Research in Progress
Definition and Basic Theology:
Messianic Israelites, or Ephraimites are non-Jewish believers in the New Testament figure of Jesus who consider themselves to be the (spiritual and/or physical) descendents of the lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Biblical Israel. They are distinguished from other Christians by their adherence to Biblical Law and their adoption of Jewish models of Torah observance and ritual life. The groups who identify with this movement typically retain a broadly Christian understanding of Jesus as God incarnate and as a personal savior whose sacrificial death effectively atones for individual sins. Jews who accept Jesus/Yeshua as Israel's Messiah and as personal savior form a saved remnant of the southern tribes known collectively as "Judah". In this version of Messianic theology, believing Messianic Israel (non-Jewish "Ephraim") and saved Jews ("Judah") will one day be united to form the true, eschatological "Israel" of God under the rulership of the Davidic Messiah, Jesus/Yeshua [then the two houses will indeed become one house]. In general, the fact that certain Christians feel called to a Torah-observant lifestyle and experience a visceral connection to the land of Israel is taken to be evidence of their true Identity as Israelites.
JewsFor the most part in this theology, Jews who do not accept Jesus/Yeshua are considered by to be outside the covenant, therefore outside the divine promises it contains, and without any hope of inheritance despite their biological connection to Jacob:
"Until Jewish/Israel willingly and by their own volition, enters the Renewed Covenant made by Moshiach’s shed blood of atonement, they REMAIN OUTSIDE THE COVENANTS OF PROMISE, HAVING NO INHERITANCE IN THE ETERNAL LIFE AS ISRAEL, EVEN THOUGH THEY REMAIN PART OF BIOLOGICAL ISRAEL [emphasis in the original]. (M Koniuchowsky, "The Full Restoration of Israel: Part 22 - A Fresh Look at Just Who is Israel?")" [FN1]
Sometimes the definition of "Judah" is apparently not dependent on claims about Jesus, but on religious piety and a Messianic ideology that accepts the last days' restoration of Ephraim and Judah. For example, in a 2000 email advertising a "Very unique and prophetic trip to Israel", Eddie Chumney equates Judah with the Israeli Orthodox community:
"This tour is designed so that Orthodox Jews (the house of Judah) can meet Ephraimites so that they can begin to discuss and dialogue how they can begin to work together to be reunified with each other. For this reason, the tour group will be visiting West Bank settlements and meeting leaders within the West Bank communities as well as with Orthodox Jewish rabbis who are sympathetic to the reunification of Ephraim and Judah in our days" (Eddie Chumney, post to "email@example.com," Sept. 2000).
Batya Wootten, founder and spokesperson for the Messianic Israel Alliance, explains that the Jews have been divinely preserved as a distinct people to preserve the Torah, the Feasts and the Shabbat, all aspects of traditional Judaism that the newly self-realized Israelites have adopted as authenticating markers of their own identity. As in other factions of this movement, Jews are expected to accept Jesus as Messiah as a prerequisite to the ultimate unification of Jews and non-Jews into the eschatological Israel:
"Messianic Israel deems the Jewish people to be the identifiable representatives and offspring of Judah and 'the children of Israel, his companions,' ... [and] affirms that the Jewish people have been kept identifiable as seed of the patriarch Jacob, Yahveh's covenant people, to preserve His Holy Torah (Law), Feasts, and shabbat (Sabbath); that the salvation of the Jewish people through their accceptance of Messiah Yeshua, (sic) will be the crowning act of mankind's redemption, and is necessary for the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel". [FN2]
Two House believers do not consider themselves Gentiles in a Jewish Messianic movement. Instead they consider themselves, physically and legally, to be part of the original people of Israel. Therefore, they are not 'grafted in' to Judah, but co-equal with "Judah" in covenantal terms. In the real world this amounts to a belief that they are entitled to possess 10/12ths of the promised land (the share alloted to the Northern tribes), and along with observant religious Jews, they are equally obligated to keep the terms of the Sinai covenant, although for Messianics the covenant is interpreted through the lens of the apostolic writings (i.e., New Testament).
"Ephraim/Israel based on the clear principles of Romans 9 cannot lay claim or legitimately reclaim their inheritance in and among Israel unless and until they are found to be GUARDING THE SHABBAT, GUARDING THE FEASTS KEEPING KOSHER, AND RELEARNING AND USING THE FATHER’S TRUE NAME OF YAHWEH and other basic mitzvoth as outlined in Acts 15 at the Yerushalayim Council [emphasis in the original]. (M Koniuchowsky, "The Full Restoration of Israel: Part 22 - A Fresh Look at Just Who is Israel?")" [FN2]
In an attempt to clarify their theology [i.e., frame it within an orthodox understanding of the Church]Eddie Chumney and Monte Judah issued a joint statement in 2003, affirming the nature of their understanding of "Israel" as an eschatological, new covenant community created by faith in the Messiah, Jesus/Yeshua, but modeled on (typologically related to) the physical community of Israel (kol Israel). This new covenant was made ONLY with the physical descendents of Jacob (i.e., modern-day Jews as descendents of the southern tribes and the self-styled Israelites/Ephraimites as literal descendents of of the northern tribes) just as the covenant with Abraham was made only with the physical descendents of Jacob. Others, that is racial non-Israelites (Gentiles), can choose to believe in the Messiah of Israel and thus be 'grafted' in to the covenant, but together with Israelite non-Jews, they are not obligated to keep the uniquely "Jewish" customs and traditions not contained in the Bible (i.e., rabbinic halakha).
"Believing Gentiles are to be welcomed into the commonwealth of Israel and adopted into that Kingdom (Ephesians 2:12, 19). Torah teaches us that the adopted can never be disinherited and receives the inheritance of the first born. The believers in the Messiah have the status of being a first-born family (Hebrews 12:22-23) which is not based upon genealogy (I Chronicles 5:1). While all believers in Messiah are required to love Him and keep His commandments (John 14:15) and to keep what is written (Deuteronomy 30:10-14, I Corinthians 7:18-19) not adding or taking away from what is written (Deuteronomy 4:1-2), non-Jews are not required to observe customs and traditions which are uniquely Jewish and not specifically commanded in the Bible. [FN3]
Messianic Israel Alliance founder, Batya Wooten has a slightly different understanding of the identity of non-Jewish believers, but as with Chumney and Monte Judah, MIA Ephraimites are not grafted-in Gentiles (i.e., Christians) but restored Israelites:
"Messianic Israel believes the non_Jewish (sic) followers of Yeshua are predominately returning Ephraim, those who were once among the Gentiles ... but have now been restored to the commonwealth of Israel through their covenant with Israel's Messiah; that, they are no more Gentiles, but fulfill the promised restoration of uprooted Ephraim ... as Ephraim, they have been kept in mystery until recently, being used to preserve the testimony of Yeshua, the Messiah of all israel. Their awakening, recognition, and performance as Ephraim, and their union with Judah, is a necessity for salvation of 'all' Israel, and the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel". [FN4]
The main distinction between Gentiles and Ephraimites is the issue of physical descent. Gentiles who believe in Jesus are Israel "spiritually" but Ephraimites who recover their lost identity are perceived as Israel spiritually AND physically. "Through study of the Scriptures," Batya Wootten writes, "we began to see that, while all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews". Though scattered among the Gentiles and indistinguishable from them, they "continue to be physical Israelites" [FN5].
Brit-Am (Yair Davidy)
Netzarim (Yirm'yahu Ben-Dawid)
Non 2-House Messianics
UMJC: [self-description] "Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish congregations and congregation-like groupings committed to Yeshua the Messiah that embrace the covenantal responsibility of Jewish life and identity rooted in Torah, expressed in tradition, renewed and applied in the context of the New Covenant." The Union of Jewish Messianic Congregations is theologically opposed to the Two House or Ephraimite position espoused by Wootten, Chumney, Koniuchowsky and others. [PDF position paper on the "Ephraimite Error" available here]
Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council: The MJRC consists of a group of ordained Messianic Jewish Rabbis and associated leaders who share a common vision for Messianic Jewish practice rooted in Torah, instructed by Tradition, and faithful to Messiah Yeshua in the twenty-first century. [on conversion for Gentile believers]
Hashivenu: A non-membership based organization of Jewish Messianics for whom MJ is a form of Judaism; for whom the Jewish people are "we" and not "them" and who acknowledge Rabbinic Judaism as a "valuable part" of their heritage.
(c) 2008 by Patricia A. Power (Arizona State University) . email: firstname.lastname@example.org