Rebuttal: Dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement, Part 2

From AiG: “In recent years, an increasing number of Christians have adopted teachings associated with the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM).”

My response: I believe that an increasing number of Christians are becoming more aware of the truth.

AiG: “Properly defining this movement is difficult because it has no central hierarchy or leader and no official statement of faith for members to endorse.”

Me: This is because we do not follow the interpretations of a single man, a group of people, or a denomination. We follow and obey only the Word of God (both the Living Word and the written Word). Although we may not be interpreting everything 100% correctly, we do our best to read the Bible for ourselves, to see what it says about itself, to allow it to interpret itself, and to use God’s Word to find out what He really wants from His people. We allow it to correct our long-held misconceptions and bring us into a greater understanding of the truth. We also continually study it from the perspective that we always have more to learn rather than study the doctrines of men who think they know everything about it already.

AiG: “Broadly speaking, followers of the HRM believe that Christians are obligated to follow Jewish laws and practices from the books of Moses.”

Me: I don’t know about the HRM, but I do not personally know anyone who thinks that we are “obligated” to follow the Law. Every Torah-observant believer that I know believes in salvation through faith in Christ alone. None of us could ever earn our own salvation because we have already sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We know we need a Savior just as much as mainstream Christians know it. We desire to keep Torah for the same reason that mainstream Christians desire not to lie, gossip, or cheat on their taxes. We don’t believe that God will “un-save” us when we fail to obey. Our sins are covered by the blood of the Lamb, just like everyone else’s. We know that God isn’t constantly looking for a reason to disinherit us. Instead, we obey from a desire from the heart to please the Creator who gave us very good commandments. We never claim to observe the Torah perfectly – in fact, we are well aware of our own shortcomings.

Also, using the term “Jewish laws and practices from the books of Moses” is highly misleading. The books of Moses contain God’s Laws that were given to His covenant people (largely Israel, but also the gentiles who joined themselves to the covenant, such as Ruth, Rahab, and the Egyptians that took part in the Exodus). To call them Jewish laws is to single out the tribe of Judah, which is incorrect.

AiG: “Oftentimes, extrabiblical rabbinic teachings and traditions are elevated (if not in official doctrinal beliefs then in practice) to the same level as Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.”

Me: I have seen this to some extent from one of my online acquaintances. But again, I don’t personally know any Torah-observant believers who practice this. More often, Torah-observant believers are called into question because we elevate Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy to the same level as the rest of the scriptures.

AiG: “Although they often speak of keeping the “law,” they are usually inconsistent in how this is understood and defined. For example, certain laws are either broken or neglected while a great deal of attention is placed on keeping the Sabbath (Friday sunset through Saturday sunset) and celebrating the feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23. These issues will be discussed in more detail below.”

Me: This statement is scandalously untrue. I think it may seem that we are harping on the sabbath because it is the most obvious thing that separates us from mainstream Christianity, and it’s probably the easiest proof to our Christian friends that they have been missing something important. So, we do talk about it a lot in an effort to help our brothers and sisters to understand the perpetual sign of the covenant: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:16-17). And if you think that the sabbath applies only to those who were naturally born into Israel, then how do you understand the concept of salvation? In order to obtain salvation through the line of Judah, we are grafted into Israel. In other words, we join the covenant. This is Christianity 101, isn’t it?

If you still think I’m wrong, how do you explain the Old Testament prophecies concerning gentile sabbath-keepers in the last days? “Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him” (Isaiah 56:6-8).

In reference to the outcasts of Israel – Israel never came back from Assyrian captivity. They are dispersed into the entire world, and they don’t know who they are. So, if you’re a Christian today, or even if you aren’t, it’s still very possible that you are part of Abraham’s bloodline, who is the father of many nations, or Ephraim’s, whose “seed shall become a multitude of nations” (Genesis 48:19b). It’s very possible that your forefathers entered into the covenant, which includes the perpetual covenant of the sabbath. And even if you’re a gentile through-and-through, once you’re saved, you’re still part of Abraham and the covenant made with him. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). There is no way to know if you are a natural-born citizen of Israel or an adopted one. It matters not. If you are a Christian, then there is absolutely no difference.  Either way, there is no excuse for not keeping the sabbath, which is a sign of the covenant.

As far as being inconsistent, breaking or neglecting some parts of the Law: we believe what Moses said initially in Deuteronomy 8:3 and what Jesus quoted when He was tempted by satan: that man shall live by EVERY Word of God. Most of the other Torah-observant Christians that I know believe the same.

AiG: “It is difficult to document the movement’s history because of its lack of organizational structure, but the modern HRM has been influenced in some ways by Seventh-Day Adventism and the Worldwide Church of God during the lifetime of its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong.”

Me: I think this is most likely because the HRM is made up of individual people coming into the knowledge of the truth. These are people who are reading the Bible for themselves to see what it really says instead of allowing someone else to tell them what it means. You can do this too. Be like the Bereans, who were commended for double-checking everything Paul said against the Old Testament scriptures (Acts 17:11).

AiG: “Additionally, the HRM has been influenced by the practices of Messianic Jews, but the similarities between the groups are superficial and should not be conflated. In fact, many Messianic Jewish organizations have denounced the beliefs of the HRM.”

Me: Because most Messianic Jews are being proselytized by mainstream Christians, they adhere to mainstream beliefs. However, because they have a better understanding of the Old Testament in the first place, they are probably more likely aware of how the feast days and other aspects of the Law foreshadow Christ, and those are the things we have in common.

AiG: “The past few decades have witnessed a growing influence of this movement among conservative Christians. It is not unusual to see some HRM proponents give themselves Hebrew names, write ‘God’ as ‘G-d,’ eat kosher foods, claim that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew (or at least several books were), condemn numerous Christian traditions as pagan, and dismiss teachings from Paul’s epistles.”

Me: I don’t know why you would give yourself a Hebrew name unless you had one already, but at the same time, I don’t see anything wrong with it. It might be weird, but not wrong. Easter eggs are weird too, but mainstream Christianity seems to have no problems with them. Something else worth consideration is the fact that many people have Hebrew names already. For instance, my husband’s name is Jesse. When we started learning more about the Hebrew language (out of a desire to better understand the Old Testament scriptures), we did look up the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning. But I still call him Jesse. However, I don’t see a problem with calling him Yishai, if that’s what he wanted. After all, his name does originate from the Hebrew language.

The people writing “God” as “G-d” are doing so because they have been influenced too strongly by the man-made Jewish tradition of not speaking the tetragrammaton (the name of Jehovah in Hebrew). A lot of Jews writing in English will not write the word “God” either, although I don’t understand why. The word “God” is closer in meaning to “Elohim,” which the Jews have no problems with.

The reason we eat kosher foods is because God Himself commanded us not to eat unclean animals. However, our family doesn’t eat every kind of food labeled as kosher, because any food that’s been blessed by a rabbi is considered kosher by mainstream Jews, and we do not agree that they are all clean. For instance, Jello contains gelatin from a pig, and we do not eat it, even though it is “kosher.” Also, there are many foods that mainstream Jews do not consider kosher that we do eat. We allow God’s dietary instructions to guide us, and not the rabbinical additions and subtractions from His Word.

Some of the Hebraisms used in the New Testament only make sense if they were written first in Hebrew and then translated into Greek. Google it to see what I’m talking about. We still have access to the Hebrew gospels, if you want to learn Hebrew and read them. 119 Ministries posted some links to the digital gospels right here: https://www.facebook.com/119Ministries/posts/1991512577542670

Numerous Christian traditions have pagan origins. Look them up. To get you started: Christmas trees (fertility worship), the date of Christmas (Saturnalia), painting Easter eggs (painting eggs with the blood of a child sacrifice), the name of Easter/Ishtar, the date of Easter (the rebirth of the sun). Many Christians are well aware of the pagan origins of many traditions, but they claim that paganism in the church is okay because God looks on the heart. While it’s true that God does look on the heart (see yesterday’s post concerning King Solomon’s heart in 1 Kings 3:3-5), once we know the truth about what He wants, and THEN refuse to worship Him His way, it is rebellion, and He treats it as such. As sincere Christians (and I am talking to everyone reading this article), it is our duty to read the entire Word of God to find out exactly how the Father desires to be worshipped. To find out for yourself whether God likes being worshipped through pagan traditions and His reason for feeling that way, start with Deuteronomy 12:28-32: “Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the Lord thy God. When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”

Those who dismiss Paul’s teachings do not understand that he never spoke out against God’s Law nor contradicted it. He says as much in Acts 26:22: “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come.” In 2 Peter 3:15-17, Peter also tells us that Paul is easily misunderstood: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.”

Those who dismiss Paul’s teachings believe that mainstream Christianity’s interpretations concerning them are correct. They are not correct. Paul never contradicted the Word of God. If he had, the Bereans would not have believed him (Acts 17:11), nor would I (Deuteronomy 4:2). God does not change His Word. Here is an object lesson for those believing that He does: I Kings 13:11-24. If once God reveals His Word, believe Him forever, and don’t let anyone else tell you that God has changed His mind.

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