Tom: Thanks, Gary. Well, we’re back in discussion with G. Richard Fisher. As I mentioned last week, Dick is the coauthor of The Confusing World of Benny Hinn and a longtime contributor to the Personal Freedom Outreach Journal, which is, in my view, an excellent apologetics magazine.
Dick, thanks for coming back and having this discussion again with me on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Dick: Well, thank you. I appreciate coming on with you.
Tom: Dick and I have collaborated – I really lean on him and his expertise in this subject of the Hebrew Roots Movement, and of late – it’s yet to be printed – but he produced an article addressing the Hebrew Roots Movement, which the title of it is “The Achilles’ Heel of the Hebrew Roots Movement,” which I read, and it kind of motivated me to get together with Dick and to have this discussion.
Dick, just to let our listeners know, “The Achilles’ Heel of the Hebrew Roots Movement” – just describe that for us. What’s the point of that?
Dick: Well, I think just briefly we can say that Judaism, or rather the Hebrew Roots Movement as they practice Judaism, had never answered the question, “Which Judaism?” Because there are a multiplicity of Judaisms from the time of Christ and all through the ages down to today. In fact, I just – I’m reading a book called Who Will Lead Us? It’s a book about the five orthodox dynasties, and there is a myriad of Jewish dynasties that exist in ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and they have different leaders, they have different practices, they have different ways they dress up, and again, there’s just a great variety of ultra-Orthodox Jews. So which Judaism? Which Judaism? And when we try to find out what…the answer to that one, we have to ask them, “How much of that Judaism?” But this is not being addressed at all within the Hebrew Roots Movement, and I believe it’s the Achilles’ heel. It brings the movement down, because they cannot and will not and do not answer these questions.
Tom: Right. And, Dick, as we survey, which you have and I have – we’ve surveyed many of these different groups – this is not a hierarchical cult; this is a group of people who, we mentioned last week, who are promoting the culture of Judaism, but mixing it with, supposedly, the law and putting their followers under the law, and it’s a very selective process.
Tom: Dick, there can never be, at least in my mind, a conference of these people coming together, because, you know, they’d be like cats in a bag! They just disagree so much, right?
Dick: Right, right. There is a lot of disagreement. There is no doctrinal standard, there’s no doctrinal policemen, you just believe what the leader tells you. It’s kind of a mishmash of leaders that create these ideas, subjective mixtures of Judaism, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Dick: And as I study the New Testament, I really begin to discover that in the practice and teaching of Jesus, there were times that He was decidedly very, very un-Jewish! And that’s another issue that has to be fleshed out and looked at very carefully, as well.
Tom: Well, since you brought it up, Dick, you have to give us some examples. How could…
Dick: Well, I’ll give you a for instance, a number of for instances: In Mark 7, for instance, in verses 17-23, Jesus seems very unconcerned about this sacrosanct issue of handwashing and ritual purity! He’s being very un-Jewish.
In another place He commends David for eating the showbread of the priests. This is in Luke 6. This was forbidden in Leviticus:24:8-9, but Jesus bypasses that and, in fact, affirms the fact that he would do it.
And then we find constantly through – especially through Matthew 5, where there are rabbinical interpretations put out there, and rabbinical teaching, and as the rabbis of old, you know, had certain things that they taught and handed down, Jesus, with His inherent authority, proclaims, “But I say unto you.” Not the rabbis! “I say unto you.” So He bypasses and contradicts all the rabbis of old with His statement, “But I say unto you.” So He quotes the Old Testament law at times and adds, “But I say unto you.”
I found an interesting statement in a book by Donald Hagner, a book entitled The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus, and he says this – and it’s very weighty, I think: it says, “Jesus is completely out of line with the Jewish tradition. He bids men to come to Him, learn of Him, listen to Him, obey Him, as if all other authorities were at an end. The real quarrel between the Pharisees and Jesus centers on the personal claims of Jesus and the centrality of those claims to His message. Jesus, in fact, put His own Person in the central place previously held by the Torah as God’s revelation to humanity.” I mean, that’s a really heavy statement…
Dick: …but I think it’s true!
Tom: Oh, absolutely.
Dick: He was the final authority, and again and again He says, “But I say unto you….” We find the disregard of the Sabbath Day in Luke 6, something that a good Jew would not do. He confronted religious Jews and didn’t worry about eating with unwashed hands. In fact, He said in Matthew to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man! So He predicted the destruction of the temple. So He’s being very un-Jewish. No Jew would talk about the destruction of the temple. Very, very un-Jewish in a great number of cases. So He changes the meaning of the elements of the Passover, so He applies the bread and the wine to Himself and bypasses the connection to the Book of Exodus. And we find in 1 Corinthians:5:7, Jesus, our Passover, is sacrificed for us; He redirects the centrality of the lamb symbol and changes the meaning of other symbols, making some of those symbols refer only to Him.
So, again, these are just a few of the areas where I say that Jesus was very un-Jewish.
Tom: Right. But certainly He was Jewish! But He’s also the Messiah; He’s also the living God! He’s the God-Man.
Dick: Do you know any Jew that would claim to be the God-Man?
Dick: He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”
Tom: I know.
Dick: He took the titles of God, He claimed the prerogatives of God, He said He did the works of God and He did! He accepted worship – He violated the monotheism of the Jews by claiming to be God in flesh. Very, very un-Jewish from the Jewish perspective. So no wonder that Matthew says, “The people were astonished at His teachings.” So…
Tom: Exactly. You know, Dick, the other thing – we mentioned this last week – we have an affinity, an attraction, to things Jewish, just as you described. Even though Jesus, certainly in the minds of the religious leaders, seemed to go against what was taught, but what He was going against was their traditions, their ideas, their beliefs that were not true to the Scriptures. And what we’re seeing today is, sadly, the same kind of thing – I’m talking about a Pharisee mentality. We know in the Book of Galatians they were brought by the Judaizers under the law, the bondage of the law, and it was another gospel. And it ended up being another Jesus when they tried to combine those things and so on. So that’s the sad thing.
Now, when I said we had an affinity for things Jewish, yes! I don’t have a problem with that. As I mentioned last week, I grew up in Brooklyn and certainly this was very influential in my life, being around Jewish people, and then in the movie studios and so on. But the issue really was, especially after I became a believer, what is the truth? Who is Jesus? Do I have another Jesus, as the Galatians, trying to mix the law with grace and so on? No, what we want and what we’re trying to encourage people is to be Bereans. I said this last week: search the Scriptures. When these ideas come aground, your first thought may be, “Fine, give me chapter and verse. Let me see this in context, let me understand these things, because, Dick, you mentioned it last week, we want Christ formed into us! We want to be a reflection of His light and His life, and if we’ve got another Jesus, we’re in trouble.
Dick: Yeah, and Peter said to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s every reason to study Judaism and understand first century Judaism. In fact, there’s a whole world out there of scholarship called the “Third Quest,” and I know some of the authors within the Third Quest, and they’re searching first century Judaism, because they want to understand more about Jesus, the world of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the sayings of Jesus – not to become Jews, but to grasp the text in a better way. And so there’s a lot of great authors out there in the Third Quest that are doing that very thing, again, not to become Jews or to play Jews or to dress up like Jews, but to really just get into the text and understand the text more. And there’s an abundance of great books out there from people within the Third Quest. And it’s interesting that some of the Hebrew Roots people reject the Third Quest, because it doesn’t insist on becoming Jews or keeping Sabbath or changing your church into a synagogue. And I have to laugh when I think of saying, “Upon this rock I will build my synagogue,” you know? I just – I don’t know, it’s funny to me!
Tom: Well, you know, it is! We laugh, but we know it’s also tragic, because…
Dick: Yeah, yeah.’
Tom: …the very things that would draw you away from biblical truth, from the person of Jesus Christ, are these things that appeal to the flesh, and there are so many things out there like it.
Dick, I’ll give you a quote from the article, which we talked about that you wrote: “The Achilles’ Heel of the Hebrew Roots Movement,” which is coming out through the Personal Freedom Outreach Journal…I don’t know, maybe it’s a couple of months away. But nevertheless, it’s an important article, and this is what we’re addressing. But here’s a quote from there: you say, “There is no consistent doctrinal standard or standard for practice. Everything is left to the imagination and creativity of the individual Hebrew Roots leader.” Now, as you pointed out, isn’t that the chief problem that Jesus had with the Jewish leaders of His day? They had added much to the law of their own traditions and erroneous understanding. But what about people today? What are these “leaders,” so-called, within this movement, aren’t they doing the same thing?
Dick: Yes, essentially they are. I remember seeing a video of – calls himself “Rabbi,” and he’s a pastor, but he calls himself a rabbi – and he invited one of the televangelists onto his program, and he wrapped them up in a scroll, unwound a scroll and wrapped this guy up in a scroll. And I mean, Jewish people would be appalled by that! They will not touch the text. They use a – they call it a “finger” – it’s a metal piece of…looks like a hand and it has a pointed…they read the text by virtue of that. They don’t touch the text. So I don’t know what he thought he was accomplishing by that, but it just turned so many people off.
Tom: Right. And I think we need to underscore that this is not just some blip here, that this is a movement that is…you mentioned that – call it a “revival” of it, because we’ve always had people, whether it be through Seventh Day Adventism, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, some of the cults coming under the law, or even Roman Catholicism, which was, you know, works-salvation kind of thing – but in terms of really addressing in a heavy way the ideas generated by this movement in the ’90s, but now, you know, as I mentioned, Dick, to you, we get emails from all over. This is having its way in prisons! It’s like some of these Christian men – men who become Christians in prison – write to us and say, “What do we do? We’re dealing with Islam and all of this, but our concern here is that those who claim to be Christians are now promoting this Hebrew Roots Movement, which puts us – puts people under the law.” And as I mentioned last week, to the point where they’re actually leaving the faith. I don’t believe that they were Christians if they indeed leave the faith, but they are now using this vehicle to not only leave the faith, but to turn on Christ, to turn on the New Testament as poison for those who believe it.
Dick: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Again, it goes back to the unanswered questions of “Which Judaism and how much?” I did mention in the article and asked the question, “What was Jesus actually saying when He said in Matthew:11:28, ‘Take My yoke upon you, for My yoke is easy and My burden light’?” I showed that a rabbi’s yoke is his teachings, so Jesus was saying that we should embrace His teachings. Those teachings are clearly written and preserved in the New Covenant, and they’re made clear by the indwelling Spirit, the illuminating Spirit of God, by grace enable us to live lives of obedience.
Tom: And along that line, Jesus says, in terms of understanding, well, He said in Luke, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and you don’t do the things that I say?” Now, He is the Word. He’s the living Word.
Tom: You can’t separate Him from Scripture. These are His words, and to misunderstand or to add to them or subtract from them, which many of them are doing…
Oh, just a side note, Dick – I want you to address this: So they’re looking to the law to grow in their sanctification, to grow in their blessings, but what about the other side of that? Doesn’t punishment come from disobeying the law? Do we ever hear about that?
Dick: Well, you don’t hear about it in the Hebrew Roots Movement, and it really points out another major flaw: that there’s no clear distinction and no articulation of New Testament commands versus Jewish traditions and Jewish commandments. The punishment part of the law is ignored totally. They keep Sabbath any way they want, they conduct themselves any way they want. So there’s this muddy mix of guesswork and confusion that’s spawned by those that are leading the groups – they’re supposed to be the experts, the final word, on which Judaism and how much. But really they ignore the punishment part of the Old Testament law.
We find in the Book of Exodus – I believe it’s in Exodus – where a man who gathers sticks on the Sabbath day is put to death. So the punishment part is ignored totally, I believe, by the Hebrew Roots Movement.
Tom: Yeah. Dick, I’m going to quote you again from your article “The Achilles’ Heel of the Hebrew Roots Movement.” You write, “Should the Hebrew Roots Movement followers wear prayer shawls? Should they keep Sabbath? Are kippahs necessary? Should they study Talmud? Should they call their ministers ‘rabbis’? Should they call their churches ‘synagogues’? What about the use of a mezuzah on the doorframe? Will it be hung vertically as the Sephardis do, or slanting as in other traditions? We must also make sure it is on the right side as you enter and shoulder height. Do we kiss it on entering and leaving the house?” As you point out, the first known use of mezuzah is in the 1600s. So…
Tom: …aside from all the confusion that those create, as you point out there are no specific teachings from the leaders as to the consequences of not following their decisions. That’s certainly…
Dick: Right, exactly.
Tom: …yeah, that sets apart what’s being promoted from the consequences of not obeying the Torah laws. So it leads to bondage, doesn’t it? It leads to guilt. It leads to – it certainly runs from grace, without a doubt, in a major way.
Dick: And again, you can’t divide the law. You can’t take the blessings of the law and not the curses. To apply the law only as it benefits you, it’s just playing games, really. It’s not what the Bible tells us. I mean, the Old Testament law has purposes. It has purposes of pointing out sin, of condemning men, of driving people to Christ. It has those purposes of the prophecies of Messiah. It certainly has purposes. But to find salvation or sanctification in it is not one of the purposes. So the HRM, they seem to be trying to find some purpose in either salvation or sanctification in the keeping of these things.
Tom: Right. And the material part of it – prayer shawls: when did that happen? What about kippahs or, you know, the skullcap. What about calling our – the leaders “rabbis” and so on? Well, certainly we can take rabbis back, but what about the skullcap, the prayer shawls, the – what’s being promoted as being efficacious just by using them? Not the case, is it?
Dick: Well, again, it goes back to the elitism. It seems to put, in people’s minds, on a higher – somehow they’re on a higher level, and it just isn’t so. Peter talked about the common salvation. We’re all on the same level! We’re on the same level that grace puts every one of us on, you know? We’re needy sinners, and we must come to Christ, and then we begin to, as we’re empowered by the Spirit, live in obedience to Him, that’s kind of it. I’m all for studying first-century Judaism to give me more understanding of the text, but not to become some kind of Jewish person or dress up as a Jew.
Dick: I think [of] Ephesians 3, when it talks about the Jews and Gentiles being of one body, I think that says it all. We are one in Christ.
Tom: Yeah. Dick, we have just a few minutes left, but we’ve been over a lot of material. But could you summarize for us your concerns, the teachings and the practice of the Hebrew Roots, your concerns of what they do to a believer who wants to follow the teachings and practices of the New Testament? What is your encouragement there?
Dick: Well, my encouragement is to get back into the Scriptures and especially into the study of the New Testament, because that’s the covenant that we’re under. We’re under the new covenant. Again, we did a lengthy article on the new covenant or old, and the ideas of law and grace. We need to study these things to find out about them, and any of the articles that you would read, we would give you a lot of footnotes where you could research some of this for yourself.
Again, I go back to the Achilles’ heel. I go back to the followers saying to their leaders, “Which Judaism, and how much?” and being able to support that by Scripture and seeing where they come out with that.
But again, there’s just this mish-mosh of creative people who have these subjective ideas about what they’re supposed to be doing or having their followers do, and I have found that it just creates an elitism and creates division, because it does create a sense of pride, of having much more than others, and I don’t think that’s what God wants for us.
Tom: No, and it certainly turns even a young believer who is attracted to this kind of stuff, and doesn’t really know the Word of God well, but nevertheless, even that young believer can ask the question, “Could you give me chapter and verse for that?”
Dick: Yes, exactly. And going back to what you stated last week about being Bereans, I mean, they were checking Paul out by the Word, so we need to check the leadership out by the Word and make sure they’re telling us things that are…
Tom: Related to this, Dick, it’s almost an irony, isn’t it? Because Luke, you know, who is commending these Jews in the synagogue of the Greek city of Berea for checking out the Apostle Paul, and we need, as believers, as non-Jews, we need to do the very same and be encouraged by what they did.
Dick: You know, there’s a frightening side to it, as well, because some of the extremes in the Hebrew Roots Movement are teaching things that are anti-Trinitarian and teaching just outright heresies, and there’s no way to stop that, there’s no way to correct that. There’s just nothing built in that would help anyone to find a way to confront heresy.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. Well, my guest has been Dick Fisher, G. Richard Fisher. He also contributed to our Berean Bite, the booklet on the Hebrew Roots Movement, so we have that available for you, and we ask you to look forward to his article coming up in – some time, hopefully not too far away – in the Personal Freedom Outreach Journal.
So, Dick, again, it’s been a blessing and hopefully an encouragement to all of our readers. So thank you, Dick, for being with us.
Dick: Well, thank you for having me on.