Tuesday, 29 July 2014
A Question of Names: Part 2
So here is my answer as to where the term 'Christian' came from and why Messianic Jews might not like to use it to describe themselves ...
Please understand that the word 'Christian' is an English word that does not appear in Acts 11:26. The Greek word is translated "follower of Messiah". The word 'Messiah' is translated as 'Christ' in most English language New Testaments, and that is why in Acts 11:26, is most often translated 'Christian' (i.e. follower of Christ).
If you look at the footnote at Matthew 1 of your NIV Bible, you will notice that 'Messiah' is given as the equivalent of 'Christ'. It is a language issue because the word 'Messiah' is also an English word, and does not appear in Scripture either.
Now for the second part of your question: "Why don't Messianic Jews want to be called Christian?" It is because the popular understanding of the word 'Christian' is not only "follower of Christ", but also "not Jewish". The false assumption that one who follows Yeshua cannot be Jewish comes from centuries of the Rabbinical Jewish community's rejection of Yeshua, and the persecution of Jews by those calling themselves 'Christians'.
Remember that Messianic Judaism, as a defined religious movement, had all but disappeared between the first and late 19th centuries. Most Jews today are therefore taught from childhood: "You are either a Jew or a Christian; you cannot be both and, if you start believing in Jesus, you stop being a Jew." That is, of course, theologically wrong, but it causes great sensitivity about the words 'Christian' and 'Christ' within the English-speaking Messianic Jewish world.
There is one other connotation of 'Christian', and that is cultural as distinguished from theological. Christians typically keep Sunday, Christmas, and Easter as Holy days, whereas Messianic Jews do not. Messianic Jews keep the seventh day Sabbath, and all of the commanded appointed times mentioned in Leviticus 23, whereas a majority of Christians do not. That being said, I readily use the terms 'Christian' and 'Christ' when I need to better communicate in non-Jewish environments.
Do you agree about the sensitivity issue? Do you feel comfortable identifying yourself as a Christian? Leave a comment and tell us what you think!