What is the Judaising Heresy?
Q. What is the "Judaising Heresy" described in the Messianic Scriptures/New Testament?
A. There is a great deal of confusion behind this question that depends on whether you are Evangelical or Messianic, the word "judaising" being used differently by the two movements. For evangelicals, "judaising" usually means expecting believers to obey the Torah/Law whereas for Messianics "judaising" usually means expecting Torah-obedient Messianics to additionally obey Talmudic/Rabbinical rulings and traditions too. There is tremendous variation in understanding of what this means even within each of the two movements. This means, in practice, that there are many different "Judaising heresies", depending on where you stand doctrinally and it has perhaps come to the point where the term is as meaningless as "cult", being used by one group to bad-mouth another.
A distinction has to be made between the Torah/Law and Judaism. They are not the same thing even though Judaism claims to follow the Torah. In the New Testament "Judaism" is associated with the traditions of the elders which Yah'shua condemned (e.g. Mt.15:2-3,6) and which Sha'ul/Paul came out of (see Gal.1:13-14). Thus it is the superimposition of this "Judaism" that is condemned, not the Torah/mitzvot which Yah'shua insisted be upheld to the minutest detail (Mt.5:17-20).
The concern of evangelicals (rightly) is that some Messianics believe that they can only be saved by legalistic observance of the commandments. In my experience few Messianics actually believe that - we, like them, believe that obedience is the natural response of the saved - those who are trusting in/clinging to/having faith in Yah'shshua/Jesus as Lord/Master and Saviour/Deliverer. Where evangelicals go wrong is their belief that we are not expected to be obedient to the commandments any more - or at any rate, different collections of them. If we say that "Judaising" is trying to get saved by obeying the commandments, then that definition is certainly true - because obeying the Torah saves no-one. Thus there are two ways of obeying: trying to do it in your own power (as non-Messianics do, which is impossible) or sueprnaturally in the resurrection power of Messiah dwelling within. The latter is the biblical truth.
The Judaisers in the New Testament also tried to impose circumcision on new believers. Paul said it was worthless. Circumcision belongs to the Old Covenant, not the New, being its outward sign for males from the age of 8 days old. Circumcumcision was permissive, not mandatory, then as it is today but has no spiritual value. Many Messianics (the majority, probably) teach that circumcision is not required for salvation but for membership of the Nation of Israel. This we do not agree with. Our citizenship is in the heavenly Jerusalem (which represents Sarah), not the earthly one (which represents Hagar). The ordinance of admission into the Kingdom in the New Covenant is baptism by full immersion.
It is possible that the Judaising Heresy and the Synagogue of Satan (Rev.2:9; 3:9) are one and the same. These people who say they are Jews but are not may possibly have been Gentile converts to the Judaising heresy who tried to impose Talmudic customs and practices on other Gentile converts. Alternatively, they were Talmudic Jewish converts who tried to impose Talmudic traditions and practices on Gentile converts. It is hard to say.
Finally, the concept of a "Judaising heresy" is not found in the Bible per se - we are not, in any cases following Judaism when we obey the commandments but the laws given to all Israel. That is why we are not messianic Jews but messianic Israelites. Judaism and the Old Testament/Torah are not synonymous.
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This page was created on 6 December 2008
Last updated on 27 March 2009
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