Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #705 MP3 Audio File Video File

The Hebrew Roots Movement - Part 1

Colossians 2:16-17

Delivered 05/11/14

I want to talk to you today about the "Hebrew Roots Movement." The first thing I want to say about it is that I am not apart of it! I have been accused of being part of this movement and I want to make it very clear that I am not! I really think that anyone that knew much about the movement and knew me would know that I am not part of it.

Let me begin by giving a description of what the Hebrew roots movement is all about. The movement's theology and practice vary from ministry to ministry and person to person; what, exactly, Hebrew Roots is is still being worked out. The HRM has no central leadership, no ecclesiastical superstructure; there is no person, committee, or organization making decisions at the top. The tone is set, instead, by the individual ministries.

Although there are many different and diverse Hebrew Roots assemblies with variations in their teachings, they all adhere to a common emphasis on recovering the "original" Jewishness of Christianity. Their assumption is that the Church has lost its Jewish roots and is unaware that Yeshua and His disciples were Jews living in obedience to the Torah. For the most part, those involved advocate the need for every believer to walk a Torah-observant life. This means that the ordinances of the Mosaic Covenant must be a central focus in the lifestyle of believers today as it was with the Old Covenant Jews of Israel. Keeping the Torah includes keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (Saturday), celebrating the Jewish feasts and festivals, keeping the dietary laws, avoiding the "paganism" of Christianity (Christmas, Easter, etc.), and learning to understand the Scriptures from a Hebrew mind-set. They teach that Gentile Christians have been grafted into Israel, and this is one reason every believer in Yeshua the Messiah is to participate in these observances. It is expressed that doing this is not required out of legalistic bondage, but out of a heart of love and obedience. However, they teach that to live a life that pleases Yahweh, this Torah-observant walk must be part of that life.

Those involved in the HRM often wear articles of traditional Jewish clothing, the men often wear tzitzit and incorporate Hebrew names and phrases into their writing and conversations. Most reject the use of the name "Jesus" in favor of Yeshua or Yahweh claiming that these are the "true" names that God desires for Himself. In most cases, they elevate the Torah as the foundational teaching for the Church. They keep kosher, observe the Sabbath, celebrate Passover, wear Stars of David and speak Hebrew. They're extraordinarily pro-Israel.

The HRM is often associated with the Sacred Name Movement, but I think this is a mistake. They share some similarities, but they are different.

Menachem Kaiser who is a blogger, and is a New York-based freelance writer gives his view of the HRM in an article in Tablet Magazine, which is a Jewish publication. Writing about "Revive 2013," a HRM conference held in Dallas last June, he writes, "Revive is an annual gathering for followers of Hebrew Roots, a movement of—for lack of a better term—Torah-observant Gentiles. These are non-Jews who have no intention of converting to Judaism yet follow laws, customs, beliefs, and practices commonly associated with Judaism. And while they do believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the messiah—though in these circles He goes exclusively by his Hebrew name, Yeshua—they are emphatically not Christian."

This is a rather strong judgment, "they are emphatically not Christian," to which he gives rock solid evidence of in his next sentence which is, "They do not celebrate Christmas or Easter." So they believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the messiah, but they do not celebrate Christmas or Easter so therefore they are emphatically not Christian? Sounds to me like Menachem doesn't understand Christianity.

He goes on to say, "They do not celebrate Christmas or Easter. They do celebrate Passover and Sukkot. They do not display, either in their homes or as jewelry, crosses or other traditional Christian symbols. They do, however, wear Stars of David and post mezuzahs on their doors." A mesusah is a parchment inscribed with Scripture and attached in a case to the doorpost of a Jewish house as a sign of faith.

People, if you want to know what someone believes, ask them, find out from the source, not something you hear or read about them. For the most part I believe that those in this movement are Christians; just somewhat confused on some issues.

Why do you think it is that I have been accused of being part of this movement? I think there are mainly three issues that cause people to associate me with the HRM; It is because I say Yahweh instead of God or Lord, I say, Yeshua instead of Jesus, and I think the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew.

Let me first explain why I use Yahweh and Yeshua and why I believe the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew, then we'll look at what is right and wrong with the Hebrew Roots Movement.

Yahweh—I use Yahweh instead of LORD or GOD, because Yahweh is our God's name. There are plenty of gods, in Bible times and now: Amon, the chief god of Egypt; Baal, a Canaanite and Phoenician god of fertility and rain; Dagon, worshiped in Babylonia and Philistia; Marduk the chief storm god of the Babylonian pantheon, and Nebuchadnezzar's favorite god. Paul writes:

For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Yeshua the Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 NASB

To Christians there is One True God and this true God is not Krishna. This true God is not Buddha. This true God is not Allah. This One True God is Yahweh the God of Israel. When you say, "God or Lord" you could mean any God or any Lord. You could say "Praise God," and the Muslims could say, "Amen." Our God has a name, and it is Yahweh!

Most Christians have no clue that His name is Yahweh, because it has been removed from our Bibles. In Hebrew Scripture the personal name of God is written with four Hebrew letters yod, heh, vav, heh, this name includes the verb (hava) meaning: "to exist," and the letter yod as a prefix meaning: "He." So means: "He exists." This name appears 6,829 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. But not once in our English translations, not even in the Complete Jewish Bible. The CJB uses Adonai, which means: "LORD." When you see LORD in your Bible in all caps, it is from the Hebrew .

In the First Temple Period, at least until the Babylonian Exile in 586 B.C., the divine name was regularly pronounced in daily life. By the third century B.C., although the tetragrammaton was pronounced by priests in certain Temple liturgies, Jews avoided its use, employing instead many other substitutes. When reading or reciting Scripture, the custom was to substitute "LORD" from the Hebrew: Adonai, "God," from the Hebrew: Elohim, "The Name" from the Hebrew: Ha-Shem, or by some other title. And because the Jews mistakenly wouldn't use His name, it was not translated into our English Bibles. If Yahweh used His name almost 7,000 times in Scripture, I think He wants us to know it and use it:

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD. Blessed be the name of the LORD From this time forth and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the LORD is to be praised. Psalms 113:1-3 NASB

His name is to be known, used, and praised!

Youngs Literal Translation translates as "Jehovah." This is wrong as any Hebrew scholar will tell you. Let me show you how we got the word Jehovah. Until the early Middle Ages, Hebrew was written without vowels. By the sixth century A.D. a system of vowel signs was developed by the Masoretes, the Jewish scholars of the period, to aid the reader in pronunciation. They superimposed the vowel signs of the word 'Adonai upon the four consonants of God's name.

In A.D.1518 in his A Monumental Work of Christian Mysticism, the Italian theologian and Franciscan friar Galatinus, not realizing that the Masoretes had placed the vowel signs of another word with the consonants yhwh, fused the vowels of 'Adonai with the consonants of the divine name and thus gave the Church "Jehovah," a word which has no meaning in Hebrew. So strike the word Jehovah from your Christian vocabulary, it is not a Hebrew word, and is not biblical at all.

So my use of Yahweh has nothing to do with the HRM, and everything to do with wanting everyone to know that Yahweh, the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua, is my God. When I discovered that His name was used nearly 7,000 times in the Hebrew Bible I figured He wanted us to know and use His name.

Yeshua—because I use the name Yeshua instead of Jesus people think I'm connected with the HRM, I'm not. I started using the name Yeshua instead of Jesus two years ago because of a study I was doing in Romans. I am not anti "Jesus," I'm not upset with or think less of people who use the name "Jesus." What you call your Savior is up to you. But the angel of Yahweh told Joseph to call Him "Yeshua":

She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, [which means `ADONAI saves,'] because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21 CJB

Our Savior's name when he walked this earth was Yeshua. Matthew 1:1-16, makes it clear that He came from Hebrew decent through the tribe of Judah. In other words, He was Jewish. He was born to and raised by Jewish parents who raised Him under Jewish culture. He spoke Hebrew. The name Yeshua is literally a transliteration of the Messiah's name. Transliteration is the conversion of a text from one script to another. When one says, "Yeshua," he is speaking Hebrew. This is the name that all the apostles would have known Him by and what His mother would have called Him.

Here's what most Christians don't know. Prior to the Hebrew name "Yeshua" being transliterated to the Greek name "Iesous" (yeah-soose') this word did not exist in Greek. In the 17th century the "J" replaced the "I" to make our familiar "Jesus." The KJV 1611 looks like this:

And she shall bring forth a sonne, and thou shalt call his Name Iesus: for hee shall saue his people from their sinnes. Matthew 1:21 KJV 1611

So prior to the 17th century no one ever heard the name "Jesus." So our Savior has only been called, "Jesus" for the past 400 years or so. If you could go back in time to the 16th century and meet with a group of Christians, they would have no idea who Jesus was.

I use the name Yeshua instead of Jesus because Hebrew names have a meaning. The name Yeshua literally mean: "Yahweh's Salvation, or Salvation from Yahweh."I understand that the name Jesus may have meaning to you, to you it is your Savior, but the name Jesus does not give us the meaning that Yeshua does, which is: "Yahweh's salvation." To me His Hebrew name, Yeshua, has great meaning. This is my personal preference, I'm not telling you what call your Savior.

Someone arguing against using Yeshua instead of Jesus writes, "Think about the serious implications and consequences of the sacred name cults' satanic agenda to destroy both the Name and Word of Jesus Christ in the Believer's life by turning the Child of God against the mightiest weapons that we as Believers have at our disposal to combat the powers of darkness. There are just too many verses in the Bible to list about the power of standing on God's Word in prayer in the Name of Jesus." This is so ridiculous—"Our mightiest weapon is the English name Jesus." This person has no clue that in Hebraic thought a name is not merely an arbitrary designation or a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. You can replace the word "name" in the Bible with "character." It represents the history and reputation of the being named. The phrase "the name of Jesus" is referring to the character of Yeshua of Nazareth, who is God the Son.

Another reason that I am associated with the HRM is because I believer that the

New Testament was written in Hebrew—again it this is my opinion, which is based upon my research, and I think there is much evidence to prove that Hebrew was the language of the Jews in the time of Christ. Why is this important? Well, we need to understand that interpretation is an inherent part of translation. A translator may attempt to translate a body of text literally, but even reading the text is a process of interpretation. Even reading one's own language or listening to someone speaking is a process of interpreting. So, any translation carries some of the translator's beliefs within the text. I believe that our English Bible is a translation from Greek, which is a translation from Hebrew. So in order to better understand the text, we must try to get back to the Hebrew, not Greek, mind-set.

Internal evidence of an original Hebrew text is found in the many Hebrew idioms found in the text. For example Matthew 6:19-24:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness... Matthew 6:19-23 NASB

Note that He begins speaking about money, then says something about "a bad eye," then finishes His statement about money. If this were penned in Greek originally, you would have to ask, "Why this odd verse about a 'bad eye' in the midst of a money topic?" It makes no sense. However, if you happen to know that having a "bad eye" is a Hebrew idiom of that time for "being stingy with your money," then, the passage makes sense, and you realize it had to be written in Hebrew first, then whoever translated it into Greek (unaware of the idiom), simply took it word-for-word from Hebrew into the Greek.

Tim Warner, a critic of the view that the New Testament was written in Hebrew writes,"One of the subtle attacks on the Christian Faith comes from the notion that the New Testament was not written in Greek, but in 'Hebrew.' This may seem benign at first, but it is not. It is an attack on the reliability of the text of your Bible. If the Greek text is unreliable and has been corrupted by Greeks, as is charged by some, there is no longer a standard of truth. The Protestant cry of 'Sola Scriptura' is meaningless unless we have a historically stable and reliable text. Once the New Testament itself is discredited, the rope tying your boat to the dock has been severed, and you are bound to be 'carried about with every wind of doctrine.'"

Let me say that this is a strawman argument. I don't know of anyone who says that the Greek text is unreliable and has been corrupted by Greeks. I do not believe or teach that the Greek New Testament is unreliable. Here is what we need to understand, we have NO original autographs, Greek or Hebrew of the New Testament. All we have are copies. But I believe that Yahweh has preserved His Word for us and what we have even in our modern English Bibles is Yahweh's inerrant word. Yes, there are discrepancies from translation to translation, but nothing that would alter our faith.

I believe that the writers of the New Testament wrote in Hebrew, which was then immediately translated in the more dominate speaking languages of the time. I think this is important because Yeshua and His apostles spoke and wrote in Hebrew, and the more we understand that language and culture the better we will understand what they wrote.

In his article, "Was the New Testament Written in Hebrew?" Tim Warner goes on to say, "When the New Testament refers to the 'Hebrew tongue' it is not referring to pure 'Hebrew' of the Torah, but to 'the common language of the Jews' ie., the common tongue spoken by Jews, Aramaic or 'Chaldee,' adopted from the language of the 'Chaldeans'([Babylonians)."

Really! So the New Testament says, "Hebrew," but it really means Aramaic? It sounds like he is doing exactly what he accuses others of, "attacking the reliability of the text." What is "pure" Hebrew? When Yeshua spoke to Paul from heaven, what language did He speak in?:

"And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' Acts 26:14 NASB

The word "dialect" here is the Greek word dialektos (de-all-lek-tos), which means: "language or tongue." The internal evidence is pretty clear that Christ and His apostles spoke in Hebrew.

What's right about the Hebrew Roots Movement?

There are aspects of the Hebrew Roots teachings that certainly can be beneficial. Seeking to explore the Jewish culture and perspective, within which most of the Bible was written, opens and enriches our understanding of the Scriptures, adding insight and depth to many of the passages, parables, and idioms.

What's wrong with the Hebrew Roots Movement?

The influence of this movement is dangerous in that they call Gentiles to a Torah-observant and/or festival observant lifestyle as a means of drawing closer to Yeshua and being conformed to His image. The implication is "If you really want to please Yahweh, if you really want to be holy, here are the rules" Even though most do not believe these observances are necessary for one's salvation, there is often an implication that this is the higher way. Nowhere in the Bible do we find Gentile believers being instructed to follow Levitical laws or Jewish customs.

The movement's central belief is that the Torah is still binding—that Yahweh, or Hashem, did not intend for Yeshua's appearance to render irrelevant the lessons of the Tanakh, whose rules and instructions remain valid. But notice what Paul wrote to the Colossians:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:16-17 NASB

"No one is to act as your judge"Who is this command to? The Colossian believers, but secondarily to all believers. So, how do we "let no one act as our judge"? How do we stop people from acting as our judge? I think we do this by knowing the truth. If we think they may be right or if we are uncertain, we will be affected by their judgment. But if we know they are wrong, we'll not allow their judgment to affect us. So, in order to obey this command, we must understand the truth of who we are in Christ. We must understand our liberty in Christ.

"Therefore"—sends us back to verse fourteen. Yeshua wiped out the ordinances against them on the cross. Old Covenant ritual, restrictions, and regulations were abolished on the cross, yet the "Hebrew Roots Movement" hang onto them.

The five items mentioned here were all part of Judaism. Therefore, it is very probable that the legalistic false teachers were Jewish (i.e., advocating obedience to the Law of Moses for justification and or sanctification).

"Food or drink"—that food was a major consideration under the Old Covenant is clear from even a superficial reading of Leviticus, chapter 11. There are folks in the HRM that advocate keeping the Mosaic Dietary Laws.

The second group of words that Paul uses is rendered: "...or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day."

Representing, respectively, annual, monthly, and weekly celebrations that were tied in with the Mosaic Law. This phrase is indicative of all the appointed festivals of Israel (see Leviticus 23) and is used as such in at least three different places in the Tanakh.

Feast observance is a hallmark of the "Hebrew Roots Movement," which keeps one foot in the Old Covenant while claiming to fully embrace the New Covenant.

In Galatians 4 Paul says to the fellowships of Galatia:

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. Galatians 4:9-10 NASB

So, obviously the observance of "days and months and season" was bondage. Paul did not want them to enter that bondage, but the HRM does.

Sabbath day—those of the HRM worship on Saturday, which in itself is not wrong. You can worship any and every day, but their Saturday worship is from the Torah and is bringing them under the Law.

Menachem Kaiser writes, "I met a number of Hebrew Roots followers who do not touch money on the Sabbath—which many of them call "Shabbos," (shav-os) in the style of contemporary ultra-Orthodox Jews." This is bondage!

The Sabbath was a type, one of the shadows of things to come. It was a type or shadow of a body or substance which we obtain in Christ. The main idea of the Sabbath was physical rest. That physical rest, therefore, must have been typical of some higher rest to be found by the Christian. The strict observance of the Sabbath, which Yahweh required of the Israelites, like the requirement of strict adherence to the divine pattern for the tabernacle, was because it was to typify a perfect spiritual rest of the Christian.

Centuries before Moses, the patriarch Jacob predicted Christ's coming under the name "Shiloh," or Rest-giver (Genesis 49:10). Yeshua Himself said:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 NASB

He is the rest-giver, and the rest He gives from the burden and bondage of sin is the Christian's Sabbath foreshadowed by that ancient Mosaic Sabbath. It was predicted that "His rest shall be glorious," and it truly is. That this is the true Sabbath-keeping is argued by the inspired writer to the Hebrews (4:3-11). He who ceases from his own works to obtain righteousness and trusts in the mercy of God for pardon of sin has entered the true Sabbath. The Sabbath, like the other ceremonial requirements of the law of Moses, is abolished, but the blessed spiritual-rest it prefigured remains for the people of God.

The root for "Sabbaths" means: "to cease, desist." The word came to mean a complete cessation. The idea is not relaxation or refreshment, but cessation from activity. For six days Yahweh created, and on the seventh he rested. The seventh day is a commemoration of grace—Yahweh did the doing. We rest in that.

Now notice, carefully, what Paul says about these Old Covenant regulations:

things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:17 NASB

The whole Levitical System was a shadow of Christ, illustrating His person and work that was to come. The Old Covenant Law is a shadow (that is, a "type" or an "illustration") of who the Christ was to be and what His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension were to achieve for all mankind. It's not that the Law was a dreamed up series of statutes that were cunningly put together to project an image that the Israelites wanted to see, but that the Law was given, as the Scriptures say, to a real people to be observed, but also, that they were given by Yahweh Himself to shadow the life and work of the One who was to come. The animal sacrifices were an illustration of His sacrificial death. They were not the reality of His death. Shadow, however, always reveals that there is reality somewhere.

When I was in the Navy, I was returning from a cruise which lasted several months. Cathy was there to meet me and pick me up. As I walked off the gang way, I saw Cathy coming towards me with the sun shining brightly behind her. As she got closer to me, she began running and extending her arms towards me. I prepared myself to receive her, but much to my surprise, she ran right past me. She threw herself down on the ground and began kissing and hugging my shadow. Now Cathy would obviously be out of her mind to do something like that, but sadly there are many who do exactly that when it comes to Christ!

Notice what he says, the Law is a "shadow of what is to come"—the word "come" is from the Greek word mello, which means: (in the infinitive) "to be about to," and "be on the point of." They were "about to come" at A.D. 70, but at the point of Paul's writing, they had not yet come:

When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Hebrews 8:13 NASB

Notice that the text says, " becoming obsolete .. ready to disappear." Is that speaking to us? NO! This is written to the first century Hebrew believers. As of A.D. 65, the Old Covenant had not yet become obsolete, but it was about to.

Most people reading the New Testament violate the basic hermeneutical principle of audience relevance, which seeks to discover what the original readers understood a passage to mean. The reality was "about to come"—it had not yet been consummated. What was future to them is 2000 year old history to us.

"But the substance is of Christ"—There may be a deliberate play upon words to not only state that the reality of the shadows belong to Christ, but that the reality is found in the Church, the body of Christ. The Greek word used here for "substance" is soma, which is the regular word for "body." All the ceremony of the Old Covenant, the legalistic system, the Aaronic priesthood, the tabernacle with its furnishings and ritual all pointed forward to Christ. They were pictures and parables of Christ.

Why would anyone want to go back to shadows when we have Christ. So much of what the HRM does is observance of shadows.

Now let me say this: It is only those who believe in fulfilled eschatology—those who believe that the Lord returned in the first century—who can consistently hold this view.

Do you know why that is? It is because Yeshua said that the Old Covenant Law—every bit of it—would be in effect until heaven and earth passed away:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18 NASB

What is Christ saying here? Look at it carefully. This is a very important verse. What does Yeshua mean by "the Law"? Yeshua said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill." The use of the terms "the Law" and "the Prophets" indicates that what the Lord is speaking of in these verses is the whole of the Tanakh. If you trace these terms through your Bible, you will find that wherever this expression is used it includes the entire Hebrew Bible. So, what does Yeshua say here about the Tanakh?

Yeshua said that He didn't come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. What does it mean to fulfill the Law? The word "fulfill" is from the Greek word pleroo. Matthew uses this word seventeen times, and in fifteen of them it clearly refers to prophecy being fulfilled or coming to pass. The Law, which we read in the Torah, and everything that has been said by the Prophets, was going to "come to pass" down to the minutest detail. And until it was all fulfilled, it was binding on the people of God.

Christ fulfilled the Law by fulfilling all the types and prophecies of the Tanakh. All of the illustrations in the Old Covenant sacrificial system focus on and find their fulfillment in Him. All of the prophecies given regarding the coming Messiah, His kingdom, and His salvation find their fulfillment in Him.

We don't observe the Feasts of Yahweh because they all pointed to Christ. We don't observe the Sabbath because Christ is our Sabbath rest. The Torah has been fulfilled and put away. Why go back to shadows and types?

Continue the Series

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