A MORE COMPLETE EXPLANATION...
When the non-Jewish world makes the claim that one who
Jewish but converts to Christianity can retain the 'Jewish Culture and
Ethnicity,' one must ask, 'Which Jewish Culture? Which Jewish
Ethnicity?' The culture and ethnicity of a Jew from Morocco has little
in common with the culture and ethnicity of a Jew from Eastern Europe.
Yet both are Jews because their faith, their Jewish theology, their
Jewish belief system, their Judaism, is Jewish.
Just as many people convert to Judaism, and thus become
those Jews who convert to another faith are no longer Jews. Remember,
the Jews determine who is a Jew -- not ex-Jews who have become
Christians, and not Christians themselves. The Jews determine for
themselves who is a Jew.
The biblical basis for this is I Kings 18:21. Elijah the
Jews who were beginning to slip into the worship of the idol, Baal,
How long will you go limping with two different
If the Gd of the Jews is Gd, follow Him! but if Baal is god, then
follow him! [I Kings 18:21]
Elijah told the Jews, one or the other, not both! You
believe in two opposite, mutually exclusive ideas simultaneously.
Judaism and Christianity believe in opposite, mutually exclusive ideas,
and you cannot be a Jew and a believer that Jesus was the Christ at the
same time. (Please see Essay #3, 'Jews Believe that
Jesus was not the Messiah')
A rabbi in the later Middle Ages named the Hai Gaon, as
Aderet in Responsa, VII #292, stated that a Jew who converted out of
the faith was no longer a Jew. This view was shared by numerous rabbis,
which can be seen in the Responsa literature of Simon ben Zemah of
Duran, Samuel de Medina, Judah Berab, Jacob Berab, Moses ben Elias
Kapsali and others in the Middle Ages.
It can also be seen more recently in the Responsa of the
Rov in his Divrei Torah, Yoreh Deah #59, paragraph 5, as well as in the
Responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Even Haezer Volume 4 Number 53.
The very famous rabbi, Moses ben Maimon, called
Rambam), also wrote that if a Jew converted to Christianity, he or she
was no longer a Jew. See Maimonides, Hilchot Mamrim Perek 3, Halacha
1-3, as well as in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, Avodat Kochavim 2:5.
Rabbi Moses Isserles demanded a formal conversion back
Judaism for those who had converted out, but then wanted to return. He
demanded ritual immersion (mikveh) and repentance before a court of
three (Beit Din). You will see this also in other Responsa literature:
Radbaz, Responsa III, 415; Moses Isserles to Yoreh Deah 268.12; and
Hoffman, Melamed Leho-il II, 84.
After the experience of the Anusim (sometimes called
a derogatory term), who were Jews forced by the Church to convert to
Catholicism, the Rabbis stated that one who converted involuntarily out
of Judaism did not have to reconvert in the opposite direction, and
could be welcomed back into the community as a Jew. Many Anusim even
risked their lives by continuing to practice Judaism in secret. It was
assumed that because the decision to convert was forced upon them,
these Jews in their hearts never really left the Jewish religion. This
concerns only those who wish to return to Judaism and turn their backs
on Christianity. It says nothing about those who accept the theology of
Christianity as their own - these people remain Christian unless they
have a change of heart and return to Judaism, abandoning their
Christian beliefs and practices. It is necessary to pick one or the
other; it's either Christianity or it's Judaism, but it cannot be both.
In the modern world, no one is given the three choices:
the country, be put to death, or convert to Christianity, which were
frequently the only options available to the Jews of Europe in the
Middle Ages. Nonetheless, most rabbis today allow modern Christian
converts, previously Jewish, back into the fold without requiring a
formal ceremony of return. This is a modern extension of the leniency
which had as its purpose easing the reintegration of the Anusim into
Modern Israel has a law called the Law of Return. This
that because Israel is the Jewish homeland, one who is Jewish can come
to Israel, and immediately become an Israeli citizen, as one coming
Daniel Rufeisen was born Jewish, of two Jewish parents.
of the Nazi persecutions, his parents hid him with a couple who were
Catholic. The couple raised him as a Catholic, and he became a Catholic
priest. Brother Daniel, aware of his parents' heritage, came to Israel
and applied to become a citizen of Israel under the Law of Return. The
Israeli Supreme Court denied his application, stating that since he
converted, he was no longer a Jew. He had to wait the customary time
for any other non-Jew to become a naturalized Israeli citizen, just as
in the U.S., one has to wait six years in order to become a naturalized
It is important to note that the family who hid Daniel
did not follow the wishes of Daniel's parents. They had wanted to save
their child as a Jew, but as a Jew he was lost.
More recently, Israel made the same decision concerning
so-called Messianic 'Jewish' couple. The Beresfords from South Africa
tried to become citizens of Israel under the Law of Return. They were
denied on the same basis as Father Daniel. Remember that all of the
parents involved -- the parents of Daniel Rufeisen, and the parents of
both of the Beresfords -- were Jews.
Furthermore, this is the attitude of many Orthodox
today. In his book 'The Real Messiah,' Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, writing for
the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Orthodox
youth group 'National Conference of Synagogue Youth,' wrote (on page
This brings us back to our original question: What
can a Jew lose by embracing Christianity?
The answer is: Everything.
Christianity negates the fundamentals of Jewish
and one who accepts it rejects the very essence of Judaism. Even if he
continues to keep all of the rituals, it is the same as if he abandoned
A Jew who accepts Christianity might want to call
himself a 'Jewish Christian,' but he is no longer a Jew. He can no
longer even be counted as part of a Jewish congregation.
The only connection he can claim to Judaism is that of
having been born
a Jew, but by accepting Jesus as his messiah, he has forfeited his
You can most certainly have a Hebrew-speaking Christian,
as you can have an Israeli Christian or a Christian Israeli. But
'Hebrew Christian,' or 'Jewish Christian,' or 'Messianic Jew,' or
'Christian Jew,' or 'Jew for Jesus,' etc. is an oxymoron -- a
contradiction in terms: once you're out, you're out, even if it only
seems to be partially. This is a fundamental tenet of all the movements
of Judaism. However, as was stated above, few rabbis today ask the
ex-Jew who wishes to rejoin the Jewish people to go through a formal
ceremony of conversion. This might be a 'stumbling block before the
(cf. Lev. 19:14) placed in the way of those who wish to come back. As
long as one remains a Christian, one is no longer a Jew. But if one
wishes to return, the road is made easy as an act of compassion.
However, a return must be made, because the person left both Judaism
and the Jewish people by converting to another faith.
Conversely, as long as one believes that Jesus was
more than a human being who lived and died around 2000 years ago, that
person cannot convert TO Judaism, and become a Jew. In order to
convert, one has to pass examination by a court of three, a 'Beit Din,'
and no Beit Din will approve a conversion candidate who is unable to
give up belief in Jesus as the messiah. There are some Christians who
believe that, since their brand of Christianity does not believe that
Jesus was Gd or a part of a trinity, their theology is acceptable to
Jews and to Judaism. This is not the case. The reason is that these
people still hold to the Christian definition of the term, 'messiah,'
that Jesus died for the sins of humanity, which is unbiblical. (Please
see Essay #1, 'One
person cannot die for the sins of another.')
The two faiths of Judaism and Christianity are simply
mutually exclusive and incompatible.
Messianic 'Jews' are not Jews. Were you to compare the
theology of the
Messianic 'Jews' (as well as the theology of the organization that
calls itself the 'Jews' for Jesus) with the theology of the Southern
Baptist Convention, you would see no difference. Compare the statements
of faith of the Messianic 'Jewish' Alliance of America (whose original
name was the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America) with the statement
of faith from the Southern Baptist Convention. Both the MJAA and the
SBC have web sites; you can see this for yourself.
Christian missionaries claim that this deceptive
teaching that one can be a Jew and a Christian at the same time,
originates with Paul, in I Corinthians 9:20, where he says that it is
okay to pretend to be anything, so long as it gets converts to
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might
gain the Jews; to
them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them
that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law,
(being not without law to Gd, but under the law to Christ,) that I
might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak,
that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I
might by all means save some. [I Corinthians 9:20-22]
One can also see this in Phillipians 1:18, where Paul
between pretense and truth, but states that both are acceptable
practices if it helps Christians obtain converts:
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in
pretence, or in
truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will
rejoice. [Philippians 1:18]
Furthermore, it is expanded in the idea of Indigenous
Evangelism. This is the name given to the missionary technique 'as long
as you make the targets think that they can be both a Christian and
whatever they were before their conversion, then missionizing will be
easier.' See 'Understanding Church Growth' by Donald A. McGavran, the
chapter on The Sociological Foundation.
Messianic 'Jews' are merely dressing up their Christian
theology in Jewish clothing.
This leads to other questions:
Q: Are the majority of Jews who are secular, many not
believing in Gd at all, really Jews?
A: Yes, just as a U.S. citizen is still a citizen even
person never votes, never celebrates July Fourth, never has turkey on
Thanksgiving. But if they become a citizen of another country,
especially another country who is hostile to America, they lose their
U.S. citizenship. Similarly, if one converts out of Judaism one is no
longer a Jew.
A Jew is a member of a nation that has been defined by
the religion of Judaism. Let me explain:
First, understand that I am not talking about a nation
country (like the State of Israel), which is defined by borders and
passports. Rather, I am talking about a nation in the same sense we
understand it in relationship to the Native American Indians. We used
to use the term 'tribe,' but the term 'nation' is more accurate. For
the Jews, the analogy to a nation is a perfect one, because that,
indeed, is what Gd told Abra(ha)m Gd would make Abra(ha)m into, in
And I will make of you a great nation... [Genesis
Note that the verse above does not call us an ethnic
group, or a
culture. It calls us a nation. We are a nation: a nation defined by our
religion, because it was Gd and our religion that defined us in this
way in our Bible.
For a person to become a citizen of a nation the process
called Naturalization. To become a citizen of the Jewish nation, the
naturalization process is called Conversion to Judaism. On the other
hand, just because a 'citizen' of this Jewish nation is totally
non-practicing (of the Jewish religion) does not mean that he or she is
no longer a citizen (no longer a Jew) -- unless that person converts to
a religion other than Judaism. This can be explained by taking a look
at four analogies:
Andy is born in the U.S. of two U.S. citizens, but Andy
to Australia. There he remains involved in every U.S. election, he
knows every issue for his home city, his home county, his home state,
and even on the federal level. He writes his congressional leaders, he
has turkey on the fourth Thursday in November, and celebrates July
Fourth with fireworks. Even though he lives in Australia, does Andy
remain a U.S. citizen? Yes, he remains a U.S. citizen because he has
done nothing to give up his citizenship.
Similarly, there are those Jews who actively pursue
Jewish: Jews who affiliate, celebrate the holidays and holy days, life
cycle events, etc. Many of them live permanently outside of Israel.
Bert is born in the U.S. of two U.S. citizens, but Bert
to Belgium. There Bert cannot care less about anything of, or from, the
U.S.. So long as Bert has a job and his food and his TV, Bert is quite
content. Bert cannot remember who is president, is unconcerned
regarding any of the political or social issues of his native country,
does not even realize that the fourth Thursday in November means
anything, nor does Bert think that July fourth is significant. Even
though Bert lives in Belgium and does nothing to actively be a U.S.
citizen, to express the values of democracy, etc., does Bert remain a
U.S. citizen? Yes, he remains a U.S. citizen because he has done
nothing to lose his U.S. citizenship.
Similarly, there are those Jews who do nothing Jewishly,
not affiliate, but who nevertheless remain Jews, until such time as
they convert to another religion.
Charlie is born in the U.S. of two U.S. citizens, but
moves to China. There, Charlie does everything Charlie can do to
overthrow the U.S. government. Charlie puts on sackcloth and ashes
every July fourth, and ignores Thanksgiving. Charlie attempts to
smuggle arms into the U.S. to overthrow it, and works to fight against
the freedoms and liberty for which the United States stands. Even
though Charlie lives in China and works to destroy the U.S., does
Charlie remain a U.S. Citizen? Yes, because working to overthrow the
U.S. does not constitute grounds to lose ones citizenship. Those who
oppose the U.S. in this way merely go to jail.
Similarly, there are those Jews whose actions could be,
are, detrimental and destructive to Judaism and to the Jewish People.
However, they nevertheless remain Jews until such time as they convert
to another religion.
The ONLY time that Andy, Bert, or Charlie would ever
U.S. citizenship is if and when they accept the citizenship of another
country, an act that usually voids their U.S. citizenship. Of course,
both the U.S. and the State of Israel recognize dual citizenship in
some instances with certain countries, but Judaism and the Jewish
'nation' do not recognize dual citizenship (dual religious loyalties)
at all. The act of accepting another faith removes that person from
citizenship in the Jewish nation. In other words, a Jew who has
accepted the theology of another faith is no longer a Jew. (See Aryeh
Kaplan, 'The Real Messiah,' p.21, referencing Maimonides' Mishneh
Torah, Avodat Kochavim 2:5, as quoted above. See also the Responsa of
other rabbis quoted above.)
Now, we come to Danny. Danny is born in the U.S. of a
who is a U.S. citizen, but Danny's mother is Dutch. At the age of 17
Danny must choose between Dutch and U.S. citizenship. But Danny cannot
choose, say, Brazilian citizenship because he was not born there, and
has no connection to Brazil through his mother or father. So, according
to international law and U.S. law, we can obtain the rights of
citizenship in a country through either the mother or the father.
By Jewish Law, citizenship rights in the Jewish nation
come through the mother, while inheritance rights, which are related to
lineage, come through the father. An example of the latter might be for
inheriting property or for being a member of a specific tribe, like
that of Benjamin, or Levi, which come through the father. Now, in the
past few decades, only the Reform movement of Judaism has accepted the
idea that citizenship rights in the Jewish nation may also come through
the father. However, this is true for them only if the child was raised
with specific and exclusively Jewish ceremonies and affiliations (a
fact usually not stated when referring to the Reform movement's
position, but nevertheless true).
Jews, even those who might not follow Judaism, are
members of a
nation defined by Judaism, as long as they have not joined any Wholly
Other faith. This is no different than citizens of the United States
who do not exercise their right to vote. They may not do what one is
supposed to do as a citizen, but they remain citizens. However, if they
become citizens of China, for example, they lose their U.S.
One important note: as a Jew, one has been chosen by Gd
as Gd's advertising agent in the world. Gd needs Jews to be a constant
reminder to the rest of the world that Gd exists, and that Gd demands
moral and ethical behavior from Gd's creation. Jews have a mission in
the world. That mission, as defined by our covenant with Gd, is to be a
light unto the nations by our actions, and by our willingness to have
others join us in our mission by becoming Jews themselves, through the
conversion process established by our tradition. Those actions that
make us a light unto the nations are not merely ethical behavior on our
part; they also serve to make us different, through the observance of
the commandments (mitzvot).
So, being Jewish does not mean belonging to a race or a
culture, but a religion, and if one joins a Completely Other faith, as
messianic 'Jews' have done by accepting Jesus as their personal savior
and messiah, they are no longer Jews. To deny an element of a faith is
not the same thing as joining another faith, getting baptized into it,
worshipping its gods, etc. The messianic 'Jews' want to see themselves
as still Jewish even though they now believe exactly the same as the
members of the Southern Baptist, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and
Assemblies of Gd churches. It is these churches and denominations that
fund and establish and maintain messianic 'synagogues.'
This leads to two related issues.
First, if these Christian groups are still Jewish, how
people who fund them are not their 'fellow Jews?' They do not receive
their monies from any recognized national Jewish religious organization
such as the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, or the Union of
American Hebrew Congregations. The messianics do not receive their
monies from donations from individual synagogues or temples. When these
messianic 'synagogues' form, they usually start meeting in churches.
They do not begin meeting there because the 'liberal' Christian church
is being nice, which happens often for real Jewish congregations.
Rather, the church where they start meeting is sponsoring the messianic
'synagogue' as a technique to convert Jews to Christianity. The
messianics also do not receive any monies from any national Jewish
secular organizations, such as the Federations, the Anti-Defamation
League, or the American Jewish Committee. As a matter of fact, these
organizations have committees and sub-committees to fight the Christian
missionaries that call themselves as messianic 'Jews.'
Second, what do these same messianic 'Jews' say about
supposed 'fellow Jews?' They will say that the real Jews are going to
'Hell' because they do not accept Jesus. This means that the messianic
'Jews' condemn the very group of which they still claim to be a part.
To the Jewish community, it is absurd to claim one can
be a Jew
and a Christian at the same time, and knowledgeable Jews are not fooled.