by Asher Intrater, Director, Revive Ministries
Recently a discussion arose as to whether leaders of Messianic congregations in the diaspora should refer to themselves as rabbis. There are pros and cons to the issue. Interestingly, none of the leaders in Israel use that term. In Israel the rabbis have such influential positions of authority that it would be inappropriate, at least at this time, for congregational leaders to be called rabbis.
A related issue arose as to whether the apostle Paul (Saul) should be referred to as rabbi. On the one hand, he is never called rabbi in the New Covenant scriptures. On the other hand, he is clearly described as one who had a rabbinic-type position, had letters of authority from the High Priests (Acts 9:2; 22:5), was among the leaders of Judaism (Galatians 1:14), was a member of one of the most radical sects (Acts 26:5), and was trained in a Jerusalem by the great rabbi, Gamliel (Acts 22:3).
Another related issue is whether it is appropriate to refer to Yeshua as rabbi. In the Modern Hebrew version of the gospels, Yeshua is referred to as rabbi 50 times. Of those fifty, 13 are from the Greek word rabbi (primarily in John), 36 from didaskalos (often translated as "master" or "teacher"), and 1 from kathegetes (leader).
While none of these references represent a command to refer to Yeshua as rabbi (in contrast to such mandated terms as Messiah (Christ), Son of God (Matthew 16:16), and Lord (Romans 10:9), taken altogether they do prove the validity of using that term when appropriate to a Jewish audience or when emphasizing the historical-cultural context of the New Covenant to an international audience.
"Do not be called 'Rabbi' (rabbi), for one is your Rabbi (didaskalos), the Messiah (christos), and you are all brethren" (Matthew 23:8, author's English translation of MHB). While this verse might point to the invalidity of using the term rabbi for Messianic leaders, it might equally indicate the validity of using the term for Yeshua Himself. There is no necessity for Yeshua to be called rabbi among Gentile nations. However there is justification in using that term in order to demonstrate cultural context. We might call Him "Rabbi J."
There has been a new interest within the Jewish academic world and even the rabbinic community to study Yeshua in a Jewish historical context. A CNN article called, "Jews Reclaim Jesus as One of their Own", noted four recently published research books by significant Jewish authors:
These authors do not believe in Yeshua as savior and are often antagonistic to Messianic faith. Yet interest and research in the Jewish background of the New Covenant is a positive trend none-the-less.
Yeshua is so wonderful and His message so pure, I have often wondered why some people do not receive the gospel. In reverse, how can God judge someone simply because he didn't believe a message? That seems unjust.
Here is Yeshua's answer:
"The light has come into the word, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).
Yeshua is the light. The light is His love, righteousness, grace, and purity. His appearance to mankind and His message constitute a moral test. Those with a heart of grace will come toward it; those whose hearts are impure will fight against it.
The gospel is like the wisdom of Solomon (I Kings 3). When two women came before him claiming the same child, he brought a sword to cut the child in two; the woman whose heart was pure, said to release the child; the one whose heart was impure said to cut the child in two. The potential death of the innocent child was a moral test of heart for the two women. The same is true for the two criminals on the cross next to Yeshua (Luke 23). One had a soft heart; the other a hard heart.
Michael Cohen - In Memoriam
By Ari Ben
Michael Cohen, our dear friend, brother and member of Ahavat Yeshua congregation, passed away this April after suffering a heart attack near the Jaffa gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Michael's funeral was attended by a large number of those who had been touched by his life. The turnout alone was a testament to the genuine love that he carried for every person he met. The feeling that hung in the air of respect and admiration for Michael was tangible. Michael's funeral was attended by a large number of those who had been touched by his life. The turnout alone was a testament to the genuine love that he carried for every person he met. The feeling that hung in the air of respect and admiration for Michael was tangible.
Michael was an ordained Anglican priest, who some years ago discovered the Jewish roots of his faith as well as his family. He later made aliyah to Israel and wrote a book on his personal experience, titled, My Road Home.
A humble man, Michael traveled throughout England and the U.S. teaching about the Word of God and Israel. The majority of his time was spent in Israel teaching and serving the Messianic community. He was a mentor and spiritual father to many of the young adults of the community and will be sorely missed. Please keep his wife Fran, and his family in your prayers.
Just before his passing, Michael finished the final manuscript of his latest book, Two Into One Will Go: Jews and Christians Destined to Become One. It is available for pre-order through Amazon.
The "light" in John 3 can be compared to the "light" in John 8. Here a woman is caught in adultery. The religious hypocrites want to stone her. They obviously have evil intentions, because they did not bring the man caught in adultery with her (see, Leviticus 20:10), and because the woman was clearly repentant. Yeshua rebukes those who want to stone her, then turns to the woman and says:
"Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more" (John 8:11).
And to the crowd he says:
"I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).
In this context, it is not just Yeshua Himself who is the light, but His qualities of forgiveness and righteousness. The perfect balance between grace and purity is the light of Yeshua. Someone not willing to forgive others will find it difficult to accept a gospel of forgiveness. Someone not willing to stop sinning will find it difficult to accept a savior who says, "Sin no more." When church leaders become overly critical or overly lenient, they miss the heart of Yeshua's message.
One of the reasons that many South Koreans accepted the gospel and the North Koreans did not was because communism filled the North Koreans with hatred for America. When many Blacks in the US in the 1960's began to hate Whites, they turned away from Christianity to Islam. When we Jews think we are spiritually superior to Gentiles, then we cannot receive Yeshua's message. When young people cannot forgive their parents, they will reject a message of forgiveness from God. Those brainwashed by sexual immorality and rebellion cannot receive a message that says, "Sin no more."
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