Book Title: Messianic Judaism is Not Christianity: A Loving Call to Unity.
Author: Stan Telchin
Date Published: September 1, 2004
Publisher: Chosen Books
Genre: 1. Messianic Judaism
2. Ecclesiology
3. Evangelism
ISBN: 978-0800793722
Reviewer: Jews for Jesus

Given the polar opinions regarding Some Messianic Jews Say Messianic Judaism is Not Christianity: A Loving Call to Unity” we thought we’d present two reviews of Stan Telchin’s new book from two of our staff members.

part 1 by Jhan Moskowitz

The adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” may be true, but you can tell a lot by the title. The inflammatory title of Stan Telchin’s new book makes me want to ask him, “What were you thinking?” as it’s an affront to the unity Telchin claims he wants to cultivate. And it immediately broadcasts doubt about the validity of the Messianic movement to the whole church.

The problems with the book don’t stop with its title. Although Telchin repeatedly says he’s not indicting the whole movement, he paints with a broad stroke, thereby giving a wide audience a distorted picture of the movement based primarily on the experiences of a few. Most of Telchin’s argument is supported by anecdotes from those who’ve been hurt within the Messianic congregational movement.

Telchin also presupposes that the majority of those in the Messianic congregational movement who use rabbinic forms are merely attempting to win the Jewish community’s approval. He ignores the fact that many are actually attempting to find legitimate Jewish forms that do not contradict biblical principles.

Telchin spends a good deal of time explaining that rabbinic Judaism and Jewish culture are not the same thing. Yet so much of our Jewish culture both here in the United States and around the world is wrapped up in Jewish rabbinic forms. All of our life-cycle events, from circumcisions to funerals, are shaped by rabbinic structures. Whatever being Jewish means, it must be connected to the last 2,000 years of Jewish identity formation. And like it or not, our rabbis have helped shape what today’s Jewish culture looks like. The job of the Messianic movement is to redeem that heritage through a biblical grid.

Telchin fails to grasp what some in the Messianic congregational movement believe is God’s mandate. Telchin would be the first to say that God wants a distinct Jewish people to exist until the end of time as a perpetual witness to His faithfulness. The question is, how will that distinction be made? The Messianic congregational movement answers by saying that to be distinct, we must live as Jews, and to some that means more than just eating bagels.

part 2 by Rich Robinson

Stan Telchin—in his usual pastorly fashion—is responding to what he sees as unhealthy trends within the Messianic movement. In his new book, he gently lays out the problems together with biblical reflections on what it means for all believers to be “one new man.”

Beginning with a list of thought questions on pages 23-25, Telchin covers his purposes in writing before offering a history of Christian anti-Semitism as one factor that led to the rise of “Messianic Judaism.”

Telchin does not paint the entire Messianic congregational movement with one brush. I counted at least five places where he disclaims that his remarks apply to all congregations (pgs. 27, 64, 85-86, 96, 133). “I am not opposed to all Messianic congregations,” he writes on page 27, “but I am opposed to Messianic Judaism.” While one might wish that he’d more specifically defined that term, he offers plenty of descriptions.

Telchin accurately distills some trends within the Messianic movement: (1) the insistence of some that the single most important way for expressing one’s Jewish identity is to join a Messianic congregation (pp. 55-56); (2) the problem of seeking acceptance from the larger Jewish community and how that informs one’s views of identity and practice (p. 63); (3) the problem—and it is a problem, given the movement’s stated objectives—of why there are so many non-Jews in Messianic congregations and so few Jewish believers (ch. 6); (4) the loss of emphasis on reaching Jewish people with the gospel (pp. 99-100).

Telchin goes on to study biblical passages relating to “one new man” and concludes with an exhortation to beware of dividing our hearts between God and anything else.

Some have reacted with an unseemly defensiveness to this book. But if they’re one of those congregations whom Telchin says he is not addressing, why be defensive? And if they represent those to whom his remarks are addressed, why not take them under advisement and respond with equal grace? After all, the subtitle of the book is “A Loving Call to Unity.” And it’s a timely one, as well.

For more from our Jews for Jesus newsletter, see David Brickner’s article “Why I Support Messianic Congregations”.