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To What Extent Was Jesus Responsible For The Division Between Messianic And Orthodox Judaism?

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a Messiah
  3. Jesus and Judaism
  4. Messainic Judaism
  5. Early non biblical accounts for Jesus
  6. Early Christians
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography


Throughout history, Jewish citizens have gone through a great deal of turmoil. From being able to identify with a nationality completely different to their race or ethnicity to have the ability to claim a unique culture and religion, Jews have always played an essential role in international affairs.

Judaism, the world's oldest monotheistic religion, is rooted in a promise that Jehova made with Abraham declaring Israelites as his chosen people. They believe that God will send his son, the Messiah to redeem them. In the last half-century, discord whether or not Jesus Christ was the Messiah promised by numerous Old Testament Prophets has caused a division in Judaism. A whole denomination of Judaism stems from believing that Jesus Christ was the Messiah ordained from Jehovah.

The purpose of this essay is to explore the reasoning behind Messianic Judaism's assertion that Christ was, in fact, the Messiah and to answer how extensively was Jesus responsible for disrupting Jewish tradition and religion.

For continuity, the Tanakh and the Tree of Life translation of the bible will be used to cite any biblical scriptures. The Tanakh is the Hebrew Bible. It is divided into three parts. Its name is an acronym derived from the names of its three parts: the Torah (Instruction or law), the Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (writings). Furthermore, the Tree of Life biblical translation was “produced by Messianic Jewish and Christian Scholars”. The translation emphasizes maintaining Jewish roots, keeping the Jewish order of Old Testament books, keeping the Jewish name of the Messiah (Yeshua), upholding the reverence for the four-letter unspoken name of God, and has Hebrew transliterated terms such as shalom, shofar, and Shabbat.

What is a Messiah

The promise of a Messiah is utilized numerous times in the Tanakh by prophets and God’s promises as a beam of hope for Israel. Jewish belief states that the arrival of the Messiah will start a perfect era known as the Messianic age.

Interesting enough, the word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word mashah, which means to anoint. This raises controversy. Throughout the bible, there are multiple instances where biblical figures are anointed. An example of this could be David being anointed king at a young age by the prophet Solomon. Should he be considered a Messiah? He did start a monumental age for Jewish history. His son Solomon pushed towards the construction of the Temple which played a huge part in Jewish history. Unfortunately, after David’s death, there was a split in the nation. Arguments on which son should succeed his father as king caused anything but peace. Further contextualization is found in the fact that in Isaiah 45:, Isaiah refers to King Cyrus as the Anointed of Adonai (Hebrew word for God). King Cyrus did serve as a Messiah to the Israelites under their captivity in Babylon. He let allowed the Israelites to return home. However, he did not usher in an era of peace. Jews do not believe any of these figures to be the messiah because there hasn’t been a messianic age. Because of how mailable different interpretations of the word Messiah in Hebrew can be, there will always be different claims made defending different positions.

Jesus and Judaism

The name Jesus Christ is recognized by anyone in the world. This biblical figure is connected to Christianity as the second in the Holy Trinity and as the son of God. Others connect the name with being the cause of the crusades, or just a prophet from the Quran. Nevertheless, Jews have a unique perspective on Jesus Christ. Throughout history, there have been numerous accounts of antisemitism in the Catholic church. From using the Jewish religion as a scapegoat to forcing them to convert to Christianity, Jews have never had a positive perspective on Jesus. For some, this religious figure has drastically changed their lives.

All of the information on Jesus comes from the four New Testament Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There is no clear date for when the Gospels were written. However, scholars believe that they were written decades after Jesus was crucified. While “there is no archaeological or other physical evidence for this existence, most scholars agree that Jesus did exist,” references to Jesus in the Talmud concrete this. The Talmud is a Jewish religious text that was meant to be studied and not read, therefore there are different interpretations to Rabbanic law and can be malleable according to the situation. According to the article “What do Jews believe about Jesus” there was a Jewish historical named Josephus that mentions Jesus in his text: Antiquities of the Jews⁷. Furthermore, there are arguments that this text was augmented by Christian scribes to provide grounds to prove the existence of Jesus. However Sanhedrin records in the Talmud state that Yeshu (a form of the hebrew name of Jesus) was hung on the eve of Passover for leading Jews astry. The Sanhedrin is known as the ancient Jewish court system. From these accounts, it is logical to support the fact that Jesus, as a religious or secular figure, did exist.

Messainic Judaism

This support was essential in creating Messianic Judaism: a denomination of Judaism dedicated to the fact that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. To understand the order of events leading up to the formal acknowledgment of Messianic Judaism, it's important to recognize the fourth great awakening.

The term “great awakening” refers to a period of history where a christian growth spike was seen. In the 1960s, several popular individuals started a movement across North America. Individuals such as Billy Graham and Catholic radio priest Fulton Sheen were essential to spreading the gospel throughout America. They were charsitamict, and people would flock towards stadiums to hear them preach. The large pressene of Christian based themes in American media led to the creation of Jews for Jesus. This spiritual revolution appealed to Jews who started to view Jesus in a different light.

Although the fourth great awakening was essential for the spiritual revolution seen in the West during the 1960s, there is speculation whether or not the fourth great awakening had enough traction to be considered a great awakening. All great awakenings on par to contemporary history have demonstrated enough social correlation with events referring to the particular era they exemplify. In the case of the fourth great awakening, there were strong social correlations that exemplify situations the general public lived through. For example, the 1960s are credited advances in modern culture such as music and art. Most importantly, the Hippie revolution and the Vietnam war occurring during the same time with the fourth great awakening make it hard to pinpoint certain dates or events that set off a series of events that eventually developed created a denomination stemming from Orthodox Judaism. Therefore, there is a strong argument for the fourth awakening simply being jargon used to describe a religious revitalization.

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This unique viewpoint contradicts both Cristian and Judaism's core beliefs. Therefore, it was essential for Jews for Jesus to have a denomination that they could fall back on. Some main distinctive characteristics of Messianic Judaism from Christianity is the fact that they continue with their traditions. For example, Mesccianc Jews still follow the Shabbat. The Shabbat is the day of rest that God demanded of Jews in the age of law. They continue traditional dietary laws and abstaining from certain foods. They still believe that the bible should consist of Bedsheet (Genesis) to Hitaguat (Reveltation). However, they do not follow any chrsitian holidays. They do not celebrate Christmas or Easter. Instead, they practice Hanukkah and Pesach. It's important to note that there also is a small division in Messainic Judaism. There are arguments whether or not it is acceptable to study Rabbinical scriptures as they were not part of the bible.

Two different periods, the age of law and the age of grace can be distinguished by the death of Jesus. The two ideologies outline different perspectives on how God redeems sin. For example, the age of law was enacted by Moses. The laws that God gave Moses had a certain regime Jews had to go through for their sin to be pardoned or forgiven. On the other hand, under the age of grace, the process for asking forgiveness is simplified by simply going through Christ. This is a major difference between Messainic and Orthodox Judaism.

Early non biblical accounts for Jesus

Most of these arguments are based on a religious text that contradict each other to some extent. It's important to note that non biblical texts outlining Jesus as a person provide Messianic Judaism with the grounds to argue his existence other than a deity. It is invalid to use different religious point of views to illustrate why a certain religion chooses to believe in their interpretation of Theology. The majority of these non biblical accounts are hostile and are from a pagan point of view.

An essential point of view is that of Thallus. Thallus is an interesting character. He was the first secular write to mention Jesus. However, his writings do not exist anymore but Julius Africanus, a third-century historian, cites the work of Thallus. Julius Africans took it upon himself to compose History of the World which the outlines in five volumes up to 220 ad. Few pieces of his writings still exist.

On the whole, world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on the 14th day according to the moon, and the passion of our Saviour falls on the day before the Passover, but an eclipse of the sun takes place only when the moon comes under the sun.

This insert was taken from the 18th fragment remaining of his works. Africans talks about a solar eclipse and complete darkness taking hold of the earth for three hours. This is on par with biblical scriptures. All of the gospels except for John mentioned that there was darkening in the sky for three hours at the moment of Jesus’s death. Darkness serves as a method of symbolism throughout the bible. From demonstrating sin to conveying God’s punishment, the darkness that occurred during the crucifixion of Jesus seems to be important in connecting biblical Old Testament text to the events proposed by Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The bible verses used to connect the Crucifixion to prophetic text are based on these two bible verses. “Woe to those who desire the day of the Lord. Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light.” (Amos 5:18). Like every biblical text, it is subject to different interpretations depending on context and what the decipherer is trying to portray. The first part of the verse is a simple warning to those who desire the day of the Lord. The phrase: “The day of the Lord” is not clear and is subject to two different interpretations. First, from an Orthodox point of view, the day of the Lord is a reference to the day where Yehovah will start imparting his judgment on the earth. Furthermore, from a more Messianic point of view, it is possible to interpret the day of the Lord as being the day that Jehova decided to transition Israel from living under the law to living under age of grace.

Furthermore, Cornelius Tacitus, a senator under Emperor Vespasian and proconsul of Asia, also writes his perspective on Christ in his Annals, a series of documents outlining current events in his life span, he wrote in 116 C.E.

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular

The reign of Nero as emperor is tied together with large persecution of Christians. It's inadequate to draw a connection between those martyred by Nero and to modern-day Christianity. It wasn’t until 313 CE that Constantine, a Roman emperor, fully recognized Christianity after seeing a cross in the sky during the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 CE. Before this, followers of Jesus ever called Christians as a reference to their interpretation of combined religious text such as the Gospels and the Letters of the Apostle Paul and an offspring of hearing preaches stemming from disciples of Jesus. This was a pivotal moment for Christianity as it served as the foundation for the Roman Catholic church to bloom and those who believe in Christ as the Messiah to have a support system to rely on and to finally identify with a major religion.

Early Christians

Because of Constantine’s decrees, Christians were finally recognized as being part of formal religion. Notably, until this point, anyone who believed in the teachings of Jesus was recognized as a Christian, regardless of the religion they associated themselves. This alludes to an assumption that before the year 312 CE, everyone who believed in Christ would either identify with a pre-existing religions such as Judaism or either Greek or Roman mythology. This creates a really grey area for Orthodox and Messainic Judaism. Before the year 312, any of Christ’s followers had no religion to associate themselves. They definitely were not Orthodox Jews because of how far Christ had alienated himself from traditional beliefs. Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that Messianic Judaism really did not stem from the fourth awakening, nor Christian expeditions to the Middle East, but from the moment that Christ gained believers.


Every religion will always have multiple branches. Once the followers of a religion start forming their independent views on how worship practices should be conducted or where to pinpoint beliefs, a religion will start to become more complex. Lines between denominations are blurred according to every situation and individual experiences. In the case of Judaism, the birth of Christ served as the catalyst for different denominations.


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