Welcome to Roots & Branches – my new monthly blog where I will share information to help you better understand the Jewish roots of Christianity based on my research and my personal experience as a Jewish Christian. In some ways, this blog will serve as an extension of my first book – Christianity’s Jewish Roots: A Study of Judaism for Christians. At the same time, it will also allow me the opportunity to share my personal perspective and experiences as a Jewish Christian woman.
One key difference between the Roots & Branches blog and my book is that my book was written in the third person. The material presented was historical and factual – with little interpretation. That is not the case with the Roots & Branches blog. I intend to discuss ideas, topics and content related to Jewish Christianity and what it means to me. Keep reading to learn why that is an important distinction.
Here is a great example. There is a great deal of interpretation and emotion tied up in labels like “Jewish Christians,” “Christian Jews,” and “Completed Jews.” My Christian friends and acquaintances, in large part, seem pleased to hear that I am a Jewish Christian and even more delighted to hear that I am a Completed Jew. On the other hand, while being polite, my Jewish friends and family slightly wince at the word Christian. Add to that, the internet, which is chock full of strongly worded negative articles on the subject. I read that I could not be a Jewish Christian; that I had to be a Christian Jew. Other articles said I was a Messianic Jew. I never expected such vitriol. So again, since the terms mean different things to different people, I am writing this blog in the first person to indicate that what you are reading is what it all means to me as a Jewish Christian woman.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dig into some of my story and where my journey began as a Jewish child. I grew up in an observant Jewish home.
I began my Jewish education in Sunday School at the age of three and Hebrew school from 4th to 8th grades as I prepared for my Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation. I knew Genesis and Exodus. However, I never read Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I learned about the Jewish holy days and festivals and I also learned about Job, Ruth, Esther, and Daniel. However, I did not realize that they were part of a larger group of writings. I knew that Jews had prophets, and they were represented in a whole section of the Hebrew Bible, but I could not name them.
Of course, I knew about the Torah, the Talmud, and the commentaries. At my Bat Mitzvah, the Temple Sisterhood presented me with my 2-volume Holy Bible. I had no idea that Jews had bibles. I thought the bible was written by Gideons for Christians.
I remember Christmas and Easter breaks in school and Christmas concerts. The school band played, and the chorus sang carols. We weren’t politically correct in those days. I was allowed to sing the songs, but when the word Jesus or Christ came up in the lyrics, my parents told me not to sing those words out loud.
As I grew older, I began to question why we didn’t have Christmas trees. Eventually, I started reading about the Messiah. I noticed that my Christian friends knew that God had sent the Messiah and that He died for the sins of the people. Of course, my Sunday and Hebrew school teachers taught us that we were still waiting for the Messiah. They taught that Jesus was just a great rabbi and that His followers were wrong about His being the Messiah. Their evidence was there were still wars, and hunger, and devastating natural disasters. Our Messiah would take care of all that when he finally came. But, for the most part, my teachers didn’t want to talk about Jesus at all, not one little bit.
The more my teachers didn’t want to talk about Jesus, the more I wanted to learn about Him. As I came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I stepped forward from the Hebrew Scriptures – the Old Testament into the New Testament and Jesus’ teachings. That is a natural trajectory, from old to new, from first to last. I did not feel as if I was leaving anything behind as I moved forward. I was still Jewish, and now as a Christian, I am a completed Jewish woman.
I’ve been a thirsty Christian for the last seven years. I have taken many bible studies, small groups, and Sunday school classes. I have facilitated studies of my first book. What I’ve found as both a student and a facilitator is that many Christians know the New Testament far better than the Old Testament. While I am neither a scholar nor an expert, I was always the one everyone turned to in class for clarification when our study referred to Jewish people, holidays, or scripture. The lesson I learned from their questions was that Christians were interested and wanted to know more about the New Testament.
I made a startling observation when I led studies on my book, Christianity’s Jewish Roots: A Study of Judaism for Christians. At the start of the study, I asked the participants what they hoped to get out of the class. The responses were as varied as the people in the classroom.
At the end of the study, I inquired about the key takeaways. To my delight, my students felt like a door of understanding had been opened for them. Many, perhaps for the first time, understood that Christians and Jews shared the same ancestry through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Further, they finally understood that Jesus was a Jew – a Jewish rabbi and not only that, but all of Jesus’ apostles and all of the authors of the New Testament were also Jewish.
It was as if the Old Testament was theirs for the first time. They made a faith journey to the past. They completed their faith journey in the reverse of mine. They went from new to old, completing the circle. They were now “Completed Christians.”