Hebrew roots movement…biblical Christianity or modern day Judaizers?

“The premise of the Hebrew Roots movement is the belief that the Church has veered far from the true teachings and Hebrew concepts of the Bible. The movement maintains that Christianity has been indoctrinated with the culture and beliefs of Greek and Roman philosophy and that ultimately biblical Christianity, taught in churches today, has been corrupted with a pagan imitation of the New Testament gospels.

Those of the Hebrew Roots belief hold to the teaching that Christ’s death on the cross did not end the Mosaic Covenant, but instead renewed it, expanded its message, and wrote it on the hearts of His true followers. They teach that the understanding of the New Testament can only come from a Hebrew perspective and that the teachings of the Apostle Paul are not understood clearly or taught correctly by Christian pastors today. Many affirm the existence of an original Hebrew-language New Testament and, in some cases, denigrate the existing New Testament text written in Greek. This becomes a subtle attack on the reliability of the text of our Bible. If the Greek text is unreliable and has been corrupted, as is charged by some, the Church no longer has a standard of truth.

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

The Hebrew Roots assemblies are often made up of a majority of Gentiles, including Gentile rabbis. Usually they prefer to be identified as “Messianic Christians.” Many have come to the conclusion that God has “called” them to be Jewish and have accepted the theological position that the Torah (Old Testament law) is equally binding on Gentiles and Jews alike. They often wear articles of traditional Jewish clothing, practice Davidic dancing, and incorporate Hebrew names and phrases into their writing and conversations. Most reject the use of the name “Jesus” in favor of Yeshua or YHWH, claiming that these are the “true” names that God desires for Himself. In most cases, they elevate the Torah as the foundational teaching for the Church, which brings about the demotion of the New Testament, causing it to become secondary in importance and only to be understood in light of the Old Testament. The idea that the New Testament is faulty and relevant only in light of the Old Testament has also brought the doctrine of the Trinity under attack by many advocates of the Hebrew Roots beliefs.

As opposed to what the Hebrew Roots movement claims, the New Testament teachings of the Apostle Paul are perfectly clear and self-explanatory. Colossians 2:16,17 says, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Romans 14:5 states, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” Scripture clearly indicates that these issues are a matter of personal choice. These verses and many others give clear evidence that the Mosaic Covenant laws and ordinances have ended. Continuing to teach that the Old Covenant is still in effect in spite of what the New Testament teaches, or twisting the New Testament to agree with the Hebrew Roots beliefs, is false teaching.

There are aspects of the Hebrew Roots teachings that certainly can be beneficial. Seeking to explore the Jewish culture and perspective, within which most of the Bible was written, opens and enriches our understanding of the Scriptures, adding insight and depth to many of the passages, parables and idioms. There is nothing wrong with Gentiles and Jews joining together in celebrating the feasts and enjoying a Messianic style of worship. Taking part in these events and learning the way in which the Jews understood the teachings of our Lord can be a tool, giving us greater effectiveness in reaching the unbelieving Jew with the gospel. It is good for Gentiles, in the body of the Messiah, to identify in our fellowship with Israel. However, to identify with Israel is different from identifying “as” Israel.

Gentile believers are not grafted into the Judaism of the Mosaic Covenant; they are grafted into the seed and faith of Abraham, which preceded the Law and Jewish customs. They are fellow citizens with the saints (Ephesians 2:19), but they are not Jews. Paul explains this clearly when he tells those who were circumcised (the Jews) “not to seek to be uncircumcised” and those who were uncircumcised (the Gentiles) “not to become circumcised” (1 Corinthians 7:18). There is no need for either group to feel they must become what they are not. Instead, God has made Jews and Gentiles into “one new man” in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:15). This “new man” is referring to the Church, the body of Christ, which is made up of neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:27-29). It’s important for Jews and Gentiles to remain authentic in their own identity. In this way a clear picture of the unity of the body of Christ can be seen as Jews and Gentiles are united by one Lord, one faith, one baptism. If Gentiles are grafted into Israel, becoming Jews, the purpose and picture of both Jew and Gentile, coming together as one new man, is lost. God never intended Gentiles to become one in Israel, but one in Christ.

The influence of this movement is working its way into our churches and seminaries. It’s dangerous in its implication that keeping the Old Covenant law is walking a “higher path” and is the only way to please God and receive His blessings. Nowhere in the Bible do we find Gentile believers being instructed to follow Levitical laws or Jewish customs; in fact, the opposite is taught. Romans 7:6 says, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Christ, in keeping perfectly every ordinance of the Mosaic Law, completely fulfilled it. Just as making the final payment on a home fulfills that contract and ends one’s obligation to it, so also Christ has made the final payment and has fulfilled the law, bringing it to an end for us all.

It is God Himself who has created a world of people with different cultures, languages and traditions. God is glorified when we accept one another in love and come together in unity as “one” in Christ Jesus. It’s important to understand that there is no superiority in being born Jewish or Gentile. We who are followers of Christ, comprised of many different cultures and lifestyles, are all of value and greatly loved because we’ve entered into the family of God.

A more recent addition to our list of “haters” are proponents of what is generally known as the Hebrew Roots Movement. What does the Hebrew Roots Movement believe? Essentially, their goal is to restore the Jewishness of Christianity. Those in the Hebrew Roots Movement argue that Christianity has strayed way too far from its Jewish roots. There is definitely some truth to this argument. For instance, western Christianity has no problem observing holidays the Bible does not mention, but virtually ignores the Jewish holidays the Bible does mention. But, the Hebrew Roots Movement is not just about the Jewish holidays. The ultimate goal of many in the Hebrew Roots Movement is to put Christians under the bondage of the Old Covenant law, with strict adherence to all of the commands, other than the sacrificial system.

The Hebrew Roots Movement is a perfect illustration of Solomon’s statement that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). In the early centuries of Christianity there was a sect known as Ebionism which taught the necessity of keeping the Jewish law. However, this false doctrine goes back even further. Requiring Gentiles to obey the old covenant law after they became Christians was soundly refuted at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Essentially, the Hebrew Roots Movement are the Judaizers that the Apostle Paul thoroughly refuted in the Epistle to the Galatians:

Galatians 2:16, “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
Galatians 3:11, “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.'”
Galatians 5:12, “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

The mistake of the Hebrew Roots Movement is the same mistake of the Judaizers. They fail to understand that Jesus fulfilled the Law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15). In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). If we obey those two commands, we will be fulfilling all that Christ requires of us: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40).


We have freedom in Christ! That freedom includes the ability to choose whether or not one observes the Jewish holidays. That freedom even includes the choice whether to observe the Old Testament dietary laws and other regulations. A Christian has the freedom to live his/her life essentially as an observant Jew if that is what he/she believes is God’s desire. But, there is no requirement for Christians (New Covenant believers) to live in bondage to Old Covenant regulations. Jesus fulfilled the Law, all of it, not just some of it. What Jesus’ death means for the sacrificial system, it also means for the rest of the Law. Jesus died to free us from sin and its penalty. Jesus did not die to transform us into Jews and place us in bondage to the covenant that God made exclusively with the nation of Israel.

The advocates of the Hebrew Roots Movement can be very aggressive in their arguments, hence their inclusion on our list of GotQuestions.org haters. Their arguments can sound very biblical, and sadly, they are increasingly successful in their proselytization. It is a good thing to be reminded of the Jewish roots of Christianity. It is beneficial to understand the Jewish holidays and how Jesus fulfills each of them. But, if you run across someone who claims to be “restoring the Jewishness of Christianity,” be very careful. Should any of their arguments concern you, read the Book of Galatians.”

~ excerpts from GOTquestions.org

A large online Hebrew Roots Movement is called 119 ministries.

What is 119 Ministries?

Please note: the information below is based on our general assessment of 119 Ministries. As with any active organization, current events may drastically change both perceptions and interpretations. The information below is fair and accurate, to the best of our knowledge, as of the time this article was written.

119 Ministries is a Hebrew Roots organization primarily operating through their website. The group’s name is a reference to Psalm 119, which speaks in depth about following God’s Law. 119 Ministries is extremely active on social media and the internet, with smartphone apps and an extensive library of online teachings. DVDs, books, and videos are available as tools to promote their theology.

119 Ministries is associated with the Hebrew Roots movement, which claims Jesus did not do away with many of the Old Testament restrictions on diet, ceremonial purity, and so forth. This is a view long rejected by the majority of Christian theologians. Most Hebrew Roots teachers accept generally correct views of salvation, sin, Christ, and the Bible. However, they often reject the Trinity, and the strained approach they’re forced to use on the New Testament presents some additional problems. The general, clear sense of Scripture is that Christ’s “fulfillment” of the Law meant the end of those minute legalisms.

119 Ministries would claim that supposedly clear statements in books such as Galatians have been misinterpreted. And yet, that conclusion only results from assuming what one is trying to prove. The catch phrase for 119 Ministries seems to be “test everything,” which underscores the group’s apologetics-flavored approach to promoting their beliefs. Yet, unless a person is pre-determined toward their conclusions, the Hebrew Roots-related information they provide doesn’t withstand scrutiny.

Another problem with 119 Ministries, as with many Hebrew Roots organizations, is the tendency to focus outrageous levels of time and attention on minutiae. For example, the exact day or lunar cycle of a particular festival. Or speculations about blood moons or whether a calendar day should start at sunrise or sunset. Legalistic gnat-straining like this (Titus 3:9) is exactly the kind of bureaucracy we were meant to be freed from. At the same time, that style of convenient legalism is comforting, since it makes our spirituality seem like a matter of obeying a list, rather than having a moment-to-moment, perpetual sense of obeying God’s will in our lives.

Ironically, despite the claim to uphold the entire Old Testament Law as binding on believers today, most Hebrew Roots interpretations allow for behaviors that Old Testament Jews would have considered blatantly in error, such as having a clean-shaven face or wearing clothes of mixed cloth. 119 Ministries is no different, as in one teaching they dismiss explicit Torah commands not to cut one’s hair (Leviticus 19:27) as merely references to pagan practices. At the same time, they insist that foods like pork and shellfish are still “unclean,” despite overt statements such as Mark 7:19.

There are many things to test, question, and doubt within the teachings of 119 Ministries. Those involved in the Hebrew Roots movement are generally well-meaning, and their primary message regarding salvation is essentially true. However, their approach to Scripture is extremely prejudiced and can’t really be sustained, except in the minds of those who prefer to believe it to begin with.”

multiple sources cited

Philia Ministries (see video below) is another online ministry part of the Hebrew Roots Movement. While they are a more mild version of 119 ministries– they are promoting a “softer” (law keeping) adherence to festivals, law, and customs.

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