This paper is a response to the “Definition of Messianic Judaism” by the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations.
In this study I want to deal with a belief not only held by some in mainline Christian theologies, but also heard from teachers within ‘Messianic Judaism.’ This is the view that the Torah is the special possession of the Jewish people, and that many of its stipulations are therefore directed toward Jews, not Gentiles. Those who take this position believe that while the moral aspects of the Torah are universal for all of God’s children, the various stipulations of the Torah which are particularly covenantal are for the Jewish people only, given to them as distinct marks of their unique position in the covenant made with Israel. These could include such things as the Sabbath, Festivals, kosher laws, wearing of tzitzit, and generally all of those things in the Torah which mark Israel out as distinct from the nations. In some cases, non-Jews who wish to obey these aspects of Torah are criticized as taking to themselves those things which belong uniquely to the Jewish people. Furthermore, the teaching that the whole Torah is the possession and responsibility of all of God’s children is labeled as theological error and therefore dangerous for the body of Messiah, because when non-Jews live out Torah, the lines of distinction between Jew and non-Jew are blurred.