Pageviews last month

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Messianic Christian: Oxymoron or Pleonasm?

An article by Dave Hunt, whom I highly respect but by no means worship, caused me pause when I read it today. In it he basically claims that there is no such thing as a "Messianic Christian." To quote:

"The term "Messianic Christian" makes an unbiblical distinction between two classes of Christians: "Messianic" and "Non-Messianic." Yet Jews and Gentiles who believe the gospel have been made one in Christ. If one is a Christian, whether Jew or Gentile, he has believed on Christ the Messiah as Lord and Savior."

While Dave has his views and I have mine, I'm convinced that he is uninformed here. There is in fact a very biblical distinction between Messianic and non-Messianic believers, and it was the source of the contention behind the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15. In this context, Messianic believers are referred to as Judaizers, or in the language of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians, "the concision."

The Council of Laodicea of around 365 decreed:
"Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be Judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ."

But before we get into that, I have to agree with Dave that on its face, "Messianic Christian" is a bit of a pleonasm--that is, a compound term in which both elements refer to the same thing. "Messianic" is the Hebrew/English counterpart to the Greek/English "Christian."

But when Dave goes on to say that "I reject categorically the very word 'Messianic.' It is confusing and is not found in the Bible," I have to disagree. The English word may not be found in his English Bible, but inasmuch as it is semantically equivalent to "Christian," it is found twice--once in Acts 26:28 and once in 1 Peter 4:16, with the plural also found in Acts 11:26.

Furthermore, Dave writes that "The Hebrew word Messiah (mashiah) appears only twice in the Old Testament, both in the same passage (Daniel 9:25,26). The Greek form of it, Messias, appears only twice in the New Testament (Jn 1:41; 4:25)." This is linguistic balderdash. The Hebrew word mashia[c]h means 'anointed', and is so translated all of 35 times in the Old Testament (KJV). Most of these references are to men literally anointed for ministry, and some are unequivocally (at least from a Messianic perspective) in reference to Christ. The Psalm 2:2 reference, for example, is quoted in Acts 4:25 with the word mashiach translated as christou, or Christ.

Dave Hunt concludes, "In contrast to only four appearances of 'Messiah/Messias' in the entire [KJV English] Bible, the word 'Christ' (Gr. Christos) occurs hundreds of times in the New Testament. So it would seem more biblical to refer to 'Christ Movement,' or 'Christ Christians,' or 'Christ Jews' than to 'Messianic.'

Again, he misses the whole point that such a statement could not even be made in the original languages of the Old Testament, where the term first occurs. "Messianic Christian" is not an oxymoron; it is at most a tautology, and at least a specific term identifying a kind of people specifically identified in the Bible.

UPDATE October 2016:
Here is a scholarly argument for Dave Hunt's position.

No comments:

Post a Comment

One comment per viewer, please--unless participating in a dialogue.