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
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
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
"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:
- The Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine
- Kosher Jesus, by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach
- My Jesus Year, by Binyamin Cohen
- The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ, by Daniel
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.
The suffering of an innocent party is a clear way to test the hearts of
man. If a new child comes into an elementary school class, the "bullies"
will pick on him; some will laugh, but others will be moved to
compassion. The response to the suffering innocent child reveals the
hearts of everyone in the class. Yeshua, the righteous and innocent,
suffering on the cross, reveals the intentions of the 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
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."