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June • 2009

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An Important Communication from Tim Hegg, Director

The time has come for me to make clear my relationship with First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ). In the past I have been closely associated with that ministry as an author, seminar speaker, and a regular contributor to and theological editor of "Messiah Magazine." I must now state openly that I am no longer associated with that ministry. Sadly, I must further state that I strongly disagree with recent changes they have made in important aspects of their teaching. These changes were confirmed to me last week in a face-to-face meeting I had with Boaz Michael, the Director and Founder of FFOZ.

These changes relate to 1) their teaching that Jews and Gentiles have a different relationship to the Torah, 2) their intention to lead messianic communities to define themselves within "normative Judaism," 3) their encouragement for messianics to appreciate and accept a Kabbalistic approach to spirituality, and thus 4) their willingness to employ a mystical hermeneutic as a valid means for interpreting the Scriptures.

While each of these shifts in the teaching of FFOZ touch vital aspects of our faith and community life, I believe that the most important issue is that of biblical authority, because the Bible forms the foundation upon which all other matters of faith and practice rest. I am therefore very concerned by the fact that in their recently published Commentary and Study Guide to Paul Levertoff's Love and the Messianic Age, they embrace a kabbalistic hermeneutic as a valid method for interpreting the Scriptures.

The purpose for publishing Levertoff's work and the accompanying Commentary is not merely to help us appreciate Chasidic thought, philosophy, and theology. It is much more than that. In the Foreword of the Commentary and Study Guide, the work is described not only as a commentary on Levertoff's writing but also that "it is a plunge into the deepest waters of New Testament mysticism and apostolic theosophy" (p. 9). This is a significant statement, because the only way a person could find such "mysticism and apostolic theosophy" in the Bible, akin to that which Levertoff extols, is to employ a kabbalistic hermeneutic. Such a hermeneutic very often undermines the clear meaning of the biblical text itself.

Being made aware of these doctrinal changes in the teaching of FFOZ may be discouraging for many. I know that it has been for me. It gives me no pleasure to disagree so openly with former colleagues I still hold in high regard. Yet we must strive for the truth and be encouraged in the eternal promises of God given to us in the unchanging, inspired words of Scripture. Even as the Apostles themselves battled against a growing Gnosticism that threatened to waylay the followers of Yeshua with "vain philosophy and empty deception" (Col 2:8), so we must be on our guard to bring all things under the scrutiny of the Scriptures.

I have written an 11 page paper focusing primarily upon the present crisis we are facing within the messianic movement regarding the issue of Biblical Authority. I hope you will take the time to read it and share it with others.

Click here to download the entire article in pdf format (11 pages)

Are the Scriptures Alone our Sure Foundation
or Do We Need Something More?

A Growing Crisis in the Messianic Movement
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Tim Hegg • June 2009

Perhaps, after reading the title of this essay, you’re asking yourself, “Is there really a crisis within the Messianic movement over the sufficiency of the Scriptures?” Yes, there is, and I hope to alert you to it in this essay. Remember that in the March Newsletter, I wrote about this issue because I was alarmed when I read how Mark Kinzer, a major voice in the UMJC, openly denies the sufficiency of Scripture as the means by which we may know God and obey His commandments.[1] He boldly affirms that in addition to the Scriptures, we must also rely upon the cumulative teachings of the Rabbis (the Oral Torah) as a necessary partner to the Scriptures. As the current President of the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, Kinzer’s position on the insufficiency of the Bible will doubtlessly be urged upon the students who attend his Institute.

But there is something even more subtle that undermines the sufficiency of Scripture, and this relates to the method some are embracing for interpreting the Bible, or what we call hermeneutics. I have been concerned as I have watched recent doctrinal shifts within the teachings of FFOZ. Setting aside for now their new position on the relationship of Gentiles to the Torah, their recent republication of Paul Philip Levertoff’s Love and the Messianic Age and (even more) their Commentary and Study Guide on Levertoff's book, makes a clear statement about their willingness to embrace a kabbalistic hermeneutic as a valid method for interpreting Scripture. If you’re wondering why I think this signals a crisis, read on.

Click here to continue reading the entire article in pdf format (11 pages)
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[1] This does not mean that Kinzer denies the trustworthiness of Scripture. It means that he aligns himself with a basic tenet of rabbinic Judaism, that the Written Torah by itself is incomplete because apart from the Oral Torah, it cannot be fully understood or implemented.