What is a Messianic Jew

Jewish Christians - Jewish Christians - "Messianic Jews"

"Jews for Jesus" or "Messianic Jews" is the self-designation of a movement that has been active in the USA since the 1970s and in Germany around the early 1990s. These are Jews who believe in Jesus as the Messiah and hold fast to their Jewish identity. That's why they don't just want to belong to a Christian church. They see themselves as mediators between Judaism and Christian churches. They found their own churches and promote faith in Jesus as Messiah among Jews. This has earned them criticism and rejection - both from the Jewish side and from the ranks of the churches. Instead of building bridges, they find themselves "caught between the chairs".

The appearance of "Messianic Jews" poses a number of questions to Protestant Christians, for little is known about these groups: Who are their members? How did these churches come about? Who are they supported by? What is your self-image and what are your concerns? Criticism is sparked above all at the proselytizing of Jews practiced by messianic Jews.

On the question of the »mission to the Jews«, the EKD Synod took a position with great unanimity and theological seriousness at its meeting in Magdeburg in 2016:

“God is faithful to his people. If we, as Christians, adhere to the New Covenant that God made in Jesus Christ, we also hold fast to the fact that God's covenant with his people Israel continues to apply without restriction. ... From this it follows for us: Christians - regardless of their mission into the world - are not called to show Israel the way to God and his salvation. All efforts to induce Jews to change their religion contradict the confession of faithfulness to God and the election of Israel. ”The complete text of the rally is printed in the appendix to this brochure.

The no to the »mission to the Jews« must not be called into question in the encounter with »Messianic Jews«. The Evangelical Church therefore remains cautious in dealing with this movement, also in order not to again question the understanding achieved in the Judeo-Christian dialogue. Nonetheless, conversations with "Messianic Jews" will not be refused as a matter of principle, provided that it is about common faith in Jesus Christ.

The aim of this brochure is to provide information and at the same time provide theological guidance. There are essentially four questions at stake:

  • How is the self-image of "Messianic Jews" to be judged, who understand themselves in direct continuity with (Jewish) early Christianity of the New Testament period?
  • What do messianic Jews believe? How are their creed and their parish practice to be assessed theologically?
  • What is their religious identity? Are they Jews, Christians, or both, or neither?
  • What should be considered when talking to "messianic Jews"?

The text tries to answer these questions. It was appointed by the Joint Committee "Church and Judaism" chaired by Church Councilor Dr. Ernst Michael Dörrfuß developed on behalf of the EKD Council. I would like to thank the committee for its efforts. My hope is that this text will not only contribute to objectifying the debate, but also to a theologically responsible exchange of positions in conversations with "messianic Jews".

Berlin, October 2017

Dr. Irmgard Schwaetzer
President of the Synod of the EKD