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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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9. Missiological Assessment


9. Missiological Assessment

Our investigation of the development of the Messianic Jewish movement in general, and its holiday practice in particular, has led us to draw a number of conclusions, which have been summarized at the end of chapter 4 and which we will now assess.

Various angles could be looked at, because the phenomenon of Messianic holiday observance raises various issues of different kinds. In the area of biblical theology one could take Messianic Jews up on the place and function of the Law under the New Covenant, or on the interpretation of prophecy. Sociologists and anthropologists would perhaps like to discuss the role of identity and culture. Students of liturgy and worship might want to zoom in on the relevance of Siddur and Haggadah. Historians of recent Church history will find new ground to labour, when they relate the Messianic Movement to the phenomenon of Jewish Christian dialogue, for instance. All these avenues are possible, and relevant.

Our avenue is a missiological one. Viewed from this angle, this practice is the result of an interaction between the Church, which has a message to transmit, and the culture, or the ‘context’, of the people to whom it is addressed: and this, in two respects. First, it is born out of a desire by believers with a Jewish background to maintain their ethnic and cultural identity. Therefore, they have developed a distinctively Jewish expression of faith in Jesus. In so doing they enhance their...

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