The rebirth of modern Israel has been paralleled by a revival of interest in spirituality among Jewry worldwide. Amidst this search for meaning and truth, Jewish people have once again examined the Hebrew Scriptures, the most ancient and central document in Jewish faith. Many have compared the teachings of the Torah and the Prophets with the claims of the New Testament. A great number of these people have come to embrace the belief that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and that the New Testament is, after all, a Jewish book … about a Jewish Messiah.
While Messianic Judaism is new in some respects, it is also ancient. It stands on a foundation going back to biblical times. In the first century CE, there were several different sects within Judaism — Pharisees, Saduccees and Herodians to name a few. These different Jewish groups were unquestionably part of the larger Jewish community. A great number of Judeans comprised one of these groups — the Nazarenes. These were followers of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and the forerunners of today’s Messianic Judaism.
The rise of the current Messianic Jewish movement began simultaneously with the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 1900s. Study groups and fellowships began to sprout throughout the United States and in different parts of the world. The explosive growth that solidified the Messianic movement, however, took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today there are over 300 Messianic Synagogues in the United States and over 120 in Israel*. The movement’s rapid growth continues, with new congregations being started in the former Soviet Union, Latin America, and in key cities around the world.
Messianic Jewish followers of Jesus tenderly use His Hebrew name — Yeshua (which means “salvation”) — and are committed to preserving their Jewish identity, believing it to be perfectly compatible with their newfound faith. They celebrate the Jewish feasts, meet on the Sabbath, teach from the Torah, celebrate Bar Mitzvahs and engage in other Jewish customs. Messianic synagogues are formed by Jewish and Gentile members who worship together and who recognize the Messiahship of Yeshua and the Jewish foundation of His message.