The Hebrew Roots Movement: A Biblical Evaluation

Recently Jess (my oldest daughter) wrote a post over at Anchor for the Soul* regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement. I know that this movement will be unfamiliar to many of my readers. However, it does seem to be growing and many of its followers seem to be so solid. At least they do until you start looking into the heart of what they actually believe and compare it to scripture. Then, as is always the case, the unbiblical nature of their beliefs comes to light.

I wanted to share her post here so that it can be referenced and shared. I encourage you to read this, as it is very possible that you will run into someone who believes this at some point, and this will give you some basis for having a discussion and helping to point them to scripture. I also encourage you to read this because it is a reminder of scriptural truths that we do not often contemplate. (On another interesting note, those of you that studied Galatians with me last year in the Bible Reading Challenge will notice that this a modern take on the Judaizers that Paul was rebuking in that book.)

Here’s what she discovered as she researched this movement–

The Hebrew Roots movement has recently been gaining popularity and influence, especially in the world of social media. These accounts gain a lot of followers because they share pretty pictures of their homes and lives and often share some truth about our world and the Bible. But then they sneak in their Hebrew Roots beliefs, confusing and leading their many followers astray.

So what exactly does this movement believe? You may not even know the movement by the name (they rarely mention it) but you might recognize it as I define it.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐭?
There is no official group, leader, or statement of faith. And because of that, there are many variations of beliefs within the movement itself. Generally, however, the premise of the Hebrew Roots movement is that the Church today has veered far from the truth of the Bible. (which is true but not for the reasons they claim!) They maintain that Christianity has been corrupted and indoctrinated with the culture and beliefs of Greek and Roman philosophies. Christianity, as taught for hundreds of years, is simply a corrupt pagan imitation of what is really taught in the New Testament and intended by God.

They claim that they’re recovering the first century Hebrew roots of Christianity. They hold that Christ’s death on the cross did not end the Mosaic Covenant but instead renewed it and expanded its message to all followers of Christ. And so they argue that we need to walk Torah-obedient lives as believers today. This includes keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (Saturday), celebrating Jewish feasts and festivals, keeping the dietary laws, avoiding pagan traditions (Christmas and Easter for example), and learning the Scriptures from a Hebrew mindset.

They often call Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua or YHWH, claiming those are the names He desires to be called. Some place an emphasis on extra-biblical writings such as the Book of Enoch, suggesting it’s inspired but has been removed from the Bible by enemies of the truth (as if God is powerless to keep His Word intact).

They often make themselves appear as if they are more obedient and have a deeper spirituality than the rest of us, creating a two-tier system of believers. Those who have been “enlightened by the truth” and now observe the Mosaic law and those who are less spiritual and do not. Many of them say that if you’re presented with this “truth” and refuse to obey it then you might not be a true follower of Christ. They tend to be very arrogant in their presentation and arguments. They claim that they are the only ones who are believing the whole Bible. You can’t question them because “God revealed it to them” when they asked Him for the truth. They have dreams and visions and prophecies directly from the Lord. They claim that they alone are reading the Scripture through the Holy Spirit while people like us simply rely on man’s interpretations. Who are you to tell them that they’re wrong?

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐢𝐫 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐟𝐬?
Many begin with a verse from the Old Testament such as Psalm 119:160: “The sum of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous rules endures forever.” They’ll tell you that David was referring to the Mosaic law here. And if God declared that to be truth for His people, how can it become “not truth” later? And if He says that it endures forever, how can we say that it has ended? God is unchanging, His Word is unchanging, and therefore His law remains.

They also love to quote Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

So because Jesus said He did not come to abolish but to fulfill the law, then it means the Old Testament law is not abolished. Nothing will pass away from the law until heaven and earth pass away.

Finally, because Jesus and His disciples followed the law, and we are told to “teach them all I have commanded” and “walk as Jesus walked,” then that includes teaching and observing the Mosaic law.

Most will tell you that they don’t observe it out of legalistic bondage but out of a heart of love and obedience. In order to live a life that pleases God, a Torah-observant walk is necessary. But is it?

𝐖𝐡𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐭 𝐮𝐧𝐛𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥?

𝟏. 𝐈𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲
There are 613 Mosaic laws. They couldn’t follow all of those even if they wanted to. There is no Levitical priesthood or temple. One article I read said that “trying to observe the Mosaic law without the temple is like trying to eat mustard without a sandwich” and it’s true. Read through the law yourself and see how many of those laws would be impossible to keep today. But if you follow their logic all the way to the end, then they must obey ALL of them. If they are required to follow one law out of obedience (feasts, for example) then they are equally required to follow another (sending men to appear before Jerusalem or offering sacrifices). They can’t pick and choose but that’s exactly what they do.

𝟐. 𝐋𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐔𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠
What was the point of the Mosaic law? It was given very specifically to the nation of Israel. (Exodus 19, Leviticus 26:46, Romans 9:4) It was to show their sinful nature (Galatians 3:19), to keep Israel separate from the other nations, (Exodus 19:5) and a temporary system until the Messiah arrived. (Galatians 3:19-25) It was a sacrificial system pointing toward the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It was the Old Covenant.

God promised a NEW covenant, not a renewed one. (Jeremiah 31:31-32, Hebrews 8:13, 9:9-10, John 4) It was clearly prophesied and was to be ushered in by the Messiah. Jesus didn’t abolish it but rather fulfilled every part so that He could establish the promised New Covenant between God and His people. (Hebrews 7:22, Luke 22:20) He brought an end to the sacrificial system by living a sinless life (Romans 6:14, 7:4) and sacrificing His own life on the cross.

The law of the Old Covenant was written in stone but the law of the New Covenant is written on our hearts. The Mosaic law was not intended to sanctify or to save. We are now under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) which is to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39). We are now led by the Spirit instead of being under the law (Galatians 5:16-18). The Holy Spirit causes us to change from the inside out and seek to honor Him with every area in our life. How we do that is then fleshed out in the remainder of the New Testament. Does this include some of the Old Testament laws? Of course! 9 out of the 10 Commandments are repeated in the New Testament. Feasts, festivals, dietary restrictions, and the Sabbath are not among them.

𝟑. 𝐀𝐩𝐩𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐚𝐰 𝐝𝐨𝐞𝐬𝐧’𝐭 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐓𝐫𝐮𝐭𝐡 𝐨𝐟 𝐢𝐭
Just because the application of the law has changed does not mean we are saying that law isn’t TRUE. There are many commands in the Old Testament (Noah was told to build an ark, Abraham was told to sacrifice his son, Lot was told to flee the city). Should we follow those commands? They would probably answer “No! Those were meant for a specific person at a specific place and time!” But can that not also hold true for the Mosaic law? It was FOR the people of Israel at that specific time. (Exodus 19:3-6, Deuteronomy 5:2-3, Deuteronomy 29:1) By saying we are no longer under the Mosaic law, we are not disputing the truthfulness of it but rather the application of it. There were no food regulations given to Noah in Genesis 9:3. That law changed with Moses. Why could it not change again? It was part of God’s Plan.

𝟒. 𝐈𝐭 𝐜𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐲 𝐠𝐨𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐟 𝐏𝐚𝐮𝐥
Requiring Gentiles to obey the old covenant law after they became Christians was soundly refuted at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. They were arguing about whether or not the Gentile believers needed to follow the Mosaic laws. They came to the conclusion that they should “abstain from pagan sacrifices, things strangled, sexual immorality and blood” (Acts 15:29) so as not to cause their Jewish brothers and sisters to stumble. There is no mention of festivals, feasts, or dietary restrictions. It all boiled down to a matter of conscience if you wanted to keep them or not.

Essentially, the Hebrew Roots Movement are the Judaizers that the Apostle Paul thoroughly refuted in the Epistle to the Galatians. Nowhere in the Bible do we find Gentile believers being instructed to follow Levitical laws or Jewish customs; in fact, the opposite is clearly taught all throughout the epistles.

𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝟐:𝟏𝟔-𝟏𝟕: “𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐥𝐞𝐭 𝐧𝐨 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬 𝐣𝐮𝐝𝐠𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐢𝐧 𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐟𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐝𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐤, 𝐨𝐫 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐫𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐚 𝐟𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐚𝐥 𝐨𝐫 𝐚 𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐦𝐨𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐫 𝐚 𝐒𝐚𝐛𝐛𝐚𝐭𝐡. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐚 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐝𝐨𝐰 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐛𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭.”

𝐑𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝟏𝟒:𝟏-𝟓: “𝐀𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐤 𝐢𝐧 𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐭𝐡, 𝐰𝐞𝐥𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐡𝐢𝐦, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐪𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐥 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬. 𝐎𝐧𝐞 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐲 𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠, 𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐤 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐨𝐧 𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐬 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝐯𝐞𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞𝐬. 𝐋𝐞𝐭 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐢𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐚𝐛𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐬, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐞𝐭 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐚𝐛𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐬 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬 𝐣𝐮𝐝𝐠𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐬, 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐆𝐨𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐰𝐞𝐥𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐢𝐦. 𝐖𝐡𝐨 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬 𝐣𝐮𝐝𝐠𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐚𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫?”

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). 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.

They will tell you that these writings of Paul don’t mean what you think they mean or what you’ve been told they mean. They’ll suggest books or sermons that will help you “understand” what Paul is really saying here. Which, coincidentally, twists Scripture to line up with their beliefs.

“It can’t mean what it says!” But it does. And it’s simple and clear, just how God intended it to be. Ironically they claim to be the only ones who “take the Bible for what it actually says” and yet they have to explain away large passages of New Testament Scripture to fit their belief system.

The Scriptures stand clearly and firmly against this group as they attempt to dismantle the covenant of grace and run back to the burden of the Law. I hope this gives you a little better understanding so you can run away from this movement and defend against it.

*You can find Anchor for the Soul on Facebook and on Instagram.

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