Information on Baptists, Jews for Jesus, and Messianic Jews in Israel!


April 6, 2008

We receive a lot of e-mail from time to time asking me about different groups of believers in Israel. I have refrained to interject my own ideas about them because they are testifying about Jesus as the Savior and Messiah, which is a difficult task in Israel, and subject to persecution by some Jewish groups that can’t stand believers in Christ, especially if they try to convert Jews to a belief in Jesus. My doctrinal beliefs on the ordinances of the church and the church itself are different from theirs, but I applaud them for their testimony of Jesus Christ, particularly in a hostile environment, and I pray for them and the work they do there for a testimony of Jesus.

Philippians 1:15-18 – Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: [16] The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: [17] But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. [18] What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

I do rejoice, and will rejoice that Christ is preached in the same place that the first church in Jerusalem preached it, and I thank God for their courage. Therefore, I do not intend to discuss their doctrinal practices with my own opinions.

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But since many have asked me about it over the years, I am including two articles for informational purposes, which express their opinions based on research and personal day to day living in Israel. I am really not qualified to discuss it with the authority and knowledge I personally have of the individual groups of believers in the Holy Land.

I was there before the Jerusalem Baptist Church building was burned down by Jewish Orthodox extremists in 1982, and for years afterwards the local officials kept giving Baptists flack in getting building permits in order to stop its restoration as a place where Baptists worship. And I eventually stopped keeping track of the different groups recognized as believers in Jesus as the Messiah during my many trips there. My last trip there was in 1999.

I did not know the Baptist Church Building had finally been restored as a place of worship until the article which follows came out on March 27, 2008. The church was reinstituted in 1996, 14 years after the building was burned, and three years before I made my last trip to the Holy Land, but I was not aware of it.

The ABA work there in Jerusalem and Ramallah consists of a small group, almost entirely Arab in makeup, and since the first intrafada the work in Ramallah has become increasingly difficult.

The Information contained in the blog which follows came from a wide variety of sources who took it from other sources. If the source is not named it came from standard informational research documentation, such as is listed in encyclopedias, religious journals, or denominational statements of faith.

Begin Jerusalem Post Article


Greener Pastors


March 27, 2008

Pastor Al Nucciarone – he doesn’t like Dr. Rev. – arrived just before Christmas to lead Jerusalem’s Baptist Church on Rehov Narkiss on the edge of Rehavia.

“We have a small congregation of 50 to 60 people,” says the Italian-American pastor. The sign outside their picturesque house of worship is in Hebrew, English and Russian, reflecting the three smaller linguistic congregations that share the building. Technically the Baptist congregation is the only one listed on the amuta.

“It’s all nations,” Nucciarone smiles, counting off congregants who are American, Canadian, German, Dutch, British, Italian, French, Finnish and African.

Recently a Korean tourist group came and packed the church to the rafters. “Tourists want to have a worship experience. They’ve seen all the sites. Now they want to worship God.

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They want song and fellowship, something inspirational,” explains Nucciarone.

Jerusalem’s Baptist congregation was founded in 1925. The present congregation, reinstituted in 1996, is a member of the Baptist Convention of Israel and is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention of the United States.

Those credentials evidently offended some of Jerusalem’s religious zealots, who burnt down the church in 1982.

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Another arson attempt last October caused extensive smoke damage before three fire trucks and a dozen firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Nucciarone was apprehensive about granting an interview for fear of adverse publicity. “We believe in the Old Testament precepts of loving God and your fellow man,” he says.

In addition to Nucciarone’s preaching duties every Sunday, he pays pastoral visits to congregants who are sick, elderly or alone. He is also studying Hebrew at Ulpan Mila on Rehov Hillel.

“I did study biblical Hebrew at the Dallas Seminary a long time ago,” he laughs. “But that doesn’t allow me to converse with people.”

Like any new immigrant family, Nucciarone, his wife Billie and daughter Allison are also adjusting to life here. Billie is not working here and studies Hebrew four days a week with her husband. Allison is in ninth grade at the Anglican School on Rehov Hanevi’im. The Nucciarones also have two older daughters in the US.

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Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1951, Jerusalem is the “last stop” on a world tour that has taken him to Milan for 12 years and Vienna for 14, says Nucciarone.

The Baptist minister first visited Israel in 1978, and returned in 2006 with a group of pastors studying to lead Holy Land tours. “One Sunday I visited the Jerusalem Baptist Church. It just so happened that the man preaching was a friend from Italy now working in Israel. He asked me to give a greeting and to close the service with a benediction. Afterwards, one of the deacons came up to me and said, ‘You’d be a good pastor here. You look Jewish, you’re Italian and have a Mediterranean personality like Israelis.’ And so I said, ‘Well, I’m quite happy in Vienna.'” But the Lord works in mysterious ways.

“Returning to the United States for a sabbatical, I felt God telling me to come back to Israel.” Thanks to the Baptist Convention’s non-profit status, Nucciarone qualified for a clergy visa, which is renewable annually. Theoretically the visa doesn’t allow Nucciarone to work for money here, and his salary comes from the Kansas City-based Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Like other Americans who live here but receive an income in greenbacks, he too suffers from the “dollar doldrums.” “You can go crazy worrying about the exchange rate,” he cautions. “I don’t even think about it.”

Down the road, he’d like to study to become a licensed tour guide – even though as a man of the cloth he is exempt from the Ministry of Tourism requirements.

Giving away 1,500 books in Vienna, Nucciarone arrived here with his most valuable 20 books. “For a man who loves books, that was hard. But in Israel the whole country is a book,” he smiles.

Nucciarone’s prayers were answered when he inherited a library of 600 volumes of Jewish history, Bible and theology from a congregant who passed away.


The Association of Baptist Churches in Israel (ABCI) is a Baptist association of churches in Israel.

Shukri Musa, who was baptized by George Truett at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, was the first known modern Baptist to enter Israel (then the British Mandate of Palestine). He arrived in 1911, with the support of the Illinois Baptist State Association, and began in Zefat, where he baptized his first convert. He later founded a church in Nazareth. The Southern Baptist Convention sent missionaries in 1923. A congregation was established in Jerusalem in 1925, and another in Haifa in 1936.

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Due to their circumstances, individual churches often emphasize their positions on the Old and New Covenants. The Jerusalem Church, having suffered the original body adopting charismatic practices, emphasize their stand on spiritual gifts. Premillennialism is the predominant eschatological belief, though some younger more educated believers are adopting Amillennialism.

In 2004, the ABCI had 19 congregations with about 2000 members. The congregations are ethnically and linguistically diverse, with 13 Arabic-speaking, two Hebrew-speaking, two Spanish, one Filipino, and one Russian. The majority of Baptist believers live in Galilee. Chairman of ABC board is Mr. Fuad Haddad. Treasurer from Association is Bader Mansour, the owner and general manager from Nazareth Data Quest a technology provider corporation.In June 2006,the ABC elected a new chairman:Mr. Monther Naum,a nutrition engineer from Shefa-Amr. A “K-12” school (founded 1949), which is housed near the Evangelical Baptist Church at Nazareth, is related to the organization .The Nazareth Baptist school was rated lately as the 7th school nationally in the percentage of excellent students in the matriculation exam.The general director of the school is Botrus Mansour, and the principal is Dr.Ousama Moalem.see The leading Baptist church is the local Baptist church-Nazareth. The Association of Baptist Churches is a member of the European Baptist Federation and the Baptist World Alliance. In addition to the churches of the ABCI, there were two churches in Israel affiliated with the American Baptist Association (1 each in Jerusalem and Ramallah) and one Reformed Baptist church near Tel Aviv. Christians make up about 2% of the religious affiliation in Israel, and Baptists are only a small part of that. Yet, the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel is the largest individual evangelical body in Israel. The majority religion is Jewish – about 80%. In 2006, ABC initiated the establishment of the Nazareth Centre for Christian studies and asked Dr.James Bryson Arthur from Scotland to lead it. A majority of Israel’s Baptists live in the Galilee.


Jews for Jesus take mainstream Christian positions that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, that his coming was prophesied in the Jewish scriptures, and that Jesus is the Son of God and the second person of the Trinity.

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A summary of Jews for Jesus’ beliefs:

in the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Old and New Testaments, as originally written.

God the creator exists as a Trinity, is perfect, all wise, all powerful and all loving.

Jesus is the Messiah, the second person of the Trinity, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of all humanity, rose again, and is co-equal with God. Jesus will return to earth in the near future.

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People are saved through a belief in Jesus as savior and an acknowledgment of their sins; not by their achievements.

Heaven is a reward for those who are saved; Hell is a place of “everlasting conscious punishment” for the lost.

According to an article on Jews for Jesus by B. Robinson of Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance,

Their doctrinal statement is basically indistinguishable from Evangelical and other conservative Christian groups. … They differ from some Evangelical Christian groups in their belief that Israel continues to exist as a “covenant people.” They also integrate some Jewish customs and use Hebrew and Yiddish in some literature.[10]

One of the most important Jewish principles of faith is the belief in one God and one God only with no partnership of any kind (see Deuteronomy 6:4), and belief in Jesus as deity, son of God, or Christ, is held as incompatible with Judaism. In his book A History of the Jews, Paul Johnson describes the schism between Jews and Christians caused by a divergence from this principle:

To the question, Was Jesus God or man?, the Christians therefore answered: both. After 70 AD, their answer was unanimous and increasingly emphatic. This made a complete breach with Judaism inevitable.

Jews for Jesus believes it is entirely compatible with the view of God presented in Jewish scriptures and that the doctrine of the Trinity, fundamental to the Christian faith, is not entirely alien to Judaism: “While it is true that the Old Testament portion of Scripture does not present as clear a picture of the three-in-one/one-as-three Godhead, there are indications of the plurality of the Godhead in the Hebrew Scriptures.”

According to a common belief in Judaism, these “indications” are based on mistranslations and Jesus did not fulfill the qualifications for Jewish Messiah. The vision of God as a trinity is seen by Judaism as a deviation from monotheism and therefore is rejected.

America’s Religions. An Educator’s Guide to Beliefs and Practices contains “[a] note about Jews for Jesus, Messianic Jews, Hebrew Christians, and similar groups: Jews in these groups who have converted to Christianity but continue to observe various Jewish practices are no longer considered part of the Jewish community in the usual sense.”

The Messianic Jewish Congregational Movement

by David A. Rausch

Dr. Rausch is associate professor of church history and Judaic studies at Ashland, (Ohio) Theological Seminary. This article appeared in the Christian Century September 15-22, p.

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926. Copyright by the Christian Century Foundation and used by permission. Current articles and subscription information can be found at This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

To my surprise, even most evangelicals opposed the Messianic Jews, accusing them of rebuilding the wall of partition between Jewish and gentile Christians and, in fact, of going back under the Law. A well-known Hebrew Christian whom I interviewed, a leader in missionary outreach to the Jewish community, shook his head and quietly explained:

To these “Messianic Jews” Jewishness means Judaism . . . a rabbinic Judaism of the Ashkenazic flavor. . . . They neither have a real knowledge of Jewish history or of Jewish-Christian history, nor do they possess a good handle on biblical exegesis. . . . Like the Ebionites of old they will finally blend into Judaism and deny the Messiah.

This evangelical attitude came as a shock, for initially I had thought that the movement was simply a “Jews for Jesus” extension of previous Hebrew Christian evangelistic organizations that also had been opposed by both Christians and Jews.

Whatever one’s stand on the issue, it is important to gain some understanding of this movement. Although many regard the concept as unthinkable, the movement is growing and is gaining gentile supporters. The number of Messianic congregations (“synagogues”) continues to rise, and there is a fervent commitment on the part of these Messianics to “discover their Jewishness.”

However, Messianic Jews themselves were of little help to me in tracing the historic roots of the movement. As I interviewed their leaders across the United States, I found a prevalent belief that they had coined the term “Messianic Judaism.” Others thought that the term had originated within the past ten or 20 years. Most of their opponents also agreed that this was so.

In fact, both the term “Messianic Judaism” and the frustration with the movement go back to the 19th century. Dur ing 1895 Our Hope magaz

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ine, which became a bulwark in the fundamentalist-evangelical movement under the editorship of Arno C. Gaebelein, carried the subtitle “A Monthly Devoted to the Study of Prophecy and to Messianic Judaism.” An organ of the Hope of Israel movement in New York City, the magazine maintained that Jewish converts should not sever themselves from their people and their Jewish practices. It castigated the gentile Christian church for teaching that Jewish believers must refrain from observances proclaimed in the Mosaic Law.

This approach did not escape unscathed; other Jewish missionary enterprises labeled Our Hope’s “Messianic Judaism” as outright “Judaizing,” declaring that such theology was “unscriptural, mischievous and dangerous.” Even the coeditors, Gaebelein and Ernst F. Stroeter, a former professor at Denver University, later split over the issue.

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Gaebelein switched his position regarding Messianic Judaism; Stroeter maintained its validity to the end of his life. This was very important in Gaebelein’s case: he might not have been accepted as a leader within fundamentalist evangelicalism, nor become a famous Bible and prophecy conference speaker, if he had not changed his view.

For the scholar who seeks to unravel this tangled history, there are many surprises.

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It is fascinating that the movement would arise in the American branch of the Hebrew Christian Alliance (HCAA), an organization that has consistently assuaged the fears of fundamentalist Christians by emphasizing that it is not a separate denomination but only an evangelistic arm of the evangelical church. The organization’s Quarterly, however, reveals that the tension between the Messianic Jewish movement and the Hebrew Christian movement had always been present. After the inception of the HCAA in 1915, the first major controversy was over an “old” heresy — and the “heretical” dogma that was being proposed was Messianic Judaism. The controversy could have split the organization asunder during that period but for a strong united effort against Messianic Judaism. The outcome was a statement explaining that “history and experience proved [Messianic Judaism’s] doomed failure” and emphasizing, “We will have none of it!” The statement concluded: We are filled with deep gratitude to God, for the guidance of His Holy Spirit in enabling the Conference to so effectively banish [Messianic Judaism] from our midst, and now the Hebrew Christian Alliance has put herself on record to be absolutely free from it.

Well, not quite. The Hebrew Christian Alliance of America was forced by popular vote nearly 60 years later, in 1975, to change its name to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. At the annual conference in Dunedin, Florida, in 1973, the politics involved in replacing the “old guard” with the “new guard” resembled a novel about life in Washington, D.C. The impetus for the change came from younger members within

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the HCAA, whose ranks were nearly nonexistent before the 1960s. By the final ballot they were joined by some older members as well. In 1981, at the association’s conference, Martin (Moishe) Rosen, the leader of the controversial “Jews for Jesus,” was not even nominated for the executive committee position he had previously held.

Rosen is an enigma with regard to Messianic Judaism, and perhaps his organization engenders both gentile and Jewish confusion over Messianics. The slogan “Jews for Jesus” caught on in the 1970s and catapulted Rosen’s little band of missionaries into national prominence. Subsequently, enterprises ranging from overt Jewish missionary efforts to orthodox Messianic congregations have been called “Jews for Jesus.” The label is unfortunate, because it blurs the two distinct threads within Jewish Christianity that have historically run side by side. At one end of the spectrum is the Hebrew Christian movement, made up of missionary societies and individual missionaries who regard themselves primarily as an evangelistic arm of the evangelical church to the Jewish community. At the other end of the spectrum are the most orthodox of the Messianic congregations and individual adherents who regard themselves primarily as Jewish — Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Between the ends of this spectrum fall an array of congregations and individuals. And, to complicate the matter, some Hebrew Christians now call themselves Messianic Jews.

Another reason why the all-encompassing label “Jews for Jesus” is unfortunate is that Rosen’s organization uses confrontation tactics which many Messianic Jews (and some evangelical Christians) cannot condone. In practice, the principle of confrontation holds that making the Jewish community angry or stirring up controversy equates with “publicity,” no matter whether a Jew is converted or not. Sensitivity is sacrificed for confrontation. Understanding is sacrificed for getting the message out.

This point was not clear to me when I began my research, but Moishe Rosen soon set me straight. He told me that an article I had written for a Jewish publication, in which I had briefly mentioned him, was “sugarcoated” with respect to Jews for Jesus. It was a mistake I never made again. Once I understood the concept of confrontation and had documented its effect, pieces of the “Jews for Jesus” puzzle began to fall into place.

Evangelical Christians are to be found on both sides of the confrontation issue. A professor at an evangelical liberal arts college explained to me that he liked the intense confrontation, saying: “My money goes to Jews for Jesus, because you can see they are doing something. Jews are ready to kill them for their boldness — yes, for their antagonism!” Quite a few Christians agree with him; Rosen’s organization grossed nearly $2.5 million last year. However, Messianic Jews and other Christians (evangelicals among them) are not so sure.

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Even Billy Graham has come out against evangelistic enterprises aimed solely at Jews. These people believe that the confrontation tactic only increases the historic antipathy felt between Christians and Jews — antipathy that has expanded into crusades and pogroms. The effectiveness of the message of Christ is thus lost.

Currently, I find many Messianic Jews dissociating themselves from the label “Jews for Jesus,” explaining that the organization is “just a small group of 100 or so Hebrew Christians in a west coast missionary enterprise that is very vocal and widely publicized.” For the messianic congregation that is seriously attempting to foster a first century, Jewish-Christian worship experience, repeatedly defending Rosen’s actions exacts too high a price for them to pay.

Among his many activities, Juster serves on the board of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, holds extensive discussions with rabbis in the Washington, D.C., area, and w as invited

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as a participant in the 1980 dialogue between evangelicals and Jews. He is an open and eloquent individual who strives for complete honesty in Messianic Judaism, and so does his wife, Patti. She once received a phone call scoring the Messianic congregation for being deceptive, because Jews could not believe in Jesus. Since the caller had identified himself as being from Conservative Judaism, she suggested that he talk to the “nice rabbi” at the Conservative congregation down the street. There was silence on the other end of the line.

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Finally, the caller said: “I don’t know quite how to tell you this, but I’m the rabbi of that congregation.”

This bizarre episode led to a dinner invitation and dialogue, but the rabbi still feels that there are awesome dangers in the Messianic movement. In light of the history of Jewish Christianity, one cannot blame the Jewish community for being suspicious. In his study The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue (1934), James Parkes concluded: “In the whole of this account it is significant that no honorable part has been played by converted Jews, as interpreters of their old faith to the new.” Nonetheless, Messianic Jews are now determined to reverse that stigma. A training institute has been established in Chicago, and some congregations have begun religious schools for their children.

The annual conference, which used to struggle to reach an attendance of 150, now draws nearly 1,000 participants for its weeklong session. The schedule has been dominated by topics such as rabbinic theology, the Holocaust, modern anti-Semitism, gentilization of Messianic Judaism, Messianic congregations, Messianic communities, and Messianic Jewish history.

For some, however, much more is needed. In my travels throughout the United States and Canada, I met scores of Messianic Jews for whom most of their congregations are too “liberal” with regard to traditional (or Orthodox) Jewish practice. Many of these people are on the periphery of the movement, watching its progress but choosing to worship in regular Orthodox or Conservative Jewish synagogues.

Those few modern Messianic congregations which have tried to institute Orthodox worship have invariably met with disaster. When the Los Angeles congregation was judged to have become “too Jewish,” the Assemblies of God took their building away from them (Phil Goble, author of a book titled Everything You Need to Grow a Messianic Congregation, had attended that group). In Pittsburgh, because of internal friction, the Orthodox Messianic congregation has dissolved.

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