OF RELIGION Field Guide to the

There are a wide variety of groups and teachers which use the term Hebrew Roots (or, in some cases, Jewish Roots) to describe an aspect of their ministry. They differ widely in how they apply the term. And they do not all engender the same level of concern for the purposes of this website. Thus it is not accurate to speak of them as if they all belonged to one monolithic movement with a shared theology.


They do share a few specific concepts in common.


They emphasize that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, and his original apostles and disciples were Jewish. The logical conclusion they draw from this is that, in order to fully understand the life and teachings of Jesus, it is necessary to understand the Jewish culture in which He lived in the first century.


They emphasize that the authentic Christian way of life and beliefs, and the writings of the New Testament, are not an outgrowth of pagan religions, but an outgrowth of the religion of the collection of writings called by the Jews the Tanakh and by the Christians the Old Testament.


They emphasize that the New Testament is not a separate document unrelated to the Old Testament, but rather a continuation of the Old Testament, making one whole collection of writings Christians refer to as The Bible.


They emphasize that much of the New Testament, from the Gospels to the Epistles of Paul to the Book of Revelation, cannot be understood fully without realizing how much in it either directly quotes or makes clear allusions to people, places, events, ideas, and prophecies in the Old Testament.


There are few Bible scholars and serious Bible students who would disagree with any of the points above. Many "Bible helps" such as commentaries, study Bibles, lexicons, Bible dictionaries, and specialized handbooks covering such topics as "Bible times and customs" have been created over the centuries to provide just the assistance needed to address the concerns stated above. While it may be true that many Bible teachers in Protestant and Catholic denominations have not adequately incorporated this perspective in their own teaching, it has not been for lack of teaching and research materials on the topics.


In addition, there are a number of groups which do not refer to themselves as being part of the Hebrew Roots movement who might be considered such by outside observers. These groups may observe the seventh day Sabbath, and even the same annual Holy Days as the Jews. But they do not view this as returning to "Jewish Roots" but, rather, Biblical roots. For after all, the Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments, and the annual Holy Days are described in Leviticus. Some Christian groups believe these days were intended only for the Israelites, and that their observance has no relevance for Christians. But Paul did write about Biblical observances to a Gentile church in Corinth:


Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Let us therefore keep the Feast, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.


It would appear from this passage that the church at Corinth was observing, in some fashion, both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Otherwise, it would make no sense for Paul to use these analogies to Gentile believers. Paul later notes that the Sabbath and Holy Days are shadows pointing to Christ. Therefore some Christian teachers and groups have concluded that the annual Biblical Holy Days are relevant to Gentile Christians as well as Messianic Jews. And they observe them, not necessarily with specific Jewish customs, but as Christian celebrations rooted in the Bible, that teach and remind observers about the plan of salvation through the Blood of the ultimate Lamb, Jesus Christ. (For more detailed information about this type of Christian observance of the Feasts of the Bible, see the website Times of Refreshing.)


So what is the point of a new set of religious teachers and groups which purport to emphasize the Hebrew Roots of Jesus or the Hebrew Roots of the Christian faith?




The Claims


As noted above, there are a wide variety of ministries which have what they term a Hebrew Roots emphasis. For the purposes of this website, most can be grouped on a continuum from those which promote the simplicity in Jesus to those which, at best, distract from it—and at worst totally undermine belief in Jesus at all. The following list of the various types of groups is presented from the least problematic to the greatest.


Some Hebrew Roots ministries honestly seem to just be convinced that not enough emphasis is made by the average Bible teacher regarding the Hebrew/Jewish background of Jesus and the culture of the first century, and the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Thus they direct their teaching to "consciousness-raising" on this topic. They may point out in their writings how often Paul or the Gospel writers quote Old Testament passages. Or they may emphasize how difficult it is to get any sort of grip on New Testament prophecies such as the Book of Revelation without having a background in the books of Daniel and Ezekiel.

It is the position of this website that the approach of this type of ministry is not harmful and may actually be helpful to those who enjoy detailed Bible Study.

Some Hebrew Roots ministries seem convinced that the material in most common Bible helps is just not detailed enough when it comes to first century customs, or understanding Jewish theology that may have affected the New Testament writers, or possible foreshadows of the ministry of Christ in various Old Testament events and objects and activities. Thus they may embark on their own detailed research in Jewish writings such as the Talmud in order to discover more and more information which they believe will shed light on important aspects of Christian life and belief.

It is the position of this website that the approach of this type of ministry can be misleading, as the writings of the Talmud and other Jewish literature may be as riddled at times with "non-Biblical" material as Gentile pagan sources. The speculations of the Rabbis down through the centuries are just that—speculation. They may have no more insight into exactly what was going on in Old Testament times in the ancient religion of Israel, or in the first century during the time before the destruction of the last Temple, than Protestant commentators who have equal access to the same ancient documents. This kind of problem with jumping to conclusions based on speculation may not necessarily cause great spiritual harm. But if dabbling in this sort of speculation leads to an obsession with wanting to know more and more about more and more obscure information—it can be a major distraction for a Christian.


Yet another type of Hebrew Roots ministry may encourage Christians to not only study Jewish customs of the first century (about which extra-Biblical sources of information are very scanty), but study and regularly participate in Jewish customs of the present in order to somehow be more authentically "Christian." They may even imply that this sort of study and participation will lead to "deeper spiritual understanding" which will bring one "closer to God."


It is the position of this website that the approach of this type of ministry can very easily distract Christians from the simplicity which is in Jesus. There is absolutely no documentation to establish that most modern Jewish customs were inspired by God, nor that they were even in place in the first century. Many customs have obviously evolved over the centuries, in the same way many Protestant and Catholic customs have evolved. Those who are trying to avoid pagan superstitious customs in Christian settings by adopting Jewish customs may find that they are merely exchanging one set of man-made superstitions for another. In addition, many elements of modern Jewish ritual and thought have obvious mystical and/or occultic roots.


It is not surprising that a Christian might look into the Bible and see the Sabbath rest described in the Ten Commandments and conclude that it is applicable to Christians, since Jesus even said that "The Sabbath was made for man"—not just "Made for the Jews." Most Sabbatarian Christians do not base their Sabbath observance on the customs of the Jews, but on the guidance of scripture. Thus they have very few if any "customs" or "rituals" involved in their Sabbath observance. They merely view it as a blessing from God, resting and being refreshed from their regular work on that day, and perhaps using the day for Christian fellowship and worship. They may even develop their own "family traditions" over the years for activities they find refreshing on the Sabbath and contribute to family closeness. But these are not confused as being inspired ritual or custom necessary for properly worshipping God.


And there is certainly nothing wrong with Messianic Jewish believers choosing to keep the traditional customs of their families as part of their cultural heritage. (Although they may find it helpful to look into the roots of some of the customs and decide if they wish to perpetuate those which have pagan or occultic origins.) But these also should not be confused as being inspired ritual or custom necessary for properly worshipping God. The type of Hebrew Roots teaching that would insist that a variety of man-invented rituals need to be imposed on such observances in order to "get closer to God" or have "deeper spiritual understanding" is a real distraction from the simplicity that is in Jesus.


But the above is not the most problematic of the types of Hebrew Roots ministries.


Some Hebrew Roots ministries go beyond mere suggestion that Christians should "try out" various religious practices and customs of the Jews, and actually teach that the only way to be authentic disciples of Jesus—whom they would refer to by the name they believe He would have used in the first century, something close to "Yahshuah"—is to become Jewish believers in Messiah. This would include adoption of most orthodox Jewish practices such as wearing prayer shawls for worship, wearing blue tassels on the bottoms of a special garment worn at all times, using the traditional Jewish "blessings" throughout the day, and, for some males, even undergoing circumcision if necessary. All of these things are adopted in order to be more "spiritual" and to be more acceptable to God.

It is the position of this website that the approach of this type of ministry is completely distracting from the simplicity that is in Christ, and leads away from true spiritual faith and practice rather than toward it.

There is one final type of Hebrew Roots ministry which has begun to develop out of the last type mentioned above. This ministry poses as one which offers to help Christians explore the Hebrew roots of Jesus and the Hebrew roots of the New Testament Faith. But under this benign surface its goal is to totally undermine the faith of believers in both Jesus and the New Testament. One type of this branch of the Hebrew Roots movement downplays the role of Jesus in salvation, implying strongly that He was just a good Jewish Rabbi of the first century rather than the unique Son of God. And they teach that the New Testament, while containing some inspirational material, is unreliable as the written Word of God. But beyond this branch is one even more radical, which attempts to draw Christians to such conclusions that:


The New Testament was a forgery of the Roman Catholic Church;


The Apostle Paul sought to undermine the teachings of Jesus, and created a false religion;


Jesus of Nazareth didn't exist at all—or, even worse, represents not the Son of God but Satan the Devil himself.


It is the position of this website that both of the approaches described in point 5 are not just distracting to Christians, but are in fact Anti-Christ.




The Allure


Various aspects of the different branches of the Hebrew Roots movement have appeal to diverse audiences. The allure to individuals who come from a Christian Sabbatarian background may be quite different from the allure to individuals of a general Protestant or a specific Charismatic background. We will consider the appeal to the Sabbatarian Christian first.


Christian Sabbatarians, particularly those from a Worldwide Church of God (WCG) background, may already have a sense of "kinship" with Judaism because of their shared belief in the observance of the weekly Sabbath. With the breakup of the WCG in recent years, quite a few former members found themselves without any regular setting for fellowship on the Sabbath. And thus many such folks ended up exploring the Messianic Jewish culture. A large number of Messianic Jewish groups retain little of their Jewish cultural background more than a few surface family customs for the Jewish Holy Days. They might be more accurately described as Protestants with a few Jewish customs. But there has been an increasing development in recent years of ethnically Jewish groups which profess belief in Jesus as Messiah yet retain a strict adherence to their religious traditions, customs and what they believe to be commandments of the written or oral Law. A number of these groups identify specifically with branches of the Hebrew Roots movement. And some former WCG members have found such groups to be particularly appealing. Why?



Hebrew Roots Appeal for Sabbatarians

The WCG under founder Herbert Armstrong accepted the observance of the annual Biblical Holy Days, outlined in Leviticus 23, as being applicable to Christians, and rejected the observance of holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, and Easter because of the pagan origins of many of their customs. However, the Bible gives almost no details on "how" to observe the Holy Days other than they are to be days of rest from regular work, and days of assembly for religious worship. By the time of Christ, the Jews had developed many elaborate customs in connection with the Holy Days. However, the WCG did not get its impetus to observe the Holy Days from the Jews, but rather directly from the Bible.


The appeal to many, both Christians and agnostics, of Christmas and Easter are the beautiful decorations, the festive celebrations, and the quaint customs connected with them. When individuals joined the WCG, they gave up all of these customs and such, but there was nothing to replace them with in the observance of the Holy Days. The WCG culture never developed any traditions or customs or decorations or the like in connection with the Holy Days. And thus Holy Day gatherings were almost identical to any other church gathering, just "more of the same." With the break-up of the organization, many began wondering if there couldn't be a way to have more festive observances, and the obvious place to look for such possibilities was to the Jews. Wanting to keep Jesus at the center of Holy Day observances, most did not turn to Orthodox or Reform Jews, but rather to branches of the Messianic Jewish Movement. And through that connection, many have been exposed directly to specific Hebrew Roots ministries.

The WCG also emphasized the Old Testament in its teachings far more than most Protestant organizations traditionally have. Thus WCG members have been more inclined to be interested in topics which pertain to the Old Testament than the average church-going Christian. Typical popular Christian literature, before the advent of the Hebrew Roots movement, has spent little focus on elaborating the connection between the Old and New Testaments. So there had been historically little material outside of WCG denominational literature for WCG members to study to feed their interest in the Old Testament. With the breakup of the WCG, many Bible students from that background have sought other sources for study materials. Thus they have often been extremely attracted to the sort of technical Old Testament studies which are typical in material offered on tape and in print by Hebrew Roots ministries.

One last emphasis in the ministry of Herbert Armstrong and the WCG which has primed many former WCG members to find Hebrew Roots material appealing was Armstrong's frequent claims to be restoring "forgotten" understanding of obscure Bible analogies and prophecies. WCG members could count on an endless stream of such "fresh" material which made them feel as if they were privy to "inside information" not available to the average member of other denominations. With Armstrong's death, this source of "astounding truth" dried up. For many, just plain old mundane study of the scriptures to find inspiration and guidance for Christian daily living was not satisfying. And thus some have found the teachings of various Hebrew Roots ministries to be just the source of fascinating tidbits of insight into obscure passages that they have missed.



Hebrew Roots Appeal for Non-Sabbatarians


One of the first appeals made by some Hebrew Roots proponents to Protestant or Catholic believers is an emotional one—they point to the persecution of Jews throughout history by Christians. Once someone realizes that Jesus was, indeed, a Jew and lived in a Jewish society, it can seem only "fair" that Christians should right the historical wrong done to His physical brethren by studying into Judaism.

For those serious Bible students who have never closely considered the history of religion of the past 2000 years, and the significant departure in most Christian settings from the evidence in the New Testament of what the first century Church was like, some Hebrew Roots teachings may well appeal to their sense of logic. Ornate church buildings, a hierarchical "clergy" class separate from other Christians, liturgical schemes of worship with special clothing for those officiating and with rigid repetition of the same few rituals week after week, "worship services" in which most participants are spectators and one man holds forth for an extended period with a prepared message—all of these things are not in evidence in the New Testament. Many Hebrew Roots teachers emphasize a completely different way of fellowship and worship for believers, and a number of students may find their alternative highly attractive.

For those Christians who have never used many "Bible helps" such as commentaries and handbooks, the first Hebrew Roots lecture they hear may seem full of amazing Biblical insight. The fact that the speaker represents either Messianic Judaism or some sort of specific Hebrew Roots ministry often gives such a speaker an aura of "Biblical authority." There is an assumption among many Christians that the average Jew is particularly learned in matters pertaining to the understanding of the Old Testament and the customs of the Jews of Jesus' time.


As with some of the followers of Herbert Armstrong mentioned above, many non-Sabbatarian Bible students are particularly fascinated by "astounding new revelations" in matters of Biblical prophecy, metaphors, ancient history, and the like. A number of Hebrew Roots ministries specialize in presenting their material as hidden or lost facts, or "amazing truth restored to the Church."


Personal from the webauthor:


A Search for Jewish Roots


In many families, even in "melting pot America," weddings are "ethnic" events, with lots of tradition and custom handed down from generation to generation. For instance, in American Polish communities, a wedding reception will likely include familiar traditional music—perhaps a polka band led by an accordion, favorite traditional foods, maybe even guests in traditional costumes from "the Old Country." The same could be said for many other cultural groups in this country.


However, when my husband George and I got married, in 1965, there were almost no traditions involved. Neither of us has "roots" in a particular ethnic, religious, or cultural group. Although we each had some background in our youth of religious affiliation, by the time of our wedding, neither of us was actively involved in any religious community. Nor were we even close to our own immediate families—we decided to get married quietly in our college town without even telling our parents of our plans. Thus our "generic" ceremony was held in a side chapel of a non-denominational church, officiated by a minister whom we had chosen out of a phone book. And the tiny event was truly "ecumenical"—George’s best man was a Russian expatriate (likely a member of the Russian Orthodox Church), my maid of honor was an Italian Roman Catholic, and the only guests were my Jewish college roommates.


The one area in which we shared common cultural experiences with most Americans was in the general customs involved in the observance of Christmas and Easter and other holidays. But in our very first year of marriage, we studied together the literature of the Worldwide Church of God and became convicted that these were non-biblical observances in which we could not, in good conscience, continue to participate.


Becoming official WCG members in 1968, we soon found that even religious music of any kind not specifically endorsed by the Church was forbidden for our home. The church observed the annual Holy Days of the Bible, the same ones observed by the Jews, but with an emphasis on their significance pointing to Jesus Christ. But the church had no specific "customs" involved in the observances--Holy Day gatherings were basically the same kind of "church service" as our weekly Sabbath meetings, with perhaps the addition of more pieces of "special music" performed by a choir or soloists. There were no specific foods associated with the days (as there would be in Jewish homes), no traditional songs, no festive costumes or decorations. And thus we entered into a way of life taken up with many church activities, but accompanied by almost no replacements for the customs, traditions, music, festive decorations, or any other thing that would define special times for most Americans.


By the mid-1970’s, we were beginning to really feel an emptiness inside that seemed to cry out to be filled with music, tradition, custom, beauty. We were strongly committed to the doctrines of our church, but felt it was sadly lacking in all of these more aesthetically and emotionally-satisfying elements in its gatherings and in our home life.


So where to turn? The church organization was very exclusivist, viewing itself as the "One True Church" and all other church organizations as "apostate." Thus we knew we couldn’t dabble in any non-WCG Christian sources, no matter how non-denominational or doctrinally neutral, as that would get us in trouble with the WCG leadership. So we thought, "What about Judaism?" It had many things in common with our belief system, particularly the Sabbath and Holy Days. And it certainly had lots of traditions, customs, decorations, music, and so on!


In the mid-1970’s, particularly outside major metropolitan areas, that religious community we now refer to as "Messianic Jews" were almost unheard of, so our only option for exploring the possibility of "borrowing" some things from Jews was the non-Messianic Jewish community. We later ran across the ministry of Zola Levitt, a Messianic Jew, as well as "Jews for Jesus." But we soon found out that both Zola and the Jews for Jesus do not represent a "Torah-observant" branch of Judaism, but rather one that attempts to graft on such things as Christmas and Easter to the Jewish customs of their converts to belief in Y’shua Messiah (Jesus Christ).


Our daughter, Ramona, was a pre-schooler at this time. Determined to see if we might find the "roots" we were looking for, and might pass on to her, in a more Jewish lifestyle, we began looking for sources of information and materials. Our first stop was the local public library, which happened to have a recording of Jewish traditional Sabbath and Holy Day music. Most of it was in Hebrew, but we were so excited to have something other than the old WCG hymnal’s music! That hymnal had been purged recently of all but a handful of "Protestant" music, replaced by the Psalms set to boring tunes written on commission by Dwight Armstrong, the brother of WCG founder Herbert Armstrong. So we taped the Holy Day music record to play over and over on Friday evening at the beginning of the Sabbath--even though we weren’t sure what all the words were about.


One of the first books we purchased was titled The First Jewish Catalog. It was modeled on the Whole Earth Catalog. It was a big handbook aimed particularly at young Jewish people who may have become secular as they moved out on their own away from their more religious parents, but who were now looking to "return to their roots." It included everything from a detailed description of the meaning and traditional observance of the Sabbath and Holy Days, to how to keep a kosher kitchen, and how-to instructions for making beautiful Hebrew calligraphy. It also included information on how to go about creating your own personal library of Judaic materials. I tried their challah (traditional Sabbath bread) recipe, and we pondered how we might add some of the customs to our Holy Day observances.


There was an address for The Jewish Publication Society, so we wrote to them, and joined their organization by paying an annual dues/fee so that we could get discounts on various Jewish publications. We purchased a number of books from them, hoping that perhaps they would not only provide us hints for the area of customs, but also help us in Biblical understanding. We bought the Society’s new translation of the Pentateuch, an abridged version of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, a thick Encyclopedic Dictionary of Judaica, and numerous other volumes.


We also ordered a copy of The Second Jewish Catalog. It covered even more details on Jewish lifestyle, including everything from circumcision rites for baby boys, to choosing a rabbi when you move to a new town. And in the back it included "The Jewish Yellow Pages" which was literally a "phone book" for Jewish businesses and organizations throughout America.


From that we found some supply houses for decorations, children’s materials, and so on. We sent away for a set of Purim hand-puppets for Ramona. Purim is the holiday described in the Biblical book of Esther. It is celebrated in Jewish communities by festivities particularly aimed at children. The story of Esther is retold in plays and musicals in local synagogues with much merriment and enthusiasm. Traditionally, the audience members use loud noisemakers and vocal jeers to drown out the name of the "bad guy" Haman each time it is mentioned in the play. That year on the evening of Purim, Ramona and a little friend in the WCG joined their dads watching a Purim play put on by their moms. Since the set of puppets we ordered only included Esther, Ahasuerus, Haman, and Mordechai, the other momma and I had to improvise the rest of the cast. Re-enacting the part of the story of Esther where Mordechai was led around the city on the back of a horse, we pressed into service a plastic horse that came with Ramona’s "Jane West" fashion doll. For the narrator we had Ramona's Sesame Street Cooky Monster hand puppet!


We really appreciate the exposure we thus had to many things Judaic. We came to understand more of the Jewish culture and community. We were fascinated to see in our Jewish Directory and Almanac how many famous folks are Jewish that you might never guess, given their "stage names" or Americanized names. Most folks realize that Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen are Jewish, and perhaps Milton Berle and even Richard Dreyfuss. But how about: Herb Alpert, Alan Arkin, Ed Asner, Lauren Bacall, George Burns, Jill Clayburgh, Neil Diamond, Kirk Douglas, Lorne Greene, Henry Winkler, Howard Cosell ... and the Three Stooges!


In later years we attended a Jewish Passover seder (traditional dinner) put on by a lady in our congregation who was also attending a Reformed Jewish synagogue. (She later married a Jewish gentleman and converted to Judaism, renouncing Jesus.) George was given a fancy "kippah" to wear (the skull-cap worn by observant Jews) which he still has, and Ramona was invited to say the traditional blessing on the candles opening the evening’s activities (At age 40 now, she still remembers the Hebrew words she memorized for that.)


However, that night was perhaps the culmination of the journey we had been on. We realized that night that for all our attempts to "graft on" the customs and trappings of Judaism, we still felt no sense of "roots" in all of it. It was, in the final analysis, an attempt to "work up" feelings that those who are born into a Jewish community experience just as they experience breathing—naturally. We could enjoy the music, we could respect the meaning that others found in the customs. But we could not "tap into" the root in a way that would give us the sense of belonging and rejoicing we were looking for. We couldn’t somehow "become Jews" by acting Jewish! For the Jews are not "acting"— they are living it because they were born into it.


We are aware that there are many from the same background that we have in the WCG who are just now beginning to look into Judaism and its customs in almost the same way we looked into it over thirty years ago. Perhaps some have the same yearnings we had for roots. We wish them well in their quest. Perhaps it will give some of them what they are looking for. At the same time, we hope they will understand our choice not to pursue that avenue for our own lives.


We have not been affiliated with the Worldwide Church of God or any of its off-shoots for well over 20 years. Now that we are no longer hampered by the control of religious leaders, we are free to explore other options for making our family and fellowship activities as Christians more inspiring. We have found in recent years that there is much music available from a variety of sources that is Biblically-sound, honors our Father and our Savior, yet is refreshing and lively. And even though one can certainly find "fore-shadowings" of Y’shua, Jesus the Messiah, in some Jewish customs, He certainly plays no prominent part in those customs. Rather than having to somehow "graft" references to our Lord and Savior onto music and customs, we are free to make Him an integral part as we develop our own.


Although we have appreciated what we have learned from Jewish sources, and have enjoyed learning about many of their customs and traditions, we have come to see that we don’t have "Jewish roots." Although "in the natural," our Savior did live His life on earth in the Jewish community, and no doubt participated in many of the customs which we studied and tried out, our connection with Him is not as Jews. Our roots go back much farther than first century Judaism. Our real "roots" are in the faith of Abraham ... not an ethnic or cultural faith, but a supernatural faith. We have come to see that the most important thing is not that we are of the seed of Abraham in the flesh, but in the spirit.





It is the position of this website that any ministry or group which identifies itself with Hebrew Roots interests which promote any of the following ideas is undermining the simplicity that is in Jesus:



In addition, there are some Hebrew Roots ministries which become not just sources of helpful Bible Study information, but rather the central focus of all fellowship and all spiritual education for their supporters. Those which do so risk taking the focus of those supporters from the simplicity which is in Jesus, and from daily walking in the Spirit and truth, and shifting them to a constant search for more and more intellectual knowledge that is not applicable to their walk.


When understanding about the Hebrew Roots of Jesus and of the New Testament becomes not just an understanding but a definition of one's Faith, when it becomes not just a helpful perspective on the Bible but an "alternative lifestyle," then there is a legitimate concern that it may have become not just a tool but an obsession.


Nuggets of Truth


A number of principles emphasized by many Hebrew Roots ministries are absolutely true. To the extent that these principles have been ignored by "mainstream Christianity," their re-introduction into the consciousness of Christians is valuable.





The current Hebrew Roots movement does not have a central focal point. It is made up of a wide variety of ministries which do not have a common history. A number of them appear to have been started by just one person or a small group of people as a result of their own independent Bible study. Most have a history of twenty years or less.


Although there are some Messianic Jewish ministries which have a Hebrew Roots emphasis, they do not dominate the general movement. The general Messianic Jewish movement tends to have more of an emphasis on reaching non-Messianic Jews with the claims of Jesus as the Messiah. Thus while the Jews involved in certain branches of Messianic Judaism do maintain their Jewish traditions and customs, they may have little interest in persuading non-Jews to adopt those traditions and customs. In fact, the typical Messianic Jewish rabbi may well insist that Gentiles have no need to keep the weekly Sabbath or the annual Holy Days, observe any portion of the Biblical dietary restrictions, or follow any other physical guidelines. They view all of these things as being just part of a specific covenant between God and the Jews, not as laws or even principles which non-Jews need adopt as Christians.


Those Jewish or non-Jewish representatives of much of the Hebrew Roots movement, on the other hand, are persuaded that Gentiles need to understand, and in many cases participate in, Jewish customs and traditions.


This is in distinction from the approach of various Christian Sabbatarian groups, including those which observe certain dietary restrictions and may celebrate the Biblical Holy Days of Leviticus 23. This includes offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God, the Seventh Day Adventists, and several smaller Sabbatarian groups. These groups do not make reference to Judaism in their theology, but rather claim to get their choice of observances directly from the Bible. Nor do they pay any attention to the teachings of such Jewish writings as the Talmud. Thus they have not historically had a perspective that they were "restoring the Hebrew Roots" of the Christian faith, but have been merely trying to follow what they perceive as the Biblical Roots of that faith.


One Christian Sabbatarian group which has not taken that approach is the Church of God, Jerusalem Acres (COGJA) with headquarters in Cleveland, Tennessee. The group is an outgrowth of a denomination called the Church of God which has Pentecostal roots and which formed around the turn of the century. The founder of the COGJA off-shoot introduced the observance of the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days to his followers in the 1950s. Records seem to indicate this was not a result of accepting the teachings of any other Sabbatarian group, but rather from his own Bible study.


The group has come to call its particular theology "New Testament Judaism." Unlike the Seventh Day Adventists and the Worldwide Church of God, the COGJA does incorporate some specific Jewish elements in its worship, including using the Star of David as a religious symbol. And the denomination does view itself as having a mission to persuade other Christian groups to adopt the same Jewish perspective. One of the top leaders in the denomination formed a separate outreach ministry a few years ago with the specific mission to spread a Hebrew Roots type of message via literature, conferences, speaking engagements and so on. The COGJA continues to maintain the Pentecostal emphasis in its ministry also, and thus "speaking in tongues" is a part of its theology. This may give it an opportunity to witness for the Hebrew Roots message more effectively in Charismatic circles than Hebrew Roots ministries which do not share this doctrine.


As noted in the
Concerns section above, it is the approach of this website that certain branches of the Hebrew Roots movement can be spiritually harmful to Christians. Those which insist that outward man-made rituals are necessary in some way to promote spiritual growth can ensnare Christians in a bondage to attempting to get close to God by works of the flesh. And those which subordinate the New Testament, as if it is merely a poor and inferior addendum to the Old Testament, rather than the revelation of the Good News of salvation available through the blood of Jesus Christ, can lead Christians away from the true Gospel into the same sort of legalism condemned by Christ in the Pharisees of the first century.


Because the Hebrew Roots movement has so many facets, it is particularly important that believers realize that the label Hebrew Roots can be very misleading. There are some ministries which identify themselves as Hebrew Roots groups which merely wish to help Bible students understand the social setting in which Jesus taught, that they might learn more clearly the lessons of the Gospels. If someone is first exposed to the general Hebrew Roots movement through such a ministry, they may assume that all Hebrew Roots groups have the same perspective. If another Hebrew Roots group comes along with similar teachings on the surface, but with a hidden agenda of undermining belief in Jesus Christ, the unwary may find themselves swept along into accepting error before they have a chance to closely examine the claims. For some examples of this, see the Personal from the Webauthor section below.


There are a number of Hebrew Roots groups which do not present the problem of rejection of Jesus, but which still may be misleading as they make undue emphasis on Judaism of the present and its customs and traditions. Judaism is not "the religion of the Bible" as some would like to represent it. It is a human creation that has evolved over the centuries. Just as the Catholic Church has done through the centuries, Judaism has taken the very limited information in the scriptures and encrusted it with layer upon layer of speculation and man-made traditions. There is no indication in the teachings of Jesus or the apostles that any of this is necessary for a relationship with God.


Jesus told the woman at the well that the day was coming … and in fact, already had arrived … when people who wished to worship God would no longer need to go to Jerusalem to do so, using even the God-ordained rituals of the temple. True worshippers would worship God "in spirit and in truth." Paul made it very clear in his writings that there was no need for Christians to "become Jewish" and observe Jewish customs and traditions in order to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and become part of the family of God, part of the Body of Christ. Those Hebrew Roots groups which attempt to Judaize the lives of Christians are not following the admonitions of scripture, but their own theories about what pleases God.


A Caution to moderate Hebrew Roots ministries:


Those ministries which identify themselves as part of the Hebrew Roots movement, but who sincerely wish to avoid any of the excesses and deceptions of some of the others in the movement, need to perhaps consider carefully any joint efforts with other Hebrew Roots ministries whose agenda is not totally clear. If they are not careful, they could find themselves unwittingly promoting anti-Christian speakers.


And they also need to consider carefully joint projects with other groups which may show interest in Hebrew Roots concepts. It would appear from a number of conference speaking lists across America that Hebrew Roots interests are making strange religious bedfellows. Some within the hyper-charismatic movement, for instance, are arranging conferences which include Hebrew Roots speakers on the same schedule with representatives of the most radical edges of the Charismatic movement.


As humorist Ashley Brilliant once noted, "How can I trust you if I can't trust those you trust?"





Any group which labels itself Hebrew Roots needs to be examined in the light of the concerns described in previous sections. Below are some specific groups to which some of those concerns apply. There are many more groups and teachers out there to whom these concerns may apply. These are only a sample.

Craig Lyons, Bet Emet Ministries


Lyon's website bills itself as "Returning to the Faith of Yeshua." To the casual reader, it appears at the beginning of the material on the site that he is merely insisting that Protestant and Catholic teaching has undermined the "Jewishness of Jesus." And thus it seems that the purpose of the site is the standard Hebrew Roots approach of clarifying the background of the events and characters in the New Testament. But further reading will clarify that Lyons is totally opposed to the New Testament, claims it was a concoction of the early Roman Catholic Church, and that we can have no clear picture of the "Historical Jesus" at all since all the records about him are, according to Lyons, hopelessly corrupt.


James Tabor, Original Bible Project


James Tabor, currently a Professor at the University of North Carolina, is a former employee of Ambassador College and the Worldwide Church of God, although he severed ties with that organization many years ago. Still, he has been a popular figure among former WCG members, a number of whom assume his background gives him a similar understanding to their own about the Bible. He particularly gathered support among such folks for his "Original Bible Project," a new translation of the Bible in progress which purports to be more historically and linguistically accurate than previous translations because it takes into consideration more carefully the Israelite and Judaic background underlying the writings.

What is the concern with Dr. Tabor's efforts in relation to this Field Guide? It is the fact that his newsletters touting his translation project have made no mention at all of his personal theology—which most readers likely assume to be Christian with a Hebrew Roots slant. This is highly misleading, for actually Tabor has long ago rejected belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord and in the inspiration of the New Testament. His 1994 book titled Restoring Abrahamic Faith presents Jesus as a nice Jewish rabbi of the first century who diligently taught Torah and encouraged folks to look for the Kingdom to come on earth and for the Messiah ben David who would come in power and set it up; and who was martyred as part of the "Messianic strain" of many others like him. There was the notion that he might have been physically resurrected, and may, after all, come back and assume the role of the Conquering Messiah, but that was up for grabs. And it was totally unconnected with any idea of Jesus as "savior" or "redeemer."

Can a person who totally discounts the claims of the New Testament about Jesus be trusted to be totally "neutral" when translating those manuscripts? Tabor's sincerity is not in doubt, and he very likely intends to be as objective as possible in his translation efforts. Some of Tabor's friends claim that he is so "intellectually honest" that he surely would not change any of the wording of the writings. But translation of the Bible is not an exact science, it is not merely a matter of a simple one-to-one correspondence of Hebrew or Greek words to English. The intent of the Biblical writers must always be considered, since obscure wording may have a number of different possibilities for understanding. Would a person such as Tabor, who may disbelieve, for instance, in the reality of the miracles of Jesus or Paul be tempted, even subconsciously, to water down the descriptions of these so that they would be viewed merely as unusual but natural events? This possibility should be carefully considered by those who are interested in Tabor's translation work.

At the time of this writing, Tabor is now Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, specializing in "Christian Origins and ancient Judaism" and "apocalyptic Systems of thought." He has been involved extensively in archaeological projects in Israel. His work in "apocalyptic thinking" has led to his acceptance as an authority in the field, and thus he was called in to assist in the negotiations over the Waco Branch Davidian crisis in 1993. He has appeared in a number of TV specials on religious topics. There is no question that the man is a legitimate scholar and researcher.

But these same credentials, when added to the reality that other materials created by the same scholar deny the Lordship of Christ, can mislead the unwary. If Tabor were totally open with his own beliefs to the public, this would not be a problem. Christian readers don't expect an Orthodox Rabbi to approach religious issues about the New Testament with the same perspective as their own, and can make mental allowances for discrepancies. But when an author's most fundamental assumptions about the nature of Jesus Christ are completely contrary to that of his readers and yet are kept unmentioned, this can lead to spiritual deception, whether conscious or unconscious on the part of the author. The New Testament is very clear about the results of such deception that would take a believer away from faith in the Blood of Jesus.


Here are some short quotations from Tabor's Restoring Abrahamic Faith book which clarify his position about the role of Jesus:

When a descendent of David appears in the world, regathers the Tribes of Israel, disarms the nations of the world, restores the Temple with the Presence of YHVH, and sets up a world-wide government in which the Torah is taught to all nations—surely all can agree that such a one is the long awaited Messiah ben David. If that one turns out to be Yeshua the Nazarene, then so be it. If not, even the most die-hard Christian believer will have to rework his Messianic faith.


... Likewise, just forty years before the fall of the Second Temple and the final Exile of Judah, I am convinced that God raised up a powerful Messianic revival centered around figures like Yohanan the Baptizer, Yeshua the Nazarene, and his brother Ya'acov HaZadiq (James the Just). Through a critical study of the New Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other selected early Christian writings, we can know quite a bit about this Messianic movement. Its leaders were faithful, Torah observant Jews. They were wholly consumed with the cause and hope of the Kingdom of God, as spoken on in all the Prophets... Each died as a martyr for God, Torah and Israel, fulfilling in his own individual way Isaiah's vision of the suffering remnant "Servant".


... Yeshua likely anticipated the dire times in which he lived, based on the prophecies of Daniel... He mistakenly thought that his generation would usher in the Kingdom of God and he gave his life as an offering for "the many" according to his understanding of Isaiah...


... It is highly likely that all these brothers of the Davidic line had children, including Yeshua.


The early Christian traditions, now preserved in some of the apocryphal gospels, that Yeshua married Miriam (Mary) of Magdalene and had children by her were likely suppressed by the Catholic church... Magdalene is an area on the west side of the sea of Galilee, in the region called "Gennesaret"... It is very near Capernaum, where Jesus spent most of his time. Some have even suggested that the wedding at Cana reported in the Gospel of John, at which Yeshua and his mother seem to have charge, is in truth a garbled and reworked account of the wedding of Yeshua and Miriam Magdalene...


From ARTICLES OF FAITH at the end of the book...


... Salvation is an individual matter involving personal faith in One God... There are no mediators required, and no sacrifices, animal or human, will suffice.




The links below will take you to profiles of a number of teachers who emphasize Hebrew Roots topics in their ministries.


William F. Dankenbring


Monte Judah


Chuck Missler


Michael John Rood


Sid Roth




Personal from the webauthor


Re: Darrell Conder and Commonwealth Publishing


On an Internet forum frequented mostly by former members of the Worldwide Church of God, someone posted a request for help in addressing the arguments of those who have left Christianity, rejecting Jesus—Yahshua the Messiah—totally and turning to Judaism as a result of the ministry of some of the Hebrew Roots-type ministries described above. As this is a situation which is becoming increasingly common in Sabbatarian circles, I shared the following response to that question.


Someone else on the forum had offered the following suggestion...


You will need to find out where they are in their thinking before you can reason with them, in other words, see if there is any common ground from which you can work. They will have to tell you where you can begin and with what tools you will have to work with. A good starting place is their rationale for rejecting Christ, i.e. what is the problem? Begin there and then answer their questions, as best you can.


***My comments...


It may also be helpful in a number of these cases to take this beyond the "rationale" for rejecting Christ... which implies "logical arguments"... to the real issue for many. Which is not "logic"... but emotions.


In 1996, a former long-time WCG minister named Darrell Conder rejected Christianity and began proselyting particularly to the circles of split-offs from the WCG. Some time before that, he had written a book on the pagan origins of many Christmas customs and the like—much along the lines of the material found in Alexander Hislop's Two Babylons which had long been a popular reference work quoted by Herbert Armstrong and other writers in his denomination.


Thus when Conder later offered, through some popular sources for reference works, his new book called Mystery Babylon and the Lost Ten Tribes, many exWCG folks assumed that this was another book on a similar topic, with just the added slant of British Israelism.


I soon became aware that this was a total subterfuge, and that the book was actually an anti-Christ attack on both the person of Jesus Christ and on the integrity of the New Testament. The bottom line in the book were allegations that the Jesus described in the Bible was a myth; if there was any reality behind the myth, it was that there was a "Jesus" who was Satan himself; and that the New Testament was a forgery of the Roman Catholic Church, designed to steal the birthright of the so-called British Israelite nations! Conder urged not a return to Judaism, but to a belief system he called the "faith of Abraham."


For the next several months I became deeply involved in exposing this man's attempts at proselyting, dialoguing with people who were being taken in by his teachings, and encouraging those in positions of influence in the exWCG community to realize that this man and his teachings did, indeed, pose a serious threat to the spiritual health of many naive Christians.


In the process, I began to wonder just what it was that was driving Darrell Conder himself, as he was definitely not just casually selling his books, but obviously believed he was on a "mission from the Almighty" to attack Christianity. So I wrote to him via email personally, and carried on a dialogue. I asked him what it was that first caused him to begin questioning the reality of Jesus. He fudged for a while, and rambled on and on in emails about the confusion in the writings of Paul and so on. But I pressed harder and insisted that there must be something more personal than just the intellectual arguments.


And I finally got the answer. He confessed that he had been deeply disappointed by his experiences as a member of the WCG to find that there seemed to be no "reality" to the claims of the Church for the power of a relationship with Christ to change lives, and the power of the spiritual gifts promised in the New Testament to operate within the Church. He had anointed many who were never healed, and he knew of many situations in which sincere people had not been helped in emotional, spiritual, and other ways when struggling with sins in their life. He had never experienced any "reality" of the indwelling of Christ in his own life either, and therefore, when he began studying what are usually referred to as the "alleged discrepancies of the Bible"... particularly in the New Testament ... he latched on to these facts and concluded this was his answer—Christ wasn't real to him because the Jesus of the New Testament really was, he concluded, a myth.


Thus all the "intellectual" arguments I could have provided to him would really, in the long run, have done nothing to return him to a belief in Christ. Because his belief in Christ for thirty years in the Church had been just that ... an "intellectual" belief, not an experience with the Risen Christ Himself.


I have since found this to be true of a number of folks formerly in exWCG circles—including some who were graduates of the WCG's Ambassador College—who have begun doubting the reality of Christ. Some have gone to Judaism, some to agnosticism, some have clung to the faith they had in Jesus but have been shaken to some extent. I found that they were often people who had never really known Christ at all, only known the claims of the Bible—and the Church's literature—about Him. But knowing "about" Him had not changed their lives, they had not grown "in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord."


In cases such as these, all the intellectual arguments in the world are not going to help. What these people really need is to be confronted by people who really do have a "witness" of Jesus now. Not people who can tell about the first century witnesses who recorded their testimonies in the Bible of what Jesus said and did. But people in our time who can give living testimony of how Jesus changes lives now. As the scripture says ...


1 Pet 3:15


15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:


What is needed is a personal answer, based on your personal reasons, not just a generic intellectual reason based on theological arguments.


A while back there was a joke going around on a forum on which I participate that maybe my husband, George, didn't really exist. He never posts on the forums, and thus the only way people know of him is my testimony. Someone could try to argue with me that my husband "doesn't exist" because they have never met him. And they might convince others who never met him that they are right ... he is just a figment of my fertile imagination. But would they be able to convince me that he doesn't exist? Of course not. I know him.


If we don't know Jesus in a similar way, then how can we ever give convincing testimony to others that He really does exist? My life and my mind and my spirit have been changed in many amazing ways by my relationship with Jesus Christ, in ways that are very obvious to those who know me in person. I have experienced many miracles, startling interventions, healings and so on over the years that also confirm His reality to me.


The details of what He taught, and what I need to do to please Him and my Father I must get from the scriptures. But the reality of His existence—and the existence of the Father—to me is not on the pages of the Bible, but on the pages of my life.


If we cannot be "living witnesses" of Jesus Christ, we are not going to have much success trying to convince those who are going off to Judaism and other religious movements that we have answers that they will not get there.


Footnote to the Darrell Conder story:


In May 2000, a letter from Darrell Conder to one of the exWCG ministries, that of a man named Fred Coulter, was published. It made it clear that, while Conder still held to the same view of Jesus and the New Testament, he had decided to abandon his specific mission to undermine Christianity, and had decided instead to embrace a rabid anti-Jewish stand. Some writers attack modern Judaism on the basis of its denial of the deity of Jesus, and its rejection of the inspiration of the New Testament. In other words, they are addressing a theological issue. This website does not accept the theology of modern Judaism as a valid representation of God's will for mankind. But it is a theological matter, not a matter of an attack on Jewish people as individuals. From the content of the following letter, it is obvious that Darrell Conder had begun at this point to embark on a mission of attacking Judaism and Jews in general as an evil force in the world bent on world conquest. Although he doesn't make mention of it, his approach sounds almost identical to those who would allege that the modern Jews are not even descendants of Adam, but rather of a sexual encounter between Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This doctrine, called "Satan's Seed," is defined in the Field Guide Religious Lingo Lexicon.  


Dear Mr. Coulter,


I would like to address this letter to you under the heading of "unfinished business." I'm sure that you remember our somewhat public exchange several years ago regarding the validity of the New Testament, and more specifically the question of the so-called Jews and their participation in Western society.


As a former life-long member of the old Worldwide Church of God, I was at that time quite intoxicated with the "Jews" and all related things. Unfortunately for me at the time of our exchange I was quite ignorant of what you knew and was therefore too blind to listen to your warnings. Mr. Coulter, I am a man who admits his mistakes and I am not too proud to do so publicly. You were right about the co-called Jews and I was wrong. Yours was the voice of experience and mine the voice of Stanly Rader's Worldwide Church of God propaganda. For my error and public insults to you, I offer a belated apology.


To demonstrate that my apology is sincere, I will mention that over the past three years I have researched, written and published a number of articles critical of the "Jews" and Judaism, which has gained me the venomous hatred of international Jewry--to the extent that I've been informed that should I travel to Germany, I would be arrested (it seems that my writings have been sent into Germany and therefore I am judged as having violated German "law" against insulting "the chosen ones" which carries a four year prison sentence). But I am sure that I need not explain to you the results of criticizing a "Jew" in today's politically correct society.


Currently my main efforts are aimed at warning my fellow Americans about the deadly Zionist enemy dwelling in our midst and therefore no longer teach against Christianity. Let me explain that this is not because I have changed my mind about the problems of the New Testament, but because I see my past efforts as helping the "Jews" attain their goals, i.e., the destruction of our Western society. Moreover, I now see the morals of Christianity as perhaps the most effective tool in America for waging war against Talmudism. To this end on January 1st of this year when my two year contract with Commonwealth Books expired, I directed that once the remaining stock of my books and articles critical of Christianity are sold (as per the contractual agreement), that they be taken out of print.


At any rate, I am sure you know all the above only too well, so I will end this letter with my best wishes for you and your efforts, and once again restate my belated apology to you and your congregation.


Sincerely yours, Darrell W. Conder


Commonwealth Publishing, which was the original publisher of Conder's anti-Christ book, continued its crusade against Christianity. Although Conder notes above in the letter from May 2000 that he wanted his book withdrawn from circulation once its most recent press run was depleted, Commonwealth was still promoting the book enthusiastically on its website as of August 2001—in fact, it was on sale for a special price for that month.


And then in 2003, Conder evidently changed his mind one more time. His book was back available on the Commonwealth site, and he had created his own website to once again promote and add to his anti-Christian material. Although he now added a new facet to his diatribes against the New Testament ... diatribes against the Old Testament. T


This came as no surprise to those who had followed Darrell's career. When talking in 1996 to some folks who had bought into Darrell's anti-New Testament teachings, I explained to them that ... if he was intellectually honest ... he would have to apply the same flawed "logic" to questions about the Old Testament that he had been applying to the New. And if he did, he would find it every bit as problematic as he had the New. At the time, these new proselytes were sure that I was mistaken. But it is obvious to anyone watching his theological transformation that he had, indeed, come full circle. And if he believes in anything beyond himself and the "natural world," which he indeed claims to believe, it has to be based on the imaginations of his own mind ... for there is no "external" source of information he can show others to substantiate his "belief system," no external standard of right and wrong.

By the time of the latest editing of this webpage, early 2011, Darrell seems once again to have reinvented himself.  I have been unable to find a specific “Darrell Conder website” that is online right now, but his name and quotations from him show up on a number of websites, indicating he has moved on to taking on just about everyone and everything. An article by him that was on his website in 2008 declares the following...


Jesus the "lamb," who cavorted around on earth with naked young males, whom he kissed, with whom he snuggled and boozed in the hills of Judea, will surround himself for eternity with 144,000 young male virgins—who did not "defile" themselves with lowly females! ... When he was Jehovah in the OT, your god was a "faggot," when he was on earth as Jesus, he was a "faggot," and in the future he plans on being the supreme "faggot" in the male-dominated kingdom of his two "faggot" daddies—where he will be married to his male bride, Israel, who will be supervised by his much-loved "faggot" friend/lover, King David! (Hey, now you know why the 144,000 are called the "firstfruits" of the lamb!)


It goes downhill from there.





The easy availability of specific anti-Christian writings on the Internet seems to have influenced an increasing number of former Christians to abandon their faith in Jesus of Nazareth in recent years. Here are two short excerpts from an email, posted in February 1998 on a Christian Internet forum by one former member of the Worldwide Church of God, whose reading of material by Darrell Conder and other anti-Christian authors led her quickly down this path in less than two years.


One day about two years ago, I had been down praying and had asked YHWH to help me to better understand HIS ways and His truth, because of all the mass of confusion with WCG and all the splinter groups etc. When I got up from that prayer, a thought came to my mind ":What if Christianity is the greatest fraud that Satan has deceived the world with." I immediately repented of that thought. But it was at that time that I resolved to prove to myself whether Christianity was true or not, and so began a two year research on the subject.


… Having weighed all the evidence and declared my verdict, I hereby publicly renounce and repent of my idolatry committed against the great Creator. I reject Christianity totally and will make all efforts to serve the Elohim of the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the other faithful servants of YHWH the only Deity of Israel.


This phenomenon will no doubt increase in coming years. Thus it is gratifying to know that the Internet can also be used by those who resist this trend, such as this Field Guide website.


Another example of this phenomenon of Christians abandoning Christ is found in the following newspaper article. This article is excerpted from an issue of the Dallas Morning News of January, 1999. The last name of the Big Sandy, Texas, couple mentioned below is actually "Feith", not "Feist." The paper got it garbled.–I met this couple not long before the circumstance described in this article, before they had “gone off the deep end.”  This is an example of where obsession with studying Hebrew Roots has taken some Christians in recent years.


The Dallas Morning News


Wrestling with faith


Rabbi tries to help non-Jews sort out what to do with their intense attraction to Judaism


BIG SANDY, Texas - Tovia Singer may be the first Orthodox Rabbi ever to spend the night here, a home two hours - by expressway - from the nearest kosher butcher. But he has come to this unlikely setting at the invitation of a small group of non-Jews with an immense hunger for Judaism. In a way, the Brooklyn-based rabbi was far out of his element. On a chilly Sunday afternoon, he peered at the East Texas woods and fields around the home of Robert and Christine Feist like an astronaut examining a new planet. But once he left his view of the cattle outside for the flock inside, Rabbi Singer was completely at home.


"Rabbi" means "teacher." And the two dozen people who had assembled Sunday were looking for a Jewish teacher. Christians, self-described ex-Christians and newly converted Jews all struggled with the dichotomy of the Jesus-focused teachings of their youth and the newer Jewish yearnings of their hearts. "As Christians, the thought of giving up Jesus is very traumatic," Mr. Feist said. The Feists are former high school sweethearts from New York who lived in Southern California for 19 years. Raised Catholic, they now struggle with the question of converting to Judaism. He is ready. She still had doubts that she hoped Rabbi Singer would be able to answer.


Rabbi Singer, 38, created Outreach Judaism (www.outreachjudaism.org) five years ago to battle the Christian evangelizing of Jews by groups such as Jews for Jesus and the Southern Baptist Convention. In lectures across the country and in books and tapes, Rabbi Singer challenges the Christian claim that what evangelists call "proof texts" of the Jewish Bible predict the coming of Jesus as the Messiah. Every time Christians publicly target Jews for conversion - as the Southern Baptist Convention did in 1996 - Rabbi Singer notices an increase in the interest that non-Jews take in his work, he said.


Some who attend his lectures or buy his tapes are Christian evangelists who want to counter his arguments. Others were like those who filled the Feists' living room Sunday afternoon: Christians who were no longer sure of their faith and were searching for another spiritual home. Rabbi Singer gave 181 lectures last year. He has been invited to lecture at Christian colleges and church groups, and he has given presentations at the homes of Jewish families. But when the Feists offered to pay his way to Big Sandy, it was the first time he had agreed to visit the home of a non-Jew to speak almost exclusively to non-Jews.


Millie Liebert of Mesa, Ariz., grew up Baptist. After trying out several Christian denominations, she has come to believe that Judaism is the true faith. Her husband - a professed atheist - and two grown children "think I'm crazy." She wanted to ask the rabbi whether she could convert without her husband. "It's been hard," she said. The group that met in Big Sandy included people who were brought up Catholic, Southern Baptist, Worldwide Church of God and Seventh-day Adventist. But they shared one essential article of faith with the Orthodox rabbi: They take the Jewish Scriptures as seriously as he does. Orthodox Judaism holds that the Torah - the first five books of the Bible - were literally written, word by word, letter by letter, by God. And that the rest of the books of the Jewish Bible are perfectly true teachings of God.


While most of those in the Feists' home this week had left their earlier dogmas behind, they retained a fundamental faith in the truth of the Jewish Bible. What they were not sure about was what they should do with that belief. Most no longer believe that Jesus is the Messiah who is predicted in the Jewish Scripture. Should they now become Jewish? Should they formally convert or just go to a synagogue? Which of the laws should they follow, whether or not they become Jewish? How do they best serve God in the way he wants? These were the kinds of questions that peppered Rabbi Singer for a marathon of passionate but civil conversation. He got to the Feists' home around 1 a.m. Sunday and talked until 3 a.m. The discussion resumed shortly before noon and finally ended around 2:30 Monday morning.


One person asked about the Jewish view of Satan. Rabbi Singer sighed. Jews and Christians use many of the same words and assume they mean the same thing, he said. "Nothing could be further from the truth." The Christian Satan - a rebellious, fallen angel - has no basis in Jewish Scripture, he said. Jewish angels are defined as messengers of God with no more free will than furniture. So Satan - he used the Hebrew pronunciation of "Suttun," which rhymes with "button" - and his temptations are part of God's will and his plan. Without free will - the ability to do evil - there can be no virtue. "If you resist, how blessed you are," Rabbi Singer said.


Ms. Liebert got her question in about converting without her husband. Rabbi Singer's tone was mild, but his words were stern. The result could only be a sin. "Would you still want to sleep with your husband, the gentile?" Rabbi Singer asked. "You could covert to Judaism and sleep with the gentile, but the rabbi would have to hate your guts." Once converted, he explained, she would no longer be married to her husband under Jewish law. And no Orthodox rabbi would remarry them. Like others in the room, the Feists have tried to adopt as much of Jewish ritual and custom as they could understand. They eat only kosher meat, the closest source of which is in Richardson - a 220-mile round trip. Others try to follow Jewish Sabbath injunctions against working on Saturday. Or they light candles or celebrate some Jewish holidays.


Rabbi Singer all but shrugged when they asked whether it was good for them to follow these traditions. Jewish laws really only cover Jews, he said. Righteous gentiles will find favor with God if they only follow the so-called Noahide Laws given to Noah in Genesis. "It's not a sin for you to eat pork," he said. "It's not a sin for you not to keep Shabbas." He acknowledged that he was sending a mixed message. But the confusion is traditional. Converts are accepted as absolute equals under Jewish law. But rabbis are obligated to strongly discourage anyone who seeks to convert. "If you know you are a Jew, you must not hesitate," Rabbi Singer said. "Go immediately to a synagogue. But if he doesn't try to turn you away, find another rabbi."


Like many of those who came, the Feists were once members of the Worldwide Church of God, a background that established a predisposition to take Judaism seriously. Under the leadership of its founder, former ad executive and self-taught Bible student Herbert Armstrong, the Worldwide Church of God attracted hundreds of thousands of members to a message very different from that of any other denomination. Some of Mr. Armstrong's teachings were similar to Jewish tradition: Celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday, as the Bible commands. Follow the biblical admonition to avoid pork and shellfish.


Other teachings were more specific to Mr. Armstrong: The concept of the Trinity is not true. Don't celebrate Christmas or Easter - they're just adapted pagan holidays. Don't vote. Don't use cosmetics. And all other Christian denominations are false. Mr. Armstrong taught from the 1930s until his death in 1986. After his death, the denomination's new leadership radically changed doctrine and dogma; the current Worldwide Church of God is a mainstream Protestant evangelical denomination (www.wcg.org).


But many who had accepted Mr. Armstrong's suggestion that they follow Old Testament truths were unhappy with the changes. "They started talking a lot more about grace and love," Ms. Feist said. "We were more into the law." Some formed tiny splinter denominations. Others, like the Feists, created home study groups. Many of those attending Sunday have been part of the Feists' study groups in California and Texas. About a year ago, their insurance agent - another former Worldwide member - sent the Feists a series of tapes distributed by Rabbi Singer.


The longer they listened, the more convinced they became that Christianity was not based on truth and that Judaism is. "I've had to repent of idolatry I didn't know I was doing," Ms. Feist said. After several discussions on the phone, Rabbi Singer agreed to Sunday's visit. Not everyone was satisfied with all of Rabbi Singer's explanations. And on Monday, Ms. Feist still wasn't sure about her spiritual future. "Will I be a Jew? I'd say it's about a 50-50 chance," she said. "But I like this [following Jewish customs. Am I commanded to do this? I guess not. Do I feel like I need to do this? I do."



In the years since I first included this Hebrew Roots material on the Field Guide webiste, I have received a number of passionate emails from people telling me that they were almost caught up in a very similar shift in their allegiance to Christ through their deep involvement in various Hebrew Roots ministries.

Below are excerpts from two. (Italics emphasis added.)


I've been prayerfully asking God to show me the light as I belong to [a Hebrew Roots synagogue].  Here lately they've been downplaying Jesus and referring to the New Testament as "The Addendum." God led me to your website today. It was like you have been sitting in our temple because you have addressed all of my concerns. I have now resigned from the temple along with another couple who have been feeling the same as I have. Like we were being smothered.


God Bless you so much for putting this on the web. I feel free again...like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. My desire for wanting to learn more about Jesus was actually leading me away from his arms. Please keep this site up for others as it saved me from false teachers.




Just wanted to give you thanks and blessings for the great overview of the Hebrew Roots movement.  My husband and I were leaders of such a group for almost 4 years until God opened our eyes to the path we were on about a year and a half ago.  We had to leave the group we started because the other elder would not agree to recognize the New Covenant as we believed the Bible proclaimed.  ...


I found your outline of groups from harmless to the most dangerous kind [see list above] interesting because this was a progression our group followed - beginning well, and finding ourselves eventually in a very dark place.  


The spiritual agony for me was like death, and I cried out to God.  If this was all supposed to be a blessing and a way to "draw near" to God as we taught, why were we so dead?  I then saw the countless ways we had diminished Christ in our teaching and practice.  We recognized the anti-christ spirit that had taken over the minds of people, and which we almost fell under ourselves.  My husband went through a valley of doubts about Jesus as the Messiah and thankfully came out.  We knew others who did not. ...


We have such joy in Christ now - after a season of sorrow and repentance for our wayward hearts.  We realized we had been feeding our pride and wanting to be special rather than truly seeking the truth.  We realized in the end, the glory that Christ deserves we were diverting to many different places and no one could have found Him through our testimony.


Thank you for raising awareness about this movement.  So few people realize what it is and it's picking people off like flies.  ...


I do not mean to imply, by sharing these comments, that all individuals who become involved in the various branches of the Hebrew Roots movement will end up like these people. But I have been watching the movement closely for well over a decade, and have found that their experiences have become more and more common, and should give cause for serious consideration of the foundational assumptions upon which many branches of the movement are built.  



The following website has one of the most extensive investigative reports on the Web regarding a number of popular Hebrew Roots teachers. Although some readers may not agree with all of the conclusions of the author on specific doctrinal matters, the documentation and reporting is exemplary. Those considering affiliation with or support of one or more of the Hebrew Roots teachers profiled on the site would do well to very carefully consider the information provided before making such a decision.







Unless otherwise noted, all original material on this Field Guide website
is © 2001-2011 by Pamela Starr Dewey.


Careful effort has been made to give credit as clearly as possible for the source of any specific material quoted or ideas extensively adapted from any one resource. Corrections and clarifications regarding citations for any source material are welcome, and will be promptly added to any sections which are found to be inadequately documented as to source.


Return to Top of Page and the Navigation Bar







Hebrew Roots



The following webpage contains a brief overview of the Hebrew Roots Movement. For a more extensive examination of some of the issues relevant to the Christian relationship to Hebrew Roots teachings, you may download a FREE ebook version of the book Digging Up Hebrew Roots: Is This the Faith Once Delivered? by coauthors Ronald L Dart and Pamela S Dewey.