As we continue the journey of defining what Messianic Judaism is and is not the next incorrect concept of our identity is the one espoused by many people, even prominent organizations like the MJAA on their website. This being that we are Biblical Judaism. This is an incorrect definition on many levels but I will address the two of the most important below:
- By defining Messianic Jews as adherents of “Biblical Judaism” you are saying that all other Judaisms are unbiblical (which may be the belief/reasoning of many).
- Biblical Judaism ceased with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, being that the core practice was the sacrificial system.
The first problem with Messianic Judaism being “Biblical Judaism” is that by the use of this descriptor the clear implication is that Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism are unbiblical and without basis in the Bible.
This may be the understanding of many adherents of this description. In so doing the use of this title in a brush stroke discounts the development of Judaism over the last two thousand years as an unbiblical endeavor. This either demonstrates ignorance of traditional forms of Judaism or an attack on the larger Jewish world as being unbiblical, both are bad options.
The respect for the Bible, especially the Torah is so ingrained in traditional forms of Jewish thought and practice that it is beyond the pale to brand other Judaisms as unbiblical.
Especially in living out the covenant relationship with God embodied in the Torah we have much to learn from other Judaisms, especially Orthodox and Conservative Judaism who in practicality live lives that are more Biblical than most Messianic Jews. So then it can be seen that the use of “Biblical Judaism” is problematic in that it automatically brands all other Judaism as unbiblical which is clearly incorrect.
Secondly, the use of “Biblical Judaism” is incorrect on historical grounds. The core of the practice of Jewish life in the Bible was the sacrificial system centered in the tabernacle and eventually in the Temples. The core of Jewish life was the practice of offering sacrifices and observing holydays in the Temple. What we know as synagogues and synagogue life was a later addition to the Temple system.
So then since 70 CE when the Second Temple was destroyed in essence “Biblical Judaism” also came to an end.
This realization caused the early rabbis to have to remake Judaism as a non-Temple religion, fortunately for them the Pharisees had laid much of the groundwork in the synagogue and home religious practices that mirrored the Temple service in many ways. In this the Shabbat table became an “altar” and the priestly rituals were adapted to the home.
The rabbis that established the groundwork for the Judaism of today understood that ”Biblical Judaism” had ended and that Judaism needed to be remade and re-envisioned for a Judaism without a Temple.
Therefore why are those in the Messianic movement still holding to there not being a 2000 year gap in Jewish religious life and seeking to hold to a “Biblical Judaism” that requires the Temple for full practice?
So then “Biblical Judaism” is not what Messianic Judaism is or should develop to be being that in the use of these words all other Judaisms are tabbed as unbiblical and also it ignores the fact that Biblical Jewish religious life was grounded in the Temple rituals and sacrifices that ceased in 70 CE.
So then the defining continues…