Recently I was asked about my religious beliefs by a new friend, an American of Jewish roots living in Israel. I want to explain the way I am best able to explain myself: in writing—especially for this sweet new friend.
There is a movement within Evangelical Christianity called Hebrew Roots. It is not a religion because the word religion implies rules, rituals, and organization, like a sort of institution. For many years now I haven’t felt like I was part of a religion.
Among Evangelicals we say that it’s not about religion, but rather relationship. Because it is our relationship with God that we value. Relationship is an organic thing that simply cannot be put in a box and categorized except in the most generic way. For example, the relationship between husband and wife can be categorized as marriage, but the relationship within each marriage is as personal as the unique individuals who are husband and wife. The intimacy between them is something deeply personal. Good marriages are a beautiful thing, and somewhat rare in the world today. My relationship with God is like a very good marriage. But as such, it’s a little hard to put into words, and some things are too intimate to share with others.
The Hebrew Roots Movement is not organized—at least not by humans. There are those of us among Evangelicals who came to this belief without being aware that there were others who had begun to believe the same way. We sort of found each other in the process of researching the Hebrew roots of our faith. The search for the Hebrew roots has been like a scavenger hunt for me, as one fact leads to the next, then on to the next, etc.
Although I still use the name Jesus, the Messiah’s true name was Yeshua. He was never called Jesus during His lifetime. And that makes sense, since He was a Jewish man, a rabbi (teacher) whose disciples were all Jewish men. The more I understand about His Jewishness, the better I understand the things He taught and said. I also better understand the interactions that He had with His disciples.
For example, when Yeshua called to the fishermen to come follow Him. I thought it was so strange that they would just leave their boats, nets, and even their father, and follow Him. But in those days, every Jewish father wished the best possible life for his son. And that life was the life of a rabbi. Rabbis were learned men, respected by all of society. The only way to become a rabbi was to study under a rabbi. But rabbis invested a great deal of time and energy into their students, and so were only able to disciple a dozen students at most. Thus, only the ablest students were chosen by the rabbis as disciples. The rest followed their father’s profession: fisherman, carpenter, etc. So when Yeshua, in full rabbi dress, called to these young fishermen, their fathers were only too happy to release them to go learn from the rabbi, and have a better life than their own.
This is not a teaching that I’ve ever heard in any church. I heard it on YouTube by a Hebrew Roots Teacher. So what happened? How did Christianity lose its Jewishness? I believe that it happened when Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. I don’t believe that Constantine was a true convert to Christianity. His motives were these:
- He didn’t want to have to execute his mother, who had converted to Christianity.
- He wanted control over this “sect” that had plagued the Roman Empire for over 300 years. Under severe persecution, Christianity had seemed only to thrive. Since he couldn’t beat them, Constantine joined himself to Christianity and took control over it.
- Since Constantine was a pagan, he wanted to welcome other pagans into Christianity, making it more palatable to pagans. He did this by substituting pagan names for the Jewish high holy days that Christians had continued to celebrate. Thus, Pesach (Passover) became Easter, a holiday to celebrate ashtar, the pagan goddess of fertility, with all of her fertility symbology: rabbits, eggs, and gifts.
- He wanted to push the Jews out of Christianity. This he accomplished by changing the day of worship from the Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday. And to make sure it stuck, he outlawed worship on the Sabbath.
Then he sent his mother to the Holy Land to look for holy relics (another pagan idea) and to discover the holy places. She built a church at every significant site, whether it was genuinely authenticated or not. Many of these places are in the wrong part of the city or country to be the site of Yeshua’s birth or the place of His crucifixion and burial. Nevertheless, the Holy Land got hijacked by Constantine, along with the Jewishness of the faith, and many people believe in their authenticity to this day. Personally, it really saddens me to see the purity and beauty of the Jewish practices ignored by mainstream Christianity.
So that’s a basic how the Hebrew Roots Movement came to be. For more details about the Hebrew Roots of Christianity, see my other blog posts about Hebrew Roots (keep in mind that I was writing as I was learning, so my understanding in some areas has changed to a more Hebrew mindset):
Shalom blessings! Alisa
 You know who you are 😉