I this article I want to take a look at some of the distinguishing characteristics of the Hebrew roots movement and how they relate to traditional mainstream Christianity. In a previous article, I identified Hebrew roots as a “grass roots movement” – something that develops within a group of ordinary people rather than coming from the recognized leadership. People are drawn by the Holy Spirit to return to the faith practiced by the early followers of Yeshua (Jesus).
When you do an internet search on the Hebrew roots movement, you will find both positive and negative viewpoints. Usually the sharp opposition comes from those who are not a part of this movement, which is to be expected. Why would you want to be a part of something you believed was wrong? So in your searching, try to be aware of the predisposition of the person giving you an answer. If you really want to know about Hebrew roots, ask someone who is a part of it, not someone from the outside looking in.
Is this a movement within Christianity?
While there are no formal studies to point to, it is apparent that most in the Hebrew roots movement come from Christianity, this author included. With varying degrees of commitment, our heritage is usually from the Christian church. But the more we discover, the more we recognize shortcomings within church teachings. We will often speak of coming out of the church, referencing Revelation 18:4. Since many no longer wish to identify as Christians, Christians criticize us.
Even the way a question is posed can hint at a bias. In comparing Hebrew roots and Christianity, are we looking at two things that are unique, or is one a subset of the other? What are the differences? The similarities? Said another way, what has this movement rejected from Christianity, and what has it kept? Or said yet another way, what did Christianity reject and replace in the early years of the faith that Hebrew roots adherents are now abandoning in order to return? Do you see the bias in the way the question is formed?
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 1:3).
Basic Tenets of Christianity
Most Christians and those in Hebrew Roots believe:
- The Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) is the Word of God.
- There is one God.
- Sin separates man from God.
- Yeshua (Jesus) died, was buried, and was resurrected from the dead.
- Salvation is by grace through faith in Yeshua (Jesus).
- The righteous (saved) will inherit eternal life.
Beyond these, there are things most (though not all) Christians believe that are based more in tradition and Church teaching than in Scripture, and many within the Hebrew roots movement have rejected these as unsound or false doctrine. This is not an exhaustive list, and I will not attempt to analyze, defend or refute them here but present them simply as areas of disagreement:
- God is a Trinity.
- The Law of the Old Testament has been abolished.
- Sunday is The Lord’s Day.
- The Church is the new Israel.
- Jewish festivals have been replaced with Christian holidays.
- The unrighteous (lost, unsaved) will burn forever in Hell.
We use the term “Hebrew roots” because our desire is to return to the way Yahweh, the Creator of heaven and earth and the God of Israel, instructed us to live and to worship him. Our greatest example is the only begotten Son of God, Yeshua – the Hebrew name that has been translated in most English Bibles as Jesus. But the desire to return to the roots of the faith is nothing new among Christians. For example, those of the Christian Restoration movement who follow the teachings of Alexander Campbell (commonly known as the Christian Church or Church of Christ) express a desire to pattern their worship after the church in the New Testament. Obviously we have reached very different conclusions.
Confusing the Starting Point
The problem in returning is defining the point to which we are going to return. The computers we use are a great way to demonstrate this. When a new program or update is installed, Microsoft Windows will often first create a “restore point,” providing the ability to restore the system to the condition it was in before the update was installed. After a while you may find several restore points on your computer. If a program or update begins to give you problems, you can restore your computer to a previous state – but you must determine which restore point to use. Choosing the wrong restore point could remove recent updates without removing the problem.
King Jehu of Israel led a revival in the Northern Kingdom Israel. He removed all traces of Baal, the Canaanite god, from the land so that the people would worship only the LORD. But although Jehu had done well in removing Baal, Scripture also says that “he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam (the first king of Israel)” (2 Kings 10:31). In returning Israel to the roots of their faith, King Jehu only took them back to the place where they had first forsaken the God of Israel, when King Jeroboam established a new place of worship, new priests, and new festivals. For more on this, please read my article on Jehu’s Revival.
Thinking back again on the computer’s restore point, rolling back the system to the point before the problem may not be enough. You may still need to re-install updates that were not harmful or even some programs that were added after the restore point, but you must do this without re-creating the problem. Likewise, when we return to our Hebrew roots and seek to live according to the words of God in the Torah, we also recognize some things have changed since that period of time. We are not living in the theocracy of ancient Israel. Because of sin, God allowed the Temple to be destroyed. His people have been scattered over the face of the earth.
And we do have the Gospel accounts of Yeshua and the writings of the New Testament. We can read historical descriptions of Yeshua explaining and living out Torah, including narratives of his atoning sacrifice and resurrection. Throughout “common era” history we can see God working in the lives of those who seek him and we can learn from what they experienced and wrote.
Is Hebrew Roots Christian?
The first definition of Christian in the American Heritage Dictionary is, “Professing belief in Jesus as Christ, or following the religion based on his teachings.” Those in the Hebrew roots movement certainly fit this description. Unfortunately, there is strong disagreement among the many denominations of Christianity as to what “following the religion based on his teachings” might mean. In other words, Christians judge other Christians as to whether or not they are really Christians.
On the other hand, some would further restrict the definition of Christian to those who attend Church on Sunday, celebrate Christian holidays, and alienate themselves from things Jewish or call Jews “Christ killers.” Too often, those of us in Hebrew roots encounter these detractors. Clearly we do not wish to be identified with these “Christians.”
Want to know more?
If you want to explore this further, I invite you to look around on this site. When you do an internet search, look for those within the Hebrew roots movement to explain what it is – then you can decide if you agree or not. I recommend a short, easy to read paperback called They Loved The Torah to help you understand how those in the New Testament viewed some of these things. And most of all I encourage you to simply read your Bible, without commentary and without study notes from those wishing to direct your thoughts.
Perhaps these labels are just adding to the confusion.