Messianic Judaism is usually equated with Jews for Jesus, an overtly missionizing form of ethnically Jewish Evangelical Christianity that was born in the American counter-culture revolution of the 1970s. The ensuing and evolving hybrid blend of Judaism and Christianity that it birthed has evoked strong objections from both the American Jewish and mainline Christian communities. What begs an explanation, though, is how a Gentile Protestant missionary project to convert the Jews has become an ethnically Jewish movement to create community, continuity, and perhaps a new form of Judaism. This paper explores the way in which Messianic Jews have progressively exploited the space between two historically competitive socio-religious cultures in order to create an identity of their own in the American religious landscape. It also introduces Messianic Israelites, non-Jewish but sympathetic believers who are struggling with the implications of an ethnically divided church where Jews are the categorically privileged members.
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