A Look at the First Apologists
by Eric Chabot
Who were the first Apologists? Believe it or not, the first apologists were all Messianic Jews. You may say “Well, what are Messianic Jews?” Messianic Judaism is not new at all. All the authors of the New Testament were Jewish (with the possible exception of Luke). Linguistically speaking, Christianity didn’t exist in the first century. Judaism in the first century was not seen as a single “way.” There were many “Judaism’s”- the Sadducees, the Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, etc. The followers of Jesus are referred to as a “sect” (Acts 24:14;28:22); “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5). Josephus refers to the “sects” of Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees. The first followers of Jesus were considered to be a sect of Second Temple Judaism. For many years the early faith in Jesus was strictly Jewish in both orientation and practice. Hence, the early Church was 100% percent Jewish!
We see the growth of Messianic Judaism in The Book of Acts. For example, in Acts 2:41 3000 Jewish people come to faith at Pentecost after Peter’s Sermon. It then goes up to 5000 in Acts 4:4. In Acts 6:7 it says, “The number of disciples increased rapidly and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” Within twenty years the Jewish congregation said to Paul- “You see how many thousands (in Greek, it is literally “myriads” or “ten thousands”) or “countless thousands.” Hence, we see at least 100,000 Jewish believers in Jesus.
Obviously, we see our first Gentile convert in Acts 10 (Cornelius). It was only over a long period where the Church become a predominately Gentile based phenomena. To read more about this, see The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages by Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed. Isn’t it nice that we as Gentiles are no longer “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel” (Eph .2:11-13), and “without hope.” May we thank God for allowing us to participate in His redemptive plan for the entire world. To see the historical basis and background of Messianic Judaism, Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and BiblicalFoundations by David J. Rudolph.
Today, there are thousands of Messianic Jewish believers in the United States alone and across the world. Of course, the Apostle Paul (a Pharisee and a Jewish Believer himself) showed he had a tremendous burden for the Jewish people (Rom. 9:1-5; Rom. 10:1), and calls upon the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11). Paul understood that since Gentiles (I am one of them), have received the blessing of knowing the Jewish Messiah, they have the responsibility to take the message of salvation back to Israel. Therefore, Christians of all denominational backgrounds should show interest in learning about how to share the good news of the Messiah with the Jewish people.
Messianic Judaism pertains to those who are Jewish and have come to faith in the promised Messiah of Israel. Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus, and means “Salvation.” Jesus was actually called Yeshua, a Jewish man living in the land of Israel among Jewish people.
But with acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah comes much opposition and objections from within the Jewish community. Also, it should not be surprising that the Jewish community has formed its own set of objections to Jesus and the claims of His followers…
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