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Messianic Jews and their Holiday Practice

History, Analysis and Gentile Christian Interest


Evert W. Van de Poll

Celebrating Biblical and Jewish holidays is most characteristic of the Messianic Jewish movement, and it arouses much interest among Gentile Christians. This practice arose in the struggle of Hebrew Christians in the 19 th century against «Christian assimilation». From the 1970s onwards, a new generation of Messianic Jews identified strongly with their people’s socio-cultural heritage, including the practice of Sabbath, Pesach and other Jewish holidays. A thorough analysis of calendars, reinterpretations, observances and motives shows that this is a novel, Christian-Judaic practice. Why and how do Gentile Christians adopt it? To return to «Jewish roots»? What does this term stand for? As the author takes up these questions, he shows that this is rather a contextualisation of the Gospel.
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10. Restoration or Contextualisation?


10. Restoration or Contextualisation?

Messianic holiday practice offers a successful example of inculturation in a particular ‘context’, and a very good example at that. Maybe it is most telling in the areas of liturgy, worship and celebration, but this is just a hunch, not yet substantiated by any comparative research.

Yet, this is not precisely the way in which protagonists of Messianic Judaism would present this phenomenon. In their view it represents more than a mix of the Christian message with a given target culture; more than a form of contextualisation. It constitutes a return to the very roots of that message: Jewish roots. Or, to put it differently, in the words of David Stern; a restoration of the Jewishness of the Gospel

What does it mean? Should we refrain from identifying the celebration of biblical and Jewish holidays as a form of inculturation? Should it instead be seen as a matter of church reform? Not as ‘context sensitive’ but as ‘original Christian’ worship and liturgy?

Christianisation or restoration: that is the question.

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