Does it matter that our Messiah was a Hebrew Jew? Should we care? What are our Hebrew roots? What should that mean for our Christian faith?
To answer those questions, let’s start at the beginning. Yahweh made a covenant with Abraham because of his obedience and his willingness to leave his father’s pagan ways and follow Him. He promised to make Abraham’s seed into a great nation. (Genesis 12) Abraham was a Hebrew. Hebrew means to “cross over.” Abraham had Isaac. Isaac had Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons and was renamed Israel. The Hebrew Israelite’s are comprised of the twelve tribes of the twelve sons of Jacob. All twelve tribes were present at Mount Sinai when Moses gave them Yahweh’s rules for their nation. All twelve tribes came into covenant with Yahweh at the base of the mountain when they accepted the terms of the covenant agreement, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, (then) you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6)
Because of conflict among themselves, the twelve tribes of Israel were split into two and became known as Israel and Judah. Israel was sent into exile because of their disobedience to God’s laws and never returned to the Promise Land. The are still in exile today. They are considered the Lost Tribes of Israel… or the lost sheep of the house of Israel often referred to in Scriptures. Judah was also sent into exile for their disobedience, but because they returned to the laws of God, He brought them back from their captivity. The tribe of Judah, also known as the Jews, have been the keepers of the Torah throughout history. (Genesis 49:10)
Yeshua (Jesus), a Hebrew Israelite, was born into the tribe of Judah – the same lineage as David. Therefore Yeshua was Jewish. He lived His life within the context of the Hebrew community as a perfect example of Torah observance. Scripture makes it clear that Yeshua never intended to do away with the Torah, as some believe. He made that clear in Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass away from the law till all is fulfilled.” And although Romans 10:4 says, “Christ is the end of the Law . . .,” the Greek word telos, translated in modern Scriptures as ‘end,’ is better translated as ‘aim, purpose, goal, or outcome.’ For the goal of righteousness for which the Torah aims is the Messiah. Becoming like Christ is the goal, the purpose, the aim of the Torah!
The Early Church
Contrary to popular belief, the early Church did not embrace an identity apart from their Hebrew “Jewish” Old Testament roots. All of the first believers were Jewish, as were all the first disciples. Jewish author Jonathan Cahn writes, “There were thousands and thousands of Jewish believers. It was Jewish believers (in Messiah) who gave to the world this faith and who, by doing so, changed the course of human history.” The origin and existence of the church was due to the efforts of the twelve Jewish disciples. The founders of the first churches observed the Hebrew customs, taught from the Old Testament Torah scrolls in the synagogues, honored the 7th day Sabbath and celebrated the Feasts of Yahweh. They continued to eat “clean” foods, bring offerings to the Temple and take Nazarite vows long after Yeshua ascended into Heaven. Nowhere does Scripture suggest that the disciples broke away from or lost their Hebrew identity.
Early believers in Messiah were not originally called Christians. They weren’t called Christians until the disciples teachings reached Antioch, which is the modern day Turkey. (Acts 11:26) The twelve disciples and followers of Yeshua, the Rabbi from Nazareth, were known as a Jewish sect called the Nazarene’s (Acts 24:5) or The Way. (Acts 24:14) Tertullas, when accusing Paul before Governor Felix, called him a “ringleader of the Nazarene sect.”
In the New Testament, Gentiles were invited to be partakers of the covenant relationship with Yahweh as Abraham’s spiritual sons and daughters who then became entitled to the full covenant blessing as well. Because of this adoption, the history of Israel IS the history of the early Church. In addressing the largely gentile church at Corinth, Paul reminded them that “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body.” (Ephesians 3:6) Our spiritual identity can never be separated from our Hebrew roots. “If one desires to be radically Christian, a thorough understanding of the Jewish origin of the Church is, by no means, optional; it is foundational,” says Dr. Marvin Wilson. “Though the Hebrew heritage of the Church is rich and extensive, many Christians are regrettably uniformed about it,” laments Wilson. “Most of it has been treated either passively and superficially, or more often, it has simply been left unexplored.”
Denial of our Hebraic roots ultimately provided the fertile soil for one of the great false teachings of the Church: Replacement Theology – which forever excludes Israel and the Jewish people from the promises of God and their prophetic destiny. Replacement Theology, an anti-biblical theology that began in the 1st century AD with Ignatius, teaches that the Christian church has fully replaced Israel and the Jews as God’s chosen people. It also teaches that all promises and prophecies have been transferred from Israel to the church, and therefore the state of Israel and the Jewish people no longer have an active roll and are simply a political accident. Clearly, there is no evidence in the Gospels that Jesus ever promoted a Church that would exist separate from God’s chosen people Israel. In fact, He even stated that “He was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) Israel always was and always will be God’s Chosen People. Replacement Theology makes God a liar and keeps the church blind to the prophetic fulfillment regarding Israel–which is happening before our very eyes.
Much of today’s Christian theology disregards the Old Testament Torah as outdated and “only for Israel,” or “only for the Jews.” The foundation upon which the Christian New Testament faith is built, however, is the Hebrew Old Testament. The Old Testament was authored by Hebrew writers and reflective of a Semitic style and culture. All of the New Testament books, with the exception of Luke, were also written by Hebrews. The Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, was a Jew and followed the laws of the Torah. He declares in Acts 21:39, “I am a Jew . . .” In Acts 24:14, he tells Governor Felix, “I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.” To King Festus he declared, “I have done nothing wrong against the Jews or against the Temple.”(Acts 25:8) And in Acts 28:17 he said to the Jews in Rome, “I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors.”
The New Testament is full of teachings and theology of the Old Testament. New Testament authors refer to approximately sixteen hundred scriptures from the Old Testament in their writings. Yeshua’s own teachings reflect His intimate knowledge of both the oral and written Law. The Old Testament is the foundation upon which the revelation of the New Covenant is built. The Old and New Testaments are interdependent and part of the same story of Israel and our Messiah. You can not have a clear understanding of the New Testament without the foundation of the Old Testament.
This identity theft of our Hebrew heritage as believers in Messiah has robbed the church of an understanding of the deep and rich covenant heritage they have in their faith. We are interpreting Scripture based upon a Hellenized Greek filter instead of reading it through the eyes of one who understands the culture of the people who were speaking and being spoken to.
How did we get so far from our Jewish roots?
Two thousand years ago, the faith that would go out to all the nations was birthed in the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. It was a universal faith and a Jewish faith at the same time, born of Jewish soil, founded on the Jewish hope, built on Jewish scriptures and centered on the Jewish Messiah. But as it went out from Jerusalem into the nations, something happened. The branches became increasingly estranged from the roots, and the roots from the branches. (1)
When Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, it not only altered the course of Israel’s history, but the history of Christianity. Up to that time everything had been centered in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the home of the spiritual leadership – the Jerusalem Counsel. (Acts 14:26-15:2) But when Jerusalem was destroyed, the faith was cut off from it’s leadership, its spiritual fathers. With the destruction of Jerusalem, the disappearance of Jewish believers and more and more non-Jewish people becoming believers, what would be know as the “church” began to lose its connection to Israel, to its Jewish roots, and to its ancestral heritage. (1)
The History of How
In the first century, Bishop Ignatius of Antioch, who seized authority of the Jerusalem Council, lured early churches away from the Torah and declared it to be abolished. He created the Grace Doctrine as he wrote to Christian churches, “Be not deceived with strange doctrines and old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace. For the divinest prophets lived according to Jesus Christ (not the law). On this account they were persecuted…” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians) By his own authority, he created new doctrines for the Christian church. He wrote, “Let us learn to live according to the rules of (this new) Christianity for whosoever is called by any other name besides this, he is not of God.” (Ignatius to the Magnesians) He was also responsible for the change of the Sabbath from the 7th day to the 1st day. He wrote, “…no longer observing sabbaths, but keeping the Lord’s Day in which also our life is sprung up by Him and through His death.”
In a letter that Ignatius wrote to a Christian church in 115 AD, he warned them of the error of looking to the Jews for knowledge. He wrote, “To profess Jesus Christ while continuing to follow Jewish customs is an absurdity. The Christian faith does not look to the Jews, but the Jews to look to Christianity.” By the end of the 1st century, he declared that the Nazarene doctrine of keeping Torah AND faith in Messiah was to be considered error and heresy, despite the fact that other theologians admitted in their letters that Paul kept the Torah, Sabbath and circumcision as we see in the New Testament. Sadly this theology is still taught today.
By the 4th century, the new rising church system sought to conquer the Jewish faith, which in their own view continued to cling stubbornly to their ancestral practices. They set out to prove it was legalistic and dead. New interpretations of the Scripture arose and is ultimately responsible for the doctrines that are taught in the Church today. In 325 AD with the Council of Nicea under the rule of Constantine the Great, Ignatius’ new Christianity became the official religion of Rome and the concepts and claims that began with Ignatius were put into place. The way of the original Nazarene was completely lost to our historic understanding. Persecution and violence toward anyone appearing Jewish became common due to the heavy restrictive measures imposed by the “new” church.
From 300-600 AD, rules were passed to discriminate against the Jews. Since the Nazarene’s were seen as a sect of the Judaism, they too were included. They couldn’t hold high offices or have military careers. They couldn’t testify again Christians in court. It was a capital offense to convert to Judaism and intermarriage between Christians and Jews was punishable by death. The Torah was forbidden to be read in Hebrew and they were only allowed a prescribed version of the Scriptures in the Jewish synagogues. The keeping of the Sabbath, biblical feasts and circumcision were banned and Jewish property was confiscated. It was bad for anybody to be caught doing anything that appeared Jewish, regardless if the practices were founded on Biblical truth. Any practices that were labeled “Jewish,” such as keeping Yahweh’s 7th day Sabbath and celebrating the biblical feast became stigmatized as evil, and in some cases… illegal. Christianity soon began to enjoy a position of superiority over Judaism. In the midst of all of this antisemitism, the Roman state and church became the enemies of Yahweh’s perfect, holy and good instructions for righteousness.
John said that “the Antichrist was coming, and that many Antichrists had already come.” (1 John 2:18) Daniel said that the Antichrist “will speak words against the Most High and wear out the Saints of the Most High and think to change the (appointed) times and the laws.” (Daniel 7:25) Do you think the spirit of the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness, used Ignatius, Constantine and others in the Roman Church to change God’s ways?
Because the Biblical days of observance defined by the Old Testament Scriptures were outlawed, Rome began to replace them with their own holidays. In an attempt to “Christianize” hideous early-Roman pagan celebrations, the now-Christian Rome proceeded to transform them into holidays that celebrated Yeshua. Such was the case with Christmas. December 25 was the winter solstice and was celebrated as the birth of the sun and the associated sun god, Nimrod and his son Tammuz. The evergreen tree was representative of Nimrod. It was a form of worship and veneration to the sun-god to take the evergreen tree into one’s home and place gifts to him at the base. The pagan tradition of putting gifts under the evergreen tree was seen as early as biblical times. (Deuteronomy 12:2)
Wreaths came from the ancient Saturnalia celebration and was an ancient symbol of protection. Mistletoe was sacred to the Norse goddess Frigga, the goddess of love. The Celts believed mistletoe had magical powers to ward off evil spirits. Odin, the god of drink and ecstasy, who traveled with dark helpers called Krampus, became Santa Claus and his elves. Just so you know I’m not making this up, they still celebrate the Krampus today in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. It involves drunken men dressed as devils who chase people through the streets. Because of it’s pagan nature, Christmas used to be illegal in the United States until 1836. Christmas is not Yeshua’s birthday. Based on the Biblical narrative of Yeshua’s birth, biblical scholars calculate that He was born in the Fall around the time of the Biblical Feasts.
Easter also began as a pagan celebration – the spring fertility celebration of the goddess Ishtar, in which they sacrificed babies conceived the year before and dipped eggs in their blood. Ishtar in English is Easter. The rabbit, our Easter mascot, represents fertility and agility. It was the sacred animal of Ishtar. Easter was also the day they celebrated the resurrection of Tammuz, the son of Nimrod. (Maybe that’s why they slapped Jesus’ resurrection on that day.) Lent began as the 40 days of mourning for Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14) because he was 40 years old when he was killed by a wild boar.
These changes made by Rome to the Christian Church had a tremendous effect on the way we celebrate Yeshua in modern Christianity. None of our modern Christian celebrations today are Biblical. They are pagan celebrations, tweaked a little and slapped with a Christian title by Rome. Although they claim to celebrate Yeshua, they are certainly not part of our Biblical Hebraic heritage in Messiah.
Yahweh says to His people: “When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:29-32) Are we worshiping our God how the pagans worshiped their gods?
We are Israel!
As Christians, we must recognize and give honor to our Hebraic roots. We must not give place to the disconnect and disassociation from our rich Hebraic foundation. We must understand that those of us that believe in Messiah are the spiritual children of Abraham. We are Israel. We are grafted in to the tree of Israel as Romans 11 explains. We have “crossed over” from death to life. We are children of Yeshua and heirs to the covenant of promise! Therefore the instructions, as well as the associated blessing and curses, given to Israel at Mount Sinai are also ours and the entire Bible, including the Old Testament, is our guidebook for living.
We as Christians, just like Israel, have been exiled from our true identity – from the life we were created to know. We have all lost what originally belonged to us as followers of Yeshua. It is hard to grasp our Hebraic identity because we were born into this exile and haven’t known anything else. We were born into a world of separation… a world fallen and separated from that which was perfect… and pure… and good. A world estranged from the purpose for which it was created… a world fallen into darkness and evil… fallen from the light. We are separated from God by the darkness… by sin. (Sin, by definition, is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4)
The Life We Were Born to Live
The life we were born to live is a life of fullness and purpose, of blessings and joy – a life that takes us back to our ancestral heritage and our obedience to Yahweh and His instructions. Back to His Sabbaths, His appointed days and His instruction. Praise Yahweh that in these last days, He is calling His people back to their original Hebraic roots. This movement is happening all around the world as we speak. It is often referred to the Hebrew Roots movement or the Torah Movement. The Holy Spirit is humbling believer’s hearts and removing the Greco-Roman scales from their eyes so that they can truly embrace their Hebraic heritage in Messiah. As prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah and quoted by the author of Hebrews, under the new covenant the Law of God is being put in people’s hearts and minds. (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:8-12) Unfortunately, not all Christians will return – only a Remnant.
In the end, Yeshua will return to His ancestral possession – Israel – His chosen people. He will stand with His feet on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4) and His Kingdom will be restored to Him. He will reign as King over the entire earth from Jerusalem, not Rome or the United States. He will teach us HIS ways that we may walk in HIS paths. No more will we walk in Rome’s ways. HIS law will go forth from Zion (Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2) and will be taught again to all the nations. We will return to our ancestral roots. We will celebrate His holy days instead of pagan holidays… we will keep His Sabbath not the Roman Sabbath… we will eat only clean foods He intended us to eat… we will live according to the perfect law we were meant to live by. For this is who we were all created to be. We were never supposed to live a Roman life. We were never meant to celebrate pagan holidays masked as Christian ones. Our Hebrew heritage was stolen from us. Now it’s time to take it back!
Have the Mind of Yeshua
Paul, in Philippians 2:5-8, says that we are to have the mind of Yeshua… a mind that is humbled enough to be obedient, even to the point of death. We are to deny ourselves and follow Yeshua… walk as He walked and do as He did. (Matthew 16:24) So what would Yeshua do? Would He ignore the holy, perfect and good commandments? Would He trade the biblical feasts for pagan Roman holidays? Would He ignore the 4th Commandment and keep the Sabbath on a different day? Would He put unholy and unclean food into His body? Would He criticize people who chose to obey His Father’s Ways? Would He let modern culture dictate how He could worship His Father?
We are to “present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy (set-apart) and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship.” What are we sacrificing to be like Yeshua? How are we set-apart? Paul goes on to say in Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world.” Do we do Bible things God’s way? Or do we do Bible things our own way? Almost the entire world celebrates Easter and Christmas, honors Sunday as the Sabbath, eats whatever they want and believes the Torah is done away with. Are we then conformed to the world?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that we convert to Judaism because our Messiah was a Jew. Today’s Judaism, just like today’s Christianity, is tainted by traditions of men and false doctrine. What I am suggesting is that we get back to doing Bible things in Bible ways. Things spoken by the mouth of God to bring life and blessings to His people. Back to the basics. Back to the Bible. Back to the early church. Leave all of our man-made, Rome-inspired doctrine behind and go back to being a Nazarene of The Way – one who keeps the laws of God and believes in the salvation of Yeshua Messiah.
Who Do You Choose?
We all have a choice to make. We can continue to do things Rome’s way… or we can do things God’s way. “If it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15) We can serve either the gods of Rome or the God of the Bible. As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!
For more in-depth information on the history of the Nazarene’s and our Hebrew Identity Crisis, please watch the following videos from Christian Truthers:
- The Natsarim (Nazarene): The Elect of the End Times
- The Identity Crisis: Finding the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel
- The Great Bible Heist: How the West Was Lost
Check out these beautiful music videos:
- Jonathan Cahn, “The Oracle”