In Jewish circles, there is a commonly-held and widely-taught belief that when a Jew believes in Jesus, he is no longer a Jew, but a Christian. Let’s explore this idea, considering where it came from and why it persists, and then discover from the Scriptures why it’s completely wrong.
A Messianic Israeli kindergartener set off sparks recently when she declared before the other children in her class that “Yeshua is the Messiah and He will deliver us.” As reported by Kehila News Israel (KNI, kehilanews.com), citing an interview with Israel’s Channel 7, the mother of one of the girl’s classmates immediately complained to the school for allowing such “hypocritical” and “brainwashing” speech and, upon two rabbis’ recommendations, withdrew her child from the institution. The mother of the Messianic kindergartner, on the other hand, maintained that the whole episode had been blown out of proportion, and all three of her children continue to be welcomed by the school and other parents.
For most people, the idea of a Jew following Jesus is self-contradictory. One is either a Jew, who follows the God of Israel; or he undergoes conversion to become a Christian, and follows the God of the Gentiles—Jesus. In other words, it is widely believed that a Jew who follows Jesus stops being a Jew—he has turned his back on his people and his faith—and becomes a Christian. One can’t be both Jewish and Christian… or so it is thought.
The modern Messianic Jewish movement as we know it has existed for more than half a century. And in that time, while there has come to be a certain level of tolerance toward Messianic Jews within the larger Jewish community, most non-Messianic Jews are hardened in their hearts toward Yeshua. This is due in large part to the unfounded beliefs about the Messiah that have been perpetuated in Jewish circles, making it critically important that we know the source of this misinformation.