“Spiritual Nazism.” Those are the first words out of my rabbi’s mouth when I tell him I’m reporting on Messianic Judaism. To him, the prospect of Jews accepting a Christian salvation narrative, but still identifying as Jews, constitutes nothing short of the destruction of the spiritual life of a people.
But after nearly a year of studying and reporting on this phenomenon, I have my doubts about this dire indictment. Messianic Judaism, despite its promoters’ predictions, will not be radically changing Judaism anytime soon. It is, however, radically changing how Jews and evangelicals relate to one another and how evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic Christians perceive Judaism, Jewish-Christian relations and the politics of the Middle East.
To some Jews, the growth of Messianic Judaism represents a mortal threat. There are an estimated 175,000 to 250,000 Messianic Jews in the United States, 350,000 worldwide, and 10,000 to 20,000 in Israel. This isn’t too dramatic, although it’s difficult to assess the future impact of new religious movements as they’re developing””who knew in the mid-19th century that the Mormon Church would be what it is today?