other side, let’s not rush to affirm that the Biblical Messianism (may it be more opened to the Hebrew culture or not) is, actually, a form of Christianity: the Biblical Messianism resembles Christianity as much as Miryam, a good, productive Jewish family woman and a joyful mother of children, looks like Miss Hollywood, a glamorous young missie, who underwent an operation of sterilization.

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