Part of a series of articles related to
Messianic Judaism

This article describes certain religious practices common in Messianic Judaism. Messianic religious practices are sometimes called Messianic halakha.

"Old Testament"

Messianic Judaism generally recognizes Scripture as a continuum that builds on its foundation, not a book divided into two sections, one of which is "old", the other "new". The entire book is seen as vibrant and relevant to modern life.


Messianic Judaism's position on the covenant with Abraham is that it is still in force, and most believe that the New Covenant foretold in Jeremiah does not replace the old, and the false idea of Jesus attempting to replace the Torah would contradict various statements in the Torah itself that such a covenant is non-negotiably perpetual, disqualifying him from Messiahship. A handful of recently-founded organizations such as Messianic Bureau International, First Fruits of Zion, the Coalition of Torah Observant Messianic Congregations, and the Union of Torah Observant Ministries seek to provide a more Torah-observant platform for Messianic Judaism.

Protestant canon

A majority of Messianics consider the full canon of the Bible to include the same books found in Protestant Bibles, although this is a matter of few debate in the Messianic community, especially in reference to Paul's writings.

Apocryphal non-canon

Like many Protestants, most (though not all) Messianic Jews consider the additional books referred to as the Apocrypha or the Deuterocannonical texts to be of historical value but not divinely inspired, unlike Roman Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Oral Torah

Although most Messianics do not consider the Oral Torah "divinely inspired", an increasing number nevertheless are showing respect for halakha (way in which a person walks out Torah), some even consider it binding, whereas others look to it for historical information. There are some, especially those who have come out of Protestant churches, who maintain a presumption of sola scriptura and have a caution towards rabbinical halakha. However, it is incorrect to assume that all Messianics share this concern towards Oral Torah. There are those who look to the Talmud and rabbinical interpretations of Israel for guidance in a fuller expression of obedience to Torah. If Messianic Judaism is indeed a Judaism, it stands to reason that it shares community with all Jews in its acceptance of standards and interpretations (admittedly, there are many levels and choices within this realm). Messianics who honor various levels of halakhah point out that Deuteronomy 17 instructs not only obedience to Torah, but also to respect the appropriate judges we go to for Torah interpretation, to "do everything they teach you to do. Act according to the [Written] Torah they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left." Yeshua backs up the Torah teachers among the Pharisees in this type of authority (i.e. following the Written Torah- verses the Oral Torah) in Matthew 23, "saying: "The Torah teachers and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses [Written Torah]; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.." Of course this must be balanced with numerous other Scriptures, by those joining Messianic Judaism's realms, in light of Scriptures such as in Acts 5 "...We ought to obey God rather than men." Messianics realize there must be a proper perspective at all times.

In light of this, one organization called the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (affiliated with the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations) has published its standards—a tremendous forward movement for Messianic Judaism. The recommendations of the MJRC may be found at,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/

Also, other organizations such the Messianic Israel Alliance (MIA), have decided to pursue a path of balancing out when to copy Judaism's guidance in the expression of Torah, and when to realize another Biblical principle cannot be ignored.


The Messianic Jewish view of baptism is much more closely aligned with the traditional Jewish mikvah. Highly prevalent is the belief that John the Immerser was not founding some new religious practice but was simply performing the very ancient Jewish ritual of immersion in water (tevilah). Due to a lack of resources, most Messianic congregations are simply not able to observe the various water purifications commanded in the Torah such as the one required after a woman's menstruation.


Torah reading

Hebrew Torah scrolls are used in Shabbat services if the congregation has a scroll. Like Rabbinic Jewish synagogues, most Messianic congregations and synagogues hope to obtain a Torah scroll at some point, but many are small and lack the funds to afford one. Messianic Jewish congregations observe the traditional Jewish annual reading cycle for Torah and Haftorah, although a minority may try to practice the more ancient three-year cycle that would've been the norm in the 1st Century. They also read accompanying portions from the B'rit Chadasha (Hebrew for Renewed Covenant, commonly recognized as the New Testament). David Stern's arrangement for these readings is popular. In strongly Jewish messianic synagogues, the liturgy is straight from the Siddur, indistinguishable from that of any other synagogue, save for the addition of a reading from the B'rit Chadashah (New Covenant).

Jewish song and prayer

Messianics recite or cant traditional Jewish prayers such as:

  • Brit milah (covenant of circumcision) is performed for Jewish male babies.

Holiday observances


Worship services are generally held on Friday evenings (Erev Shabbat) and Saturday mornings, as Messianics recognize that the Sabbath is an eternal covenant between God and the children of Israel (Exodus 31:16).

The recommendations of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council regarding Shabbat may be found at

Jewish Holidays

Messianics observe Biblical festivals and other days significant in Jewish history, including:

The recommendations of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council on Holidays may be found at

Non-Jewish holidays

Celebration of holidays such as Christmas and Easter are not encouraged by Messianic Judaism, although it is very common for Messianics to have Christian relatives. The main issue with Christian holidays are the alleged pagan origins and the lack of apparent basis in Torah. As such many Messianics feel that these holidays lack significance to God. The same argument applies to Sabbath vs. Sunday worship. Those that practice non-Jewish holidays, to preserve family unity for example, generally do so in a secular manner.

Kosher observances


Dietary laws

The dietary laws of Judaism are a subject of continued debate among Messianic Jews. [1][unreliable source?][2] Particularly important in this debate is the interpretation of Peter's vision in Acts 10. However, most Messianic Jews and Gentiles, as well as many Biblical Scholars, prefer Peter's own explanation, which shows that the purpose of the vision was not about the abolition of the food laws; they remain intact. It is recounted in Acts 10:27-34, by Peter, that he understood this to be about how he related to Gentiles - the people whom Peter had previously thought to be 'unclean'. God, through this vision, removed the barrier that allowed Peter to relate directly to the Gentiles. This issue was the source of Paul's row with Peter in Galatians 2:14ff, where Peter was accused of trying to make the Gentiles to be like Jews, even though he lived like a Gentile. Paul also makes the same point as God made to Peter in the vision - we have come to realise that that a person is not declared righteous by God through legalism, but by faith in Messiah.

James made it clear that the gentile’s minimum requirements were "that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood." Acts 15:20. While pointing out that the Gentiles were hearing the Torah read every Sabbath in the synagogues.

Some have referred to these minimum requirements as Noachide laws. Not Judaism but a form of righteous living for gentiles who honor the one true God of Israel. For some Messianic followers this is all they believe they need to follow. Some followers however believe that over time more understanding and more hearing of the Torah will bring more conformity to the Dietary Laws.


The practice of Gentiles keeping kosher depends on the Messianic congregation in question, although in many congregations the belief is that Gentiles should keep kosher.


Messianics display Menorot and Stars of David rather than crosses. Many wear kippot (skullcaps), fringes on their clothing (tzitzit) and, during Sabbath worship, a tallit (prayer shawl). Much like the rest of Judaism, the donning of tefillin varies depending on the community.



Clergy ordained by a recognized seminary or organization are sometimes called rabbis. A leader of a congregation that has not yet been ordained may be called a teacher, Congregational Leader, or a pastor.

Biblical personages

Biblical personages are often referred to by their Hebrew names or presumed Hebrew names, e.g.:

  • Yeshua - Jesus
  • Yochanan - John
  • Sha'ul - Paul/Saul of Tarsus
  • Shimon Kefa - Simon Peter (Cefas)
  • Moshe - Moses
  • Yesheyahu - Isaiah
  • Miryam - Mary


Most Messianics oppose being called “Christians”, and do not call themselves Christians. This is largely due to the fact that Messianic Judaism consciously differs from Christianity in various matters such as Torah observance, Hebraic mindset, and the general view that belief in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah does not represent a departure from the Torah.


Messianic Jews & non-Jews call their places of worship congregations, synagogues, kehilat (Hebrew for congregations), fellowships, shuls, or Beit Knessets etc....rather than churches.


Messianic congregations prefer usage of the original Hebrew for various names and places (or an English name that has less emotional baggage), not only for the Tanakh but for primarily New Testament names. This is to reinforce the Messianic Jewish Hebraic mindset but is also done so as not to offend Jews. Examples:

  • baptism - immersion, going into the mikvah, tevillah
  • baptize - immerse, go into the mikvah
  • Christ - Messiah, Mashiach
  • church (building) - synagogue, Beit Knesset
  • church (people) - congregation, kehillah (Hebrew for "congregation"), body of the Messiah, body of believers, followers of the Messiah, believers
  • church (services) - shul (Yiddish for "school"), worship services
  • Cross - tree, execution stake
  • crucifixion - death, execution, nailed to a stake, hanging on a stake
  • evangelize - tell the good news
  • gospel - good news, or Besorah
  • Holy Spirit - Ruach HaKodesh
  • Jesus - Yeshua*
  • Jesus Christ - Yeshua haMashiach, Messiah Yeshua
  • John the Baptist - Yochanan haMatbil, John the Immerser
  • Lord - HaShem, Adonai
  • New Testament - Apostolic Writings, Brit Chadashah ("renewed covenant")
  • Old Testament - Tanakh
  • Pentateuch - Torah


  1. Reinckens, Rick (2002). "Frequently Asked Questions". MessianicJews. Info. Retrieved 2007-02-15. 
  2. "Kashrut". Retrieved 2008-02-09. [dead link]


  • Brown, Michael (2000). Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: General and Historical Objections. Baker Books. ISBN 0-8010-6063-X. 
  • Brown, Michael (2000). Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections. Baker Books. ISBN 0-8010-6334-5. 
  • Brown, Michael (2003). Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections. Baker Books. ISBN 0-8010-6423-6. 
(Per Brown, a fourth Answering Jewish Objections volume is in preparation)
  • Chernoff, Yohanna (1996) (in English) (paperback). Born a Jew ... Die a Jew. The Story of Martin Chernoff, A Pioneer in Messianic Judaism. Miller, Jimi (1st ed. ed.). MD, USA: EBED Publications. ISBN 1-884369-39-1. 
  • Fischer*, Rabbi John, ed.; The Enduring Paradox: Exploratory Essays in Messianic Judaism pub. Messianic Jewish Resources International (July, 2000); ISBN 1-880226-90-1

(* Earned degrees: B.S. in Bible, M.S. in Communications, M.A. in New Testament, B.J.S. in Jewish Thought, Ph.D. in Education/Religion--Dissertation: The Development of a Core Curriculum for a Messianic Jewish Yeshiva, Th.D. In Judaic Studies--Dissertation: Messianic Services for Festivals and Holy Days)

  • Goble, Phillip E., Everything You Need To Grow A Messianic Synagogue, William Carey Library, (1974), ISBN 0-87808-421-5
  • Juster, Daniel, Th.D.; Growing to Maturity: A Messianic Jewish Guide pub. Union of Messianic Congregations; 3rd ed. (1987); ISBN 0-9614555-0-0
  • Kinzer, Mark Ph.D. (publisher: Brazos) Postmissionary Messianic Judaism (November 2005), ISBN 1-58743-152-1
  • Stern, David H., Ph.D., M.Div. (publisher: Messianic Jewish Resources International)
  1. Messianic Jewish Manifesto (May, 1988), ISBN 965-359-002-2
  2. Jewish New Testament Commentary (October, 1992), ISBN 965-359-011-1
  3. Complete Jewish Bible (June, 1998), ISBN 965-359-015-4



  • Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue. (New release weekly) Video of Saturday morning worship service [DVD, CD or audio cassette]. Dallas, Texas, USA: Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue.  (see Notes)
  • Michael L. Brown, Ph.D.[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_Brown] (Instructor). (2003) Messianic Apologetics [DVD (recorded course)]. Dallas, Texas, USA: Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue.  (see Notes)
  • Seth Klayman, M.A.[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_Klayman] (Instructor). (2004) Israel in Jesus' Time [DVD (recorded course)]. Dallas, Texas, USA: Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue.  (see Notes)
  • Rabbi Martin Waldman[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_Waldman] (Instructor). (2005) Messianic Overview of the Tanakh [DVD (recorded course)].  (see Notes)

Notes: DVDs not sold on BHS website.[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_not_on_site]
  Although the main topics of the courses varied, all discussed

current Messianic religious practices to varying degrees.


  1. ^  The "prayer over the children" excerpt is a bit atypical. The person who excerpted the videos indicates that since December 1999 when he started attending, this is the only time the prayer was done by a child rather than one of the congregation elders.
  2. ^  Michael L. Brown, Ph.D. in Semitic Languages, evangelist, Messianic apologist, author
  3. ^  Seth Klayman, M.A., Ph.D. candidate in Judaic Studies, Duke University; Congregational Leader, Sha'arei Shalom Messianic Congregation, Cary, NC
  4. ^  Daniel C. Juster, Th.D., Executive Director, Tikkun Ministries International; author; former Congregation Leader, Beth Messiah Congregation, Gaithersburg, MD
  5. ^  Russell Resnick, past president, Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations
  6. ^  Martin Waldman, Congregation Leader, Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue, past president, Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations
  7. ^  Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue may be contacted by phone or mail or by email through its website but it does not sell the DVD sets through the website. Courses are 20 class hours, seminary level and require books not included with the course materials.

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