Whatever happened to Messianic Judaism — a modern, biblical, Jewish faith of Jews who believe in Yeshua as Messiah? A faith that is determinedly neither Rabbinic Judaism nor Christianity? A faith that is a vibrant, authentic reflection of the hope of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
It seems to have disappeared.
A few who call themselves "MJ" have gone in the direction of Rabbinic Judaism. Most have gone in the other direction, collapsing back into Hebrew Christianity. Today it is rare to find MJs who see any essential difference between their own faith and Christianity. Those few who do are unlikely to be non-rabbinic. The core, the heart of MJ has vanished.
This is a great tragedy. The very raison d'etre of the movement has been lost. In the late 1970s, David Rausch studied the MJ movement and determined that a primary defining element was separation from Hebrew Christianity. Hebrew Christians also believed in Yeshua and also claimed some Jewish heritage. Yet there were vast differences in identity, Scriptural interpretation, lifestyle, and self-perception. Hebrew Christians were Christians of Jewish ethnic background who viewed themselves as Christians but also wanted to maintain some elements of familial Jewish culture. By contrast, Messianic Jews were both ethnically and religiously Jewish, viewed themselves as Jews, did not accept Christianity, believed in a Jewish Messiah, and sought to live in an explicitly Jewish and Torah-centered community.
Today that difference has all but disappeared, because bona fide MJ has all but disappeared. Those who would have been considered Hebrew Christians thirty years ago now call themselves Messianic Jews. So-called MJ congregations are often copies of Christian churches, with little bits of Jewish culture added in (the classic Hebrew Christian model). "MJ" leaders often refer to themselves as "rabbis" but nonetheless function within the framework of "Christian orthodoxy." Previously standard MJ views — e.g., "I'm a Jew, not a Christian" — are met with accusations of being "too Jewish" (sic!!).
What happened?? Why? And what can we do to change the situation?
Let us hope that true MJ is not yet dead, and may yet make a resurgence. Let us hope that a biblical, messianic, Jewish faith founded on the Tanakh will yet touch the heart of Am Yisrael!