Hebrew Roots

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This article refers to the modern religious movement. For the Hebrew language grammatical structure, see Hebrew root

Hebrew Roots is a contemporary global spiritual movement / Awakening that advocates the return and adherence to the first century walk of faith and obedience to the Torah [1] by Jesus (known as Yeshua HaMashiach, the Hebrew name for "Jesus the Messiah") by seeking a better understanding of the culture, history, and religio-political backdrop of that era which led to the core differences with both the Jewish, and later, the Christian communities.[2]


Since the early 20th century, different religious organizations have been teaching a belief in Yeshua as mankind's redeemer and savior from man's own sinful nature and a lifestyle in keeping with the Torah, the Sabbath and the annual Feasts (or moedim, Holy Days). These include Messianic Judaism (to a very limited degree) in 1916, the Sacred Name Movement (SNM) in 1937, and the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in the 1930s, and, later, the Hebrew Roots Movement. Thus far, the WCG has had the greatest impact on all organizations which teach these beliefs, including obedience to much of the Old Testament law, both nationally and internationally[3] until about 1994-95. Within a few years after the death of its founder, Herbert W Armstrong, in 1986, the succeeding church administration modified the denomination's doctrines and teachings in order to be compatible with mainstream evangelical Christianity, while many members and ministers left and formed other churches that conformed to many, but, not all, of Armstrong's teachings.

Consequently, the WCG spawned numerous splinter groups,[4] with most of these new churches adopting names bearing the term "Church of God" (COG) and retaining the belief system developed by Armstrong.[5] In contrast, Hebrew Roots (or sometimes, Hebraic Roots) is a grassroots movement without an ecclesiastical superstructure and it does not adhere to the COG belief system, nor does it adhere to Messianic Judaism, or to the SNM, although there are commonalities.

A number of their founders began teaching about the need to keep the 7th Day Sabbath, to observe annual Feasts, and to obey Old Testament commandments years before these topics were taught and accepted by some in the Christian churches. These early teachers include William Dankenbring (1964) and Dean Wheelock (1981) (both of whom had prior associations with different Churches of God), Joe Good (1978), and Brad Scott (1983)[5]

In 1994, Dean and Susan Wheelock received their Federal Trademark [6] for the term Hebrew Roots®, after which they began publishing the Hebrew Roots® magazine in April/May 1998, and later a website: http://www.hebrewroots.net/. The goal of this group is “Exploring the Hebrew Roots of the Faith Once Delivered,”-“roots” which go back to not only Yeshua and the Talmidim (Apostles), but to the Nazarenes [7] of the first century and, ultimately, the original Hebrews (Ivrit), Abraham and his offspring, who were the first to "cross over" (which is what "Hebrew" means in the Hebrew language). Those who continue in this Hebraic walk seek out the history, culture, and faith of the first century believers who, like Abraham and Moses obeyed God’s voice, charge, commandments, statutes, and laws (Gen 26:5); the 41,000,[8] denominations of Christianity commonly believe that such obedience is no longer required.

The Hebrew Roots movement began emerging as a distinct phenomenon in the mid-1990s (1993–96).[5] In 1997, Dean Cozzens of Open Church Ministries (Colorado Springs, CO) published a prophecy titled "The Hebrew Movement", which revealed that God had foreordained four major moves for the 20th century, Pentecostalism, Faith-healing, the Charismatic Movement and finally the Hebrew Roots Movement. In this prophecy, the Hebrew Roots Movement is the "final stage of empowerment" before Christ returns. Several Hebrew Roots ministries are now preferring to use the term Awakening instead of the term "movement" which has been used widely since the 1960s to define politicaly oriented movements.[5]

The movement / Awakening has accelerated in the last few years,[9] mainly because of a shift within the Messianic Jewish community. The Hebrew Roots movement and a few Messianic Jewish groups diverge on the issue of One Law theology (one law for the native born and the sojourner, c.f. Numbers 15:16)[10] which Hebrew Roots subscribes to, but which some Messianic Jewish groups deny. One Hebrew Roots teacher, Tim Hegg, responded to this issue by defending what he believes to be the biblical teaching of "One Law" theology and its implications concerning the obligations of Torah obedience for new Messianic believers from the nations.[11] The Two-House and One Law differences have affected musicians who are welcomed by Hebrew Roots fellowships notwithstanding their beliefs: "...many Messianic Jewish artists who are heavily influenced by organizations like the MJAA and the UMJC have been told by their leadership that if they ever appear at an MIA event they will not be able to play with them again".[12]


Hebrew Roots theology includes at least seven distinct core differences from Protestantism, Seventh-day Adventism, Rabbinic Judaism, and Messianic Judaism.[13]

  • Both the Old and New Testaments are held as holy books, but the Old testament takes precedent over the New. The Torah serves as the foundation to all subsequent understanding and interpretation of Scripture. A foundational distinction of the Hebrew Roots movement is the manner in which Scripture is translated and interpreted so that later testimony (particularly the New Testament, or "Brit Chadashah") does not conflict with Torah commandments. It is believed by those in the Hebrew Roots movement that Yeshua the Messiah did not come to establish a new religion or to “do away” with the law.
  • Salvation derives from the belief in Yeshua the Messiah as personal savior, not from commandment/Torah keeping; however, believers are rewarded according to their fruits, works, and obedience. Hebrew Roots followers believe that sin is breaking the written Torah (cf. 1 John 3:4), all of the purity laws such as dietary restrictions and sabbath keeping are in the written Torah, thus it is sinful to not keep the sabbath and to eat forbidden animals, among other social and religious observance laws. It is also true, according to Hebrew Roots followers, that those who are truly born of God will not continue in sin (cf. 1John 3:9), therefore, if you are not moved to keep the sabbath or to keep dietary restrictions, you must not truly be born of God.
  • The Jewish Oral Law (the Talmud) does not represent Scriptural requirements to be obeyed, but can provide deeper understanding as to how some have applied the Scriptures to practical life. Pagan traditions adopted by Judaism and Christianity are to be avoided.
  • Old Testament/Torah Laws and the teachings of the New Testament are to be obeyed by both Jews and Gentiles (proselytes).
  • The Hebrew language is generally studied because it amplifies an understanding of the Scriptural text.
  • Unlike traditional Americans,[14] followers of the Hebrew Roots movement actively study the Scriptures as well as the history, faith, and culture of the first and second century, to understand how traditional Christianity diverged from its Hebrew roots. Generally speaking, however, they do not recognise the work of modern first century historians outside their own viewpoint, such as Craig Evans, George Nickelsburg, Jacob Neusner, James D. G. Dunn, E. P. Sanders et al.[citation needed]
  • The moedim or appointed times listed in Leviticus 23, including the 7th day Sabbath and the Feast days, foreshadow the 1st and 2nd comings of the Messiah and the Creator's plan of salvation for the world.

Other beliefs[edit]

Hebrew Roots teachers emphasize the adoption of all Christians into the faith of Abraham,[15] often referred to in the Bible as the unified "House of Israel" (Leviticus 10:6), (Jeremiah 37:11), (Ezekiel 39:25), (Romans 11:13-26), (Ephesians 2:10-14). This unified "House of Israel" consists of Jews and Non-Jews who maintain faith in the Messiah and a Spirit-led adherence to the Torah, God's teaching and instruction, as a lifestyle of faith and love.[16] Hebrew Roots followers believe that Christians have the "testimony of Jesus," but are often found innocently to be living lawlessly (1John 1:9) according to the erroneous idea that Yeshua died to do away with the Torah, thus abolishing it and any requirements to "guard" or "keep" it, which is contrary to Scripture.[17]

Sheila Crawford of Shofar Ministries [18] defines the aim of the Hebrew Roots movement as: "We seek to inspire believers in Yeshua (Jesus) to study the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, and thus make God number one in their lives and to be fully equipped with the whole armor of God, to increase in the knowledge of God through an understanding of our previously lost, Hebraic Roots." She believes that Hebraic Roots is not a movement, but is instead a move of God on the hearts of believers, drawing them deeper into an understanding of the culture and times in which the scriptures were written, in order that followers of the Messiah may know him more deeply by more clearly understanding how he upheld and affirmed obedience to the Torah, the Law of God.

The Hebrew Roots movement emphasizes the completion of the unified "House of Israel" in Yeshua, which includes both Jews and non-Jews. Its followers believe that they are co-heirs and equal members of the chosen people of the god of Israel through the blood of Messiah, and that returning to a 1st-century mindset provides deeper and more authentic insights into the Hebrew idioms of the New Testament (which are often garbled after their translation to Greek),[19] which provides deeper cultural understanding of Scripture.[17] Also of importance is a greater understanding of the dispersion of tribes of Israel, and the future regathering of those tribes according to prophecies of Scripture.

Some Hebraic Roots congregations encourage the use of Hebrew-based forms of the sacred names, but this is generally a minor emphasis.

Christian Hebrew Roots Movement[edit]

The Hebrew Roots movement is related to a subgroup known as "Christian Hebrew Roots." This subgroup follows the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:3-17) and the feasts of the Lord (Lev 23:1-44), but like mainstream Christianity it believes that all other Old Testament requirements have been "done away with".[20]

The Christian Hebrew Roots movement rejects many of the same practices of mainstream Christianity that the Hebrew Roots movement rejects. In particular, they reject the Catholic Church's "transubstantiation" doctrine, and instead follow what it sees as the biblical teachings set forth in the New Testament regarding the "nature of Communion" as a symbol of Christ's body instead of the literal body and flesh of Jesus. This, they deduce from the words Jesus spoke to describe what they call an "amendment" to the Passover service being symbolic and not literal (in accordance with how they interpret the New Testament Greek).[21]

The Christian Hebrew Roots movement does not teach a return to the law as dispensed by the scribes who Jesus rebuked as hypocrites. They interpret the "law" as pertaining to the Torah, and not the Jewish Oral Law, as the Hebrew Roots movement interprets it.[22][not in citation given] Instead, the Christian Hebrew Roots movement follows what it claims is the worship pattern of Jesus, whom they claim freed mankind from the yoke of the letter of the law; and, in fulfilling the law, Jesus taught Christians to practice only the Ten Commandments and feasts of the Lord which make up "the acceptable year of the Lord"[23] in his speech inaugurating his personal earthly ministry.

This main distinction between the two groups is that followers of the Hebrew Roots movement understand the word "fulfill" (playroo G4137), found in Matthew 5:17, to mean "fill up" specifically with meaning. This is in contradistinction to "destroy" (kataluo G2647) with which it is contrasted earlier in the same verse. fulfill is also found to mean to place the commandments of God "on a firmer footing by interpreting them correctly in terms of God's ultimate will as He originally intended for His commandments to be obeyed",[24] and not dispensing with them as something that has been "done away" by the atoning work of Jesus Christ, as Christian Hebrew Roots followers define it.

Both movements include adherents who are of Jewish heritage as well as Gentile heritage. The Christian Hebrew Roots movement is completely nondenominational, consisting of persons from many different religious backgrounds[25] and teaches adherence to the health laws of the Torah but not the portions of the Torah which it believes were abandoned by Jesus. As such, they function as a sort of "bridge" between true Hebrew Roots theology and mainstream Christianity.


The Hebrew Roots movement has been called a group of heretical, non-Christian, and non-Jewish cults.[26] [27] [28] [29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.ourfathersfestival.net/hebrew_roots_movement
  2. ^ http://houseofdavidfellowship.com/qanda.htm
  3. ^ John Dart. 1989, April 1. Top Ratings for Schuller, 'World Tomorrow' : Two TV Ministries Rise Above Bible Belt. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1989-04-01/local/me-920_1_world
  4. ^ Religious Tolerance: The Worldwide Church of God, and various splinter groups. http://www.religioustolerance.org/
  5. ^ a b c d Hebrew Roots: History of the Hebrew Roots Movement. http://www.ourfathersfestival.net/hebrew_roots_movement
  6. ^ http://www.trademarkia.com/hebrew-roots-78207418.html
  7. ^ William F. Dankenbring. The Mysterious Relationship of The Early Nazarene Christians and Rabbinic Judaism
  8. ^ Christianity Today – General Statistics and Facts of Christianity Today
  9. ^ Hauer, Rev Cheryl. 2011, Feb 1, 2011. Hebraic Roots--Heritage or Heresy? http://www.bridgesforpeace.com/teaching-letter/article/hebraic-roots-heritage-or-heresy/ accessed August 10, 2013
  10. ^ One Law Movements; a Challenge to the Messianic Jewish Community January 28, 2005
  11. ^ One Law Movements A Response to Russ Resnik & Daniel Juster
  12. ^ The Messianic Israel Alliance Herald. Boot Camp 2. August 2011, p3
  13. ^ Hebrew Roots Theology: 7 Distinctive Core Differences. http://www.ourfathersfestival.net/hebrew_roots
  14. ^ Cathy Lynn Grossman.2010, Sept. 29. Most Americans believe in God but don't know religious tenets.USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-09-28-pew28_ST_N.htm
  15. ^ [1] Wilson, Dr. Marvin R.; Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989, ISBN 0-8028-0423-3.
  16. ^ RabbiYeshua.com
  17. ^ a b [2] Richardson, Rick; Origins of Our Faith: The Hebrew Roots of Christianity; Trafford Publishing Company, 2003, ISBN 1-4120-0824-7.
  18. ^ http://www.shofarministries.net/index.html
  19. ^ [3] Bivin, David; Blizzard, Roy B.; Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus; Treasure House, 1994, ISBN 1-56043-550-X.
  20. ^ http://www.christianhebrewroots.org/02_Feasts_old_v_new_1p_snp.pdf
  21. ^ A Still Small Voice, op. cit., pp. 160-161.
  22. ^ http://hodf.org/archives.htm
  23. ^ http://www.christianhebrewroots.org/03_Acceptable%20Year%20of%20the%20Lord_5_snp.pdf
  24. ^ http://hodf.org/
  25. ^ cf., http://www.christianhebrewroots.org
  26. ^ Geoffrey Grider. "The Hebrew Roots Cult Movement". Retrieved 2013-11-12. "These are the true roots of Christianity and the Christian's relationship to the Jew. But there are those who seek to pervert that relationship, and add layers of law and works to it where none exists in the Scriptures. This new movement is called Hebrew Roots, and while it uses words and phrases from the bible and Jewish culture, there is nothing either Jewish or Christian about this group as you will see. […] The movement usually hides their beliefs and presents itself as simply seeking to educate Christians concerning their Jewish heritage. As they become acclimated to the Jewish orientation the more aberrant doctrines are slowly introduced." 
  27. ^ "Hebrew Roots Cults". Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  28. ^ "What is the Hebrew Roots movement?". Retrieved 2013-11-12. "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. […] 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." 
  29. ^ S. Michael Houdmann. "GotQuestions vs. the Hebrew Roots Movement". Retrieved 2013-11-12. "The Hebrew Roots Movement is a perfect illustration of Solomon’s statement that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Essentially, the Hebrew Roots Movement are the Judaizers that the Apostle Paul thoroughly refuted in the Epistle to the Galatians" 

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