Hebraic Roots Movement Controversy

April 22, 2014 at 12:07 PM 5 comments

The more I study into what is known as the loosely knit “Hebraic Movements Movement,” the more leery I am of the group in general and their beliefs. I’m not sure that there are so-called leaders of that movement or even a thoroughly defined assembly with one statement of beliefs.

What I am sure of is that within the movement itself, there appears to be an emphasis on Jewishness of Christianity. On the surface, that makes perfect sense to me because Jesus Himself was Jewish. God the Father determined that He would create a nation of people we call Jews. Moreover, it was through that nation that the Messianic line was created with the goal of bringing the Messiah into the world in order to do His work of atonement.

But Israel is not composed of people who are Jewish. It is composed of people who are Jewish with some of them specifically called out by God Himself to fulfill specific roles within that nation’s history and culture. There are prophets, there are priests, there are leaders, and there are craftsmen. These individuals were specially gifted by God to perform special tasks in order to bring that nation of Israel to the point where the Messiah could be born into humanity.

Beyond all of this, there is a unique culture we refer to as the Hebrew culture. Even though during Jesus’ time, the Romans controlled nearly all aspects of society, the Jews were still allowed to worship Jehovah God via the Temple. In other words, the Jews enjoyed their Hebrew culture within the Roman culture. The Roman culture of that time was steeped in Greek philosophies, language, religion, and culture. Yet, as much as they were able, the Jews remained free of Romanism except where the Roman law did not conflict with Jewish law.

Within the Hebraic Roots Movement, there are many who believe that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew and later translated to Greek (and of course, even later in English). I’m not so sure of that. In fact, out of the all the existing manuscripts from which we get our English Bible, there are no Hebrew manuscripts.

No ancient Hebrew manuscript of the New Testament has ever been found from the early centuries of Christianity. The oldest are Greek. The oldest papyrus fragment [a portion of the Gospel of John] dates back to the late second century. So the manuscript evidence alone weighs heavily against the concept of Hebrew ‘originals’.”

I think this fact alone proves the case, but others aren’t so easily convinced. They say much of the evidence is internal, within the Scriptures themselves. I think this writer sums up the situation nicely.

“It is my opinion that the entire original text of the document we have come to know as the New Testament was written by Christ-following Jews (in the ancient sense of the word) in a language that can be best described not simply as Koine or Common Greek, but as “Koine Judeo-Greek”. Some authors who could afford a very good, professional scribe (like was the case with Paul and, possibly with Luke as well) had an excellent command of the language, while others like the authors of Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation naturally wrote on a much simpler level. Just like in English someone can write in an elegant style or express their thoughts in the same language, but in a much simpler fashion (much like myself).”

The idea that the writers of the New Testament used Koine Greek, but did so with a Hebrew background makes perfect sense. Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews who did not necessarily stop being a Pharisee. Yes, he says he counts it all loss, but that is with respect to salvation. None of his “credentials” brought him one inch closer to salvation. At the same time, he would deny that he personally benefited from them in his culture.

But because Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews, how could this not impact the way he wrote? I believe it did. Some within the Hebrew Roots Movement argue that when you translate the Greek back to Hebrew, then translate it to English, it makes more sense. That could be and it makes sense if the writers imbued their letters with Hebraisms that were part of their culture, even though writing in Greek.

But the question must be asked apart from all of this, is there a benefit from learning more about the Hebrew culture? Absolutely, without doubt. I believe the more we know about a particular culture from which books were written that we study, the closer we get to the originally, intended meaning. That is the key as far as I’m concerned.

Currently, I’m taking Hebrew (I took Greek a number of years ago). I’m also studying the Jewishness of Jesus’ day and culture. That includes learning about the feasts, the festivals, the Jewish idioms, the Jewish marriage process and much more. Am I doing any of this because I have somehow concluded that I am actually Jewish (or that I want to be Jewish)? Not at all.

I’m studying all of these things because I am a visual learner. I have an intricate model of the Temple and Tabernacle that I plan on putting together hopefully soon. That process will enable me to cement the concepts of the Temple in my mind. As a visual learner, I know that I have to “see” it for it to stick. Going through the various processes with my hands and with my eyes, will allow me to make it stick.

One of the things that bothers me about those within the Hebraic Roots Movement is the tendency to denigrate Christians who do not do what they do (and probably the biggest mistake I believe they make is to insist that Christians must worship on Saturday).

But there is a tendency among Christians not involved in the Hebraic Roots Movement to denigrate Christians like me who want to learn Hebrew and want to understand more about the feasts, the festivals, and the culture that our Lord lived in. I think both extremes are wrong.

I believe, as with anything, Christians can easily go overboard, moving off into areas that are out of step with Jesus Himself. The Hebraic Roots Movement can become a chain around our neck dragging us down into a works-related salvation.

At the same time, the more we know about the Hebrew culture of Jesus’ day, the better we will come to know the Savior who gives us life eternal.


Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

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  • […] of the New Testament (they call it the “Renewed Covenant”) was originally written in Hebrew, not Greek. I dealt with that subject in an earlier post so there’s no need to revisit it […]


  • 2. revjohnson1958  |  April 22, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    Excellent Fred. Thank you for bringing balance to this subject. You have inspired me to study the Hebrew Roots of Christianity in greater detail. I see through what you have written on this topic that you really can do that without getting embroiled in the extremes of Hebraic Roots theology.



    • 3. modres  |  April 22, 2014 at 3:06 PM

      Thank you for your kind words.


  • 4. Lester  |  April 22, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    Many scholars are of the opinion that Aramaic was the primary language spoken in that area of the world in Jesus time. the language of the temple is universal and once the interpretation is known anyone can understand without Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic.
    When we say Jesus/Yashua was a Jew we must also understand he was a universal Messiah and the Son Of One not a Jew! Yet son of Mary and a son of David. Today I know they say if your mother is Jewish you are also. However it was not that way in the times of Christ and the patriarchs. If your father was of Israel you were of Israel. Anyway, I’d like to recommend a couple of books by a man that in his time was very controversial. He even followed his genealogy to Israel and his name is known as one that is Hebrew in certain areas. Bill “Britton”. He wrote many books and the one I read first in 1980 was “Light Out Of Shadows” dealing with the temple and “Hebrews, The Book Of Better Things”. Bill has been gone now since 1985. Many hard core fundamentalists call him a heretic. This man was solid a rock and known by many in his walk as straight as an arrow. Here is the website and the books can be read online or ordered.



    • 5. modres  |  April 22, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      Thank you, Lester!


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