At the end of last year, the  Catholic Church and a  group of Orthodox Jews  released statements that  called for renewed cooperation and  theological engagement between Jews  and Christians. The Pontifical Commission  for Religious Relations with the  Jews (CRRJ) and The Center for  Jewish-Christian Understanding and  Cooperation’s (CJCUC) statements  were separate, but both explored  the relationship between Jews and  Christians, and reflected on the divine  purposes behind God’s covenant(s)  with them.  

The Roman Catholic statement,  in a somewhat inconsistent way,  disavowed ‘institutional mission’  to Jews, while also recognising the  responsibility of all Christians to  witness to their faith, and affirming  the traditional Catholic position on  the uniqueness of Christ as saviour.  The Orthodox Jewish statement  affirmed the Jewishness of Jesus  and his teaching, stating that  ‘Jesus brought a double goodness to the world. On the one hand he strengthened the Torah of Moses  majestically…and not one of our  Sages spoke out more emphatically  concerning the immutability of the  Torah.’  

The Catholic statement, a 10,000-  word, carefully phrased ‘reflection’,  does not have any official status as  Roman Catholic doctrine. It contains  paradoxical statements, especially on  whether Jewish people can be saved  through keeping the Torah (Jewish  law) when Jesus Christ is the only  way to salvation.  

Nevertheless, it builds on the  achievements of the past 50 years.  These achievements include a change  in relations between Catholics and  Jews from a ‘detached co-existence  to deep friendship’; the revision of  ‘imprecatory’ Good Friday prayers  holding the Jews to account for  the death of Jesus; and the steady  improvement in relationships  culminating in Pope John Paul’s  welcome in the synagogue in Rome  and during his visit to Israel, where he  addressed the Jewish people as ‘elder brothers’ in faith.  

The Orthodox Jewish statement  has a positive tone, encouraging less  fear and greater trust and engagement  between Christians and Jews, but  does not speak for the majority of  Orthodox (let alone Conservative,  Reform and Liberal) Jews. It was  roundly criticised in Jewish circles for  misrepresenting traditional Jewish  teaching on other religions, and for  going too far in its positive regard for  Jesus and its inclusion of Christianity  within God’s covenantal design. 



The major omission from both statements is the recognition of Messianic Jews (Jews who believe  in Jesus). There is no discussion of the ongoing presence, theological significance and contribution of Messianic Jews in either statement.  

This omission perpetuates the supposed separation between Jews and Christians. But in reality, Messianic Jews are the missing link between Judaism and Christianity. During the first century, Judaeo-Christians were in a majority,  but in the centuries  that followed they  supposedly dwindled  to the point of  ‘extinction’. One of the benefits of the recent growth of this movement is how it calls on Jews and Christians to recognise God’s divine purposes  for both Israel and the  nations.  

Messianic Jews  cannot be ignored in  such discussions, but  the call to recognise  their existence and  enter into dialogue  with them is something of an  embarrassment to Christians involved  in Jewish-Christian dialogue, as their  existence suggests an ongoing mission  to Jews and threatens the goodwill  and mutual respect Christian leaders  work hard to cultivate with the Jewish  community. Likewise, their presence  gives offence to Jewish community  leaders who see them as apostates,  and even their claims to be Jewish as  spurious and deceptive. This is not  surprising in light of the tortuous  history of Jewish-Christian relations  over the past 2,000 years.   



I recently met with fellow Messianic  Jews and Palestinian Christians  to issue the Larnaca Declaration,  hosted by the Lausanne Initiative  for Reconciliation in Israel-  Palestine (LIRIP). It was a time for  discussion, prayer and reflection on  the theological and political issues  that divide Messianic Jews and  Palestinian Christians. Such meetings  are vital if mutual understanding and  reconciliation are to take place, both  among believers and in wider society.  The statement calls for reconciliation  in the spirit of brotherly love, and in  the light of the gospel we share with  both Israeli and Palestinian. While our  narratives, identities and theologies  are often in conflict, we are committed  to one another and to building peace  together for the sake of the gospel and  our unity in the body of Christ.  

Peace-building initiatives need our  prayers and support. It is not an easy  task. We take inspiration from the  life and work of Sir Nicholas Winton  (1909–2015), now commemorated by  the Post Office stamp, who organised  the rescue of 669 children, most of  them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on  the eve of the Second World War in an  operation later known as the Czech  Kindertransport (German for ‘children  transportation’). Winton found homes  for the children and arranged for their  safe passage to Britain. As he said: ‘If  something is not impossible, then there  must be a way to do it.’  

The same could be said of Jewish-  Christian relations. For much of the  past 2,000 years, under the shadow  of anti-Jewish legislation in the  

Messianic Jews Cannot Be Ignored    


Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon,  the Crusades, the Inquisition, and  the silence of the churches during  the Holocaust, Jewish-Christian  relations still have a long way to go  before mutual understanding and true  reconciliation are achieved. But as  Rabbi Tarfon taught: ‘It is not your  responsibility to finish the work of  perfecting the world, but you are not  free to desist from it either.’ Messianic  Jews, experiencing the challenge from  both sides, are uniquely placed to help  bridge the gap that still separates the  two larger communities of faith.  


DR RICHARD HARVEY is senior researcher with  Jews for Jesus and former academic dean at All  Nations Christian College. He blogs at