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Revive Israel Ministries

©April 15, 2012 Revive Israel Ministries

Rabbi "J"

Asher Intrater

Recently a discussion arose as to whether leaders of Messianic congregations in the diaspora should refer to themselves as rabbis. There are pros and cons to the issue. Interestingly, none of the leaders in Israel use that term. In Israel the rabbis have such influential positions of authority that it would be inappropriate, at least at this time, for congregational leaders to be called rabbis.

A related issue arose as to whether the apostle Paul (Saul) should be referred to as rabbi. On the one hand, he is never called rabbi in the New Covenant scriptures. On the other hand, he is clearly described as one who had a rabbinic-type position, had letters of authority from the High Priests (Acts 9:2; 22:5), was among the leaders of Orthodox Judaism (Galatians 1:14), was a member of one of the most radical sects (Acts 26:5), and was trained in a Jerusalem Yeshiva by Gamliel (Acts 22:3).

Another related issue is whether it is appropriate to refer to Yeshua (Jesus) as rabbi. In the Modern Hebrew version of the gospels, Yeshua is referred to as rabbi 50 (!) times. Of those fifty, 13 are from the Greek word rabbi (primarily in John), 36 from didaskalos (often translated as "master" or "teacher"), and 1 from kathegetis.

While none of these references represent a command to refer to Yeshua as rabbi (in contrast to such mandated terms as Messiah (Christ), Son of God (Matthew 16:16), and Lord (Romans 10:9), taken altogether they do prove the validity of using that term when appropriate to a Jewish audience or when emphasizing the historical-cultural context of the New Covenant to an international audience.

Matthew 23:8 – Do not be called "Rabbi (rabbi), for one is your Rabbi (didaskalos), the Messiah (christos), and you are all brethren.

While this verse might point to the invalidity of using the term rabbi for Messianic leaders, it might equally indicate the validity of using the term for Yeshua Himself. There is no necessity for Yeshua to be called rabbi among Gentile nations.  However there is justification in using that term in order to demonstrate cultural context. We might call Him "Rabbi J."

There has been a new interest within the Jewish academic world and even the rabbinic community to study Yeshua in a Jewish historical context. A CNN article called, Jews Reclaim Jesus as One of their Own, noted four recently published research books by significant Jewish authors:

  1. The Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine
  2. Kosher Jesus, by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach
  3. My Jesus Year, by Binyamin Cohen
  4. The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ, by Daniel Boyarin

These authors do not believe in Yeshua as savior and are often antagonistic to Messianic faith. Yet interest and research in the Jewish background of the New Covenant is a positive trend none-the-less. For the full article, click here.

Resurrection and Passover

This week the Eastern Churches in Arab countries celebrated the resurrection of Yeshua. Palestinian evangelicals, with a number of Messianic Jewish guests, worshipped in front of the empty tomb at the Garden Tomb in East Jerusalem.  Messianic Jews celebrate the death and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) as part of Passover Week.  We teach about the crucifixion on the Shabbat right before Passover and the resurrection on the Shabbat immediately after.

The connection between Passover and the resurrection of Yeshua is profound. In both events we find the expression lifnot boker, meaning: "right before the breaking of dawn."

Exodus 14:27
Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea and the sea returned to its full strength lifnot boker and the Egyptians fled.

John 20:1
On the first day of the week, lifnot boker while it was still dark, Miriam from Migdal, came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed.

The Israelites left Egypt on the night of the Passover, and camped two nights during the journey (from Sukkot to Eitam to Pi Herut – Exodus 13:20, 14:1). God opened the sea throughout that second night. On the morning of the third day, they passed through the Red Sea and rose up through to the other side.

The Angel YHVH was with them and led them through the crossing.The Israelites passed through the water like a massive, symbolic group baptism (I Corinthians 10:1-2). Walking up out of the sea was a symbolic resurrection for them.  We believe the Angel YHVH in the pillar of cloud and fire to be Yeshua Himself in His pre-birth form.

After Yeshua's crucifixion, His body was placed in the grave. His soul and spirit descended into hell. Before dawn on the third day, He destroyed the forces of hell and rose up back into His body. The moment that He walked out of the tomb was the same hour on the same day that He rose up out of the Red Sea more than a thousand years earlier.

The two events happened in the same way, on the same day and at the same time, because they are essentially connected in the eyes of God. They are united into one. Yeshua was the central figure in both events. Miriam was there, and Moses was there, but the resurrection and the exodus were brought about by Yeshua, the Son of God, the Messenger of YHVH.

One of the most significant elements of the traditional Passover Seder is that in every generation we are to see ourselves as if we just passed out of Egypt. Similarly, in the New Covenant, we are all to see ourselves as if we were crucified and resurrected with Yeshua. The historic exodus of the children of Israel with Angel Yehovah is the foundation of the spiritual exodus of all the children of God through Messiah Yeshua.

The past, present, and future overlap and become one as we see this prophetic picture of the exodus-resurrection from God's eternal plan and perspective.

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