Do Jews have to forsake their culture to become Christian?
Answers from our Messianic Friends
From the very beginning of the faith, starting with its founder Yeshua (Jesus), our faith was a “Jewish” one. Yeshua was from the tribe of Judah (from whence comes the name “Jewish”). He observed all the Biblical and many of the Jewish feasts and festivals as evidenced by the Gospel accounts. He had to observe the Torah (as it pertained to an Israelite) in order to be the propitiation of our sins (1 John 2:2). His talmidim were from various tribes, nevertheless observed a Biblical Torah observance, even after His death and resurrection. They observed the seventh-day Shabbat (sabbath): Acts 13:14; 44; 16:13; 17:1,2; 18:14. They observed Shavuot (“Weeks” or “Pentecost”) Acts 2:1,5; 20:16. At the behest of the other Disciples in Jerusalem, Shaul (Paul) observed the Nazirite vow along ith 4 others (Acts 21:15-26 cf. Numbers 6). They observed Yom Kippur (‘the fast”) Acts 27:9 and Hag haMatzah (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) Acts 20:6. Since the Temple was still standing and center to Jewish life, they went to and wrshipped in the Temple Acts 2:46; 3:1-3.
Indeed, the First Century kehilat (“church”) was a Jewish one. Actually, to the early believers, there was no question as to the culture of this movement of G-d, whether it was Jewish or not. Actually, the question was what to do with these Gentiles who were turning to the faith? The first council in Acts 15 determined the minimum standard that a Gentile believer was to follow when they converted to the faith. It was established that salvation for both the Jew and the non-Jew was by faith alone and not by the keeping of the Law and that Gentiles turning to G-d were not incumbant to observe circumcision in order to be saved.
In reality, (though the Church had made it a requirement under penalty of death, in many instances) Jews do not have to forsake their culture to become believers in Yeshua. It was not so in the First Century and shouldn’t be now. It was the Gentiles in the First Century, coming from a pagan background, who had to forsake their culture when they turned to the Messiah Yeshua for salvation. They had to turn from their idols, from fornication, from eating that which was strangled and from blood (Acts 15:20; 29) – all elements of their pagan worship practice and turn to a “Jewish,” or better said, “Biblical” faith. Once turned, they worshipped in the synagogues with the other Messianic Jewish believers and heard Moses (the Law) Acts 15:21 whereupon they learned a more observant lifestyle.
The better question to ask: “Should a Gentile have to forsake their culture to become a Christian?” The answer: Absolutely!
Shalom, In Messiah Yeshua,
Rabbi Bruce R. Booker
The answer to this question is yes . . . and no.
The short answer is no. There is neither the need nor requirement for a Jewish person to forsake or subjugate the culture they grew up with whether they become a Christian, a Buddhist, or an atheist. Culture in modern society is almost always areligious, meaning that it has no relationship with religion. Its practice can be totally separate or totally included in a person’s religious practice, provided certain values are not transgressed. Therefore, no one must lose their cultural identity when becoming a Christian, Jewish or otherwise.
Now for the longer answer: yes. This will not be the popular answer. The fact is that the gentilization of the church is so complete as to negate the relevance of Jewish culture, let alone lifestyle.
Those Jewish people who choose to become Christians and remain in the church generally forsake their Jewishness because it is not encouraged nor is it connected with their faith. Once entrenched in the church, they buy into the homogeny of the “one new man” concept as taught in most denominations; that in which all are one and there is “no longer Jew nor Greek.” If anything comes up with regard to a Christian’s Jewish background, it becomes a novelty, or something that one has been delivered from.
Jewish people who come to faith in Yeshua are often given special treatment in the church because they are Jews and somehow have a mysterious connection with the Bible. Being a “token Jew” in a predominantly Gentile congregation is rewarding because we can achieve special recognition while acting like we humbly regard ourselves as “just the same as” everyone else.
Christian Jews who visit Messianic congregations are often uncomfortable. This can be for a few reasons, such as: 1) Jewish believers are not special in Messianic congregations; 2) Jewish Christians have often been taught that practicing anything that is religiously Jewish is a “going back under the law;” 3) They reject their heritage because it separates them from other Christians; 4) They don’t value or respect their heritage.
On the flip side, we could ask if Gentiles have to forsake their heritage when becoming a part of a Messianic community. To this, I would say that the Lord made no mistakes in bringing someone into the world as Japanese, German, or Arab. We are each called to be who we are, not to feel as if we are missing something by not being someone else.
The term Christian was once carried as a badge of courage. In today’s world, and especially in the United States, it means much less and is widely used as an almost generic term for anyone who grew up in a Protestant or Catholic home, practicing or not. Consequently, making a point out of being called a “Christian” becomes ludicrous, though perhaps well-intentioned.
To add to the discussion, there needs to be the realization that being Jewish is not merely about culture, nor is it merely about keeping a set of religious rules. Being Jewish involves embracing a heritage that is inseparable from its moorings in Scripture. Once one makes that connection, the issue of forsaking one’s Jewish culture becomes irrelevant.
David A. Fleischer Rabbi, Congregation B’nai B’rit HaMashiach San Francisco, CA www.bbhm.org
Messianic Jews believe that we have found the Messiah, or “Anointed one” like the book of Daniel 9:25 refers to and Psalm 2:2 and in the New Testament in Mark 14:61-62. Once we have found the Jewish Messiah in the Jesus or Yeshua we are now ” completed Jews” or we also call ourselves ” Messianic Jews”. We are Jewish People who live like Jews but follow the Messiah Yeshua. Because we believe that Yeshua is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. He never intended to start a new religion, He fulfilled our Jewish heritage and faith. We are completed because we have found the Trues Biblical Judaism through the Messiah Yeshua ( Matthew 5:17). These answers can be found in David Chernoffs Messianic Workbook Series ” An Introduction to Messianic Judaism”
I hope thisa answers your question, Vicky Sedaca Faircloth, IMJA
Answers from our Subscribers
Jews along with every other nationality or human being must forsake or turn away from sin through repentance to inherit eternal life through Jesus Christ the Lord. These scripture do not speak concerning culture, only the sinful nature must be forsaken.
Matthew 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Acts 5:31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
Acts 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
· These scriptures also address the issue
Matthew 19:27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. Matthew 19:30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
(Matthew 19:29) Brethren or sisters, or father or mother, or wife or children, lands, for my name’s sake; or, as in Luke, “for the kingdom of God’s sake”; that is, for the sake of the Gospel, and a profession of it. Not that believing in Christ, and professing his name, do necessarily require a parting with all worldly substance, and natural relations, but when these things stand in competition with Christ, he is to be loved and preferred before them; and believers are always to be ready to part with them for his sake, when persecution arises, because of the word. All these things are to be relinquished, rather than Christ, and his Gospel; and such who shall be enabled, through divine grace, to do so, (John Gill’s exposition of the Bible) God Bless,
I’m not sure if the person asking this question meant cultural heritage or following the 613 Old Testament laws, so I’ll address both.
Acknowledging one’s cultural heritage is not sinful in and of itself. There are those out there who are of Jewish ancestry that identify with the Jewish culture, but don’t follow the religion. I have a friend who was raised Jewish and is now a Lutheran who still indentifies with the Jewish community. However, observing the Jewish laws does present a conflict with Christianity.
Romans 2:11For God does not show favoritism. 12All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (NIV) Those who are under the law of Moses will be judged according to how they followed the Law. Christians are under a new law of grace.
Romans 3:18″There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (NIV) The Law was intended for God’s chosen people, Israel. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel sinned and returned to God numerous times. Their failure to obey the Law helped show that we can’t save ourselves, that we need a Savior.
Romans 4:12And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. (NIV) Abraham, one of the most faithful Jews who lived, was saved by his faith. All the great men and women in the Bible who lived before the time of Christ were saved by their faith in God.
Galatians 2:20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (NIV) I think this verse speaks for itself. If we could do it on our own, there wouldn’t have been any need for Jesus’ sacrifice.
I’ll also note, too, that traditional Jewish teaching regards Jews who convert to Christianity as apostate Jews. A new Christian in this situation may face rejection from their family and friends in some cases. If this is a situation you might encounter, please seek lots of prayer support from other Christians and find a church home if you haven’t already.
With Jesus, all have equal access to God-Jew or Gentile.
Jewish Culture covers a wide range of topics. Jewish Art, Jewish and Hebrew Literature, Jewish Cuisine, Jewish History and the Holocaust, Jewish Humor, Jewish Views on Sex, Judaica Shopping, Kosher Travel, and Jewish Singles.
A Jewish person will of course always be Jewish by birth, and it is fine to continue to enjoy Jewish cuisine and be interested in Jewish History, Travel, and Art, but one cannot in ANYWAY become a Christian and continue the religious traditions of the Jewish faith. You cannot do both. You are either a Christian or Jewish. So many Jewish people today say they are Jewish by faith, yet they go to a different church. This makes no sense. When this is the case, they are not truly either Jewish or Christians.
You have to be firm in your belief of Christianity. One must believe 100% that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save them from death and is their Holy Savior. You must believe in the Holy Spirit. If you don’t believe in these, you cannot claim Christianity and all the beautiful promises that the Lord promises those who are believers in the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Religious beliefs differ very much between Christianity and Judaism. Christians believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and Jewish people believe he was only a good teacher. Some Jews don’t consider him at all. Christians believe in the New Testament, whereas the Jewish only go by the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Christians believe in the Triune God. One God in three persons. The Jewish do not believe this at all. Christians believe we are saved by faith alone, and Jews believe that works and deeds are considered. These are just a few of the differences, and as you see, you must believe in Jesus Christ our Savior in order to be a Christian and gain entrance to the Holy Gates of Heaven. So I would have to say that aside from enjoying the food, art, and history of Judaism, YES, one must give up alot of the traditions, ideas and beliefs of the Jewish culture in order to become a Christian!