I recently heard the claim that Catholicism is not the “original” Christianity since Messianic Judaism came first. How true, if at all, is this claim?
Messianic Judaism is a US hippie-era fad religion which is almost non-existent today. There are Catholic Parishes with more members than the entire Messianic Judaism religion.
Catholicism is the original Christian Church, and the “Roman” Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian Church, and the Greek Orthodox Church (also Catholic) is the second largest Church. All Catholic Churches trace their origins (and the Apostolic Succession of their Bishops) to the Apostolic Age. Messianic Judaism does not even claim valid Apostolic succession of its Bishops (wait - what Bishops?)
There’s good info on this site chosenpeople.com/main/jewish-roots/304-messianic-congregations-and-the-modern-messianic-movement
It says that there are currently 200 Messianic congregations in the U.S. today, and probably 500 worldwide. These congregations are independent, but are loosely connected to each other, as they mostly belong to a ‘‘Jewish alliance’’ of messianic congregations.
In the past, I’ve been involved with several messianic congregations, and they are far from extinct. But not growing up in the Jewish faith, they weren’t for me.
Studying Christianity from a Jewish perspective is very enlightening, but I wouldn’t run off to join such a group just because the history of Judaism is older than that of Christianity. Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism and needs nothing added to it.
Messianic Judaism is a modern Evangelical form of Christianity, founded by Jewish converts. It has no link to the Apostles or the Catholic Church.
There was an early group of that time who were called Jewish Christians. They retained the Jewish rituals and holy days while accepting the Messiahship of Jesus. They disappeared fairly quickly. Modern Messianic Judaism attempts to emulate that group. There are different types of Messianic Jews: some who use the name come from Protestant, in particular Evangelical, roots, and regard themselves as Christian; others think of themselves as essentially Jews (including, but not limited to, the Jews for Jesus people); still others call themselves Nazarene Jews, who accept Jesus as the Messiah but not His divinity. Hebrew Catholics consider themselves Catholic and, at the same time, of Jewish origin.
There was an early group of that time who were called Jewish Christians. They retained the Jewish rituals and holy days while accepting the Messiahship of Jesus. They disappeared fairly quickly.
When did they come about and why did they disappear? Thanks for all the info!
The current Messianic Judaism is not Jewish at all, it is a Protestant denomination.
Thank you for the information. I didn’t realize there were so many.
First, messianic Judaism can have two definitions. One definition is just any Jewish convert to Christianity. That includes the ancient Hebrew Catholic community, which I’ll mention more about below. The more common definition of “messianic Judaism” is a denomination of modern Protestant Christianity based on an attempt to emulate the rites and beliefs of the early Jewish converts to Christianity mentioned in the Book of Acts, as interpreted by Protestants.
Although these modern “Messianic Jews” claim to emulate the early Jewish Christians, their claims have no basis in reality because, among other reasons, their rites and their beliefs do not match up to the early Jewish Christians’ rites and beliefs, which were Catholic, and they do not have any historical link to those ancient groups. A historical link would be having bishops ordained by predecessors who were themselves ordained by predecessors, etc., going back to those ancient communities. Protestants, including modern Protestant “Messianic Jews,” don’t have predecessors going back that far because all Protestant denominations only started after the year 1517.
The most common meaning of the term “messianic Jews” is the modern Protestant communities. When the broader definition is used, it means any Jewish convert to Christianity, including Jewish converts to Catholicism from both ancient and modern times. If you use the more common definition of “messianic Jews”, meaning some modern Protestant communities as explained above, it is not true that they came before Catholicism, because those modern communities were all formed in modern times.
When you use the broader definition, including any Jewish convert to Christianity, is still not true that the ancient Jewish Christians came before the Catholic Church. The founders of Christianity were Jesus and the Apostles, and the Apostles were the first Catholic Bishops. Thus, the early Jewish Christians were part of the Catholic Church. St. James the Apostle was an early leader for the Jewish Catholic community while the Church was being opened up to Gentiles. He was the bishop of Jerusalem, the primary city where Jewish most Catholics resided. The bishop of Jerusalem was called a patriarch, which is a fancy kind of bishop. The patriarchate of Jerusalem was (and still is) the collection of dioceses in Jerusalem and its surrounding areas, under the leadership of the bishop of Jerusalem. The early patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the modern one too, were (are) under the leadership of the pope. (Except for the large schismatic groups that are members of the Eastern Orthodox Church.)
Early Jewish Catholics, mostly under the patriarchate of Jerusalem but some outside of it, were an integral part of the early Catholic Church. When St. James died, another Jewish Catholic was ordained to the bishopric to succeed him, and this happened for at least the first 10 bishops of Jerusalem. Thus, the early Jewish Christians were members of the Catholic Church under the patriarchate of Jerusalem, which accepted the leadership of the pope.
They did not entirely disappear. After 10 bishops of Jerusalem, a Gentile was ordained to succeed the Jewish bishop after he died. The Jewish Catholic population continued to operate under Gentile leadership, but most of them gradually married into Gentile Catholic families and lost their Jewish identity. But, the numbers of Hebrew Catholics were replenished by Jewish converts to Catholicism during the Middle Ages. This has continued to the present day, and modern Hebrew Catholics still exist and have a website: hebrewcatholic.net.
I hope that helps. God bless!