When I first moved to Israel, I learned very quickly to distinguish between two groups: “Notsrim” (Christians) and “Yehudim Meshichim” (Messianic Jews). Messianic Jews are Jews who believe in Yeshua/Jesus as the Messiah, but they avoid using the term “Notsrim” because the word has a negative connotation for them as Jews.
In spite of sharing the same faith in Jesus/Yeshua as the promised Messiah, these two groups are often viewed as quite different. In a way this is not so strange, since Jews who believe in Jesus always have been seen as a special group. Jews remain Jews—they have the genes of the Jewish people—but they share the faith of the church. They are, in a way, a bridge between the church and the synagogue.
But one day during the Shabbat service in my congregation, I nearly fell off my chair. The pastor quoted from Acts 11:26: “… and in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians—Meshichim.” I knew this famous verse almost by heart, but I had never heard or read it in Hebrew before. The Greek New Testament reads here “Christianos,” or in English “Christians.” But the Hebrew New Testament translates the Greek word “Christianos” into “Meshichim.”
We know that the congregation in Antioch was a mixed fellowship of Gentile and Jewish believers. But in the New Testament, they were all called “Meshichim”—Jewish as well as non-Jewish believers in Jesus. After the initial surprise, I realized that I liked this Hebrew rendering of the word “Christianos.” We, as believers in Yeshua the promised Messiah, are all Meshichim, or Messianics: Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles. We are one body, sharing the same faith, even though we remain Jews and non-Jews.
Elisabeth E. Levy