Luke 2:25-32 states
"There was in Jerusalem a man named Shimon. This
man was a righteous man, he was devout, he waited eagerly for God to comfort
Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by
the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah of
Adonai. Prompted by the Spirit, he went into the Temple courts; and when
the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Torah
required, Shimon took him in his arms, made a brakhah (Hebrew blessing) to
God, and said, "Now, Adonai, according to your word, your servant is at
peace as you let him go; for I have seen with my own eyes your salvation,
which you prepared in the presence of all peoples -- a light that will bring
revelation to the gentiles and glory to your people Israel."
Jesus told his disciples,
"Do not go into
the territory of the gentiles, and do not enter any town in Samaria, but go
rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim, 'The
Kingdom of Heaven is near.'"
Again Jesus stated,
"I was sent only to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel."
Jesus told his
"I must announce the Good News of
the Kingdom of God in other towns too - this is why I was sent."
When Jesus spoke
to the Samaritan women, he told her,
people don't know what you are worshipping; we worship what we do know,
because salvation comes from the Jews."
So the question remains, 'Did
Jesus come to establish a new religion called Christianity?' If
one honestly examines what the New Testament says about the ministry,
teachings, religious practices, and cultural relationships of Jesus, one has
to conclude that Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom of God and be the
ultimate atonement for sin and redemption of all mankind. He most
certainly did not come to establish a new religion.
Rabbi Paul, who was the apostle
to the gentiles, taught that the gentiles who come to faith in Messiah
Yeshua are grafted into the Jewish olive tree (Romans 11) and the
commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2) --- not apart from it.
This was always the understanding among first century messianic Jews and the
Jewish community in general. The Court of the Gentiles at the
Jerusalem Temple had the largest of all the courtyards to accommodate the
non-Jews who came to worship Adonai. It was never thought that
gentiles who sought to accept the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the
Jewish Messiah would develop their own religion apart from the people of
Israel --- becoming a religion cut off from its Jewish roots.
Messianic Jewish Movement 2000 Years Ago
(Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
are all focused on the role of the Jewish messiah. The historical
context of those writings are about the land and people of Israel; Jewish culture
and life; and Jewish beliefs and religious practices.
Luke, or Loukas in the Greek, was not Jewish because of his non-Hebrew name.
He was in fact a follower
of the Jewish messiah and even if he was not born Jewish, he certainly
was a proselyte to Judaism. Some humorously assert that Luke must have
been Jewish because he was a doctor.
There were many Hellenist Jews
who had Greek names. An example of that is the well documented Jewish
with the Greek name
Philo who was a contemporary of
Loukas (Luke). In the gospels we read that one of Yeshua's
disciples was named
Philippos (Philip) and another named Petros (Peter) meaning
And in Acts chapters 6
and 16 we find
(Stephen) and Timotheos
(Timothy). These were Jews with Greek names.
So, was Luke Jewish?
Most likely he was. Luke wrote two Jewish accounts in
the books of Luke and Acts concerning the life and ministry of Yeshua, and the early Messianic Jewish
We know the book of
Acts was written by Luke because in chapter 1 Luke writes
Theophilos: in the first book, I wrote about everything Yeshua set out to do
As Luke writes his
historical account in the book of Acts he includes accounts and references to the Jewish
people and religion. In fact the
New International Version
introduction to Luke states that the author of Luke had a familiar
understanding of Judaism - something a Greek gentile would not have
So let's look at each chapter in Acts to discover the Jewish faith
of the early followers of Yeshua.
Every chapter in Luke’s
book contains something that is significantly Jewish.
the Mount of Olives - a shabbat day's walking distance (about
six eighths of a mile or
nine tenths of a kilometer).
(Pentecost) the Jews are gathered in the
(Temple) courtyard for morning prayers and the
Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) of God is released upon the
Petros (Peter) preaches to
all the Jewish people gathered at the
Mikdash (Temple) about
Yeshua the Messiah
and calls people to teshuvah (repentance). Over 3,000 participated
in mikvaot (water immersion - baptism) there in the temple
Petros (Peter) and
Yochanan (John) appeared before Anan the
cohen hagadol (high priest).
Acts 5:12; 25-42
Yeshua continued to meet at the
debate occurs in
the Sanhedrin concerning Petros (Peter) and the believers' teaching about Yeshua in the courtyard of the
Gamaliel the Elder comes to their defense.
Acts 6:1-4; 7; 15
Greek speaking Jews complained about
their widows being neglected in the welfare distributions by the Hebrew
speaking Jews. Large numbers
of cohanim (priests) became believers and followers of
And the messianic Jew with the Greek name
was brought before the Jewish
gave a discourse on Jewish history and challenged members of the
(Jewish court) to believe in
Yeshua the Jewish messiah.
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 53 to an Ethiopian
minister in charge of the Ethiopian treasury. They then find a
mikvah (body of water) where he accepts Yeshua and is immersed.
the cohen hagadol (high priest) for letters of introduction to
synagogues so that he could arrest followers of the Way. The
Jewish believers in
Yeshua are fearful of Shaul, the former Jew for
Judaism who persecuted them because of their beliefs.
(Peter) has a vision of
treif (unclean) foods and has a
distraught reaction to interpreting the vision because he eats only
(Peter) is criticized for eating with
but then the Jewish believers come to understand that non-Jews are also privileged to make
The messianic Greek believers in Antioch became known as
or cristoians in the Greek, meaning
followers of the anointed one. The talmidim (disciples) in
Antioch brought relief to the believers in
There was persecution of
the messianic believers in Judaea during
of Unleavened Bread).
Acts 13:9; 14-16; 42-44
(the seventh day) the Jewish believers attended the
synagogue for the
reading of the Torah
(5 books of Moses) and the
As a religious Jew, Shaul (Saul) is asked by the
synagogue leaders to speak to the
congregation. Shaul (Saul) is also known as Paulus - a Roman
Latin name because he was a Roman citizen. Jews and
proselytes to Judaism listen to Shaul and
Bar-Nabba (Barnabas) after the Shabbat, and the whole city comes the
next Shabbat to listen and learn more.
Acts 14:1; 27
and Bar-Nabba (Barnabas) traveled to Iconium and spoke to both Jews
and Greeks in the
synagogue on the
Shabbat, and both Jews and Greeks came to
faith in Yeshua. It was reported to the believers in Jerusalem that a
"door of faith" had opened up to many non-Jews who were accepting Yeshua as
coming to faith in Yeshua, who believed that non-Jews who were accepting the
Jewish Messiah needed to have
brit milah (circumcision)
in accordance with the teachings of Moses. This become a serious issue
between the Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Yeshua. And so a
special Council was called in
to decide the issue. Amos 9:11-12 was prophetically quoted as stating
that all the gentiles called by
name would come and seek after him. After much debate, the messianic
concluded that the
non-Jews should be required to: abstain from
food sacrificed to idols, from fornication, from things strangled, and from
blood (some of the
laws). These were the bare minimum. The leaders realized
that the patriarchs Noah and Abraham were counted righteous, not because of physical circumcision, but because of faith and
obedience. The chapter
further states in verse 21 that the non-Jewish God-fearers would continue to learn
more since they were already meeting in Jewish synagogues every Shabbat
where the Torah
(Timothy) receives his
(circumcision) as a young Jewish man
before accompanying Shaul on a trip to Phrygia and Galatia.
Shaul and Sila
went to Thessalonica and taught in the Jewish
synagogue on multiple
Shabbatot (Sabbaths) giving drashot (sermons) from the
(Hebrew Scriptures), explaining that
Yeshua was the promised messiah.
Shaul lives with
Jewish believers in Corinth and Ephesus. Every Shabbat he talked with
Jews and Greeks in the
and the head of the synagogue accepted Yeshua as messiah, along with many others.
Shaul spoke for
three months in the
synagogue and the believers were referred to as 'the
way', also known in
Judaism as those who walk in the way of
Acts 20:6; 16
after Chag HaMotzi
(Feast of Unleavened Bread) and shortens his travel plans so he
can be in
for Shavuot (Pentecost). Shavuot was one
of the three annual pilgrimages required of Jewish men.
thousands of Jews had accepted Yeshua as messiah and they were zealous for
Shaul (Saul) speaks to them in
Shaul (Saul) speaks in
stating 'I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, brought up in
Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), and taught by the
Gamaliel I in every detail of the Torah.'
Gamaliel was the grandson of the famous
Rabbi Hillel the Elder.
declares before the
that he is a
the son of a
declares that he has been
worshipping at the
in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).
He declares that he worships the 'God of our fathers'
and walks in the way and believes everything in accordance with the
(5 books of Moses)
declares that he has not done anything to offend the
(5 books of Moses)
declares that he has lived his life as a
traveling by ship in the stormy part of autumn following
the day that is the holiest of God's appointed times.
states to the Jewish leaders that he has done nothing against the
people or the 'traditions of his Jewish fathers.'
No where in the book of
Acts does Shaul, also known as Paul, declare that he is no longer Jewish and
is now a Christian. In fact, in all the writings of Shaul, no
where does he declare that he has abandoned Judaism. He was born a
Jew, lived as a Jew, and died a Jew - a Jew who found his Messiah, Yeshua.
Faith and salvation in Yeshua was the essence of Shaul's preaching and
The book of Acts is a
historical account of the early Messianic Jewish Movement. Most
Christians today read the book of Acts and interpret it as the birth of
Christianity. But as one reads the New Testament with Jewish
understanding, one soon discovers that the Jewish and non-Jewish followers
of Yeshua were considered just another sect within the Jewish
community. Not unlike Messianic Jews today who identify with the
So What About Christianity?
Most Christians have adopted
traditions and practices that are non-Jewish and have unwittingly reinvented
Jesus so that he is not even Jewish. Most, even if they do not teach
replacement theology. Some have instituted practices such as the Eucharist
or Mass, and the creation of images. Many have adopted non-Jewish music, prayers and
liturgy. Most have religious observances that replace the biblical Sabbath (Luke 4:16), Passover
(Luke 22:8) and Chanukah (John 10:22). Some disregard the
entire Hebrew Scriptures altogether. And a minority of Christians have anti-Semitic attitudes that portray
the Jews as 'Christ killers.'
Does this mean that Christians
should become Jewish? No. But should Christians behave like
there is no relevance to their Jewish roots? As Christians, how are
they to fulfill Romans 11 and Ephesians 2 if they do not embrace the truth
of being grafted into the commonwealth of Israel? Being grafted into
the house of Israel comes with
responsibilities to bless Israel and support the Jewish people - to identify
with them. How can Christians identify with the Jewish people if much
of Christian theology and practice is distant from the Jewish people?
Sincere Christians will ask God
to show them how to read the Bible through Jewish eyes and understanding.
They will develop a love for the Jewish people and Israel. They will
begin to build their faith more inline with the Jewish Scriptures and
the result will be a provoking of the Jewish people to jealousy for their