Every now and then I come across people and articles that are trying to discredit the avenue of belief that many of us have chosen. The umbrella term that is often used in this regard is “The Hebrew Roots Movement” (HRM). “Why I left the Hebrew Roots Movement” is the name of a book that was published recently. “The Hebrew Roots delusion” is a video that appears on YouTube. “Don’t let anyone in the Hebrew Roots Movement deceive you”, someone posted on Social Media and there is even a Facebook page called “Hebrew Roots Witchcraft”!
The criticisms that are brought against the HRM are often based upon hear-say and poor knowledge of what is really happening within these groups. But I have tried to keep an open mind, listening carefully to some of the objections against this so-called “movement” (As far as I know, no one ever started a movement like this and I, for one, have never joined a movement like this). But the point is: Not all of the objections against groups that are trying to restore the ancient roots of Biblical belief, are wrong. No doubt, some of the HRM or Torah-observant teachers are indeed deceiving their followers. In many of these groups the proper Biblical priorities have become lopsided and a number of favourite themes have been elevated (above others) in a manner that is NOT in accordance with the pattern of Scriptures. Groups that are aligning themselves with the HRM have not managed to safeguard themselves against internal strife and disunity and the universal tendency to make an issue of even the smallest point of difference. This tendency is very much alive within these groups and often causes individuals to break away from a group that had become their spiritual home for some time and join, or even start, a new group. In this regard, we have no other choice but to agree with the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes: There is nothing new under the sun. This tendency is spoken of quite clearly in Scriptures and the apostle Peter (or Kefa), for example, prophesied that there shall arise false teachers, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, denying Y’shua as the Master and bringing swift destruction upon themselves – in the same way as, previously, there had always been false prophets among Yahweh’s people (1 Pet 2:1).
There is a certain technique that is often used in the writings that are in opposition of what we believe. I have seen this over and over again and we need to take notice of this, in order to become grounded on a firm foundation, and be ready to give an answer to everyone asking questions concerning the expectation that is within us, with meekness and fear (1 Pet 3:15). The technique that I am referring to, is working like this and for the sake of the argument I am going to refer to the person who is using this technique as “the opponent”: The opponent will identify a certain aspect of the HRM that is against the traditional beliefs of the church or against the beliefs of the majority of Christianity. Let’s say the opponent chooses the aspect of Sabbath-keeping. The next step is to paint a picture of Sabbath-keepers that leans toward the absolute extreme and is almost a caricature of the true essense of the commandment and the principle. Instead of blaming a group for honouring the fourth commandment and keeping the Sabbath, the opponent will be blaming the group for making Sabbath-keeping into a condition for salvation. This is nothing less than a “technique”, because the real issue is not addressed, only the caricature of the real issue. The real issue is: Did Yahweh delete the fourth commandment? Did Y’shua tell his followers not to keep the Sabbath, although He Himself kept the Sabbath? The caricature is that there are indeed people who are telling others that if they don’t keep the Sabbath, they can never be saved. What these opponents want to achieve is to throw out the baby with the bath water and in this way they are hoping to bring the aspect of Sabbath-keeping in disrepute altogether.
There are opponents who claim that we are adopting the customs and traditions of Judaism. Although it is true that some groups are very much into the traditions of Judaism, this is once again a generalization and also a type of caricature. There are many groups, like ourselves, who are not into Judaism, at all. We do not have the same, broad definition of Torah, we do not put the oral tradition on the same level as Scriptures, we do not follow the man-made elements of the Jewish calendar, and we do not reject the Messianic claims with regards to Y’shua of Nazareth. In fact, we question some of the traditions of Judaism, in the same way as we are questioning some of the traditions of Christianity. Our aim is not to restore the principles of Judaism. Our aim is to restore the Biblical pattern of belief. Our aim is to grasp and to do the essense of Torah, to embrace the message of the Hebrew prophets, to acknowledge the fulfilment of the prophesies within the person of Y’shua and to conduct our lives according to his example and his message.
There are opponents who claim that we pretend to have superior knowledge of Scriptures and a kind of spirituality that is above all others. This is a very serious accusation that needs to be addressed. There are many clear warnings against pride and boasting in Scriptures, like “Before destruction comes pride, and before a fall a haughty spirit!” (Prov 16:18). All of us need to look into our own hearts and attitudes and repent, without delay, if this is true of us. But we should also understand that putting on the table the aspect of pride, is often a technique aimed at sidestepping the real issues at hand. Some of these opponents are trying to steer the attention away from themselves – simply because they cannot find proper Biblical support for what they are believing and what they do not want to let go. Let us be aware of this and be careful, on the one hand, never to approach people in an arrogant and self-righteous way, but on the other hand, to remain faithful and firm in our defense of the plain truth of Scriptures.
Some of our opponents are saying that we view the “New Testament” as being inferior to the “Old Testament”. In this regard, we also need to check ourselves. Because the “New Testament” contains the earliest available writings about Y’shua, the promised Messiah of the “Old Testament”, it should not be seen as inferior to the “Old Testament”. It should rather be seen as a collection of writings that sheds invaluable light on the prophetic content of the “Old Testament” and as such, came into existence under the guidance of the Spirit of Yahweh. But let us be aware that this criticism may also be a technique whereby the real issue is being swept aside. The real danger is the exact opposite: by viewing “Old Testament” as being inferior to the “New Testament” – while we know that for the Messiah and his early followers the “Old Testament” (or the TaNaK) was the only Scriptures available. They didn’t call it the “Old Testament” but for them these “scriptures” were “breathed out by Elohim and were profitable for teaching, for reproof, for setting straight, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of Elohim might be fitted, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Seeing Y’shua just as a prominent historical person. While Scriptures leave no doubt that Y’shua of Natsaret was a historical person, in other words a human being who lived and walked on this earth some 2000 years ago, it also declares that this man, Y’shua, was unlike any other human being who had lived before him. He was given many special titles, like Son of Elohim, Son of Man, Lamb of Elohim, Word of Yah and Immanuel; his birth came about supernaturally; He did not yield before the temptation to sin; He performed many miracles and taught like no one before; He died and arose from the dead after three days; He ascended to heaven where He was exalted to a position at the right hand of Yahweh. The claim, however, that Y’shua is Yahweh, is not true and does not reflect what both Pre-messianic and Messianic Scriptures teach about Him. It also does not reflect what the Messiah said about (and thought of) Himself.
Saying that Shaul undermined the teachings of Y’shua. While some (groups or individuals) in the Hebrew Roots Movement may be claiming that Shaul undermined the teachings of Y’shua, a proper understanding of Scriptures will clearly reveal that this is not the case. Shaul called on other believers to become his followers – just as he was a follower of Messiah and everything that the Messiah had taught (1 Cor 11:1). He would never undermine or deviate from the teachings of Messiah. The flip side of the coin is that many in the christian tradition are of the opinion that Shaul’s writings and sayings contained some kind of new revelation. They say Shaul’s teachings were different because he had the perspective of “hindsight” with regards to a so-called “change”, especially as far as the Torah is concerned, that came about after the death and resurrection of the Messiah. This prove to be a false claim and a subtle twist enforced upon the clear message or Scriptures – something that that the apostle Kepha (Peter) warned against clearly (2 Kepha 3:15- 17) and also something, up till this day, that has caused thousands of believers to stumble on a side track.